More on the outrage of the week …
In a post titled “Victims for Hire,” novelist and White Tiger writer Tamora Pierce shares her thoughts on Heroes for Hire in general and the cover to issue #13 in particular:
I’ve had mixed feelings about this incarnation [the current Heroes for Hire magazine] of Colleen and Misty from the beginning, though Tim loves the comic. Originally Colleen was a dark, doom-seeking, driven fighter–here she is far more subdued, keeping to the background. And the art has been making me daffy, not to mention the part in Misty’s `fro. Yes, they are an estrogen-laden team of butt-kickers, but their outfits are painted on, and their scenes are drawn cheesecake.
And it’s silly of me, but it bugs the hell out of me that Shang-Chi is made negligible. The point is f*****g equality. NOBODY has to be the lesser party.
I hated it, in the beginning, that they were against the rebels of Civil War.
Enough. They weren’t the Colleen and Misty I knew. I get that. I can live with it.
This cover makes me INSANE. It is nasty. It is degrading. It is everything I fight and write against.
Three supposedly strong, war-like women, strung up by their wrists, in chains, the emblem of the slave (paging John Norman…); dazed and helpless (someone on scans_daily said it would be hilarious if they were awake and mad; I think it would be powerful and redemptive); bared practically to their navels (but no nipple showing because nurturing organs would be dirty in this screwed-up pervo-catering censorship universe) as nameless Things with glowing eyes (and probably elongated barbed dicks) slaver in the background–and phallic tentacles reach up to their crotches. Misty’s clothes are ripped; she’s bleeding. Do her eyes and Colleen’s glimmer with tears? Colleen’s mouth hangs open–to receive a tentacle?
It’s not right that we have these powerful women. Let’s humiliate them publicly, on the cover. Let’s strip them of their power, wit, and rage, and show them off to everyone who walks by, to show what powerful women can expect, even when we’ve showed them being powerful. This is what happens when women strut along, kicking butt. This is what they can expect. Savor and learn!
Even if you don’t know what tentacle rape is (and it’s exactly what it sounds like it is, duh), it is obvious that the women on this cover have been depicted in a distressing, degrading situation in a manner meant to titillate. Why? Because that’s what appeals to their target audience. I am not Marvel’s target audience for this comic. (Though maybe I could be if it were handled differently.) But I am a woman who works in the comic book industry, and over and over I have to see that the industry’s largest companies have no problem reducing my gender to tits and ass. Oh, and possibly a bad-ass attitude, mostly likely the result of being raped.
And I don’t want to say this, but I really don’t think a lot of men in the industry and who read comics understand. I don’t think they get why it bothers someone like me or Heidi or Lea or Elin (a self-proclaimed publisher of pornographic comics). People steeped in the imagery of the superhero comic book have become rather numb to this kind of depiction of women, it seems. And they don’t see their whole sex depicted as a sexual object as a rule rather than an exception by the industry’s biggest companies, with the result that no matter what kind of work we do to bring different kinds of comics to the marketplace, tits and ass are the abiding image of women in comics.
An image like this bothers me for several reasons, most on a personal level, but since I am writing in my professional capacity here, I will write about why it bothers me on a professional level. First, as I said, that kind of imagery is the dominant one of women in comics, so every time I tell people I edit comics, I have to add a disclaimer: Not those kinds of comics. I don’t want to be ashamed of the industry in which I work. And, perhaps a bit more personally, I feel these depictions of women in comics color how I am treated when I am doing my job — not by my co-workers, men who all treat me with respect — but mostly at conventions. Thirty seconds into conversations, I realize that the man talking to me thinks I am a booth girl. Perfect strangers who have no idea who I am ask to take my picture. To them, my primary and most obvious value is in my image; obviously I must be at the booth to be pretty and friendly to men so they’ll look at our comics — and in the case of the men with cameras, my image is something that they would like to capture and keep for themselves, and they see no problem with this.
