But what about Batman and Superman? They’ve all shared their fair-share of different origin stories with Superman: Earth One is a recent example. But how far will these reboots go?
I also do not mean to be a worry-body, but isn’t a few months till launch seem like too short of a time to find new writers for some of these comics? I’m definitely no Comic Book Engineer, but I do know comics take months in advanced to produce a story. How will the quality appear? What about crossovers? Retcons?
One thing I should also mention is – although this is a drastic overhaul for DC Comics – this is not “new” by any means. Remember in the early 90’s when Marvel did this to a majority of their comics? It bombed big-time. In fact, it upset people so much that they rebooted Fantastic Four TWICE just so that the numbers could sync up. Here’s the cover of Fantastic Four, Volume 3 #71. Or is it Volume 1 #500? Look at the number on the top left of the cover and decide for yourself.
I’ve been playing a LOT of The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction for my Xbox 360 as of late. Yes, it’s the game based off of the Edward Norton movie, however, it’s actually pretty good.
To elaborate on what the game is like, imagine you’re playing Grand Theft Auto 3, but you’re the Hulk.
I’m not kidding! (And take THAT, Bi-Beast!) The Hulk game features the actual landscape of Manhattan – landmarks and all – for you to destroy. It’s a vast improvement on other superhero video games, and I’m always drawn back to it because it’s open-ended, mindless destruction, yet constant fun. It’s sort of mind-boggling how well the game is crafted despite it being based off of a movie, as usually movie-based games are garbage. It’s far-superior to Eric Bana’s movie-based game, simply called Hulk, and of course, it is much more dimensional than the original Sega Genesis game. And no, not just more “third-dimensional.”
But I do believe that Batman: Arkham Asylum is the best superhero video game ever created. (Awaits the Billy Madison references). It captures everything which is Batman in a brilliant and exciting game. There’s no doubt about it, Arkham Asylum nails the board on the head when it comes to make a great game. Although it does not have much replayability, it triumphs in excellent gamepaly. It did such a great job in fact, that Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions was trying to imitate the scope of the game.
Now that I have myself thinking. . .
Let’s go back to when these games really started to rise. I obviously cannot talk about EVERY game, but I’ll try to hit the main ones on the head. Most importantly, ones I’ve played.
The earliest superhero game I can recall playing was The Amazing Spider-Man on my Gameboy, back in the 90’s. Look at those sweet graphics. You can almost tell it’s Spider-Man from them! All I can remember was always being out of web-fluid. Man, being Spider-Man IS hard. With no power came tons of responsibility to beat this game.
But the game was not as hard as the Silver Surfer. This game would have me screaming at the television, while throwing my Nintendo controller away, freezing my console and possibly wrecking a vase or three. I’m sure you’ve all heard by now the notoriously difficult struggle this game was to everybody who played it. If you made it past the first stage on any level, you’ve gone further than I have. I mean, look at Mephisto’s face there. He’s scary as heck, and he wants me to get through his level without touching anything? You ask the impossible, sir.
Does anyone else remember The Tick? He was fun! He was a breath of fresh air after the mind-numbing game play of Silver Surfer. In fact, him and Spider-Man/X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge were a blast! A large variety of characters to chose from: Spider-Man, Cyclops, Storm, Gambit, and Wolverine – each with their own levels. Oddly, Cyclops had his X-Factor costume in-game, but I’d just be looking like a real nerd if I’m reaching for continuity in a Nintendo game. I still remember seeing the commercials for this game back on my VHS copy of the X-Men pilot episode “Pryde of the X-Men.”
That’s right. I own it – Australian Wolverine and all.
Lucky for me, after X-Men another great game came out: The Incredible Hulk for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. I remember paying $50 back in the day for this game at a local independent video game retailer. Yeah! Those existed too! You started off as Bruce Banner and had to get beaten up to turn into the Hulk. And man, it was a blast! Villains like Rhino, Abomination and Tyrannus were such thrills to fight – but challenges too. I always had a hard time beating Tyrannus – who was the second-last boss, next to the Leader.
