If Male Heroes Were Sex Objects…

I love turning the tables. A lot of guys just don’t see the level of physical objectification of women that appears throughout superhero comics, so this blogger created fake comic covers that objectify men sexually in similarly exaggerated fashion. (via)

It will shock and disgust some of you, and for those who say “this kind of imagery shouldn’t be used on books for kids”, I agree completely. The sooner we apply that criterion across the board, to both men and women, the better.

(The same blogger has an elegiac alphabetical poem dedicated to deaths in the DCU. That’s a wacky sense of creativity.)

32 Responses to “If Male Heroes Were Sex Objects…”

  1. David Oakes Says:

    I want to say we have seen that Hal ass shot, though not a cover. And for that Superman crotch shot, first DC would have to allow him – any of their heroes – to have rather than just be a dick. (The objectification of women is one thing. But when all the men are neutered at the same time, it’s no wonder all the GFs and SOs end up in the fridge.)

    On an actually serious note, Batman’s cape is always in the way, so probably not. Which begs the question of females supers with capes. It’s late at night and my memory is never to be trusted, but I can’t think off to many female characters with long capes. In fact, the few I can think of off the top of my head have half length capes, guaranteeing that their ass is never obscured. The exact level of objectification in “heroic” poses, and the difference between genders, is open to interpretation. But someone had to put effort into designing the costumes.

    (Once again I wish I had a degree that would allow me to get a government grant to make socio-literary investigations into comics. I think this might actually pan out.)

  2. James Schee Says:

    You know when you used words like shock and disgust, I decided to wait until my nieces had gone home before checking it out.

    Seeing it I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, the Batman one was a scene right out of the Batman Forever movie though.

    It is absolutly right, and I wish people would take it to heart. Yet pretty darn funny still.

  3. Michael Denton Says:

    Whoa! That WAS disturbing and a riot at the same time! Glad that blogger is making such a strong point.

    The poem disturbs me less, perhaps because it seems an homage to Edward Gorey’s “The Gashlycrumb Tinies,” which I have loved for years, and have become rather complacent to its grotesqueries.

  4. Sarah Says:

    Toldja there was comics talk on LiveJournal, Johanna!

  5. TWV Says:

    I don’t see the problem with objectifying men or women. If the level of sexuality displayed on the cover is appropriate to the book then why is it a problem?
    Women tend to be objectified more often, true, however, though I don’t know the exact statistics, I’m pretty sure the population of comic book artists is predominantly male. In addition, Men are more likely to represent women in a sexual way in their art than women are of men. I’m sure if there were just as many female artists who thought like men making covers, we’d see a lot more like those linked above.
    As well, by giving the artist the freedom to express him or herself freely you are giving the right to objectify whoever the artist feels comfortable objectifying. What do you want DC to do? Ban covers with scantly clad women? Sure they could, or at least discourage it, but it’s a form of restriction on the artists freedom of expression that will eventually lead to arid, lifeless work like that shit they put on kids television.

    Just my opinon

  6. Johanna Says:

    The level of female sexuality is rarely appropriate to its use, mostly because the people portraying it have little experience with or understanding of real women.

    Artists working in the superhero sausage factory have already given up their creative freedom, so arguing that this is an example of that ignores the basic situation they’re operating in.

    And kids’ TV these days, in my opinion, is a lot more creative than most of the corporate superhero books.

  7. Scott Hassler Says:

    what about amanda connors work on jsa classified and the professional?

    are women cartoonists who draw sexy women to be held to the same standard?

  8. Johanna Says:

    Which standard is that, Scott? That the level of objectification in superhero comics is outrageous and yet near-invisible to many fans? Sure, that applies regardless of the gender of the creator.

  9. James Schee Says:

    I would hope there is a difference between drawing a beautiful and alluring female figure, and a drawing that is just “look at her tits!” (or in the case of the ASB&R cover, her butt)

    Kind of the difference in say an Adam Hughes cover and a Greg Horn one.

  10. Stuart Willis Says:

    Yup. That’s right.


    The completely realistic potryal of masculinity (and objectification thereof) usually offered up in characters such as Superman, Wolverine, Preacher…

  11. Scott Hassler Says:

    well it just seems by the tone of most of the comments ive read on this page and the one you linked to that this is kind of bashing fan”boy”s and male artists who objectify women.

    im merely pointing out that one of the best in the biz at drawing sexy women, in my opinion, happens to be a woman.

  12. Mely Says:

    I’m kind of amazed at how, in a post on the the male fans justify or excuse the objectification of women in comics, we get more male fans justifying and excusing the objectification of women in comics …

  13. Lyle Says:

    While I do find Amanda Connor to be a fine artist, it is notable to me that she is one of the few female artists who often works on superhero comics. Right now, I can’t think of any female artists who don’t play up the cheesecake and work frequently in superhero books, though in all honesty I’m more familiar with Vertigo and indies, so feel free to name the Pia Guerras or Linda Medleys of superhero comics that I’m missing.

