This post is written by a member of our community, Avram Baskin. All opinion expressed are the author’s own.
The other day while I was visiting my local comic book store I picked up a copy of Marvel Universe 1. The cover of the magazine is what will be the cover art for the rebooted Avengers #1.
The depiction of She-Hulk reminded me of drawings of female super heroes in the broke-back pose — an anatomically impossible pose that shows off the characters (usually) large breasts and butt at the same time. The connection is “anatomically impossible”.
Well, in the interest of accuracy, women can look like that drawing, but only after continuous use of steroids and breast-enlargement surgery. With a little research I came up with the name Natalia Trukhina. She’s a pretty close approximation of that picture of She-Hulk. She also freely admits that she couldn’t look that way without steroids.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully support the first amendment and artistic freedom and I have no problem with women pursuing whatever athletic interest they find fulfilling. That’s especially true because I’m the dad of a 14 year old daughter. But because I have a fourteen year old daughter, I’m aware of the implications of body shaming and the various ways that our culture objectifies and demeans women. There is a difference between a woman choosing to dedicate herself to an athletic goal and a male artist deciding to depict a female character with the combination of an impossibly muscular physique and exaggerated breasts. One is liberating, the other is demeaning.
How do I think female super heroes should look? They should look like normal women who happen to have powers, super or otherwise — like the female super heroes in the movies and on television. I’m especially thinking about that with Black Panther in mind. It’s rightfully lauded for it’s depiction of it’s primarily African-American cast. But it is also iconic because it features five strong female characters — role models for girls of any race.
I think it’s ironic that in the wake of that Marvel movie we get this drawing of She-Hulk, which doesn’t serve any purpose I can see, other than to objectify the character for the purpose of fulfilling someone’s weird masturbation fantasy. Instead of trying to titillate a real or imagined male demographic, comic books should be providing positive and realistic looking images of women that young women like my daughter can identify with.
Recently, I came across an article on Women and Hollywood regarding a survey Fandango did that looked at women’s movie-going habits. Women have often been an untapped market in both movies and comics. “The industry” often claims it knows what sells to which market, namely action movies for boys and romantic comedies for girls. This data thankfully pokes holes in that theory.
Some data highlights:
- The majority of women surveyed chose action movies (with 22% of the vote) as their favorite movie genre, while only 9% chose romance or romantic comedy as their favorite genre.
- 82% are more inclined to see a movie with dynamic female characters.
- 75% prefer to watch movies with diverse casts
- 77% contend that female characters are often stereotyped in blockbusters.
- 75% would like to see more female ensembles in the movies.
- 62% feel that women are not equally represented in big screen roles.
This survey highlights some of what we ladies have known all along. We love action movies or a good Hollywood blockbuster. We also want more of them with diverse casts, especially female-led ones. We want to be able to see ourselves in these female characters. That means well-developed characters, complete with flaws, who are not fridged or victimized. Bonus points for not filtering that character though the male gaze.
The recent success of movies like Wonder Woman and Black Panther hopefully drives home the points from this survey as movie-goers vote with their feet and wallets. There have also been earlier films that paved the way and gave action movie loving women something either enjoy and inspiration to future film makers. I’ve always loved these types of movies, so here are some of my favorites.
In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk saying that the comics industry has shifted to making social justice a priority in its storytelling, and that “social justice warriors” are ruining comics by pressuring the industry into representing these issues.
What these folks fail to realize is that telling stories about current events and the changes we’re going through as a society has always been a part of comics – as a dated periodical, comic books are necessarily a product and reflection of the times in which they were created.
The earliest days of American comics coincided with the rise of Hitler and the beginnings of World War II, and the heroes of that era and the adventures they had are entirely reflective of that. When the war ended and the economy boomed, the stories became lighter and more imaginative. The 60’s and 70’s brought women’s liberation, the civil rights movement, and a growing sense of eco-consciousness, and characters like Diana Prince, Black Panther, and R’as al Ghul appeared in stories with those themes.
Recently, we worked with our friends at Comicazi to present examples of how comics have represented social attitudes and values, as well as how they’ve changed over the years. Called “Issues on Issues,” it was part museum-style exhibit, with comics from the golden, silver, and bronze ages on display, and part comic salon – an opportunity to discuss the books and their topics with others. Attendees were asked to consider – whose story is being told? Who is telling that story? And how would we tell it today?