Since Marvel was kicking so much butt in the video game business, why not release something else crazy? Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage was probably one of the most exciting video games to be released in that day. With a large roster of villains, an over-abundance of cameos, plus playing as Venom – this game was a child’s dream! Cloak and Dagger! Hooray! Too bad that the game was SO FRIGGEN’ HARD! I was always to happy to play it, but once you get into that second stage, climbing the building, it was all over. I hate you, Shriek!
Fortunately at this time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade fell into my lap. Suddenly everything became brighter. I don’t think I need to say much about this game. It was, and still is the best TMNT game in existence. It surpassed the first game immensely, while made us laugh at how repetitive the third game was. This is what defined side-scrollers to me at such a young age. This game was, and still is, relentless fun. Unfortunately, the fun of side-scrollers were about to fall into the gutters again, when I played X-Men for the Sega Genesis. I just couldn’t win, could I? Faulty game play, plus ridiculously difficult levels made for a frustrating series of questions like, “Why did they make this game?” or “Why did we rent this again?” Ah, as kids, we didn’t know what we were doing.
Well X-Men learned from its mistake, as X-Men 2: The Clone Wars came out with not only a great game, but had such an effective first-level song that I still play on it my bass guitar every-so-often. I can still remember teleporting with Nightcrawler becoming tremendously more fluid than that of its parent game while the controls also smartened up. Beast was fun to play as, while Psylocke also made a great player. No one ever plays as Psylocke. I did! She rules. Result!
Speaking of results, The Adventures of Batman & Robin was another great game. Based from the animated series, this DC game triumphed where Batman Returns failed, and Batman Forever was going to fail. Not to mention, it just looked really sharp and clean in comparison to Batman Returns.
With the release of the PlayStation, the world was lucky to retrieve my favourite Spider-Man game to-date, aptly called, Spider-Man. With the original voice actors from the ’90s cartoon series for Spider-Man, Doc Ock, and Black Cat, this game was a sure-fire hit for me. Bonus marks were awarded to this game with incredible alternate costume selections, including Captain Universe, plus a great alternative gameplay: What If? mode. I can remember countless hours of my life going into this game as it was probably one of my favourite releases for the PSX. The game was released on the Nintendo 64, however the What If? mode was removed for it. Lamesauce. The sequel wasn’t too bad either. Y’know, Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro?
Speaking of lame, remember Superman for Nintendo 64? It was probably one of the worst games I’ve ever played. Nothing says “Superman” like literally flying through hoops for points. Not to mention, the graphics were beyond sub-par for a game of its caliber. There was really no excuse for this mess. And to continue this mess from DC, none were as atrocious as Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis for the Nintendo Gamecube. What’s that? You didn’t hear of it? Neither did the rest of the world. Lucky them.
Much like the first X-Men game which improved with a sequel was the X-Men Legends series with X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse. The first game was a bit of a flop with graphical issues and camera angles ultimately ruining the gameplay, but the sequel was mind-blowing fun. Online multiplayer, mixed with a great roster of characters, Marvel and Activision went all-out with an incredible game and tons of nerdy tidbits for X-Men fans from all over.
Shortly after Legends 2 release, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction cames out, and still, I’m having a blast rampaging throughout Manhattan. Whatta rush!
But no! Another Marvel mutiplayer-based game comes out, and pummels away with another great sequel: Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 1 and 2. The first game featured a unique storyline about Dr. Doom taking over the world, and also features over 140 Marvel characters throughout the entire game. A well-paced, well-rendered game with monumental cut scenes left my jaw dropped to the floor. Its sequel featured stories from Marvel’s Secret War and Civil War storylines and added in quite a hefty amount of Marvel’s B-listers, showcasing how vast the Marvel Universe is. Although the story was not nearly as exciting as the first game, action and excitement lurked every corner. Not to mention the game made me feel terrible after I beat up Patriot for the first time. The second time – not so much.
