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      CommentAuthormister hex
    • CommentTimeMay 11th 2010
     (8208.1)
    An interesting piece at Robot 6 got me thinking about race and gender in comics. The Legion of Super Heroes, for instance, is pretty lily-white, other than a green guy, a blue girl and the orangey shape-changer. I don't think you could put one of the Big Two ahead of the other in terms of racial politics - Marvel seems to have more non-white characters but quite a few seem to have 'Black' in their name, while DC has integrated Vixen and Black Lightning (there it is again) into the JLA for almost twenty years now.

    And gender? Two words - Power Girl. One ,ore word - stripperiffic, as in costume. DC seems to be ahead of Marvel in this respect (Batwoman, The Question) while Marvel has ... Girl Comics. (Perhaps I missed it but I haven't seen the second issue of that.)

    Anyhow, long winded preamble out of the way, what are your thoughts on race and gender in comics?

    http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2010/05/race-and-superheroes-touching-fanboy-politics-third-rail/
  1.  (8208.2)
    I'll allow this, but if it turns into Racefail/Genderfail wank, it's getting closed, and offenders will be removed.

    Also, briefly:

    Marvel seems to have more non-white characters but quite a few seem to have 'Black' in their name


    You understand that those characters were created in the Seventies, right? These are legacy properties, rather than someone in the year 2010 deciding that these are good names..!

    And:

    DC seems to be ahead of Marvel in this respect (Batwoman, The Question) while Marvel has ... Girl Comics

    Jessica Jones?
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      CommentAuthorPaladine
    • CommentTimeMay 11th 2010 edited
     (8208.3)
    My thoughts are: one step forward, seven Mark Millars back. A few years ago, I attributed it to cluelessness, but I find that harder and harder to believe. These days, I go more for carelessness. I think for most comics, gender and race are simply not an issue, people don't think about it when producing it, and so they go for what they are most familiar with / represents their idea of their customers best: white straight guys. I mean, look at the redesigns here on this very website and how often – even if given more or less total freedom – the redesigned characters are white men. And the problem is not any single series or image (well, mostly it's not), but the effect of so many series doing the same thing. And then, of course, there's someone like Mark Millar, who just might do it on purpose (for provocation).

    Edit: I hope that's not too much into genderfail / racefail territory.
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      CommentAuthormister hex
    • CommentTimeMay 11th 2010
     (8208.4)
    @ Warren - Thank you, sir. I think (I'd like to think) we're mature enough to discuss this.
    You understand that those characters were created in the Seventies, right? These are legacy properties, rather than someone in the year 2010 deciding that these are good names..!


    I DO understand that. The Black Panther always made sense and Black Lightning was always Rule Of Cool for me.

    DC "brought back" the Milestone characters and hasn't really done much with them. I know quite a few fans who loved Milestone and would like to see them get the attention they deserve but DC seems so ... slow. Meanwhile, Marvel has positioned Luke Cage as a major player in their universe and he's not quite the "jive-talkin'" character he was in the 1970's. And yes, Jessica Jones headlined her own series (sadly cancelled- why?) - in fact, most female superheroes can't sell or don't get the leeway a male character might get, vis a vis low sales. DC's Manhunter was an awesome book and I'm glad she's back, in some capacity, as a back-up or in Birds Of Prey (another book that survives on the edge of cancellation). She-Hulk's gone through more series than I can name but also don't forget, before he became a "movie star", Iron Man was always one of Marvel's lowest-selling books.

    white straight guys
    - remeber Extrano, from the New Guardians? He's a good reason not to create a character that walks around saying "In my gay opinion, as a gay man ..."
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      CommentAuthorJacen
    • CommentTimeMay 11th 2010 edited
     (8208.5)
    The people that work in the industry are predominantly white and male like the characters. Perhaps it just feels disingenuous for them to tackle a gender, orientation or ethnicity other than their own when creating leads in new corporate superhero books where a character's gender or ethnicity (unless a white male) becomes a statement about said character and their place in the hero-verse. This is less of an issue when you leave the spandex world. The "we need more minority voices creating comics" argument has been stated clearly and ubiquitously and as the industry evolves I'm sure this issue will resolve itself assuming the audience continues to acquire a taste for something other than the 50 year old media properties that run the charts.
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      CommentAuthorjoe.distort
    • CommentTimeMay 11th 2010 edited
     (8208.6)
    jacen states pretty well how i feel, and further if you have to make a conscious effort to make characters other than white, it feels really forced to me.

    and honestly, i dont care enough to want to read something that seems contrived just to feel a little better about the racial mix of my comics.

    the tiny little project i am working on now has three main characters. two white guys and a black guy-but now im worried about making the single black character do anything so called 'stereotypical' or whatever because of things like this. unfortunately the comics buying public seems to be mostly white men, its like getting upset there arent more girls at hardcore shows...there seems to be this idea that because of equality ALL people should be into ALL things when in reality some things just skew to particular groups of people and than it sadly gets a little insular.

    edit: i would like to specify that i am only really addressing the racial part of this, as i feel (outside of the mainstream big two stuff) that gender isnt really as huge of an issue these days.
    • CommentAuthorFan
    • CommentTimeMay 11th 2010
     (8208.7)
    > Anyhow, long winded preamble out of the way, what are your thoughts on race and gender in comics?

