Oh, for the love of…

Don’t mind me, I’ll just be over in the corner denting this wall with my head.

The funny thing is, I’m more ticked off about Misty’s awful hair than her predicament. Black characters aren’t usually depicted as wank material for straight white fanboys, so it’s easier to overlook sexist nonsense when you don’t have to put up with it as often.

And just so we’re clear, black hair does not do that.

Ah, well. Back to Astro City.

ETA: IGN, what’s the deal with the referrals on decades-old pages, fam?

What do women want from comics?

The answer isn’t important. Here’s all you need to know: no reader wants to be made to feel that he or she is inherently less than a member of another group when he or she picks up a book to enjoy.

In the pink.

I am getting so tired of people declaring that girls are buying Bratz dolls over Barbie dolls because the company producing Bratz dolls has placed a greater emphasis on sexuality. Both types of doll wear similar clothing. Both types of doll have bizarre proportions. Both types of doll wear heavy makeup. You want to know the real difference between Bratz and Barbie?

With Bratz dolls, the minority girls don’t have to play second fiddle to an all-supreme white one. Christie, Kira, and Teresa are perpetually Barbie’s sidekicks. Their clothes aren’t as nice (or pink). They don’t get as much attention. They don’t have boyfriends (or cars, or houses, or careers). With Bratz dolls, Yasmin, Cloe, Sasha, and Jade are teenage friends who come together as equals. The blonde doll with the pale skin is no better or worse than the other dolls. She doesn’t have better accessories. She doesn’t have better clothes. She isn’t the only one paired off with a male doll.

Perhaps all of the girls out there who aren’t blonde-haired or blue-eyed simply desired toys that didn’t declare them to be second best. Unfortunately, by the time Mattel had finally figured that out, those girls had already placed Bratz dolls in their mothers’ shopping carts.

Mary Jane!

So when do we get the second statue in the series featuring a naked Peter Parker fondling himself? I’m totally buying that one. In fact, I’m sure Hughes is drawing a pin-up to base the statue on as I type. I can’t wait to see it.

All joking aside, it’s really the fact that the statue is incomplete that irks me. After all, I’d be lying if I said that people don’t perform goofy sexy stunts like that on occasion as a joke—for their partners. But take Peter out of the equation (and Mary Jane’s wedding ring as well) and the scene goes from cute and sexy to pandering and creepy very quickly. Is the buyer of the statue supposed to put himself in the place of Peter? Because that is rather sad.

Adding a second statue to the set featuring Peter Parker wearing a towel and Spider-Man booties while grinning sheepishly would add back the playfulness that Hughes probably intended when he drew the pinup in the first place.

Hmmm. Looking at the pin-up, it also seems that Hughes intended for Mary Jane to have a different facial expression, thicker waist, and smaller chest too. And Mary Jane’s jeans weren’t skintight either. Interesting.

Boy, I wonder!

I’ve been mulling over a blog entry at Alex in Wonder Land concerning the lack of a Wonder Boy in the DC universe. There are no males in Wonder Woman’s clan of characters, and I think that is something that should be rectified. After all, both Batman and Superman have pupils of the opposite gender, so why not Wonder Woman?

However, how would one go about establishing such a character? I’m certainly not an expert on Wonder Woman’s history, but I have an idea. Those of you who are fond of ancient Greek myths as I am will know that it has been repeatedly stated that the Greek gods were fond of dining with Ethiopians. And where did they dine, you ask? In a grand temple dubbed Ialu built within the heart of the ancient city of Haran, of course! However, the Ialu temple has been sealed for thousands of years and the surrounding city has long been reduced to dust. The gods that once frolicked there on sweltering summer evenings have since abandoned the Haranians in particular and humanity in general. Or so the world thought.