Following Marvel’s run of great games, DC fought back hard and rocked the boat with Lego Batman: The Videogame. If anyone has played any of the Lego-based games thus far, you know how much fun they are. Simply put, the Lego games bring out the child in all of us, while Lego Batman brought out the fanboy. Mixed characters from all over the Batman universe appeared and made for excellent gameplay.
And with DC’s Batman, up next could only be the greatest superhero game in existence: Batman: Arkham Asylum. ‘Nuff said.
With Batman: Arkham City coming out shortly, plus Marvel’s new games, Thor, X-Men Destiny and Spider-Man: Edge of Time coming out, we’ll be riddled with plenty more superhero games and more memories to be made. P.S. Edge of Time is written by X-Factor’s Peter David. I’m really excited for that!
And don’t worry that I hadn’t mentioned EVERY single game out there. I’m purposely forgetting games like X-Men: Mutant Academy, Marvel: Rise of the Imperfects, Marvel vs. Capcom series (as it’s not 100% comic hero), Marvel vs. Street Fighter, Spider-Man: The Movie, Fantastic Four, X-Men Origins, X-Men: Arcade (“Welcome to die!”), Astro Boy, Iron Man: The Movie, plus various X-Men and Spider-Man Game Gear games, etc., solely because they’re forgettable.
Since I can, I suppose my top-five favourite superhero games are as followed:
As a kid in the ’90s, there was one thing on my mind – action! I loved watching the ’90s Batman, X-Men, and Spider-Man cartoons. I gathered myself around the television daily to witness the sheer brilliance these cartoons possessed.
I am well-aware the movie is based off of a comic book run by Jeph Loeb & Michael Turner. I am also quite aware that the animation in the film is very similar to that in the comic. What I am shocked over is how blatantly awful the film was for younger viewers. From the camera angles chosen, to how much physics breasts were given, it was completely over-the-top.
Taking the Cake
Now to be fair, looking back at the X-Men cartoon in the ’90s, Rogue wasn’t really a conservative girl, nor was Wolverine a regular looking guy – he was shirtless in plenty of episodes. However subtle those instances may have been in the X-Men cartoon, Superman/Batman Apocalypse take the cake.
I will also mention that Superman/Batman Apocalypse is rated PG-13. However, if you have a kid in a video store and you see a Superman cartoon movie for them to watch, the last thing you check for is the rating. It’s a cartoon movie based on a beloved world icon – what could go wrong?
Yet, if this is only for teenagers to watch, what kind of message is it giving them?
The first thing I’d do when I crash land on a different planet is show as much skin as possible.
The basis of the movie is that Supergirl, or Kara, came to Earth and is trying to fit in with society and find herself a home. For the uninitiated, Supergirl is Superman’s cousin. Without really going into the story, there’s a montage where Supergirl takes women back to the Stone Age.
“What is like to be a girl in the city?” Kara asks Superman.
Cue montage of Supergirl getting her nails done, shopping for clothes, and being the stereotypical “rich girl” while good ‘ol handsome-boy Clark Kent pays the bills. Ah, being a girl is sweet, isn’t it? That is, as long as you have a strong, rich man to pay for everything.
“Don’t you like my new bathing suit, cousin?”
Ah, Kara Zor-El. Welcome to Earth. Learn our archaic ways.
Isn’t she like, 14?
For those familiar with the story, you will also know that Kara gets kidnapped by Darkseid to become the leader of his army. Superman and Batman get Wonder Woman and Big Barda to help out with the rescue. Of course, when they ask Barda to help, she just took a shower. How inconvenient for the viewers.
“Thanks for stopping by. Don’t mind me. I won’t get changed.”
And once the team travels to Apocalypse to save Kara, Wonder Woman and Barda get caught up fighting the Furies. Thanks to some particular camera angles, we can see why the Furies want to fight them. They’re jealous of Diana’s “attributes.”
