Friday, May 12, 2006

What Annalisa Wants

Over on LiveJournal, there's a movement forming in response to Spoiler's death. Well, rather in response to Dan Didio's attitude about Spoiler's death. MonkeyCrackMary is building a website to champion her cause and will have some extra space to host similar causes (are you listening Katma Tui fans?).

I hadn't paid muich attention, as I'm not even diagonally a Spoiler fan, until this conversation started. It has a few good comments, and one really stuck out at me. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the threadlink to work, so I'm just going to quote it here.

From Annalisa Maria LaRoza in response to the post Make some noise:

Hm. What do I want from comics' and their females?

Let's see..

I want to be able to read comics without ending up feeling split on whether or not a certain female character's death was 'sexualized' and over-glorified to ridiculous proportions *cough*nuffsaid*cough*

And then you have the differing mentalities behind the death sequences: A male character goes out like a 'true hero' by being blasted in the head. A female character is put through a drawn-out death sequence involving torture with power tools, being beat up, shot, and dying in bed, denied medication. And why does that happen? Because "She deserved every bit of it"?

And then when you show the aforementioned female hanging from chains by her wrists, with her cape hiked up to show her tight spandex-clad form that leaves little to the imagination, or a shot of her dying and her costume shredded up to expose her..yeah.

I'm sure there's better examples than the ones I gave, but those are what came to mind. Though Infinite Crisis was basically a blip on the radar as far as things are concerned for me, Phantom Lady's death, when compared to her male teammates, was the most gruesome.

Black Condor simply got shot through the chest by a beam, while Human Bomb got pummeled to death and imploded on himself. The last one was brutal enough, but then you have Phantom Lady being torn up by claws, when she gets stabbed through the breasts. We're treated to a closeup of her dying, the sword/staff shoved through her exposed chest, and blood gushing out. Then we see a (shadowed out but still overly gross) shot of her dead body starting to slide down the object that impaled her.

It didn't bother me as much when I first read it, as I basically breezed through the issue. But after going back and reading IC as a whole, it's just..wrong. A 'quick' female death I could think of would be Pantha, as she was done away with in a single panel. But then, they showed her decapitated head boucning around on the ground don't know.

There should be more diversity in the females, especially in the young girls section. We need more fully-developed (in personality, people!), strong girl characters, and less tarted up, overly-'sexy' ones who seem to only be put in for the 'girl' character slot and the 'sex appeal' factor.

Sadly, in most of DC's team books, the females in the group fall to the background alot. Outsiders has three, yet the guys get more of the attention and spotlight. Then there's the point of the girls being mostly in the T&A/sex factor there. Teen Titans' girls were simply 'there', though it looks like we may see some developments with Rose and Cassie.

There doesn't seem to be enough 'cute chick' characters one can relate to these days in DC. They're either killed off, forgotten, or fall into the old cookie-cutter mold.

Marvel has this problem as well, but as I don't regularly buy their books, I wouldn't know how long it's gone on for. The same thing could be said for Image and other related companies.

It's funny looking at the old Silver Age comics when female heroes (Batwoman, Bat-Girl, etc.) were portrayed as extremely vain and weak-willed against men, and couldn't hold their own without getting 'runs in their tights' or busy fawning over the 'hot' man heroes.

Though some things have changed, others have remained the same. I'd like to think that if characters back then were written today, they'd have more to them. However, with how things seem to be going..I'm not so sure now.

For instance, with the new Batwoman, whoever it may be, will she only be shown as "Hey! Look, it's like Batman, but not! 'Cause she's a WOMAN!". If so, that's scary, to say the least. I want to be drawn into a book by the character and their own appeal, not by the 'because she's hot and a girl' hook.

...I just want to read comics without all this complication, that's all.

I think I've blathered enough on the subject. That's what comes to mind, though.


  1. Obviously she didn't look closely enough at Black Condors death.

  2. The thing about Pantha's lurid death was that it wasn't heroic at all, it was very ignoble and campy. She was done away with an accidental swat of the fist. It wasn't even a "quick" death - why the hell did we need those two panels? They luridly showed the gratuitous violence. It was a meaningless death there for shock value, and she still had her origin unresolved. I think it's even more creepy and damning that it was Pantha's death Johns and everyone jokes about, the fans creepily overenjoying it. But when Superboy was rumored to die, then they all started whining and protesting on places like ComicBloc. And rumor has it a greiving Red Star is going to cause a split with the Titans and later lead his own Titans team that the main team loathes, so Pantha's death becomes just another plot device.

