Monday, August 26, 2013

The New Lobo

Okay, fanboys, here's the deal: For, for decades, female comic book fans have been complaining that women in comics are treated like sexual objects, with exaggerated attributes designed to appeal to drooling, leering, oversexed men who want pinups and not real human beings. And for decades, said drooling, leering, oversexed men have countered that with, "No, they're not 'exaggerated', they're 'idealized'! That's the way that everyone is in comics, they're all meant to be over-the-top, wish-fulfillment versions of people! Because comics are basically wish-fulfillment!"

And for decades, women (and non-sexist men, let's be fair) have responded with, "Except that they're not. The male characters are wish-fulfillment versions of men, with rippling muscles and powerful bodies that are all about the (predominantly male) artist drawing what they wish they looked like. Whereas the female characters are all big-breasted, wasp-waisted, bubble-butted and slender-to-the-point-of-emaciation bodies that are all about the (predominantly male) artist drawing what they want to have sex with. Men are idealized, women are sexualized."

And for decades, sexist male fans have responded with, "No, no, no, that's not true! For one thing, we all know that's what you women want to look like!" (This is why the term 'mansplaining' was invented, by the way.) "For another thing, women are attracted to big, hunky, muscular he-men like Conan! Men get male idealization figures that women leer at, and women get female idealization figures that men leer at! It's totally fair!"

And for decades, women and non-sexist men have responded with, "No, that's really not what women are attracted to. A lot of women prefer a guy who's slim and athletic rather than an overmuscled weightlifter. A male figure that's created as an object of female attraction, rather than an object of male idealization, would look very different than the male characters we see in comics now. It might even look closer to what men stereotype as the body type of gay men, even though that's a really stupid generalization as to what a 'typical' gay man looks like that we're not going to dignify by suggesting it's correct. It'd probably make men deeply uncomfortable to look at; but since they're the target audience and not women, and they wouldn't enjoy it, we get tons of beefcake instead."

And for decades, sexist male fans have responded with, "No, we're not uncomfortable with men being sexualized in comics! We're just fine with it! We see shirtless men with huge guns and ripped pecs fighting in nothing but a loincloth all the time, and we don't complain about being sexualized and exploited, so women don't have anything to complain about either! Actually, given the way that shirtless men with highly detailed musculature is the norm, we should be the ones complaining...but we're not, because we're manly manly men and men are just tougher about sexism than women!"

And then Kenneth Rocafort's designs for the new Lobo, based on writer Marguerite Bennett's character concept, were released.

(See here for the new Lobo design.)

And the response from a lot of male comics fans? "Ew, he's slim and athletic and not an overmuscled weightlifter! I don't see how I can possibly enjoy looking at this character! Why would they even make him look like this? He looks all gay now! It makes me deeply uncomfortable. They should change him back." Well-played, Rocafort and Bennett. Well freaking played.


Oddstar said...

Everything you say is true, but there is something you don't say, but which I believe you imply, that is false. (If you weren't implying it, and I am inferring it in error, please forgive me.) That is this: that there is something unjust or wrong about this state of affairs. There is nothing wrong with producing entertainment for men as its target audience, or with men enjoying that entertainment. No comicbook writer, artist, or publisher is under any obligation, moral or otherwise, to produce comics that women are more likely to enjoy. There is plenty of entertainment that is primarily produced for and consumed by women, and that is not wrong either. If people enjoy entertainment for which they are not part of the intended audience, that's great (I've read romance novels that I've enjoyed quite a bit, despite obviously not being part of the intended audience), but that does not create any moral obligation in the creators, or the intended audience, to alter the entertainment in question to cater to their tastes.

There is nothing wrong with men enjoying entertainment in which the male characters are idealized masculine empowerment fantasies, and the female characters are sexualized fantasies. It is certainly possible that there is a currently underserved market for comics, superhero or otherwise, that cater more to a female audience. If you believe so, I encourage you to produce comics for that market. I wish you nothing but success in such an endeavor. I happen not to believe that there is such a market, or, more precisely, that it is of any great size, so I don't think such a venture would succeed, but I could easily be wrong about that. In any case, the point still holds that there is nothing wrong with the current state of affairs.

