Peggy Burns on Double-X in comics

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I’ve had a lot of private correspondence over my recent post on my dearth of women creators and decision-making execs, many from folks who work for indies who pointed out the number of women working in those fields. Which is true. I was commenting more on mainstream, i.e. Marvel and DC Comics, where the number of people out in front of the camera who are distaff is far fewer and not growing much. Heck, Jenette Kahn, once the most powerful woman in comics by a mile, is making movies now.

Several people took me to task for not mentioning someone who is easily one of the most powerful people in comics, Fae Desmond, Executive Director of the San Diego Comic-Con. I plead a huge mea culpa for that, although as I joked to one correspondent, Fae is so busy that I’ve literally seen more of Samuel L. Jackson than her in recent years at the show.

At any rate, Stephen Totilo, the MTV video games expert who I singled out had his own response to my post, which I’ll let speak for itself. Notably, Lance Fensterman, who runs new York Comic-Con, BEA and New York Anime Fest, responded directly on his blog:

I read Heidi McDonald’s post at The Beat on the standing of female creators in our industry and took it as a wakeup call of sorts. In the post (read it here) Heidi uses the guest list from New York Comic Con as an example of how little play female creators in the comic industry get. I took her use of the NYCC guest list as an example and not so much a criticism, but the reality is either way she’d be correct – we have very few female creators on our guest list.

Obviously this is not deliberate, but it was also not deliberately avoided by actively seeking out worthy female creators. So what’s a con to do? Same as we always do, we ask the fans and pros (our customers) for advice. We ask you for your ideas and recommendations, that’s what.

You can go on over to Lance’s blog and make some suggestions of your own.

And then there’s this,which fills me with sorrow and agita. The idea that by singling women out I’m continuing to ghettoize them is a distressing one to me, and I do feel that I am in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t, situation. In my own defense, I do know that I spotlight the work of many, many women in comics here without ANY reference to their gender, posting artwork and new project announcements and so on. That is my end goal in my own work, and one of the reasons I don’t have any “Women in Comics” categories on this blog.

That said, Drawn and Quarterly Associate Publisher (a promotion I wasn’t aware of, so congrats) Peggy Burns sent me a lengthy and worthy response reprinted below. Peggy is one of the smartest and most dedicated PEOPLE I know in the comics business, and one of the biggest behind-the-scenes movers and shakers. We’d be far, far poorer without her. I’ll have more to say on this topic soonish, but I think letting her have the last word is a great way to end the year’s discussion on this topic.

Dear Heidi,

As a former employee of DC Comics and current Associate Publisher of Drawn & Quarterly, I read your recent editorial on women in comics with great interest and couldn’t agree more. But to examine the question of why there aren’t more women working in comics, we have to find new answers. And there are new answers, and there are old answers that have been there all along, but for some reason just have never been properly recognized.

I agree that it’s important to note that NYCC has few female special guests, but it’s hardly surprising. Until the organizers develop a deeper understanding of the medium (meaning NOT having a “Women Who kick Ass” panel with Jenna Jameson), and not just see the show as a revenue stream among their many trade shows, NYCC will always be inferior to the one show that everyone keeps pontificating that NYCC may overcome in numbers and influence–Comic-con International. And I think it should be noted, or perhaps more likely spelled out in fireworks in the sky, a few of the talented people who are behind Comic-con International: Fae Desmond, Jackie Estrada, Sue Lord, Janet Goggins, and those are just some of the people I deal with directly. I would go so far as to say that Fae Desmond is the one of the most powerful people in comics, a “noted industry figure” if you will. And yet, no mention of her ever comes up. She’s been with CCI since 1985.

What’s wrong in the year 2008 is to state that one can only be a noted industry figure if they work for Vertigo or Dark Horse and the titles that Shelly, Karen, and Diana edit are “mainstream” and the comics that Francoise edits are “not mainstream” especially in age when Persepolis is the bestselling original graphic novel of the decade. If the debate is whittled down to superhero comics or the big two then the argument of few women in comics makes more sense. Yes, there are shamefully few women writers and/or artists for DC Comics and Marvel, BUT there are far more than the one new “noted industry figure” you cited from the past five or ten years. If I may, editorially: Anjali Singh, Deanne Urmy, Shawna Ervin-Gore, business-wise Judith Hansen, Michelle Ollie, Jennifer de Guzman and those are the names that are on my radar (I’m sure there are plenty more in the genres I don’t follow as closely, especially in manga and superhero) or retailers like Mimi Cruz of Nightflight, Chloe Eudaly of Reading Frenzy and Mary Gibbons of Rocketship or journalists like yourself, Nisha Gopalan, and Hillary Chute.

Perhaps it is because the process in single-authored comics is more organic is why no one ever mentions cartoonists (of single authored comics) and their publishers, it’s too obvious. But for the week ending 12/14/08, Lynda Barry was holding her own on the Bookscan hardcover graphic novel bestseller list at #9 (# 42 on the overall hardcover and paperback list), behind Alan Moore and Tim Sale and ahead of Neil Gaiman and Stephen King, six months after her book came out. If we’re going to discuss women in comics, let’s do the research and be inclusive not exclusive. Let’s change the debate with facts.

The comics medium has changed a lot in the past decade thankfully, and, for the few segments of the industry that have not caught up on the issue of women in comics or doing comics, there are others who are quickly changing this, and therefore the definition of mainstream. I understood you were trying to say there are not many women doing comics at the big two companies, but in an industry that can a bit narrow-minded, we need our pundits to be think a little broader, so that everyone can learn.

Best,
Peggy Burns
Drawn & Quarterly
Associate Publisher

Comments

  1. Small point: contra Ms. Burns I would not necessarily call the absence of women creators at the Big Two “shameful.” It’s probably both “unfortunate” and “short-sighted,” but “shameful” suggests that there’s some gross inequity in that absense. This presupposes the notion that there are a lot of women who have both the talent and inclination to do superhero comics. On the matter of talent the jury’s probably always gonna be out, but on inclination we have this statement from the Last Remake of Comics Sexism, thanks to Danielle Corsetto:

    “Y’all are absolutely correct; the reason most of us indie girls aren’t making it into the mainstream is often because we don’t have interest. I had a small window of opportunity to write female-targeted books for Marvel (pre-Minx), and I lost it. If I’d been 100% into the idea, I think I’d be writing for Marvel right now. I know I’m capable of doing it. But my heart wasn’t into it, and I lost the opportunity by not jumping on it.

