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blog stats Please excuse some personal commentary on an industry issue.

Commenters have been calling the cover of Marvel's Heroes for Hire #13 "tentacle rape," using the term only slightly ironically. (And, really, accuse me of being dirty-minded or seeing something that's not there to support my position, but I don't care if it's technically "slime" on Black Cat's breasts; you are hopelessly naive if you don't see it for what it's meant to resemble.) I'm not going to use up any of our server space hosting the image, but you can go see it at the link above or where Heidi MacDonald (at The Beat), Elin Winkler (owner of Radio Comix), Lea Hernandez (comic book artist) and JK Parkin (blogger and reporter at Newsarama) comment on it.

Even if you don't know what tentacle rape is (and it's exactly what it sounds like it is, duh), it is obvious that the women on this cover have been depicted in a distressing, degrading situation in a manner meant to titillate. Why? Because that's what appeals to their target audience.  I am not Marvel's target audience for this comic. (Though maybe I could be if it were handled differently.) But I am a woman who works in the comic book industry, and over and over I have to see that the industry's largest companies have no problem reducing my gender to tits and ass. Oh, and possibly a bad-ass attitude, mostly likely the result of being raped.

And I don't want to say this, but I really don't think a lot of men in the industry and who read comics understand. I don't think they get why it bothers someone like me or Heidi or Lea or Elin (a self-proclaimed publisher of pornographic comics). People steeped in the imagery of the superhero comic book have become rather numb to this kind of depiction of women, it seems. And they don't see their whole sex depicted as a sexual object as a rule rather than an exception by the industry's biggest companies, with the result that no matter what kind of work we do to bring different kinds of comics to the marketplace, tits and ass are the abiding image of women in comics.

An image like this bothers me for several reasons, most on a personal level, but since I am writing in my professional capacity here, I will write about why it bothers me on a professional level. First, as I said, that kind of imagery is the dominant one of women in comics, so every time I tell people I edit comics, I have to add a disclaimer: Not those kinds of comics. I don't want to be ashamed of the industry in which I work. And, perhaps a bit more personally, I feel these depictions of women in comics color how I am treated when I am doing my job -- not by my co-workers, men who all treat me with respect -- but mostly at conventions. Thirty seconds into conversations, I realize that the man talking to me thinks I am a booth girl. Perfect strangers who have no idea who I am ask to take my picture. To them, my primary and most obvious value is in my image; obviously I must be at the booth to be pretty and friendly to men so they'll look at our comics -- and in the case of the men with cameras, my image is something that they would like to capture and keep for themselves, and they see no problem with this.

No, I don't feel objectified every minute of every day at Comic-Con. (I admit I've been amiable and let some of these guys take my picture; no more of that, though that kind of thing seems to be on the wane since I've stopped wearing dresses and skirts to conventions, or perhaps at 29, I've just aged out of their idea of what a "cute girl" is.) But it has happened often enough to make me realize that the perception of what a woman's role is in the comic book industry is still one skewed toward "object" for a lot of people. Realizing that actually makes doing my job, which is fortunately free of allusions to tentacle rape, a matter of defiance as well as of skill and responsibility. If this sounds like it's something that should make me feel happy or  "empowered," well, then I am sorry to inform you that I would much rather do my job and be good at it without having to constantly prove something on behalf of my sex at the same time.

Heidi has brought up Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own at The Beat lately, and I think of it, too, of how Woolf writes that women's work--in the case of Woolf's essay, the work of writing novels--suffers when they are constantly aware of the indignities her sex is subject to:

"Her books will be deformed and twisted. She will write in a rage where she should write calmly. She will write foolishly where she should write wisely. She will write of herself where she should write of her characters. She is at war with her lot. How could she help but die young, cramped and thwarted?"

I don't anticipate dying "young, cramped and thwarted," but I don't want my work to be twisted by my indignation. I don't want to be outraged. (And I'm not, just kind of... curiously enough... sad.) I just want to do my work. But images like the cover of Heroes for Hire #13* and the "you're making a mountain out of a molehill" response to the women who have objected to it (witness the rampant idiocy in the comments thread at the Blog@Newsarama post), remind me that there's not just work to do but still a fight to be fought. And I really don't feel like fighting.

