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  1.  (10204.1)
    Last week there was a thread about a specific title and the way that women in it were portrayed caused a bit of a stir. This spilled over into other forms of Whitechapel social media and raised some more general questions about the topic so I figure what the hell, let's talk about it in the abstract. I think we'd probably all agree that historically women haven't been depicted all that well. Their most prominent roles tend to be victims or love/sex objects for the male heros. Oh Lois Lane, you sassy gal reporter, you're always getting yourself into trouble. Good thing you have Superman around to take care of you.

    So who gets it right? Who are the worst offenders? What about them make those writers/artists so special? What tropes have been beaten to death? What are the opportunities that the industry missing? What are those little things that make even the "good" examples annoyingly obviously written by a well meaning, but clueless guy?
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      CommentAuthorAriana
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2011
     (10204.2)
    But let's keep the ratio tipped towards the "who gets it right," okay? I mean, it's gonna get really boring really fast if everyone just posts a picture of unbelievable tits. This sort of thread could either be educational about good or whiny about bad, and I know which I'd prefer.
  2.  (10204.3)
    it's gonna get really boring really fast if everyone just posts a picture of unbelievable tits


    Damm!

    I was reading some comics the other day, when my wife (who has no interest in them) looked over my shoulder and commented in much the same vein about 'unbelievable tits', later though she saw a picture of Neil Gaiman's Death and said that that was more like a normal person!

    Jim Lee's Death
  3.  (10204.4)
    Who gets it right: Terry Moore. First in Strangers in Paradise, next in Echo. He has a little book out talking about how to draw women but it's (mostly) not about proportions and what have you but instead it's talking about the mindset he has while drawing them.

    I know there's more, but it's too early to think of good, solid examples.
    • CommentAuthorMercer Finn
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2011 edited
     (10204.5)
    My feeling is that Brian Michael Bendis did Marvel an incomparably good service with his work on Jessica Jones and the ladies in USM. Alias was a real eye-opener for me, and remains a good example by which to test other comics / female characters. I would be interested in any examples where Bendis has dropped the ball on this issue.

    I wonder if anyone is uncomfortable with the recurring gender roles you might find in the work of people like Greg Rucka (who seems to have a fetish for lesbians) or indeed Warren Ellis (who generally treats his lady characters much more positively than his gent characters -- but again, examples to the contrary are welcome). Personally, I'm pretty relaxed about this: my stance is that if the character feels like a real person to me, then stereotypes become irrelevant, and creators have the right to revisit particular situations / characters if they are interested in them. But it's something I've been interested in since reading this (spoiler-heavy) tirade against GRRM's Game of Thrones books.
    • CommentAuthorMercer Finn
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2011 edited
     (10204.6)
    Also, perhaps I'm reading too shallowly, but my feeling is that almost all of today's top-tier comics writers are doing it right. I'm less confident about saying the same for comics artists, although I'm usually willing to forgive cheesecake if it's explained (cf. Oeming's Red Sonja) and the character feels real (cf. Conner's Power Girl).
  4.  (10204.7)
    For me, Greg Rucka's female characters have always been intriguing and interesting. There have been the obvious ones such as Tara Chace and Wonder Woman. But there have also been the less obvious ones such as Sasha Boudreaux, who enjoyably held her own with Bruce Wayne and Batman.
  5.  (10204.8)
    Pretty much everyone who doesn't draw comics that either feature heavily, theme themselves around, comment on, satirise/deconstruct or otherwise focus on the very "male" possesion and use of physical power - technological, physical, supernatural, it's all the same (I use the word male as flavouring, not to suggest that everything in that category is exclusively masculine or exclusively enjoyed by men).

    Pick a creator who works outside that disproportionaely huge catagory, and the chances are that the way they draw and write women will be pretty "normal" in the sense that the women won't be innapropriately posing like a porn star regardless of what they're really doing or thinking. I could list dozens, but it seems pointless - just go to a comic shop and look at the indie/foreign sections.

    Conversely, the number of titles inside that category that don't either innapropriately sexualise or sideline female characters are probably guilty of my favourite writing trope - female characters who could be swapped line-for-line with a man without anyone noticing. That being said, I'm sure there a number of "power" titles with deftly written and portrayed women, but the correlation between the prevalence of the genre, and the presentation of the women inside the genre seems too solid for doubt about the link.