Sean Tait Bircher said...

Yeah, I showed my wife the new design and her reaction was a confused "He's hot now?" I gave up on DC with the new 52 but this actually has me curious as to what they intend to do with the character. Now if they'd only let Gail Simone bring back Catman and turn Nightwing into a yaoi book -- because there actually is an underserved market of female comic book readers.

David said...

My sole objection to the new Lobo (who is totally hot, which I appreciate) is that it seems like a weird direction to take the character. The appearances I've seen have all been in the "ridiculously over the top" vein, generally serving as a parody antihero. Saying "let's make him a serious, deadly villain" seems a bit odd, almost "let's make a totally new character and call him Lobo".

Anonymous said...

I'd say a lot more people are taking issue with the fact that this isn't the Lobo they've known and loved for years and years.

Yes, characters get redesigned all of the time, but the guy's new look makes him basically unrecognizable.

I am not even a person with any attachment or feelings towards the character, but putting myself in the shoes of people who are I can see why they would be upset, and it's not because "oh he looks so gay now" it's "almost nothing about what you're presenting me with harkens back to a comic book character I grew up with."

Not that I would use gay as a pejorative. Though maybe people aren't and they honestly believe he now looks like a homosexual. We all know that's not what they mean, though.

John Seavey said...

@Oddstar: Yes. Yes, there is. There is something wrong with deliberately snubbing fifty percent of the population in order to cater to a small market of jerks who feel threatened by women, and can only deal with imaginary women who conform to their stereotypes. There is something wrong with people who continue to insist, despite all evidence to the contrary, that there is no market for comics that don't demean or objectify women--which is what we're really talking here; it's not about "producing entertainment for men as its target audience", it's about specifically producing entertainment that alienates and demeans women. The whole idea that there is "women's entertainment" and "men's entertainment", and women should just stay out of the men's stuff if they don't want to see something they don't like, is itself a form of sexism I don't agree with, but even if I did, the "manliness" of comics seems to primarily consist of enjoying being douchebags towards women, which is not so much a male trait as a douchebag trait. Frankly, I think that chasing these guys out of my hobby in favor of some women with interesting and fun things to say is an unalloyed good.

Oddstar said...

John, you are, first of all, making two separate arguments, which are not mutually contradictory at all, and in fact are at least potentially mutually reinforcing, but they are different. You make an economic argument, that comics are neglecting fifty percent of the population and catering to a small market of "jerks." That's a factual claim that publishers are making a bad business decision.

You also make a moral argument, that comics alienate and are demeaning to women, and that this is morally wrong. You say that "The whole idea that there is 'women's entertainment' and 'men's entertainment', and women should just stay out of the men's stuff if they don't want to see something they don't like, is itself a form of sexism...."

I would like to respond to the economic argument first, and just point out that it's nonsense. Almost all forms of entertainment appeal to some niche market. Very few forms of entertainment any are longer are designed to appeal to the public as a whole. Furthermore, the demographic that comics primarily appeal to, men aged 18-35, is typically considered the most desirable demo by advertisers. Furthermore, there is no real evidence that if comics were to alter their content in the ways you suggest that they would gain enough female fans to offset the number of male fans they would risk losing. Certainly, any business that risked alienating the customers it had in the hopes of attracting some other group of customers who might never become customers regardless would quickly itself out of business. Certainly for any established business, it is much more important to keep your existing customer base happy than to gain new customers. But if you are really convinced that this huge underserved market exists, get together with some like-minded people and go into the comic publishing business. In all sincerity I wish you nothing but success.

As for the moral argument, do you also believe that romance novels are doing something morally wrong by catering to an almost exclusively female audience? Do you believe that they portray men realistically, as opposed to as fantasy figures for women? Never mind whether it would be good for the romance novel business to start attracting more male fans, because I think you know it wouldn't, do you believe that they are under some moral obligation to do so? And if not, why is that really any different.

Lastly, you talk about chasing people you don't like out of "your" hobby, and getting publishers to put out characters and stories that you like more. I don't think you are going to chase anyone out of anything. And I would just reiterate that just because you don't like what they are putting out (and I don't really disagree with you on that point), doesn't mean that they are doing anything wrong. They don't owe you, me, or anyone else anything.