*Drawn by a woman, Sana Takeda, which makes this situation more nuanced to say the least. The art that can be seen on her website is often quite lovely but just as often more tits and ass for the course. EDITED TO ADD: Takeda has a different cultural perspective, perhaps, but that's where editorial responsibility comes in, especially in a work-for-hire situation.


( 48 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 23rd, 2007 06:43 pm (UTC)
You know what? I've been reading some old-school feminist writings lately (I found a copy of the "Sisterhood Is Powerful" anthology at a yard sale), and have been lamenting that the struggle for equality has gotten so quiet. People have sort of just accepted what little gains they've made and gone back to being passive consumers, while the culture is still being poisoned by ideological polluters. Maybe it's time for everybody to get angry again.
(Deleted comment)
May. 23rd, 2007 08:33 pm (UTC)
Not that I am disagreeing with the critique outlined above, but, Marvel's comics aren't particularly for kids. The demographics for comic book buyers are predominantly adult males from what I've seen (the SLG crew probably has access to much better market research on the topic than what I've seen since comics are sort of tangential to my branch of the entertainment industry). So while kids may indeed read that comic book, Marvel is busy thinking about how to best sell to their largest market, which is adult males for whom a soft-core-tentacle-tits-and-ass cover probably works just fine. They aren't trying to get a thirteen year old boy to buy the comic in partcular (though as a former thireen year old boy, I'll freely admit that cover would likely have caught my eye).
May. 24th, 2007 01:45 pm (UTC)
Neither is cigarettes, at least to hear Big Tobacco's PR tell it - but that didn't keep them from promoting Joe Camel.

Marvel claims their "Teen+" comics (including HEROES FOR HIRE) are aimed at a 9-and-up, or 13-and-up (depends on who at Marvel you ask) audience. That was the justification for giving Tammy's and I's WHITE TIGER comic, which contains some fairly violent action scenes (as you'd expect from the author of SONG OF THE LIONESS and THE CIRCLE OPENS series) a higher "Parental Advisory" rating. Apparently in Marvel's eyes, a female superhero beating up a lot of neighborhood punks, or a Yakuza decapitating (in shadow) an underling who had failed him, is a LOT less family-friendly than four women hung on hooks w/their clothing strategically ripped to show maximum cleavage w/out any actual nipples or aureoles....

Timothy Liebe
Dreaded Spouse-Creature of Tamora Pierce

May. 23rd, 2007 07:55 pm (UTC)
I'd suggest the female in the industry should fight this aggressively, not just defensively, we can start by SLG publishes uber bishounen or Yaoi comics which, in turn, objectify MEN. That'd rock :D

seriously tho, there's like zero comic for girls in the market, that's why there is no actual woman reader powers to balance things out. And by comics for girl, I don't mean comics that guys think girl would like, like, The Plain Jane? I wouldn't count that as a girl comic, -.-, jesus, even original Tokyopop stuff are often off the mark. I don't want to read about girls and girl issues, with more GIRLS in it, urgh. Whose idea is that? what happened to pleasing-looking male characters? instead, woman readers who craving that were forced to rely solely on Japanese manga, and private translating groups sharing them hush hush under radar. How did it come to that?
May. 23rd, 2007 08:07 pm (UTC)
>I don't mean comics that guys think girl would like, like, The Plain Jane?

Written by a woman, edited by a woman whose boss is a woman. You might want to think of a different example of books put together by guys that think they know what a girl wants.
May. 23rd, 2007 08:15 pm (UTC)
by women who apparently have no idea what woman who reads comics actually read.

I don't name Plain Jane because I think it was put together by men, I name it because it's currently the big release that was trotted as 'comic for girl', and I found it's not very appealing to me, am I wrong?
May. 23rd, 2007 09:11 pm (UTC)
What I find funny about The Plain Janes is that every review I've seen is by a man. And many of them like it!