    I honestly think that unless the most successful/common publishers, creators and consumers suddenly and radically change thier favourite subject matter, this is a problem that isn't going to go away. To fully solve it, we need an equal number of men and women from all walks of life creating comics, along with an audience who consumes comics without an unconscious genre or gender bias, and a society that isn't still struggling with institutionalised sexism. Good luck everyone!

    (PS I may sound bitter, and perhaps I am, but I'm honesly not a raving anti-superhero lunatic, or a DC/Marvel hater, I'd just like superheroes to be one of many many genres, and DC/Marvel to be two out of many many publishers that are all equally well represented, funded and appreciated).

    It seems like that's all there is to say on the matter other than GO CREATE NEW COMICS! and GO CREATE NEW PUBLISHERS! and GO BUY OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE!
    •  
      CommentAuthorDextra
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2011
     (10204.9)
    I agree with Warped Savant, Terry Moore has been getting it right for ages. In his stories, women are very well-rounded, no pun intended. Easily some of the most easy to relate to characters I've ever read.
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      CommentAuthorJon Wake
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2011
     (10204.10)
    Its a bit egomaniacal of me--okay, it's a lot egomaniacal of me-- but I'd like to put my own work out there for your approval. I'm not going to try and tell you 'I did it right', because I most certainly got something wrong, but if I did, I'd like to hear what it is.

    Virtuoso
  6.  (10204.11)
    Brian K. Vaughn and Brian Wood are two writers i've always felt handle women very well, the women of Y The Last Man, Local, DMZ and Runaways were for the most part interesting characters, and when it comes to artists, Ryan Kelly and Jamie McKelvie always draw realisticly proportioned women.
  7.  (10204.12)
    I've never really liked when artists who are drawing fantasy books of a stripe, draw "realistically proportioned women". I feel like it's boring, and somewhat of an over-correction/pandering.

    The problem with the depiction of female characters is more like 90 percent in the concept behind their depiction. There's nothing wrong with fantastically proportioned women who could never exist in the real world. There is a problem if you are writing them in disgusting demeaning ways, over and over and over to the point where it is boring and hateful.

    Also within the superhero context, it seems like some writers struggle with how to use the female characters. I thought the JLU animated series was a good blueprint for how to do women in superhero comics. They were sexy, kick butt, and took charge often.

    I would also like to see more X-men comics where the leadership of the x-men isn't a man(Cyclops or Professor X). Storm, Emma, and Rogue are all better leadership candidates than Cyclops, but you rarely see them running the whole thing(if ever). The whole Cyclops-Emma Frost leadership dynamic is one that kind of bugs me, because Emma is taking a back seat to someone who is somewhat inferior to her, and at best manipulating him in the bedroom behind closed doors, as opposed to leading things up front. I know some of that is because she used to be a villian--but it seems like the typical "behind every great man is a great woman" thing. With emphasis on the behind.

    So stuff like that--the writing, is what bugs me more than anything. The art is what it is, and there's plenty of beautiful amazing art that utilizes very unrealistic proportioned women.

    I would also like to see more creator owned books be a little more on point with their fashion choices, and not just dress every female character like a stripper. Be creative! Get a reference book with actual legit fashion in it!
  8.  (10204.13)
    I've never really liked when artists who are drawing fantasy books of a stripe, draw "realistically proportioned women". I feel like it's boring, and somewhat of an over-correction/pandering.

    Well, surely boring in this context is just a stylistic preference --! To me, being served ideal (nine heads tall) men and women by the artist is much less likely to engage me. And on a question of wardrobe, I perceive it as less likely that ideal bodies are going have cool costumes on them. Even logistically -- if you put a trenchcoat or real cargo pants on a very muscular male he is going to look rectangular -- that is how clothing works! Skinny bodies give more play on men; cool warrior clothing on women usually implies they should be clothed. But anyway I would really just point to Nate Simpson's Nonplayer as an example of fantasy scenes that use realistic forms which I hope nobody found boring.
    Also within the superhero context, it seems like some writers struggle with how to use the female characters. I thought the JLU animated series was a good blueprint for how to do women in superhero comics. They were sexy, kick butt, and took charge often

    My comment here would be, I agree! That is why and maybe some other people don't read DC comics. They serve Heroes and not humans. In the context of that, the readers have every right to expect and receive female characters who inhabit Hero roles in exactly the same way male charecters do. However, in a comic which serves main characters who have flaws and weaknesses, the question becomes more nuanced. Portraying female characters as 1 human 2 flawed 3 feminine : is it allowed, is it fair, is it not just allowed and fair but important to try to do (maybe!). These are questions that might not belong in the moon observatory but belong in some other locations where comics I think are allowed to tell stories.