    Don’t get me wrong; in this economy I’d be happy to have steady work and write a Spiderman Loves Mary Jane-esque book for an established company. But I wouldn’t be happy doing it for the rest of my life – it wouldn’t be fulfilling. I’ll take real-life heroines like Courtney Crumrin, or my own character Jamie (the sexiest character in GWS is a chunky virgin), to tights-and-capes-clad superheroines any day.”

    In contrast to Corsetto, just how many female pros have gone out of their way to say how much they like regular work in the mainstream? And how many whose first names don’t rhyme with “sail?”

  2. Wow. Peggy’s really thought that through, pretty well. I will have to think on her words for a while. You know, I was trying to think of how many women I saw that comic con’s DC portfolio review, when I went on Saturday (not last Saturday of course) and I can only think of two. One was a letterer, and the other was sitting with a guy, who had his artwork with him. I’m sure there must have been more, but I didn’t see them through the see of guys.

  3. …sorry sea of guys.

  4. Excellent follow-up blog post.

  5. I’d also like to point out that I’ve seen this dichotomy at work VERY strongly with the Wonder Woman Day event I produce each year. Here are a few facts:

    1 – This year’s event had over 150 comic creators producing original art, with a three-year total of over 300 artists contributing
    2 – This year raised over $26,600, for a three-year total of over $69,000. The events are most likely in the top 10 of biggest charitable fundraisers in comic history.
    3 – All three years were produced as benefits for largely-female Domestic Violence shelters and a Women’s Crisis Line (that latter only year 2-3)
    4 – The last two years have seen a second event produced concurrently which is co-run by a female retailer
    5 – The last two years have been recognized by the Mayor of Portland OFFICIALLY as “Wonder Woman Day,” a first in the character’s 67 year history

    Despite this, getting coverage of Wonder Woman Day in the comic book press has been next to impossible. Especially the female-oriented sites.
    * The initial press releases are barely covered, and often on heavy news days, buried in small blog mentions, or listed only after repeated reminders.
    * No one connected to the event has ever been asked to do a single interview except for the first year in DRAW! magazine.
    * No comics journalist has ever attended the story and written about it except for Michael Eury for the first year in BACK ISSUE magazine.
    * Female-centric sites and bloggers have all but ignored the events. Heidi has mentioned it once each year, and Valerie D’Orazio DOES report on it. Colleen Doran’s blog mentioned it once. Friends of Lulu has never reported on it, and ditto Sequential Tart. The afore-mentioned Nisha Gopalan, and Hillary Chute have not written about it to my knowledge.

    With that example, if one can’t get a major female-centric comic book event to even pique the interest of female comicdom, what hope is there? Rather than continuing to beat up on the NYCC for it’s damnable Jenna Jameson panel, why not highlight the events that ARE doing good things?

    For more about Wonder Woman Day, feel free to visit http://www.wonderwomanmuseum.com

  6. ” I’m sure there must have been more, but I didn’t see them through the sea of guys. ”

    My gal radar would have been better attuned. You’d need a tsunami of guys to block ‘em.

  7. “Despite this, getting coverage of Wonder Woman Day in the comic book press has been next to impossible. Especially the female-oriented sites.”

    Perhaps it’s more fun to complain about the Jenna Jameson panel?

    I attended Wonder Woman day in Flemington, NJ … a small but pleasant event …

    One woman told me she thought Wonder Woman was a silly anachronism of powerful females. She prefered Xena over WW. Could the same attitude be hurting Wonder Woman day?

  8. Yeah, this is a good, thoughtful follow-up post.

    We’re hopefully in a moment of transition. We’ll see. It’s good to see the responses overall & have people talking, especially the eloquent above Ms. Burns, & Lance @ NYCC. & good on Stephen Totilo for rolling w/ the references.

    Andy: I love Wonder Woman, but I’m biased. I suppose I should spend as much time doing my own blog as I do reading here. ’cause I woulda pimped that. (2009 resolution, formed.)

    RE: Cherchez, last thread: *I* wasn’t bitching about *imaginary* sexism, which is what people kept saying. *I* was bitching about *real* sexism that has happened to me, personally, in this industry, not some friend-of-a-friend story. “More fun to complain”? Yeesh. It’d be “more fun” to not have anything to bitch about.

    I’m gonna keep an open mind & check back in at this time next year. See where we are. Cautious optimism – same way I feel about our President-Elect.

  9. mark coale says:

    “She prefered Xena over WW.”

    I’m surprised people even still remember Xena, except for the people who still dress as her for Halloween.*

    * I have a friend whose default costume is Xena. Yes, she is a lesbian. :>

  10. Kate Fitzsimons says:

    Re: The last thread…

    “Can anyone imagine a woman handling Power Girl in a series?”

    I can’t believe no one answered this.

    Actually, yes, I can. Because Amanda Connor ALREADY HAS. And very well, too.

  11. “What’s wrong in the year 2008 is to state that one can only be a noted industry figure if they work for Vertigo or Dark Horse and the titles that Shelly, Karen, and Diana edit are “mainstream” and the comics that Francoise edits are “not mainstream” especially in age when Persepolis is the bestselling original graphic novel of the decade.”

    Great point. I’ve seen comic people and publications in all seriousness refer to graphic novels published by Scholastic and Simon and Schuster as “indies!”. It makes me laugh out loud every time.

  12. michael says:

    since your post about this, Heidi, I too, have perused the NYCC 2009 website of people attending as well. While I applaud Lance for addressing this issue, nothing else seems to be in effect.

    Also, while it is noted that the female contingent is low, the female attending writers (non-comic book related) are apparently numerous and plenty!! O.O

  13. Dave, I think the difference between “indie” and “mainstream” isn’t one of subject matter but of pure practicality — i.e., the bottom line. DC and Marvel appear to employ more writers and artists at a living-wage page rate than other companies. That’s part of what “Big Two” means (another big part being “volume”). If you can’t make a living from doing comics, you’ll tend to seek out alternate fields for your talents or turn those talents into essentially a hobby or side-job. The number of artists making an actual living doing non-Big Two comics is probably very small compared to those who contract with Marvel and DC. And as we know, the percentage of female artists contracted by the Big Two is much smaller than the percentage working outside the mainstream income flow. As with many other professions, women gravitate towards the lower-paying echelon because by and large they aren’t being hired for the higher-paying stuff.

  14. Kate Fitzsimons says:

    A little late to the game here, but I was distracted by the holidays when the original post went up.

    While I agree that there are far more women in those areas of comics that do not involve superheroes and that these comics are indeed a thing of beauty and a joy forever, neither fact magically changes that it appears to be very hard for a woman to break into superhero comics.

    One might well say that women *shouldn’t* want to break into superhero comics, for a variety of reasons, and yet the fact remains that a number of women do. Is it really anyone else’s place to tell them what they should or should not aspire to in their own work?