But it wasn't very appealing to me, either. I might have liked it when I was 11 or so, which I guess is the idea.
May. 25th, 2007 01:16 pm (UTC)
When I was 11 or so, I was eating up all the Tank Girl comics I could find.
May. 31st, 2007 11:09 pm (UTC)
Tank Girl is a far superior comic for girls to read!
May. 23rd, 2007 10:01 pm (UTC)
Most things created for boys aren't very appealing to me, but I'm not really the most typical of boys. Like Jennifer said, she is kind of outside the target audience on PLAIN JANES, so you may be, too (dunno, I don't know you, I hear your SLG comic is great, though). Only time will tell whether that particular comic hits its the intended group, but the writer is fairly experienced at writing YA. So, I think in this case, your ire might be misplaced. I understand what you mean, however.

Haven't read it myself, so I can't really say whether I think it's good or bad outside of its intended scope.

May. 23rd, 2007 10:07 pm (UTC)
Sadly, Nancy Drew In Ghost World didn't set the comics world afire, and now the mainstream can sit back and say, We tried to market to women once, didn't work.
May. 23rd, 2007 08:03 pm (UTC)
If it were men, instead of women, in that same exact image, would you have reacted the same way?

Why not?
May. 23rd, 2007 08:06 pm (UTC)
Do you understand why that is a stupid question?

Why not?
May. 23rd, 2007 08:24 pm (UTC)
No, I don't understand why that's a stupid question.

This is fantasy. We see people murdered in books all the time, but we don't see people going out and murdering specifically because of a book. Just because human life is treated with less dignity and respect in a book doesn't mean we learn to treat others with the same lack of respect and dignity in the real world. Clearly people have the capacity to recognize that something like this is fantasy and not representative of the real world.

So since it's fairly well established that the images portrayed in comic books are fantasy and do not affect how people treat others I wonder why you're reacting the way you do.

The only reason I can come up with is your gender. You've identified with the women in the image and taken this fantasy as a personal attack.

So again, I ask, if you saw an image of three men, bound, obviously not happy about the situation, with a couple giant tentacles coming at them, how would you react and how does that reaction differ from your reaction to this?
May. 23rd, 2007 08:44 pm (UTC)
First of all, I have no idea who you are, and I dislike carrying on discussions with people who have no links back to blogs or who are at least courteous enough to use their names. Call me old-fashioned, but I would appreciate it if you would be so kind as to identify yourself in some way.

Secondly, I think it's ridiculous to speculate about a scenario that has not happened and is unlikely to ever happen. The fact that it is unlikely to ever happen points to a larger set of values that, while they may not affect how readers of these comics treat women on a day-to-day basis, nevertheless reflect a sensibility that contributes to some behaviors that I have personally witnessed. You say it doesn't affect how people treat others, but I say it does. I gave examples of how I think it does, but you've chosen to ignore that and instead cast me as someone who takes "fantasy" as "personal attack."

I regard art like this not as something that will cause certain behaviors, but rather as a symptom of an attitude that is continuously perpetuated. If it were men in the image, I would still think it's disgusting, but it would not carry the same significance because men are not regularly used as sex objects in comics, and in wider society in general.

I am being perfectly frank here: Your question really was a stupid question--or perhaps I should say ignorant--but if you asked it of course you're not going to understand that.
May. 24th, 2007 02:50 am (UTC)
Well, I'm a guy who reads comics and i'm not keen on the image either.

I certainly hope anonymous would not accuse me of taking it personally cuz i see it as a personal attack on my sister, my mom or my cousins!

And as semi-wrong as this may come out, i'm gonna say it any way... if i want porn, i'll look for porn. But images like these should not be on mainstream publications disguised and subtly perpetuating the idea of women being sexually degraded to a mass audience.
May. 24th, 2007 03:50 pm (UTC)
Alright. Hello Jen, my name is Michael.

"I think it's ridiculous to speculate about a scenario that has not happened and is unlikely to ever happen."

Exactly right. Now why is that?

Comics are a visual medium. Men respond strongest to their visual sense. If you want to make money in an industry so focused on a visual medium it's quite logical to play up to that demographic which will respond the strongest. Furthermore, it makes sense to play to that demographic with the most disposable income. Put these together and you get the teenage male. And that's exactly who a book with a cover like this is trying to target.

Does it objectify women? Sure. It's about T&A, not about personality or story. It's about what's most often on the mind of the teen male: sex and women.

Now is this a bad thing?

