10 thoughts on “Male superheroes, drawn like female ones

  1. To add to magicalersatz’s list: my favourite superhero right now is also my favourite female superhero: Batwoman. And she wears pants (indeed, she’s as covered as Batman), and also is drawn to have arms and legs like you would have if you ran around beating people up. She’s also a lesbian – and not in the ‘hey guys, isn’t this titillating?’ kind of way.

    There are big problems with the portrayal of women in comics, of course. But to stick up for the medium: I do think it has far more interesting and well portrayed female characters than many a contemporary film does!

  2. That’s a great article, Ross. I think there are interesting (and depressing) similarities between certain aspects of philosophical culture, comic book culture, and musician culture that are worth exploring. I subscribe to a number of music magazines (e.g., guitar world, sound on sound, recording), and I am often taken back at the blatant use of sexist advertising in them to sell things as trivial as, e.g., guitar picks. In both the comics case and the music case, the implicit message seems to be that these things are not for women. And in both cases, you can’t help but think that this message has real consequences: the percentage of women who regular read comics is pretty low, and the percentage of women working in technical ares of music production (e.g., as recording engineers, drum technicians, instrument design, music production) is very low too. (I do not mean to suggest that the former is as serious of a concern as the latter.)

  3. I think what Kris says is probably right – though there are lots of other factors, not obviously intrinsic to comics themselves, that I suspect lead to the overwhelmingly male readership of comics.

    I do sometimes think that comics get an unfairly bad wrap when it comes to sexism and gender issues, though. Don’t get me wrong – there are lots of comics that are ridiculously, blatantly sexist (in artwork and in storytelling). But there are also a lot of comics that are pretty awesome, gender-wise. I’m sure the comics I read are self-selecting on this matter, but I find the comics I read fail the Bechdel Test far less often than the movies I watch (for example). Comics like Fables, Powers, Y the Last Man (okay, this one’s controversial from a feminist perspective – but I love it), and my all-time favorite – the Sandman – have some of the best pop-culture female characters I’ve come across.

    And of course, the inventor of the Bechdel Test is herself a comics artist/author! (Everyone go read Fun Home right now. . .no really, stop reading this and go read that.)

    [magicalersatz finally outs herself as a total geek]

  4. They’re not only all drawn as female characters; they’re all drawn as the definintive female superhero. Those are all canonical Wonder Woman costumes.

    Megan Rose Gedris of I Was Kidnapped By Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space did a great series of similar illustrations; and there’s another artist whose name escapes me who did an amazing inversion of a Wizard Magazine feature on how to draw male and female characters a few years ago.

  5. Isn’t Wonder Woman supposed to be a latter-day Amazon warrior?

    Here’s an ancient Greek depiction of an Amazon warrior wearing …. trousers.

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