For some reason this post got deleted. This is just a re-post of an article I posted earlier.
* Some of the quotes have strong language.
DC Comics has unleashed all of its new 52 titles as of this afternoon and they have officially sold out of all of them, and now entering into a second printing. I have really enjoyed some of the new books (i.e Captain Atom, DC Universe Presents and Men of War), and I have also disliked some of the new titles (i.e. Green Arrow, Batgirl and Animal Man). While DC Comics would like you to believe it is a relaunch of their titles some of the books, even though they were fantastic reads did not change from their current story lines (i.e. Batman and Green Lantern).
First off I have always been a Captain Atom fan and loved that the character got a new monthly title as well as Sgt. Rock in Men of War. Two great characters who were given a new life from the relaunch. Two characters that I feel took a step down from their previous monthly series were Green Arrow and Batgirl. I did not like the art work in Animal Man and the unbelievable writing was not enough to get me passed the visuals that didn’t work for me.
However, the biggest controversy that has come out of this relaunch is the visual representation of some of the female characters within the DC Universe. The website Comic Alliance has made numerous posts on both Catwoman and Starfire (Red Hood and the Outlaws).
First up the articles on Starfire.
The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and Their ‘Liberated Sexuality’
DC Comics On Starfire Controversy: ‘Pay Attention To The Ratings’
DC’s response to the articles was for parents to pay attention to the ratings of the book they are about to buy. Red Hood and the Outlaws is rated T – Teen, which means that it is meant for readers twelve and up, but a character such as Starfire has been introduced to many loyal DC fans through the child friendly cartoon Teen Titans, which airs on the Cartoon Network. The most compelling article that I have seen is a response to the new Starfire from a seven-year-old fan.
Michele Lee took the new version of both Catwoman and Starfire to her daughter and wrote about her response in this article, A 7-year-old girl responds to DC Comics’ sexed-up reboot of Starfire. Here is one of the more compelling quotes.
Most importantly? Starfire is her favorite hero.
So today I showed her your rebooted Catwoman and Starfire. She is not happy with you DC.
“Why do you like Starfire?”
“She’s like me. She’s an alien new to the planet and maybe she doesn’t always say the right thing, or know the right thing to do. But she’s a good friend, and she helps people.
When asked about the new Starfire and how it makes her feel she responds with the following.
“Is this new Starfire someone you’d want to be when you grow up?”
*she gets uncomfortable again*”Not really. I mean, grown ups can wear what they want, but…she’s not doing anything but wearing a tiny bikini to get attention.”
“So, you know I’m going to put this on my blog right? (she nods) Is there anything else you want to say?”
“I want her to be a hero, fighting things and be strong and helping people.”
“Because she’s what inspires me to be good.”
Starfire like many other superheroes are role models to many kids, but this book isn’t intended for kids. Does this make it right, well no, but the same question can be said about movies adapted from comics. When my wife and I went to watch Captain America this summer there was a toddler in the front row at a nine o’clock showing. Was that movie kid friendly? No. Just like movie trailers for Captain America should have given the clue about the age appropriateness of the content, comic covers are usually a good indication of what is ahead.
Well, how about Catwoman. Andrew Wheeler wrote that the cover alone should have given you the clue to what the contents of the book would be.
But if you still haven’t understood what sort of book this is going to be, the first panel of the first page gives the mission statement. It is boobs. Bosoms. Breasts. The first panel is framed not on the protagonist’s face, but on her brassiered chest. Page two ends on a shot of her derriere. It’s an action shot. Men are unloading their guns on her derriere. On the third story page Catwoman smashes through a window with one boob hanging out of her costume.
The last page of this month’s Catwoman title was a drawn out sex scene with Batman. Yep, Batman and Catwoman on the roof. I think Comic Alliance got this one right when they wrote the following.
Here’s the question, though: Why? I know why Catwoman and Batman would have sex; there’s nothing wrong with the idea. We saw him hook up with Talia in Son of the Demon and that was pretty cool. I mean literally, why is that last page a full-page splash of Batman actually penetrating Catwoman? Why do we need to see that? What does it accomplish or tell us about the characters that would have been lost if that page had been omitted?
The answer is nothing. They just wanted to see Catwoman and Batman bang on a roof. And that is the whole problem with this false notion of “sexually liberated” female characters: These aren’t those women. They’re how dudes want to imagine those women would be — what Wire creator David Simon called writing “men with t*ts.” They read like men’s voices coming out of women’s faces. Or worse, they read like the straight girls who make out with each other at clubs, not because they enjoy making out with women but because they desperately want guys to pay attention to them.
Comics are no different than any other form of media out there. They contain content that isn’t intended for every reader, just like you wouldn’t take your six-year-old to Transformers, or Kick Ass.
As parents and leaders we have the responsibility to be aware of what our kids are reading and watching. I would not recommend any of the new relaunched titles for anyone under the T-Teen rating. That is why they have a rating on them. The new issues of Batman and Detective Comics were some of the more violent issues of the relaunch. The best way to make a statement about the state of these new DC comics and characters is to just let it be. Stop buying them for your kids, especially if they are under twelve. Sara Lima on ComicVine made some great statements at the end of this week on this very idea. These are some quotes from her article on ComicVine entitled, Sexism in Comics is Not New–Here’s What You Should Do about It
With a struggling industry like comics, it wouldn’t be hard to see some real change if everyone that hated the interpretation of Starfire never picked up another issue of ‘Red Hood and the Outlaws’ again. That’s how change happens. Speak with your wallet, not just your words. Then, take that money you’ve worked so hard to earn and put it towards a title you can really appreciate, because at the end of the day, comics should be fun. They should make you feel good; and there have been plenty of female characters who are for more interesting and have a lot more depth than the interpretations of a few of the women in the books we’ve seen lately.
I really feel that a lot of comics that feature female characters in a positive, empowering light have gone overlooked. They have been overshadowed by so much hostility towards two titles and that is unacceptable. Yes, it’s easy to get upset and rant about how angry you are at the interpretation of a character, but that won’t help bring positive awareness to some really good books that deserve some love.
As a leader and a parent you should be aware of the content in these books. That can be done multiple ways. You can easily talk to the comic book store owner, read blogs and websites like Comic Vine, or Comics Alliance. Having a keen awareness of the media that we are giving our kids is the best way to protect them and teach them about the kind of worldviews they should be striving to live out.
I am a huge comic book fan and I love DC Comics, but the way they taking their female characters is more than a little disappointing. I’ll end with a couple of more quotes.
If it were just Catwoman that went this way, it wouldn’t be such a concern, but many of DC’s female characters are suffering the same fate. Characters who should be leveraged to show female readers that the medium is a safe place for them to find entertainment are instead showing more skin and less gumption than they might have a month ago. Perennial favourite Harley Quinn has switched from sassy moll to Suicide Girl. Bisexual stripper Voodoo is one of only two female character to get a new title. Power Girl’s book got cancelled, and she’s now someone’s girlfriend. – Andrew Wheeler
When I read these comics and I see the way the female characters are presented, I don’t see heroes I would want to be. I don’t see people I would want to hang out with or look up to. I don’t feel like the comics are talking to me; I feel like they’re talking about me, the way both Jason Todd and Roy Harper talk about Starfire like two dudes high fiving over a mutual conquest (left).
Here are some great follow up questions for students to tackle topics like this one.
What do the drawings teach us about these characters?
What values do these characters represent?
Where are their values portrayed?
What does this teach us about how to value the women in our lives?
Do these characters make you want to be better?
What questions would you ask?