This is definitely a lot more tasteful than most comics out there. Psylocke in X-Men still runs around with her ninja thong on, while Starfire is putting DC in hot water. But Power Girl, DC’s stereotypical and clichéd “big breasted hero” is actually getting toned down. It’s not only incredible to hear, but it’s a major step in the right direction in terms of finally making comics more – what’s the word? Oh yeah! Appropriate!
Now I will admit, Power Girl’s “window” defined the character as a sex object to the point where she even would admit to the ridiculousness of her clothing in the comics. It gave her sass – that’s for sure.
But it’s become some what of a joke within comics. The impracticality of the character and her physique – she wasn’t considered so much sexy, as she was more of a joke for the writers and artists to play along with.
And everyone seem to be okay with this?
I think the even bigger joke is, however, the amount of people arguing against the costume. While I won’t reveal who said what, allow me to post some comments against this overhaul with Power Girl’s costume that I’ve read:
“Wow this new costume sucks, as does most of the new DC costumes for the female characters at least, in an effort to pander to feminists they have basically butchered the classic looks of a lot of characters that had been the way they were for decades.”
“I can feel my Inner Feminist crying for what I’m gonna say, but I like PG classic look, it’s you know [. . .] Power Girl looks like a character who likes to be sexy for the hell of it. [This new] one… is not an example.
But at least the new costume is kinda boring and I can just hate it for that. And Heck, this might mean that DC is finally paying attention to criticisms! (I can Dream)”
“She needs the window. That’s one of her signature characteristics, like Superman’s s-shield.”
“Hate. I loved her boob window and all the jokes that came with it.”
“P.G.’s too P.C. for me now.”
And yes, some of those comments are from women too. Regardless of their opinions, my opinion says Power Girl’s old costume was objectifying.
Now, I’ll also go to say that there are a ton of people out there who are for the closing of the window, but simply hate the costume. So be it. Personally, I don’t care for the costume either. For example, it took me a few minutes to realize there was a “P” around her neck.
But that really wasn’t the problem to begin with, was it?
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.
I love comic books (in case you hadn’t already figured that out). But to get right to the point: I hate how women are depicted in comics. I mean, not all women in comics are bad – and I’ll define “bad” shortly. All I mean is that there are discussions about women’s depictions within films and music which is excellent. Violence against women or over-sexualized women for no reason should be put to an end. However, arguably because they are considered juvenile to the masses, comic books get ignored, and thus women can be depicted however they want to be.
Now by “bad,” and what I want this topic to be primarily about, is that women are more and more drawn ridiculously sexual in comics. It’s over-the-top sexual. And it has to stop.
In my own opinion, I find movies less credible if they have unnecessary nudity in it – whether it be a random topless woman or a woman wearing white while it’s raining outside, etc. And as such, I feel angst against comic books which place women into those situations. The same goes with men too – but that will all be going in another blog down the road.
While I don’t mean to pick upon Marvel, I do read their comics primarily. But other comic companies such as DC with Wonder Woman, Super Girl, or Power Girl are just as guilty.
Case and point with these pictures (click on pictures for larger view):
X-Men #131 (March. 1980) to Emma Frost #1 (Aug. 2003).
Marvel Chillers #3 (Feb. 1976) to The Mighty Avengers #3 (July. 2007).
“But I thought Ultron was a male robot?” you ask. “No. He’s now a naked woman,” I reply.
Avengers #202 (Dec. 1980) to The Mighty Avengers #2 (June. 2007).
I will mention that the Emma Frost comic is rated PSR+ (Parental Supervision Recommended), while both The Mighty Avengers comics were Rated A (All Ages). Odd, eh?
However, you can clearly see how the women in these comics, within a timespan of about twenty years, are unnecessarily over-sexualized.
Despite my love for X-Men, Emma Frost’s clothes are completely unpractical at all-times.
As for Ultron, I’m sure you’re as shocked as I was upon noticing it. Ultron first appeared in 1968, and up until 2007 was a robot and arguably a male.
Then Moonstone as Ms. Marvel during the Dark Reign series – all she seemed to do was try to sleep with and manipulate every one on her team.
Firstly, I do not condemn the characters. I love Emma Frost’s character. Her and Cyclops are great together in comics.
Tigra has been on the back burner for popularity as of late, but she has always been an Avenger who has held her own.
Moonstone was still bad-ass in the comics and an essential part of the Dark Avengers.
Loki’s a shape-shifter, so he does what he pleases and it screws with everyone.
Ultron is considered one of the best villains in the Marvel Universe. (And yes, I know recently he has been shown as a “male” robot again.)
These women (and men as women), by all rights, are strong, important characters.
But! They all are entirely inappropriate for their audience. “Their” audience being comic book readers of all ages, as they are accessible to everyone. Male or female. As a male, I am shocked on how far comics will go for the unpractical. Sure, comics are already imaginary worlds where the impossible happens – but they also reflect our society and to some extent – our values. But how women are depicted in some comics are blatantly degrading.
It just seems unfair for these women to be forced in and subjected to male scrutiny. Ultimately, it is manipulating what societies values are – both within and outside the comic realm.
Emma Frost is always talking about her plastic surgery which has been done – and how she is “beautiful” because of it. Tigra has rarely put on any clothes, while Ultron did not wear any at all! These individuals are strong characters and are vital to their stories – but they do not value themselves.
And that’s not their fault, either. They are being written and drawn by someone who does not stop to think.