If you honestly believe that a kid who sees a cover like this is going to learn to treat women as objects and not human beings, then absolutely. But I don't think that's the case. Kids get exposed to all sorts of morally offensive things like violence and drugs. Yet the vast majority don't grow up to be coke-snorting, mass murdering, rape machines. I think that shows that teens recognize and understand the difference between fantasy and reality by the time they've grown up and become adults.

And this goes back to my original argument. You shouldn't get pissed off at this cover because it's fantasy. Because kids know it's fantasy. Because images like this don't create rapists or, at the very least, men who are indifferent or rude towards women.

Yes, there are, of course, always exceptions. A small amount of kids do grow up into rapists, murderers, etc. But the reasons WHY they grow up that way are far more complex than simple exposure to a comic book cover like this.

You shouldn't be angry at a cover like this because of how it depicts women. It's not about women, it's about fantasy.

Now if you want to get pissed that comics are generally teen-male oriented then you have a perfectly valid reason to be angry. You're right, there are other demographics who do buy comics who aren't being catered to. But that's where companies like SLG come into play. They cater to these underappreciated groups and can make a profitable business doing it.

But the original post by Jen wasn't about that. It was about how this cover is representative of an industry that portrays women as sex objects. I say, to an extent, you're absolutely right (of course there are superhero comics that do have strong female characters and don't treat every story as soft-core porn). But I also say it's the nature of the beast and it's harmless fantasy and isn't something to get angry about. I think being angry over a cover like this is misguided.

It'd be like me getting pissed off at the romance novel industry for objectifying men with the chiseled, Fabio-inspired physique whose sole purpose in life is to cater to the heroine's every need. I don't get pissed off. It's harmless fantasy.
(Deleted comment)
May. 24th, 2007 08:41 pm (UTC)
If we're talking about 9 year olds then we're parents are almost certainly involved. If a parent doesn't believe this is suitable for their 9 year old then it's their job to either keep it from them or explain to them that it's fantasy or that it's wrong or whatever message they want to get across. Comics don't raise kids, parents do.

As for your teenage relatives, how many of them do you think are going to become, for lack of a less-inflamatory word or phrase "anti-social"? Yes, talk between teens can get pretty bad. No different than girl-talk or locker room talk.

May. 24th, 2007 05:33 pm (UTC)
Good to meet you, Michael.
First off, in a previous post here I put Mario Bava, but who I really meant was Dario Argento. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.
About the cover: I have to filter this issue through my own experience, since I'm not personally a woman. I see it through my own viewpoint as a full-time Mexican American. See, for my entire life I've had to wallow through all sorts of depictions of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in our culture -- from the "Si senor" stylings of Bill Dana as Jose Jimenez to the "Hey man" rap of Cheech and Chong to the "Ese dudes" of the cholos on "The OC" or wherever they are. I've heard jokes about donkey shows in Tijuana and about not drinking the water, about wabs using leaf blowers and driving around in their ranflas blasting nortenos.
And it never stops. I do my part, I call people on their oafishness when it goes too far, and what do they say in return?
"Dude, lighten up, it was just a joke, man."
Which is a syntactical cousin to "Dude, lighten up, it's just a fantasy, man."
People want to believe that Mexicans are grimy, laughable subhumans, so they make and trade jokes about them. If a person buys into the fantasy depicted on the cover of this book, what does that say about what he wants to believe about women, or how he would like to see them? What does it say about the person who designed this, comissioned the artist to draw it? The company that publishes it, what do they think?
It never stops. Elsewhere I made the comparison of seeing this cover to finding a new Coon's Chicken Inn franchise opening up down the block -- what it's most like is the restaurant which is actually opening up down the hill from us here, some sort of Asian fusion place -- their front door has a picture of a slant-eyed, buck toothed little kid in a conical hat enjoying rice with chopsticks. The denigration never stops.
May. 24th, 2007 08:52 pm (UTC)
Well now we're talking about stereotypes, and everyone suffers from them at one point or the other. This being a comic board, I'm sure everyone's familiar with the grandma's basement-living, never washing, fat, socially inept, vulgar fanboy. Then someone catches you reading a comic and they say, "Hey, you don't live in your grandma's basement!" Either you take offense and let it hurt you or you let it roll off your back. If I took offense to every little thing I'd probably die from stress.

