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  1.  (10204.21)
    And with the better artists,yeah,both genders are portrayed in superhero comics with mostly perfect athletic physiques,sexualized,brimming with vitality

    Hm, a lot of male athletes don't actually look like body-builders though. They tend to have weird bodies. Because that is what pushing a body to the extreme does -- makes it extreme. And high-level athleticism in females radically diminishes feminine sexual traits, usually. Not that there's anything wrong with that -- on the contrary, when I hear female characters praised as "tough and sexy" or the like, I sort of want to think "has the speaker ever admired the body of an actual female athlete?" Tough-and-sexy is valid if you think tough in the female body is sexy, otherwise we're just back to porn star bodies doing outlandish batman shit (*footnote: actually a lot of porn actresses and models these days are very athletic! So, it floats my boat.)

    Again, I'm not saying that Power Wonder Batgirl shouldn't exist -- as long as there is room in the world for more comics about punching robots, female characters should be doing it as much as men. But including writers of such works in examples of positive portrayals of female characters is like setting the standard down to "that writer who has his female characters driving cars!" Yes, female characters should drive cars. No, it is not advancing the cause of gender equality. It is no longer 1948.

    Because, if we are going to float the idea that Hero comics portray exceptionally strong people, consider what an actual real-life girl tends to have to give up to become a world-class athlete compared to a man: they are risking social acceptance (both in terms of behavior and looks) where a male athlete is going to gain acceptance, and they are giving up the leisure and education time most children have with a much smaller pool of money and fame waiting at the top for those who succeed than men have. That is bold. Real human world-class athletes get to where they are by myriad sustained acts of self-negation, by opting out of fear and comfort in equal measure. Where is the comic celebrating women who have proven that they can do those things as well and better than men? It doesn't fucking have spandex in it. In the same vein, what about the American female Marine? Both males and females may have a tough time ahead when they enlist in the military, but the man can reckon his new muscles and haircut will increase sexual and social capital, whereas the woman will probably expect both things to scare off prospects in the bar when on leave. Unless they are lesbian -- in which case, for the last decade they just had to live a lie to keep their job, no sweat. And the male recruit can worry a lot less about being raped by his opposite-sex fellow soldiers (cliche alert! Also, statistically a huge reality.) The female again is putting more skin in the game. Also, what was it that soldiers did again? Oh yeah, fought our wars for us. Where is the comic about that?

    It's fine if the comics on sale are the ones the market wants. But when we get around to measuring the medium for showing strong female characters, the things we say are good examples need to hold up against the negative space of actual human experience, where, again, it is no longer 1948.

    Another thing to think about, because I know "realistic" is a four letter word for some, and yet there is a general idea that endless idealized bodies all perfectly make sense anyway -- that if an artist doesn't draw idealized characters they are fouling up action and fantasy fiction with pretentious posing:

    Aren't a ton of fantasy and action stories centered on child characters? If a skinny man or short roundish woman can't be a fantasy hero, then shouldn't we make sure child heroes are portrayed as really ripped? Otherwise it's surely impossible to imagine them fighting a dragon! I think it is clear that the issue is more that we want to look at good looking people. My only point is that if an artist can break the molds for adult character physical form in a way that people still want to read, more power to them! There are a lot of artists who deserve credit for doing this already, especially those who have brought stylized linework back into the near-mainstream like Mitten and Templesmith.
      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2011 edited
    I don't have a huge amount to add (I'm learning more than I'm teaching in this thread, definitely), but I've noticed this: you can always tell which writers, and which artists, have had a lot of women friends, and which ones have not.

    The secret to writing and drawing realistic, interesting, cool women may just be to spend time hanging around with the same.
  2.  (10204.23)
    I would put Tank Girl up as an example that you don't need realistic women to have interesting/cool women. Plus Tank Girl and others in the comic are half-naked a lot of the time, and it doesn't come off as exploitative--it comes off as empowering. Tank Girl also smashes and blows stuff up with the best of them.
    • CommentAuthorlomopop
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2011
    The first comic I really got into was Promethea primarily because Sophie (while still thin and pretty) seemed fairly ordinary and easy to relate to. There's more emphasis on her story than her body and she isn't defined in terms of her relationships. Her relationships are part of the story but they're not the only thing she thinks and talks about. I also really liked most (probably all but it was awhile ago so I can't quite remember) of the female characters in Top 10 for the same reasons.

    I generally like the way that women are depicted in Fables. There's a diversity of personalities and relationships (even though they're exclusively heterosexual) when, in following traditional fables, it would have been easy to stick to stereotypes.

    I really liked the way that Warren Ellis depicted the relationship between Channon Yarrow and Yelena Rossini in Transmetropolitan. It was a complicated relationship that wasn't dragged down by some of their stereotypical female behaviour. For me, the fact that they had a whole range of emotionally complex interactions ensured that moments which would otherwise have seemed stereotypically female seemed like a natural expression of their characters.

