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Feminism and the Comic World

- Warped Role Models and Subtextual Abuse


Hi there. Iím a female comic artist. I drew comics since I was a kid, itís been a love most of my life. Even if Iíd been warned about what I was in for, I donít think I would have not taken up such a grand and wonderful art form. Whatís that Iím saying? Comic drawing? An art form? Well yes, it is. It requires all the skills and hard work that any other art form requires, and a good slab of talent. Thatís why I love it so much. I think I know why you may feel a little confused ≠ comics are just line drawings and are dime-shop crap. Most people probably think that, because comics arenít taken seriously in the West. Comics will probably never get taken seriously unless real changes happen. Why?

Theyíre backwards. They are *so* socially backwards that it hurts.

When I was a kid I was interested in comics, but every time I tried to read one I got quickly bored. Iím sure there are a lot of girls that felt like me. I stuck to comic strips like Garfield and Calvin & Hobbes; they didnít bother me so much. It wasnít till I was older and looking at comic books that I realised just why they annoyed me so much. Firstly, they catered specifically to boys. Whether young or old, they were drawn for dicks. The only characters that really *did* anything were the male characters. They hunted, they saved, they searched and they looked into themselves. They looked perfect and their girlfriends were more perfect.

Oh ≠ letís talk about that. The girlfriends. I think that always annoyed me the most. Even in titles like the X-Men and Batman, women were built like Drag Queens after having about ten silicon implants with Gravity Defying Tit Boosters, and wore very little at all, with nipples popping out from the material like steel rivets. Even if they were doing things the men were doing, they couldnít do that without being scantily clad at the same time. It made me so angry that I couldnít even pick up the comics anymore. Of course, this was all ten years ago. Things have improved by now, right? Right?


Iíve sworn off buying mainstream comics. I have a realisation in the back of my mind that despite my skills, I will probably never have a comic that will sell as much as those mainstream comics ever will, and not because the mainstream comics are better than mine [or any other female created comic for that matter]. Itís because overgrown dickless morons rule the comic industry. Even with all of the anti-sexism movements that have swept through our society, the mainstream comic world has wrapped itself up into a little cocoon of fantasy, where no one is imperfect except the male heroes cause itís cool to be a flawed maverick, where women are long-legged alien-proportioned flotation-device bosomed things that only wear scraps of spandex so that the comics can be sold to children under 12. Of course, confront any comic-boy on the rife sexism, and you get these following jewels:

"What about Elektra? Sheís the main character of her own comic series!"

Elektra wears a thong, people. A red thong. I donít remember seeing a promotional picture of her where she *wasnít* spreading her legs wider than a synchronised swimmer on crack.

"Jean Grey has been a leading character in the X-Men series since the 60s!"

Donít get me started on her. She is the single-most abused, disempowered, pathetic cock-whipped excuse of a useless bint that has ever dared to show herself on a printed page. Sheís been the sexual prize between two lead characters, made to be all powerful then stripped of that power as if it were Ďevilí for her to ever be such a thing, and is touted as the main representative of all heroic female-kind amongst X-Men fans and by Marvel Comics themselves. She is consistently ruined and killed and pulled down to nothing, only to be brought up for the cycle to start all over again. This is supposed to be our role model? Get real! The comic boys claim that itís Ďangstí, and that bad things really happen. Sure, it does, but donít expect me to look up to some women that seems to thrive on that shit.

Youíd think that with time, this sort of thing would improve. Looking at the industry on the surface, youíd probably assume it has. I mean, thereís no heroines lying around waiting to be saved anymore, the girls are out kicking ass like the boys, right? Right? Again: wrong.

The girls are always dependent on the men in some way. Even if the girls are amazingly strong and wonderful, their positive attributes are what the male characters see in them and deem wonderful. It is all seen through the male perspective, and women are something alien. Women are only worthy if theyíre openly sexual, and if theyíre not, thereís something wrong with them.

A wonderful example is the character Jubilee. Now, for non-comic readers, she is a young lady, about 15 years old in most comics, half-Chinese, loud, opinionated, frenetic, confident, generally well-clothed and delightfully flawed in many human and non-irritating or sexist ways. Sheís not a sexual character (probably too young for the writers to bother with) and she is happy in herself that way. Personally, I feel sheís the best female character that Marvel has ever produced (besides Rogue, but she has her own issues in sexism that I will discuss later). Sheís the most balanced, the most emotionally well adjusted, she takes no crap and doesnít hesitate in giving up the sass. Sheís also the *most* hated character in the X-Men fandom.

