With the release of this week’s New 52 titles from DC, we’ve seen an explosion of contempt from readers in response to two titles – Judd Winick and Guillem March’s Catwoman #1 and Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort’s Red Hood and the Outlaws #1. If for some reason you’ve managed to avoid the controversy thus far, Blog@’s Graeme McMillan covered it here, Comic Alliance’s Laura Hudson very eloquently here and we also posted a response from Judd Winick here. That being said, while these two titles caused a great deal of anger, there were others that proved you can still make superheroines sexy without sexually degrading them.
This image shows our introduction to two members of the new Birds of Prey, Starling and Black Canary. Starling has cleavage showing but her breasts are an appropriate size and her top fits her correctly. Saiz gave both characters very feminine curves and form-fitting costumes yet neither are depicted as overt sex objects. On the other hand…
…this is the first impression we get of Catwoman and Starfire, the ones getting the most negative attention. And with good reason. Catwoman’s breasts are the center of attention in her introduction while Starfire’s entire body is on display. Neither woman is really getting the support they’d need for breasts that size either. Regardless, their bodies are the point of focus, not the characters themselves.
While some may still question why Wonder Woman needs to sleep naked, Cliff Chiang’s art in her first issue gives us a titilating image but not one that puts the character in an overt sexual situation. This panel is actually the second frame of Wonder Woman, the first is showing her back in bed, but neither has the sheets forming to her body in such a way that you can see her body parts. Wonder Woman may be needlessly sexualized here but in my opinion, this image is not being used to degrade the character.
Another image that stands out positively to me in Birds of Prey is this one of Black Canary fighting a villain. Another artist could have easily changed her position to be straddling the bad guy (something we’ve seen quite often) but instead, Saiz merely shows her apprehending him.
I’m far from a prude and I love the Batman/Catwoman relationship a great deal but this final image of the characters from Catwoman #1 is, as many have suggested, closer to fan fiction than mainstream comics.
Is art subjective? Absolutely. Some are arguing Batman and Catwoman are literally having sex in this last image but I’d argue they aren’t because both of their costume bottoms are still on (and I have yet to see a crotch zipper in any art [dear god help us they may not be far off]). But is it graphic and implied? Yes, without a doubt. I don’t have a problem with these characters having sex, in fact, I don’t have as big a problem with the last page of Catwoman as I have with the first or the entirety of Red Hood, but knowing that the same point can be made in a less overt way just makes the exploitive art scream exploitive.
Men already buy your books, DC. You don’t have to put giant breasts in their face to get them to pick them up but you will get more women to buy your comics if you don’t. So what is it you’re actually trying to tell us?