Quick! Put Some Breasts On That!

My name is Leigh and I love comic books, so much so that I’ve decided it’s the industry for me. I currently manage a comic book shop. It’s not rocket science, I’m not curing cancer, but between my growing responsibilities, and a colorful cast of customers and coworkers, things certainly aren’t boring.

Recently, I’ve been asked to help out with the monthly order form, which involves sitting in front of a computer screen for a number of hours, and discussing what’s selling, what isn’t, what should be given a chance, and what seems to be dead in the water.

The book of previews for the coming months always has at least preliminary cover art for the books, depicting what we can expect. This past week, while having our order form powwow, it seemed like every few pages my boss would take a look at a cover and say something to the extent of “Wow. That’s unfortunate!”

At which point I, from behind my computer, would demand a look, and sigh, resigned, as, yes, Wonder Woman and Power Girl are standing there, proudly, with their tiny heads, and enormous misshapen breasts.

In a blog entry I wrote elsewhere, I urged that we women shouldn’t let it get under our skin so much. That if we put up a stronger front, and grew a thicker skin, we could look past the gratuitous cheesecake to the stories that were being told.

I have come to realize that there is only so much a girl can take.

My boss suggested that I write a few hundred words on why these kinds of covers are terrible. It didn’t take long to gather my thoughts.

I already know that the major argument for these covers will be: “Sex sells!”

Sure, sex sells. When you’re pitching a hot new prime time teen soap, of course it sells.

But superhero adventure stories? Do they really? Is the cheesecake a necessity of the industry? Art is a huge part of this equation, and covers have to be eye-catching, but do they really have to be “hey, buddy, eyes up here!” eye-catching?

I’m voting no for a number of reasons.

Argument Number One is this: The people in charge should be putting more faith in the stories they’re telling than to feel the need for a cheesecake crutch.

Sure there are some dogs out there in comic book land; books that, while they sell (you’ll find a lot of readers will stick with a title in the hopes that it will get better, and the collectors are completists who don’t want holes in their collections), they aren’t any good. But this happens in every aspect of the entertainment industry. Editors and publishers of crime and mystery novels don’t sit back and say “Man, what a terrible book. Quick, put some boobs on the cover and maybe it’ll sell!”

And I know that there’s something to be said for someone who wants to draw large breasts, and doesn’t want to be artistically limited. I get that. Breasts are great, sure. But here comes Argument Number Two:

They look silly.

They do! They look so silly! And do you know why they look silly? Because very few comic book artists can draw oversized breasts through all that spandex and leather without making them look ridiculous and disproportionate. This is in the same vein as the fact that no one seems to be able to draw any sized penis through a superhero costume without making it look wildly outlandish.

So why emphasize that? Why attempt to make that a selling point of a comic centered on a heroine?

Apparently the comic book industry needs covers like Heroes for Hire #13 from 2007, where the main characters (all women), are chained up, overly large breasts hanging out, pouting lips on their too-tiny heads, being threatened with rape by a dripping tentacle monster.

This brings me to my last point. You knew this one was coming.

Women read these books too. Maybe we’re smaller in number than the men who read them, but we’re here, and there’s more of us every week. Look at the internet fandoms. Look up your favorite comic book characters on deviantart or tumblr. Women are posting about the comics they love. My first internet fandom was comic books and it was a fandom run mostly by women.

We read comics. And the majority of us aren’t interested in the boobtacularness of it all, let alone the implied tentacle rape of supposedly strong female characters (which isn’t the point of this whole excursion, but could very well take it over).

If we follow this train of thought, comics might even sell better among female readers if the lopsided, too-big-for-the-rest-of-the-body breasts are left in the past. More women might buy to read a good story, and look at great art, instead of buying into the stereotype that only drooling, pervy fanboys are into these books. A stereotype that is, in part, of the comic book industry’s own making; month after month, cover after cover.


  1. JT says

    What bugs me about “sex sells” is it’s always implied that SEX = naked WOMEN. If “sex” was truly was sold, we’d see more naked flesh of all genders. But we overwhelmingly see women. And not just any women, but those presumably conforming to the standards of heterosexual men.