At a summit involving a treaty to be signed by Hippolyta and the President of the United States, an old sorcerer barrels through dozens of Secret Service agents and demands to speak with the Amazonian representatives in private. To the objections of everyone in attendance, Hippolyta agrees to his request. The sorcerer tells the Amazons that the city of Haran has not been reduced to rubble, but has been hidden from the rest of the world by magic. Though the gods no longer dine there, the city’s residents have remained to wait for their return and have lived eons past their natural lifetimes by dining on a never-ending platter of ambrosia.

Though the gods have not returned, other entities have arrived in their place. Unnamed beasts have entered the portal through which the gods once arrived. They terrorize the denizens of Haran. The sorcerer begs the Amazons, the world’s last known link to the Greek gods, to save the city. Hippolyta’s advisors object, but the queen overrules them. She gathers a party to investigate the menace. Diana and Donna accompany her. Cassie is furious when she is told to stay behind. She decides to follow anyway—after packing a few items from her mother’s closet.

The Amazons and the sorcerer manage to fight the beasts back to the portal they arrived from. However, until the portal is sealed, the city remains in danger. Hippolyta and the sorcerer agree to step through the portal and kill the remaining beasts—and find themselves in Tartarus face to face with a “zombified” Hercules.

Hippolyta discovers that the beasts are actually the pups of Cerberus and were spawned to dine on the flesh of Hercules for all eternity due to his transgressions against Artemis. However, Hercules managed to steal a fraction of Circe’s power to control animals before his demise. He used that power to send the beasts out into the mortal world to take vengeance upon humanity.

Hippolyta, Hercules, and the sorcerer do battle until Hades arrives. The god of the dead is furious that (1) Hercules has escaped his punishment, (2) mortals have entered Tartarus, and (3) his beloved pups have been slain. The god of the dead angrily sets out to “unmake” the trio.

Diana, Donna, and a newly arrived Cassie cross the portal to defend the queen. Cassie launches a fertility talisman created by Hera at the god to momentarily halt his assault. Diana wraps her lasso around her mother and the sorcerer and drags them back into the mortal world. Donna and Cassie quickly follow on her heels. And a hand forcefully grabs onto Donna’s cloak as the portal seals behind them. Donna and Cassie whip around to face Hercules’ attack only to stare into the face of an unknown man-child and a small pup seated at his heels.

Diana quickly takes stock of the situation. Hippolyta is missing both of her legs. The sorcerer is dead and has no eyes or hands. Half of the decomposing body of Hercules rests in the corner. And before them is a large caramel-colored youth, a mass of black curls covering half his face, and a young pup circling his feet and yipping happily.

Hera’s fertility statue and the soul of the sorcerer gave life to the blood and sinew stolen from the trio. Standing before the Amazons is the son of all three warriors.

Now what shall they do with him? They all watch in shock as the youth weeps over the body of the sorcerer and lovingly calls him grandfather. After mourning for a time, he digs the old magician a grave while the pup happily feasts on the remains of Hercules. The Haranians whisper that he is an abomination; the Amazons do as well. They plead with Hippolyta to have him killed. Diana objects.

Hippolyta agrees that his life should be spared, but she cannot bear to look upon him. He has cost her the use of her legs. He is wearing her face. He is the spawn of the man who raped her. The queen and her Amazons depart for Themiscyra. They take the ambrosia with them. The Haranians are furious. They stone the youth. Diana intercedes.

Donna demands that the boy accompanies them back to the states. Cassie agrees. Diana reluctantly acquiesces. The first stop? JLA Headquarters. Diana, Bruce, and Clark struggle to decide what to do with the youth. Where can they place him? Clark, the eternal Boy Scout, offers his parents’ place as a residence.

Clark’s parents are kind and loving to the boy, but the two quickly learn that a tiny town in the heartland is not so heart-warming to a teen with a complexion darker than those of the Smallville residents and a thick accent that is strange to them. Jonathan finds the young boy strung up in the cornfield late one night with a sign stating GO HOME stuck to his chest. As Jonathan helps the youth down he questions the boy. Why didn’t he fight back as strong as he was? Why didn’t he come home? The young boy looks at Jonathan with tears in his eyes.

