June 12, 2012

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.

Update: Now that the Lara Croft game is out, it’s clear that the trailer and the ensuing outrage against the people at Crystal Dynamics were unfounded. But it’s also clear that the execs who speak about the games need to be much more aware of the words that come from their mouths- if it almost derailed what turned out to be a pretty great reboot.

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