Geek. Pirate. Mom

The Life and Times of Whitney Drake

Posts tagged 'comics'

Catwoman, why are you bending like that?

For some reason DC thought it’d be smart to reboot their universe, and then issue a series of #0 issues to explain how the characters got to be who they were in the reboot.

This is the cover of Catwoman #0 (I know, it says #1- but the zero covers all have the characters busting through their #1 cover art). Ow. Ow. Ow. Bodies do not bend that way unless there aren’t any bones in the torso. And the internet is pretty annoyed.

Somewhere out there, I saw that DC thought that the internet outrage would sell issues (I went through my Twitter feed and found reactions, but no specific link, sorry). That mentality explains a lot about DC, specifically the fact that Rob Liefeld still is working on as many books as he is when he doesn’t seem to know much about human anatomy. (No, this cover isn’t Liefeld’s work. He does draw some broken spine women, and a lot of them seem to stand on pointe.)

But seriously, most women don’t have issues with women being sexy in comics. Yes, Catwoman is sexy and always has been. She’s one of my favorite characters- but there’s a point when you look at some of the artwork and wonder what they’re thinking. Like this. My husband took one look at this picture without my saying anything and immediately said ‘Ow.’

Unfortunately, DC is convinced that men are still their primary demographic. And they think that men will only buy issues if women are sexualized. The more people I talk to, it seems like DC’s latest survey that said that white men 18-35 are their main audience was based on a pool that was selected to give DC the results they wanted. They believe that women and children have no interest in comics, regardless of how diverse comic audiences really are.

I’m going to make this clear that I’m not advocating that children be able to read Catwoman. It’s rated T. What I’m trying to point out is that covers like this make women (and men, too) turn away from comics. It’s one thing to suspend your disbelief that every superpowered heroine has a tiny waist and giant breasts. Or the myriad of things in comic books- after all, the insane stories is part of the fun. But when artists basic anatomy like a spine on a character that isn’t Plastic Man? That actually sends the message that artists will do with women’s bodies as they see fit. Yes, women. It’s pretty rare to see men twisted around like that.

There have been some great reactions to Catwoman #0 on the net. The tumblr DC Women Kicking Ass explains why covers like this are problematic- in that images like this aren’t going to make a new reader pick up the issue. Gamma Squad has a slideshow of some artists parodies and mockups of the Catwoman #0 cover- including one attempt to see if it was even possible to render in 3D. And if you’re in disbelief that this is as widespread as comics blogs make it out to be- just stop by Escher Girls, a tumblr dedicated to showcase images just like this Catwoman cover.

I really didn’t mean for the last week to turn into me whining about the entertainment industry, but things just keep coming up.

I wanted to thank those of you who’ve shared the link and responded to my post about Lara Croft. Obviously, she’s a character I hold near and dear to my heart. Heck, I even bought a bunch of lame issues from Witchblade (and a spin off set in the future involving a wielder) because Lara crossed over into it.

I’ve had a few responses that seem to think I’m missing the point of the reboot. That the new Lara doesn’t take crap from anyone. Here’s the thing- Lara has never taken crap from anyone. The entire point of the games have been that Lara was on what started to be an innocuous archaeological quest and it spiraled into something serious- with bad guys and danger, and she stood up. She loses friends, sometimes gets betrayed by allies, but she keeps on- because it’s what’s right. My point is that there is no purpose to put Lara in a corner to get her to get involved. Or to threaten her with sexual assault. She already was a strong character.

When I look at the events unfolding in the new Lara Croft game (based off the demo and the interviews with the Crystal Dynamic teams), it seems as though the end result of Lara will be a lot less snarky and carefree than the Lara I love. I don’t mind the concept of a reboot- it’s been ages since there’s been a good Lara Croft game. I don’t mind the redesign. But if you’re going to change the character that much- make a new franchise. Her name recognition means nothing if you’re going to change the character from a Tomb Raider to a cornered victim. (Frankly, I’m tired of reboots- only because I think that movies, comics and video games could do with a few new stories)

If you still think I’m overreacting, read this post – specifically the quotes from Crystal Dynamics about their view of Lara. The link in it to a post by Chuck Wendig takes a look at the implications from a storyteller’s standpoint.

So why do I rant about these things? To some it must seem like I hate the industry. I rant because I love video games and comics. Seriously. I want my boys (and the girls I know) to be able to read comics and play video games that are filled with characters of both genders, not interesting men and damsels in distress or sexy contortionists. And frankly, there are some amazing artists/writers/creators out there- I just want comic book companies to ignore who has worked for them for the last 20 years and hire artists that understand basic anatomy. And to ditch the notion that only men read comic books. I would love to buy my boys comic books that were meant for kids- which is why I wind up buying volumes of webcomics like The Dreamland Chronicles instead of even looking for something from Marvel or DC.

