Wednesday, May 25, 2011

This is not what I ordered.

DISCLAIMER: I bought these comic books with my own money and I am entitled to have my own opinion about them. These are casual diagnoses based on my reading anywhere from one to ten issues. I have neither the funds nor the patience to wait very long to see if a series 'gets better', and as a consumer I believe in excercising my right not to put money into products I view as substandard in meeting my needs.

How hard is it to find a comic book which features:
1) Strong female protagonists or at least main characters, who are:
2) Not scantily clad.
3) Not the main character's love interest.
4) Actually has some women on the creative team.

Apparently it's this hard:

Danger Girl
  • Title character is sexually harassed by the villain.
  • Gets the butt of her jeans ripped off halfway through the comic.
  • No women on the creative team.
Side Chicks
  • One character hit on by 'client'.
  • Other character hit on by random guy in the street.
  • Skintight, cleavage-y costume for one, other one gets...
  • Shredded shirt.
  • No women on the creative team.
Heroes for Hire
  • I actually couldn't tell you what happened in the first issue of this comic, it was so badly-written and the layout was so horrible, I couldn't even follow the action. They tried to introduce way too many characters. All I really took away from this was yet another few exoticised, scantily clad female superheroes and yet another comic book with no female prescence on the creative team.

These are just series I've read myself. The failure of mainstream 'women marketed' comic series is pretty legendary. Marvel Divas put most potential female customers off by sheer force of its dumb title alone. The failure of X-Women is pretty much legendary on the internet (yeah let's get a guy who draws EROTICA for a living to draw the superheroines in our marketed-for-women series!)

Here are some series that meet some of my criteria, but still need work before I'd call them truly egalitarian:

Artifacts (my review of #0-2 here)
  • Genuinely strong female protagonist, who is driven by love of her daughter who is kidnapped in the first issue so that's NOT a spoiler. But she doesn't completely fall apart when this happens, which is great since she's a cop.
  • However when she's kitted out with her superpowers, it becomes a skin-tight suit deal which her boobs bulge out of. 
  • This comic features Aphrodite IV, a kickass cyborg with green hair. And do you know what's halfway through the comic book? A PANTY SHOT OF THE CYBORG. Why?! Just why?!
  • As far as I can tell, no women on the creative team.
  • Apart from those things, this is a pretty good comic series with a really solid mythology background.
  • She walks around in a leotard and fishnets.
  • However, they do have a female artist on the team.
Executive Assistant: Iris (my review here)
  • Love the premise.
  • Hate her outfits.
  • No women on the creative team.
  • Having only read the first issue I'm still skeptical about this one - it could either be great or horrible. I'm also skeptical to learn that Aspen are releasing a bunch of other series along this line, featuring a bunch of different assassins with different flower names. I saw the promo images and LOVE SO MUCH that each woman is a different ethnicity, so I'm definitley willing to give them a go when they're finally out.
Suicide Girls
  • Strong, diverse all-female line-up.
  • Looks to have women on the creative team.
  • Rather cliche storyline and dialogue.
  • Did not like the nude pin-ups in the back of the comic book. Especially since some of them weren't even drawn. WTF? I get that this may be an important facet of the Suicide Girls movement, but it honestly put me off buying issue #2.

So I don't feel like selling off all my comics and going back to novels for good, here are a few series which, although they don't meet all 4 points, give me real hope that one day the comic book industry will finally grow the fuck up, stop looking at comic books as their precious little boys' club and become more inclusive. These are the ones I will be continuing to spend my money on.

Kill Shakespeare (my review of #1 here)
This comic has an all-male team, but I love what they've done with the character of Juliet. She is a strong, capable female who sticks to her guns and doesn't take crap from anybody. However she's not just a dude with tits - she still reads as a woman, without the need for revealing clothing. Super props to these guys for creating a solid female character.

Chew (my review of Vol. 1 here)
The main female character in this series is not very present, and she is the main character's love interest, and it's an all-male creative team, BUT... she's a really awesome character who isn't defined by Tony's love or even interest. She's an interesting, complex character in her own right and I'd really love to see more of her in the series (keep in mind I'm way behind in this one!) 

Changing Ways (my review here)
Justin Randall gave himself two female characters that couldn't be easily sexualised - one was a heavily pregnant woman and the other is a young girl. However, both of these characters had distinct personalities and were both beautifully strong. Even heavily pregnant, this woman was kick-ass. Literally! I can't wait to see how Jesse turns out in the sequel. I have a feeling she's got her momma's strength.

