Home Culture Sociology But the little girls understand

But the little girls understand

0

As suspected no time today to build up that head of steam needed to continue my essay. So I will leave you with an image gallery. But note: the point is NOT CHEESECAKE. That is never the point. The point is, to be crass, licensing, marketing and making money.

UPDATE: Luckily Lisa Fortuner (aka Ragnell) has built up a good head of steam and she NAILS it.


This is the variant cover Marvel put on a book that was supposed to be aimed at girls. And please note, I like Greg Horn, I think he is very talented, we have discussed his work and it is what it is. But again, this was a variant cover for a book that was supposedly aimed at girls. Who made that decision?


Do you remember the 90s? I love Francine.


Stuart Immonen Hellcat.


Queenie Chan, Random House author.


I miss you, Street Angel.


I wish I had finished this essay this week, the week that Minx debuted. History making? Yes.

And now a link:

i’d heard a lot of good things about the new Marvel Adventures Avengers series, so i bought an issue and brought it home. Read it. Seemed okay to me. Handed it off to the kiddos. When H– brought it back, i asked her what she thought.

“It’s good but, well, the art is….” She paused.

i glanced down at the open pages in front of me. “More realistic?” i guessed. Most, if not all, of the stuff she reads is pretty stylized.

“I suppose. But what I was really meant was ‘not very modest.’”

i blinked and picked up the book. Flipping through it, i didn’t see much–well, really anything–that concerned me. i asked her to show me what bothered her. She pointed to one panel. The only panel in the book that shows a whole female figure. All the other females are shown in bits and pieces. Know what it was?


Click on the link for the startling answer.

  1. Heidi- Am really enjoying the essay and hope you finish it. I co-taught a class on comics this year and at the end the women in the class (a sturdy 3) were sort of out of breath over how difficult it was to read female super-heroes in anything but an unflattering (or over-flattering) light. Politically, sexually, you name it. Even something like Birds of Prey they argued also operated around male perspectives and fantasies. We read “Identity Crisis” and wondered if there wasn’t a single cell left of poor Sue Dibny that somehow still couldn’t get burned, disintegrated, or just jumped on. One student (Anna) wrote on Thor and when she saw an old Treasury Thor in a vintage store, the guy at the counter gave her a discount — just because “she was a girl buying Thor.” Incidentally, she really liked Thor so I guess that means she could understand the visuals.

    But please America don’t forget LESBIAN BATWOMAN. LESBIAN BATWOMAN was announced with great cheers and revelry as the new savior for female heroes who would finally be out from under the yoke of men. Many of my academic colleagues wept openly and repeatedly crossed and uncrossed their hands in their laps that LESBIAN BATWOMAN would be the ultimate female role model for tolerance and diversity in contemporary super-hero comics.

    But she was doomed from her first full panel. As we all know, the first panel is everything to a character. In class, we looked at the first panels of Supes, Spidey, and Batman. Now look at LESBIAN BATWOMAN’s first panel.

    http://www.newsarama.com/dcnew/52/Batwoman/batwoman2_t.jpg

    Is she heroically lifting a car? Poised, ever-vigilant, over the city? No, we can barely see her face because the assets we are SUPPOSED to concentrate on are being shoved in our eyes in an apparent repeal of the laws of three-dimensional space. Pay no mind that she is kicking down the gorrillas and man-brutes of Patricarchy, LESBIAN BATWOMAN is once again, drawn for us men, not for social justice. And after this big splash, LESBIAN BATWOMAN basically disappears for all of 52 until she shows up at the end to…wait for it…get stabbed in the heart.

    I’m pretty sure LESBIAN BATWOMAN is just as offensive as NOT having a lesbian Batwoman (I got tired on that one) but she’s definitely offensive in terms of story: have we all really given up on creating new characters so much that they become these sort of generic Legion of Superhero names based only on their powers? Here’s your flight ring LESBIAN BATWOMAN! Hope your heart grows back!

  2. Lesbian Batwoman got stabbed in the heart? Huh … I wondered why I hadn’t heard any news about her lately.

    Well, I guess that was DC’s saftey net if there was any backlash. If she proved tremendously popular, they would have rewritten the ending. Or retconned her back into continuity.