Tuesday, and my brain is everywhere.

I finally got my Pottermore email. So far I’m loving what I’m seeing. I had a blast shopping on Diagon Alley- I bought a tabby cat for my pet. For those who are surprised- my first cat was named Griffin. He was a sweet little tabby. Well, sweet to me. He sort of hated anyone he thought was a threat to me, and tolerated both TheBoy and Jerad because they were close to me) My wand is an 11 inch Aspen, Unicorn Hair, unbending wand. Which apparently means I’m stubborn and compensating for being short. But that I’m rather unlikely to fall to the Dark Arts.

Also, I’m in Slytherin. As I should be.

I haven’t had a chance to do much more- like add people, since the site keeps going down. I am a little tired of seeing this:
Due to high levels of demand, we are currently restricting access to Pottermore.  Please come back later and try again.

Elsewhere in my life, we’ve started to settle into a routine. I drop the boys off at their schools, run any errands I might need to, and then come home to try to write (or in the case of today, to try to get myself sorted in Pottermore). Then I pick up the Little Kidlet from preschool, we come home and have lunch. Then after a little while it’s off to pick up his big brother from kindergarten, and then we come home, tackle homework and enjoy the afternoon.

Right now, where I’m enjoying some alone time upstairs. By myself. Oh right, that’s the definition of alone time, isn’t it? Well, TheBoy has been wonderful in trying to give me a bit of a breather. While today has been a pretty straightforward day, it’s always good to be able to catch my breath in case tonight winds up being a long night.

One last thing to leave you with – a 7 year old’s thoughts on DC’s “New” Starfire. If you’re unfamiliar with this issue- Starfire, a character who has been extremely popular in her tween incarnation on the “Teen Titans” animated series, as well as popular as a teen/adult in the DC Universe (DCU) was introduced in the reboot in “Red Hood and the Outlaws”. Only instead of the alien who was very much into love in all forms, she’s now about emotionless amnesiac sex- and striking cheesecake poses for nobody in particular. Lots of people are not happy- since even DC was saying that female fans should be happy because while not all their female superheroes were going to make it into the new DCU, favorites like Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Batwoman, Zatanna and Starfire would.

I should point out that I’m much more upset about this than I am about the Catwoman debacle (where Catwoman and Batman had sex in a rather fanfic-type panel in the book). My biggest issue with Catwoman is that she was still wearing most of the catsuit and supposedly having sex… and that’s just not humanly possible. Do I think they should have had it in the first issue? No. Have I long assumed that they were sneaking off for rooftop sex? Yeah.

Missed Opportunities: the new 52.

Now that DC’s New 52 are coming out (those are the 52 titles they’ve rebooted along with the DC Universe), I thought it was time to look at how DC marketed it- especially after reading this great post by Jill Pantozzi about DC’s presence at FanExpo in Canada). So far sales seem to be high, but since they’re all number 1′s, only time is going to tell how things are really faring.

I used to read comics regularly. I had a pull list and everything. Then, I had a kid and needed that extra bit of monthly budget for other things. So I’ve followed DC in the last few years, but haven’t bought any issues.

I’ve also talked about this before. The year long events were intimidating for new fans, especially since they all built on the one before. So I have been excited about the prospects for a reboot, and the chance to start fresh, as it was.

But the marketing has been spotty. When I was forwarded a “teaser” that would be showing in movie theaters, hyping the new 52, I was expecting something to entice non-comic books fans to return. Something with images from the new books that would say, “Comic’s Greatest Heroes, beloved by millions for decades. Get the chance to start a new journey with them, from the beginning. 52 titles. All starting at #1- available at your local comic book store on online the same day… The New DC Universe.” Instead, it was something clearly geared towards current fans, and didn’t give much information at all.

I expected to maybe see something on television, profiles in entertainment magazines, maybe? Instead, I saw nothing. All the interviews and hype were on websites that were already devoted to comic books. The only blogs I saw cover the new 52 that weren’t already covering comics… were LGBT blogs, discussing the LGBT characters that survived the reboot. There was no media penetration outside of areas that already cared about comic books.

Reading about DC’s sad presence at FanExpo is a bit baffling as well. DC should have been treating every single convention this year as a way to drum up excitement for the new 52, since the whole goal was to get new readers and increase sales.