    Wonder why that is, hmmm????? /sarcasm

      • JT says

        That was an interesting article, but it didn’t go all the way to the end of the concept, which is why I like Hathor Legacy, because it generally does. :)

        It’s pretty obvious to us and to womenandhollywood that “sex sells” is just a cover for what’s really going on. If “sex” truly doesn’t bring in the $$, my mind starts to wonder what other, unsavory reasons there are for the continual stream of sexualized female characters.

        Whether hero or villain characters, the female ones are almost always sexualized (possible exception being, of course, kids’ movies). Personally, I think it’s because of this unexamined, pervasive sexism in our society. Most people don’t even think about it. Why does SEX = WOMEN to most people? Male nudity is more often played for laughs, female nudity rarely is. Males may be included in the steamy scenes, but the camera lingers on their bodies a lot less. I’ve even heard both men and women claim that more female nudity/sex is the natural way of things because we women are just so much more beautiful and sexual than men. SEX = WOMEN, WOMEN = SEX.

        It might sound like a compliment at first, and may be mistaken as “love for women”. But, if you buy into the idea that WOMEN = SEX, what you are really buying is the idea that sex is what women are FOR. No matter what role they play, we all must be continually reminded that she is a woman and her primary function in life is to provide sex. To BE sex.

        I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be sex. I want to be human.

        • says

          Well, an academic paper lacks the freedom to speculate, which is why we can (at least attempt to) get to the end of an issue.

          And yes, it’s that whole thing about women being the “sex class” which, I think, doesn’t always get the attn it deserves: men are human, and women are this adjunct part of the species from which they get their jollies. As the sex class, we are not even lower-class people – we’re just inherently subhuman.

          • Sharon Burdick says

            A male feminist that I follow named Figleaf notes that women could be considered the “no-sex” class, as sex in the popular imagination is supposed to be *done to* women by men. I found his formulation enlightening:
            “1. It is simultaneously inconceivable and intolerable for a woman to *have* sexual desire.

            2. It is simultaneously inconceivable and intolerable for a man to *be* sexually desired.

            At least in contemporary western society every gender-related ill derives from some combination of items #1 and #2.”

            • says

              Or perhaps “fuckdoll” would be an even more accurate term. I started to say “we’re expected to endure sex the way horses are expected to endure being ridden”, but then I remembered: at least we imagine horses enjoy some aspects of being ridden (the exercise, the challenge of competition).

              God, horses are more human to the “lie back and think of England” squad than women. Fuck.

      • Charles RB says

        Years back, when Marvel produced a Shanna the She-Devil miniseries where all the covers were cheesecake driven, The Beat’s Paul O’Brian (who analyses Marvel’s sales for the site) pointed out that Shanna’s sales were rubbish, and it’d been a long time since any comic had indicated cheesecake covers on their own were raising sales.

        They keep getting produced because, apparently, publishers think they sell copies. That’d be the rational free market, that would.

    • jeff says

      Well, the obvious answer would be because historically men were the ones who had the money to do the buying. Why would anybody have advertised to women who only got small stipends from their husbands? [Edit: see below before going nuclear, he’s being sarcastic]

      I think a better way to determine if sex does indeed sell, is to examine if we see more sexual advertisements being directed at women now. Women are becoming more financially independent every day, and if “sex sells” then we should expect to see lots of sexy half-naked dudes being used to get women o buy things**. Honestly I don’t know. I’m not old enough to really have noticed a great shift in advertising not aimed at me.

      ** Old Spice Guy, maybe?

      • jeff says

        Sorry, I could have been stated that better. The first paragraph is supposed to be sarcastic. I forgot my /s.

        I’m not saying I agree with the “sex sells” premise. I honestly doubt it has much to do with selling anything. I’m only saying that there are many possible reasons why sexualized advertisements are currently and historically devoted to the male consumer.

        I agree with JT on the principle of what they’re saying, but I had issues with the logic they were using.

        • says

          I added a little note to your first comment to help clarify. :)

          Historically men DID have all the money, and still have more than their fair share, but since the advent of film and TV, women have consistently proven to DETERMINE HOW MOST OF IT IS SPENT. That’s one of the homemaker’s traditional jobs. The WSJ and BusinessWeek were both talking about that in the 90s (I have links around here somewhere), but that didn’t stop film books and film pros and film schools from teaching me: men control the money, so we must pander to men. And it’s not even true.