What I think you have to do in those instances is try to take it as intended. Is the person saying it in a way that makes it obvious that there's anger or malice behind it? If so then there's a problem. If it's a friend who's goofing around, part of the "you suck, no you" banter that's typical in some friendships, then you take it as such and don't let it bother you.

I'm not sure if this is applicable to the situation with how women are portrayed in comics. Maybe it is. If this were a poster or cover to a book that obviously intends to say women are this and that and should be barefoot and pregnant, well yeah, you've got a reason to get pissed. If it's just a goof, having fun with a silly fantasy, then maybe there isn't a reason to get pissed.
May. 24th, 2007 09:18 pm (UTC)
Maybe the experience of sexism isn't exactly equal the experience of racism, but there are similarities. The experience of having tried to counter the same old stereotypes all your life and having it all start up again with a new round of beaner jokes is probably quite close to being a woman reading or making comics and then watching a big comics company put out gaudy representations of women as masturbation toys. You get tired of it, you wish people would improve themselves a little, but obviously they don't see that there's a problem.
It makes me squeamish to consider what this cover is "intended" for. (And it also helpfully reinforces the stereotype of comics as fodder for stunt-growthed self-touchers in their grandma's basement.)
May. 24th, 2007 05:46 pm (UTC)
Please don't call me Jen. My name is Jennifer. And please don't tell me what I should be upset about and what I should not. I am perfectly capable of deciding that for myself.

Your arguments are all the typical ones, and I really don't have time to go through them and tell you why they simply do not work. You're fighting with paper tigers here, burning straw men. Here, go play some bingo at Girl-Wonder.org</i>. I don't think it's perfect, but it'll do more than I have time for now. Or probably ever. Because frankly, bad arguments just bore me.

May. 24th, 2007 07:12 pm (UTC)
Michael Anonymous: "It's not about women, it's about fantasy."

It's about a fantasy that degrades women. Fabio isn't exactly being abused on those romance novel covers, is he?
May. 24th, 2007 09:01 pm (UTC)
It's about a fantasy that degrades women.

People are entitled to have any fantasies they want, no matter how utterly offensive they are. Why? Because they keep it to themselves.

What you have in that image is really open for interpretation? Is a 9 year old going to see the slime on Black Cat and imagine it to be semen or are they going to see it simply as slime? Will they see any sexual overtones in the shape of the tentacles or will they simply see tentacles?

How that image gets interpreted is, partially, a personal thing and part of that personal fantasy.

Also, I don't know if you can call what's being depicted on this cover "abuse", sexual or otherwise.

Bad guy kicks the crap out of the good guy. Good guy then comes back and does the same. It's all violence, and glorified violence at that. Is that any less appalling? If we cut out the sexual innuendo from the comics, but leave the violence, are they any better?

And, sadly, I don't have, nor do I intend to buy, a copy of this particular issue. Has anyone? If so, what happens to the tentacle monster? Does it wind up being attacked or killed? Do the girls on the cover involve themselves in the beast's ultimate demise? Does the story show that there are consequences for the actions this beast took upon his captives? Maybe, put into the context of the story, the cover is actually part of teaching a lesson about why treating people disrespectfully like that is wrong.

May. 24th, 2007 09:14 pm (UTC)
This is ridiculous. The cover is not something someone is imagining and keeping to themselves.

It does not matter what is in the comic. What matters is that images like this are continuously on display in the comic book industry, both revealing and perpetuating a view of women as sexual, traumatized objects. In my opinion, it creates an environment within the comic book industry that is uncomfortable or even hostile for women. Can you understand that? If you cannot even understand the basic premise of my argument, there is no use your continuing to post your rambling thoughts that have nothing to do with the point of the discussion.

May. 25th, 2007 08:46 am (UTC)
Michael Anonymous: "Also, I don't know if you can call what's being depicted on this cover "abuse", sexual or otherwise."

I strongly encourage the use of a dictionary before challenging one's choice of words.

Abuse: "bad or improper treatment; maltreatment."

