Girls Discover Wizard Sexist

Wizard How to Draw: Heroic Anatomy

Recently, a bunch of online commentators have been discussing how Wizard‘s how-to guide objectifies women.

At first, all this hoo-hah sounded to me rather like Claude Rains’ character in Casablanca: “I am shocked, SHOCKED to find that gambling is going on in here!” Who doesn’t know that Wizard is targeted at adolescent (in mind if not still in body) males? Of course their view of women is of unknown creatures only to be stared at, because that’s how teenage boys view females: objects of desire that they can never fully have or know.

But then I realized that every issue is new to someone. Ok, so they didn’t know. And when they found out, they felt left out, and that made them mad. It’s no fun to be reminded that something isn’t aimed at you and isn’t particularly interested in whether you’re included or not. Lots of times, it makes people work harder to get inside, just because they’re told they shouldn’t be. But superhero comics are not all comics, and while superhero comics are targeted at boys, there are plenty of other comics out there that aren’t.

The core of this argument seems to be whether or not superhero comics being for boys is a bad thing. Please note, I know that there are some women who read superhero comics and want those they can enjoy without feeling left out. I’m one of them. I also understand that there are some men who read romance novels. I’m not sure that means that romance novel or superhero comic publishers should spend a great deal of time and money trying to attract a group outside of their core audience when there are so many other options for that group.

Wizard How to Draw: Heroic Anatomy

Should Wizard expand to a larger audience? Maybe. But if they’re making the profits they want sticking to the niche they know, it’s hard to argue that they should take the economic risk. Wizard is a brand associated with juvenile boys; making the changes that would be necessary to break that connotation may drive away their existing audience without successfully attracting a new one.

Should teenage boys read better resources to learn how to draw? Yes, but… if your aim in life is to work for DC, Marvel, or Top Cow, then this is a fine resource that will serve that purpose for you better than Scott McCloud’s Making Comics. In this scenario, it’s not an art guide so much as a occupational handbook.

Is Wizard guilty of false advertising in the language they use? Probably, but no more so than when DC put out their Guide to Writing Comics. Instead of “comics”, they really meant “superhero comics”… but when even the critics make the same mistake of equating superhero comics with the medium as a whole, it’s hard to get too overwrought about this sin. (See, for example, the mad link above.)

Ultimately, I had to remind myself that those getting all het up over this were young and energetic, and that’s a good thing. They’re a new generation of comic fans, ready to challenge the world. It’s my history that I’ve already had any number of these conversations and arguments already. For them, it’s a new dragon to slay; for me, it’s a part of the scenery I can’t get too worked up over… because if I wanted no boy-specific material, I’d have a hard time defending my liking for and support of girly-girl shôjo.

I keep thinking of action and slasher movies when this topic comes up. Those genres are female-unfriendly, marginalizing or eliminating women from their worlds. They thus attract a mostly adolescent male audience. Should they not exist? Is any gender-targeted entertainment suspect?

One of the comments in the Newsarama Blog thread, in pointing out that male superhero comic fans shouldn’t feel attacked when people point out problems with the system, makes the key point that “it’s not always about you”. Similarly, female superhero comic fans (as I am) are a rare breed, and decisions shouldn’t necessarily be made for a sliver of the audience just because a few of them exist. There are plenty of other comics out there for all genders and races and every other subgroup, and superhero comics shouldn’t be asked to be for everyone. That’s what got us into the mess of the 1990s.

The problem with this part of the discussion is that the women carrying out the argument love to read superhero comics, and they think (as is human nature) that many other women are like them, or there would be if only the genre wasn’t so off-putting. I don’t believe that, but I know neither one of us will convince the other which way the numbers fall. Many of them don’t read or haven’t yet discovered other comic genres, or they’re only interested in this one genre (which may contribute to them confusing the genre with the medium).

On the other hand, I love the parody involved in this call to draw superhero men in the style of superhero women (link no longer available). I still think one of the best answers to “I don’t like what’s out there” is “make, buy, and support what you do like”.

