Sexism In Super Hero Comics: Causes And Solutions

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How Women are Drawn in Super Hero Comics

This inhumanly contorted image by erotic artist Milo Manara is one of the best recent examples.

The infamous Spider-Woman variant cover left many people questioning the ethics of Marvel and comics in general. Manara is known for his provocative erotic work, yet both he and Marvel thought this drawing was acceptable for a front cover. Read how this man describes his thoughts on the female anatomy:

"It is actually a girl who is crawling, or rather, advancing at the pace of the jaguar. After climbing the wall of the building, she is pulling herself on the roof of this building. That’s how I see it. Sure, of course, since women are built in a certain way, any movement they make, if they are nude … and to some degree, more or less, all super heroines are naked. Wait, what? I have never met a woman with a perfect heart-shaped ass that looked like she got her neck bashed in by a table. Unfortunately, I don’t think he is alone in his thinking. What he says seems more of the norm than anything else. This is why you get constant drawings of giant-breasted women with super thin waistlines: Manara later stood by his claim: It’s not my fault if women are like that. I’m only drawing them. It’s not me who made women that way. Look to the creator. My question is, why do Manara and other artists like him keep getting hired? Despite all the backlash from the Spider Woman cover, not only did Marvel publish this ugliness [Editor’s note: With a strategically placed logo, as it turned out.], But Marvel has hired Manara again! I would just like to list a few more artists on my list for producing art that could be considered borderline porn: Greg Land, getting inspired by and tracing porn and throwing it into comics. As if no one would notice … J. Scott Campbell and his big busty gunslingers. Jim Lee with his comic pin-ups (as if shots like these are essential to the story in some way). Yet artists are hardly alone in this regard. Next: Sometimes, Writers Are to Blame When Writers Objectify Women There are many writers that push the borders of female objectification, but none like Frank Miller, famous for his gritty material and “down to earth” approach to comic storytelling. Or rather, he used to be. Somewhere along the way, fans started noticing a trend about his female characters: they seemed to always be written as full service sex workers, strippers, or cock-starved sex kittens who can’t control themselves. He has never had a female protagonist that wasn’t half naked with the biggest tits and ass you can find.  While there’s nothing wrong with women being sex workers at their own choosing, there’s an issue when the common theme is women who love to “put out”. View for yourself: Catwoman is a full service sex worker in the Dark Knight Returns and in Batman: Year One … and look at that bondage (I did mention there is nothing wrong with sex work, but this is Frank Miller, sothere is always more to the story). A horny Black Canary wants to get it on after five minutes of meeting Batman for the first time. I mean it’s Batman for god’s sake, what woman can resist? Wonder Woman’s ass on the cover of Batman and Robin: The Boy Wonder. Booty, booty, booty, booty, rockin’ everywhere! And the disturbing list goes on. There is no denying the man can tell a story, but what people are missing is that these stories fail women and are totally at their expense. For some reason Hollywood and comic companies continue to work with Miller. There has not been much dissent or outrage about his work either. In fact, he is hailed as one of the best comic writers of all time. I guess in this male dominated career field, I shouldn’t be surprised. Next: Captain Marvel and The Worst Comic Story Of All Time A Sad Story for Carol Danvers (TRIGGER WARNING for discussion of rape in the following content.) Last but definitely not least, I want to discuss one of the worst story arcs that haunts Marvel comics until this very day: the rape of Captain Marvel (though she was Ms. Marvel at the time). In 1980, writer Jim Shooter thought this would be a great in-depth story that fans would love. Before I go into what happened, let me just give you some insight into how powerful Carol Danvers is: Superhuman Strength Superhuman Speed Superhuman Durability Superhuman Agility Superhuman Reflexes Flight Flash Precognition Contaminant Immunity Photonic Blasts Energy Absorption Minor Molecular Control Experienced Spy Multilingual Expert Pilot Master Level Combatant Talented Journalist Her character has experienced many changes over the years, but there is no denying that Captain Marvel is in the top five of any list of the most powerful woman in comics. Marvel would have you think otherwise. In Avengers #200, Marvel decides