Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"Holy Hot Flash, Batman!" ...whaaaat?

You can't win for trying, as my mother would say. Still, why is it that so often when one cries "Yay, women!", there is a slight aftertaste of belittlement?

Jennie Yabroff of Newsweek has expressed just that with her well intentioned (I assume) article on Gail Simone's recent assignment to Wonder Woman.

Yabroff reports:

When the novelist Jodi Picoult was approached in 2006 to write a few installments of the "Wonder Woman" comic-book series, her impulse was to dress the character in something besides that clearly unsupportive red and gold bustier. "As any woman writer would know," she opines in the introduction to a collection of the comics, "it's impossible to fight crime without straps." The editors at DC Comics vetoed her request, but Picoult sneaked in her point anyway. In a scene set in a bar frequented by comic-book fans, a tipsy customer muses about how Wonder Woman manages to "fight crime in a freaking bikini." Such is the irony of the planet's premier female superhero. Though she was featured on the first issue of Ms. Magazine under the headline WONDER WOMAN FOR PRESIDENT, she's been written, for most of her 66 years, by a man.

But now women are finally breaking into the boys' comics club. With the release of this month's "Wonder Woman" No. 14, the superhero gets her first permanent, ongoing female scribe, Gail Simone...

Traditionally, comics have been by, for and about men. DC Comics won't release reader demographics, but industry insiders agree the readership remains overwhelmingly male. (The Web site claims that DC's leadership was 92 percent male in 1995.) Dan DiDio, DC's executive editor, describes its audience as "college-aged men who are looking for high adventure, a level of risk, fantasy." "Wonder Woman" fits that mold, with its fantasy-based storyline and action-heavy, cleavage-filled plots. But it remains to be seen whether the increasing number of female voices such as Simone's will win superhero comics more female readers.

You really should read the whole thing for yourself before making a judgement, but after you do, check out some response on Occasional Superheroine:

If the point of this recent article in Newsweek on "Wonder Woman" & women in comics was to reassure me about the current place of females both in terms of readership & within the mainstream comics industry, it didn't do a particularly great job. Consider me underwhelmed.

If most of DC's readers are indeed "college-aged men who are looking for high adventure," part of that is a lack of out-of-the-box thinking & laziness. Women and girls enjoy tales of adventure as well. You can't make a comic book that appeals to a girl who likes "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Harry Potter," "Firefly," and your own "Smallville?" Then you've failed. There are hundreds of thousands of females out there that are rabid fans of this adventure/fantasy stuff in other media or in manga. I refuse to believe that the superhero genre by itself only attracts male fans. It's the presentation, the characters, and the story.

And the title of the article: "Holy Hot Flash, Batman!" Wow. Just wow.

Be sure to check out the comments.

While I have to question the 1995 statistic implying that only 8% of it's readers were female, especially with ladies like these out there, my initial reaction was "Yay, Gail!" I truly hope there is no belittlement in that exclamation as I loved Gail on Birds of Prey (and miss her dearly there- what is UP with the bitchy superman?), loved her Villains United (and have dedicated an entire jazz suite to the Secret Six) and agree with masses that Wonder Woman will finally be given the respect that has been absent for the past few years.


mordicai said...

It just has this...element to it that rankles me.


Whatever, I can't read newspapers. There was some New York Times article ( that just drove me crazy with its "CAN YOU BELIEVE WHAT THOSE EGG HEAD QUOTE SCIENTISTS UNQUOTE HAVE COME UP WITH THIS TIME? WHAT A BUNCH OF EGGHEADS, AM I RIGHT?" angle.

So maybe it isn't just that it is totally patronizing to women, but that mainstream media is just a totally condescending prick?

D0nnaTr0y said...

...but that mainstream media is just a totally condescending prick?

M- you might be on to something there!