I am an abomination. I have no home.

When Donna Troy discovers what has happened, she is horrified. After soundly reprimanding her sister, she decides to establish a home for the young boy. She pressures Bruce to provide him with an identity and quickly enrolls him in a university. Donna pools her resources to purchase an apartment for the young man to reside in, and then cheerfully demands that the boy work in the bookstore of an Ethiopian antiquities dealer in order to earn his keep.

In a diverse city, the young boy flourishes. He weeps with joy the first time Donna refers to him as her brother. His heart swells with pride as his boss slowly warms to him. Of course, things are not perfect for the young man. He has a hound of hell that routinely demolishes his furniture. Donna and Cassie routinely refuse to respect his privacy. His mother refuses to acknowledge his presence. Diana has yet to warm to him. He is still not at home in his body and often does not realize his own strength. And his grandfather sends him visions of future events in his dreams—events that he must stop no matter how much Donna and Diana want to keep him out of the family business.

Well, crap. Now I want to write a Wonder Boy series. Also, I made Haran up so y’all don’t have to email me to tell me the city doesn’t exist!

Pretend heroes, real women.

But men are idealized too!

I swear if I hear that one more time, I am going to scream. Male heroes and villains in mainstream comics should have taut, muscular bodies because they perform feats of athletic strength on a daily basis. And female heroines and villains should have taut, muscular bodies too. After all, don’t they chase down bad guys and bench press buses just like their male peers? So why do I see so many heroines who lack muscle tone when compared to their male counterparts? Why do so many artists believe that a large chest on a woman is more important than visible biceps? Trust me, a large chest has never helped a woman win a fight or lift heavy machinery.

If you are using an emaciated actress or socialite as a reference when drawing a superheroine, please stop. If you are using a porn star with disproportionately large breasts as a reference when drawing a villainess, please stop. So, what kind of women should you be searching for? Search for fitness competitors such as Monica Brant, Jelena Djordjevic, Lisa Ray, Casandra Madero, Mocha Lee, and Sonia Adcock. Google these women. Take a look at their accomplishments and the wonderful goals they have been able to reach with their physiques. These are regular women in the bodies of superheroes.

I’d like to add that I know it must be difficult for artists to find images of strong, sexy women who aren’t in poses that are designed solely to titillate straight male readers. Sure, an artist can use a photo reference of a strong, athletic woman; however, if she’s pulling off her bikini top, what would be the point? A capable hero should have a powerful stance, right? If you cannot afford to have models pose for you, I suggest picking up a fitness magazine such as Oxygen. There you can find pictures of strong women performing feats of strength. The women in the magazine, though beautiful, are generally not in solely sexual or flirtatious poses.

I’d also like for any artists to note that the women listed here have very different bodies. Some artists tend to give all of their female characters one generic body type. A body should vary depending on the character’s activities. Is she a powerhouse? A graceful ninja? A teenage novice? Think about the impact that would have on a woman’s frame!


Each time a news reporter mentions the fact that the Virginia Tech shooter was Asian (which feels as if it happens every five seconds), I get a bit more wary. I really hope that people do not use that information as a reason to support their xenophobia. Any mentally ill person of any ethnic background who had violent tendencies and access to weapons could have committed a similar crime.

Perhaps I’m fretting over nothing, but I have this anxious feeling that grief is going to turn into anger, which will then be pointed in the wrong direction.

Play Misty for me.

Misty KnightWhy is Misty Knight currently being depicted in this way? Listen, I’m not mad, just bewildered. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, our hair does not do that. I am more than happy to collect reference photos myself and e-mail them to Marvel if artists are having trouble depicting black women properly. I will do this free of charge! That is how much Misty’s hair irks me.

Khari Evans, who thankfully must have spent more than five minutes of his life actually looking at a black woman, gave Marvel a perfectly good character design for Misty that was actually quite realistic and modern. However, Marvel completely ignored the very positive changes Evans made in updating the character. Why?