Anonymous said...

The problem that I, personally, have with the redesign is thusly: that they've taken a character who was created to lampoon precisely the kind of gratuitous late Bronze Age/Dark Age violence and excess DC has currently thrown themselves head into again, a character who was always...well, -fun-, and refashioned him into a character who is (based on the tidbits given in interviews) part and parcel of the overly self-serious, edgy milieu DC is currently creating, AND going out of their way to disenfranchise the old version by saying the one we've seen in the new 52 is an imposter who the new one is now pissed of at and gunning for.

While your point in the post is depressingly accurate for a good chunk of the fandom, if not necessarily a majority, there are legitimate reasons to not be too pleased with it (though all of this is more caring about the New 52 than I care to do at once). I actually really dig the redesign and love Rocafort's work, it's a pleasantly bishonen-y change of pace; if they gave him the new look and kept his old personality and history, or even just made him a rival member of Lobo's race of aliens or his illegitimate son or something, I'd be happy camper; but they seem to have gone out of their way to twist one of their few remaining fun characters into the current status quo.

Anonymous said...

Oddstar--regarding your economic argument, while I agree that a certain amount of targeted marketing for media products is both acceptable and inevitable, I would like to point out a few facts that you may be unaware of.

--The wildly successful Japanese comics industry absolutely targets its products to specific gender and age groups, and is hardly known for its lack of fanservice. It also, however, absolutely makes male-targeted romance series and female-targeted action series, and also expects most comics to have a fair amount of crossover demographic appeal. And those girls' action series and boys' romance series do just fine in US markets, too.

--DC Comics, in particular, has spent much of the last decade claiming that they were doing "everything they could" to attract female readers (as well they might, considering the huge numbers of women who buy Japanese comics, attend superhero movies, and discuss comics online), while still using the same old skimpy costumes and sexist storylines.

--Judd Apatow is just one of several directors that have made a mint off romantic comedies targeted at men, by the simple trick of not calling them romantic comedies, and therefore letting men feel "allowed" to enjoy them.

Seriously, while some products will always be more targeted towards men or towards women, the idea that entire genres are inherently attractive solely to one gender or the other is hogwash.

--Acechan, since OpenID is not cooperating today.

Anonymous said...

Just thought I'd leave this here, as apparently my initial assumptions are somewhat mistaken.

Oddstar said...

Acechan, I would like to respond to your points one by one:

Yes, the comics industry in Japan has been highly successful, and they produce a wide variety of comics for different markets. There are some other key differences, however, between the comics market in Japan versus in the US. By far the most important difference is the general attitude of the public toward comics: comics in Japan are seen as a much more neutral medium, that anyone of any age or background might read. In the US, comics are still stereotyped as being "for kids," and probably always will be. There are also other critical differences in the distribution system in Japan, the structure of the market, and so forth. American comic publishers cannot simply imitate Japanese publishers, because they exist in a very different context.

DC has indeed said that, and they are probably literally correct, in that they are doing everything they can do. They cannot afford to alienate large numbers of their existing readers in the hopes of attracting new readers. They would surely like to attract new readers, but the need to satisfy their current customer base constrains what they can do. As for the huge numbers of people who go to see superhero movies, the point must be made that going to a movie is a much smaller commitment of time and attention, and probably of money, than buying a monthly comic. As for the popularity of Japanese comics among female readers in the US, my understanding is that the bottom fell out of that market a few years ago. But if that's not correct, I'm still not sure why that proves that there exists a much larger market for Marvel and DC's superhero comics, if only they would redesign their characters or otherwise change things. As for the number of women who discuss comics online, how many would you say there are? 10,000? 20,000? I don't know myself, but those sound like fairly generous estimates to me, yet those would be barely enough readers to sustain a mainstream superhero title.

Yes, Apatow has achieved great success. I'm not sure what that has to do with anything though. I never said that there was no male audience for romantic comedies, and I'm not sure what that proves about the American comic-book market.