    Wanting to do personal work as well as established superheroes does not count as not wanting to break in. Taking work in other areas of comics does not equal a lack of any superheroic ambition.

    Women can and do write, illustrate and edit superhero comics. It is hardly a biological impossibility or necessarily repellant to male readers. Perhaps our relative absence has absolutely nothing to do with current social gender assumptions. Maybe. But I wouldn’t care to wager on it.

    It may be that the creators of superhero comics will never meet a 50/50 gender balance. This wouldn’t surprise me. Fewer women read superhero comics than men, but still, fewer doesn’t mean “hardly any”. I could be wrong, but I suspect there are any number of talented comic creators out there who are women that would jump at the chance to tackle capes and spandex in the big time.

  15. “One woman told me she thought Wonder Woman was a silly anachronism of powerful females. She prefered Xena over WW.”

    What’s the difference?

    I really really hate to do this, but oh well, “RE: Cherchez, last thread: *I* wasn’t bitching about *imaginary* sexism, which is what people kept saying. *I* was bitching about *real* sexism that has happened to me, personally, in this industry”

    *I* know you weren’t bitching about imaginary sexism, and *I* know you were bitching about things which happened to you. Because you were gracious enough to share those examples with us, I hope that it’ll cause other people to pause and think before doing similar things to women (and men) in the future.

    “I can’t believe no one answered this.
    Actually, yes, I can. Because Amanda Connor ALREADY HAS. And very well, too. ”

    I thought about bringing that up, but since it was a post about writers, I left it out because I wasn’t sure if she was the writer on it since she’s mostly known as an artist. Similarly, that’s why I never mentioned Pia Guerra as another example of an awesome woman working for Marvel/DC.

    **crosses fingers that this thread doesn’t end up like the other one, especially after such a promising beginning.**

  16. i think Peggy is right.

  17. Re WW and Xena, Fred asks: “What’s the difference?”

    I don’t know. My friend said it, not me. Wonder Woman probably seems more like a male’s fantasy female, whereas Xena (to her, anyway) probably seems more like a powerful female role model.

    Xena may not get dolled up to fight evil, but she does have Gabrielle in tow, so there IS a certain glamour factor there.

  18. Let’s hope that we will never live in an age where women scorne and show contempt for those men who read superhero comics… Men yet despite this prejudice and hardship and yes sexism (being labeled not real men) still read them, and in some cases decide to make a career of it.
    For the brave comicbook ladies who have broken rank with their sisters -do what you can to change their minds… and if you think labeling the comicbook industry as a hostile sexist workplace is the best way to go about this: then so be it! And if so bring forth more examples so we can combat it together.
    In the end with more females we’ll probably have more sexism that goes both ways. Personally I find such statements such as “women who don’t want to compete at being as loud and attention-getting as men are expected to be” sexist -from Heidi’s previous blog on the topic.
    Here’s to 2009:)

  19. Charles Knight says:

    I’m frankly more bothered about women IN (big two) comics than women in comics if you follow me – it still all seems to be about the male gaze – maybe that would change if more women started writing but I doubt it, because it seems too late to appeal to anyone than the intended audience of fat bearded men (and why are so many creators fat bearded men?) who want to read about people in gimp suits. I’m not surprised that young up and coming female (or male) writers have something better to do with their voices.

    Apologies for typos – it’s NY and I openned the champers early (I’m celebrating in all timezones on the hour – only another six or seven to go before my own)

  20. Kate Fitzsimons says:

    Oliver, it isn’t so much that labeling the superhero comic publishers a hostile workplace is an inherently good thing, but rather that fixing a problem requires identifying it in the first place. If a female comic creator is unhappy with the current state of the industry, it makes sense that she would want to attempt to change it for the better.

  21. Whoa. Kate. That’s what you got from what I wrote?
    I’ve had my share of women and gay men try to get in my pants in the workplace and school -I’m not unsympathetic, not at all -in fact I think its a terrible crime to question anyone coming forth… but on that note if we know of this we have a moral obligation to come forth with examples, or else we are no better than the prepatrators.

  22. Steven R. Stahl says:

    In a Newsarama interview, Amanda Conner talks about Power Girl, the heroine’s “boobies,” the design of her costume, etc., all of which confirms that the character is intrinsically sexist. Conner isn’t bothered by that, apparently, but others can be.

    Re women writers at the Big Two: There’s not really much of a point in pushing for Marvel and DC to employ more women, if they would be required to do stories similar to those written by men. If one wants to suppose that women writers would draw more female readers, then their stories should cater to female readers, by spotlighting female characters and/or handling characters (and female characters specifically) better than the men have been doing. I don’t’ see any point in doing or creating a heroine if she is going to have a stereotypically male “kick ass” personality. Everyone knows that women can use curse words and fight.

    One of the best developed comics heroines I’m aware of is/was Englehart’s Scarlet Witch. Her personality, relationships, and situations all had depth and dimensions. Her pregnancy was a brilliant innovation. IMO, Englehart’s best material with her appeared in WEST COAST AVENGERS ANNUAL #1. If heroines generally were handled as well as Wanda was, gender bias might be a non-issue. The more closely any comics character resembles SF and fantasy prose counterparts, the better.

    SRS

  23. Elayne, I agree with your points from a freelancer perspective. But I was referring to book reviews and how stores and comic fans still tend to categorize books. Not by genre but by company status. As people come at it via the book world, it doesn’t make any sense that a low selling marvel comic is considered “mainstream” but a NY Times Best Selling graphic novel is considered “indie”.

  24. Mariah says:

    Oliver-
    You argued this in the last thread I believe, and I think you’re missing the point. There is the sexism within comics the industry, and sexism within society as a whole. The latter puts women at a disadvantage culturally no matter how many times you’ve personally been propositioned at work by women or men. Those are personal experiences and while it’s unfortunate that it happened, comparing that to the long standing cultural history of sexism against women is like comparing apples and oranges. In reality women deal with sexism on multiple levels. It’s not just the workplace, it’s everywhere.

    As for requesting people talk about personal experiences with it, there are several legitimate reasons why some women may choose not to. Many women who have spoken out have found their careers adversely effected, problems getting promoted, or being labeled “crazy” or “trouble” in the industry at large. Reputation is everything and we are sadly not at the point where most folks don’t blame the victim first. Many of us who work in this field can ill afford to deal with the possibility of backlash.

    Secondly, you can’t request that people discuss situations that have happened to them personally. There may be legal reasons they can’t, or they may simply not want/or be able to. It’s humiliating to be treated in such a way by colleagues, and even more humiliating to realize you may not be believed. Requiring disclosure doesn’t seem like much of a solution.

