By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Are women in comics ("Fatal femmes," May 18) treated like second-class citizens? You mean, like in real life?
As one of the fanboys you wrote about in your article, I have to admit that you hit a couple of proverbial nails on the head. At the very least, you voiced an idea that's been understood, but largely unspoken, by both consumers and professionals in the field for decades. Not bad. I am, however, a little concerned about the fact that you chose only to drag the depths of the medium for the worst examples the comics field had to offer in support of your posit. The best talents in the medium have always avoided the sick, misogynistic bullshit that's marred comics, and superhero comics in particular, since the days of Siegel and Shuster. It's not fair or accurate to cast a blanket condemnation across the medium when it negates or demeans the efforts of the point men (and women) of the art form who have struggled to create great comics without succumbing to the stupid stereotypes of the day.
Yes, comics fans are geeks (yours truly included). Very observant. By and large, they live up to the stereotypes of being sexless, antisocial adolescent dopes. It would, however, be a mistake to assume that that description encompasses the whole of comics readership. I understand your article was intended only to depict a particular thematic thread that has reared its ugly head throughout the history of comics in this century, but I believe it's a trend that may be nearing its end as more sophisticated and mature talent enters the field. This side of the issue needs to be given some airtime as well.
Is there a lack of role models for girls in comics in general? Have women been misrepresented and demeaned by superhero comics? You bet. But it's not too different from mainstream media such as film and television in that way, is it? This trend is therefore symptomatic not just of comics, but of the media culture in general. The problem is deeper and wider than the fanboys; they just don't hide their hangups as well.
All things considered, I think the real issue is this: The misogynistic content, not to mention the overall quality of the stories, depends on who the specific creators working on the book are. The same character will be either meat for the grinder or a kickass three-dimensional character depending on who's putting the story together. The good writers have always avoided the crap you're attacking. Why not give them some richly deserved ink? It can't hurt to investigate something other than the lowest common denominator of the subject you're covering, right? Here, I'll give you a heads-up on where to find them:
··· The Dark Knight Returns (DC Comics) by Frank Miller features a teenage Robin named Carrie Kelly who's a far more human and capable character than the Boy Wonder ever was.
··· Promethea (Wildstorm Productions) by Alan Moore (the same cruel, chauvinistic bastard who crippled Batgirl) is probably the best serialized heroic fantasy being published anywhere in the world today. The main character is a refreshing blend of nebbishness, vulnerability, and unexpected dignity and resourcefulness that's neither helpless ingenue nor overblown cartoon amazon.
··· The warrior women from Transmetropolitan from DC and Planetary and The Authority from Wildstorm Productions (all written by Warren Ellis) are simply the toughest, coolest, smartest supergrrls in comics, period. They stand toe to toe with the guys, face the same dangers, and usually wind up taking the same lumps in the process.
··· Francine and Katina from Strangers in Paradise (Abstract Press) by Terry Moore aren't a couple. Really. What they are, however, are a couple of the deepest, most wonderfully flawed people in love you'll ever meet. The fan base for this book seems to be a straight-down-the-middle mix of hopelessly romantic boys and girls.
··· The women of Love and Rockets (Fantagraphics) by Jamie and Gilbert Hernandez just rock. They constitute the bulk of the cast, and their adventures run more toward the "just trying to get through the day" variety. Love, death, friendships, punk rock, and no spandex in sight. And, hey, they're even, y'know, ethnic too!
You should be able to find these books at any decent comics shop; I suggest Awesome Comics at Abrams and Royal or Keith's Comics at Mockingbird and Greenville.
That's my five cents' worth.
Roberto Bustos Jr.
Comic Books are written for a largely male audience? No shit!
At first I thought about prattling on and on, listing comics that have female characters written in a better light. But I thought better and decided to point out a few of the bigger issues I have with your article:
When you take the small handful of examples of comics writers' maltreatment of female characters out of the context of their storylines, then it becomes very easy indeed to become an alarmist--even more so when you look at the Women in Refrigerators list. However, when you set these in the ongoing story of a book that has been running, in some cases, for 30 to 50 years, it's not as bad as it seems at first.