Tons of thought goes into these camera angles.
Luckily, Superman knows where Darkseid has hid Kara, so he’s goes in to save the day – only to find out that Kara is now mind controlled by Darkseid. AND! She’s changed wardrobes too, ’cause, y’know. Less clothing makes you more evil.
Is this legal to watch?
So you can probably see some of my conundrums with this film. Of course, there’s tons more to show. The movie is riddled hyper-sexualized women.
I am aware that this isn’t the first movie or comic book to do so. If you looked at my previous entries I linked at the beginning of this blog, you’ll notice that I’m ragging on Marvel very hard for what they’ve done before.
And while, sure, the movie art matches how the comic was drawn, by no means did it need to be done this way. By no means do the particular camera angles chosen NEED to be there.
Taking Women Back 50 Years
I’ve shown you the physical proof of what the movie provided. What stuck to me is the lasting effect it would leave upon others.
Arguably, comics are directed towards young boys. Obviously, showing women the way they are in this movie would definitely drive those sales. What is wrong is the movie takes one limp forward and multiple steps backwards.
For sure, Kara learns a lesson in this film about finding herself. But at what cost?
If I were a young boy watching this movie, I’d be excited for the action, and even more blown away by how attractive all of the women are. Kara is just being a young girl, barely old enough to be allowed to watch the movie she is starring in. Men on the other hand are the strong and mighty. Although women can fight, they’re not nearly as cool as Superman or Batman. All they like to do is shop or get kidnapped and wait for men to rescue them. Your typical hero story.
Wonder Woman may be considered an exception as she “owns” an Amazon Army. However, the army loses a battle and Superman is left to save the day.
Now if I were a young girl watching this movie, I would notice that shopping is a lot of fun. I would love to look as good as Kara in those clothes and it would be even better if I didn’t have to pay! Wonder Woman has her own place, but cannot defend it unless Superman is there. Then the Furies fight Barda and Wonder Woman, I would be bombarded by breasts, hips and lack of clothing. By the end of the film, I would be happy that Supergirl found her way, but still be left to feel empty. There would be no reason for me to re-watch that movie and the images shown would be imprinted in my psyche forever.
In fact, the movie insults the strength of the already-strong female characters as men save the day.
Wait. What did she just say?
I know that comics can never really change. They will mostly be marketed towards boys, and that’s just how it is. But what can change is a mindset on how women should be portrayed.
Comic panels do not need to have massive breasts on every female character, nor does a movie need to shift camera angles to show particular features to its characters.
If you’re looking to impress boys, you do not have to do it by taking women back years of progress. But by doing so, you’re preventing a female audience from even caring, while still being damaging in the process.
It’s not a double-edged sword unless you make it to be one.
Hey folks! This week, I’m deciding on doing a review-rant. Yes, they can be one in the same.
As I read this week’s copy of The New Avengers #10, I can’t help but be ridiculously upset with how it turned out.
This is about retcons. Although it is getting ever-so-closer to Marvel’s big Fear Itself event, I can’t help but feel driven to DROP this comic due to the over-ridiculousness of this retcon.
For those who are unfamiliar with what a retcon is, in a nutshell, it stands for “Retroactive Continuity.” What that means is one may go back into time and adjust the events of the past to explain what happens in the future.
For a hypothetical example, we’ll take the X-Men. Most people know that Professor X started the X-Men, consisting of Cyclops, Angel, Jean Grey, Beast and Iceman.
Now imagine a new issue of X-Men, where they explain their history, and suddenly there was a new X-Men who was part of the team – but no one ever talked about him because he worked on another island, behind-the-scenes. Then suddenly in the future, that character appears and everyone’s best friends.
That’s retcon. But it’s a part of comics. How can comics from the 60’s, with arguably simplistic origin plots still be relevant in 2011? Well, retcons help with that – and for the most part, they can be very interesting and neat.
In this recent issue of The New Avengers however, I’m down-right disappointed.