    Is the general topic of sexism in comics invalid unless people start ticking off each individual experience with it in detail? I don’t really think it’s anyone’s place to decide that for someone else, and as for moral obligation making anyone who is silent the same as the perpetrators…I’m really hoping I’m misunderstanding what you wrote. Because the problem is systemic, cultural, and complex. While talking about it may bring things to light, and I’m all for that, requiring it is something else. And it doesn’t, no matter how helpful, treat the underlying causes.

  25. I thought this was covered in the last blog regarding this: one can post examples as warnings for others and to educate people anonymously without naming names. I think you should be encouraging this.

  26. Mariah,

    You make a fair case for why individual women might not care to reveal personal narratives in saying, “Is the general topic of sexism in comics invalid unless people start ticking off each individual experience with it in detail?”

    However–

    If you’re going to discuss “the general topic of sexism,” then you have to bring something SPECIFIC to the discussion-table. If it’s not the personal experiences of women in comics, then it’s got to be something more than, “Women aren’t evenly represented at the Big Two.” As I pointed out earlier, that could be true for a number of reasons.

    The next resort is usually to point at examples of Big Two comics that supposedly proves male-centeredness. I think that such examples do exist but the case is often weakened by knee-jerk reactions to material that doesn’t fill the bill.

    For instance, one prominent site lists as sexist the AVENGERS plot in which Scarlet Witch loses her magically-created children. Sexism? Hardly; Steve Englehart did a plot that created those children and successor John Byrne didn’t like that plot, so he 86’d it. Byrne also 86’d the Vision’s emotional makeup in the selfsame plotline, but that doesn’t get mentioned. Does the latter plot-development make Byrne sexist against males, or only against male androids?

    I know that sounds like a setup for a punchline, but come on, serious answer, please.

  27. The Beat says:

    You know, if it weren’t the holidays I might be a tad non-plussed over Oliver, Fred and Gene and the way they keep demanding demanding demanding examples, proof, details, dates, stool samples, letters of marque, certificates of authenticity and DNA analysis to PROVE, indefatigably once and for all that THERE IS SEXISM IN COMICS, so that, presumably, the trial can begin.

    Luckily, because I am in such a happy mood because it is the holidays, I won’t point out how their Horatio Caine-like diligence with regards to proof and the highest truth of all may just be a smokescreen to prevent people from discussing the LEGITIMATE ISSUES THAT HAVE ALREADY BEEN BROUGHT UP. Or perhaps it might be their own immunity to seeing gender issues (issues that are, admittedly, much clearer when you are a member of a gender, i.e. female, and not a person, i.e. male) that enables, Gene, for example, to write “The next resort is usually to point at examples of Big Two comics that supposedly proves male-centeredness.” because if there’s one thing there is a big question about, it’s whether Big Two comics are male centered, followed closely by whether shojo comics are female centered and whether yaoi looks gay.

    Luckily, it’s New Year’s eve! So let’s all party!

  28. Happy New Year, Heidi!
    And if you look at everything I’ve written I’m not demanding proof -I believe there is sexism.
    But these things are good to talk about and not keep bottled up -hey, wait the girl is supposed to say that:) Anyway, it would be good for the industry.

  29. SRS–“In a Newsarama interview, Amanda Conner talks about Power Girl, the heroine’s “boobies,” the design of her costume, etc., all of which confirms that the character is intrinsically sexist.”

    Nope, it doesn’t.

    Mariah–“There is the sexism within comics the industry, and sexism within society as a whole.”

    Where? Oh, right, you can’t say because you won’t cater to someone’s desire for actual proof of what you claim. How convenient.

    “You know, if it weren’t the holidays I might be a tad non-plussed over Oliver, Fred and Gene and the way they keep demanding demanding demanding examples, proof, details, dates, stool samples, letters of marque, certificates of authenticity and DNA analysis to PROVE, indefatigably once and for all that THERE IS SEXISM IN COMICS, so that, presumably, the trial can begin.”

    I haven’t demanded anything, but at least I’m not the one condemning companies for hiring practices which only seem to exist in your head. “trial can begin”? Seems to me that you’ve already told us the verdict provided by the court of your own opinion. You’re exaggerating, and you know it, but that’s fair as I’ve done it too. All I’ve asked for is AN example to support YOUR claim. If there were examples, wouldn’t it have been easier to just state them instead of making excuses for why someone shouldn’t have to? It was my mistake believing this blog was worthy of respect due to its author instead of a glorified soapbox. You have no reason to back up your accusations with facts because you’re not a real journalist. You’re a blogger which is the technologic equivalent of a nutcase screaming at people in Central Park. I admit my error of having high expectations of the lowest form of punditry. I knew blogs were sad little soapbox rantings, but this blog is by Heidi Frickin’ MacDonald so I thought it would provide higher quality content with SOME attempt at journalistic integrity. I was wrong. It’s not The Beat’s fault that it didn’t live up to my expectations. It’s my fault for not realizing The Beat is as much of a joke as any other blog. For that, I am very sorry… mostly sorry that I wasted so much time and effort commenting on a stupid blog which didn’t deserve either.

    I didn’t think it was possible, but I now have more respect for Lying in the Gutters (no offense, Rich… I just don’t like “rumor columns”) than I do for this blog (which is worse than a rumor column, it’s a baseless accusation bulletin board).

  30. Maybe it comes down to the sexist (to both genders) sentiment that men are fixers and women complainers -maybe men think that if only they got all the facts in they could magically fix this (at least make it better). I understand some ladies scepticism, but how can we help when you push us away:) Anyway, I would defintely buy a comic on the subject of sexism from a female perspective -or even if it’s not sexism per se but just being a female in a male dominant field.
    Will there ever be a big enough female audience for superhero comics -let’s hope so and that this isn’t just something about how the majority of females are wired and doesn’t end up falling under one of Heidi’s “universal truths” that she mentions. Here’s to the lovely ladies who love superhero comics, and comics in general and may there be many more of you in 2009! Hats off to all! I’ve got to find me one of those:) Off i go

  31. ” I’ve had my share of women and gay men try to get in my pants in the workplace and scholl – ”

    Oliver – I don’t recall the Deposit Man ever making a pass at you–

    ~

    Coat

  32. “the intended audience of fat bearded men (and why are so many creators fat bearded men?) ”

    What’s wrong with beards?

  33. FRED:
    “I didn’t think it was possible, but I now have more respect for Lying in the Gutters (no offense, Rich… I just don’t like “rumor columns”) than I do for this blog …”

    Which Rich?