Mystery Society
Ok, so this breaks one of my cardinal rules - the main female character is actually married to the main male one, but then again, I'm up to issue #4 and so far there are three more main female characters. Oh, and a robot. However, the art (which I really like, by the by) is done by a lady. So the main female character wears actual clothes and looks like an actual real female person! I love the relationship between the husband and wife in this series - it's evident that their marriage, as well as their crime-fighting awesomeness, is a team effort where they're both as valuable as each other. No female sidekicks or, conversely, henpecked husband jokes here.

Ruse (my review here)
The main female character is also the narrator for this comic. She is stubborn and witty, and keenly aware of the limitations that her Victorian society and her hellish partner, the "world's greatest detective" place upon her. I freaking love the tagline of this comic, and it has a female assistant editor (yay!). The fact that it's set in the Victoria era means there realistically can't be too much T&A, which is really, really, oh my god so nice.

Series I have yet to try:
Lady Mechanika
Gotham City Sirens
Morning Glories
Tank Girl
Madame Xanadu
I Kill Giants

It just makes me so angry and frustrated that I can't read a fucking comic book without being forced to overlook unrealistically proportioned, scantily-clad female characters who are 1-D personality wise at best. How can I identify with that? How can I enjoy reading and looking at that? I'm not completely opposed to a little T&A in the occasional comic. BUT WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE IN EVERY SINGLE ONE. And what the fuck is it doing in the comics which are supposedly for women? What planet are Marvel and DC living on, that they think every woman wants to be reading about women with giant breasts whose clothes fall off every five seconds and jghoirieuhwenjrfpsodjfcpsidhfp3wu579w87ruisdkcfbhqwas';KL:A:qy2

*headdesks repeatedly*


If you can reccommend any comics to me that meet any of my criteria, pleeeease oh please do. If you disagree with any of my assessments then please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. I like skimpy outfits. I really, really do. I find that wardrobe criticisms are, hands down, the weakest complaint against otherwise awesome female comic book characters, because I don't see the need to make female characters cover up any more than I'd see the need to make real women cover up. I mean, Ashe from FFXII probably wouldn't be able to bend over in that skirt if the game were real life, but she is totally hot, awesome and badass. I adore her.

    Also, I have to admit, I enjoy my scantily clad men in comics, as well. They just make me happy. If we could keep comic book women wearing what they do now, and get the men to wear a little less, too, I'd be a happy camper.

    I hope you find some more things you like soon, though!

  2. Vijis: that's really interesting. I dislike scantily clad comic book women because I like a modicum of realism in my comic books. I also dislike sexual objectification in real life and I believe it is an important symptom of real prejudices and problems.

    Since comics are an escape for me, where I don't have to always worry about the problems of real life, I would like to see female characters more realistically proportioned and wearing clothes that are actually appropriate for the situation, and don't make me feel insecure about my own body. Thus I don't see skimpy outfit criticism as "weak", I see it as 1) my OPINION, and 2) an opinion that a lot of comic book readers, male and female, share.

    I don't think equal objectification is the answer, I really don't. I'm not calling for a ruling-out of all 'traditional' costumes, don't get me wrong. I'd just like to see some female characters where I can happily read without seeing a gratuitous panty shot, cleavage shot, ridiculously low-cut or short-something. Also something I could consider cosplaying without feeling completely uncomfortable.

    I see the normalisation of unrealistically proportioned and scantily clad women in comic books as a real problem because it becomes the driving factor in the characterisation of women in comics. It implies that the female characters are eye candy first, and actual characters second.

    Asking women to cover up is an infringement of personal freedom. Asking the MEN who write and draw the vast majority of comic book women so stop being so sexist and narrow-minded in their portrayal of women, in an industry and medium that has been historically very much a boys' club and still clings to that image today, is asking for progress in the treatment of the sexes. I understand if so-called "feminist issues" are not important to you, but they are very much so to me.

    Thanks for your comment. I am hopeful each time I pick up a new series.

  3. I know how you feel, I'm reading StarCraft: Ghost Academy at the moment which is generally awesome, but all the female characters have gigantic bewbs. Even a young one (who I estimate to be about 12?) has a large-ish chest. I find it hard to take the female characters seriously when their bewbs are flopping around like that.

    Also, I go to anime club screenings at uni every now and then, and my friend and I headdesk everytime an anime character randomly has gigantic bewbs. I think we were watching A Certain Magical Index and it was fine until this one female character came along and smushed a guy's head into her massive chest. There have also been a couple of panty shots in other anime and the women in the Glittering Crux in Star Driver are ALWAYS in lingerie.

    *sigh* -___-

  4. SS: I've never been into anime, dunno why! I guess it's a human compulsion to learn how to draw anatomy and then to change it? :(

    Patrick: Ooh, I nearly forgot about that one! I remember reading a review of it a while ago and thinking it sounded really interesting.


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