I pass the time during lulls at work with a good novel. There are a few TV series that I follow religiously every week, never wanting to miss a new episode. And there’s nothing like going to the movies and taking in a flick on the big screen. But my favorite storytelling medium, obviously, is the comic book/graphic novel. Unfortunately, fans of the medium are saddled with an unfortunate stigma. You’ve seen it on The Simpsons in the form of the Comic Book Guy. You’ve seen the extreme fans at comics conventions as well, and those whose battle with unfortunate personal hygiene is a Never-Ending Battle in and of itself. The stereotype of the pathetic Comic Geek stems, sadly, from a certain fragment of reality. It’s really frustrating, though, when a major player in the medium and industry contributes to the preconception of the comics consumer as a horny, sexually frustrated basement dweller.
DC Comics, shame on you.
In the publisher’s recently release solicitations for the May 2007 Previews catalogue, two vinyl statues scheduled for release in specialty stores at the end of the year are featured. One is of Catwoman in her Darwyn Cooke-designed costume, zipped open to allow her impossible mammaries to dangle down and draw the viewer’s eye to the Cleavage of the Cat. The pose and how she’s dressed are so laughable that it’s a shame, because it seems as though the craftsmanship put into the statue is detailed and almost realistic.
The vamped up (even by Catwoman standards) statue is the work of a Japanese manufacturer, so there is that cultural tendency toward pop-culture sexualization in play. Also coming from the same manufacturer is a Supergirl statue, with a more obvious anime/manga influence being apparent in the design. Her impossibly elongated torso would make the vinyl figure seem ridiculous in appearance, but overpowering that silly look is the overtly sexual pose and look on a teenage character.
Look at this… She’s pulled up what little top she has to expose as much skin as allowable for a general audience. Supergirl seems to invite, seems to beg for something to be done. It’s like this blonde bimbo is offering a target for a perverse super-hero universe money shot. What casual consumer is going to walk into a comic shop, see this statue displayed (or its box, with the same image) and not wonder what kind of clientele is obsessed with fictional figures originally envisioned as characters in children’s reading material?
Obviously, these are drops in an ocean of sexual depictions of super-heroines in print, plaster and more. They’re so overt and blatant in their purpose as sexual totems for teen boys and young men, though, and it’s impossible to ignore or dismiss.
Is DC to blame for offering such material? One could argue the publisher is simply meeting a demand, fulfilling a certain niche in its marketplace. In order to meet that demand, though, DC is catering to a lower level, stooping to a lower level. Not only does it not need to stoop to that level, but if it still places an importance on its public image as a purveyor of kid-friendly material, it really shouldn’t release such a sexed-up vision of its decades-old super-hero characters.
Of course, DC isn’t the only offender in this regard, and it’s far from the worst. There’s a glut of similarly creepy or disconcerting comics and merchandise that are designed for that niche market.
One has to give DC Comics credit, though, for sexualizing characters of both genders in its newest solicitations. Just check out the Alex Ross-painted cover image for Justice Society of America #7, slated for release in July. It depicts the newest member of the title team, Citizen Steel, a young man carrying on his family’s heroic tradition after he was altered by liquid metal excreted by a Nazi super-villain.
That strange steel elixir has transformed him into an invulnerable super-hero, a man of steel. And if one looks closely, it’s not just his fists and flesh that are hard as a rock. Perhaps his red, white and blue costume has led him to believe he’s a postal carrier, because he’s looking down at a package… one he seems more than ready to deliver.
Groovy… it’s a special delivery… for the ladies. Or perhaps this is DC’s subtle attempt to test of the waters in the yaoi fanbase.