The New Avengers #10 Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Mike Deodato & Howard Chaykin (pencils), Rain Beredo & Edgar Delgado (colours), Joe Caramagna (letters), Mike Deodato & Rain Beredo (cover). $3.99
The issue flips back and forth through timelines between 1959 and the present. Starting off in ’59, we see Nick Fury and Dum Dum Dugan finding Sabretooth in a bar. After mild negotiations, Fury hires Mr. Creed as an Avenger. Yes, Sabretooth.
Fast-forwarding to 2011, and continuing from the previous issue, the New Avengers attack a H.A.M.M.E.R. installation, headed by Superia. Mockingbird is shot, and for most of the issue, we watch our heroes fight off the endless H.A.M.M.E.R. hordes while calling an ambulance for Mockingbird. Literally, that is all that happens in the present.
In 1959, after retrieving Sabretooth, Dominic Fortune, Namora, Kraven, and Bloodstone are hired – all to be “secret” Avengers. Indeed, a league of villains are now Avengers – all before the “official” Avengers team arrives on the scene in 1963.
Leaving on a strong note, we are brought back to the present where rescue vehicles have arrived for Mockingbird, only for Superia to raze the entire ground beneath them. If it wasn’t for comics, Mockingbird would for sure be dead. But we won’t know until next month! Ahhh!
The comic as a whole does not stand out as anything spectacular. As soon as the first villain was hired, I really could not have been surprised to see anyone else be taken in as the idea of this particular retcon ruined any fun I would’ve had with this comic. I digress.
Deodato is on the ball with this issue, penciling all of the present-day moments, while Howard Chaykin focuses on the 1959 plot. Although both are strong artists, I felt as if Chaykin’s style was a bit light for the seriousness of the book. At one part, Mockingbird is splattered in blood while Spider-Man holds her in his arms. The scene is gritty and dark, moody and in despair. The next scene however, we’re brought to a location where shadows disappear and faces are less-serious than prior. Although I greatly enjoy Chaykin’s art, I feel as if it was wrong for this particular issue. And yet his take on Sabretooth was a bit too childish for me, while his Kraven was spot-on.
And after this issue, I’ve concluded that Deodato draws an excellent Thing.
As for the structure of the story, flipping back and forth between fun and sunny places to a battlefield hurt what seriousness the story had. It felt like flipping channels between an intense episode of Law & Order: SVU and Teletubbies. It was sudden with no transition. It simply didn’t work.
Certain dialogue choices by Bendis also took away from the plot. Nonsensical remarks spewing from Thing early on, then to Ms. Marvel versus Superia mindless jabs, and Spider-Man having fun looking for a cellphone to save a life – all of it damaged the intensities of the moments drawn by Deodato. However, with Chaykin’s work, the dialogue seemed more natural. How is this happening?!
Definitely taking a swan-dive, The New Avengers needs to pick up some smart choices in writing and plotting for it to be saved.
I love comic books as much as I like turtles. In result, retcons are commonplace and something which I should expect from comics. But not since Secret War, have I felt that Bendis did a retcon so over-the-top that I disagree with it.
Now admittedly, the story is not done yet, so who knows where it will go – but I feel as if it’s not going in the right direction. But when you take serious villains – some which are notorious monsters, and put them on a team, you have a problem. And I’m not talking personality issues, either.
If anything, it seems down-right insulting that the first Avengers – regardless of being “official” ones or “secret” ones are the bad guys. That would be literally like suggesting Professor Xavier had a set of X-Men before the actual X-Men came out – it’s absurd and mind-boggling.