Comics aren’t necessarily promoting a particular answer to social problems in America, but like all art, they reveal the hopes, fears, and dreams of the times in which they’re created. The comics displayed here are examples of how these themes have been portrayed in the medium throughout its history. Some of the books we displayed at the event have had a lasting impact, while others clearly missed the mark, or represent views we no longer ascribe to as a society. Still, others were misses in their first incarnations, but have changed and adapted from their well-intentioned but clumsy characters into nuanced, well-thought-out characters. As more people with different gender, cultural, ethnic, sexual, and religious identities are writing and drawing the stories we read, the perspectives and ideas being shown become more diverse and authentic. While this seems to dismay a small, vocal minority of fans, it’s also opening doors for new readers to fall in love with comics for the first time.
If you have been reading along you know that we have been focusing on love this month….not necessarily romantic love, but rather those things you might be a little embarrassed to love, and well, love filtered through the eyes of some dinosaurs. This month I am going to tackle what is probably the most difficult type of love. Loving yourself.
Two of the ladies hit big birthdays this year, and hitting a big birthday can trigger a desire for introspection. You’ve made it this far, so what did you learn? What would you tell 20-year-old you? This, plus, have any of you seen this Vogue list? Frankly, I barely got through the thing. It’s astounding in its lack of relevance and practicality. But it did inspire me to , as our Honorary Lady Gary says, turn inward, and take a look back at what I did right, what I did wrong, and what stuff makes me realize that yeah, maybe I’m doing all right.
Your mileage to this list will vary, you might think it’s terrible, or just as irrelevant, but I hope it inspires you to make a list of your own so you can take stock of what you learned, how you have grown, and what a long way you’ve come baby.
Tiny Doom’s 40 things I learned by 40
- Don’t listen to your High School Guidance Counselor
- It’s ok not to want kids
- You are just as valid if you are a mother of pets, plants, other humans, dragons, or nothing
- Be reliable
- Be capable
- Be open to compromise
- It’s never a good idea to idolize someone, everyone is human
- Know what colors look good on you and wear those
- If you want a tattoo, get a tattoo
- Do your research
- It’s ok to be a little weird at work so long as you can back it up with #’s 4 and 5
- Friendships drift and that’s ok
- Pay your bills on time
- You can adapt to almost anything so don’t be so afraid of change
- Put stuff in your Amazon shopping cart and then give it 24 hours before you hit buy
- Look forward, not back
- Avoid self-help books
- When it comes to skin care most expensive stuff isn’t always the best stuff
- It’s ok to drink most of your liquid in tea form
- Eat your vegetables
- Scarves really do keep you warm
- Take care of your feet! I cannot stress this enough
- You don’t have to smile when someone tells you to
- Always act like you are supposed to be there-it’s ok to fake it
- Watch all the crap movies and TV you want
- Say no
- Red lipstick
- It’s not bullshit that doing nice things for other people can make you feel better
- Bring your lunch to work as much as you can
- Make a family that’s not related to you by blood
- Mittens are better than gloves
- Just do the thing, you’ll feel better when it’s done
- Walk there when you can
- There is a certain joy in day drinking (as long as you don’t make it a habit)
- Don’t be afraid of new technology
- Always keep your own bank account no matter how in love you are
- Try to travel if you can
- Learn to make things-food, socks, plans
- If people make you feel bad about yourself, don’t hang out with them
- Never turn down a piece of pie
Ok, if anyone else feels like taking on a list, I would love to see it.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Ladies fans! In honor of the holiday, we’re bringing you a very special Fashion Raptors column. You see, our friend and Honorary Lady Gary had this blog years ago where he talked about some of his collectibles. His great passion is for Bobby Orr paraphernalia, but he’s no slouch at comic collection, either. A subset of that collection is romance comics – those treasured tales of the 60s and 70’s. Part of these books involved advice columns – the mostly teen, mostly girl readers could write in and lay out their romantic and other dilemmas for the book’s agony aunt to solve. Gary shared a few of these, and we thought that, beyond the historical interest, there was an opportunity here for the Fashion Raptors to weigh in with their own take on the questions. So here it is, the Fashion Raptors’ advice to the lovelorn, next to the originals. Enjoy!
Wow, just wow. No matter how tough we New Englanders are, our insane winters always find a way to surprise and challenge us. This winter has already proven to be no exception. So, the question on my mind is: Is there a way to actually enjoy the winter as opposed to just surviving it?
In the interest of sharing more than just my methods, I reached out to my fellow ladies to get some of their ways of beating the winter blues. They should be following up during their weeks.
Disclaimer: I feel that it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t take a moment to acknowledge that both depression and seasonal depression are very real things. The methods we discuss here are meant to be fun and might be helpful to some, but are by no means designed to replace a doctor’s or therapist’s guidance.