Are you now suggesting that the trio of women appear to have volunteered to be chained up half naked while giant tentacles slide across their exposed flesh? Is it your assessment that they are enjoying the scenario? Does it look as if it might be good for them in some manner? Perhaps the tentacles are the last of a dying race of culturally superior mollusks and they are attempting to pass on (through slime on breasts) all of their knowledge and wisdom to these three young ladies? Maybe?

The point you ignored was this: Fabio is, without a single doubt in my mind, a case of media forwarding an unrealistic male ideal. However, this unrealistic sexual imagery is rarely attached to concepts of subjugation and humiliation. The treatment of men in the media is horrid. The treatment of women in the media much, much worse. And regardless of the theoretical scale of each individual wrong, two of them still fail to equal a right. Ever. But you would know this if you had bothered to follow the link Jennifer provided you. Go read and learn.
May. 23rd, 2007 08:46 pm (UTC)
I was already responding to this post while you were writing it; but here are some further thoughts.
This image is so fetishistic that it throws you out of any consideration of itself as "fantasy", and starts you wondering about the person or people who put it together. Another creator whose work affects me in that way is Mario Bava .. people are murdered in his films in such bizarre, elegant ways that, watching one, you don't think "This is an interesting film" but rather "Holy crow, this guy is one messed up puppy." Not that I think this cover reaches the tolerances of a Bava film but what the heck were the people who put this together thinking? How could they believe that this was a good idea?
Fantasy aside, this is demeaning stuff.
May. 23rd, 2007 09:14 pm (UTC)
Actually, I'm not offended by the cover, but it does further prove that the western comic book industry is focused on the heterosexual hormonal male (not all of course). In the end, I think a lot of people have taken the "that's just the way it is, comics are for boys" mentality; I'm guilty of that.

Your question may have been better recieved had you not included the last sentence causing it to be much more confrontational. Neglecting to leave a signature, even a screenname, doesn't help either when discussing topics such as this.
May. 23rd, 2007 08:32 pm (UTC)
The reversal-rationale technique doesn't always work.
If a bunch of buff superhero guys with slime glistening on their pecs were being menaced by tentacles, would women find it alluring? Some might, but not a lot. It might appeal to gay men, but you don't want to suggest there's connection between superhero comics and gay fantasy.
As I wrote elsewhere, if you don't see what's wrong with this image you might as well get a shirt that says "Yes, my sexuality stopped developing when I was twelve."
Women have had to look at this twisted stuff for too long -- it's time for popular culture to stop touching itself and to come out and join the rest of the world, already in progress.
May. 24th, 2007 05:09 am (UTC)
No. I imagine that will surprise people, as that doesn't sound like the politically correct response. The problem is that you're asking about the same exact image.

Tentacle rape isn't exactly a new idea, and the images are fairly consistent. So for one thing, there is a problem of the perpetuation of a fetish in which the overpowering and rape of women is fantasized. If this were a cover that were even taken a little further, with completely shirtless men, it would not be construed as sexual because men aren't generally raped in that position. Thus, the image is just a standard man vs. beast conflict.

If the image were changed so that the men have their asses exposed to the tentacles, then I'd be all sorts of offended.
May. 24th, 2007 02:02 pm (UTC)
::If the image were changed so that the men have their asses exposed to the tentacles, then I'd be all sorts of offended.::

Oh, I'd laugh my (bare) ass off - the same way I'd laugh my ass off if Alberto Gonzalez were to be waterboarded by Congress while being simulcast on C-SPAN, and then reminded HE said it wasn't really "torture"!

There's something about ironically-appropriate punishments that appeal to my aged, twisted soul,

Tim Liebe
Dreaded Spouse-Creature of Tamora Pierce

May. 23rd, 2007 08:27 pm (UTC)
Comics in general have a negative image in society; they're still what you read at home or in shops and not exactly what you admit to your coworkers, because the first image that pops into their heads is that of the spandexed beefcake or cheesecake. However, there will be those who argue that the "sexiness" of such characters and covers is empowering in itself. Bullshit or truth? I suppose it's something to say "we can dress as we like", but I don't see the men in comics wearing spandex and thongs and jiggling everwhere. And maybe that's the strongest arguement for the "feminist" camp -- although I hate the label and "rar I hate men" imagry that comes with it -- that there are no or few western comics aimed at women. No titilating covers for the girls.