    All that is besides the point, however, which is how disruptive these images can be in a story. The parody covers make this point well — I’ve trained myself (to a degree) to overlook the excesses (and it’s the excesss that’s an issue, as well as the double standard) but I find it distracting in this case because I haven’t had to ignore distracting, sexually idealized depictions of men to enjoy Birds of Prey.

    So far, the most male-objectification I’ve seen in superhero comics was in the Arsenal mini-series with Rick Mays art… and that didn’t get in the way of the story.

    Hm, I’m thinking it’s time to start campaining for Patrick Fillion (either he or an imitator did those Axe deodorant ads that were appearing in comics a few months back) to work on BoP…

  14. Johanna Says:

    Scott, bear in mind that there’s a difference between “sexy” and “objectified”. You seem to be coming close to confusing the two, but that’s not surprising, given how often boy-targeted comics do the same.

    Mely, they don’t recognize what they’re doing, or we wouldn’t have to talk about this problem in the first place.

    Lyle, great example. BOP could have been a terrific crossover book, but the kinds of artists that get put on books about superhero women too often sacrifice story for crotch shots.

  15. Scott Hassler Says:

    im not confusing the two at all. we are at a subtle line in this conversation that is separated really only by opinion. i did some experimenting with the jsa line drawn by connors where i showed it to several of my female friends, all of whom are intelligent creative people but not necessarily comics fans and they were somewhat aghast at how power girl was so sexy/objectified. when told it was a female cartoonist to a woman they all changed their mind rapidly about it.

    so is it okay for women to draw cheesecake but not men? maybe, it seems to be okay for black people to call each other “nigga”.

    what i find really interesting is there are alot greater offenders of the practice out there than frank miller, yet this is the second time this year that an image of his has caused a hubbub with some women on the comics blogosphere. why? because he is one of the living legends? one of the big names? so for that reason he should be above doing what he has done his entire career? frank miller doesnt owe anyone anything, when youve made it like he has you do what you want unapologetically.

    as a man, i find some comics images of women offensive. actually, i find it more embarrassing than anything, that someone who dwells in a world of such retarded sexuality and myself read similar things for entertainment. but i also enjoy some cheesecake, and why shouldnt i? im a man after all :) the thing is, miller does it well, as do a few others. whereas most it almost seems like a despicable crutch.

    unfortunately, this type of imagery is everywhere to the point that it is easy for most to accept as commonplace and normal, perhaps even demand it. watch tv, pick up a magazine etc….should comics be held to a higher standard? maybe. i think the bottom line for me right now is that this type of thing isnt all that is out there. i read a diverse lot of comics.theres many thatdont stoop to this level. neither does public radio or television, but we all know where the money is.

    sex sells, and most people are buying. including quite alot of women, and more than one is in there making a few bucks off it as well. is it right? not necessarily, and im not saying just accept it because thats the way it is is the right thing to do either. but i also dont think making sweeping statements about men and assumptions about those who point it out is the way to go either.

  16. John Says:

    unfortunately, this type of imagery is everywhere to the point that it is easy for most to accept as commonplace and normal, perhaps even demand it. watch tv, pick up a magazine etc….

    genderads.com has some good examples of objectification in the advertising industry. Along with a few examples of male objectification, but they are certainly more difficult to find.

  17. Johanna Says:

    Scott, I’ve been hearing those kinds of rationalizations all my life — men need sexy pictures, women are just overreacting (“it’s only your opinion”), it’s worse elsewhere so why bother talking about the problem in comics — and they all sound to me like excuses to ignore the problem. And if you want to bemoan sweeping statements, you might want to avoid comments like “hubbub with some women on the comics blogosphere”.

  18. Gail Says:

    I put naked and semi-naked guys in my comics at every available opportunity, so I’m an equal opportunity panderer!


  19. Scott Hassler Says:

    did i really come off as rationalizing it? i was just exploring it, take it as you will i guess. or maybe we should just ignore reality in favor of how we want the world to be.

    as for my comment, im sorry, i mean no offense by that truly but villainize me if you must. but to me, when something traverses several of the many blogs and sites i peruse then it is something more than buisness as usual. its a “hubbub” or whatever vernacular happens to be popular in your neck of the woods. and considering the 2 i mentioned pertaining to miller were and are largely being addressed by women, i dont think i was offensive as much as observant.

  20. Crocodile Caucus » Blog Archive » Some quick thoughts… Says:

    […] In the discussion about sexism in superhero comics at Comics Worth Reading, I mention Birds of Prey. What I would have liked to add was that I recall Gail Simone joking that the BoP fans who had issues with Ed Benes art should just wait for an issue where she’d have Benes draw a couple of the guys oil wrestling to provide balance, a promise that (to my knowledge — if it did happen I’d love to hear it) wasn’t met during Benes’ run. Unfortunately, I can never think of Google search terms that wouldn’t leave me fearful at checking the results. […]

  21. Lyle Says:

    (Gail, pssst…. Gen13. The next time Bobby burns off his civies, it shouldn’t happen entirely off-panel, described by scantily-clad women. There’s a chance to fix Adam Warren’s mistake.)