The new year has arrived, bringing with it the usual vows of self-improvement, opportunity for fresh starts, and hope that the coming twelve months will be better than the previous. It’s a traditional time for optimism.
Unfortunately, New Year’s Day 2018 doesn’t find me full of anticipation for the new year. Aside from the bigger problems of the world that haven’t disappeared with the 2017 calendars, my husband and I are both sick. We’re also still recovering from the emotional drain of the holidays. And temperatures aren’t venturing above 30 degrees. Don’t get me wrong; my life is good and I’m still grateful for what I do have.
Still, it can be tough to find enthusiasm for the new year when I’m more inclined to curl up in a blanket with my dogs to stay warm. However, I’d like to feel that sense of a fresh start and anticipating the new. So I am focusing on something I am definitely looking forward to in 2018. I’ve asked the other Ladies what they are looking forward to as well so click through to find out what we can’t wait for. Continue reading
So, I am guessing we all survived Thanksgiving? Perhaps a little over-indulging occurred, but hopefully we all had a generally nice time? That said, as we look down the barrel to the December holidays, it’s a reminder that one of the more stressful parts of the holidays can be getting folks with different political leanings together and having them share a prolonged meal or gathering. You can only talk about how good the yams were for so long (I made the yams and they were good). It’s never a bad idea to have a stash of safe conversational topics that you can use when talk starts to shift from “crazy weather we’re having” to “here are my thoughts about climate change.” There are still a lot of potential gatherings to get through, so perhaps consider a discussion on what super power you would like to have.
I know the usual question about powers is flight or invisibility. And while that can spark an interesting conversation as well as give you a look into your companions’ inner psyche, neither of those powers really appeal to me. I’m not a risk taker nor do I really care about sneaking around places. My fave superpower and the one I would want is the power to manipulate probability. There are several representations of this power out there, and many genre shows do an episode featuring a “luck” power. Some examples of this power are Longshot (Marvel Comics), Domino (Marvel Comics) Luck Virus (Red Dwarf), Felix Felicis (Harry Potter), Lucky Rabbit’s Foot (Supernatural).
I’ll be the first to admit on that if you were to look at this choice on a deeper level, this is the power a control freak would want. The ability to have incidents of chance come out the way you want them, for better or for worse? Yeah, that’s one of those abilities that has a good chance of turning the user into a super villain, fast. That’s why much of the time this power has a shadow side or time limit. For example, Longshot’s ability to use his probability powers is tied to positive usage. Should he use his powers to hurt people or with ill intent, it reverses and has a negative effect on him. Or in Supernatural, once the user loses the lucky rabbit’s foot, her luck turns bad to such a degree that it usually results in imminent death.
As much as I love this power I was disappointed in its recent portrayal in The Flash episode Luck be a Lady. At one point Barry gets stuck in his own power-negating handcuffs asking “how did this even happen?!” Indeed. There has to be some reasonable probability of a thing happening in the first place in order for the portrayal of this power to be effective, believable, and fun. In another scene, while being an unloaded from a truck, a barrel of marbles is dropped, spilling marbles all over the street…the street that The Flash is running down. Maybe this was some kind of homage to Home Alone but if you find yourself asking, why does a barrel of marbles even exist, then I’m not sure the writers are working with probability, so much as a series of unrelated bummers.
So, what power would you want? If you aren’t sure, start thinking now so that next time someone shows up for dinner in a MAGA hat, you will be armed with the ability to avoid the impending screaming match, which is perhaps a super power in itself.
PS- Our once a year snowglobe workshop is in a few days. Get your tickets now!
I once had a teacher in grade school who told me that she loved to read my essays because she could tell that I was enthusiastic about learning and the subjects I would choose to write about. There was just one problem though. If everything I wrote about was “the absolute worst” or the “absolute best” that wasn’t going to give me a lot of space or freedom to really make careful and thoughtful comparisons. So why is this little anecdote important to my recap of LadiesCon 2017? Because I’m about to throw that advice out the window and use superlatives like crazy. Wanna know why? Because LadiesCon 2017 was THE. ABSOLUTE. BEST.
For those of you familiar with our event last year, the first LadiesCon was essentially a testing ground to see if our vision of an inclusive Con would even be something that the community wanted to see. In a donated office space, we managed to catch lightning in a bottle and learned just how dedicated the Boston comics community was to making an event that was for everyone.
This year, we took that to a whole new level. We tripled the number of panels and doubled our space, guests, and vendors. We reached out to artists and creators who were making things that were original, beautiful, and even a little terrifying. The response from the community was once again warm and enthusiastic, and together we created a colorful and vibrant Con.