By the way, this isn’t intended to convince anyone of anything. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about for a long while, and I wanted to try to set down some of my reasons why the cries to redo DC comics don’t always sit right with me. I guess it boils down to that I find the whole thing much less upsetting because I’m looking across today’s wide range of the medium, including graphic novels, bookstores, manga, comic shops, and traditional stapled comics. In that viewpoint, the meaning of a 25K-selling issue that’ll be forgotten in a month is much less important.


  • James Schee

    Yeah, I agree that there is so much out there now that it is hard to get upset with people you already know b ehave a certain way behaving that way.

    Back in the 90s when there weren’t many options, I cared more about wanting others to hopefully do better. Now it is just SO much easier to ignore the garbage.

    Heck I was doing a sort of mental check list of things I was wanting to read the other day. It was a HUGE list, and oddly none of it was by people I was even aware of 10 years ago.

  • Paul O'Brien

    There’s a conflation here of two separate issues – whether superhero publishers should be doing more to target women, and whether superhero comics are themselves sexist. On one level, saying that superhero comics should be aimed at women is like saying romance novels should be aimed at men – there might possibly be a big untapped audience there, but it’s dreadfully speculative. Some genres really do have a greater appeal to one gender than the other. There’s nothing sexist about acknowledging that reality and marketing your product accordingly. And it’s not as though there was a huge female audience for superhero comics that drifted away when T&A became more blatant.

    However, superhero comics generally ARE wildly sexist in their depiction of women, especially where the art is concerned. Broadly speaking, my philosophy is that there’s nothing essentially wrong with presenting women as objects of sexual desire as long as that’s not the ONLY way in which they’re seen. It’s fair enough to present women in a wildly sexualised way depending on context. What you tend to find in comics is that women are depicted in a hypersexualised way WHATEVER they’re doing, and completely regardless of context. As one blog pointed out a while back, an extremely good example of this is NEW X-MEN, which features the ludicrous spectacle of a devout Muslim in a skintight burqa, a costume which the character is wearing for the specific purpose of concealing her body. But artists – in fact, probably the overwhelming majority of artists working in the field – seem to work on the assumption that their female characters should be not just attractive but actively sexualised at all times, in all contexts, which frankly suggests a rather creepy and unpleasant perspective on women.

    Some women in the field – Gail Simone springs to mind – have occasionally suggested that when people like me complain about this sort of art, we’re taking vicarious offence on their behalf. Believe me, I’m not. I’m far too self-centred to care about that. I’m personally creeped out by it, and embarrassed to be associated with it in any way.

    It’s actually a lot more creepy than most actual porn, which at least has a very good excuse for focussing on sex to the virtual exclusion of all else – it’s genuinely what the film is about.

  • Dave Lartigue

    I have a friend who works for a major game company. This company had put out an ad for one of their games that was pretty unabashedly sexist (essentially, it implied that if you didn’t have what it took to play thier game, you were a woman.) I commented on this to him and his explanation was, “Well, we’ve done market research and women aren’t playing that game anyway.”

    I then asked, “If your market research found out that black people weren’t playing it, would you call a character in the game ‘Jigaboo Spearchucker’? Of course you wouldn’t, because that would be racist and offensive. Yet it’s okay to offend women if they don’t show up.”

    Not going out of your way to include half the population in your marketing is one thing. Going ahead and insulting that half is another.

  • Paul: I agree, but for me, that’s just part of the bigger issue of bad craft. The same way, say, Rob Liefeld can only draw one male figure, it’s a demonstration of, say, Greg Land’s failure as an artist that he can only photoshop blow-up dolls.

    Dave: true, but I don’t think drawing females in one narrowly “attractive” mold is insulting the same way your example of racism is.