  3. I don’t see that we’re being so egregious by showing one leg from a black dress that we’re just like any other superhero comic. That drawing of Morgan Le Fey is not exactly the new female Ultron. In fact, it’s showing nothing more overt than what you can often see in Disney Animation.
    And I’m pretty sensitive to this, and send notes all the time if I think the art is too racy (though usually the editors beat me to it). In Avengers this month, Leonard Kirk redesigned Giant-Girl’s outfit from the one that was just Giant-Man’s old costume, the straps of which always seemed kind of pervy to me. I could just be desensitized, but I don’t think MA:Avengers should be thrown out with the same water that the Mary Jane figure is washing clothes in.

  4. Yeah, I call shenanigans on getting upset over the the Morgan Le Fey image. Sure, Morgan is a little tarted up, but she doesn’t show any more cleavage than Jasmine and no more leg than Pocahantas. Heck, the Little Mermaid goes around in a bikini and no ones makes a fuss about that.

  5. Jeff and Josh, I’m not saying that Morgan le Fay really is offensive — maybe this little girl is raised in a house where women wear a hajib. But it does show that something is always too much for someone. Community standatds should prevail on what is too much .

    BUT THINK OF THE CHILDREN.

  6. I don’t see that we’re being so egregious by showing one leg from a black dress that we’re just like any other superhero comic.

    Hi, Jeff. i’m the dad in question.

    It was obvious to me that someone had to gone to great pains in that issue of MA Avengers to minimize the amount of female figure in view. That panel really is the only one that shows a head-to-toe shot of a woman. The issue is incredibly TAME in that regard.

    The real point for me was that she doesn’t see things as i see them. The mistake was mine as much as anything–i referred to Morgaine Le Fay as “realistic” art, suggesting that that is what women are supposed to look like. And i shouldn’t have. i should have bit my tongue and let her finish her own sentence.

    i think you’re right that there’s a clear distinction to be made between the MJ statue and what bothered my daughter (and “bothered” isn’t even the right word). On the other hand, she put the book down and didn’t go back to it. i’m not going to argue with her. She’s quite precocious and i respect her opinion quite a bit.

    But while i have you here (if i do have you here), i do have to say that Marvel has a lot of work to do in this area–the company is not a reliable deliverer of all-ages material and i always feel that i have to vette everything, unlike say, Johnny DC, which, for instance, has a house style that sets it apart from the DCU books. Family comics budget rarely goes to Marvel. That said, we (H– and her older brother and i) are enjoying your Spider-Man/FF book quite a bit.

    @Josh, the art style makes a difference here, i think. The comparison with Disney characters doesn’t particularly wash.

    i can confirm that there are no hajibs in the house (there is one sari, from a visit to India that H– and i took a couple of years ago). On the other hand, very few comics come their way that haven’t gone through my hands. You have to sell me on it first….

  7. I don’t know how much I can trust someone who takes Greg Horn art seriously. It’s pretty awful and you can tell which hot teen vixen he decided to “homage” each week.

    He’s pretty much everything I hate about art on Comic Book Covers. The worst thing is how SOULLESS his art looks.

  8. I vote for Pedro. ;)

    Seriously, his covers have devolved the mindset of the comics community by like decades.

    Really, when he started, he could draw okay and with women with some emotion. Then, I dunno, what happened…the bad girl era, He became a cover artist, and BAM!! All his art is now based on the latest Maxim cover. I dunno…. :(

  9. Hey SP (I am not calling you Skipper Pickle!). I understand your point and hope I don’t sound too defensive, I was mainly afraid casual readers would see that and lump the book in as a piece with the other points of contention. My daughter (only 4) will be offput by a book where a character makes a face she doesn’t think they should, for a more extreme example.
    I don’t think a house style is the way to go for the MA line- a big part of what’s made them successful is keeping the art on par with the regular MU books- lots of kids don’t want to feel like they’re getting the “kiddie” version, and neither do older readers. We of course observe rules about showing blood, harsh language and so on. But our main mandate is about staying away from continuity so to make hopping onto the books as easy as possible for new readers.

    I would also screen through books like you’re doing, even with the MA line. Mainly because I like to make sure money is going to a quality level I like. But you may just need something Marvel isn’t yet providing. I constantly wish for something that would occupy the niche Harvey Comics and Fawcett’s comics line used to fill, because the earliest reading group still has little to pick from.

    Thanks for reading Spidey/FF, by the way.

  10. Yes, that image of Morgan le Fay is NOT modest. She’s posing for the audience of oglers who is applauding her. It’s not indecent, but out of context, it’s really kinda weird, like she’s gonna be walking up to a pole any minute.