Editor: Y’know, what? Misty Knight is just too damn fine. We need to ugly her up. Maybe give her an atrocious hairdo that makes no sense. We can’t have her wearing a hairstyle that countless black women in America are currently wearing right now. In fact, we won’t even give her a classic 70s Afro. Make up something completely ridiculous and impractical. Throw two completely different textures in there. Make it look like a hat.

Artist: I’ll get right on it.

Seriously, when I say it makes no sense, I mean it. It makes no sense. In order to get Misty’s hairdo I would have to either flat iron three inches of my hair and leave the rest kinky or chemically straighten three inches of my hair and leave the rest kinky. And that would be unbelievably stupid. Because most of my hair would break off and I would be left with three inches of hair. It’s either all or nothing, fellas.

Imagine if an artist drew Thor with an Afro on the left side of his head and pin straight blonde locks on the right. That is exactly how stupid Misty’s hairdo is. And it is the sole reason why I refuse to pick up Heroes for Hire even though I adore Misty and bought every issue of the Daughters of the Dragon miniseries. Because if Marvel doesn’t care enough to make an intern spend less than five minutes searching for a reference photo in order for an artist to draw a black woman with a realistic and modern hairstyle, then why should I fork over my cash for the book?

Back in black.

First off, kudos to the wonderful Loren of One Diverse Comic Book Nation for sharing Brad Mackay’s article on the dearth of black heroes within mainstream comics. I don’t know if I agree with the sentiment that there is a dearth of black heroes, but there is a great deal of information contained in the article that may make those involved with the comics industry as readers and as employees think a bit differently about how minority characters are portrayed and presented to the public.

“Somehow, in this medium people are so out of touch with popular culture that they don’t understand that black culture is popular culture.”

Reginald Hudlin

The preceding quote from the article struck a chord with me. Why are people in this medium out of touch with popular culture? Is it because minorities in general and black people in particular have been almost overwhelmingly shut out when it comes to creating mainstream comic culture? I’ve never had a problem finding stories about black heroes. There are many black heroes in supporting roles in countless comics. However, I’ve had a difficult time finding black creators with steady gigs at…anywhere, actually. Marvel is the only established comics company I know of that has black writers on staff. Top Shelf is the only established company I know of that has a black editor on staff. Three black staff members out of dozens of comic companies? That’s embarrassing.

Black individuals are allowed (and encouraged) to spend money on comics, we’re allowed to appear in the comics. However, we’re not allowed to help direct the culture of comics. We’re seen, but not heard. Moreover, when we’re seen in the pages, it is usually in a supporting role. When stories are created by individuals who were not raised to see black people as leaders and heroes in order to sell comics to an audience that also was not raised to see black people as leaders and heroes, a good supporting role is the best you’re likely to get.

The problem is that selling to the same old sheltered set of readers isn’t working. That audience is dwindling rapidly. They’re growing older. The children they’ve sired? They think of a black man when someone says Green Lantern. Entertainment mediums such as television, video games, and movies have taken the content produced in comics and have altered it to make it palatable to an audience demanding diversity and equality. I can turn on my television and occasionally see a cartoon where a black man is a powerful entity in his own right and can lead a team to victory. However, when I open the pages of a comic that same black man is merely a supporting character to a white hero.

Why is that so? It occurs because the comic industry caters for the most part to an audience that is lost in time. This audience does not mind new characters and might even enjoy seeing a few different faces, but those characters must never be more powerful than the white heroes they know and love, and must never rob those characters of the spotlight.

That audience is shrinking, and comic companies are beginning to covet the larger audience spending billions in disposable income on video games and DVDs. And so you see the absolute hilarity of comic companies attempting to sell to a new, diverse audience using the same old tactics and the same old roster of artists, writers, editors, and publicists geared towards selling comics to that dwindling sect of fans desiring the comfort of stagnation. And then you see the absolute bewilderment from employees of those companies when they are bombarded by complaints from that diverse audience—because they’ve presented work that is considered to be at best out of touch or at the very worst sexist and racist. They are stunned that readers haven’t warmed to a heroine with a costume as tiny as a bikini. They are surprised to find that their new book starring a minority character has low sales. After all, they put an ad in Wizard magazine.