To the commenter who asked, If it were men, instead of women, in that same exact image, would you have reacted the same way?

Wouldn't it still be in bad taste and not something you'd want on a cover, displayed in a shop where all the kiddies see it? Wouldn't it still be classified as pornish? Besides, if it were men, I imagine there'd be a slew of guys calling it "gay" or mocking it. Moreover, I can't remember any such comic book cover ever depicting men in such a way.

Can you?
May. 24th, 2007 12:58 am (UTC)
"And I'm not, just kind of... curiously enough... sad.) I just want to do my work. But images like the cover of Heroes for Hire #13*...remind me that there's not just work to do but still a fight to be fought. And I really don't feel like fighting."

That's it. The fighting needs to be done, but damn.
May. 24th, 2007 01:07 am (UTC)
As everyone is now talking about it, it seems to be the perfect cover. I had never heard of this title until this controversy. Probably the same for many.
May. 24th, 2007 04:59 am (UTC)
You know, in this case, I can excuse the aspect of drawing attention to something like this. It's not just "DC/Marvel sent out some stupid drawing as publicity, let's make fun of it!" I'm tired of being upset by shit like this and not saying anything about it. I'm tired of the comic book industry feeling like a hostile work environment.
May. 24th, 2007 05:23 am (UTC)
I'm simply stating that I suspect the cover has drawn this level of controversy (and I'm speaking universally, not just at this blog and not just on the sites you list) with intention.
May. 24th, 2007 05:56 am (UTC)
To further that thought: I'm reminded of the out of the closet issue of Alpha Flight. Barely known to the public character Northstar admits his homosexuality in the middle of a fight sparked by the presence of an HIV positive infant. The words "I AM GAY!" dominating the splash page of a knock out punch. The publicity was everywhere. The response at Comic Relief was huge. People spoke out against the comic and people embraced it. The first gay character in a superhero comic, supposedly. Nevermind that it was predated by the Pied Piper over in The Flash, a character whose lifestyle was handled comparatively realistically and without unnecessary fanfare. As I see it, the book was created for one reason and one reason only. Create buzz around something immaterial to the quality of the work, thus temporarily spiking sales and spreading awareness of the company itself.

Obviously, controversy sells. I think it's manipulative and I think it's irresponsible and I think that visually, the end result is abhorrent. But I think that marketing wise, it's accomplishing exactly what was intended. And if it wasn't intentional, Marvel is still probably thrilled with the response.

In part, I quit producing adult oriented comics as the fanbase that was responding was not one I was comfortable with. Producing work, promoting work that is the antithesis of this type of material is the only way I can see to combat the overwhelming tide of barely disguised pornography that is the mainstream norm. We live now in a world where a copy of an SLG book can outsell a copy of a book from Marvel or DC. And unsurprisingly we see the sensationalist controversial material spike. It will continue to spike, as long as it can generate more sales in the short term. In the long term, I believe it contributes to the diminishing appeal of this material.

Unfortunately, something equally abhorrent will likely rise to replace it.
May. 24th, 2007 01:19 am (UTC)
Thank you. You've said it better than I could.

The H4H cover icked me, but I shake my head sadly. It's the cluelessness of the Blog@Newsarama posts really pissed me off.
May. 24th, 2007 02:36 am (UTC)
I think the question for me is whether equality would mean depicting women less as pornographic material in comics, or equally depicting men as pornographic material? Either way, i am agreeing with you that the cover sends us back to the caveman dark ages! It is disgusting how they continue to stereotype the dominant comics reader as the geeky can't-get-laid repressed male who has to get off on such hentai-like images. Sadly, that IS the demographic they could be aiming for and it works for THAT audience.

You can be sure that people wouldn't give a second thought if they saw that cover on the stands, but if it were male superheroes being stripped and teased, it would suddenly warrant a front page article. Double standards, i tell you.
May. 24th, 2007 08:52 pm (UTC)
I think the question for me is whether equality would mean depicting women less as pornographic material in comics, or equally depicting men as pornographic material?

The former. Porn is diametrically opposite to characterization. Pornographic images should exist in pornographic material, not plot-based material. If it were porn, I wouldn't much mind. I'd say, "That's gross," and not buy/read it. But it's not, and that's the problem, pornographic values crossing over into plot-based media.
May. 24th, 2007 04:16 am (UTC)
Everything that you've written here explains my feelings about the (sadly) vast majority of comics on the market.