          Honestly, I can totally accept that if your most profitable audience likes X, you put X in your movies. The problem is that most of the data actually suggests something very different from what we’re TOLD it suggests in regards to who’s the best audience, what they want, and why they want it.

      • says

        The Old Spice Guy** is a great example of what little there is for hetero women. Is it getting better, sure. Are the naked male bodies around numbering the same as the female? Not even close. But it’s not just a numbers game, either. It’s also about HOW the women are portrayed: how they pose, what faces they make, what their characters say and do.

        Off the top of my head, I’m thinking of the scene in the first Transformers movie, where Megan Fox’s character is checking under the hood of the car. She ever-so-sexfully bends in to look at the engine, snaking her body sinuously at the camera. Who does that, unless for an audience? And it’s not like the movie was lampooning it, it was completely straight-faced.

        Also, check this image: http://www.google.com/images?rlz=1T4ADFA_enUS337US338&q=sexy+models&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=og&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi&biw=1259&bih=537

        It’s a google search I did for “sexy models”. (DOn’t worry, SafeSearch was on!) I didn’t put a gender qualifier on models, but the results are overwhelmingly female. Only on page 4 is there the hint of male flesh and after that it’s still few and far between.

        It supports my previous observation that for this culture, sexy = female by default. You have to specify if you want men. If we truly lived in a sexually equal, “sex sells” kind of world, models would be any gender and “sexiness” could be represented as such.

        This subject is near and dear to me, and not only because as a female geek who loved comics and sci-fi I had to swallow all the objectification I saw growing up. But also because, as I once put it to my SO, I am sick and tired of my gender being expected to relinquish their dignity and humanity (and their clothes) to be considered “sexy and desirable” and therfore WORTHY of being considered. Some years ago, SO had rather cluelessly become miffed that, when we both got invited to go clubbing, I didn’t feel like wearing a teeny tiny dress with all my bits hanging out in the dead of winter! He started to make it about my supposed “insecurity”, but that’s not it! I’m tired of being expected to spend the entire night uncomfortable and on display, just so he can feel I am “sexy” enough to parade around at a club. He never looked at it that way and luckily I was able to get through to him by making this point: No one expects him to wear penis-hugging pants, painful shoes and a plunging neckline to be sexy enough. He may wear finer fabrics, cologne or jewelry, but he can still remain comfortable, clothed and sexy.

        **Then there’s this peculiar thing I’ve encountered where straight guys will try to tell me that things like the Old Spice Guy are for gay guys, not women. Or like the volleyball scene in Top Gun. For gay guys. Not women. Heaven forbid women prove to have libidos and appreciation for the male form!

        • Casey says

          Another thing about the Old Spice Guy is that it’s very intentionally tongue-in-cheek and silly, as opposed to SRS!MALE!SENSUALITY! directed at women viewers…I mean, I like the commercials and all, but… 😐

        • The Other Patrick says

          Well, there is also the example of malesubmissionart.com (NSFW). The creator of the site made it because he could not find sites with images that sensualized male submission instead of putting women in latex clothing or something. And he’s still one of the only places to find stuff like this.

        • Ikkin says

          Then there’s this peculiar thing I’ve encountered where straight guys will try to tell me that things like the Old Spice Guy are for gay guys, not women.

          That’s been said about the Old Spice Guy? The same Old Spice Guy who starts his commercials with “Hello, ladies?”

          Whoever said that ought to turn in his brain, ’cause he’s obviously not using it.

          (Don’t gay guys tend to focus on different things than women do, anyway?)

          • says

            yeah, a male relative did. Honestly I don’t think he really ever watched the commercial, we were just having a general convo about hot half naked guys. I brought it up as an example among others, but he wasn’t convinced. To him, if any guy appeared in the least bit sexualized, it must be because some gay network guy wanted it. :/

            As far as gay men and women wanting different things, as I am not a gay man, I am not qualified to speak for them. But I will say that I always raise an eyebrow when someone says even “men and women want different things”, because, on account of my beliefs, I think it’s a largely socialized effect. I seem to be the only one in my real life who thinks this though.

            That’s part of that male relative’s insistence and frustration with me. “Everyone knows” women don’t like naked men, then “aren’t visual”, they are different. Therefore, it MUST be gay men! He was puzzled as to how I could question this “common sense”.

            • says

              You know, I think one way they keep up the myth – and even convince many women – that we don’t enjoy looking at naked guys is by a really clever trick.