Sadly, DiDio’s comment about FanExpo only highlights what the problem is: “Well, this is the last week of the old DCU. We’ll let it have its last hurrah before we start the new stuff next week.’” Even when they should be looking forward, DC is still looking backwards. (If you didn’t read the linked article, they had promotional stuff from 2009 at FanExpo for that “last hurrah”)

There has been a lot that’s excited me about the reboot- integrating Wildstorm? Justice League Dark? I loved the idea about starting from the beginning. However, since most of the costume redesigns have been more throwback than a chance to start anew, I have been concerned. (All they’re missing are a few pockets, pouches and head scarfs to be straight out of the “extreme” 90′s) If the marketing team seems more interested in promoting the old than the new, it doesn’t really seem as though DC understands why their readership has fallen over the years at all.

DC, the times they are a changin’. You need to find marketing people that aren’t afraid to tell you the truth- because the less of your own hype that you believe, the better chance you have of seeing where you should be headed. Trust me- adding a bunch of extra lines to a costume, or giving someone pants isn’t a magic solution. Your marketing team should have been asking people why they stopped reading your comics. Or asking people who read indie comics exclusively why they aren’t buying your issues. You should have looked at the demographics to see where you were missing readers and tried to fill those voids.

You don’t gain readership by advertising to the exact same audience you already have. You continue to build by appealing to kids, and making DC a brand that parents feel comfortable buying for their kids- both boys and girls. Those kids will grow up and start their kids reading DC- just like most of your parents or someone older did for you at some point in time, I’m sure. And honestly, stop treating women differently than men. Believe it or not, we have varying tastes, just like your male readers. I know, it’s crazy.

But keep trying, DC. I really believe you can do it.

Your thoughts? Do you think DC can change, or are they doomed to fail? For that matter, have you read any of the new 52 and really liked what you saw?

Dear DC

After you wrote a letter saying that you heard the criticisms about the makeup of your creative teams, I felt I should tell you how I feel.

I’m glad that you’re committed to change if it’s what your audience wants. I am thrilled that Apollo and Midnighter still have a home after the reboot and that you didn’t reboot their sexuality. I’m also thrilled that you’re really giving digital comics a push.

But there are still a few things that I’d like to see as a reader. Not as a woman, but as a reader.

1. Fewer pinup covers. I know, sex sells. But half the time, the cheesecake has nothing to do with the actual story of the book… which to me just proves it’s a desperate attempt to get the horndogs to buy the book. (I’m not anti-cheesecake. I own all the issues of Danger Girl, but those covers all played right into each issue!) I’d just rather see a cover that actually tells me a little bit about what’s inside.
2. Or…. make the pinup covers the variants.
3. Introduce all ages books. It honestly isn’t going to detract from your current storylines if you have a couple of out of continuity books that can never be retconned. Example? Give me an all ages Superboy. Or an all ages Superman & Batman. Something that I can hand my kids and have them fall in love the way that I did.
4. Platform wide events are cool, but usually only when they happen every so often. Year long events every year makes them less of “events”, and make it really hard for new readers to get into storylines. I do speak from experience- I had to cut back on my comic funds when I had my first kid, and when I was trying to get back into it… I had no idea where to start because DC was in the middle of another giant event.
5. If you’re trying to make a character bad-ass, dressing like a stripper isn’t the answer. I love the knife belt on Harley Quinn’s new costume, the new hair and the giant hammer. But there’s no real link to the Harleen Quinzell most of us fell in love with. And what’s with Zantanna in Flashpoint? She’s one of the classiest ladies in the DCU- even if you change the timeline, one would think that she’d find a way to retain that. Redesign all you like, but don’t strip away what makes the character who they are. Nobody would dare put Batman in a dayglo uniform, or have him suddenly dress like a Chippendale’s dancer- but somehow it makes sense to tart Harley up? (And please don’t cite the success of Arkham Asylum.)
6. Flexibility. Don’t be afraid to try new things. No, rebooting your characters or putting them in alternate timelines isn’t what I mean. One of the things I like about Marvel is that they’re willing to try all ages books, manga versions of their properties… it doesn’t always work, but they try.

Not included in my list, but you might want to work on how you handle criticism. Frankly, I was more disappointed at how rude Dan Didio was to the woman who asked about the creative team than I was that there were fewer women in the initial relaunch. All he had to do was say that they were aware of the concern and that it wasn’t intentional, point out that there are announcements with female creators coming down the line and remind fans that the surefire way to have more female creators is for more women to send submissions. Considering that Gail Simone herself had raised the same concern (about the lack of female creators) weeks earlier, this is a question DC should have seen as being a possibility. (And by the way, you didn’t need to put a quantity on the female creators out there in your letter. Just saying you know there are many more out there would have been enough.)

