Saturday, September 06, 2014

Disney´s newest invention : sex sells comics

After our little detour to movieland to pay tribute to Salma Hayek, it´s back to comics again because there´s a topic I need to discuss. It seems the guys at Marvel ..... I mean Disney have come up with a new dastardly plot to sell comics : the objectification of women as mere sex objects.

If you have been absent from the internet for the last few weeks ( how I envy you, my friend ) you may not have heard about the whole female outrage about a Spider - Woman cover by italian artist Milo Manara.


Apparently it´s much too sexy ( which is debatable ) it is anatomically impossible ( which has never discouraged any artist before ) and also degrading to women all over the world. The latest thing in this three ring media circus is that some woman posted some mock covers to show how it would be if Disney portrayed male super heroes in the same " hyper - sexualized " manner as their female counterparts using illustrations from Marvel´s ( yes, back then it still was Marvel ) 1990 MARVEL SWIMUITS SPECIALS. Which in my opinion renders her point moot and ad absurdum.

First of all because with that she proves that Marvel has used pin ups of sexy superheroines ( and some women who are not superheroines and only loosely connected to them or a team ) as far back as the 1990s.

Actually much farther back, but we will come to that later. Fact is that Marvel was using pin ups to sell comics even back then. What´s more, they had special publications for that kind of demand with work from the best - well, babe artists for lack of a better word - like Adam Hughes.

So, they did this in the 90s but not anymore. Why do you think that is ?

Now they might have decided not to objectify women anymore because they developed a conscience. Which is highly unlikely if you keep in mind the latest announcements. It could be that this kind of material didn´t sell anymore. Which would mean that all horny, prepubescent shut ins in the entire world have died. Or - and this is the theory which I find most plausible - they discovered that they could rake in more money if instead of putting all their pin ups of hot superheroines in one book and sell it for 6 dollars they put each on a different comic as a variant cover and sold them all for a few hundred dollars. You can draw your own conclusion.

Another reason why that woman disproves her own line of argument is that she uses pin ups of male superheroes from the 1990s for her mock covers. While the mock covers are effective in illustrating her point, the fact that Marvel made them back in 1990 also renders her argument - namely that Marvel doesn´t treat male superheroes the same way - moot.

On the contrary it shows that Marvel tried to do that and obviously failed. Because if that would have been successful you can bet your bottom dollar that they would have flooded the market with such covers. But obviously that wasn´t the case because there was no readership - or not enough readership - for this kind of publication. I don´t want to point any fingers here to the gay community or women but it´s a fact that there are not a lot of women that buy comics. Or at least not in the necessary numbers to affect the decisions of comic companies. Which turns this whole internet scandal and media outrage into nothing more than a tempest in a teapot.

What´s even more ridiculous - aside from the fact that a company like Disney who always portrays itself as the paragon of wholesome and safe family entertainment is involved in this kind of outrage - is that they are just too eager to pander to a group of people who are not buying comics and thus neglect the demands of the people who DO buy their comics.

But - like objectifying women to sell comics - this is nothing new.


And if you look at their latest decisions such as making a muslim girl the new Ms Marvel, making Thor a princess and Captain America black you realize that´s all Disney is doing right NOW. They are desperate to bring in new readers so they throw out decades of continuity in the hopes that movie goers are not discouraged anymore by not being able to recognize the hero from the movie because he is so different in the comic books.

And I´m saying " comic books " because that is the big flaw in Disney´s clever strategy. It doesn´t help much if they turn the comic version of a character into the movie version if they still have a dozen different Thor books and a dozen different Iron Man books and a dozen different Captain America books. Now the new reader has to find out which one is the real one and in most cases it´s none of the above. Because the real one is the one in the old comics that were still good, so good in fact they wanted to make the movie in the first place. Which brings me to my next point.

Say somebody has seen the movie WINTER SOLDIER ( which for some reason is called THE RETURN OF THE FIRST AVENGER ) and wants to buy the comic he´s going to be disappointed unless he gets good advice from the comic shop dealer. Because otherwise he´s going to buy THIS.

Because it says WINTER SOLDIER right there on the cover, there´s the guy from the movie on the cover with the Black Widow also from the movie.

But it´s not the comic on which the movie was based. That was CAPTAIN AMERICA by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting. So if he wants to read that story he has to either get the trades, find the hardbacks or-  if he has more money and wants to get a big chunk of that incredible run in one big book - go straight for the omnibus. I´m not saying WINTER SOLDIER was a bad series. I read it myself and enjoyed every issue of it since Ed Brubaker was also writing this and the art was by a personal favorite of mine, Butch Guice with Michael Lark. So there is a chance he likes it. But if he wants to read the story from the WINTER SOLDIER it´s not in here.

Speaking about the WINTER SOLDIER movie I have to mention a few things, since I don´t know if I´m going to write a lengthy post on it.


First of all I want to say that is one the best Marvel comic adaptations, maybe even better than AVENGERS. I´ll have to watch AVENGERS again.

But this movie has everything : Chris Evans is great as Captain America, and the way in which they introduced characters like the Falcon, a.k.a. Sam Wilson or Batroc the Leaper is fantastic, and Scarlett Johansson is incredible as the Black Widow ( and since I have recently found out that she will never get naked in her movies this is as good as it gets, boys ).

The whole cast is so incredible, with Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury and Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce or that Sebastian Stan guy as Bucky.

