mad: Jason Todd says a lot of things (Jason Todd)
[personal profile] mad posting in [community profile] scans_daily
I had a very negative reaction to the preview for Birds of Prey #3, and wrote about it on my Tumblr, but am re-posting it here, with images added for illustrative purposes.

In total this post contains about one page's worth of art/panels from the BoP #3 previews, maybe a bit over. (Most of them are from the preview on the DC Comics website, but one is from the preview on IGN.) Also, I've included the cover art to Gotham City Sirens #9.

Fair warning: this post contexts a lot of text.



The Penguin is injured and hallucinated that the Birds are...well, doing this:





This book is breaking my heart. I’m so tired of Ed Benes’ art. I’m tired of Huntress’s stupid belly window costume. I’m tired of the Birds sporting wedgies and their asses being constantly tilted toward the camera, and I’m tired of all the Birds’ faces looking the same. (That the Gail Simone’s writing here has the characters stripping/seducing, even in a villain’s hallucination, is also alienating and tiresome.)



It’s not something that’s limited to Benes, of course, but some comic book artists have the profoundly irritating habit of making most women’s faces look the same, while giving a huge amount of character to men’s faces. Check out the Penguin, and then look at all the women’s faces. It’s a similar thing with Guillem March in Gotham City Sirens. Dudes like the Riddler and Penguin get personality and individuality in their faces, but the women’s faces are kept as bland as possible.

It sucks that while we have TWO books featuring female team-ups in Gotham, both are mired in cheesecake that, in my opinion, gets in the way of the storytelling. It pulls me out of the story and kills my enjoyment. It especially sucks as a reader, because both books are written by people whose work I usually like, and characters I’m interested in following.



I realize that cheesecake and difficulty drawing women’s faces is by no means limited to these particular comics. I haven’t been reading GCS, and it’s been a while since I’ve even bothered to look at a preview of it, so for all I know, the art’s changed over time. But what I did see when the series launched was enough to put me off the book. (Also, the constant high heels on Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.)

I’m just tired of wanting to read books about female characters I like, and having to put up with excessive cheesecake. I don’t even MIND cheesecake or beefcake when it’s done well and doesn’t overpower the story. In the right context, I can enjoy it. But when it’s constant and mindless cheesecake in superhero stories, it grates on my nerves.

And it’s not just because it’s tiresome to constantly see your heroes and favourite characters sexually objectified for readers who are not me (just in case I needed reminding that mainstream comics don’t really care whether or not they have me for an audience), but because I see parallels to how women are objectified elsewhere.

I’m not even really talking about porn or other things aimed at straight men, where you do see those kinds of spine-injuring postures and objectification. I’m talking about how every magazine and advertisement aimed at WOMEN do similar things: soft lighting, make-up and airbrushing, eliminating any visual hint of “flaws” and personality. The Penguin's face could only belong to one person, and that is Oswald "Penguin" Cobblepot. Oracle, Huntress, Canary, and Dove, on the other hand? Put the same hair colour/style and mask on all of them and they all look exactly the same. The Penguin gets loads of detail and individuality on his face. But attempt to give a woman that same level of detail in a drawing, and people will probably view it as ugly.



Culturally, we give men permission to get wrinkles, grow stubble, and leave their grey hair un-dyed. We allow and enjoy visual representation of individuality and personality in men, we allow them the chance to prove their worth outside of their looks. We can love and enjoy, say, Jonah Hex, as a protagonist and hero, and we can love and enjoy Two-Face as a villain. But a woman? She must be beautiful, and if she’s not, chances are that her entire motivation and personality are wrapped up in the fact that she’s not conventionally attractive.

I can’t remember where I read it, but someone once said that women don’t wear make-up to look pretty, they wear make-up to feel human.