The more and more I write about this and talk about it with others, I really don’t want this to be a gender thing. I long for the day when people don’t care who writes comics, but just care that they’re written well. Frankly, I’d like to see fresh talent. Redesigns that don’t feel dated before they even hit the page (sorry Jim Lee, but your work hasn’t aged since the 90s. Chokers are out, and Superman doesn’t need armor). Go to Project Rooftop, and be blown away by their artwork. These are artists who know the characters and aren’t afraid to try something new. I’d like to see some risks. Because right now, DC looks like it’s too afraid to try anything new. (Well, anything new that doesn’t involve taking clothes off of female characters)


For those who’ve seen the 12% to 1% female creators issue cited, Newsarama takes a look at those figures. Turns out it’s a bit of apples to oranges thing. But honestly, I’m glad that there have been more open discussions about the way women are portrayed in comics, as well as honestly talking about the directions that fans want to see comics taken in.

Girls & Comics: writing.

Last night, Gail Simone (the comic book writer/creator) tweeted the following statements. “DC, we need more female creators, stat. Really. Let’s make this happen.” (In the reboot era, there will be two. Gail and… trying to find the other name. Sorry!) “We all still want comics to be a meritocracy. But there are more than two female creators who are qualified and talented.”

Not surprisingly, this became a hot button issue as male creators and just casual fans added in their two cents. Some people who worked accepting submissions at DC and Image commented that only about 5-10% of the submissions were from women.

Which led me to tweet a bit, wondering about statistics. Usually with a pool of individuals, if you start weeding out the less talented, the percentage of the demographics should feasibly be the same. So it does seem a little odd that in all the books released by DC for the reboot, that only two women are involved creatively.

Bradley Timm (@DoctorFlux) and I started to talk. He wondered if it wasn’t a conspiracy, or if there just isn’t a general interest by women to write superhero books- if they’d rather write indies, pointing out that of the comic reading women he knew, that’s what they preferred to read.

So I looked back on my own pull list over the years. And admittedly, it’s a bit lacking in the capes department. I’ve tended to buy books that reflect what I write- supernatural books, indies, and the most mainstream books I own runs from are NextWAVE, Tales of the Unexpected and JSA. Considering that the Tales of the Unexpected run involves pirates and a Nazi Gorilla, I think that’s still not very mainstream.

Yet, I’m a huge fan of the DC trinity. I have seen every single episode of every Batman animated series (as well as the Superman adventures). I keep up with what’s going on – I just haven’t bought the issues. Why? There’s a lot going on. Both in the books and in my life- at the time I was buying Tales of the Unexpected, I was well, expecting my first son. Which meant I had to cut back a lot once he was born. Having bought the odd collection from webcomics in the time between, I’m easing back into it with the DC reboot.

Would I want to write comic books? Um, yeah. But I admit that my voice isn’t geared towards capes. Well, not unless I’d get to write something either like Tales of the Unexpected/Doctor 13, NextWAVE or Runaways. Okay, Runaways is a bit more mainstream, isn’t it?

I know a lot of women who write. And a lot who read comic books. For some, those categories overlap- and it’s true. I haven’t heard aspirations of writing books. Usually they just buy whatever Gail Simone or Amanda Conners’ are currently writing and talk about how great they are. Which they are. Now, I know there are more women who have created for DC and who write for comics currently still- they just aren’t on the books for the reboot.

So why? Is it a lack of passion? Is it weeded out of us as kids when we’re told to watch Disney movies instead? I bring that up because I know that I’d mentioned wanting to write James Bond novels when I was 14 and was told that nobody would buy a spy book written by a woman. So I wrote a spy novella my junior year and proved – that I wrote like a 16 year old girl who didn’t quite understand what she needed to to write something better. I wasn’t deterred and when I revisited the story years later, realized that it wasn’t that I was a bad writer. I just wasn’t ready for that genre. Now

Digression aside, though, I can see that in the 90s there probably weren’t a lot of people suggesting that girls think about writing mainstream comics. Which would mean that the women who might be sending in submissions for stories might not have been mentored the way that some of the male creators have been. It’s true- you find a lot of female artists in the indie category, and most of them have distinctive voices that don’t fit a typical superhero story. Nearly all the female artists and writers I follow list Disney and anime as the thing that inspired them.

