Women’s Issues LinkBlogging: Comic Sexism and the Demise of Superheroes

It’s tough to be a woman in comics. In response to Kate Beaton’s twittered complaints about sexist “compliments” that put her gender above her talent, the trolls and frightened man-boys came out in the comments of this Robot 6 thread. I only advise reading it if you need to build up the kind of energy righteous anger gives you, because there are some really dumb doozies showing their ignorance and bigotry against women who read or make comics. (You ever notice that those who sound most holier-than-thou about “not judging people based on race or gender” are those white guys who’ve never seen bias, so they don’t believe it exists?) The moderators finally shut it down when they were “having to delete more comments than we are actually letting through.”

Gabby comic panel

However, one good thing came out of it: this comic strip by Gabby Schulz summing up how these discussions tend to go online, and why women are so tired of having to have them.

In other unfriendly news, two comics came out from DC this week focusing on two famous female characters, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home: Oracle and Superman #704, a fill-in about Lois Lane (because the storyline is woefully behind already). I didn’t bother reading them, because apparently, they were highly disappointing, making the women’s stories all about the guys. In the case of Oracle, that’s particularly unsatisfying, since her creation was a response to Alan Moore’s throwaway misogyny in The Killing Joke.

These are two of the strongest, most fierce females in the DCU. … They may be linked to Bruce Wayne and Superman but they have rich personas that stand aside from these men. Why do we have to see them find their purpose from these men in their own books?

On a more hopeful note, Heidi analyzes the latest NY Times comic, er, “graphic books” bestseller list, pointing out just how many of the items on it are not superhero. Assuming you agree that Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Scott Pilgrim aren’t superheroes (especially in the first case, it’s arguable), then there are NO cape books on the paperback list, and only 4 on the hardcover list.

An additional four hardcovers are literary adaptations or sold on the basis of a famous prose author (Diana Gabaldon’s Exile, Darwyn Cooke’s Outfit adaptation, a James Patterson Witch & Wizard book, and Stephen King’s name on American Vampire). There are another two on the paperback list, a Percy Jackson book and Dean Koontz’s Odd Is On Our Side, plus another Patterson on the manga side, for unknown reasons. Heidi goes on to compare these lists to the Diamond versions, concluding

The takeaway from both lists? Backlist backlist backlist…..and media tie-in, media-tie in, media tie-in. Both of which are pretty much true in EVERY medium.

10 Responses to “Women’s Issues LinkBlogging: Comic Sexism and the Demise of Superheroes”

  1. Charles Knight Says:

    “They may be linked to Bruce Wayne and Superman but they have rich personas that stand aside from these men.”

    Oracle – yes, I’d agree entirely, Lois Lane? Not so much…

  2. James Schee Says:

    The first bit is highly inappropriate by fans to make towards a creator. Whether one thinks its sexism or not isn’t the point for me. It assumes a knowledge, relationship or connection with a creator that isn’t there.

    I’d still like to check out the Lois story, as its written by the lady who wrote the incredible Cairo GN and whose Air and Vixen series were very good. From the review you point to, it seems the reviewer was disappointed to see Lois express doubt because she’s a strong female character.

    Being strong doesn’t mean you can’t question yourself at times. Also I think in terms of recent Superman stories, I haven’t read them but; the general impression I get is that Superman’s left her for first New Krypton and now to take a stroll across America alone. So I think it makes story sense for her to ask him “Do you still need me?”

    The Oracle part I totally agree with though. There was no need for Batman to be responsible for Barbara becoming Oracle. At least not in the way that the scene that site showed it as. If he was inspiration, it would seem more appropriate to be one out of anger because he and the Joker had a big laugh after he did that to her.

  3. Johanna Says:

    Oh, you mean G. Willow Wilson? Hmm, that might deserve a second look, then.

  4. Sarah Says:




  5. Caroline Says:

    I admire anybody who waded very far through those Robot6 comments. *shudder* But I do agree Shultz’s comic is excellent; it may not illustrate every situation, but it’s nice to have a meme to be able to point to for the sake of people who don’t realize the conversation they are in has happened a hundred times before.

    Re: the DC one-shots — I did not read the Oracle one, although it may have the mitigating factor that, from what I can tell, ALL the Bruce Wayne one-shots are structured so as to make everybody else’s story about Bruce. Though it might be interesting to compare, say, the Commissioner Gordon issue to the one about his daughter.

    The Lois issue was more baffling. I don’t know whether editorial was more responsible for that, or Wilson for not having a more up-to-date idea about how Lois has been portrayed in comics (in which case somebody in editorial should still have been able to clue her in). The essence of it is that Lois is worried she has never done anything for herself and is only seen as Superman’s girlfriend, and she’s jealous of a doctor/supermom she meets and sad that she hasn’t accomplished as much with her life. Which, if Lois is supposed to actually be a prize-winning reporter for reasons that have nothing to do with Clark or Superman (putting aside whether you think she has the kind of personality to display such an inferiority complex to near-strangers), doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

  6. William George Says:

    The first bit is highly inappropriate by fans to make towards a creator. Whether one thinks its sexism or not isn’t the point for me. It assumes a knowledge, relationship or connection with a creator that isn’t there.

    I totally agree with this.

    The resulting comic was guilty of the same sort of blinkered, strawman-burning approach that it was supposed to be decrying.

    Amusing that this happened at the same time as The Rally To Restore Sanity.

  7. Thom Says:

    I confess, I was a little surprised when I went to the Robot 6 link…I guess I was expecting commentary regarding looks or even being good “for a girl” type of commentary. I confess, I have never given the actual cause of offense much thought, mainly because I hear men and women use it to refer to artists and performers they love all the time(partially because I don’t use it in reference to anyone). But I can see some of the points raised-especially when it applies to people of the opposite sex referring to a favored artist or creator.

  8. Caroline Says:

    I see a distinction between saying that kind of thing among fans, as a joke, and saying it directly TO the person. Not to mention continuing to say it to the person, and defending your right to say it to her, after she’s specifically asked you to stop.

  9. Thom Says:

    Oh definitely. If a creator says, “I don’t like that”, rather than defend yourself? Simply apologize and respect their wishes. Is that really hard?

  10. Keith Bowden Says:

    I’m not sure how, but I did drudge through the Robot6 comments.

    I just don’t understand how people can be so blind/insensitive/vile. (I’m glad they cut most of the comments… I can’t imagine what the REALLY horrendous posts were… or really don’t want to.)




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