Friends, I’m going to be honest – this isn’t the post I want to write this week. I was planning to tell you all about the delightful manga series I’ve been reading lately, but it will have to wait, because once again, Twitter went insane over women in the comics industry, and it feels necessary to unpack that a bit.
If you haven’t been following the story, you can read all about it here, but the gist is that Marvel editor Heather Antos posted a selfie with a bunch of her fellow Marvel lady friends, holding milkshakes. The caption was “The Marvel Milkshake Crew #fabulousflo.” (More on that hashtag in a minute.) What she got in return were a bunch of nasty tweets and direct messages, complaining that the women were fake geek girls (yawn), who are responsible for Marvel’s flagging sales because of their “SJW agenda.”
Now, there were plenty of folks who jumped to Antos’s defense, creating the #makeminemilkshake tag to show solidarity with Antos and women in comics in general. I think the supporters vastly outnumber the haters, and that’s a wonderful thing. What troubles me with this whole foolish business is that it keeps happening, and I can’t help but ponder the series of bizarre conclusions the haters need to have drawn in order to make the comments they did; the crazy leaps of logic that lead someone to speak with abject cruelty to strangers. It does no good to attempt to understand internet trolls, but I can’t help it – I strive for understanding.
What it seems like is that there are three major issues at play here:
1. These people believe that women making comics is a recent phenomenon.
2. They equate these “new” women with story lines that promote a social justice agenda at the expense of storytelling, art, and the beliefs of the readers.
3. They believe that Marvel as a company is complicit in actively promoting said agenda.
So let’s break these down in order.
1. Women in comics is a new thing: Remember that hashtag, #fabulousflo? It’s a reference to Flo Steinberg, who passed away at the end of July from an aneurysm. Flo was one of the earliest members of the Marvel bullpen, hired by Stan Lee as a secretary, but taking on so much more in running the Marvel fan club, wrangling temperamental artists, and sending artwork to be approved by the Comics Code authority. After she left Marvel, she published Big Apple Comix, one of the earliest examples of “indie comics” – a bridge between the underground work that preceded it and the glossy mainstream work. She returned to Marvel in the 1990s, and worked as a proofreader until this year. Flo was truly a comics industry legend – and she was there from the beginning of the publisher that these trolls are lamenting is being ruined by women. And she’s just one example – women at Marvel and DC are not a new thing, even if they’ve been more behind the scenes than they are today.
Which leads us to:
2. The trolls believe women (and pretty much everyone who isn’t a white man) are promoting a liberal agenda. Spiderman’s a black kid sometimes! Iceman is gay! They made Thor a lady! What’s weird about these accusations is that writers on all of the stories are white men. Perhaps the women in the milkshake picture are manipulating everything behind the scenes! Hmm, that doesn’t seem super likely, does it? What makes more sense is the fact that you have characters who are, on average, 50-100 years old, with whom you’ve been telling stories continuously for most of that time. It seems inevitable that changing up who wears the mantle will happen sometimes, and if that change is a dud, they’ll either change back or into something entirely different yet again. Yes, you can make NEW characters who are women or Muslim or gay or trans, but that doesn’t entirely give you a new direction for your old characters. So it goes.
And here we come to:
3. They think Marvel will ruin the company in order to promote a liberal agenda.
Publishing is a business. The trolls point to these character changes, and point to Marvel’s dropping direct market sales, and then lament that if only the publisher saw the error of its terrible liberal ways, they could FIX this! But because Marvel is so dedicated to this SJW message, they say, the company just won’t do it.
There are two main problems with this thought-train. One simple one is that it doesn’t really take into account how comic sales have changed. While direct market sales are still really important, they don’t track digital sales on things like Comixology. So a book might not be doing well physically, but we don’t really know its total reach.
But the part that puzzles me even more than that is the idea that people believe that a corporation would ever put beliefs over profit. For me, a liberal who IS invested in social justice, that’s a really nice thought. It’s also utter horseshit. Marvel cancels books with flagging sales all the time, without ceremony. They don’t exist to promote an agenda, they’re here to sell you comics, and if the troll-dollars matter as much as they seem to think they do, then the stories will change again in due time. We shall see.
In the meantime, this makes me feel that projects like LadiesCon are more important than ever, not because women, non-binary folks, people of color, and LGBT folks are a new thing, but because we’ve all always been here. We make comics. We read comics. We buy comics. And we drink milkshakes and take selfies, and we don’t need to apologize for it.