  34. Steven R. Stahl says:

    Finding that a work of fiction is misogynistic or sexist requires analytical ability and a willingness to believe that sexism and misogyny can be present in fiction. Practically, such work requires recognizing when characters are used as plot devices or flagrantly mischaracterized, and when character treatments that, taken individually, might be considered inept writing or otherwise unremarkable, form a pattern when looked at as a group.

    In the case of Byrne, I’d argue that his desire to make work simple by writing formula fiction (e.g., “Everything you know about (fill in the blank) is wrong“) was the primary motivation in his AWC storyline, and that he’s biased against marriage, children, etc., because they complicate the task of grinding out his formulaic fiction. The storyline’s plot certainly appeared sexist in its handling of Wanda, but the sexism might have been more the result of writing for Marvel’s target audience (Marvel’s institutional sexism) than it was determination to be sexist in one particular storyline. Wanda the villainess was generic, as characters go; one would have to ask Byrne why he chose to do the implied fellatio (?) sequence involving evil Wanda and Wonder Man.

    Of course, one can argue that, in terms of mechanics, there’s little difference between writing Byrne’s formula fiction and writing porn. If one is uninterested in developing characters with any complexity, uninterested in learning a character’s history and adhering to continuity, uninterested in having a character grow or in developing (broadening) a character’s theme(s), uninterested in being innovative, or even professional, in the plot material or character creation, if the primary concern is filling the allotted page space month after month and getting paid for doing that — then one winds up with porn/trashy comics. One might as well call Marvel’s SI and “Dark Reign” material porn.

    In the case of Englehart’s Wanda, there were clearly literary elements in the evolving Vizh-Wanda relationship, based on the union of opposites (science and magic, logic and emotion, synthetic and biological), with the children as the physical realization of the union. It’s easy to see those elements in the V & SW maxiseries and to understand the logic underlying the conception of the twins, and to admire what Englehart accomplished, or at least to acknowledge the accomplishment — but one can also look at the material without any thought, declare that the Vizh-Wanda union was junk, and (try to) demolish the structure that was built.

    Bendis’s “Avengers” material has arguably been misogynistic in its handling of female characters, with the casual killing of the Wasp just the latest artistic casualty at Marvel. Questions of misogyny aside, the plot in SECRET INVASION #8 should have eliminated any doubts that Bendis is practically at a loss for ideas when handling material that isn’t directly based on crime fiction stories. But why did Marvel publish the material? Do they think the majority of the readers are stupid? Or are they stupid themselves, and writing to entertain others who are equally unintelligent? IMO, the general poorness of such material complicates determining that a story is deliberately sexist. Rednecks are sexist because they don’t know any better. If one wants to conclude that Marvel Editorial is controlled by a bunch of rednecks and that the possibility of change doesn’t exist because they’re incapable of changing, I’d be satisfied with that.

    SRS

  35. The Beat says:

    Without the Fred vote, it will be a struggle for this site to continue.

  36. As everybody knows and will see each Wednesday not too many girls show up at comic shops. How can they be part of this milieu if they don’t eat and breath it. The parity is far too wide. It’s a reality. Girls are in manga sections in book stores. Guess where they are going to do when they are older? Having had the pleasure of meeting Peggy when she first came to Drawn and Quarterly, she has helped that company grow even bigger than it was. It is like night and day. From a two person operation, Drawn and Quarterly has shaped the indie comic industry in many ways. The reality is like in many parts of the world it’s a boy’s club and comics seems be exclusive not because of choice but because of hobby preference by boys. I tip my hat for any woman who enters this world of restrictive employment. Kudos to Heidi and Peggy who have a vast wealth of knowledge of the comic book industry and defend it.

  37. Peggy Burns’s e-mail is very thoughtful and she makes some good points, but the fact that there are very few female creators at DC and Marvel still stands. And it’s still something that bothers me, as a (female) reader of mainstream superhero comics.

    It’s great that women have penetrated many areas of the comics industry and are doing well, but their lack of presence in that other area presents a problem, the effects of which have greater ramifications, given the value and significance of mainstream superheroes in media and culture at large.

    The superhero genre has often been referred to as our modern-day mythology, and if women aren’t involved in that, it’s a problem.

  38. Some of these comments really depress me… But that’s apropos of not-very-much-at-all really, I just wanted to express my gratitude for Heidi making posts like this, and the original it follows.

  39. jimmy palmiotti says:

    around my house, half of the creators are women.

    Honestly, my Jonah Hex editor is a woman, my lawyer is a woman, one of my two agents is a woman…the artist on powergirl is a woman [ yeah, amanda conner, lol] and I see more and more woman getting into our business daily and its all good.

    Talent first is the way to go… best person for the job. It’s that simple.

    Peggy and heidi, both awesome forces of nature. love them both.

    I grew up with 3 brothers and my parents. My dad taught us that women are equals and treated my mom the best he could and they both taught us the same.

    Amanda was brought up by two parents that were both artists and told her she could do anything she wanted in the world with her life and she chose to become a comic book artist.

    i think the post is great and the conversation important…and most important , i really want comics to be open to all people…a place where talent counts way before sex, color or religion and i think we are heading in that direction a little at a time.

    here is to great moves forward in 09.

    jimmy

  40. Steven R. Stahl says:

    I was just wondering what the situation is in the TV soaps, with respect to the number of male and female writers employed. A Google search turned up this and this.
    A 1999 study found that women were the minority in behind-the-screen roles in prime-time TV.

    SRS

  41. Steven, that certainly is interesting and a good reminder as to what heights are we holding superhero comics to… so if I read that right: romance novels is basically female centered… men, we must fight this! In all seriousness we probably should -get the idea out there what romance is from a guy perspective. What do you say ladies want to help us out on this? No? Oh, you want real men. sigh
    When you think about it: you know what is really sexist -it’s football and it’s cheerleaders: for men and women. Ok, did I just allianate everybody?:)
    As for the 1999 TV study: it would be interesting to see what a recent more relevant study shows -even in that one you omit to say that it’s noted that women rule sitcoms, and it’s been my experience that it’s women who watched dramas like “texas, ranger” back in the day… and today with dramas like gossip girl, 90210 (and even “house” and “mad men”) females might be ruling the drama scenario, too.
    Hey, and what about newstand tabloids? And their scantily clad females -yet the appeal is to women. Heck, same goes for most female pop stars.
    Anyway, comics don’t exist in a vacuum and a lot of sanctimonous lip service exists on both sides of the aisle… important not to forget that. Though I would say most people in comics, geeks, nerds, etc, don’t fit the gender stereo types -which might be one reason they are (well, were) outcasts. Things are changing. (And also, the “this” link didn’t work -maybe it’s my browser.)