Gee. What a surprise.

Now to Rogue. Rogue, by all appearances, should be a good feminist example. Sheís a character in the X-Men series, very open with her opinions, sassy and smart, doing her superhero thing and kicking butt. However, it all seems to be a huge set-up for the comic boys, as they seem to think that just because she canít touch other people (If you remember the X-Men movie, Rogue is a genetic mutant that has skin that is deadly to touch. Thatís all you need to know ≠ the rest is too complicated), that she should be miserable in some way. Sheís represented as the Ďtragicí character, all because no man can ever touch her. Now, hmmm! I donít remember the last time a fella touched me, and I donít see myself as a very unhappy person. Sure, the human contact thing is sad, and she adjusts to that, but we donít get to see that. All we see is her pining after her dead-beat asshole boyfriend (thief, womaniser, general jerk-off with an ego a mile wide), just cause she canít touch him. Gee, isnít that great. And recently, sheís been given a whole bunch of powers so sheís all powerful and practically helpless because she canít control them. Anyone feeling deja-vu?

Whatís worse is that Marvel are jumping on the ĎFaux Feminismí bandwagon, trying to make out that theyíre hip and with it, when theyíre just as backwards as always. Jeanís up there with her new-look army-haircut, amazing floating boobs and midriff tops, all super-intelligent and witty, yet still she canít resist the lure of a big meaty hairy man with an armful of claws. Doesnít that just say a lot about her? Yep ≠ sheís dominated, again, in the huge hulking arms of some testosterone pumped chunkhead.

Of course, youíre probably thinking, "What the hell do I care about this stuff? Let the jerks have their masturbation material and letís worry about the real world." Well, this is a messy area, because itís all tied up in censorship, parenting issues and other vein-popping subjects that people get nuts over. Recently a webpage accessible to children ran an article about an upcoming storyline in the X-Men series, crying "See! EMMA FROST naked! See! JEAN GREY covered in SPERM!" I wrote a letter to the page, saying such things werenít appropriate in a page that wasnít marked for older audiences, and they basically told me it was my own problem and they arenít responsible for what they publish (even though they ARE. Talk about trying to feed me bullshit). I complained about it to my comic-reading female friends, and was severely disappointed.

"Theyíre just comics. Iím more concerned about the real world."

"This reeks of censorship, and if we try to stop this, we have to stop other stuff as well!"

"Iím not a feminist."

Personally, I say screw censorship. This is not about censorship. Itís about actively shunning and keeping a whole sex out of a perfectly good art form, and stopping them from ever making any real money from it unless they surrender themselves to the shoddy morals that the Big Boys set up in the first place. Again, you may think what the big deal is ≠ theyíre only comics.

If we had the same attitude about paintings, movies, music and any other art forms for that matter, many talented and amazing women would never have had the recognition and success that they *deserved*. Forget our greatest jazz singers. Forget ever finding out about Camille Claudelle. It wouldnít have happened if things hadnít changed (although thereís still a lot of work to be done in those industries too, itís nowhere near as tragic as the comic industry is).

The comic industry never learns, and no matter how you try to correct them on their pathetic value systems, youíll only get smacked down or ignored. I know Iíve tried. Does that mean Iíve given up? Hell no. I write my own comics, and I donít try to Ďaimí them at women. I donít Ďaimí them at anybody. Theyíre just stories. Men are no stronger than women and women are not anything less than the men. Women are drawn in regular proportion, are still sexy but sexy because *they* want to be, and because it pleases *them*. I keep writing, I keep drawing, I keep doing what I have to. I support other independent comics (otherwise known as Ďindieí or Ďalternativeí comics), and donít buy those that offend me. I miss out on a lot ≠ I love some of the storylines and ideas in the X-Men, Iím a huge fan of the movie and the cartoon, but I canít thoroughly enjoy them like others do. I always get angry somewhere along the line.

Iíve been called a militant feminist for voicing the opinions Iíve given here, and even had women strongly object to them. I still stand by these opinions though, and I hope that somewhere along the line, the hard work that I put into what I love will pay off. If not, then at least I know Iíve given it a shot.

Nancy vents her frustration with a four-page comic about herself as a female comic artist

Copyright© Nancy Lopez 2002, All Rights Reserved

Copying or reproduction (in whole or in part) on any medium (such as in print or on the web) is expressly forbidden without written permission from HBI

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