However, this is not a rant stating that middle-aged white men can’t write, draw, or publicize wonderful stories starring minority heroes who are treated with dignity and respect. They can and they do. For the ones that do, diversity is a part of their daily lives—either through the individuals they interact with or the research they do. Is it what keeps them from being out of touch.

I honestly feel that the best approach to gaining new readers is to have a workforce that reflects the type of audience a company is attempting to reach. Another wonderful approach is to have a workforce that is willing to interact with the type of audience a company is attempting to reach. A third solid approach is to have a workforce that is willing to do extensive research on the type of audience a company is attempting to reach.

Yes, I know I’m on the outside looking in, but given the output produced and/or the way it is being marketed, I’m fairly convinced that the majority of comic companies in the US and overseas aren’t concerned with any of the preceding approaches. And when they come across an employee that is, it is generally due to luck rather than actively searching for one. So, how does a company that is terrified by the idea of changing its status quo reach out to an audience that longs for something different? Well, that’s a post for another day.

Dear Comics,

It’s not you. It’s me. I still love you, you know? Yeah, we fight almost all the time, but you know I’m down for you, right? I’d slap the taste out of a dude’s mouth in a heartbeat should he try to look down his nose at you. I believe in what you’re trying to do here. I always have. I always will. You’ve got plans, and I want those plans to come through for you. You deserve that spotlight. You can do things that nobody else can do. I just wish you believed in yourself as much as I believe in you. You always seem so surprised by the success. Even now, when it’s happening all the time. I never questioned it. You shine.

You remember when we first met? You were chillin’ in the basement after my cousin had stepped out on you? I remember that you were too much for me to handle at first. Too violent. Too extra. My cousin always liked that wild stuff, but I couldn’t deal with it. But then you toned it down. You showed me a different side of you. Man, when we first got together? It was like I couldn’t get enough. I wanted you around me all the time. I even dreamed about you. You had me so open. I think I would have done anything you asked me to back then. But all you asked of me was time and loyalty. And I had more than enough to give.

And then came the fights. I don’t think you even realize how much you used to insult me. You still insult me. You were forever trying to put me and my girls down and it just—it wore on me. And when you apologized, it seemed like you didn’t really care, like you were only doing it because you didn’t want other people to look at you funny. And I felt so foolish. I still feel foolish now.

Do you know how many times your old girls rolled up on me and told me to leave you? Every show I followed you to, I’d get at least one. And your boys would always drag me away, tell me to pay her no mind. She was just bitter. Angry. She wasn’t down for the cause like I was. And it’s true. But the cause doesn’t need me.

I’ve seen the way you look at others, you know. And surprisingly there’s no jealousy. There’s only relief. And joy. Because those other girls? They look good. And they’re strong. And they’ll fight for you. They’ll fight for your dreams. And they’ll win.

And I’ll still fight for you too. It won’t be as much as I used to, but I will. But now it’s time to find someone that will fight for me. And that’s not you. See, I’ve given you my time, my heart, my mind, my money, my blood, my sweat, and my tears. And what have you given me? A whole lot of stories and a whole lot of aggravation. And that’s just not enough.

And I’m not blaming you. Lord knows, I didn’t have to stick around as long as I did. But I’m glad I did. Because I learned a lot from you. I don’t think you’ve learned anything from me though! You’re arrogant and stubborn as always. But you have learned it on your own. And that’s just as good.

I’ll be around for a little while. I still need to pack up my stuff and find someone who can do all of the things for you that I used to. It shouldn’t take long. And you don’t really need me anyway. Trust me, you won’t even notice that I’m gone.