Retcons usually have to explain themselves later on, too. Recent retcon’s like with X-Men’s Deadly Genesis, or Spider-Man’s One Moment In Time, worked for me, because they were explained and honestly, could not be as far-fetched as the “powers that be” were involved with Spider-Man’s, while telepathy and clever storytelling was a part with the X-Men’s. With the New Avengers, we’re fortunate that most of the villains are either dead, or haven’t been used in so-long that the retcon does not have to be adjusted in the future. Sabretooth and Bloodstone are dead, while Kraven is dead-but-alive-now-doing who-knows-what. Dominic Fortune has been MIA for years now, and Namora disappeared with the Agents of Atlas since its cancellation – unless I’m wrong with that.
I guess I’m really just disappointed with how this came about. Admittedly, it has TONS of time to sway another way, but I really feel as if this is just going to hurt my faith in The New Avengers for the next little bit.
Amazing Fantasy #15, CGC 9.6 sold for $1.1 million
“The sale of this legendary comic is second only to the Guinness World record 8.5 VF+ Action Comics #1, which marks Superman’s 1938 debut that was also sold by http://www.ComicConnect.com last year for a whopping $1,500,000.” – Comics Price Guide.com
I’ve been aware of Marvel artist, Greg Land, for quite a few years. He has a very particular style of drawing – especially when it comes to facial expressions and body positions. He is currently working on X-Men-related stories, but has worked on Ultimate Fantastic Four and the Ultimate Power mini-series. Land also has a long history working with DC books, such as Nightwing and Birds of Prey. He also had a long run with the CrossGen’s series, Sojourn. Needless to say, Land has a great amount of experience with his short-time being in the comic drawing business.
However, it does not take a rocket scientist to see Land’s work as questionable.
But let’s backtrack slightly for a little bit of comic book art history and law suits.
You may notice the likeliness of other celebrities in things, such as Arnold Swarchenegger in the newest rendition of Terminator: Salvation, or Carrie Fisher as a pez dispenser as Princess Leia. Needless to say, the celebrities do not have a problem with this because the movie studios and a few others own the rights to the likeliness of their characters. The celebrities “look” in those movies, for those specific franchises, are owned. It’s like Warner Brothers owning the rights to Batman movies. Fox cannot make a movie with even a hint of Batman in it because Warner Brothers own Batman and most things related to him. It sounds pretty standard and easy-peasy.
When looking at comics, it has been well-documented that artists have used other photographs, as well as celebrities, commercials, movies, and so on, as photo references. It has been done for decades in comic books. One book in particular dealt with a lawsuit, being Marvel Comics’ Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #15, where the likeliness of Christian musician, Amy Grant was used on the cover. The lawsuit ended with “a US District Court seal[ing] an out-of-court settlement between Grant and Marvel in early 1991, with a consent decree that Marvel did not admit to any liability or wrongdoing.”
The question is, how far can this go? Enter: Greg Land.
I’ll start right off-the-bat, stating that I am not accusing Greg Land of anything. I am just simply providing material which has been found via the internet. What I would like to bring forward, is the accusatory remarks placed on Land about his work. He has been accused by folks on the internet for copying other artists’ work, as well as his own. He is also known for presumably taking a lot of images from pornography, which even you may believe with the images provided, such as the many orgasm-esque shots women give (ie. the one above). Why he would trace his own work, I can assume is for one of two things: First is with the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” argument, while the second is that he is lazy. You can read about the controversies with Land’s work here and here.
From a MyCup o’ Joe interview with Joe Quesada, he discusses Land’s work: “What’s happened with Greg is that it’s become a witch hunt and way too many people are having way too good a time hurting a tremendous artist’s reputation when he isn’t doing anything that is any different than any of us. Every line he draws now comes under scrutiny and in so many cases, people are ‘seeing’ things where are none.” Quesada also goes on to state: “I could go on and on about how many times Greg has bailed us out from some very bad deadline crunches.”
Comic critic Brian Cronin from Comic Book Resources, states about Land’s work on Uncanny X-Men #510: “People speak often about the ethical issues of someone copying a drawing directly from an image, and those concerns are likely fair enough, but when I think of Greg Land, my problems are not so much ethical ones, but the fact that his process results in terrible art and particularly terrible storytelling. When you only have a certain amount of poses to work with, you just can’t tell the story the correct way. And when the characters all look more or less the same (as they’re all based on the same small set of models/”actresses”), it just makes the book that much more incoherent.”
