Thursday, January 28, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

HERE'S TO YOU, MRS. ZOR-EL?



Whereas the aforeseen ACTION COMICS cover shows Supergirl socking an ordinary mortal dressed as Superman, SUPERMAN #21 (Byrne era) shows the aftermath of the Man of Steel having a violent encounter with a new, post-Crisis version of Supergirl.

I'm surprised this cover hasn't been cited on a lot of those "covers that are funny when looked at sexually." I know the actual context of this one is violence, not sex (or even sexy violence), but has NO ONE remarked on this GRADUATE-esque image of Superman captured between the "V" formed by the new Supergirl's legs?

Vanishing point, indeed.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A SHORT BUT MARVELOUS POST




No time for a long essay today, but I thought I'd keep my hand in with this excerpt from Mary Marvel's first appearance in CAPTAIN MARVEL ADVENTURES #18 (1942).

Monday, January 11, 2010

THE FEMININE WILL

If at all possible, view the following picture w/o paying attention to the cover copy from ACTION COMICS #346.





If one does not read the explanatory dialogue, the picture looks for all the world like Superman being decked by his female cousin Supergirl. To the knowledgeable fan who knows that both characters are gifted with super-powers, it's at least plausible for Superman to be stunned by a punch from his cousin, even though Superman looks like he might weigh in at twice whatever Supergirl might weigh.

However, if one knew nothing about the mythology of either character, and saw only a very muscular man being knocked silly by a slip of a girl, such a reader might have to suppose he was looking at a nonsense-scene, in which the normal rules of weight and mass simply didn't apply.

What's interesting is that while the above scenario does take place within the realm of super-powered beings, where it's entirely probable for a super-powered woman to fell a mere mortal man with a single blow, this sort of scenario is hardly confined to stories with super-powered beings in comics.

For instance, here's an example without super-powered types:





In BATGIRL #50, the then-current Batgirl-- who, once again, looks like she might weigh in at half what her opponent Batman does-- has a long and grueling battle with her bat-mentor in which the two seem evenly matched, though at the conclusion there's some suggestion that Batman may have manipulated the fight to some extent.

Granted, Batman and his non-powered allies don't live in "the real world," but they are meant to reflect the real world far more than those stories featuring super-powered beings.

And in terms of verisimilitude, BATGIRL #50 puts aside the question of what would really happen if a man and woman of roughly equal skills, but with such very disparate weights, fought one another.

Now, I'm not objecting to BATGIRL #50 or any similar story putting aside verisimilitude for the sake of a fantasy. I think that the fantasy works on its own terms in many if not all cases, and that BATMAN #50 is one where the suspension of disbelief is justified for the dramatic effect.

But when comic books are rife with examples of this type of female empowerment-- in which a spindly supermodel-type can beat down a big strong man with a single punch-- I'm dumbfounded that any fan, male or female, can complain about the lack of females having "agency," as I've quoted HER MAJESTY saying in earlier posts.

"What do women want," indeed?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

FROM SHEENA TO XENA



Well, I have enough material to keep taking shots at THE BEAT from now till eternity, but Her Majesty (note the initials) isn't likely to respond either way. And the joke's played out now anyway.

What I would want hypothetical readers to take away from this blog is not just that I Gene Phillips was irritated at something THE BEAT said, but this:

FEMALE CHARACTERS IN COMICS ARE NOT WITHOUT 'AGENCY'

Critics of same can carp all they like about how most of the women featured are astoundingly hot (in contrast, one presumes, to women's depiction in other media). or how There Just Aren't Enough Female Creators In Popular Media.

But when you talk "agency," it's obvious that female genre-characters are given far more in fiction than real women have in the real world.

Whether the real-world status is due to society, biology, or some combination thereof is up for debate.

But the demonstrable pervasiveness of the Amazon Archetype is a significant datum that I plan to explore here on a regular basis.

Monday, January 4, 2010

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SIDEKICK



Hmm. I'm not sure which one is the villain, and which is the sidekick, but I guess there's no heroine in the forefront here.

Or maybe it is, and it's just a comic THE BEAT has never heard of.

Except that I found this 12-23-09 statement:

"Buffy is the top selling non Marvel/DC title as usual."

So I guess whoever's Buffy is the sidekick in the picture...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

BYSTANDER OR SIDEKICK?




I'm not sure which she is. Since female characters in comics have no agency, the blonde in the picture can't possibly be the star.

Is she an innocent bystander about to get mugged?

Or a sidekick who's going to be skragged to provide the real hero with a motive for vengeance?

I'm thinking it must be the latter. I'm surprised that the cover doesn't feature the male hero about to heroically pounce on the malefactors from above, just to emphasize, you know, that he's the real star, and the blonde's just the sidekick.

MONSTER MAIDEN



Here's a fairly recent where the female character has a rather outstanding presence, to my mind...

WONDER WHAT SHOULD COME FIRST



So I'll be predictable with my first visual example.

It's interesting that in MEN OF TOMORROW, Gerald Jones observed that most of the ads in Golden Age WONDER WOMAN were directed at male readers. It's problematic as to whether or not this meant that the majority of readers were males, but it does poke some holes in certain current theories that would claim that superhero comics are all about "excluding" the female.

But the opening shot said that this liberality toward female characters-- the example being ALIEN'S Ellen Ripley-- wasn't a tendency of modern "Nerd Culture."

Oh, reaaalllllyyy???

THE RATIONALE

"In Nerd Movie Culture, women can never have their own agency — they are bystanders and sidekicks. Alien would never star Ripley today." -- somebody or other from THE BEAT.

The above statement is, of course, pure bollocks.

What I term the Amazon Archetype is one of the most interesting in popular culture (which I suppose must be the same as 'nerd culture.') It appears in genres directed largely at young males and would seem to run contradictory to expectations, insofar as most such genres are (logically enough) about male fantasies.

I don't doubt that a lot of women, fans and otherwise, don't like this or that aspect of the representation of female characters in pop fiction, or the general trend that most of the female characters in pop fiction are created by males.

But to say that none of these characters have 'agency' is one for the books.

Or maybe for the blogs, since the lunacy of the statement has moved me to start this blog to highlight the "agency" of female characters, largely those within the action-adventure genres.

Since the remark began on a comics-blog, I suppose I may as well start with comics...