Perhaps that’s an oversimplification and is not a universal explanation for every woman who puts on make-up, or for every comic artist who simplifies women’s faces to the point where they all look the same, or for every magazine that photoshops away every wrinkle and smidgen of fat off of women’s bodies. It’s hard to articulate, but there’s always an implicit rule that women who don’t fit into the conventionally attractive mold will be rejected, individually and by society. That threat of rejection, of being dismissed, seen as sub-human, unworthy of any consideration or respect, it’s in male gaze, it’s in superhero comics, it’s in advertising, it’s in consumerism, it’s in products/magazines/advertising/other content aimed at women, it’s in the news and politics, it’s in strangers’ eyes, and it’s in the mirror. Every day. Often it’s subtle and easily ignored or goes entirely unnoticed, often it’s not and it doesn’t.

There’s a reason why I’d rather pick up Birds of Prey than Cosmo or whatever. It’s because I expect a superhero book to pull me in and make me forget about that crap, to make me feel at least a little bit empowered. It’s a superhero fantasy, and it should be fun, exciting and inspiring, not aggravating and tiring.

I realize that this is a very personal reaction to certain styles of art, that some find it difficult to draw women’s faces, and that there are other forces at work besides an artist’s particular style. Not everyone may think along these lines or feel this way, but when I read this preview of BoP, all I felt was tired. It’s not just a problem of one artist I don’t like on one book I should like, but just another facet of a much larger problem that manifests so frequently in comics, and practically everywhere one looks. When I say I’m tired of mindless cheesecake in superhero comics, it’s not just because it’s a problem in comics, but because I see it as a part of a continuum of a larger problem.

I’m tired of it.

Try to imagine what this scene would look like if the male character were swapped for a female one, and the female characters for male ones. If it were Batman and Superman sexily posing and stripping for a daydreaming, fully-clothed (non-spandexed, non-sexualized) Catwoman being creepy, DC would likely never publish it because it’d probably be seen as too demeaning to their favourite superhero guys.

You’d never see a beefcake equivalent to Gotham City Sirens, where every cover has, say, Dick Grayson, Roy Harper, and Wally West sexily and seductively posing together, with their skintight costumes highlighting their nipples, crotches and butts all at the same time. Despite how (b)romantic Superman/Batman can get, you’ll never see the same kind of sexual objectification of them in that book.

And if you believe that men are equally objectified and idealized as women are in superhero comics, you should compare and contrast. (Men are idealized as being “strong”, women are idealized as being “sexy”. Not the same thing, not equal.)

I have no idea what Gail Simone was aiming for when writing the scene we see in the BoP #3 preview, but it doesn’t appeal to me. In a recent interview, she talked about Ed Benes’ art:

That said, he is of the Brazilian tradition, so his art is always hugely sexy and sexually charged. It can be a bit much for some, but I never sense the, you know, the hate that some artists bring to their sexy drawings. Again, it’s like the Suicide Girls, and I’ve used them as an example before. What they do is so free of the kind of self- and other-loathing that infuses so much porn and cheesecake. It’s more about a sense of joy and freedom, and the effect is different.


I guess Your Mileage May Vary. I don’t see “joy and freedom” in it, but rather the same old trappings.

Date: 2010-07-20 05:16 pm (UTC)
valtyr: (Default)
From: [personal profile] valtyr
he point is, they're both THEORIES. Yours may be better-researched than mine, but they're still both purely theoretical

Well, call me an intellectual elitist, but have you done any research on your theory, or is just something you pulled out of your ass on the spur of the moment?

"Sure, the theory of gravity is well considered, but maybe the earth just sucks! They're both therories!"

Of COURSE I'm not saying 'hatred of James Cameron is a more powerful force than sexism'

Yes, you are. Earlier you said you could not imagine sexism overcoming greed, and therefore there must be another reason. Now you are saying you consider it a perfectly reasonably idea that hatred of James Cameron can overcome greed. Only connect.