  • Ryan Day

    I don’t think it’s a problem in general – there’s clearly a market for borderline soft-core porn aimed at sex-starved teenage boys, and DC & Marvel would be silly to ignore it. That’s their bread and butter, even if you take away the breasts and thongs – 90% of the characters are guys anyway, many of them with social outcast alter egos. I’ve accepted that most superhero books aren’t written for me, I’ve moved on, and I don’t really care; it’s kind of like getting upset about portrayals of women in beer commercials.

    What’s weird and disturbing is when they publish a book that could attract a female audience but still push the same art style: Something like Supergirl, She Hulk, or even the Emma Frost series, could be the sort of book to target a female audience, but they still trot out the same Victoria Secret poses and Greg Horn covers. The marketing says “strong female character”, but the art invariably says “Maxim’s Girls of the Justice League.”

  • Paul O'Brien

    “it’s a demonstration of, say, Greg Land’s failure as an artist that he can only photoshop blow-up dolls.”

    Greg Land? Are you sure you’re not thinking of Greg Horn?

    If you mean Greg Land, then he’s really not so bad. His women all look alike, but at least they tend to be within the bounds of sensible anatomy. Hard to avoid when you’re so reliant on tracing, I suppose.

    Greg Horn, on the other hand, is one of the worst examples the industry has to offer. But in fairness to him, it’s not that he CAN’T do other styles – he’s done it for some issues of EMMA FROST and SHE-HULK. He just generally doesn’t.

  • megs

    Aside from any issue of selling comics to women, I think the narrowing of how a woman or girl can be drawn in superhero comics does a disservice to men and boys. Sure, they like looking at attractive women, but they also like different kinds

  • Megs, true, and that’s a problem in more than the art… it seems that the big superhero comic publishers have decided that readers all want the same kinds of stories as well. There are relatively few books doing anything unusual, and those (like Nextwave, X-Factor) are coincidentally the only ones I still look forward to reading .

    Paul: Yes, I mean Greg Land. But you’re right, Greg Horn is really bad too.

    Ryan: Yeah, I still think Marvel hugely missed the boat with Emma Frost. It was as though two different groups within the company were controlling the cover and insides. I guess they don’t like to stray too far from their safety zone.

  • Lyle

    Megs, that one dynamic that always bothers me about the argument that comics need not care about what women think, since they don’t buy comics anyway. (And just to clarify, that’s my take on the how the issue gets argued in general, not at all about what Johanna says above.) The more someone tries to push that point, the more they start sounding like they think men would suddenly stop buying superhero comics if they were less overtly sexist, which I end up taking personally as a man, even if I don’t fall in The Man Show’s demographics.

    I guess the part that bothers me the most is that the comics I read in the 80’s are light years ahead of today’s comics. If I want to read superhero comics that don’t push my buttons, my back issue boxes are much more reliable.

    On that note, I think I have to go yell at some kids to get off my lawn, now.

  • rhandir

    Paul wrote: On one level, saying that superhero comics should be aimed at women is like saying romance novels should be aimed at men – there might possibly be a big untapped audience there, but it’s dreadfully speculative.

    Don’t be silly! There’s a huge audience, and Dark Horse has been making money off of it for at least a decade! What to you think Oh My Goddess! is?

    I am a male, and I object to the, ah, boobiecentrism of modern superhero comics because the eroticism is so strong that it displaces the rest of the content: the heroism. What do I read nowdays if I want heroic stories? Bleach. (And Kenshin, and Naruto, and even Hikaru no Go – yes, a storyline about a board game is more hero-centric than Superman nowdays.)

    I also object to boobiecentrism because it’s piggish. It puts women on the same level as, say, a bit of really good steak. Something to be consumed, having no essential personality of its own. That’s not respectable because it isn’t respectful, not because it is erotic. It’s embarassingly disrespectful!


  • Lyle, I think superhero comics in the 80s had to be more progressive because there were so fewer options. Now, if you want a comedy comic, you don’t have to look for a superhero comic with comedy (Blue Devil)… you can just buy a flat-out comedy comic. As with other media, we have more choices available and thus more fragmentation.