              –They serve up myriad unusually great-looking naked women, and heterosexual males get very excited.
              –They serve up a fairly random supply of naked men (Dennis Franz’ ass? Really?), and a few heterosexual females get very excited from time to time.

              Clearly, WE are the pervy horndogs in this scenario, right? I mean, obviously Hollywood believes hetero men have lost the ability to pop a boner for anyone less amazing-looking than a supermodel. And yet WE have to sit through fat naked men and ugly naked men that would turn ANYONE completely off to sex and the human form, and yet some of us manage to go all drooly when they occasionally serve up a hot naked guy for us. Imagine if they served up nothing but super-gorgeous naked men for us. Would we ever get anything done again ever?

              Now, I’m being facetious, but to make a point. You CANNOT conclude that women are less into looking at the naked gender of their choice than men when men are carefully protected from ever seeing a naked woman who’s less than astoundingly attractive, and we’re served up all sorts. The fact that ANY of us manage to behave just like men when we do get a naked hottie to look at suggests, if anything, that women are at LEAST as interested in ogling the opposite sex.

          • Ikkin says

            I suppose it’s somewhat less brain-breaking if he never actually saw the commercial. Though only somewhat, because assuming that women wouldn’t respond to a half-naked guy is still pretty bad (and ought to be punishable by getting thrown headfirst into a female-dominated fandom on deviantArt πŸ˜‰ ).

            I didn’t mean to imply I thought there was any intrinsic difference, just that I was under the impression that the average might differ in practice (mainly due to fandom meta about how yaoi is female-oriented and often unappealing to gay male fans).

            You’ve gotta love people who value their “common sense” over actual evidence. -_-

          • meerkat says

            “at naked men and ugly naked men that would turn ANYONE completely off to sex and the human form,”

            I totally agree with your overall point (and of course ugly or fat women are considered much more hilarious or disgusting than equally ugly or fat men) but the body-shaming here is not cool, nor is it cool to make people who are attracted to people who are not conventionally attractive feel like freaks.

      • says

        Along this line, romance novels frequently have sexualized men on covers and have for quite a long time. The headless half-naked man is somewhat of a joke around romance reader circles.

  2. says

    Anyway, as a fellow reader of comics (and maker of them) who is also female, I relate to the alienating aspect of cheesecake. It automatically assumes I am not in the audience.

    This whole discussion is the reason I will not sexualize my female characters, even if it means I get less readers. A friend of mine once asked if I would ever do any cheesecake “pinup” art of a particular character, and I responded with a resounding NO. I respect her too much to do that. :)

  3. Casey says

    This is a bit of a drabble, so excuse my silliness.

    I was watching a bunch of comic book documentaries on YouTube a few weeks ago and I was noticing something…as deeply, DEEPLY problematic as the subject matter and handling thereof early comic books were, the art (especially Marvel’s) was much better looking/more appealing back then, and the big thing (to me) is that the guy’s were sexier! I was flabbergasted, like “Dang, Thor/Capt. America/Peter Parker look so fuckable!” I felt like there was more gender-egalitarian hotness in the comics of the 40s~70s…EVERYONE WAS HAWTTT

    • Casey says

      Granted, the women characters still existed primarily as cheesecake (and that was often emphasized with dialogue in-universe) but the male characters were still infinitely more attractive than I find them today/in the past 10~15 years.

    • Patrick McGraw says

      I’m reminded of some Bronze Age Avengers comics where Tony Stark was parading about in a Speedo and it was VERY much in the mold of 70’s beefcake (detailed hair on the chest, etc.)

      • says

        There has been some beefcake art to go with the cheesecake.

        Marvel did a swimsuit special in the 80’s or 90’s (can’t remember), that featured both beefcake and cheesecake. It was funny in an uncomfortable sort of way.

        • says

          Having seen some images for that, I can also confirm that it is also infinitely hilarious. There is one of Wolverine in a Speedo using his claws to hold three hot dogs up to his sexyface “O” mouth. I just. Don’t even.

    • says

      Yeah, there was a bit of a to-do about such depictions, among other things. Check it out!!

      Which reminds me, I need to re-find this comic book beefcakes website I saw a while ago, it was hysterical, especially in the context of the “NO GIRLS ALLOWED” attitude of the comic-reading community today.