  22. Gail Says:

    I didn’t get to the mud wrestling, but I did have Creote fully nude, Catman almost nude, and many more examples of beefcake, with more coming. Because I think naked guys are nice.


  23. Johanna Says:

    Gail, it’s a shame that your artists haven’t been as on board for the equal opportunity exploitation route!

    Scott, you’re over-dramatizing. LiveJournal’s —-> that way. :)

    Seriously, you may not have intended to minimize the issue, but the things you were saying are often used that way by others, which is why I’m suspicious of them.

  24. Lyle Says:

    Scott, while the topic of sexism in comics is a complicated one, I think you’re overlooking the point of these images.

    These pictures are shocking (they wouldn’t get so much discussion if they represented some form of the status quo) because we don’t normally see Green Lantern, Superman or Batman sexualized in that manner and that makes one wonder why that is the case.

    Does this show that some comic artists don’t consider the interests of readers who appreciate the male form (implying that the books that these artists work on aren’t aimed at a wider audience)?

    To be frank, I don’t think it’s a bad thing if there’s a bias of which gender is sexualized in a comic. However, when I find that bias appropriate, they’re in comics meant for a specific audience, like yaoi manga, with other audiences being disregarded. The big problem comes when this angle (where one audience is shown preference) appears in comics that are supposed to be “mainstream” and appeal to various demographics.

  25. Four Color Comics » Blog Archive » If Male Heroes Were Sex Objects Says:

    […] Comics have a shameful history of depicting women as sex objects. Many female characters are nothing but a bundle of boobs and legs and flowing hair. Comics Worth Reading has linked to a blog entry entitled If Male Heroes Were Sex Objects. I love it. This is social commentary with a sense of humor. […]

  26. Scott Hassler Says:

    shocking? i thought they were hilarious! maybe if i mentioned that earlier people wouldnt assume im a poster child for the sexually retarded fanboys trying to defend my fap material ;)

  27. Johanna Says:

    It’s a problem with text interaction, it’s true. Our conversation would probably have gone a lot more smoothly in a convention bar. :)

  28. markie Says:

    Male heroes are sex objects for some women and gays. Batman never was supposed to be gay but the gays fantasized that he was and in the 50s it became a widespread rumor which is why bat-girl and batwoman were created.They were love interests for batman and robin.

  29. melissa Says:

    I LOVE YOU for doing this article joanna!!!
    I feel this way about so many things!
    Like the movies, who have a long history of doing the same to women, and yet leave the men with all their dignity.
    Problem is, is that not only would male objectification make things more fair, but also, a lot of us women would actually enjoy to see that!!!

  30. Anachronboy Says:

    How is it that men aren’t “objectified” already? There are probably as many men in the world that resemble super-heroes as there are women that resemble the same. If you look at a comic cover and all you see are tits and ass – YOU are the one who just objectified a comic book character. Any cover I see featuring a male character contains the requisite abs and otherwise ripped physique – which neither I nor hardly any other man I know of could ever dream of attaining. Is this objectification? Or is it artists drawing stylized representations of people based upon anatomic studies and their personal views of what ‘heroic’ proportions would be? I know many women who look at these cheesecake covers and couldn’t care less about the size of the breasts. It seems that it all depends on what your personal hang ups make you see. Batman’s ass and abs don’t make me fret over how mine compare – but then again, I’m not hung up on that. Similarily, Power Girl’s bust line doesn’t make me think any less of my girlfriend’s chest. However, someone could start a petition to have all comic book characters drawn as ‘plainly’ as possible to alleviate all of this banality. I find it helps to read the words instead of just looking at the pictures. I do like the postings here though – “This isn’t right. Let’s do it to men”

  31. Johanna Says:

    Men are exaggerated to emphasize power and ability; women are exaggerated to emphasize sexual availability. That’s the key distinction. If men were drawn waggling their butts to turn on the viewer, then there would be more of a comparison. Which is the point of some of the table turning — to try and educate those who otherwise are willfully blind to the problem.

  32. Lyle Says:

    Anachronboy, as someone who is interested in seeing good-looking men, it’s pretty clear to me which way things are tilted. How many male superheros can you think of where their costumes are designed to show off their sexual attractiveness? There are very few male superheroes (much less hunky ones — which needs to be noted because I’ve seen this conversation turn to bringing up The Thing as a sign of equal opportunity exploitation) who’s costume leaves their legs bare or puts their abdominal muscles on display.

    More importantly, and getting to the point of the pictures linked to be Johanna, how often do you see the guys posed in a way that makes it look more like they’re modeling for an underwear catalogue? Or, as has been the case with some cheesecake artists, look like the image was photoreferenced from more adult-oriented material?




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