Elin Winkler of Radio Comix, a company that produces pornographic comics, comments:
Marvel claims the rating of the book is appropriate for 12-year-olds.
I call bullshit.
Now, as we all know, I publish pornographic comics. Not just tease comics or pinup comics or sexy comics- hardcore pornography. Poles & holes, money shots, manga-style spurting penii, cartoon boobies bouncing, etc. I am not ashamed of the adult comics my company publishes. This is because I try to be a responsible editor and I believe there should be adult comics out there with consensual sex, women enjoying themselves and not being treated as mere objects, couples in love who can’t keep their hands off each other, and the radical idea that sex, in all its forms, should be fun and pleasant and positive. This means it’s often difficult to find artists who understand these concepts, and we often have to reject stuff with very nice art that contains things like rape, snuff, extreme violence, and the like.
I looked at this cover for Heroes For Hire and realized that 1) it looks like it belongs on the cover of a porn comic, like Milk and 2) it’s a cover I wouldn’t even run on Milk, because the women are all obviously in an abused position. That was my initial reaction.
Blogger Steven Padnick responds to some of the comments made on the post I put up earlier this week about the cover:
Those are our Heroes (for Hire) being threatened with rape on the cover.
The selling point of this comic is that you might see one of these busty women raped. By a tentacled beast. That’s just repulsive.
If you don’t object to this cover because you don’t recognize it as rape, you’re either blind or in denial. I mean, look at it. Red-eyed voyeurs watch while grotesque phalluses strip Colleen Wing on the right and drip white slime on Black Cat’s exposed cleavage on the left. The image could not be more explicitly sexual and threatening while still being displayed with Amazing Spider-Man.
Maybe you do recognize it as rape, but say, “so what? There’s racks and racks of tentacle porn manga being sold. Why is this cover wrong?” Because this isn’t a porn comic! It’s a superhero adventure comic, and the image doesn’t even match the solicitation copy. Which means it’s just false advertising, playing on the worst desires of fan boys.
Lea Hernandez takes a word she came up with in her initial post about the cover — “Manstream” — and runs with it:
I coined the term “Manstream” yesterday when I was posting a letter to Joe Quesada expressing my distaste for the cover to Heroes for Hire #13. Marvel and DC are considered “mainstream,” but they aren’t, really, and the term “manstream” is derived from that word, and intended to label instances where Marvel and DC (and likely others) treat female characters in ways that demean, victimize, actualize through rape, and so on. It’s a word for the freakshow aspect of “mainstream” comics.
We’ll point it out when it happens.
Kick over the rocks.
Shine a little sun on what many comics readers have been conditioned to ignore or respond to.
Take away the normalization of the attitudes and imagery.
There’s also Manstream at Blogger.
Manstream is “Women in Refrigerators” for the 21st century. It is, to borrow the words of si_fuller , to point out when “insensitive mercenary marketers who deserve the scorn” are dipping into the scornucopia.
What it is NOT is about lumping men together. If you’re not making this crap, pushing this crap, crapping this crap–it’s not about you.
And Dorian over at Postmodern Barney looks at it from a business perspective:
I suppose if there really is any larger lesson to be learned from any of these things is that Marvel and DC, despite all their protestations to the contrary, really aren’t ready to grow up and act like a serious business. If they were, someone would have realized that the money they make by pandering to the lowest common denominator isn’t as much as they lose by alienating existing and potential customers and creating a negative view of their product in the wider culture. The lesson the non comics buying public took away from the Mary Jane statue situation wasn’t that fangirls are hysterical and prone to over-reaction, or that Marvel licenses their characters out to specialty manufacturers for the creation of high-end collectibles. No, it was that comic book fans are sad perpetual adolescents who buy over-priced wank material. And that’s not a good way to build brand recognition.
The image at the top of the post, of Luke Cage and Iron Fist, came from the LiveJournal comics_fanart.