I love comic books. Love them. I still remember my first comic book. I was in Kindergarten. A firefighter was discussing fire safety and as part of the free stuff he was giving out, I received a comic book titled Daredevil vs. Vapora #1.
Looking back on it, I realize how absolutely cheap this marketing ploy was. But man, did I love that comic. I read it until it fell apart. Eventually, I looked into other comics. I found out that the Batman cartoon that I knew and loved also was a comic book, and from then on, I was hooked.
And it is because I’m hooked to comic books that I come to you with this tidbit; comic book writers are going to kill this genre.
Let me back up a second. A few days ago, I read an article on Jezebel discussing the men’s rights movements (linked here). The article focuses on a specific chapter that uses misogynistic messages in an attempt to argue the point that feminism has gone too far in getting equal rights for women.
This article sparked a conversation with several authors of Lady Geek Girl and Friends. It also got me thinking about the genders in comic books. Constantly, comic books are getting slammed by feminist groups for not treating female superheroes with the same respect as male superheroes.
Now, it is true that most of the “famous” superheroes are male. Superman and Batman are at the forefront of any superhero discussion, while Wonder Woman doesn’t get nearly the credit she deserves.
It is also true that most of the “famous” comic book writers are male. Alan Moore, Stan Lee, and Frank Miller all get much more praise than, say, Nikola Scott, Felicia Henderson, and Gail Simone.
The truth is that, over time, men have written the majority of comic books, and have almost always, until recently, gotten to write the major players.
And some of those male writers love jacking with female heroes. Take Stephanie Brown from Batman. In her first incarnation from 1992 to her 2004 death, she was used as a love interest to Tim Drake. She is noted for two major things: getting pregnant and dying.
Her death might be the most noteworthy thing about her. In 2004’s War Games crossover, she puts on the Robin suit, only to get sexually assaulted and murdered by Black Mask. Despite Batman constantly showing frustration with Brown, he lets her know that, despite living in Drake’s shadow, she was a Robin. Then she passes on.
And she doesn’t get a memorial in the Batcave for forever. Her memorial is put in the back corner, just past Bruce’s old copies of Superhero Digest. Apparently, that’s because Batman totally knew she was faking her death, as revealed in 2008.
I don’t like swearing in these articles, so I apologize for this, but bullshit!
This is one of the more famous examples of women being throwaway characters in comics, but there are more. The website Women in Refrigerators has compiled a list of women superheroes who have been tortured or killed in very meaningless ways. You guys know Ms. Marvel I? She has, in the history of her creation, been mind-controlled, impregnated by rape, had her powers and memories stolen, repowered only to lose her powers again, and oh, by the way, she’s an alcoholic.
What the heck?!
In an earlier column, I pointed out that there is a ten-to-one male-female ratio among comic book superheroes. That is a ridiculous ratio. Writers can create great stories for female characters. I’ve seen it done. They can also create new female superheroes to explore untapped story arcs.
And men’s rights movement groups should be angry at these writers, too. Stephanie Brown dies, so Batman must now avenge her. If he does, he’s fallen victim to “white knight syndrome”. But if he doesn’t, he’s a shallow person. The crappy plot device has now handcuffed Batman to act out of his element. The writer’s poor writing has cheapened both Brown and Batman’s character development.
Should there be equality in comic books? Absolutely. It’s a shame that the “boy’s club” is alive and well. I think that wonderful storytelling usually mirrors real life. How many strong women are out there? Tons. How many men? Tons.
So why can’t there be a strong female character? Why does a female character have to be used solely as a plot device for a male hero? It insults both sides.
Comic book readers, both male and female, need to unite on this point. Lazy writing is going to make weak superheroes, no matter the gender. Female characters are not toys to kill all willy-nilly. And male characters don’t have to “white knight” it every time a woman dies. I think female characters deserve the same right as male characters; to die in a glorious and tear-jerking way while saving whichever universe the comic is based in.