I also never said that "entire genres are inherently attractive solely to one gender or the other." As I've pointed out already, I myself have enjoyed many forms of entertainment for which I was not part of the intended audience. And, as I've said, I'm not at all satisfied with the current output of either DC or Marvel. The truth is that Seavey's tastes and mine are probably not radically different. But so what? I don't confuse my aesthetic preferences with principles of universal justice, nor do I assume that my tastes are so widely shared that there must be a big market for the kind of comics I like, if only publishers would produce more of them.

die Geisthander said...

Blah blah blah parody of 90s blah blah not sexist myself blah blah insert your own disclaimer about not being awful here.

I admit it, I just always had a soft spot in me for big, dumb alien biker Lobo who likes beer, boobs and violence and hates not-those-things. I like seeing that kind of big, dumb macho id on display in all its glorious idiocy.

That said, if they can get more out of him with a new design, origin and role in the DCU--my aesthetic preferences for the character notwithstanding--then they're welcome to him 'cause Lobo is, as the kids were saying a decade ago, played right the heck out. The macho quasi-parodic (Poe's Law applies) misogynist Man's Man (Man's Main Man? Main Man's Man?) is fun for me 'cause it's a parody of a stereotype and social construct that I myself don't fulfill and likely never will. It's like Deadpool only the relentless "I'm kwazy!" moments are replaced with catchphrases translating to, roughly, "I'm so friggin' badass".

But seeing as the New52/DCnU/whatever we're calling it is kinda full of ridiculous (in a not-funny way) examples of trying-too-hard hypermasculinity and misogyny which could be parody if not for its purported hyper-seriousness and that a departure for Lobo would mark a genuinely NEW thing that they were doing, I'm at least interested to see how it goes.

Tauric said...

I would like to echo the commenters who are saying it's not that particular look, it Lobo having that particular look.

There are certainly characters that would work with more realistic, slimmed down bodies. Flash (a runner, not a body builder). Green Lantern (power of will, no need to have wrestler's body). Green Arrow. Batman (just look at Bruce Lee, and tell me why Bruce Wayne needs to bulk up so much). Over on the Marvel side, I wish someone would do this sort of redesign with Cyclops (his nickname used to be Slim, for crying out lout).

But for Lobo, as has been said, he's supposed to be this big, ridiculous slab of meat.

Anonymous said...

he looks soft, not sexualized

John Seavey said...

@Oddstar: First, I am saddened by your belief that treating female readers with dignity and respect "risk[s] alienating" male readers. Again, this is what we're talking about--not making comics more touchy-feely, not making them all about relationships and emotions (you know, like that low-selling comic book 'Uncanny X-Men'...but I'm trying to point out that your argument fails on its own merits, rather than pointing out that the most successful comics of the past fifty years all appealed to and had a huge female audience, and that even though niche marketing exists, publishers salivate over the thought of finding a property that has what they call "crossover appeal", the ability to snag readers outside its demographic. I believe in only pointing out one piece of apocalyptic wrongness at a time.)

...where was I? Oh, yes. We aren't talking about making comics more appealing to women by making them more about topics that women supposedly care about. We're talking about making them more appealing to women by not actively working to portray women as animated blow-up dolls, little more than prizes to be won or lost by the male hero as the plot dictates. If you really think that having a woman who is treated like a human being is a risky prospect to men, that's not just insulting to women, it's insulting to men too. "Oh, your thuggish man-brains can't cope with women who aren't ninety-percent naked and tied up. I know you say otherwise, but let's face it, your wang does all the thinking for you, right?" Sod that for a game of soldiers.

You keep pointing to romance novels as a counter-example, but all that tells me is that you've never read one. Frankly, if comics depicted female characters as well as romance novels depict men, we wouldn't be having this conversation, because romance novels operate on the assumption that what a woman fantasizes about is a partner that they can share their life with and spend long, wonderful years in the company of. Whereas comics operate on the assumption that what a man fantasizes about is a pair of tits that they can look at between fight scenes. It's that assumption that needs to be challenged, and I don't think that doing so "risks" anything, except for getting rid of a tiny minority of jackasses who think that women are scary when they think. And frankly, good riddance to bad rubbish.

Ridiculous Strawman said...

But there's no entertainment by or about men. Anywhere. Ever. Never has been nor ever will be because men are men and to be a man is to be a man and everyone is afraid of what it is to be a man because women aren't men and men men men men men.

