Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rape, Women, and the Problem of Psuedomaturity in Comics

            I haven’t read any new comics in a long time.

            The last thing I picked up was Cow Boy, at an English-speaking bookstore in Amsterdam and that was in June. I haven’t read any new mainstream books since I left for Denmark, and honestly I just can’t find the energy to head over to Sailfish and pick up anything new.

            Part of the reason is I’m so behind already and probably have around 40+ issues of Spider-man to get into, but also and more importantly everything I’ve heard about DC’s New 52 paints a pretty bleak picture.  I keep reading articles on Comicsalliance, and I just keep getting more and more reasons to avoid it.

            Consider this one. I don’t understand it.  Can we not do this? Please?

            I don’t know who made the decision that rape is the best way to make things mature or whatever the industry term is. It’s a problem that is getting worse, and honestly I’m not sure who or what to blame.

            There are the publishers and writers, who see rape as a way to come across as adult or serious. I think Mark Millar is one of the worst offenders.  Nemesis and Kick-Ass two are both rape-y as all get out but it’s in sort of this weird sardonic tone, which honestly is the worst possible way to do it.  It’s frankly insulting. Honestly we can trace this crap all the way back to Alan Moore, who’s extended works are filled with all sorts of rape. Alan Moore started it all in Watchmen, its in V for Vendetta, and it gets worse in Lost Girls (don’t Google that one).

            It kinds of sucks but I have to blame Spider-man for this one. The death of Gwen Stacy is one nail in the coffin of the Bronze Age and the start of the movement to where we are now. There were no real Spider-man one shots. Every issue had parts of Peter’s ongoing life as he moved towards adulthood. Spider-man created this vibrant, alive universe. So, when Gwen Stacy died, it was pretty important. It is something that has echoed throughout the entire Marvel Universe, and has made for some incredible storylines. Others tried to imitate this by doing similar things but the fact of the matter is without if you write something like that without sincerity and just for attention it rings hollow and downright stupid.

            But really we can blame ourselves for this. I mean, we wanted comics to be more mature and that’s what they did. We bought millions of copies of Kick-Ass and Watchmen and so they made more. We didn’t demand more. It’s no wonder that people think mainstream comics are juvenile. If you look at the women in comics, DC far more so than Marvel, its kind of impossible to take them seriously because they’re not written as women but written for an audience. It’s easy to laugh at the ridiculousness of one of the many overly revealing or downright fetishistic costumes and treat them as a joke, but the fact of the matter is that out there someone is very seriously whackin’ it to Power Girl.

            We said wanted grit and they gave it to us. They showed us superheroes killing and Batman and Catwoman banging on a rooftop. They gave us all the sex and violence and pseudo-maturity we could ask for and we ate it up. We keep talking this big game about how comics aren’t for kids anymore, but honestly? This kind of thing isn’t really for anyone. It’s a thirteen year old swearing on Xbox Live.

            I don’t really think this is a question of feminism or progressivity or what-have-you, but one more of maturity. I’m sick of Strong Female Characters, and women who are clearly written for men (or more accurately man-children).  I’m just tired of reading article after article on how Starfire is now absolute cheesecake, or seeing violent rapes in Mark Millar’s work. It’s childish. It’s stupid. Rape isn’t a plotline, or some trope to toss out to raise the stakes or make things “adult audiences”.  DC needs to get their act together and put their heart back into what they do instead of just trying to make everything matter.

           Maturity isn't something that can be forced with adult things like rape, and frankly the idea of using rape as a plot device is pretty offensive. Cow Boy was more "mature" than anything DC has come out with in a year and it's about a ten-year old with a custom gun that looks like a horse but it's serious with a heart and actually made me feel something. What I see from DC now is just kind of insulting to their audience as a whole.

          What I'd like, honestly, is for comics with heart. I think DC will see this soon as their market share continues to dwindle. They don't have the writers, and they especially don't have the blockbuster power of the Avengers franchise behinds them. Hopefully, this time instead of just rebooting everything again, they'll actually decide to rise to the challenge and produce good content. I say this with optimism, but I know I should just get ready to buy Batman #1 again.

No comments:

Post a Comment