Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett talks about Big Two books featuring female characters, including NYCC announcements.
Over the years I've visited entirely too often the subject of a lack of diversity in comics, particularly the sorry state of comics featuring girls for girls. And how Marvel and DC could be doing more (or at the very least something) to appeal and not alienate a female audience. Take DC, which from an external view seems to be doing everything in its power to get it wrong. From their merchandising (see "Another DC Licensing Apology, for a Game") to their actual comics.
I have written about the recent controversy concerning the cover to Teen Titans #1 (see "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--Oh, Not This Again…"). This was the column where I referred to DC Comics as being the "literary equivalent of Axe body spray." To elaborate a little on that snotty comment, there's been a problem with their "New 52" titles from the very beginning, one that goes way beyond the sexual content of comics like Catwoman, Red Hood and the Outlaws, and Sword of Sorcery Featuring Amethyst. And it's this: they were made to look "hard" and "edgy" to try to appeal to adults. Predominantly guys, yes, just not the guys already reading their comics. They were after younger, financially better off guys, twentysomethings with an inherently adolescent idea of what being an adult means. In short they were courting the average reader of Maxim magazine. Someone who would never, under any circumstance, be caught dead reading a comic book. Maybe I'm wrong, I often am, but at least this theory explains what the hell they were thinking with those t-shirts (see "DC Apologizes for Sexist Superhero Shirts").
Sensational Comics Featuring Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman '77 are certainly a start, but Batgirl #35 is a perfect example of the kind of comics they should be doing. It's flirty and flinty and altogether contemporary where it comes to the attitudes of its characters; it's an altogether excellent opening salvo in what I hope will be a long and inventive run. Because it doesn't seem like anything else being published by DC or anyone else at the moment. And those are the exactly the kind of comics we need more of.
And as per usual DC will be desperately trying to catch up with Marvel. I finally got around to reading Thor #1 and it kind of seems like a bit of a misstep to squeeze the first appearance of the character into the final two pages. It's hard to imagine getting all those theoretical casual new readers coming back for more next month on the strength of what I read.
On the other hand, month after month one of my favorite comics remains Ms. Marvel, especially now that she’s finally gone and gotten herself an animal mascot as I had hoped. And it's Lockjaw, sweet, wonderful Lockjaw.
Marvel Announces 'The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl' #1"). I've long been a cheerleader for Will Murray and Steve Ditko's singular creation since I first discovered her in the pages of Great Lake Avengers. But I honestly never thought that Marvel would ever make full use of a character with such untapped potential and obvious appeal to girls. So far her other media appearances have been limited to a handful of video games and a single episode of Ultimate Spider-Man Web Warriors. But I have a feeling that's only the beginning.
Gamora will be getting her own comic written by Guardians of the Galaxy screenwriter Nicole Perlman. And Peggy Carter will be appearing a five issue Operation S.I.N. mini-series that will hopefully come out just ahead of the Agent Carter TV series. Then there's Silk, whom I am taking on faith is an actual character and not some kind of an elaborate gag concocted by The Onion (I'm a little beyond my Marvels at the moment). Speaking of which, Marvel will be publishing a comic titled (apparently in all seriousness) Spider-Gwen, which features an alternate universe Gwen Stacy from the Edge of Spider-Verse comic. Now I won't deny that it's a grand costume design, but giving the character her own comic this early when so many long term female characters are without comics of their own seems kind of odd. I mean when they're doing yet another new Ant-Man series you are kind of forced to ask anyone who will listen, when oh when is The Wasp, finally going to get a comic of her own?
But that having been said, other people have been able see the character's intrinsic appeal, such as writer Grace Randolph in her much underappreciated Marvel HER-oes miniseries; she turned a flibbertigibbet into (her words) a "kick-ass Tinker Bell." Nobody just gave her a seat at the Avengers table; when her father was killed by a Kosmos, a Lee/Kirby monster from another dimension for Gob's sake, her first impulse was to avenge him. And before the development of her signature sting she went around fighting criminals with a pin, something that is, in my humble estimation, both badass and hardcore.
Producers of Disney XD's animated Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes and Japan's Marvel Disc Wars: Avengers* (surprisingly, given that it's supposed to appeal almost exclusively to boys 6-12) have both used Randolph's approach to the character, which allows her to be both fun and powerful. In short, she’s a freaking Marvel/Disney Princess and it's long past time Marvel started treating her like one.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
Column by Steve Bennett
Posted by ICv2 on October 16, 2014 @ 1:06 am CT
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