  42. Steven R. Stahl says:

    Oliver, if you’re referring to the first “this” link, to the soap opera fan’s lament, that’s been fixed. There was a typo in the HTML coding.

    The main text that prompted the comment re “women’s safe space” is interesting; this section stood out:

    “In A Natural History of the Romance Novel, Pamela Regis discusses the fact that women are taught in school to read the experiences of a male protagonist as representative of humankind in general, therefore including women within that representation. Men, on the other hand, are not taught to read the experiences of a female protagonist as representative of their own experience, and when it does happen that a male writes a female protagonist accurately, it’s remarkable.”

    The students are, presumably, reading literature, not genre fiction targeted at a specific group of readers. Still, that would have an effect on readers as they matured, I’d think, and could be responsible for males treating inaccurate depictions of women in genre fiction as non-issues.

    What male writers of superhero comics have handled women well? Englehart did good treatments, I think, of Wanda, Mantis, Moondragon, Patsy Walker, Firebird, Yrial, Scorpio Rose, and others. Claremont’s writing has been complimented in that respect, but I saw his women as stereotypes, in line with his formula fiction X-writing. No other writers come to mind.

    There’s the question of what women who are drawn to read superhero comics in spite of the genre’s weaknesses, and want to write stories, want to accomplish. Do they have dream storylines for certain characters? Do they want to write certain characters better? Or do they see the work as something that pays better and is more enjoyable than clerical or retail work? The motivation will influence how well characters are treated; I’m assuming that someone who is well-read, does research, etc., wouldn’t consciously sluff off on a storyline.

    I’ll take a look at academic databases next week to see if there are newer figures on gender bias in the creative fields, unless someone else does it first. There is, necessarily, a time lag in compiling statistics of that sort.

    SRS

  43. So Pam thinks males are portrayed accuratley in fiction -whereas women aren’t, or at least hardly ever by men, but more often men are portrayed accurately by women? And in addition is she saying that women and men identify with the hero if it’s man, but not a woman… maybe this has more to do with women fantasizing about a confident man (which is sexist btw), and the men fantasizing about living up to their expectations.
    Wether it’s an alpha male in Twilight, or a Dolly Parton like Power Girl… I just don’t know each is unrealistic and sexist in it’s own way.

  44. Steven R. Stahl says:

    Characters might be seen as sexist in stories; what matters is whether the sexism is part of a larger point made in the story, occurs because the writer is unaware of the sexism, or is forced because the editor demands that the material be written for a sexist audience. A sexist male in prose fiction would, I’d think, be written either deliberately, to make the point that sexist behavior is bad, or be written as a stereotype, e.g., as an alpha male. How many male writers are going to do stereotypes that are offensive to other males, unless he’s homophobic or prejudiced in other ways?

    The sexism in superhero fiction is worse, I think, because it’s a combination of handling women badly as characters, in terms of personality, actions, and purpose (a woman as a disposable love interest) and of exaggerating physical (sexual) characteristics in ways calculated to appeal to male readers. Sexist handling of women can offend male and female readers both, whereas if a hero is overly principled, too noble, too assertive, etc. — well, those are minor character flaws which don’t deflate the hero.

    As I mentioned earlier this week, I think there are heroines who are mostly visual images on the pages of a comic book, and practically empty shells otherwise. Power Girl, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel (written by Reed as an alpha male), Thundra, and villainesses such as Madame Hydra. If there are equally empty heroes, I’m not aware of them.

    SRS

  45. I don’t read those comics… so She-Hulk is that bad? I would have guessed like many a male hero that maybe they have been clumsily treated… but more of a shell than some other two-dimensional hero?
    Until we started discussing this I would have also guessed that unlike other male dominated fields, that the superhero field consisted of men who put women on pedastols (which is sexist), and if women were smart they could clean up in this industry. I mean compared to how many women I see in comic stores there actually seems to be an inornament number of female editors. Even Danielle was offered a superhero gigg -I figure that is really unusual for an indie. And almost everybody has had a crush on Heidi.
    Anyway, that is why dialog like this is good because unless it’s discussed -how can one know? But in discussing it one has to do it in a balanced way, not cherry pick facts -if it comes off as agenda filled you are rubbing people the wrong way and really only shooting yourself in the foot. The day ladies can let their guard down and start being self critical, and men can discuss stuff without being labeled pussies -well, then we’ll have gotten somewhere:) Everybody is so afraid of looking weak.
    Speaking of… so I have this theory I want to test out: so how did we get to where we are today, with the disparity in female readers and male readers of superhero comics, well… I know we’ve all used the term “complex”, but maybe it’s simple or at least there’s a simple component: most women want alpha males, they don’t like beta males -they view superhero readers as beta hence don’t like superhero comics. Last time comics were perceived to have some cool cache could maybe be argued was in the 60s -but the rise of comicbook conventions and star trek conventions in the 70s that was really effectively killed. Of course now that the world has turned geek, being geek has to some degree become alpha:) Just a theory not married to it… anyone else want to take a stab at breaking down into concret terms this complex issue.

  46. Goddess Heidi didst say, forsooth:

    “Luckily, because I am in such a happy mood because it is the holidays, I won’t point out how their Horatio Caine-like diligence with regards to proof and the highest truth of all may just be a smokescreen to prevent people from discussing the LEGITIMATE ISSUES THAT HAVE ALREADY BEEN BROUGHT UP. Or perhaps it might be their own immunity to seeing gender issues (issues that are, admittedly, much clearer when you are a member of a gender, i.e. female, and not a person, i.e. male) that enables, Gene, for example, to write “The next resort is usually to point at examples of Big Two comics that supposedly proves male-centeredness.” because if there’s one thing there is a big question about, it’s whether Big Two comics are male centered, followed closely by whether shojo comics are female centered and whether yaoi looks gay.”

    I don’t remember claiming that a female was not a person (or even a poisson).

    I think that for whatever time I’ve hung out at this blog I’ve probably read both the legitimate issues and the illegitimate issues. On the last thread of this nature I myself mentioned the late Kim Yale’s allegations of sexism. As memory serves her allegations sounded to me like a legitimate gripe But not everyone’s gripe is legitimate just, y’know, they say that it is.

    For instance, here’s one on this blog that I thought was illegitimate in terms of reasoning:

    http://pwbeat.publishersweekly.com/blog/2008/01/31/the-one-with-a-lot-of-comments/

    And one to which Lowborn Gene didst object somewhat here:

    http://arche-arc.blogspot.com/2008/12/battle-ofthe-biologies.html

    (Yes, I was looking for a way to sneak a plug in, but at least it’s a related plug.)