    R, I think Oh My Goddess is manga, and a harem manga at that, so that’s another example of a comic aimed at the male audience. (Better examples of romance comics aimed at men, in my opinion, are Beg the Question or True Story Swear to God, although that latter has had a lot of crossover success as well.)

    Personally, I agree with you about enjoying the pure heroism of manga more than superhero comics these days, but the format there is also a huge plus for me.

  • rhandir

    Johanna wrote:
    R, I think Oh My Goddess is manga, and a harem manga at that, so that’s another example of a comic aimed at the male audience. (Better examples of romance comics aimed at men, in my opinion, are Beg the Question or True Story Swear to God, although that latter has had a lot of crossover success as well.)
    Ah, thank you for the tips! I’ll look for those. I think Oh My Goddess belongs to the category “romantic comedy for men”, but I shorthanded it too much when I brought it up.* No question that it is for men, presence of independent minded female characters notwithstanding. But it is a good example of something written with men in mind that isn’t slavish in its fanservice. (In other words, it’s fairly pure-minded for a harem comedy.) Have you read Her Majesty’s Dog? Would that be a decent example, or is that too shojo? I feel like that has some, er, universal male appeal, as opposed to Imadoki or Nana, where the romance elements are a bit too far from male experience. (But have engaging plots, nonetheless.)

    Personally, I agree with you about enjoying the pure heroism of manga more than superhero comics these days, but the format there is also a huge plus for me.
    By format, you mean tankubon size + pagecount instead of the larger floppy, short American style comics? I’m on board with that! (I hate those plastic sleeves and backing boards.)
    I unabashedly love the heroism in shonen manga. I’ve read comics for years, and I couldn’t put my finger on what changed in superhero comics, exactly, until this discussion. It seems like we went from questioning the notion of heroism (e.g. Alan Moore, Frank Miller) in an interesting, but very dark way, to heroism being displaced as an organizing principle for telling stories.

    *I can’t think of a single example of western literature that is effectively romance in type, but is strongly appealling to men as a romance. Barbara Hambly’s fantasy novels always include neat romantic relationships between main characters, (Darwath Trilogy, Bride of the Rat God, etc.) but that’s not precisely the same thing. I suppose Anne McCaffery’s The White Dragon might fit the definition.

  • I think Oh My Goddess is manga

    Wait, because it’s Japanese, it doesn’t count?

    and a harem manga at that

    On the surface, sure: Ordinary guy lives with a bunch of beautiful women. Where Oh My Goddess breaks from the harem manga model is the fact that the pairing is established from the first issue. There’s no question of who the guy will end up with, and the rest of the women aren’t fighting over him, just crowding the couple so that the book can keep the relationship developing as slowly as possible.

    So I agree with rhandir: the “romantic comedy for men” description fits.

    Funny story: I remember reading some comment where someone connected with Dark Horse was trying to explain, “No, it’s not just for girls. Look at the racing stories. And remember, it first appeared in XYZ, a shonen anthology!”

  • I point out that it’s manga for two reasons: we’ve been talking about American comics so far, and several of the more vocal participants in the conversations I’m reacting to get rather upset when you bring up manga (they seem to be tired of hearing that girls who read comics should read manga), so I was staying away from that area in the discussion.

    My Platonic model for harem manga is Love Hina, where it’s also obvious from the beginning what the pairing will be, so that’s not a relevant factor in my evaluation of the genre.

    And please note, we were talking about romance *comics* for boys, not romantic *comedy* for boys; they’re two separate things.

  • Paul O'Brien

    Well, you two may have been… I said romance NOVELS. And whatever else OH MY GODDESS may be, it ain’t a novel.

  • R — I’d be curious to know what you think of either or both of those titles. Although romances, they could also be classified as autobiography in the classic indy comic tradition (and originally, the creator of TSSTG was MUCH more comfortable discussing the book that way — he did an entire strip about how much he freaked when I reviewed it as a romance comic, because those were for girls!)