    Fwiw the majority (more than 50%) of the web comics that I read regularly have girls as *the* main characters:

    * Questionable Content
    * Gunnerkrigg Court
    * Subnormality
    * Dresden Codak
    * Out There

    They're all written by men, fwiw. Only a small minority (including "Templar, Arizona") of the comics I read are *authored* by girls.

    Also, characters in films like the bride (_Kill Bill_) and River Tam (_Serenity_) suggest that people (or boys, at least) can be fans of girls-as-action-heroes without the girls being "stripperific".

    I'm kind of a fan of Evey (_V_) too. I don't know about you, but I identified with her at least as much as I did with V.

    The strongest (most dominant) characters in FreakAngels are all girls; whereas the boys include a loner (Jack), two baddies (Mark and Luke), a tin foil hat (Karl), and Connor.
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      CommentAuthorJJH
    • CommentTimeMay 11th 2010
     (8208.8)
    And yes, Jessica Jones headlined her own series (sadly cancelled- why?)


    Because Bendis finished with that part of her story and moved her over to The Pulse.
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      CommentAuthorMG
    • CommentTimeMay 11th 2010
     (8208.9)
    Chris Sims over at Comics Alliance just did a great piece on "regressive storytelling" and how it often white-washes characters.

    Jacen hit a lot of the high points.

    One writer I've always found gets female characters and makes them as nuanced as any male, is Brian Wood. DEMO, LOCAL, even his more "mainstream" stuff like DV8 feature female characters who aren't stock, off the shelf damsels/femme fatales. He's also worked with some really talented female artists (Rebekah Isaacs and Becky Cloonan) who draw women to look like humans, not porn stars.
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      CommentAuthorPaladine
    • CommentTimeMay 11th 2010 edited
     (8208.10)
    Greg Rucka is also a writer quite capable of writing good women (it's him who did the recent Batwoman and the Question, right?). And frankly, I think as a writer, you can't hide behind your gender. (Comic book) writers also write about professions and situations they have not personally experienced – that's just what writers do. And that includes women and other ethnicities. Though I can understand there's a little "damned if you don't, damned if you do" aspect to that.
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      CommentAuthormister hex
    • CommentTimeMay 11th 2010
     (8208.11)
    There was a fairly big controversy in Canada a few years back about "appropriation of voice" - can (or should) a 'white' writer appropriate the "voice" of a minority character - black, Asian, female, what have you. Two informal "camps" emerged - the "writers should write whatever they want" camp and the "white writers don't know what it's like and risk getting it wrong" camp. Personally, I felt the whole thing missed the point. Writing a stereotypical character of any race is wrong and is just lazy, bad writing.

    @Paladine - yes, Rucka writes good women. Gail Simone writes good men, without being stereotypical. What they both have in common is that they're looking at the character first, rather than the gender or ethnicity of the character. Warren's work is loaded with examples but here's one - Nathan Kane, hero of OCEAN is black. No one ever mentions it (because it's the future; also, because it's irrelevant). The station chief (forgot her name) is South Asian - again, her race is irrelevant, she's "just" a character in an adventure story - but in the larger world (ie outside of comics) would such a character be seen as a role model for young South Asian girls, based on her competance/kick-assery?
  2.  (8208.12)
    Nathan Kane, hero of OCEAN is black. No one ever mentions it (because it's the future; also, because it's irrelevant). The station chief (forgot her name) is South Asian

    Iraqi, actually.
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      CommentAuthorPaladine
    • CommentTimeMay 11th 2010
     (8208.13)
    Well, I am a white guy, but I can tell you that even I light up whenever there's a character with a skeptical/atheist outlook in the media (and doesn't get converted), so I imagine that yes, she would be seen as a role model.

    By the way, the final shot in Ministry of Space still haunts me, where suddenly the whole wonderful alternative future gets a twisted bend. Kind of brought the point home.
    • CommentAuthorIsaacSher
    • CommentTimeMay 11th 2010
     (8208.14)
    Tim Gunn made an interesting comment recently in the "Crazy Sexy Geeks" youtube series. He was sitting down with the show's host, and they discussed some classic and modern superhero costumes, and talked about costumes in general.

    Power Girl was specifically mentioned. Tim Gunn absolutely *loved* her costume, stating that she came across as owning the look, and being strong and self-confident. The conversation then moved into women's visual portrayal in comics overall as hypersexualized. Gunn asserted that the men in comics are just as exaggerated -- skintight costumes outlining bulging muscles, with overdeveloped biceps and pecs instead of D-cup breasts. It was an interesting take on it. He also talked about how he was in favor of outfits and costumes that accentuated gender differences rather than muting them -- that a woman's outfit *should* emphasize her breasts or any other notable physical feature she has, just as a men's tuxedo might nicely frame a strong set of shoulders.