  4. Patrick McGraw says

    Because very few comic book artists can draw oversized breasts through all that spandex and leather without making them look ridiculous and disproportionate. This is in the same vein as the fact that no one seems to be able to draw any sized penis through a superhero costume without making it look wildly outlandish.

    True. And when the response is that comics do feature ridiculous and disproportionate breasts all over the place, but almost no wildly outlandish penises, one becomes very suspicious indeed.

    Heroes For Hire #13 was the cause for me basically putting Marvel on probation. Then came Spider-Man: One More Day, and now I won’t buy any more Marvel comics until Joe Quesada is fired as Editor-in-Chief.

  5. says

    I’m very skeptical when anyone pulls out the ‘sex sells’ argument. I bet there are plenty of blokes who find those weird oversexualised versions of women weird and embarrassing, just as there are probably plenty who don’t notice them at all because that’s how comics have always been…

    But I am reminded of reading about how many women love romance novels but are deeply embarrassed or ashamed of the trashy, over-sexualised covers (which at least tend towards male and female figures, but are still awful).

    Publishing, I have discovered, is at times a deeply superstitious industry, where covers are blamed or credited for all kinds of sales results.

    What romance and comics covers have in common is that they make a very clear statement to outsiders, and contribute largely to the perception of the genre/medium to people who don’t regularly read them. Comics certainly tell women that their gaze is not considered important, and it’s no wonder that many women also assume that their dollar is not valued.

  6. Brand Robins says

    So…. how to say this. When I was in college I was not the paragon of enlightened perfection that I am now. I was, in fact, a bit of a sexist ass.

    And even back then I was slowly and inexorably driven away from comics by the unmitigated exploitation (and bad exploitation at that) of female “sexuality” that came to dominate the visual style of the superhero comics I loved.

    It took me years to get back to it, mostly through graphic novels of the non-superhero sorts (many of the best of which were by female artists and authors) and even now I frequently cannot finish comics that have stories I might otherwise enjoy because I feel sleazy, pandered towards, and more than a little turned off (in every sense of the word) by the way female characters are visually portrayed.

    (Looking up Heroes for Hire #13 made me gag a little.)

    So… there are guys who are driven away from comics by this. Some of us because we have some sense of feminism. Some of us because we have some sense of aesthetics. Some of us because we realize that reading a comic with a cover like Heroes for Hire #13 on the train is going to ensure that we’re social rejects. But in the end, I fully believe that even for those lacking political convictions around the subject, the way that women are portrayed in comics is one of the reasons for the lingering stigma around the form — even when when movies based on the comics are achieving wide spread popularity.

    • Patrick McGraw says

      What made Heroes For Hire #13 so repulsive was Joe Quesada’s defense of it, which read like he was reading off of a Bingo card:

      1. The artist is a woman, so it can’t be sexist.
      2. The male HFH characters are tied up, too! (If you look closely they are partially visible in the background.)
      3. I don’t know what this “tentacle rape” stuff is. The Editor-In-Chief should not be expected to know what he’s signing off on!
      4. There are tentacles because this episode involves the Brood, and the Brood have tentacles. Nothing more than that! (The Brood are aliens that use their tentacles to implant embryos into their prey… in short, they tentacle rape.)
      5. The white goo dripping on Black Cat’s exposed cleavage is just monster slime like what Wolverine often ends up covered in. That it looks like a cumshot is pure coincidence!
      6. Wolverine, one of our most popular characters, once got captured and implanted by the Brood, so there’s nothing sexist about doing it to these female characters! (Wolverine was depicted fighting the Brood on the cover in question, and his implantation occurred off-panel.)
      7. I’m not misogynistic at all! I have a little daughter who I love!

      • says

        Joe Quesada makes me want to punch him in the teeth. Really. GAH.

        I wish he hadn’t felt the need to take over NYX and X-23 and curbstomp what could have been two phenomenal series into mangled mediocre crap. That was when I knew I was done with him.

        • Patrick McGraw says

          Note that Quesada specifically held of introducing X-23 into the Marvel Universe (she was created for one of the cartoons) until he got the chance to write her into it… as a teenaged prostitute.

          I can’t go to comic conventions because there is a very real danger that I would punch Joe Quesada in the face. It would be the first time I have struck someone since I was 12, but I would probably do it.