Needless to say, we have two well-established comic book people arguing two different points. One says what he does is okay, while the other suggests that he is blatantly copying other images and recycling older sketches.
I will leave you with these images pulled from many of his comics. I do not know all of the “authors” that made some of the GIF or JPEG images, but thank you. I did however, use some of the photos (most notably, the X-Men #500 ones) from an awesome blog named JimSmash. His blog is hilarious and well thought-out, so go there now! (Or after you finish reading this one). He also gave me great permission to use his photos. So thank you, Jim! He also referenced me to the 4th Letter.net blog, where they came up with an animated GIF image of the Uncanny X-Men #500 cover you’ll see below. As for the rest of the pictures, I found them through various Google searches leading to message boards. There are more photos like these too – I just have not uploaded them all.
As I’m sure you have read, I did a blog post a few weeks back about women in comics. Actually, it was entitled “Women in Comics.” Go figure.
This time, I wanted to sort of tackle that subject again. I was completely unaware how much attention it would take on as that blog remains my highest-viewed blog at this time.
What I want to discuss in this blog is what the title suggests: Body Images in Comics.
I have read comics my entire life. I watched television shows based on comics. I have seen movies based on comics. Through them, I have seen heroes use their strength to help the defenseless. I’ve seen the weak preyed upon and defeated by good. By all means, comics are reflections of good versus evil. They are a comment on our society and its laws. They comment on what happens in the world. They stand out to say something which others can not. In a way, comics are parallel to our real world and a way to open discussion for real world events.
Some basic examples is the Marvel Civil War story arc, Spider-Man’s “great power comes great responsibility,” Batman’s struggle of a dual identity, X-Men’s fight against racism, the Avengers constant struggle for good, etc. There’s thousands of ideals people can pull out from comics.
But there is one idea that is arguably neglected. Comics show off wrong body images for their readers. And I do not mean, “the Hulk is an impossible body image to replicate.” Keep on reading.
People can read comics and take away great values from them. Yet when it comes down to basic hypocrisy, comics take the cake. (And me too, unfortunately for reading and supporting them.)
If arguably, comics are to reflect how we are as a society, then we all must be ashamed of ourselves for what people are in comics are: the impossible. I’m also not talking about super powers and crazy nonsensical time-traveling plot points.
Disasters of examples
As I have mentioned (and probably could go on about it for decades, I’m sure), is the impracticality of Emma Frost. As you may already know, I am a huge fan of the X-Men and X-related comics. I read everything available from them. In one of the most recent X-Comics (X-Men: To Serve and Protect #1), Emma Frost is in a beauty salon getting herself all prettied-up when Mandrill shows up and tries to seduce women to go out with him.
Emma steps in and states that women are not to be seen just for sex and gives Mandrill a run for his money. The whole irony is that Frost is at a salon – starting off in the story naked – no doubt. Obviously there is a huge contrast to Frost’s hypocrisy in the story, but it is not focused on.
Taking a look at Emma Frost above in the cover of Uncanny X-Men #532 (to be released in a few months). Now, I’ll take a look into Emma Frost inside The Marvel Comics Encyclopedia (2006, pg. 104). Emma’s height is 5’10”, and her weight at 125 lbs. To quote Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar, “Yeah. In your bra.” Admittedly, those “facts” from the book are ludicrous.
Let’s take a look at Cable now. He’s probably a fan-favourite for most X-fans – heck – most comic fans love Cable. He’s just so awesome. Look at him! I mean, he’s not going to take crap from anyone! He’ll kick anyones butt! Alas, he’s also an impossible person. With all that gear on him, plus his physique, he has no problem running or walking, nor do I ever recall him getting exhausted from running with that gear on in the comics. Deadpool on the other hand has more definition to his body than a dictionary – where his body may be proportionate to his size, his muscles are only too-extreme for his physique and only weighing 210 lbs at a height of 6’2″ (2006, pg. 76).