Women have romance novels that exclude men so it's right that superheroes should exclude women because that's all we are; vague collections of interests someone in authority says we have and they're in authority so it must be true. It's just like how black people can say the n-word but I can't how unfair is that that there are words that aren't for everyone well superhero comics aren't for everyone and even if they want in, if we let them in they would be destroyed.

No women or minorities because men men men men men men men are so marginalized and I love idealized depictions of men (no homo--seriously, no homo anywhere plz) and want women to be sex objects because that's what I am told I understand and besides if a woman objectifies a man back as women must (even though they have no sex drive) then there's no sexism and besides, I'm afraid of seeing a woman do a thing as good or better than a man and superheroes wouldn't want to scare me away because I'm part of a niche market that must remain an ever-shrinking niche of men like me or else become something not itself.

If this Lobo redesign goes through I'll leave forever. You'll miss me OH HOW YOU'LL MISS ME and all us other men who made this the safe space that you're now defiling with your gayness and your women and your political correctness.

Speaking of, how fucking thin-skinned are all those whiny feminists, amirite.

Oddstar said...

I don't want to debate this with you endlessly, Seavey, and I certainly have no interest in debating Ridiculous Strawman at all, because the only argument being strawmanned here is mine.

First of all, I have read quite a few romance novels Seavey, so you are just factually wrong about that. Secondly, there are plenty of romance novels that portray the male leads in ways that one might find objectionable. For example, a very large percentage of period romances portray the male lead as a "rake" who has to be reformed by the love of the good-girl heroine, playing into the stereotype of men as brutes who must be civilized by women. Is that a fair or flattering portrayal? Likewise, in very many period romances (yes, those are the ones I've generally read), the male lead is a wealthy member of the aristocracy, which certainly suggests that the sexual appeal of these fantasy figures lies in no small part in their wealth and status. Is that a particularly positive portrayal? All of this is probably harmless, but let's not act like the view of men in romance novels is so wonderful.

Furthermore, I suspect it is you who has not really read many romance novels, Seavey, because your claim that what women fantasize about is a man they can spend many happy years with falls down on one simple fact: the romance novel itself is always concerned with the passionate early days or weeks of the romance. The story ends long before they get to the whole growing old together part. The almost inevitable marriage at the end of the book ties of the fantasy in a nice neat little bow, but that's generally not what the fantasy itself is about. But really, that's getting off the topic.

And I'm sorry that you are "saddened," but it's pretty obvious that drawing Lobo this way would alienate a lot of male fans. That's not just my opinion. That's pretty obviously a fact. Redesigning many other more characters along similar lines would almost certainly also alienate a lot of male fans. That's why we're having this discussion in the first place.

You also keep conflating an economic argument with a moral argument. If you think that what mainstream comics are doing is morally wrong because of the way they portray women (or, for that matter, men), then stop talking about how they would be more financially successful if only they portrayed female characters differently. If you think that mainstream comics are forgoing revenue opportunities because of the way they portray female characters, then say that, and stop talking about how what they're doing is immoral. But make up your mind.

You also say that "We aren't talking about making comics more appealing to women by making them more about topics that women supposedly care about. We're talking about making them more appealing to women by not actively working to portray women as animated blow-up dolls, little more than prizes to be won or lost by the male hero as the plot dictates."

Well, excuse me, but we aren't talking about different strategies for making comics more appealing to women at all. We are talking about the much more basic question: do comics publishers have a moral duty to make their comics more appealing to women (or to you) in the first place? Don't answer that by saying that they could make more money by being more appealing to women. Answer the question straightforwardly: do comics have a moral duty to appeal more to female readers, or, for that matter, to male readers with tastes like yours (or mine)? Yes or no?

die Geisthander said...

Oddstar, is your point that redesigning/remaking/recontexting a character is a way to alienate fans period?

Because that's a point worthy of discussion and it's had a lot of discussion over the dozens of times it's happened to various characters over the years. The additional points about what men enjoy seeing in male and female characters feel... I don't know. They feel like part of a different argument?