Thank you for this, it was very well-written.
May. 24th, 2007 04:59 pm (UTC)
What's hilarious (and sad) is that the people who create and consume this stuff seem to truly have no idea why anyone would find this sort of imagery unappealing.... or why so few women (or well-adjusted adult males for that matter) seem to be interested in reading their books. It'd be almost reassuring if they were members of the He Man Women Hater's Club, but pitifully, I get the idea that they're just completely clueless.

I'm actually glad to stumble on brouhahas like this cover. Being so immersed in the world of non-superhero comics, I often forget that there is this weird comics "cargo cult" culture of guys who don't seem to have much awareness of the larger world.
May. 24th, 2007 08:47 pm (UTC)
As I was reading this post and looking at the image, my boyfriend wandered over, looked at the picture and promptly asked the question "Oh, what hentai is that?"

It was a genuine question, one that makes you think, if images that are common in hentai keep occuring in the mainstream comics, what does that say about the comics industry?

Yes, women are objectified in mainstream comics, men are objectified in yaoi manga. But images like the one for the cover of a mainstream comic.. Fuck no. You want to draw tenticale rape, then draw it for a hentai.
May. 24th, 2007 11:48 pm (UTC)
When I first saw that cover I thought it was some fan-made picture for porn week on scans_daily.
It looks like it's straight out of Japanese Hentai.
Yeah, I don't know how Marvel will live this down.
May. 28th, 2007 06:27 pm (UTC)
What's Old is New
ID: Tyson

A few years ago I thought T&A and major crossovers died at the big Two sometime in the early-mid '90s along with holografix shiny collector covers. How naive I was.

One thing that bothers me and, I've seen it in other cases, is that people automatically assume that the offending material was written and/or drawn by a man or group of men.

As the original post indicated, it was drawn by a woman, Sana Takeda, and the issue is further complicated by the increasing polarization being witnessed in the larger American political landscape, as well as the gap between Japanese perspectives and sensibilities regarding art and pop culture versus American ones.

As for the comic book industry being hostile, well, in the Internet age, expressing yourself in any form, be it comic book or otherwise seems to invite a certain amount of hostility these days.
May. 29th, 2007 05:48 pm (UTC)
Re: What's Old is New
It has been pretty widely acknowledged that this cover was drawn by a woman. However, not that you're saying this, but I have heard this fact used as if it mitigates the offense somewhat. It does not. This is not an "us vs. them" issue, so it is not automatically true that what a man does is wrong and what a woman does is all right. I heard a woman on the radio a while back declaring she would not vote for a woman president because she felt that she would not feel "secure" with a woman as president. That a woman said it does not make it any less of an ignorant and sexist statement.
May. 30th, 2007 08:22 pm (UTC)
Re:Re What's Old is New
I'm glad you brought up the "Us vs. Them" mentality because this issue, both specifically and generally, is often framed that way, often to the nth degree along with most other issues hence my reference to modern politics in America and really the world, where moderates have lost their voice or are being drowned out by extremists on two opposite points on the spectrum.

And to expand on what I mentioned earlier, I've seen people write in to complain that some offending material was obviously written exclusively by men. Whatever point or opinion that person was trying to make is instantly undermined by the fact that their own statements are sexist presumptions and factually wrong.

The HFH case is a pretty blatant and easy example of material that doesn't leave much room for interpretation or imagination. It's laughable in a pathetic "who fell asleep at the switch on this one?" way and it's an easy target for ridicule.

But what about other cases that are borderline where you have material that causes controversy but there's no clear consensus within the group that the material is alleged to offend. To keep it specifically related to discussions of gender, what if you have some women saying, "I find this offensive because..." versus another equally sizable group of women that say "I don't find this offensive because..." Who's right and who's wrong? Bear in mind that I'm not framing this hypothetically but again, based on real experience and observation that points to the fact that people interpret art differently.

Jul. 28th, 2007 04:58 pm (UTC)
Hola faretaste
Hola faretaste
( 48 comments — Leave a comment )


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