PR: What Not to Do: Sexy DC Kids’ Book

I find the idea of Phantom Lady in the supposedly-for-kids Justice League Unlimited #17 wrong and distasteful. Her costume of two sideways breast slings and a bikini bottom doesn’t “fall within the scope of contemporary styles and fashions” and so shouldn’t be Comic Code-approved. Come to think of it, neither does the Black Condor’s underwear-with-vertical-upwards-strip-of-cloth ensemble. At least his can be drawn in the animated style without creating freaky anatomy, as the artist doesn’t seem sure what to do with Phantom Lady’s cleavage.

Justice League Unlimited #17 cover
Justice League
Unlimited #17

She’s also handled oddly in the story — there’s one panel where an invisible Gypsy is crushing her wrist-bands, but the way it’s drawn, it makes it look like Phantom Lady is grabbing her special girl parts with both hands. Later, when Doll Man hits Gypsy, making her visible, she’s shown with her face aimed at Phantom Lady’s crotch. Just poor taste all around, especially considering that the Freedom Fighters were just slaughtered and disposed of in Infinite Crisis.

I also found out from this issue that Powerpuff Girls #70 is their final issue. That’s a shame — that series had some good stories, and it was nice to have a superhero comic that could be recommended especially to girls without concern.

13 Responses to “PR: What Not to Do: Sexy DC Kids’ Book”

  1. Lyle Says:

    My first thought is that The Phantom Lady can be drawn in a way that isn’t so lewd. I remember first encountering her in All-Star Squadron #2 and it wasn’t until she appeared in Action Comics Weekly that I realised how little that costume covered. (And, at the same time, I was a bit uncomfortable with the Legion women running around in bikinis, even though Phantom Lady’s design should have been more squirm-inducing.)

    But, yeah, the way her costume looks on the cover of JLU… totally inappropriate.

  2. Johanna Says:

    I liked those Action Comics stories when I first read them — I think they were done by Chuck Austen, which makes me wonder how much would concern me if I reread them now.

  3. Sarah Says:

    It’s also weird that the show kept Huntress’s skanky Catholic school-girl/stripper costume. Even with Kara’s belly shirt, it’s painfully and obviously out of keeping with the tone of the show.

  4. Fauz Says:

    I think a lot of female superheroes are drawn sexy for two main reasons.

    1. The illustrator gets his rocks off drawing sexy women that he likely can only fantasize about.

    2. Sex sells, so they apply it to the comic book industry, which is mainly male dominated, and little boys approaching puberty and teens who are already there, get their kicks out of viewing the drawings.

    Some might even remember what the story was about. Ever see the female wrestlers or superhero figures in the toy section of any retail store?

    Man, they’re being designed with one hand, and you don’t want to know what the other hand is doing.

  5. Glenn Moss Says:

    I get so tired of people deciding what everyone else should read. Johanna, are you related to Dick Cheney?

    If you don’t like the comic or the character then why did you buy it?

    I have three grand daughters and two grandsons and neither their parents nor I found anything objectional with this comic. But, if you are looking for smut you certainly can find it almost anywhere. After all, smut is in the eye of the beholder.

    Frankly, people like you are why people like Bush are running the country.

    Get a life.

  6. Mike Says:

    Whoa there, Glenn. How are Bush and Cheney relevant to this discussion at all?

    And “If you don’t like the comic or the character then why did you buy it?” singlehandedly dismisses ALL comics criticism.

    Certainly you could’ve dialed down the rhetoric by only including your third paragraph and still making your point.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Glenn, leaving aside your ridiculous leaps (if you think I’M a Republican, you’re obviously very new to this site)…

    I nowhere say I get to decide what others can or should read. However, as a critic, my job is to give my opinion on works, as I did. You’re free to ignore them or respond to them (although it usually works better if you address what I actually said instead of figments of your imagination).

    I normally do like the comic, which is why it was so surprising to me to find something in it so out of keeping with the general tone and the audience it’s aiming for. Which is why I pointed out that problem.