    And that Greg Horn cover….yeesh. It may look just fine in a comics shop, but I first saw it at the supermarket, opposite the bread aisle. It seemed wholly inappropriate sitting there, staring me in the face while I was looking for garlic bread.

    I think it says more about what we automatically expect and take for granted when we see a superhero comic.

  11. For the record, Batwoman survived being stabbed in the heart. (I guess the blade missed and hit a lung or something.) There was an epilogue at the end of 52 that showed her recuperating in the hospital, with a remark about how it takes time to recover from that sort of injury, presumably to explain why she hadn’t been seen in any of the post-52 books.

  12. Is the photograph woman the one who made the decision? Why is she photoshopped onto that body? Doesn’t seem to jive with the message.

  13. Was it the leg in particular that prompted the “not very modest” comment? Or was it the breast sticking out and clad in fabric in a way that most fabric doesn’t work in reality? That’s the part I wouldn’t consider realistic. I thought the leg was rather innocuous. But I view the depiction of a female breast covered with fabric that looks like it’s been painted on as the artist not taking the work seriously on its own terms. On terms of marketing toward a certain mindset, yes, but not on its own.

    What I mean by “taking the work seriously on its own terms” can perhaps be understood if you take a look at the Emma Frost illustration and try to imagine what’s going on in the character’s head. I don’t know much about the character, but I wonder about the decisions she’s made that resulted in her wearing that particular outfit and posing in that particular manner.

    I don’t know much about Marvel’s version of Morgan Le Fay either. But what prompted her to wear a dress that has pockets in which to deposit her breasts for display?

    In comics the costumes our characters wear say a lot about the characters themselves. I think it’s the cartoonist’s responsibility to design costumes with the character and story in mind, not to design costumes for the perceived expectations or assumptions of any potential reader.

  14. Barely mentioned here, but DC has figured out it out with Minx. I’ve read the first two books as advance copies (!) and both are well written, well drawn, beautifully designed to look like regular books, and I cannot wait to handsell these books to everyone. Like all good young adult novels, they can be enjoyed by adults as well.
    Oh, yeah, I work at Barnes & Noble. Our newsstand carries the kids comics, Ultimates, Dark Tower, and some Spidey, Jump, Beat, and the Archie digests. No complaints yet, but then I work near Lincoln Center, not Omaha, Nebraska.

  15. Ha — good point. That she recovered wasn’t my point, that she was portrayed as a) a sex object and b) a victim was. Not that a lesbian character can’t be either of those things, but that’s ALL we got with LB. Other than beat up some apes, she didn’t get that heroic moment that male heroes do to rise up above their own melodramatic tragedies/fantasies. Instead, her heroic moment was/is ostensibly recovering quietly and patiently in a hospital bed (ma’am may I have some more of that delicious green jello? No? Ok, I’m sorry). While certainly many, many people are incredibly heroic in facing injury or disease — LB is (supposedly) a super-heroine. According to the convention, she’s supposed to have some kind of victory. So what was hers, that she survived?!?!? That, to me, sends a different message to all kinds of audiences: girls, boys, gays, and everything in-between.

    Brad

  16. @ericshanower: i don’t know what H– particularly viewed as immodest. i didn’t drill down into the question because i thought it more important to teach her the value of her opinion by accepting it at face value. To hazard a guess (based on comparisons with the material she identifies with), i’d say you have hit on some of it: the high slit in the dress is a likely culprit (she’s starting to pay close attention to what she wears and what it says about her), the low neckline, the body definition. The skull at the crotch probably didn’t help either. Hang that skull around her neck and the sexual tension eases up a bit, no? ;)

    You wrote: But I view the depiction of a female breast covered with fabric that looks like it’s been painted on as the artist not taking the work seriously on its own terms.

    That mode of artwork (nude human figures with costumes painted on) is operating in this issue of MA Avengers. You can see it in the men–even Iron Man has well-defined pecs molded onto his chestpiece. It’s this approach to the human figure that perhaps most distinguishes the artwork here from other comics she enjoys.

    i wonder if you have hit here on an element that Marvel Adventures could consider adding to its guidelines. It seems to me that taking pains to draw the clothing/uniforms would keep the art (as Parker says above) “on par with the regular MU books” and yet help to distinguish the line on its own terms.