What I'm reading seems, to me, to have you trying to make some big, essentialist point about what men, as a monolithic entity, want that is in some way fundamentally different from what women, as a monolithic entity, want as opposed to what fans, generally, want. At least in my experience--which may be different from your own given that I don't think we share a lot of physical pop-cultural/media consumption spheres--most fans of a thing, irrespective of gender, want the thing to keep being the thing they became a fan of. That's why they became fans of it. I've read a great many men and women both who would prefer the "classic" or "real" Lobo over this new iteration. I'm not at all convinced it has anything to do with gender. A thing doesn't have to be "aimed" at any audience except "people who like X" to get an audience. The X-Men didn't become popular just because Wolverine is a perfect power fantasy for 12 year-old boys, but because the rest of the book was quite good for a very long time.

And if you're good, people will want to read the thing.

Hence, to my thinking, the current sales problems comics are having but that's another matter entirely.

Bringing romance novels into the discussion seems to be clouding the issue because while romance novels might be aimed at women, they are not read by all women nor does appreciation for the elements of the romance genre mean a necessary lack of appreciation for the superhero genre--liking realistic sociopolitical crime drama like The Wire, for instance, doesn't affect my ability to enjoy the comparatively fluffy swashbuckling sci-fi/fantasy in Star Wars or preclude me from the soap operatics of Claremont's X-Men or, well, from enjoying watching Lobo get blown all to shit.

Now, if that's not your point and your point is purely a discussion of whether or not creators of a thing have a moral duty to cater to people?

I don't know that that's even a question up for discussion. They should probably just tell really good stories and hope that their audience finds them.

That said, they'd probably have a lot more luck with that if, in the culture in which they find themselves, they didn't create so many works which follow tired tropes about how women should be used to advance the stories of male characters or act as eye candy to distract/titillate the reader as opposed to having active and well-written roles in the stories. To do otherwise is not to "cater" to anyone but to merely to more accurately reflect the world around the creators.

Oddstar said...

die Geisthander, I feel you have misunderstood the point I was trying to make, so I apologize for not expressing my point clearly. Please allow me to try again.

You ask "is your point that redesigning/remaking/recontexting a character is a way to alienate fans period?"

No. Redesigning, remaking, or recontexting a character might alienate fans, or it might not. It might alienate some fans but not others. That all depends on the individual case.

You also say that you think that I'm "trying to make some big, essentialist point about what men, as a monolithic entity...."

I am not trying to do anything of the kind, and I again apologize for not expressing myself clearly. To try again, let me reiterate that I am a man myself, and have very different tastes from many other men I know or know of, and tastes similar in various ways to some women I know or know of. Nor do I believe that, generally speaking, men's or women's tastes in entertainment are always or often particularly different, or that such sex-related differences that do exist are necessarily the result of essential differences.

You also say "Bringing romance novels into the discussion seems to be clouding the issue...."

I don't believe that it was necessarily clouding the issue, but it may have accidentally clouded the issue, because I seem not to have expressed my point clearly. I am well aware that by no means all women read romance novels, as I am well aware that some women who do like romance novels also like comics, and specifically superhero comics.

You also ask if "if that's not your point and your point is purely a discussion of whether or not creators of a thing have a moral duty to cater to people?"

That was a part of my point, which I shall now attempt to restate more clearly: My reading of Seavey's original essay was that he was claiming that mainstream superhero comics had, for many years, catered to a certain group of male fans, by presenting male characters who those male fans would want to be, while presenting female characters not as characters who female fans, or most female fans, would want to be, but as characters those male fans would like to sleep with. When some female fans had complained about this, some male fans had replied that this complaint was inaccurate, because both male and female characters were idealized fantasy figures in the same way, that is, male fans wanted to be male superheroes and sleep with female superheroines, and female fans wanted to be female superheroines and sleep with male superheroes. My understanding was that Seavey was saying that this reply was both false and condescending.

I agree with what Seavey up to that point: That response was false, and that if it were true, more male characters would have been designed along the lines of this new Lobo design.

My point of departure was this: the response above should never have been made. The response should have been: why is it bad to make comics that some male fans want to read because they present male heroes that they would like to be, and female heroines whom they would like to sleep with? Why is it wrong to produce comics that appeal to that segment of the market? Do comics publishers have a moral duty to produce comics that will appeal to other groups of fans?