    If you think a sexily drawn Phantom Lady is appropriate subject matter for little kids, then I suppose we aren’t going to come to any kind of agreement.

  8. Glenn Moss Says:


    Seems I ruffled some feathers here. Sorry if my comments offended anyone. Not my intent, but the original commentary sounded an awful lot like a condemnation.

    Considering that all the folks in comics (with the exception of the Quesiton, Dr. Occult & Phantom Stranger) seem to run around in public with their underwear on the outside, I find a comment about Phantom Lady a tad odd.

    Add to this the fact that, unlike when I was a kid (and dinosaurs roamed the earth)you could find a spinner rack in ever drug store, grocery store and 5 and dime (anyone besides me even remember 5 and dime stores?); these days you have to seek out comics. With the execption of my grandkids, I never see a kid with a comic book folded up in their back pocket.

    Add to this the state of culture in our society and PL’s costume is pretty tame. A visit to any beach these days gets you a shot of butt-floss (and we won’t even talk about folks that shouldn’t even consider wearing such things) or speedos.

    I don’t believe in hiding things. If you think that kids in first grade don’t know as many swear words as a sailor you are sadly mistaken. Be brave enough to answer a question when it comes up. . .

    So glad to know that the Dark Circle of the administration has not captured anyone’s souls here.

    If I pricked some thin skin, then I apologize.


  9. Johanna Says:

    Well, yeah, I am condemning adding more sexualization to the DC kids’ books. They’ve already made the “main” line of books inappropriate for the young, so I find it a bad idea to do the same for those comics specifically geared for kids.

    I also don’t think pointing out that including a character best known today (if at all) for her “headlight” covers in a kids’ book is a bad idea is going looking for smut. The problem isn’t in the eye of the beholder, in other words, but in the creators that made that choice in the first place.

    There’s a big difference between the way men and women are treated in comics visually (power vs. sex, to over-simplify), so “men wear underwear too” isn’t much of a response.

  10. Rod Miller Says:

    I’m not so sure there is such a big difference in the way men and women are treated in comics. Both sexes generally have a “costume” that is basically painted onto naked flesh; there is little consideration for folds of fabric unless a very conscientious draftsman is looking at leather or capes(men or women there.)
    I haven’t seen the issue in question, but since that review seems to have led to a broader discussion, I will point out that you also mention that Black Condor’s costume is comparable, and while I will admit that women’s costumes do tend to be more revealing in comics, I would argue that that does in fact “fall within the scope of contemporary styles and fashions”. Would you agree that in the comic world the heroes are generally perceived as celebrities, like the athletes, rock stars, and actors of our world? If so, allow me to introduce Li’l Kim, Anna Kounikova, Madonna, Martina Hingis, Paris Hilton, Britney, and the capper, Rose MacGowan. Men meanwhile draw attention by being unusual; look at the cover of Rolling Stone, Vibe, Revolver. Musicians get away with clothes that civilians just can’t. Thus, MacGowan paired with Marilyn Manson made an ideal analogy in this discussion; Rose drew attention by being naked, Marilyn by being odd.
    Does any of this make it “right”? It makes it American; female sex and male oddity sell, so put your men in costume and your women essentially out of one.
    I would add that as far as “comtemporary styles” go, PL’s costume has been changed very little since her introduction at Quality over sixty years ago. Historical accuracy is no compelling argument on the other issues either, but at least DC has not made a recent egregious decision in the costume.
    This is my first post here, so if I’m out of line, just tell me.

  11. Johanna Says:

    Rod, welcome to the site.

    I agree, American popular culture is also sexist and over-sexualized when it comes to women… that doesn’t excuse it when comics aimed at kids do it.

  12. Glenn Says:

    Rod is on the mark and so are you, Johanna, concerning sexism in American culture.

    We seem obsessed with it, yet are very uncomfortable with it. The Puritan ethic at work?

    What about all the bondage covers of the golden age Wonder Woman?

    Are we just more aware and able to communicate with others about it via the internet?

    No answers, just questions…

  13. R. J. Sterling Says:

    There’s not a darned thing wrong with that costume as it appeared on that cover!




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