Girly Comics

617ef6a04e6196036dfaa3ec5060f662My name is Holly and I’m a new contributor to Hoo Mah Moos?.

I am also a late comer to a lot of things. I’m a dork amongst the geeks that way. For example, I didn’t start really getting into comic books until my first year of college, which was about seven years ago. Mind, I grew up watching superhero cartoons–X-MenBatman: The Animated Series, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles–so I wasn’t completely blind to comics and superheroes. I’ve done a lot to make up for this, too. See, when I decide to get into something, I become its stalker. I doubt you’ll find many more people with the kind of vampire encyclopedia collection that I have, as the vamps are an obsession I’ve had for some time. Comic books (especially superhero comics), though, are what I’ve dedicated some years and genuine work to. I’ve used them in the classes I teach (from panels of Civil War: A Marvel Comics Event to the whole trade Fray by Joss Whedon) and wrote a number of papers on them. I’ve grown a different kind of fondness for them than a regular reader may have done. However, I’ve never had much fondness for any female characters. I was, for a long time (and I still can be), sexist against my own sex.

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I’m going to backtrack for a moment. I have no real reason for why I’m so late-in-coming to the geek (or nerd, whatever your semantic preference) culture. I do have my suspicions. The cartoons mentioned above were ones that I didn’t begin watching through my own decision making. I have six older brothers and I grew up with at least 3-4 of them living in the house through most of my childhood. So, I didn’t make a great deal of decisions regarding the television. Which, in a way, is good. Otherwise, I might never have found the great joys I have in superheroes, sci-fi, or fantasy. I might also never have been scarred with Akira. Slight digression. I had a lot of male influences in my life. My mom, sister, and I were the minority. This isn’t to suggest any kind of abuse beyond normal sibling rivalry (I would be lying if I said I didn’t tense up now and again when I think of some of my brothers) or that I didn’t have the opportunity to become more feminine. I had Barbies and princess dolls, sure. My sister and I had a healthy collection of My Little Ponies even. The cool ones, not the ones with the eating disorders. Maybe I took the easy way out and became a little more androgynous as I got older (short hair, t-shirts, hoodies, etc.). Almost another digression. Through the development of that androgyny, I also a developed a harsh attitude towards other females. Partially through jealousy that I was not and never would be as pretty or popular (with the boys) as they were/are. And, partially because everything was just given to them because they were pretty. Which made a lot of them just stupid. Not true in every case, of course. I went to grad school with some gorgeous women who could crush me with their brain power. So, ugly ≠ smart; pretty ≠ stupid. Der.

It’s my own dualistic mind set in this regard that kept me from female comic book characters for so long. Even after reading about Melaka Fray of the post-post apocalyptic Buffyverse (seriously guys, read Fray) I didn’t approach any other comics with a female as the main protagonist.

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Other than Fray and Buffy, I didn’t find any other main female characters interesting. The girls and women in comics just seem like “gimmes” to a culture of quote/end-quote feminists who never read or cared about comics anyway. “See? There’s a Ms. Marvel now.” There was always Wonder Woman and she was always pretty B.A., but that’s not enough. The females we did get and keep getting are so sexualized it doesn’t matter how dynamic she is, no one’s reading what she’s saying. I wrote another blog post about this topic here, so I won’t repeat myself. But, girls are getting more involved in the geek culture as an audience and as participants, which is good in the respect that changes are being made (which I discuss below), but my problem with girls is ever occurring. Women are playing into the misogyny of the established culture instead of trying to be a force of change in it. It’s not uncommon in any culture, though, where some citizens of it care more for the physical/superficial over the substantive. Google “Power Girl cosplayers” and tell me I’m wrong.

Onward. So, like I said, I come late to a lot of things. Doctor Who and The Avengers movies (I’m sorry, I was busy having my heart broken when the Nolan Batman series ended), for example. Also, the DC reboot called The New 52. This is where everything I ranted about has been clocked sideways. Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to the Shazam Vol. 1 release in October and I haven’t read everything DC has put out. But, so far, the stories of the male characters are boring rehashes of origin stories that everyone knows, including the non-comic book readers. I’m sorry, Mr. Morrison, but you’ve made ol’ Supes dullsville. Hopefully, Nolan can fix it for me. But, I’ve just finished reading the first New 52 volumes of BatgirlBatwoman, and Wonder Woman, I also just bought Supergirl on Amazon Prime minutes ago. I’m just so stoked by them, Gail Simone‘s Batgirl, especially. They’re smart, funny, and human. They break like the boys do, sometimes they break a hell of a lot harder. Yeah, there’s some nekkid bits (none too graphic), but it’s artful and lovely. The partially nude or “risque” scenes are not done for the sexualization of the female character, thereby robbing her of her characterization, rather they portray vulnerability and humanness. I have to give it to DC, they went ahead and fortified my observations that, even though the comic book industry and geek community has some overwhelming prejudice against intelligent/interesting women, they give their readers female heroes with flaws, depth, humor, and loveliness, more so than Marvel, I’m sad to say. Maybe Mr. Whedon can help with that. But, in the mean time, DC is letting us learn from women without their asses and/or boobs obscure something important.

I took a long time to get to this, I know and I’m sorry (tl;dr, yeah?), but backstory is important when you don’t know it (speaking of: another good comic with an awesome female character is Witch Doctor by Brandon Seifurt. Read it and you’ll get it). So, as Loz was so cool about letting me be a new poster to his blog, I want to make a promise with future articles. Well, two promises:

  1. I’ll dedicate real, in-depth time to the women of the New 52 as I get to know them with the perspective of a fan, literary theorist, and teacher.
  2. I’ll get to the damn point a lot quicker.

I love characters. I almost care more about them than I do about storylines. Without good characters, the plot points are hard to remember. And, maybe I’m realizing my feminism and personal femininity too late here, but at least I’m getting round to it. More and more women are getting into the geek culture and are fighting against the misogyny they are greeted with (see Gail Simone’s siteThe Hawkeye Initiative, and, less harsh, BetterSupes). It’s not about taking a genre away from men and boys, it’s about letting everyone be part of it. Gotta start somewhere.

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