By Robin Jones
San Diego Comic Con is over for another year. We’ve had thrills, excitement, laughs, terror, upset and boobs. In fact, plenty of boobs. Too many boobs if I’m honest. I’m not here to talk at length about all the announcements at Comic Con, but I will mention some I find intriguing! Batman/Superman should be interesting, as it’s the first time they’ll have been on screen. Zakk Snyder said “Let’s face it, it’s beyond mythological to have Superman and our new Batman facing off, since they are the greatest Super Heroes in the world.” Plus it has also been confirmed that they’re looking at Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns as source material which could prove interesting! I felt that TDKR was the strongest DC animated feature that’s been released so far and the possibility of an already established Batman, older and pissed off at the establishment could be a very interesting premise. However, that’s enough speculation and conjecture on that, as I’m no professional. All I know is that I’m really looking forward to seeing it! And the same goes for X-Men Days of Future Past, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Thor: The Dark World, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Flash, Justice League, Ant-Man, Kick-Ass 2, Godzilla, The Wolverine, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Riddick, 300: Rise of an Empire, The Lego Movie, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Arrow Season 2, The Walking Dead Season 4 and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Plus there’s also the Fantastic Four reboot, Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United, Hulk and the Agents of Smash, Big Hero 6, Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel, Beware The Batman, Justice League: War, Son of Batman, Batman: Assault on Arkham. Add to this, DC comics announcing that their once troubled Vertigo imprint is being revived and revitalised, and the pick of their new crop of titles is a prequel to Neil Gaiman’s much coveted, and it’s a title on this writers wish list, Sandman known as Sandman: Overture. Also, IDW is rejuvenating Little Nemo in Slumberland. I honestly have never heard of that one, but apparently it was a very good, renowned comic. For a full list of Comic book announcement, check out io9′s list here. And now I have blisters on my fingers.
The sheer scale of SDCC has shown that what has happened is we have reached a zenith, a high point, a pinnacle or as Rob Salkowitz, author of Comic Con and the Business of Pop Culture, says, “Right now, we’re at what I [Salkowitz] call ‘Peak Geek,’ a moment when comics culture has taken over pop culture, including Hollywood. When you’re at the peak of a cycle, it’s hard to imagine the future as anything but a trend-line pointing ever upward.” That’s a scary thought, but also vindication for all those people who in their childhood were labeled geek, nerd, outcast, weird and fuckwit for liking comics, superheroes, games and other fandoms. As a culture, we, the comic book community have evolved massively over the past twenty years or so. In his autobiography, one of the contenders for the much coveted title of “King of the Nerds”, Simon Pegg, justifies this by saying “Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.”
And extremely liberating it might be for the majority of us, there is still a major problem that I have with what I will now refer to as our, as in your’s; mine; his; hers; theirs; even the ginger’s, community is not that it doesn’t have strong, balanced female characters, because it does. My problem is that a vast majority of them are overly sexualised. I realise this isn’t a new topic, and has been greatly debated throughout forums, books, comics, twitter and others for years, however I like to stir up talk. Throughout the history of comic books, the industries main assumed target audience has been male, and there is no lack of female characters and leading ladies within the pages of comic book history. There is however, a trend of portraying these women as sex objects. Now, I’m not a prude, not by a long shot, but I think now, in the 21st century, we need to be moving towards much more gender equality across the board. I have children, as do many of my readers, and the thought of my daughter being viewed as purely a sex object scares me. Women’s experiences of sexism and abuse at the hands of so called “Boys will be Boys” behaviour is appalling, as highlighted by the Everyday Sexism project on Twitter, and I am always looking for strong, positive role models for my little girl. Our community is changing and evolving, and female characters are becoming much more grounded and stronger in characterisation, but there is still a long way to go. Laura Hudson, culture and entertainment editor for Wired has been quoted as saying “I have long maintained that to bring in more female readers, superhero comics don’t even need to specifically target women as much as they need to not actively offend them. This is not an insanely hard thing to do, and yet here we are.”
Before anyone ties a bandana round their head, and loads their ergonomically adjusted keyboard with venom and launches into a tirade against what I’m saying, I understand that hyper-visualisation is inherent throughout the comic book world, and that both men and women are objectified in comic books, therefore lets do this head on. Would Witchblade’s armour really offer her any protection in a fight? Did powergirl really need such large breasts? Or such a conveniently placed cut in her outfit? Do the Birds of Prey really need to look like they’ve just slipped off an overly greased stripper pole? If you can tell me that Withcblade’s nipple plates would stop a shotgun blast, then I will happily eat my beard. I love the morals that comic books generally hold aloft, truth, justice, honour, courage, maintaining good friendships and how with great power comes great responsibility. Comics have also been very forward thinking when it comes to homosexuality, racism, equality and encouraging tolerance. All it needs is to nip its boyhood fantasy models in the bud. Many readers have taken it upon themselves to do just that, taking to that Marvel-ous tool, the internet. We have such great sites like The Hawkeye Initiative, who’s mission statement is “How to fix every Strong Female Character pose in superhero comics: replace the character with Hawkeye doing the same thing.” There are also many writers and columnists who are arguing the merits of changing this objectification of women within comic books. I suggest Lowell McDonald’s argument here and Kelly Thompson’s great column for Comic Book Resources here. Women should be empowered and should be shown as strong characters. However, if you’re still insistent on having such objectified images of female superheroes, then lets take them all and put them somewhere where they can be enjoyed by those who feel the need to look at it. Maybe a more adult section in your local comic book shop? I’m not saying confine it to a pervy sex shop or carry it in brown paper bags, but I feel perhaps a more conscientious approach should be taken by comic book artists across the board to present strong characters without the need to pornify the subject matter. We don’t want people being chastised for innocent intentions. Therefore some form of different approach is needed. We’re all adults, and sex is natural, then lets be adult and reasonable about such things and appreciate the art and not the ridiculously huge breasts. I don’t have the answer, but lets debate the question and come up with one as a community. One which works.
Which leads me nicely back to Comic Con and a past time I have always found rather interesting and also raises similar questions. Cosplay. Now, I’m not about to launch into a tirade against those who do cosplay, I have no problem with it whatsoever. It’s no stranger than going out dressed up on halloween or for a themed night out, but strange nonetheless. I dress up, I’m happy to admit, for as many occasions as I can. Some of the costumes are phenomenal, and are the results of hours of hard work and dedication and some are not. But that freedom of expression and liberation to be able to dress up as characters you admire and put on a pedestal is fantastic. It’s also a huge compliment to our community that we are as accepting of it as we are. It again shows the forward thinking of the comic book community as a collective and how we are so accepting and understanding of our outpouring of expressionism. What I dislike is the way that cosplayers are also objectified! Celebrate the costume, the hard work and dedication, the passion and drive of the woman underneath the breasts! Instead of drooling over people who cosplay, why not find someone to include in your life to share that passion and excitement with? Embrace that freedom of expression with your partner, and build upon it in your relationship! Go here and enjoy the sheer dedication of these cosplayers. If you think they’re having more fun than you, then get involved in the action! If you’re single, then start exploring your creative side and meet a like minded individual! And so ends the sermon!
Anyways, I’ve asked you to vote on Hellblazer storylines for me to read! A lot of you were saying you haven’t read any Hellblazer, so perhaps we should read along together and share notes! If I used emoticons there’d be a winky face there…
Anyway, the votes are in. I counted them all on my own appendages, and the story line I shall be tackling is…
So keep your eyes peeled for my view on “All His Engines” and my second, dark wave inspired playlist!
Until next time…
For more comic views and reviews follow Robin on Twitter at @Hulksmash1985