Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Women in fridges

To be blunt, the history of women in comic books...isn't much to write home about. Most people think the first female superhero was Wonder Woman.

Actually, it wasn't...it was Miss Fury, a forgotten character...created by a woman. Sadly, she didn't start a trend. A glance over the comics shelf will see names like Bendis, Gage, Lee, Morrison, etc. All men. If asked to name female creators most fans will go 'Uh...Gail Simone. Uh...Devin Grayson'...and that's where it stalls out. (I'd also give a nod to experienced colorist Carrie Strachan).

Comic books are, on the whole, written by men, for men. Female characters are used as sex symbols, dismissed, even found dead in fridges (the incident that is most often quoted as a sign of how female characters are abused). Some exist solely to be love interests to the male heroes.

When they are heroes in their own right, we are often left wondering if they intend to distract the supervillains with their breasts...Wonder Woman wears more or less a monokini, Power Girl has her notorious boob window, Catwoman actually does unzip her suit to distract men with her assets on more than one occasion. And just about every superheroine is drawn with D cups or 'better'. Now, to be fair, lots of male superheroes wear revealing outfits too...tight spandex, the Martian Manhunters briefs, the speedo worn by Beast on a number of occasions.

But seldom is one given the impression that any man in comics (with the possible exception of She-Hulk's former fiance Wyatt Wingfoot) exists solely to be a love interest or to be attractive to the opposite sex.

There's often a lot of talk that all of this means comic publishers don't care...or set out to alienate...female readers, but it might be something far simpler.

Comics are written by men, for men. The target audience of the big two is men in their twenties. Most comic creators start out as comic fans.

That perpetuates the male dominance within the industry. In most cases the writer of a comic is male. So are the artists. So is the letterer. So is the editor and his assistants.

I've actually begun to wonder if the fridge problem is a lot simpler than we think. Most comics go through the entire creative process and to print without any female eyes ever seeing them. This theory is strengthened by the improvement I've noticed in certain Marvel books that can directly be traced to Lauren Sankovitch's rise from editorial assistant to co-editor with Tom Brevoort (According to Bendis she's also great to work with). Sadly, I can only think of two other female comic editors - Wacker's assistant, Ellie Pyle, and former WildStorm editor Kristy Quinn, from and about whom I've heard nothing since DC closed the imprint.

So, here's a challenge to comic creators. Find a woman. Have her read your script. If you don't happen to have a wife or a girlfriend right now, surely you can find a reliable woman somewhere. Let's get some female eyes on the activities of Wonder Woman and the Wasp...before female fans see all of the mistakes that come when men write for men.

And please. Let's see some more female creators...female writers, female artists, female editors. That way we'll get more female fans...and I am sure we can do it without losing the men on the way.