    I have a copy of HMD sitting on my review stack. I’ll have to take a look to see what I think. You’re very right about “pure” romances being difficult to find, because very often it’s a part of another genre.

    And yes, by format I meant reasonably-priced books. I have tens of thousands of traditional comics, and most of the time, they’re a huge pain to store, search, and reread. But my books! Joy!

  • David Oakes

    I originally stopped reading the “Feminine Heroes” parody at the end of the first page, realizing that the artist(s) “didn’t get it”. With more free time, I went all the way through, and saw that they did, after a little reminder.

    Yes, the Balent Boobs and Turner Spine are painful. But then, anyone who has ever had to stand up knows this at first sight.

    The less-exaggerated arch, the garceful curves produce a bit of a frisson with male characters. But equal to the gender ambiguity, it’s because Batman or the Punisher look *relaxed* – and that’s not right! (Further analysis, that female sexuality is inherently passive, yeah, more than a little creepy.)

    But then we got to the action shots, with the pointed hands and the water, and I realized where I had seen all of this before: Manga. And I also realized that my problem with Naruto et al isn’t that it is aping long standing “superpower” conventions, yet being called original because it is “martial arts”. (Well, not entirely…) It’s the little boys and effeminate men beating the crap out of each other. So much less psychologically damaging that sexless steroiud cases beating each other…

    Absolutely, Manga gets props for diversity. I mean, it actually has straight Romance titles. (Some of them even Straight Romance.) And everything from Tennis to Noodles. But while Manga is “more normal”, when it gets more deviant, it gets more deviant.

    Yes, we should all disrespect Balent, Turner, and any other artist who doesn’t know anatomy. And we should ask for Editors who trust the interior of a book enough not to try and sell it with pin-up covers. But where’s the hue and cry against fan-service panty shots, tentacle porn, and “Rape Man”? (Outside of “Law & Order” pandering, I mean.)

  • rhandir

    Thanks Johanna. (I’m very much looking forward to what you think of HMD.)
    You wrote:
    I point out that it’s manga for two reasons: we’ve been talking about American comics so far, and several of the more vocal participants in the conversations I’m reacting to get rather upset when you bring up manga (they seem to be tired of hearing that girls who read comics should read manga), so I was staying away from that area in the discussion.
    That makes sense to me, I would be insulted too, if I was told “you can’t complain about boobiecentrism in superhero comics, if you don’t like it, shove off and read that other stuff.” I long for the return of the Golden Age of Superhero comics, not their replacement by manga. Nice, crisp, black and white art, the comedy of secret identities, single storyline crossovers, wild, fantastical deus ex machina. (e.g. Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne as bunkmates on a cruise ship. Or Orson Welles and Superman vs. the Martians.*) I’m not trying to be “hey kids, get off my lawn”, these are just examples of what made super hero comics really interesting once upon a time that had nothing to do with teh hawt chixorz.

    Also, your point that we really aren’t discussing romantic *comedy* for boys is well taken. It’s not really the same thing – we have things that are situational comedy centered around a romance storyline (Megatokyo, but that’s OEL), or things that are adventure comedy with plot twists that require romance to be plausible (Girl Genius, but that’s not a superhero comic), but none of those things are romance comics for boys.

    Paul: point taken. Like I said, I can’t even think of examples from western novels, let alone comics that qualify as romance for boys. I only brought OMG in to point out that a market undoubtedly exists for such things.

    I feel a little out of my depth – I did not intend to offend.

    *No joke, real stories. The Mightiest Team in the World, 1952 and Black Magic on Mars, 1949. Reprinted in”Superman from the Thirties to the Seventies, ed. E. Nelson Bridwell, ISBN: 0517190338, though I couldn’t figure out which issues they came from. I also long for the return of some of the other ages of comics as well, from X-Factor when it was a sitcom with Ren and Stimpy jokes, to Superman as a serious minded pro-labor, anti-capital punishment freelance do-gooder in the swinging 30’s. And oh, yeah, some of what Byrne did on FF4.)