          • says

            Yeah. Much as I’ve given up the childhood dream of working for Disney because of all of their problems (I believe they also don’t allow animators to unionize and demand better working conditions, on top of everything else), I know I can’t work for Joe Quesada. I just can’t. And now that Marvel’s a Disney subsidiary, I can recognize that all my fan work will remain fan work, because I’m never going to work for them, even on contract, and I’m totally okay with that. *shrugs*

            I have so many issues with comic X-23, I no longer hold any interest in the character. I know she’s on an X-team right now, but I can’t bring myself to care.

            X-Men:Evolution X-23 ws a badass. She looked about 12 years old, was physically covered up, and freely expressed her pent-up rage and anguish. She looked like her mother, and was colored distinctly darker than the “default” white characters. She had agency. She attacked the X-Mansion and took out all the X-Men she came across, in order to find Wolverine, who she blamed for making her life a living hell– all while being pursued by S.H.I.E.L.D. The next time we see her in-show, X-23 is taking on all of H.Y.D.R.A. By herself.

            Comics X-23 is damn near catatonic, barely speaks even when spoken to, doesn’t leave her pimp until she is literally swept up into and dragged along with other characters’ storylines, and is stereotypically ultra-pale waiflike tarted-up “goth” (my goth friends don’t dress like that, hence the airquotes). The characterization carried over into the latest cartoon, Wolverine and the X-Men, where Laura has no lines, even when, in an alternate future, there are six she-Wolverine clones. Six. All indistinguishable from one another, none of whom speak.

            SO. FREAKING. DONE.

            (Not to mention, I just dislike frivolous Wolverine-centric retcons generally, so the “bone-claws plated in adamantium” backstory was never my favorite; naturally, that was carried over to X-23, despite making no sense that the mutation would express itself so differently for her, a clone of Logan, than it does for Logan. Also, from what I’ve seen, other characters treat X-23 like shit for BEING a clone, and I’m like, “Didn’t we address this with Spider-Man? More than once??” Whatever. /mini-rant)

    • says

      I fully believe that even for those lacking political convictions around the subject, the way that women are portrayed in comics is one of the reasons for the lingering stigma around the form

      Oh, absolutely. If you caught the recent Conan O’Brien sketch, where he visited the WB animation how with one of his own artists, you’ll see that all that stigma is alive and kicking. The artist he took with him was made to seem classically fanboy creepy.

  7. Charlie says

    I don’t see how sex could possibly sell, at least not anymore. Maybe back in the 50’s that was true, when teens couldn’t find porn easily, and they’d have to rely on other things like comic books to see breasts. But now it’s so easy for anyone to find porn that adding random sexual content into everything- like giant cartoonish superhero breasts- just seems pointless.

    • says

      which is why I think sexual content aimed at girls and women, like Twilight does sell better. It’s harder to find commercially produced sexual content for heterosexual girls. The same kinds of women are displayed sexually in similar ways constantly, they just sort of become invisible. Since these images are everywhere, they stop being titillating.

          • Patrick McGraw says

            There’s a very solid reading of Civil War as basically Tony and Steve’s bad break-up. And it’s hard to read Tony in “The Confession” as anything but a guilt-ridden, mourning lover.

            I really dislike slash fanfiction for making changes to characters, but I find it nearly impossible to read canon Tony and Steve as anything but two people refusing to acknowledge that they are in love with each other.

          • says

            OH That Frank Miller spoof MADE MY MORNING!

            I was so pissy about the cover he did for that book that was just a close up on Wonder Woman’s ass. Thank you!

          • says

            Haha, yeah, I’ve seen that. Very apt.

            Ugh that fanboy who compared Miller’s picture of WW ass to Supes showing his “S” chest, just UUGH.

            Context and presentation mean nothing to these people!

            That’s why above, I said it’s not ONLY a numbers games, not only a tit-for-tat (ha). Because I’ve seen some defensive male geeks then try to nitpick comics to death to “prove” that males are just as objectified in comics. “Well, in panel 6 of page 24, Wolvie’s biceps are bulging and practically filling a panel HA! Equality!!”

            Um, NO.

  8. Raeka says

    YES. Thank for this article!