So…I guess this is it. And yes, I still reserve the right to call you on your shit. And no, I won’t be giving up any of the friends I met through you. And yes, we’ll still see each other around. And no, I won’t be following you to shows to tell other girls not to get involved with you. C’mon, do you really think I would do that?

Anyway, I’ll see you Wednesday. And make sure you have my pull list ready. How come you’re always freakin’ late?


Cheryl Lynn

Catch up.

I have entirely too many ideas rattling around in my head right now, so this post will probably come out a bit jumbled. Bear with me, folks.

The Ormes Society. Named after Miss Jackie, of course. I thought it might be a good idea to have a message board or a web portal dedicated to black women creating comics. I was ecstatic to receive a few e-mails about my initial search for black female comic creators from people who wanted to add names to my list. Unfortunately, I hit a bit of a brick wall when I attempted to discover recent information on some of the names given.

That’s when I came up with the idea of the Ormes Society. Black women are out there creating, but unlike our peers, we have the tendency to create in a vacuum. And while other creators use message boards and activist organizations to wisely network and receive emotional support, we post our thoughts and creations on individual websites and then wonder why various activist organizations don’t reflect our viewpoints or interests. How can I be irritated when sites devoted to black creators are dominated by men and books with superhero themes (and on occasion, “hot” black model threads) if I never add my own contributions? How can I be irked by the fact that none of the members of the sites devoted to women in comics commented on the dearth of brown-skinned girls as characters in the MINX line if I never registered on those boards to make a post about that topic in the first place?

The Ormes Society would be a bit of a stepping stone or gateway. It’d be a place where black female comic creators and fans could (1) find each other, (2) share our creations, (3) talk about topics that are important to us, and (4) gain the courage needed to bring those thoughts and creations to the larger comic audience. It would also be a place for editors, fans, and fellow creators to find us and share their thoughts about our work and about topics that pertain to black women in comics (both in the pages and behind the scenes).

There’s no generation of older black women in comics still living to dole out advice and help us along the path to success. But with a little work we could at least have each other as company on the journey. Good idea? Bad idea? Unnecessary idea? E-mail me with your thoughts!

A tip for artists.

An overwhelming majority of the shirts that are made for women do not have separate compartments for each individual breast. Also, an overwhelming majority of the pants that are made for women do not have separate compartments for each individual cheek. Tight clothing will hug a woman’s curves, but it will not coat them. Find photos of women in one-piece bathing suits, fitness clothing, and competition dancewear to use as artistic references when drawing female superheroes. And that’s one to grow on!


I can see that I am going to have to make the comics.

And you see, I don’t want to make the comics. Making the comics is hard work. I don’t want to have to struggle with chasing down artists who have disappeared into the ether. I don’t want to have to wander through message board after message board begging someone to work with me. I don’t want to deal with hours of research and proofreading. I don’t want to go back to eating ramen noodles, putting quarters in jars, and not having enough money to eat at Chez Applebees.

But the comics need to be made. Why? Because black and Latino girls are reading—a lot. They’re piling onto trains and buses with colorful little paperbacks tucked into their pockets. And these colorful little paperbacks are full of garbage—pandering, materialistic, gangster bullshit. They contain tall tales where women are lucky to find a man who isn’t too abusive and treats her akin to a high-priced call girl; stories where girls don’t save the day by fighting the bad guys, they survive another day by fucking them.

Does anyone care that these girls are reading garbage? Does anyone care that these girls are spending their lunch money on victim-instruction manuals? Of course not. No one is concerned about what is read by Keisha or Jazmine when everyone is focused on fighting over which company will provide the most entertainment geared exclusively to Jane and Sue. What will they buy? Supergirl? Spiderman Loves Mary Jane? Runaways? The Plain Janes? Or perhaps one of the hundreds of manga volumes I must climb over to get anything done?