    I think it goes without saying that both male and female characters could be more diverse. It would be nice if mainstream comics wasn't dominated by white characters and, when other ethnicities are represented, it would be nice if they weren't exoticized, hypersexualized, or stereotyped. It would be nice to see some larger women. It would also be nice to see some homosexual, bisexual, or other types of relationships without fetishizing them.

    I do find it encouraging that so many people are looking for comics that portray women more positively.
      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2011
    @lomopop: "They think I don't know what they do when I'm not around," and Darrick Robertson's portrayal of Channon's expression when she said it, is about as close to a real woman as I've seen comics get.
    • CommentTimeSep 10th 2011
    One of the things I've always admired in Carla Speed McNeil's writing is that all the characters feel genuine in their gender, and the bodies they inhabit clearly have had a role in the kinds of people they became.
    • CommentAuthorEllen
    • CommentTimeSep 10th 2011
    @ vandalhandle on the topic of Gart Ennis and “The Boys”

    I have been reading a lot of Gart Ennis lately, Preacher and ”the boys” mainly. Both are quite interesting to read with a bit of a gender perspective, since the author obviously has had questions about gender and sexuality in mind while writing and use these themes as part of the plot. Some times rely obvious when main caracters discuss gender issues (Jesse and Tulip in preacher) or homofobia but also in his deliberate use of stereotypes, especially in ” The Boys” since it deals with the superhero genre.

    There is a reason for naming the comic ”The Boys” when writing a sort of satire/parody dealing with a genre created for boys/men by boys/men with mainly male characters it is likely that it will be centred around men. But the female characters he does have are interesting, I can't decide what to think of them from a feminist perspective, but they apear to be writer with gender issues in mind.

    The fact that he names the only girl in the boys ”the female” is not a coincidence. But her caracter is quite different from any standard girl hero, she is barely human with hardly any social abilities her dominant caracteristic is her extreme killing urge combined with her deadly superpowers, she is portrayed almost as the groups extreamly deadly cute pet monster. She is definitely a different female superhero but is she a "good" one?

    The way some of the female characters are oppressed and sexually abused in this comic does have a function in highlighting the oppressive power structures with in the superhero community. But can probably be criticized in a million intelligent ways. It does disturb me a bit but I have not read the entire story so I will have to wait before I decide what to make of it.

    The way Annie/Starlight is portrayed and how she is treated by the other superheroes and what is does to her is not done with out a thought behind it. Giving the big breasted superhero girl the ability to reflect on her situation is interesting. But the comics main objective is not to adress the issue of women in coomics and her role in the story is not that prominent ( at least not after the first 5 books that i have reda so far)

    Then I don't know what to make of mister Ennis fascination with illustrating the moral decay caused by power and money with sexual perversion and orgies.. but I guess he has a point (money and power have mad people do all sorts of twisted thing trout history)...and writing orgy scenes is probably fun to :)

    I feel that my language skills don't work in my favour here but I hope I make some kind of sense :)
    • CommentTimeSep 10th 2011
    Regis Loisel is often referred to as a master of the fantasy genre within European circles (and outside) with his quintet (now septet) of 'the quest for the timebird'
    (Often compared to 'lord of the rings' original title: la Quête de l'Oiseau du Temps)

    In which Hermelijn a willful young woman -in search of a cure for her mother the queen-
    enlists a band of ragtag warriors with shady pasts in order to help her navigate the treacherous jungles.

    The first story arc (books 1-5) have so much sub-themes I could take up this post alone explaining why I like it.

    The most important reason for me is that the story is character driven.
    Aside from this fact: crazy chimerean fauna designs. a 'balrog whip' and truly evil bad guy,
    who has their own good motivation for being the big bad and everyone wins (or loses) in the end.

    More recently Loisel has started a new series: Magasin General

    Centered on a small village of which the main protagonists are exceptional (read differ very much from established norms) for their time.

    Marie and Serge live in a small village in which Marie has made a living for herself running the local hardware store as a single woman,
    a fact that the gossips never fail to mention. Serge comes from the city fleeing from his lover and the controversy.

    Human relations in an enclosed social and geographical surrounding during one of the most exiting periods in American history
    (baseball games, automobiles, make-up made available and socially acceptable by ms Arden and ms Rubenstein)

    The artwork gives every person it's own visual characteristics.
    Focusing for a bit on the depiction of women, they are pretty, vivacious, bland, prom queen aged well,
    crones with bitter crinkles, Suffragettes and temptress college girls in the city...

    Sadly I have not found any English translations as of yet.

    But! For those wanting to try some other titles with strong female leads,
    there's cinebook (uk) who sports a few translations from Thorgal and Valerian & Yoko Tsuno

    Thorgal a graphic novel evergreen about the viking age, magic and sci-fi by v. Hamme and Rosinski.
    Keep an eye out for Kris de Valnor a huntress, warriorqueen and perhaps also a Valkyrie, for the gods do so love to meddle in affairs.