    My only disagreement with him is that male costumes probably aren't *quite* as sexually suggestive -- you don't usually see Superman's package straining against his tights the way Wonder Woman's breasts strain against her bustier, for example, but instead the men just seem to have a blank flat space between their legs.

    I'm nervous about touching the race issue other than to say that it would be nice if race *wasn't* an issue. Wishful thinking, of course. I'm in a mixed marriage -- a white jewish guy married to a black woman from the south. It would be nice if my eventual children would have some neat mixed-race fictional heroes to look up to and read about, in addition to real life mixed-race figures like President Obama. I'm reminded of the Parkour issue of GLOBAL FREQUENCY; the heroine (an Indian woman) is climbing the giant wheel, and is spotted by a small girl who is also Indian. The little girl says something like, "Look, daddy! Spider-man's a girl and she's just like us!" It stands to reason that a heroic figure who looks something like yourself is going to have more emotional resonance for you -- it's easier to identify with the character, to imagine yourself in that character's place. So increased representation of non-white races in fiction is nice, so long as it doesn't devolve into uncomfortable sterotypes. "Thank goodness you're here, Doctor SuperJew!" "Oy gavalt, I flew all the way over from the bank, and I'm just kaput! Nu, SuperJive Brother, I brought that fried chicken you like so much, and it's kosher!" We don't need any more of that.
  3.  (8208.15)
    "Gunn asserted that the men in comics are just as exaggerated -- skintight costumes outlining bulging muscles, with overdeveloped biceps and pecs instead of D-cup breasts."

    I remember when I had done with costumes in THOR, and just had the guy run around shirtless like Ken Branagh in FRANKENSTEIN.

    And now Ken Branagh's directing the THOR film. I feel like I did something occult and shamanistic there.
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      CommentAuthorPaladine
    • CommentTimeMay 11th 2010
     (8208.16)
    IsaacSher: Also, don't forget that while male characters may be as exaggerated, they are exaggerated with musculature – female fighters, on the other hand, mostly are sleek. It's not like Hollywood's fighting women, granted, but compare She-Hulk (who is one of the more muscular women) to Hulk, flawed as that comparison may be (since She-Hulk's more refined look also implies that she has more control over her power).
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      CommentAuthorMG
    • CommentTimeMay 11th 2010
     (8208.17)
    @IsaacSher:

    I love Tim Gunn. There was a point in that interview where he was talking about the red and blue supermen and he sounded almost insulted for the character.

    It's worth noting that every Pride event I've been to since I was a teenager has featured some awesomely ripped men in very "accurate" superhero costumes. They always look like fetish gear. This gentleman appears all the time at comic conventions and I can assure you, he has many fans who don't give a damn about Captain America.

    But to the point, it's one thing to accentuate the female (or male) form, it's another thing to mutate it into some ungodly photoshop creature. It goes beyond simply making male fantasy creatures into the realm of bad draftsmanship. It's worth noting that Neil Gaiman created a crush object for a whole generation with his anthropomorphic "Death" and it's her brother Dream who goes around half-dressed most of the time.
    • CommentAuthorIsaacSher
    • CommentTimeMay 11th 2010
     (8208.18)
    @Paladine -- The Hulk-SheHulk comparison is an interesting one. Hulk's core concept is that he is muscles and testosterone personified -- all brawn, no brain, so he's gargantuan and overdeveloped even by the standards of most other superheroes. She Hulk is a direct contrast -- muscular, but also very sleek, and as you put it, refined. That was a deliberate design choice, as she's meant to represent an intelligent, selfconfident, and controlled opposite to the male Hulk. She's also often portrayed as sexually aggressive, and that's usually done in a positive way. I remember an old Byrne graphic novel of She Hulk where she was shown gently manhandling the smaller Wyatt Wingfoot, and the tone was clearly a "look at the happy domestic bliss of these young lovers" vibe.

    There aren't a lot of female characters with the Hulk Overmuscle look -- the only two that come to mind immediately are Stompa of the Female Furies and Anaconda of the Serpent Society, both of whom are obscure minor villains. Or Big Bertha of the Great Lakes Avengers, who's usually played for comedy value, sometimes even darkly comic.
  4.  (8208.19)
    im not sure what we are talking about now besides just listing off points...but if we are talking about gender inequality in relation to unrealistic depictions let me say: i have loved comics my whole life. and my girlfriend doesnt look like power girl and i dont look like bruce wayne. are we supposed to be bothered by this? im not being flip, i just really dont know what we are discussing at this point (already).
    • CommentAuthorIsaacSher
    • CommentTimeMay 11th 2010
     (8208.20)
    @joe.distort -- Well, the point I was working with is that while some point to Power Girl as a horribly demeaning treatment of women (gargantuan breasts, cleavage window, bare thighs), there are others who see her as fantastic and empowering (ownership and confidence in her sexuality, on par with friggin' SUPERMAN for powers, intelligent leader of the JSA, not in any way a demure or simpering victim). Your Milage May Vary, a tvtropes likes to put it.

    My apologies if I've derailed things -- is there a specific point you'd like us to return to? I'm game.