For that matter, 'Avatar' was a gigantic hit, but so far, I haven't seen any imitations of it

Don't worry, there'll be another Avatar Dances with Pocahontas in Ferngully down the pike any minute. That was not a new idea, it is simply part of a long chain of imitators, and I'm sure there'll be another link soon. (For that matter, I did see a movie at the cinema last week where some people went to an alien planet and met aliens and proved better than them at their own game. The hero did not get to bang a Yautja princess, though. Shame.)

'Twilight' is a big deal at the moment, and it's still in theaters,

Well, actually, Eclipse is in theatres. Twilight was on for a while, then stopped. Then the fans waited for the sequel. While they were waiting, they might well have enjoyed a different film relevant to their interests, don't you think?

Now, A: because 'Twilight' IS such a big deal, it doesn't strike me as very politic to put out an imitation of it while the series is still in theaters

Yes, that's why they waited until Harry Potter was done before releasing Chronicles of Narnia, Lemony Snickett, Spiderwick Chronicles, Dark Materials, and the rest. Turns out, people see multiple movies a year!

it would strike me as only good sense

It strikes you as good sense that when you see a someone selling their product to an eager crowd, you should wait until the seller is done with that crowd before attempting to sell them your own, similar product?

I'm not complaining about the fact that I'm IN a discussion about sexism - I'm just a tad bitter about the fact that you keep yelling at me when I was just looking for a friendly conversation.

Here's a tip: if you want a friendly conversation and not a serious discussion, anti-oppression posts are probably not your best stop, especially not when you're ill-informed about the topic at hand.

I understand you hold strong views on this, but I don't, and I resent being lambasted for it.

Well aren't you fucking lucky to not hold strong views on it? Oh, well, I guess the oppression of half the population of the world based on their gender is bad... I don't really hold strong views.

And you have the nerve to tell me you resent being lambasted? You tell me you don't have strong feelings about sexism, and that you don't see why people are meeeeean to you about it? Because sexism is a BIG FUCKING DEAL and you should care about it, that's why.

Date: 2010-07-20 05:25 pm (UTC)
sistermagpie: Classic magpie (Default)
From: [personal profile] sistermagpie
Don't worry, there'll be another Avatar Dances with Pocahontas in Ferngully down the pike any minute. That was not a new idea, it is simply part of a long chain of imitators, and I'm sure there'll be another link soon.

And didn't Avatar single-handled cause the landslide of 3-D movies? I'd say it's the most blatantly and desperately imitated movie of the year if not the decade!

Date: 2010-07-20 05:29 pm (UTC)
valtyr: (my little captain)
From: [personal profile] valtyr
It may well have - I can't see 3-D, so I don't really pay attention, but I know a friend of mine loosely connected to the industry* said he viewed Avatar as just a demo for the effects tech involved, and the styles and effects would set the fashion for years.

*he programs computer games so 3-D stuff fascinates him. He's not like, Samuel L Jackson's bikini waxer or anything.

Date: 2010-07-20 11:16 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
The theory of gravity ain't a damn theory any more. Yours and mine both still are. I will freely admit that I came up with this theory during the course of the conversation, but it made sense to me at the time, and it still does, just as yours makes sense to you. This is why people theorize in the first place - to make sense of things.

I NEVER said I 'could not imagine sexism overcoming greed'! Of COURSE it can overcome greed, I was just saying that there are other circumstances where the opposite is also true!
Anyway, James Cameron is just a side argument - it was another theory, and one that others have already begun to pick apart, so I'll freely admit that perhaps it wasn't a great one. I'll also admit that my logic may have been a little shaky there, so let's just move on from James Cameron.