Is it just a perfect storm of circumstances that are keeping women out of mainstream comics? It seems like it’s all part of the larger cycle of issues with Girls and Comics. Publishers complain that women just aren’t buying comics, but they don’t try to nurture all ages books or girl-centric books that would lure in all ages of female readers. And of the girls who read comics, if they’re mostly reading indy books- that’s probably what they’re going to want to write. So unless something changes, it doesn’t seem like the number of women who want to write superheroes are going to increase.

I really would like to hear your thoughts on this. Obviously, this isn’t something that I have the answer for- but something that I really think we should consider more. The more and more I think about it, the more I see the problem as two sides of the same coin. You won’t get more female creators in mainstream comics without having more female readers.

The DC Reboot & Magic Breasts.

For any of these pictures, click on them and you can see them full-sized.

I’ve tweeted about the DC Reboot, which for those non-comic types was the recent announcement that DC will be restarting all of its major series numerically and content-wise. Origin stories, and chances for fresh starts for characters.

I will say this here, I think this is a great idea. The problem with having extremely long continuities is that it makes it hard for new fans to step in- which is what the comics industry is in dire need of. Also, I do like the idea that you can get it digitally on release day. The only way for the comics industry to stay relevant is to keep adapting with new technology.

I was unsure of a couple things when they announced the reboot and the first few titles. And yesterday, I saw something that made me down right furious. Read More…

Girls and Comics.

I wanted to write a long post about how the comics industry fails women as an audience. But then I realized that I don’t have a lot of the scans I’d saved over the years anymore. (Yes, this is the short version)

The big part of why a lot of girls (and for this, I do mean girls 8-17) don’t get into reading comic books is because most of the series are marketed towards men. Batman and Superman are cool, but Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Batgirl and Lois Lane are relatable.

Kate Beaton illustrates the impossible pose often seen in comics

But look at any comic book cover, and if there’s a woman on it, she’s likely to be scantily clad, contorted in a way to show off all her assets (see the image at right for an example). I’m not saying that female superheroes can’t be sexy- but at the same time, upskirt shots of Supergirl and exposed cleavage down to a belly button probably aren’t going to make teenage girls comfortable with even buying the issue. And forget convincing a mom that it’s okay.

Then once a girl/woman has started reading a mainstream comic series, it’s sort of easy to fall out of love with them. Either the female characters start to do all the cliche “girl” things (like being more concerned about their appearance than what they’re there for- which I seem to recall happening in a Supergirl book not all that long ago) or they’re engaging, entertaining… and get killed off/tortured/raped simply to further a male character’s plot. Yes, that happens. It’s been dubbed Women in Refrigerators syndrome after the ’94 Green Lantern story in which Kyle Rayner returned home to find his girlfriend dead and yes, stuffed in a refrigerator. (Admittedly, in an RPG game of mine, I pulled one stunt which was WiR-esque and I’ve regretted it for years. I really wish I hadn’t been talked into it.)

Yes, a lot of women and girls read manga. They tend to read a lot of indie comics as well. And why? Not necessarily because some of them are love and romance- it’s because the characters presented in them, male and female, are usually well written and seem like real people. You don’t have to worry about whether or not Character A is suddenly going to seem as though they’ve been lobotomized and drool over a boy, when it’s unlike anything they’ve done before.

Dean Trippe posted a pitch he’d put together for a YA illustrated novel for DC, titled Lois Lane: Girl Reporter. Knowing his writing, it would have been clever, smart, and great. On Twitter, someone complimented him on his work and said they hoped it would help others do female characters justice. He said, “i’ll tell you my secret to writing female heroes as well as the dudes: i just use female pronouns. :P ” If you have a few minutes, take a look at what DC wasn’t interested in. And then be a little sadder because LL:GR doesn’t exist beyond that pitch.

But the fact that DC wasn’t interested in it? Shows me that they really aren’t interested in having girls (again, actual girls this time) start reading comics. So please, comics community at large- stop writing women as plucky heroines or mere love interests. Just write them as characters that happen to be women. Give them things to do, people to save, and yes… it’s okay to let them get hurt, but don’t make it just to solve a problem you had with someone else’s storyline. But don’t treat them like the mandatory T&A for a cover.

Oh, and learn the difference between skimpy and sexy. Women don’t have to be dressed like strippers to be sexy. Wonder Woman’s original outfit? Sexy. Witchblade? Skanky, and uncomfortable. Poor Sara Pezzani must have gone broke from losing her clothes all the time.

So what do you think, internet? Am I totally off base in thinking that this is what’s keeping girls and women from being a bigger demo in comics?

(Also, Kate Beaton’s website may be found here: Hark, a vagrant. Her hilarious drawing was posted to Twitter, which is a must-follow if you remotely are a fan of her art)

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