to make her a rape victim whom is incapable of stopping her own assault at the hands of a man who has very little to no power at all. How did Marvel’s most powerful female end up a rape victim? Well Marcus Immortus built a date rape machine, and under some type of hypnotic trance, she succumbed to his sexual advances. In addition to being impregnated, she also had her memories wiped. Her fellow Avengers explained to her what happened, and in the end, she felt as any rape victim would feel: used and violated. But again, in fashion typical of this type of industry, Capt. Marvel received zero support from her friends (the Avengers!). In fact, they were elated to hear about the pregnancy and didn’t seem to understand why she was unhappy. Her initial reaction was understandable … But then out of nowhere, her demeanor completely changes. She develops “feelings” for her rapist, forgives him and rides off with him into the sunset. WTF?!? Men have even gone on to argue that she must have enjoyed it to end up with Markus (the rapist) in the end. Really? I understand comics don’t always reflect real life, but rape is not to be played with in this way. Naturally, Marvel’s reaction was that of dismissal. They didn’t bother to comment on why they allowed this filth to be published. This disgusting point in comic history presents a pretty clear example of the attitude of toward female characters. They are inferior, and no matter how powerful a woman thinks she is, there is always a man out there that can and will overpower you. This kind of thing is still going on in some places today. Stories will continue to be problematic until changes are made. Next: How to Help Make Things Better Possible Solutions Employment: Diversify it! Comics (especially from the Big Two) are finally moving in a decent direction, but not fast enough. Hire more women! It’s clear the men have had issues with writing female characters. Even famed comic writer Gail Simone made light of this in one of her tweets where she pointed out that famous male writers seek her advise on how to write for a good female character. The sad reality is that many writers still do not know how to do this. Maybe if women were written as human beings and not sex objects, that would solve the problem. Change the Culture: Embrace Feminism The word feminism is being seen as a negative term by the uneducated. The truth is we are not the man hating feminazis people think we are. Feminism is about creating fairness for everyone. If the major comic houses were willing to embrace feminism, they could change the way female characters are represented. Not only that, but they need to continue being more receptive to the fact that their audience isn’t composed of just men. They need to be sensitive to the fact that their romanticism of submissive female leads (or the complete and sudden diminishing of their powers when confronted with sexual assault) adds to the problems misogyny and rape culture cause. Invest more time in indie titles and companies The indies are small and are not necessarily focused on building long, drawn out storylines. As a result, they are more character driven. Indie comic houses like Image, Dynamite, Dark Horse and Valiant have better comic titles and better character development when it comes to their female characters.   I have noticed female characters are outside of the normal archetypes you have seen from the big comic companies. In addition, the indie circuit is more diverse, and you get stories from a broad spectrum. Things are getting better, but its moving slower than it should. Hopefully, all publishers speed up the process soon. The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author. While Bam Smack Pow fully supports the author’s right to express those views and opinions, they do not necessarily represent those of Bam Smack Pow, FanSided Inc. or other contributors to this site. Sources:   Frank Miller,  Greg Land, Objectification of Women, Marvel Comic Database Pictures: Google Images More from Bam Smack Pow The Expanse: Every character ranked from worst to best James Gunn’s Superman: Legacy casts more major DC characters New Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom trailer pushes Arthur to his limits Monarch: Legacy of Monsters episodes 1 and 2 review: Aftermath 7 actors who could replace Ezra Miller as The Flash in the DC Universe It is actually a girl who is crawling, or rather, advancing at the pace of the jaguar. After climbing the wall of the building, she is pulling herself on the roof of this building. That’s how I see it. Sure, of course, since women are built in a certain way, any movement they make, if they are nude … and to some degree, more or less, all super heroines are naked.It’s not my fault if women are like that. I’m only drawing them. It’s not me who made women that way. Look to the creator."