    And here is why I can’t just overlook things like ridiculous body shapes, fighting/running in stiletto heels, etc: It jars me out of story. When I should be paying attention to the dramatic whatever-is-going-on, I am instead wondering if the girl has back pains or if anyone actually finds this SEXY instead of just vaguely disturbing, wondering how the hell she managees to jump and run in stilettos, or why her skin isn’t all torn up from sliding across the pavement in the bikini she calls an outfit.

    It is a huge, huge slap in the face that I, as a woman, was never considered as part of the audience. Because I, as a woman, naturally wonder what the female characters are thinking/feeling, which means when I see a girl in a chainmail bikini, instead of going ‘HAWT’, I am going ‘Isn’t that uncomfortable…?’

    And then, bam, my disbelief just became too big to be suspended. And people wonder why girls (on average) aren’t into comics/videogames/action movies… -eyeroll-

  9. lilacsigil says

    Of course, one of the biggest-selling and best critically-regarded comics of the year featuring a female character was Batwoman: Elegy (the original story ran in Detective Comics). Batwoman is sexy without a doubt – but she’s covered up, wears big stompy boots, and all that long flowing hair is a distraction in the shape of a wig. The art displays her body, but shows her strength, determination and various other qualities rather than just “sexy”. In particular, she’s never posing for the reader in that weird twisted-around position that shows both tits and ass somehow.

    • says

      In particular, she’s never posing for the reader in that weird twisted-around position that shows both tits and ass somehow.

      Ah, the infamous Rob Liefeld Moebius strip from Hell. His art style is pretty much why I didn’t read comics as a child, and is probably what Greg Land is doing to this generation of nerdy girls. DRAMATIC SIGH.

      • Patrick McGraw says

        Don’t forget Land’s favored habit of tracing porn. That’s not a joke: there are entire Internet groups devoted to locating the specific pornographic images that Land has traced.

      • lilacsigil says

        DRAMATIC SIGH right back at you! I had been collecting X-Men since 1987, right through the Liefeld era, through the chromium covers and the giant crossovers, but when they put Greg Land on the title I stopped. That’s how much I hate his traced pornography art and the utter disrespect for comics readers by putting him on anything that is meant to tell a story.

      • Casey says

        I remember scouring the ol’ comic book shop in my pre-pubescent youth, it was mostly filled with Liefield and Liefield-knockoff art and I’d retch and think to myself “YEECHH! Why does anyone like comic books, they’re so gross and ugly to look at!!” then I started reading the Sailor Moon manga in Smile magazine and never looked back (at least for a while). πŸ˜›

        • The Other Patrick says

          Liefeld is the perfect example that popularity does not equal quality – because his art is horrible. Actually, quantifiably horrible.

  10. Jenny Islander says

    No mention yet of girl-wonder.org? There are tons of interesting and horrifying links and forum threads at this site. Actual artists analyze how painful the simultaneous-tits-and-ass-exposure pose is, point out the million-and-one examples in Big Two comics in which the female characters were simply traced from porn magazines(?!), etc. There’s a common argument that “Men are objectified tooooo! The piles of muscles are for the female gaaaaaze!” that is deconstructed simply by drawing male characters in exactly the same poses and situations as female characters. It’s an eye-opener.

    • Patrick McGraw says

      I used to spend a lot of time at girl-wonder.org, and there are a number of great people there (especially Karen Healey and Rachel Edidin), but for an anti-bigotry site, the site moderators have some major blind spots when it comes to anti-religious bigotry*, complete with repeating the same sorts of ridiculous arguments that they tear down when used to defend other forms of bigotry.

      *I’m not talking about the Persecuted Hegemon, where doing anything but giving primacy to someone’s beliefs is seen as persecution. I mean things like blaming all religion for any action carried out in the name of a religion.

    • says

      That is one brilliant LJ post. I’m laughing, but at the same time fuming that comic book artists put shit like that out (in reverse to that post) for kids to learn how to draw superhero men and women. Seriously makes me want to kick them in the balls so hard that they’re out of even the Darwin Awards. (Darwin Awards, where the assumption is a person dies doing something so STUPID that they are taken out of the gene pool before adding to it)

      • says

        all they have to do is take themselves out of the gene pool. There are some people who have lost the ability to reproduce without dying who have won Darwin awards too. Mostly men, given that it’s easier to damage external sexual organs, but the occasional woman somehow manages.