    But now i have stopped preaching and gone to meddling.

  17. I think this is an unwinnable argument, really. The concept of what’s “inappropriate” content varies from person to person, and for every young lady who had a problem with the Morgan Le Fay image, there’s probably one that really liked the design. She was definitely designed to be sexy, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s not like there were close-ups of her breasts or posterior or impossible body contortions so that both could be show at once. So while I won’t question Skipper Pickle’s daughter’s reading of that image, I don’t know if it’s necessarily indicative of the opinion of the audience as a whole.

    I write an all-ages book and comic strip myself, so I’m certainly sensitive to these kinds of issues. And I tend to think my standards are rather stringent for this kind of thing. When in doubt, I run stuff by my churchgoing, small town, middle school librarian mother, and if it gets by her, then I know that I’m in the clear.

    Though in all honesty my mom may have had some trouble with the crotch skull…

  18. I think this is an unwinnable argument, really. The concept of what’s “inappropriate” content varies from person to person, and for every young lady who had a problem with the Morgan Le Fay image, there’s probably one that really liked the design. She was definitely designed to be sexy, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s not like there were close-ups of her breasts or posterior or impossible body contortions so that both could be shown at once. So while I certainly won’t question Skipper Pickle’s daughter’s reading of that image, I don’t know if it’s necessarily indicative of the opinion of the audience as a whole.

    I write an all-ages book and comic strip myself, so I’m certainly sensitive to these kinds of issues. And I tend to think my standards are rather stringent for this kind of thing. When in doubt, I run stuff by my churchgoing, small town, middle school librarian mother, and if it gets by her, then I know that I’m in the clear.

    Though in all honesty my mom may have had some trouble with the crotch skull…

  19. I told my brother about Lesbian Batwoman today and he asked if her Bat-mobile was a converted Subaru Outback.

    Maybe her heroic victory moment was not sucking and this could only be accomplished by no longer appearing in any of the comics.

  20. I had to scroll ALL the way to the bottom of these responses before someone else mentioned the ‘crotch skull’? Of all things in the drawing, I found that to be the weirdest. What’s that saying about female anatomy (and that part of the female body the skull is covering)? As mentioned… it could easily have gone around the neck… or even higher on the waist.

  21. @BR: I didn’t follow 52 very closely, just kept up with what happened to a few characters via online reviews, so I really can’t comment on how well or how poorly DC handled the new Batwoman.

    What did you or your class think about how they handled Renee Montoya, the (eventually) new Question? Admittedly, she didn’t receive the media hype Batwoman did, and she’s not a conventional superhero, but she might still be worth considering in the context of your class, and in relation to 52’s brief portrayal of the new Batwoman.

    Just a thought.

  22. Skipper Pickle, I find it interesting that you find such fault in your “more realistic” comment regarding the Morgan picture. I myself find the girl character’s costumes in Teen Titans Go! to be more revealing than Morgan’s. However, they are drawn in a more cartoony style. Could your daughter find Morgan less modest because she is drawn less cartoony? Is “less cartoony” synonymous with “more realistic?” I’m not trying to start anything or offend anyone, but I think the style of art is very relevent in this situation: a more revealing costume on a cartoon-style character can have a very different impact than a less revealing costume on a more realistically-proportioned character.

  23. I mentioned this in the linked blog about the Morgan picture, but I suppose I’ll pipe up here, too. I’m not entirely sure the cut of the dress is at issue here. If you compared this to Teen Titans Go!, for instance, there is a clear difference between how emotionally “there” the female characters are portrayed. This character is vacant-eyed and her dress does not hide the fact that the artist was trying to make her curvy first, and a dynamic character second. Starfire with far less clothes does not emanate an air of sexuality at all, and therefore there is no reason to try to conceal it like something dirty. The art is not hyper-conscious of the sexual gaze from the fourth wall, if it even is at all, and the first priority in a drawing of her is to portray her emotion as it relates to the story.

    In other words, I wonder if this may be an issue of the art interrupting the narrative for no reason other than to titillate someone who is obviously not the young girl who was put off by it. I mean, if I was a girl not yet hitting puberty, I might also look at this art and read, “Oh by the way, you’re not the audience we’re talking to here,” like a “No Girlz!” sign on the clubhouse door.

    Alternatively, I might be embarrassed or peeved if I reading the story, but someone saw the picture and got the wrong idea of what I was getting out of the comic.

Exit mobile version