    Anyway, the main point was, if one isn’t going to recite chapter-and-verse re: individual offenders, that’s fine, but some compelling evidence from some arena ought to be offered, shouldn’t it? Something more compelling (logically speaking) than Power Girl’s boobs?

  47. Goddess Heidi didst say, forsooth:

    “Luckily, because I am in such a happy mood because it is the holidays, I won’t point out how their Horatio Caine-like diligence with regards to proof and the highest truth of all may just be a smokescreen to prevent people from discussing the LEGITIMATE ISSUES THAT HAVE ALREADY BEEN BROUGHT UP. Or perhaps it might be their own immunity to seeing gender issues (issues that are, admittedly, much clearer when you are a member of a gender, i.e. female, and not a person, i.e. male) that enables, Gene, for example, to write “The next resort is usually to point at examples of Big Two comics that supposedly proves male-centeredness.” because if there’s one thing there is a big question about, it’s whether Big Two comics are male centered, followed closely by whether shojo comics are female centered and whether yaoi looks gay.”

    I don’t remember claiming that a female was not a person (or even a poisson).

    I think that for whatever time I’ve hung out at this blog I’ve probably read both the legitimate issues and the illegitimate issues. On the last thread of this nature I myself mentioned the late Kim Yale’s allegations of sexism. As memory serves her allegations sounded to me like a legitimate gripe But not everyone’s gripe is legitimate just, y’know, they say that it is.

    For instance, here’s one on this blog that I thought was illegitimate in terms of reasoning:

    http://pwbeat.publishersweekly.com/blog/2008/01/31/the-one-with-a-lot-of-comments/

    And one to which Lowborn Gene didst object somewhat here:

    http://arche-arc.blogspot.com/2008/12/battle-ofthe-biologies.html

    (Yes, I was looking for a way to sneak a plug in, but at least it’s a related plug.)

    Anyway, the main point was, if one isn’t going to recite chapter-and-verse re: individual offenders, that’s fine, but some compelling evidence from some arena ought to be offered, shouldn’t it? Something more compelling (logically speaking) than Power Girl’s boobs?

  48. Steven said:

    “Finding that a work of fiction is misogynistic or sexist requires analytical ability and a willingness to believe that sexism and misogyny can be present in fiction. Practically, such work requires recognizing when characters are used as plot devices or flagrantly mischaracterized, and when character treatments that, taken individually, might be considered inept writing or otherwise unremarkable, form a pattern when looked at as a group.”

    Okay, I’m with you so far.

    ‘In the case of Byrne, I’d argue that his desire to make work simple by writing formula fiction (e.g., “Everything you know about (fill in the blank) is wrong“) was the primary motivation in his AWC storyline, and that he’s biased against marriage, children, etc., because they complicate the task of grinding out his formulaic fiction.’

    Bit of a leap on Byrne’s motivation, but I’d agree that formula fiction by its nature resists a lot of complicating storytelling factors that are widely-used in other modes of fiction, and that like a lot of creators of formula fiction Byrne avoids those complications (though he did also state some philosophical problems with the Wanda/Vision relationship in his JOURNAL interview, so ‘grinding out’ may not be the ONLY motive.)

    “The storyline’s plot certainly appeared sexist in its handling of Wanda, but the sexism might have been more the result of writing for Marvel’s target audience (Marvel’s institutional sexism) than it was determination to be sexist in one particular storyline.”

    Still reading along and wondering if you’ll address my point re: his treatment of the Vision. I’m gonna bet “not.”

    “Wanda the villainess was generic, as characters go; one would have to ask Byrne why he chose to do the implied fellatio (?) sequence involving evil Wanda and Wonder Man.”

    I don’t remember this (though I bet it got a Tom Spurgeon comment!) Sexism might indeed be shown as a pattern if it were demonstrated that evil-ized heroines always become sexually abusive and evil-ized heroes don’t. Might make an interesting survey, so we’re still agreed in principle.

    “Of course, one can argue that, in terms of mechanics, there’s little difference between writing Byrne’s formula fiction and writing porn.”

    And are the mechanics of Henry Miller porn the same as the mechanics of, say, Superheroines Demise?

    “if the primary concern is filling the allotted page space month after month and getting paid for doing that — then one winds up with porn/trashy comics.”

    Still, though I too admire Englehart more than Byrne, you could probably find examples where he took over a title from a previous creator and proceeded to ignore *something* that writer had been doing, simply because he Englehart didn’t like it. Some of that is just the name of the game played.

    “Bendis’s “Avengers” material has arguably been misogynistic in its handling of female characters, with the casual killing of the Wasp just the latest artistic casualty at Marvel.”

    Ah don’ nuhin’ ’bout defendin’ no Bendis.

    Won one bet, lost another. Oh well.

  49. Steven said: “The sexism in superhero fiction is worse, I think, because it’s a combination of handling women badly as characters, in terms of personality, actions, and purpose (a woman as a disposable love interest) and of exaggerating physical (sexual) characteristics in ways calculated to appeal to male readers. Sexist handling of women can offend male and female readers both, whereas if a hero is overly principled, too noble, too assertive, etc. — well, those are minor character flaws which don’t deflate the hero.”

    Here we definitely disagree. Assuming I agreed that women receive worse characterizations than men in superhero comics– which I don’t, actually– one would still be faced with the fact that the superhero genre is first and foremonst about action, not character interaction, though Bendis and Ellis have almost managed to squeeze all the action out of their offerings.

    You have to prove that men are significantly better characterized, not just more front-and-center, and you have not done so here.

  50. Steven R. Stahl says:

    Gene, you seem to be arguing that if all characters in a story are handled badly, then sexism isn’t a concern. It’s just a bad story. I didn’t deal with Byrne’s treatment of the Vision in the AWC storyline because, from my perspective, the treatment was based by ignorance verging on idiocy. He could have read Englehart’s material and realized that there were (literary) reasons for everything that happened; he could have recalled that the Vision was defined as a synthetic man; he could have seen the use of androids in SF. Instead, he dehumanized the Vision in the course of writing a formulaic story.

    The intelligence of the creator matters a lot. If he knows little about science, the arts, or current events, if he’s not well-read, if he only tries to regurgitate what little he knows from reading comics and hanging out with buddies, then his stories will unavoidably be junk, and sexism in the story will result from the creator’s stupidity, rather than a deliberate effort to do anything but fill the pages.

    If you want to argue that 90+ percent of superhero comics are junk that aren’t worth buying and reading, and that sexism in the art and story content is the result of idiots creating stories for other idiots to buy and read, and that sexism is less of a concern than is getting intelligent people to write superhero fiction, you might have a point, but you’d also be posing a problem that’s impossible to solve.