    'Valerian & Laureline' is another sc-fi worth checking out, time travelling agency duo (a la mr. steed & mrs peel)

    Yoko Tsuno centers on a female detective (and again sci-fi) solving mysteries amongst her friend and galaxies,
    more suited to the youngsters. 8+

    *all links except cinebook are french. Try google translate for hilarious results.
  3.  (10204.29)
    Delurking to say: I really liked Manhunter during Marc Andreyko's run. Wish they'd bring her back, because I think the last time she shows up is in JSA and I think DC is giving that a nap during its new 52 reboot.

    Right now, I like Faith in the new Angel and Faith, but I don't know if that counts since the Whedonverse tends to craft reasonably well put together female characters to begin with and her character was well established before it was in a comic book.

    Re: The Boys - I agree with EllenWR's thoughts on Annie. I also am interested in what they're beginning to explore in Queen Maeve. Is it a fair/balanced portrayal of a female character? Probably not, but I'm reading it so it at least has my attention.
  4.  (10204.30)
    Val won the thread at Love & Rockets.
  5.  (10204.31)
    (Can I win an internet thread? Nah...) I would second mercurialblonde's Tank Girl observation. I'll also add in Strangers in Paradise...

    Hell, I'll throw in Crumb's Devil Girl...

    And this last one might be more of a way to emphasize the distaste I have for the super-hero Barbie proportioned characters. Devil Girl is considered one of Crumb's more 'powerful' creations with a heavy emphasis on female sexuality, especially his own tastes. But there is no attempt at hiding this. She's in fact a vehicle that generates controversy and discussion. Comics are a brilliant media for this. Now I'll compare her to a mainstream, rather innocuous character, Storm...

    There's only one purpose I can perceive in this and that's to draw in and please what would be considered the core audience; Teenage boys. It never really drew me in, though. In fact it probably made reading things from indie labels more desirable. As a human being I can personally relate more to Enid and Rebecca's trials and tribulations than to Superman's problems any day of the week!

  6.  (10204.32)
    "One of the things I've always admired in Carla Speed McNeil's writing is that all the characters feel genuine in their gender, and the bodies they inhabit clearly have had a role in the kinds of people they became"

    Yeah, this! Me too! Gender equality is different from gender neutrality, and it can be hard to both write responsibly and retain that fact that each of our mind/bodies are a physical reality with their own unique social output and feedback that shapes us. When you bear this in mind, I think the characters in a fictional piece can go beyond being representative of some ideal that is considered "male" or "female" (positively or negatively), and become their own beings who have their own identity both independent of, but still influenced by a gender identity.
  7.  (10204.33)
    @ellenwr, my probelem with the boys and the gender issue is that annie was degraded, and the degradation is at least partly the motivation to move her relationship with a hughie along, it feels like she only exists for hughies character arch, the female hasn't grown as a character and neither has maeve, the other women are just sex objects, It's just a personal thing with me really, i like to see women treated with respect a byproduct of being raised by three women.
  8.  (10204.34)
    I don't have a problem with cheesecake comics -- as long as they're honest about it. I have no problem with unreal women is super hero comics considering the males are equally unrealistic fantasies.

    I do have problems when creative teams are dishonest about their content. If you're drawing Red Sonja girls in chain-mail bikini's admit you're doing it for the cheesecake factor and don't waste my time with BS explanations about why she dresses this way in a blatant attempt to curry some feminist points because that dog don't hunt.
  9.  (10204.35)
    I always thought "She has big tits" was a good enough explanation for Powergirl's boob window.
  10.  (10204.36)
    admit you're doing it for the cheesecake factor

    How? I'd much rather creators at least TALK about the existence of cheesecake and try to justify it in some way, rather than be "honest" ... doesn't that just lead to silent conformity?

    ...I'm not particularly comfortable with the rape-victim angle to the character (it's getting to the point where almost ALL ladies who wants to kick ass need this kind of trauma as motive). But I am in favour of blatant attempts to curry some feminist points. Why is that a bad thing?
  11.  (10204.37)
    From what I've read, I like Power Girl a lot -- it's doing a lot of things Dan Slott's She-Hulk did. But again, I think the boob window needs a better explanation that "she has big tits". Slott managed to work up some quite powerful character work with She-Hulk's cheesecake image... A similar sort of thing with Power Girl would be welcome.
  12.  (10204.38)
    become their own beings who have their own identity both independent of, but still influenced by a gender identity.

    That's the holy grail right there.
    • CommentTimeSep 12th 2011
    This is such an amazing thread. I'm glad that the last thread turned in to this.

    I don't really have anything to add other than I have been falling in love with Big Barda the more I see her in comics. Moments like this, for instance:

  13.  (10204.40)
    How? I'd much rather creators at least TALK about the existence of cheesecake and try to justify it in some way, rather than be "honest" ... doesn't that just lead to silent conformity?

    Not sure where the difficulty lies in this. Artist says "I really wanted to draw a sexy girl uncomfortably-yet-seductively-posed in highly improbable armor." instead of "Her shiny metal bra and silvery panties distract and fluster her opponents and make them easier to defeat."

    I'm not of a mind to think that cheesecake (or beefcake, for that matter) has to be justified in and of itself and not at all certain how that would lead to any sort of conformity.