It’s no surprise to anyone at this point that there’s misogyny in the Western comics fandom. This sexism is even committed by some of the people that work on said comics, which is unfortunate because then we end up with a bunch of people circle-jerking about how super cool male heroes are and how super sexy female heroines need to be. Though in recent times there have been some pretty major improvements—such as Wonder Woman as portrayed in Justice League: War and Starfire’s character becoming a bit less based around sexual objectification—the bar really should be set higher about how female characters and the female audience itself are treated. Of course, changing an industry so set in its ways is going to take possibly until the end of time. So to tide us over, allow me to show you this amazing site that proves that the female comics audience isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And with a tagline like “Little girls are better at designing superheroes than you”, how could your curiosity not be piqued?
Welcome to bettersupes, a side-project from the mind of biology student Alex Law which attempts to show that putting a little diversity in comics isn’t as difficult as the old boys club seem to think it is. This project is two-fold in its design. Law puts the first part best:
Kids are more impressionable than you, but kids can also be less restricted by cultural gender norms than you. Kids are more creative than you, and they’re better at making superheroes than you.
And true to those words, the superheroes I’ve seen created on this site are really interesting, both visually and in concept. Hell, I’d read about them. The second part of this plan is, perhaps, the more ingenious part. People who took photos of their daughters, younger siblings, etcetera dressed up as heroes are encouraged to send in said photos to Law (with the caveat that not all pictures may not be featured). With the girl’s heroic passion shining through, Law takes these costumes and renders them in comic book styles ranging from Western to manga-inspired. Additionally, Law also gives their new alter-ego a comic style description, just to further emphasize the whole hero thing. These girls, for all intents and purposes, become comic book superheroes. I’m sure that this makes the heroes-in-training more than happy to see. More than that, though, it provides evidence showing that yes, these ideas are completely viable in an actual comic setting. What seems maybe a little out there at first glance can actually be super cool once the artist puts some time into understanding it.
Although I adore the art, what I love most about bettersupes is that it encourages young girls to take hold of the piece of comic fandom that so rightfully belongs to them. Also, I think it makes the fandom as a whole take a closer look at what’s popular and what’s not, and the underlying reasons why. Even if those reasons have already been discussed ad nauseum, they’re still relevant and worth discussing until something is done to improve the industry as a whole. If kids are grasping the concept of inclusiveness better than a bunch of people who should really know better, then it’s still a conversation worth having. I hope bettersupes will continue engaging in this conversation in its own unique way for a long time to come.