    SRS

  51. Steven R. Stahl says:

    Re the depiction of heroines in comics: One thing that naysayers have failed to do in response to charges of sexism is to cite tightly reasoned or authoritative explanations as to why the busty, micro-waisted, midriff-exposed heroines shouldn’t be considered sexist images, when the resemblance to soft core porn artwork is so obvious. It’s not enough to say, “Well, I don’t think so.”

    Attempts to rationalize the costuming by reasoning that well, she’s invulnerable, or she controls her body temperature, or she’s sensitive to fabrics, is silly because, somehow, the heroine never walks around nude, even though she doesn’t need clothing. Conner’s rationalization that Power Girl emphasizes her breasts because she’s proud of them is an apparent case of backwards reasoning. One could just as well argue that a blonde bimbo in a story wants to be a bimbo, because the status spares her the trouble of having to think for herself. Everyone tells her what to do.

    I don’t think a person needs to be ashamed or embarrassed about buying Playboy for the pictorials, not the articles, but people seem unable to say that they like, or generic fans like, seeing a busty heroine in a comic book because it’s a soft turn-on.

    SRS

  52. Steven,
    You are arguing with Connor who draws Power Girl? So now you are saying it’s all ok, but people should at least admit it? OK. I guess the real question is how upset are we supposed to be about this then? How upset are we supposed to be…. even Heidi in her first blog on this topic said maybe she was overreaching… or maybe she wasn’t?
    Steven… it’s already been pointed out about the covers of barechested men on romance novels and that male heroes don’t wear much in comics either -and there is also the fantasy of just being sexy and powerful. There’s also many paintings which are predominantly of female nudes. Women are barely dressed on Cosmo. Women, practically naked, pop stars with only female and gay fans. People aren’t reading comics for the sex -for that there is actual porn, and I’m pretty sure we live in a day and age when people aren’t too embarresed about such things. Men are supposedly more turned on by visuals -is that sexist? Or are there different criteria -what is sexist towards men is different than what is sexist towards women? You want to argue that actors are goodlooking in movies, and characters in comics are goodlooking and are soft turn-ons because we like to look at goodlooking people… why single it out to such a degree that you are going about it… maybe because you are willfully omitting facts so you can draw a picture of mean, stupid, evil, sexist oppression. When maybe it’s just a regrettable lack of variety and hey some things are female centered and some are men centered: big deal -I always thought comicbook men were welcoming women with open arms, and really wanted more women in the field -but maybe not, and I’m looking forward to future posts by Heidi, and others to show the truth. Maybe the Big Two are evil empires -actually I only read indie books, so I’ll buy that:)
    Also, on the question of men being more center stage -there is the fantasy of “the knight in shining armor” even in female written romance novels (heck in almost all fiction, one could say it’s almost the foundation of all popular fiction)… one could argue it’s the female equivelant of “barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen”, that’s it’s base, unevolved… or just is… is it biology or environemnt? Does environemnt change biology over time?
    I do like to get philosophical:)
    When you simply go on a date -the girl will laugh really loud at your jokes (throw in Joe Pesci “I make you laugh” bit) and you will compliment her on her looks (what is she a Barbie?)… sexist? Blowing it out of proportion? Will we ever be interchangeble -do we want that? (Imagine James Kirk delivering that last line:))
    Anyway, from what I see we are really all in Heidi’s court and want to hear more and learn more about the aptmoshere at the Big Two. I certainly have no love for them and would love to see her really give it to them:) Maybe women should ban Marvel and DC -or is that what the majority of women have been doing all along?:)

  53. “Gene, you seem to be arguing that if all characters in a story are handled badly, then sexism isn’t a concern. It’s just a bad story.”

    Not quite. Though I didn’t like the Byrne revision of the Englehart concepts, and though I did think that particular story was bad, it’s bad for reasons that don’t have anything to do with sexism. Byrne has done other stories that display sexism, but I think he rewrote Englehart for reasons that have more to do with a sort of Calvinist philosophical outlook than his sexism. As I recall, he satirized the Vision-SW relationship by saying it was like “having sex with your toaster.” That’s not a very deep reaction, but I don’t think it’s primarily about sex, or even about simplifying his formula. However superficial Byrne’s reaction may be, I believe he genuinely didn’t like Englehart’s storyline. That’s why I’ve harped on the Vision being treated just as poorly as Wanda, even though Vision is at least a symbolic male.

    “If you want to argue that 90+ percent of superhero comics are junk that aren’t worth buying and reading, and that sexism in the art and story content is the result of idiots creating stories for other idiots to buy and read, and that sexism is less of a concern than is getting intelligent people to write superhero fiction, you might have a point, but you’d also be posing a problem that’s impossible to solve.”

    That may be your contention, but it’s not mine. I have my own concerns about the discriminatory powers of both the mainstreamers and the artcomics guys but both my concerns and yours are irrelevant to the discussion of sexism in the mainstream.

    BTW, I give Chris Claremont higher marks in the anti-sexism sweepstakes than you do.

  54. ‘Re the depiction of heroines in comics: One thing that naysayers have failed to do in response to charges of sexism is to cite tightly reasoned or authoritative explanations as to why the busty, micro-waisted, midriff-exposed heroines shouldn’t be considered sexist images, when the resemblance to soft core porn artwork is so obvious. It’s not enough to say, “Well, I don’t think so.”’

    I don’t know what you would consider “tightly reasoned” or “authoritative,” but I would say that before you can prove sexism you must discriminate between how a ‘sexist image” differs from a ‘sexy image.’ There have been “authorities” like Mulvey and Faludi who conflated the two, but I don’t think that they should be conflated, either in the superhero genre or in others.

    To take a non-superhero example, Bill Ward’s TORCHY was a long-running sex-joke feature, devoted largely to lame humor with lots of T&A and lingerie. So it was full of sexy images. But were they also sexist? I’ve heard attempts at “tightly reasoned” arguments that such images automatically promote discrimination, i.e. “sexism.” But I don’t consider those arguments more than ideologically-correct “attempts.”

    I don’t assert any of those rationalizations you list for female superheroes to wear skimpy costumes. Clearly they do so to look sexy, but I think that most male heroes are supposed to look appealing to the opposite sex as well. Remember, most male heroes, aside from a few like Iron Man, look like their costumes are painted over their bodies, and so most of them, too, are nearly running around nude. Now, there probably have been comics-genres that afforded young girl readers the same scopophilic pleasures that adult women get from paperback romance covers (with those ripped male torsos I mentioned in a previous post). If you wanna say comics have not tried as hard to appeal to female scopophilia as to male scopophilia, I’d agree. But I’m not sure that’s “sexism,” or if it is, it’s not on a level comparable to discriminatory hiring practices.

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