    • Cinnabar says


      I hope someone finances the publication of a book exactly like that LJ post. I’d buy it, no question. And I don’t even draw. ^_^

  11. Red says

    If you want to read a comic book that doesn’t overly-sexualize female characters and treats them as actual people… may I suggest ‘THE 99’?


    ‘The 99’ is a comic book created by Dr Naif Al Mutawa, a Kuwaiti-born clinical psychologist who created a series based on Islamic archetypes, but the characters themselves are not expressly Muslim. The only possible exception to this is a character called Batina The Hidden, who wears a full-on burqa and looks like a VERY awesome Muslim ninja! She is one of five of the fifty female heroes who will appear in the series who will be covered.

    Also; it should be known that recently DC Comics put out a JLA/THe 99 crossover series. You can see pics here. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/gallery/2010/oct/24/the-99-comics-marvel Check out the first picture. Wonder Woman… is COVERED!

    You can download ‘The 99’ origins issue for free on The 99 website.

    • The Other Patrick says

      I’ve seen the animation preview for the 99, and it was horrible. So you’re saying it’s a comic series, not a tv series?

      • Red says

        The animated series is based off a comic series.

        Could the animation be better? Yes, but let’s be honest… the comic creators likely weren’t getting many offers for an animated series (probably due in part to prejudice against anything even remotely Islamic) and this one was probably one of the very few they got. It also probably offered (and I’m guessing) greater creative control over the animated series content than other offers likely would have.

        Let’s wait to pass judgment until the show premiers on ‘The Hub’ in January.

        • Casey says

          Well, the whole “shitty” thing is me putting words in TOP’s mouth…I watched a teaser trailer for the show and thought it was just okay.

          BTW, I kinda…HHHATE Wonder Woman’s new outfit…it looks like bad 90’s design aesthetic to me (like if Rogue’s outfit back in the day actually sucked instead of rocked), but at least she doesn’t have Liefield-esque pouches everywhere (and no torso)! πŸ˜›

          • Red says

            In any case, I’m eager to see the animated series. Even if the animation is sub-par, if the story is good, I’ll be a regular viewer.

            I’m not too crazy about it, ether, to be honest. I mean, SURELY they could have done a better job than that!

          • The Other Patrick says

            Well, possibly it’s not so bad in comparison, but I generally find a lot of what I see on TV not animated to my liking. That’s why I couldn’t stand even one episode of Archer despite people telling me how good it was.

    • Patrick McGraw says

      Reading the origins issue, it looks promising. And the project will doubtlessly benefit from Fabian Nicieza’s involvement. From the sounds of it, the title will hopefully look at how the world would actually change with superheroes in it (a concept that drives my own unpublished work), rather than yet another world where Reed Richards is Useless.

      Regarding WW’s new costume – I dislike for the same reasons as other have expressed (it looks very mid-90’s. I’d prefer a more armored costume that retained her traditional color scheme while maintaining a very Hellenic look (such as a blue pteruges with silver stars on each strap instead of Wonder-briefs/Wonder-thong).

  12. Chai Latte says

    So, by ‘sex sells’, we mean ‘the exploitation of women sells’?

    OK, even if I did have a really thick skin, I’m not sure I could swallow that one.

    • Casey says

      I remember reading an atrocious LJ comment in that “Wizard Teaches You How To Draw Women All Shitty” post where someone said something along the lines of:


  13. Nathanael says

    I mean, seriously, even if you’re only considering a male audience, and you’re trying to sell sex….

    Wonder Woman of the 1940s did *just fine* at getting that audience without drawing ludicrously unrealistic bodies or doing bizarrely sexualized poses. (The cliched 1940s comic book faces for women are another matter, but anyway.)

    “They look silly” indeed. A lot of modern comics art is just *terrible*.

  14. says

    As both a comic book reader and creator, I do not expect DC, Marvel, or any other comics company to pander to my baser urges. I read Spider-man for Spider-man, not for a glance at Mary Jane’s short skirt. Maybe I’m insane, but I preferred Power-Girl’s Infinity Inc. costume to her current/classic look. Somewhat low cut, cape attaching at shoulders, no boob window. The boob window is just stupid. Black Canary can run, rump, and fight in stilettos, fine. I’ll buy it. Maybe that’s her super power. But a boob window? Really?

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