I’m sure no one is going to turn to their significant other and say, “Look more like Emma Frost,” or “Beef up like Cable,” but these people are meant to be icons in a world where their stories are a vehicle for commentaries on the world. These characters are meant to be voices to the masses – whether it be to tell the story or to represent a message or value. Yet they are dwindled down to eye-candy or impracticality – arguably taking away any message the comics have. (And case-in-point with X-Men: To Serve and Protect #1).
But EVERYONE? Really?
Some comic characters are just fine with who they are. I mean, take a look at Dardevil below. He is in great shape for what he does, and it is not really exaggerated unless the artist wants to explode him with huge muscles. But traditionally, below is how everyone pictures Daredevil. Then there is Forge. He has never been considered a physically strong man and works primarily within sciences. As such, he has never been overly muscled for a male character.
We can physically see a difference between the realistic views and the ridiculous ones. What I am trying to get at is that we as a society can recognize sex in ads and condemn them for being too racy. We like comics to be our voice over many issues, yet a lot of us sit back and get bombarded by hyper-sexualized characters within comic books and still may argue that it is fine.
It’s in real-life
For another case-in-point, let’s take another look at that cover with Emma Frost on it, followed by this ad from Jean Paul Gaultier apparently selling perfume. Is there really much difference between the two?
It is pretty crazy. Yet we’ll be the first to condemn that ad before we even think twice about the comic book, for the most part. And that’s just the comic cover.
But women aren’t the only gender sexualized in comics. (Given there’s only one other gender, I’ll leave it to you to guess who else is sexualized.)
And Captain America’s is someone to look up to. He is a hero by definition. Looking at the Calvin Klein ad, a “MAN” is defined as a parallel to how the model looks in the ad. The image is uncanny to Captain America, or even Superman.
Even as the years have progressed, what a “man” should look like has became more and more over-the-top. Let’s take a look at Michael Keaton in Batman from Tim Burton’s 1989 movie and compare it to Christian Bale’s Batman in The Dark Knight – Christopher Nolan’s 2008 epic. (You can click the pictures for a closer look on both.)
Note how Keaton on the left is less-defined than Bale on the right. The muscle mass between the two costumes are both ridiculous, yet the Bale costume becomes more-than-necessary.
And sure, perhaps you do not recognize the subtle differences between the characters. Perhaps you do not care whether or not you can see George Clooney’s Batman nipples. Maybe you even think that I am over-exaggerating this too much.
All I see is a problem though. People love being superheroes or villains. People look up to Spider-Man and Wonder Woman as icons who will save the day. And yes, readers of comics look at stories not solely for their comments on real-world events, but also for the entertainment. I’m sure the characters are drawn the way they are because it also sells. Sex sells, so comics can too.
But do they have to?
I mean, we can have great stories without hyper-sexualized characters. I doubt X-Men would have a lesser fan-base if Emma Frost wore a parka for the entire run. Oh wait, she tried in X-Men #166 from 2005, and it totally defeats what I just suggested. She’s saying, “Chilly, isn’t it?” (It took me a long time to remember which issue this was in).
Do we need comics to be like this? No. Do we want comics like this? Some of us do, probably, yes.
But ultimately what do these characters serve the way they are? A hypocrisy in our thinking? Is it sexual deviancy? Is it a degradation of our society? Does it objectify people? Does sexuality make the characters more prominent? Does it matter what the superheroes are wearing?
Maybe all of the above or none of the above.
The fact is that it is still there. Where the world in comics is a parallel to our own real world, perhaps their physical perfection is simply a mimicry of our fallacies as a society.
Maybe their falseness is a contrast to our reality?
I also know I’m not alone in these feelings. Two blogs I read regularly will often times bring up the idiocy of comics when it comes to the portrayal of body image.