The Female Perspective: Bionic Boobs and Yes, Women DO Read Comics

Welcome! This blog is written by author J.L. Metcalf and will chat about comics, movies, garden gnomes, ghosts or even books and daily life. It is a place where I offer my ladylike perspective on anything and everything my brain can think of. 

Women working indeed.
Women working indeed.

I’ve read a couple articles recently about taking young girls to comic book stores. The first, written by a Dad who had his mind opened to the fact that ladies in comic books are often dressed scantily and are unappealing to young girls, or, as his daughter asked, “Dad, where are the real comics?” She wanted to know where were the comics that had women on the front who were posed in a stoic fashion, who were dressed as well as their male counterparts, or at least, their boobies were covered. What bugged me more than that (and that bugs me, trust me) was that when the Dad inquired with the worker at the Comic Book store the guy smiled and said, “I bring these home to my daughter.”, Hello Kitty and Monster High.

Seriously? As someone who works at a comic store, that was the best he could come up with? In the comments alone there are hundreds of suggestions for comics for a seven year-old girl.

I realize that comics are neither geared towards seven-year old girls nor are they geared towards girls. The fact is, both of these things need to change. I know that I went into my local comic store awhile back and wanted to get a couple Spiderman comics for my friends son for his birthday, he was very young, maybe three or four. He was fascinated with my comics but stuff like Watchmen and Batman weren’t necessarily good for him to look at so I wanted to try and find him some comics he would like. Lucky for me, the guy in the store was able to steer me towards a couple good ones that were appropriate (meaning, no nudity or terrible violence) but it wasn’t easy, he said most of the books were geared towards older folks, which I do understand but at the same time, it seems kind of sad.

What truly frustrates me about comics today is how they portray women. Not as smart and capable and dressed appropriately but as damsels in distress and wearing outfits that can only be described as ridiculous. A good example is this past summer, Marvel hired artist Milo Manara to do a variant Spiderwoman cover. The first problem here is that Manara is known for drawing erotic art so I think you can guess what the second issue is, see below…

Milo Manara's Spiderwoman variant cover.
Milo Manara’s Spiderwoman variant cover.

Look at the picture above and you tell me that this cover isn’t completely sexist? Have we recently seen Spiderman posing this way? Because if we have, please, set me right and send a picture over to me. I’ll be happy to see it.

In the meantime, I find this type of cover to be extremely insulting. The fact that Marvel knowingly hired Manara, who is known for his erotic art, to do their variant cover astounds me. Is this how they plan on getting in touch with their female readers? Because, I gotta say, I would never pick up a comic book with this as the cover. Simply looking at it fills me with anger. And while I realize that we live in a culture where “sex sells”, it seems like overkill to me.

When is the comic book world going to get on board with the fact that women do read comics and that it’s disgusting to put this type of ridiculousness on the cover? No wonder the Dad’s little girl was confused, sex doesn’t sell to young kids, only adults. These types of covers are part of the problem, they are clearly trying to draw in an audience of adolescent men to read their books. Fine. I understand that, but what the industry is failing to understand is that it’s not just adolescent men reading the comics anymore, women are reading them. According to recent market research, about 46.6% of comic readers are female.

“If you go to conventions and comic book stores, more and more female readers are emerging. They are starved for content and looking for content they can relate to.

– Axel Alonso, Marvel’s editor-in-chief”

So here’s the issue, why do comic artists feel the need to sexualize the women but not the men? I realize that everyone is wearing skin tight costumes that show off muscles and bulges and whatnot but even with that, the men still manage to look brave and tough while the women are left pushing their breasts or their butts out (sometimes both at the same time which just looks painful) and it’s ridiculous. What’s truly ridiculous is that there are still men out there who don’t think women read or enjoy comics. After a recent announcement of the relaunch of the Ms. Marvel comic (Ms. Marvel now being a Muslim Teen) this was stated by a reader online:

“Yeah, this won’t last very long. Women don’t buy comics. They love geek culture, and they love all the attention it gets them but they don’t read comics in any signifigant numbers. Once they start seeing that they aren’t making money by ignoring their core audence, they’ll go back to business as usual.” ~ From the I Like Comics Too Blog

As a strong-willed feminist I cannot see why there isn’t equality in comics. Women kick butt just as well as men do (Look at Wonder Woman, Black Widow, Supergirl and our ever-lovely Agent Carter) so why do comics have to make such an effort to make sure we know they are women? Or is it that the men drawing these women honestly have no idea what they’re doing? I have to doubt that as most of them are very smart men with extraordinary talents. They can draw a woman who is both sexy and powerful without making her look like she’s selling herself on the street corner.

The new Ms. Marvel. Look how many clothes she has on!
The new Ms. Marvel. Look how many clothes she has on!

I want comic covers like the Spiderwoman variant to be part of a bygone era. I want covers to be wonderful works of art that depict men and women on equal footing when they are fighting the battles. I want women to be strong, stronger than the men sometimes, so that they can be seen as more than sex objects to the young readers. The fact is, comic book companies are starting to see the change, they are starting to see that women want women characters in their comics. Which is great! My hope is that they’ll see this changing trend and also manage to draw the women respectfully and without Bionic Boobs of Death. Most of all, I want the guys drawing these ladies to understand that by drawing women as tarts, you are doing a disservice to the comics industry. Women read comics too and most women won’t pick up a comic with a half naked woman posing in an anatomically impossible fashion to show off her T&A. Comic books and their artists need to get with the times. Start showing women as both sexy and tough and you’ll enhance your readership. Of that, I have no doubt.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

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