  • Lyle

    But where’s the hue and cry against fan-service panty shots, tentacle porn, and “Rape Man”?

    I’ve seen the question asked (usually in the guise of “Why do women like manga if its got panty shots, too?”), I think the key difference is that you can still find fanservice-free manga in a variety of genres, but in American comics it’s pretty much impossible to follow a character and avoid it (which is partly due to superheroes being licenses, while manga is more creator focused… no Sailor Moon fan has to worry about Jim Balent taking over the art).

    Tho, unnecesssary panty shots can easliy chase me away from a title. I never sampled a full Kindaichi Case Files because of a panty-shot in the preview story and that killed my enthusiasm for Sgt Frog. In both cases it really cut my enjoyment that the characters looked very young.

    OTOH, in Tuxedo Gin the fanservice didn’t bother me because TG was a very raunchy comedy, so it all felt apt to the series while I thought they felt forced in KCF and SF… which is my problem when it shows up in superhero comics, too.

  • Sarah

    Johanna, I think the other reason that it’s good to have people willing to keep agitating this issue is that you needn’t look very far at all on the major fan message-boards to see people–young men, usually–arguing that mainstream comics aren’t sexist at all. They’re so acclimatized by our culture to that kind of material that they don’t even realize what they’re taking in, and get quite angry if anyone suggests that it’s problematic. I’d argue that they need to realize the problems as fast as possible, if they’re ever going to have even half a chance to join the still sadly all-too-small ranks of genuinely decent men. Our culture does not make it easy on them.

    I often wonder if the people who argue that less sexism would mean less male readership realize what they are suggesting: that men won’t buy things unless they denigrate half the population of the earth. What a vile thing to suggest.

  • Not necessarily, Sarah. When I say “changing the books would likely result in a loss of readership”, I’m not arguing “men are pigs”. Instead, I’m acknowledging that the existing purchasers are likely happy with the product and would not be as happy with a product that gave them less of what they’re currently enjoying. It’s hard to give up a known audience in favor of a highly speculative very different potential one.

    R — I don’t think anyone was offended, but just wanted to clarify their points. Hopefully, we’re seeking greater understanding here. And if you liked old X-Factor, you likely want to look for the upcoming issue #13 of the current series, which is going to be an homage to the old issue where PAD sent the team to therapy.

  • Mickle

    I often wonder if the people who argue that less sexism would mean less male readership realize what they are suggesting: that men won’t buy things unless they denigrate half the population of the earth.

    Johanna – I may be wrong, but I didn’t read this as a response to your arguments. I read as a comment about some of the arguments she’s encountered elsewhere.

    You seem to be arguing that it doesn’t make financial sense for the publishing companies to risk a loyal audience for an uncertain one. And you’re absolutely right. The thing is, that’s why vocal critiques are so important – without public pressure, institutions don’t have much reason to change. And I think in this case they need to change – for everyone’s sake.

  • I wanted to add another take on things because I did say in my post that I thought sales would go down, so while I agree she was responding to more than just me, I was included in her grouping.

    I don’t think DCU and Marvel need to change, but to expand. Instead of putting out mostly the same kinds of stories and art and titles, allow more variety and support more audiences.

  • Lyle

    I’m acknowledging that the existing purchasers are likely happy with the product and would not be as happy with a product that gave them less of what they’re currently enjoying.

    I think that’s where we disagree on this part of the issue. While I think there’s definitely an audience for superhero comics that are more T&A than superhero drama, I think that’s still a niche audience and that other longtime superhero fans are starting to feel alienated by this …so I guess I feel like letting the T&A art creep into their mainstream lines DC and Marvel are getting more specialized and becoming more of a niche instead of expanding, that the major publishers are on a downwards spiral based on what gets the biggest sales jump in the shortest amount of time while missing the long term trends.