    I started reading the comics from the Titans cartoon, and I started to gather info on Pantha and pick up back issues with her. What I liked about Pantha was that she was a strong, rebellious character trying to deal with her painful past without completely caving to others. I think she had a ton of potential. What bugs the hell out of me with her effective substitute, Rose, is that Rose basically gets away with the same "hostile," wise-acre behavior because Johns has her act the Sexy Bad Girl stereotype, slinking into Tim's room naked to seduce him. I don't think sex appeal was ever factored into Pantha's character.

    I dunno, maybe I'm overreacting and alone in my opinions about Pantha. I might just be a big kook...

  3. The lack of heroic deaths for heroes bugs me a lot - and not just for female heroes. These folks are superheroes - any time one of them dies it should be a heroic sacrifice of some sort. Accidentally getting your head knocked off by Superboy doesn't count.

    And female characters do seem to get quite a lot of it - at least in part, I think, because most of them are considered "supporting characters" to the male leads or "incidental characters" in general. Incidental characters get the most abuse in all superhero comics - because they're B-List or C-List heroes who can't hold their own book, they're considered useless except as cannon fodder for showing how badass your villain is.

    Also, I think that female heroes suffer because of when they were created or who they were created by. The major A-List characters were created during WW-II or the Silver Age - anyone created after that is more of a niche character, at least at the moment. And in that group the big-name female superheroes I can think of right now are - Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Scarlet Witch, Marvel Girl and Invisible Girl. Of these, only the first three are really what I'd call "A-List" characters - and two of them are knock-offs of male heroes. The other three suffer from the fact that they were created as members of teams AND from the fact that they were created and originally written by Stan Lee, who apparently couldn't write an interesting female character if his life depended on it.
    (I suppose a case could be made that Phoenix/Jean Grey/Marvel Girl is an A-List character - but if so it wasn't Stan Lee that brought her up to that level).

    I'm not sure if comics are where we're going to get good female heroes nowadays, though. Mainstream American superhero comics are generally a fanboy wasteland right now - the big two are gearing their books to the existing market more than they are to opening up new ideas. No good new characters have been created for these companies since the early 90s - when it because obvious that "creator owned" was the way to go with this stuff and not get screwed over in the end. The best you can hope for with new characters is a recycling of old trademarks into new ideas - but these are fought by the diminishing fanbase who don't want changes made to "their" characters (and sometimes with good reason - a lot of times these changes are bad ones).

    Instead, I'd look to superhero inspired works to see where the next generation of female heros will come frome. Sure, you still have your cheesecake heroines (Lara Croft) but at least most of them kick ass on their own and aren't used as incidental characters to someone else's storyline. Plus, there are a good bit of non-cheesecake female supers out there too (Buffy, Kim Possible, Xena, and Juniper Lee all come to mind). I think in the popular culture these types of characters are now set - its only in the slightly reactionary area of superhero comics where we aren't going to see many of these types of characters.

    (Wow, that's a lot of babbling - I think I better stop.)

  4. Hey. I happen to be the girl in question (a friend pointed this out to me) you're quoting. No, I'm not offended, I'm actually kind message got a look at.

    As for Black Condor (II)'s death and the Human Bomb's, I will say their deaths were pretty damn brutal. I'm not denying THAT, but Phantom Lady's was the one that rubbed me quite wrong.

    Condor's end was in one panel (two if you count his death being reflected in Dee Tyler's visor), and HB's demise took up a full page. Though note that when Bizarro's fists are pummeling him, we don't get as much up-close-n-personal detail (well, as far as my eyes can see. Like everyone else, I'm probably just as right/wrong) as we do when Phantom Lady gets skewered.

    Dee gets five panels (two of her getting clawed, three of her being stabbed through), and yet..the feeling I get is quite wrong, to say the least.

    PL: *skewered* "Why?"

    Deathstroke: "Sorry, darlin. Just business.."

    The line, coupled with the scene, just really sends a chill. Of course, maybe it was MEANT to.

  5. One writer who got it relatively right, I think, was James Robinson in his treatment of Liberty Belle in The Golden Age: She has a TV news career in the reactionary postwar era(some twenty-plus years before women managed in the real world), defends herself against an abusive boyfriend, delivers the killing blow to the villain at the end, and doesn't automatically want to re-marry her former husband in the epilogue, satisfied just to "shack up."

    On the other hand, you have Miss America, who it seems gets to shoulder all the abuse and degradation Liberty Belle dodged.

    I expect for lots of the people who don't see a problem with women's portrayal in comics, it would entail a radical (for them) paradigm shift in their perception--a big wow moment like a "magic eye" puzzle you didn't even know was there resolving itself. Which sadly speaks to the larger issues of gender politics in culture, the mindsets we're branded with.