    I thought the Emma Frost of that era wasn't disempowered at all. It's not just that leading through political power rather than type-A charisma matched her role as a Villain, it matched her, you know, character. An Emma that stood in front would not have been Emma. It was technically a feminine mode of action but in real life, lots of men use the same mode; and lots of real life female leaders are type-A all the way. Female characters should be allowed to be manipulative if there is a good story behind it. Clearly both her arc and Scott's 'constantly dazed into docile submission by offscreen orgasms' role were not novel ideas, but most good ideas aren't.

    I would also like to see more creator owned books be a little more on point with their fashion choices, and not just dress every female character like a stripper. Be creative! Get a reference book with actual legit fashion in it!

    I think there should definitely be more demand for this idea. But, also, a lot of artists would have trouble with it. I sure would. Fashion does require just that -- creativity. But also expertise. Ai Yazawa is the best at fashion but worked in a magazine or whatever it was first. In American comics, there's so little expectation that characters will wear real clothing that I think a lot of artists never practice drawing it -- indie creator's should be more aggressive in showing them off!

    typed on mobile
  9.  (10204.14)
    Currently?...Moore,Morrison,Ellis,Ennis,Gaiman,Delano,Milligan,Carey,Gillen,Fraction,Spencer,Snyder,Jenkins,Azzarello,David,Simone,Casey,Waid,Willingham,Sturges,Allred,Hickman,Kirkman,Lemire,Busiek,Cornell,Aaron,Brubaker,Remender,Rucka....all the great writers basically,writing multilayered,bold ,varied female characters.and I'm sure there's many more too.
    A spoil of riches,it'd be churlish to ask for more, really.
    There's always room for growth in how HUMANITY is portrayed in comics.
    Cause the hyperagressive meathead male characters hardly represent us fellas.
    SuperTip: make sure personal insecurity isn't clouding how you see the actual state of things.
  10.  (10204.15)
    @jimmyjungle, Moore has a habit of going the women as punching bag/raped route in everything of his i've read. and Ennis's treatment of women ain't great either, especially in 'the boys'.
    •  
      CommentAuthorFishelle
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2011
     (10204.16)
    Paul Duffield said what I was thinking. There's so many comics out there that have such great female characters. When I think of comics, I never think of the, as Paul so aptly put it, "power" titles. That's because they aren't what I read. I could start naming names, but I don't think it would ever end.
    • CommentAuthorandycon
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2011
     (10204.17)
    I still find that even if they are written really well the art tends to always fall into "unbelievable tits" and they are still pretty sexualized.

    Slightly off topic, but for those that are in the industry, is there some unwritten rule where naked breasts are a-ok but a guys penis is not? There are a few series that have equally strong male and female characters in them but when a sex scene comes (or just 'out of the shower') the guy is always covered up but the woman typically aren't, which always kinda makes me go hmm.
  11.  (10204.18)
    Yeah,I know,I hesitated to mention those two actually,but Tulip from Preacher and Kit from Hellblazer and Halo Jones and Abby in swamp thing and Nina from the gents came to mind.
    and Moore's earlier work was dark all over,many of his characters came to gruesome ends,both genders,kids,johnny bates buggered ouch etc...
    but it's a mixed bag wit dese comics man,aye,agreed.
  12.  (10204.19)
    Also as far as the art goes,there is massive tit cheesecake garbage,but just don't buy it everyone and it'll die out,hopefully.

    And with the better artists,yeah,both genders are portrayed in superhero comics with mostly perfect athletic physiques,sexualized,brimming with vitality....and who gives a fuck?That's the whole idea.
    That's part of the 'soaring beyond the norm' vibe right?
    If they looked like us all in spandex,I doubt I'd stick around to watch their exploits ,haha
  13.  (10204.20)
    The comic that for me really emphasized female characters on the same plain as males was Love and Rockets, particularly Maggie. I absolutely loved how human the Hernandez brothers made their characters...