It’s not that those books aren’t lovely. I’ve enjoyed more than my fair share of them. But those creative teams slaving away at their desks and those marketing teams taking meetings in their glass towers have a certain vision of the girl who is going to save the day and of the girl who is going to buy the book about the girl saving the day. Neither one of those girls is going to be wearing Apple Bottoms jeans, Reebok sneakers, and nameplate earrings. And they damn sure aren’t going to have names like Jazmine and Keisha. Because no one gives a damn about Jazmine and Keisha.

But me. And approximately five other people. And only four of them are creating comics. And only one of them is currently creating comics that Jazmine and Keisha can pick up and see characters they inspire (and can be inspired by). Make that two. Because now I see that I have to make the comics, comics where Jazmine and Keisha are more than just the perpetual support team for some other ingenue or superhero with less melanin or a Y-chromosome.

You see, I was doing the next best thing—complaining. And I thought that my complaints would inspire someone else to make the comics. Because there are a ton of people out there with infinitely more talent and monetary resources than I possess, people who already have an established reputation and a publishing house that adores them. I don’t. However, they don’t care. I do. And they are clueless about how to reach these girls. I’m not.


That time of year!

In honor of Black History Month, I thought I’d make a list of all of the fabulous Black women writers, artists, and editors who are working at Marvel, MAX, DC, MINX, CMX, Vertigo, Wildstorm, Image, Dark Horse, Oni Press, Fantagraphics, First Second, Avatar, SLG, Devil’s Due, Drawn & Quarterly, Tokyopop, VIZ, and Del Rey.

This post was inspired by my discovery that once again the Black Panel at NYCC would have absolutely no female speakers. And so I wracked my brain to think of a black woman working in comics who would make for a wonderful addition to the panel. I could only come up with three. Two of them are listed above. The third would be C. Spike Trotman, the creator of the self-published comic Templar, Arizona. Those are the only three black women I know of working in the field of comics…and that has to be wrong, right?

Also, there are no women of color on the panels dedicated to women in comics. Are they being overlooked or do they simply not exist? At this point, I’m beginning to think it’s the latter.

Spark mad ism.

Racism in the comics industry? I’m out to attack it like a rabid pit bull. Homophobia in comics? I’ve got a rake and some piping hot coals at the ready. Religious persecution in comics? I’ve got my Docs laced up to stamp it out. Sexism in comics? There’s sexism in comics?

I can identify sexism in comics about as well as a man with cataracts can identify a needle in a haystack. Yes, it’s easy for me to locate it when I come across something that is blatantly unfair or offensive to women, but I am often blind to subtle forms of sexism. How can I easily spot other forms of subtle bigotry and yet be so blind to sexist incidents in comics? I just don’t see it. And that’s where the problem lies. As my fellow fans protest what they see as offensive images, I’m often left scratching my head. However, I’m more than willing to give my fellow fans the benefit of the doubt. And so I carefully pour over images and reread stories, searching desperately to find what they find. And yet I come up empty. I can’t help but feel frustrated.

BatgirlBatgirl. Others have looked at this image and equated it with sexism. All I see are terrible proportions. After all, it’s rather ridiculous to draw a girl who is supposed to be a slim and silent weapon with bulbous breasts, beefy arms and a clunky utility belt. The character appears to be much too bulky for the type of slim, athletic build she is supposed to have. Still, unlike many others, I don’t have any other problems with this image. How often have we seen a male hero beaten and bloodied only to rise again ready to fight? It’s a common image in comics. It shows a character’s tenacity. Why is the outcome so different when the character depicted is female? Is there something I’ve overlooked? Many have also taken offense to Batgirl’s costume, which leaves me a bit bewildered. I find a female character that is actually covered in cloth from head to toe to be a refreshing change. And in a life or death battle with Shiva, tattered clothing is to be expected. Still, Batgirl is no Caitlin Fairchild.