When I said 'Twilight', I was speaking of the series as a whole. I realize 'Eclipse' is currently the one in theaters. And as for your list of 'imitations', I call foul. Why? Because NONE OF THEM ARE IMITATIONS OF HARRY POTTER, that's why! The 'Narnia' books existed long before Harry was so much as a twinkle in J.K Rowlings' eye (and anyway, the movie versions have much more to do with 'Lord of the Rings'). The Lemony Snickett books are not even FANTASY, let alone Harry Potter imitations - they have much more to do with Victorian-era melodrama. The Spiderwick Chronicles are a bit closer to the mark, but they're much more like 'fantastic adventure with a horrific edge' than the out-and-out fantasy and worldbuilding of HP. As for 'Dark Materials', they are very, very different books than Harry Potter, and I'm reasonably certain that 'Golden Compass' was published before 'Sorcerer's Stone'. The Harry Potter adaptations may have opened the WAY for all these to be made into movies, but none of them are imitations - they all have their own fanbases and are good books in their own right, thank you very much.

I may point out that other people have added their own two cents on these matters, and THEY have all managed to be perfectly civil and friendly in tone - including, I might add, the poster who started this whole thing off with her post. The ONLY two people doing the yelling are YOU and ME, and it started with YOU, so this makes this less about actual sexism and more about the fact that you seem to hate my guts! And YES, I RESENT that! Wouldn't you?

Date: 2010-07-21 12:53 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Since you request it, I will most gladly stop, as I have been looking for a way out of this conversation for some time now, anyway. My apologies if all this has caused you inconvenience; I admit, I didn't think of that aspect of things, which was inconsiderate of me, and I beg your pardon. By all means, let's consider this conversation concluded.

I have one more thing to say to you.

Date: 2010-07-21 04:32 pm (UTC)
valtyr: (pointing)
From: [personal profile] valtyr
You said:
"movie studies HAVE been trying to duplicate that success, by snapping up the rights to book series left and right. 'Percy Jackson and the Olympians', 'Cirque du Freak - the Vampire's Assistant', 'The Spiderwick Chronicles' - these are all juvenile fiction series that have been turned into movies, which was kicked off by 'Harry Potter'," - psychopaticus_rex, July 17th

"I call foul. Why? Because NONE OF THEM ARE IMITATIONS OF HARRY POTTER, that's why! The 'Narnia' books existed long before Harry was so much as a twinkle in J.K Rowlings' eye (and anyway, the movie versions have much more to do with 'Lord of the Rings'). The Lemony Snickett books are not even FANTASY, let alone Harry Potter imitations - they have much more to do with Victorian-era melodrama. The Spiderwick Chronicles are a bit closer to the mark, but they're much more like 'fantastic adventure with a horrific edge' than the out-and-out fantasy and worldbuilding of HP. As for 'Dark Materials', they are very, very different books than Harry Potter, and I'm reasonably certain that 'Golden Compass' was published before 'Sorcerer's Stone'." - psychopathicus_rex, 20 July

The reason your responses make me angry is that you will change your opinions to suit your needs. On the 17th, you said the Spiderwick Chronicles were an attempt to cash in on Harry Potter's success. On the 20th, you 'called foul' when I said the same. You are so determined to disagree with me that if I repeat your own opinions back to you you will denounce them.

That is intellectually dishonest, and that is why I am angry, not because I 'hate your guts'.

As [personal profile] mad requested, I will cease to reply now, but I could not allow this to pass unnoted.

Re: I have one more thing to say to you.

Date: 2010-07-21 10:08 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
You misunderstand me. What I meant, originally, was that the MOVIE version of 'Spiderwick' was put into production due to the success of Harry Potter; there's no denying that, and that was my original point. However, when you referred to the Narnia series, etc, as 'imitations' of HP, that was a different story, because, as I stated previously, these all came from perfectly valid stand-alone book series of their own, several of which had existed for some time before 'Harry Potter' ever came out. They may have been put into production as MOVIES because of 'HP', but they were not IMITATIONS of it - the movies were adaptations of pre-existing source material, not made up on the spot to cash in. THAT was what I was saying. Sorry if that didn't come across as clear as it might have.
Anyway, as you pointed out, we have been requested to bring this to a close, so let's do so. Conversation ends here. It's over.

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