    That brings to mind Wonder Woman. I’ve got friends who love her as an icon and buy Wonder Woman merchandise but I would never try to get them to read comics by handing them an issue of Wonder Woman from the past decade. (I do find it telling that the Wonder Woman merchandise I see outside of the direct market mostly uses art from before the 90’s.)

    Of course, it’s very likely the circles I’ve decided to participate encourage that perception. I enjoy talking comics with like minded people, so there’s definitely an echo chamber effect. There’s still the feeling that the big two are making a mistake in letting most of the people I talk about comics feel fine walking away from them.

  • Tom Lock

    I stumbled on this site and had an epiphany of sorts.

    I’m a 21 male comic reader who happens to like superhero books. I’m a consistent X-Men reader and (perhaps because I’m gay) have been oblivious to all the valid points the commenters have made. The depiction of women in superhero books has never “titilated” me and that’s probably why I would have scoffed at anyone who accused a book like X-Men of being sexist- there are a lot of strong female characters presented (which is one of the reasons why I dig it) but they are presented visually as being in a constant state of seduction.

    I thought I was completely blameless in this situation, but it seems now that I might be more at fault than heterosexual male readers in that I should recognize this objectification as so many female readers already have. The fact that it’s never bothered me until now truthfully makes me disappointed in myself.

    But then again, I really like superhero books, but if I continue to read them it feels as if I’m only further contributing to something that is clearly offensive to a large percentage of women.

  • Sarah

    See, Johanna, if you’re arguing that not just any T&A, but the current mainstream-superhero-comics definition of women as defined by T&A, is *essential*–that men just won’t buy comics where everybody gets to be sexy and it’s not merely the purpose of a whole gender to be seductive–then you *are* saying something sort of sad about men. I happen to like comics (and other media) where the men are hot, but I don’t need them to be utterly subjugated to my viewing pleasure. A person who has to have Woolf’s magic mirror is someone who’s pretty damn small inside, and I’d like to think a whole gender doesn’t have to be that way.

  • I wouldn’t use the word “essential” — instead, I’d say “understandable”, “unsurprising”, or “not as big a problem as some make it to be”.

  • Johanna, to put a slightly different spin on the topic of reasons to reduce female objectification, Steven Grant’s August 30’s column on speaking about comics at a librarian conference is very enlightening. A few years’ back, Tammy and I were at a small English teacher’s conference in upstate NY where one of the topics was “Comics in School Libraries”, and we heard essentially the same thing Grant did; librarians would love to stock superhero comics because it brings kids in the door, but the drawing of and treatment of women characters was a major bar to acceptance by not just the librarians themselves, but by nervous (or politically rigid of any stripe) admnistrators as well. (He listed other bars that didn’t get mentioned in the panel we attended but make a lot of sense – like how quickly individual issues disappear from the direct market.)

    Libraries are more likely to carry manga than US superhero comics, because while manga certainly has plenty of sexually explicit material to appeal to arrested male adolescents of all stripes, it also has a lot of female-oriented and all-ages content as well (something US superhero comics are notably deficient in). Manga’s also more likely to reach us collected in paperback form already, rather than in individual issues that will be gone from shelves in a few weeks.

    His point is that no librarian (except maybe Laura Bush) is going to demand the comics industry censor itself – but they’re also more likely to carry manga and mainstream publishing’s “library editions” of educational and alternative comics than US superhero comics in their libraries. Superhero comics would be available more frequently in libraries if there was, among other things, more diversity in the types of women and treatment of women in them….

    Tim Liebe
    Dreaded Spouse-Creature of Tamora Pierce
    – and co-writer of Marvel’s upcoming White Tiger comic

  • I’d go on a case by case basis. I wouldn’t say any of those words, but I might say in some cases it is “forgiveable.” I’d definitely say it’s “uneven” right now. Quite often “pointless” though in some rare cases it is “necessary.”

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