I do have my own complaints though. The fact that the character is illiterate makes no sense to me. Who wants a fighter that cannot accurately process information? And to have a character that is slowly learning to become a hero and a well-adjusted human being suddenly jump on the villain bandwagon is confusing as well. And yet my concerns are very minor ones. Could it be that I am so pleased to have a character that is a member of a racial minority that I am blind to the blatant sexism before me? Why am I not seeing what so many others are?

Storm. Some have stated that the removal of Storm from the X-Books and the addition of the character to Black Panther are sexist tactics on the part of Marvel and writer Reginald Hudlin. I have to admit that I don’t understand how one could come to that conclusion. After all, many male characters have received the same treatment. Popular characters are often added to the supporting cast of a book featuring a character that is not as popular in an attempt to bolster sales and recognition. And I do not see how the removal of Storm from the pages of X-Men has diminished the character. Storm seems to be as popular as ever and the character is still actively pursing Xavier’s dream of improving human-mutant relations. As for Storm conceding to Panther in regards to political affairs…shouldn’t she? After all, he is the ruler of the nation. She is merely his spouse and advisor. And should a major event regarding mutant activism arise, I’m sure the roles would be reversed. Panther would remain in the background. Of course, we would still see the event from his point of view because he is the star of the book.

Perhaps that is what has others up in arms? That Storm is no longer part of an ensemble cast in the X-Books but is a supporting character in Black Panther? But should that matter when the character is still prominently featured in a number of high-profile Marvel comics? How could readers cry sexism when the character has been given more of a spotlight than ever before?

Is there something that other fans are seeing that I cannot? I have to admit that American comic book fans have morphed into a gigantic singular image of the boy who cried wolf to me. For years I have witnessed large groups of fans rake every black writer who has appeared on the scene over the coals, accusing each and every one of them of a wide variety of -isms and inferior craftsmanship. So when fans began to express their concerns about Hudlin in regards to Storm, I quickly dismissed them. After all, similar words were used to discredit McDuffie and Priest, who are now almost uniformly praised by fans. Why should I believe their first impressions of Hudlin to be free from the tinge of racism? Why should things be any different now?

Though could it be that years of enduring racism from fans in the comic industry have made me incapable of objectively critiquing black writers? Or is the boy simply crying wolf when there are none present once more? Could the answer lie somewhere in between?

Selective sight. So, why do I not feel the need to “rally to the cause” where sexism in comics is concerned? Why do I not put in a tenth of the effort into battling sexism in the comics industry as I do into battling bigotry against ethnic, racial, sexual, and religious minorities? After all, I am a woman. Why don’t I care as much? Perhaps it is because my race once prevented me from having to endure the same problems that women who do not share my racial background have battled. And because I did not have to endure those problems, it became hard for me to see why they were problems.

And so I laughed hysterically when female comic fans complained about artists continually depicting heroines in a sexual manner. Oh no! Men are drawing women as sexy! It was hard to take seriously because I never had to endure it. After all, the heroines being hailed as sex objects didn’t share any of my features. And after years of various forms of media telling me my skin, hair, and eyes made me undesirable, I certainly didn’t have much sympathy for those who complained about artists continually drawing heroines who shared their features as sexually alluring objects. If anything, they needed to simmer down and be thankful someone found their features desirable. They were lucky to even have characters who shared their features as heroines to begin with! I sure as hell didn’t.

Of course, my views changed as the characters changed. And I began to get more than a little uncomfortable with female characters battling in strips of cloth and high heels when the women stuffed into those outfits shared my hairstyle and skin color. Suddenly, it wasn’t as funny anymore. But I chalked it up to being a minor problem. There were much bigger fish to fry. And fewer people willing to fry them.

Though my views have changed, that clearly doesn’t mean my vision is now 20/20. I’m like a person who has sat in the shade for hours and finally decided to flip a light switch. I can recognize the basic shapes, but I’m still a bit fuzzy when it comes to all the details and nuances. But hey, at least I’m not sitting in the dark anymore. Or even worse, sitting in a brightly lit room with my hands tightly cupped over my eyes.