My point about romance novels is that they are clearly designed to appeal to the fantasies of one group of fans, while neglecting the fantasies of others, and no one seems to think this is an injustice. Why should we see the fact that mainstream superhero comics also seem to be designed to appeal to the fantasies of one group of fans and not to others as an injustice?

Do comics publishers have a moral duty to produce comics designed to appeal to one set of tastes, as opposed to some other set? If so, why do they have this duty? Because I think that Seavey thinks that the answer to the first question is yes, but that he hasn't provided satisfying answers to the second or third questions.

Unknown said...

Eh, for my money (or perhaps more accurately NOT for my money, since I haven't bought DC book in years) the reason the move seems ill-considered to me is that they're taking a PARODY of hyper-masculine behavior that lampoons the very idea of "booze, broads, and brawlin'" as a viable way to live and stripping the hyper-masculinity out of it.

At which point you're left with, what, a character that maybe resembles the dangerous pre-parody character from the original Omega Men book that no one remembers? So if you've got a character that's so fundamentally altered from the one that 99% of your readers will recognize, why bother doing it at all?

Is the industry so bereft of ideas that this perfectly functional character design has to be attached to an identity that it in no way resembles?

I can't say I'm particularly bothered by the whole thing since, as I've mentioned, I've no investment in what DC's up to these days. It just seems an odd decision to me, is all.

John Seavey said...

@Oddstar: To answer your many, many, many, many questions:

1) Romance novels don't show the "growing old together" part not because women don't want to grow old with their prospective partners, but because the actual depicting of that lacks dramatic tension and interest. That doesn't mean that the man they're depicting is only worth having a one-night stand with.

2) SRSLY? "Oh, some romance novels portray men who are jerks and get redeemed at the end into being good relationship material, so they're just like the way that every goddamned woman in comics is drawn so that their boobs and ass are showing at the same time"? Sell it to someone who's buying.

3) You are, I think, missing a very fundamental point here. You keep saying, "Well, why is it so bad that some guys just want to read about comics where men are men and women are hyper-exaggerated sex dolls?" But the point of my post was that the guys reading those comics aren't willing to admit that the industry is making that kind of product. They continue to insist that women are being treated equally to men, and that men are being sexualized in the same way men are and the issue we're discussing doesn't even exist. My post was an effort to point out that no, in fact, it does exist, and all the guys who say they're totally okay with sexualized portrayals of men turn out only to be okay with very specific "sexualized portrayals" that happen to coincide with their idealized self-image. In short, a lot of sexist comics fans are lying about not being sexist, and this is the proof.

4) That said, yes, I do think it's immoral to deliberately cater to the worst instincts of your audience. You continue to insist that "catering to a demographic" is the same thing as deliberately choosing to make sexist entertainment, morally speaking, but you haven't explained to me why you think that this is equivalent. 'Friends', for example, or 'Seinfeld', were examples of entertainment that was aimed pretty solidly at upper-middle-class twenty-something white people...but they didn't have a bunch of actors in blackface eating watermelon and singing spirituals, either. You're saying that as long as you can identify "sexist assholes" as a demographic, then making misogynist, sexist, chauvinist entertainment is somehow just a business decision, just finding a niche market and catering to it, and there's nothing wrong with that. I don't see how you can sleep at night with that attitude.

5) And all that said, moral duty aside, I think that comics would make more money if they were more inclusive, because DUH. Making something that appeals to lots of people would make more money than something that appealed to a very narrow market? Wow, revolutionary notion there. Your response, "Well, if you think that's so, then why not go found your own comics company?" is frankly so tired and trite that it's actually listed at on the Sexism in Comics Bingo Card. Long story short, just because I don't have the operating capital and distribution network to start my own company that competes with the Big Two doesn't mean I'm wrong.

Any of that help?

Richmond Strange said...

Mr Seavey, I'd just like to say I'm enjoying your blog and I entirely agree with you on this post and all your arguments in the comments. As a lot of my (male & female) friends like comics and share your view on the issue of sexism I've put a link on my Facebook page and suggested they take a look.