But let´s get back to Batroc the Leaper. That alone, the fact that they included Batroc the Leaper in the movie tells you that the guys who made the movie not only totally understood who Captain America is all about and what he does but they are comic fans themselves. And you just have to watch the movie to see that they know their Captain America. There is a lot of action in this movie and the action scenes and fight scenes are all extremely well done and choreographed. But there is also a really good story underneath it all that deals with political issues we face Today.

How do we - as individuals and as a country - deal with the threat of global terrorism and what are we willing to do, which lines are we willing to cross ? Benjamin Franklin once said : " He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither. " and I think to a certain extent he was right.

This is also the point of view Captain America has in the movie and while you may take his side or favor Nick Fury´s standpoint that it´s not that simple I find it important that such issues are voiced in a comic movie. Especially since most german journalist have either missed this part or are denying that comic movies are more than simple entertainment.

They probably watched GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Now I haven´t seen that movie yet, so I can´t really say, but from what I heard the story is not that well thought out and it´s more action oriented than story driven. So if you want to see a really good movie don´t believe the hype and check out WINTER SOLDIER. With Chris Evans as Captain Puerto Rico.

That´s right. Because the american flag has seven red horizontal stripes and the puertoricenian flag has three red stripes like Cap´s costume.

Well, apparently the " A " stands for Captain " Ay " Caramba, right ?    

But let´s get back to objectifying superheroines as sex objects.

I mean, back to the topic of Disney objectifying superheroines in comic books and especially on the covers, which is what we were talking about before I got sidetracked with all the stuff about Captain America comics, the Winter Soldier and Scarletta Johanssen not taking her clothes off.


One of the statements I made was that this is nothing new ( that Marvel is using sex to sell comics, not that Scarlett Johannsen is not going to get naked ) and it´s also the reason why I chose the first picture in this post. I recently found a gallery with art by Lopez Espi who used to do all the spanish covers for such comics as JUDO - KARATE KUNG - FU ( so you´ll see some of this art in upcoming MASTER OF KUNG FU MONDAY posts ), DAN DEFENSOR ( Daredevil´s spanish name ) or such classics like MYTEK, SPIDER, EL OJO MAGICO DE KELLY, ZARPA DE ACERO or ARCHIE.

So when I first saw the cover of MS MARVEL number 1 by MUNDO COMICS I thought that the guys in Spain have once again exaggerated a bit and sexed it up, ripping Ms Marvel´s costume. But that´s not true. In fact it´s a pretty accurate adaption of the original cover of MS MARVEL issue 17 by Dave Cockrum and Terry Austin which came out in May of 1978.

And that´s not the only cover where Ms Marvel´s costume is torn off or where she´s banged up a little as you can see on the cover of issue 19.

Although I have to say that her costume is more chaste then when she started. At first she had the costume with the open midriff section which is the classic one and my favorite because it just screams Bronze Age.

Next she closed the exposed belly - but still kept the scarf. I guess it can get pretty cold when you´re flying but wouldn´t long pants help more ?

The next thing was what would later be known as her Warbird costume and I won´t even get into detail how much she was f - ed up - as a character with what happened in the infamous issue 200 of AVENGERS.

The costume looks not as chaste. Especially not from the back. Daimn !

The next one was her Binary costume when Rogue f - ed her up even more and she went cruising with Scott Summer´s Dad and the Star Jammers.

And last but not least her current costume which is closed up to the neck.

Which kind of reminds me of the costume a certain british comic character wears who also has two Ms in his name and of which Marvel ( and by extension Disney ) aquired the rights to not too long ago.

So if we put all the costumes Ms Marvel has worn over the decades side by side it seems that she has gotten more clothed as years went on. So I don´t know how that goes with the outcry of Disney objectifying women.


And what about the injured party itself ? What about Spider - Woman ?  Well, here´s Spider - Woman from the NEW AVENGERS by David Finch.

Another image of Spider - Woman from NEW AVENGERS, by Frank Cho.

And a third and final picture of Spider - Woman, by Arthur Adams.

Now you might say that these drawings are all done by babe artists and while I think you do Misters Finch, Cho and Adams a great disservice if you pigeonhole them in that manner since I think they are capable of much more than just drawing pretty girls that´s exactly my point.

This is the way Spider - Woman has been drawn in the past and this is the way she´ll be drawn now and in the future. So the way Milo Manara drew her is not really different than how she has been drawn before and if you want to start crying about how superheroine costumes seem to be sprayed on, honey, I hate to tell you but you´re at least four decades too late.

And what does Disney really hire Milo Manara for if not to draw sexy chicks ? That was what X - WOMEN was all about, it´s what he´s best known for. It´s not the only thing he does but it´s a package deal.

It´s like buying a Grant Morrison comic and then complaining that the story is too trippy. Or buying a Jim Starlin comic and then complaining that the story is too space opera - ish. Or buying a Geoff Darrow comic and then complaining that there is too much detail in the art. Or going to a David Lynch movie and then complaining that it doesn´t make sense. Or reading a Stephen King book and then complaining that it´s too scary.

This is what these guys do and if you don´t like it don´t buy their stuff.


And this is all we have time for Today. There is a lot of stuff I wanted to add about women in comics but once again it´s time to wrap things up. We´ll have to continue objectifying women in comics in our next posts and if there is a big enough demand for it I might even do another Comicbabe Battle post or do the long awaited Justice League casting.

But before we come to the video part of this post there´s one last thing I have to mention. Dave Cockrum, who drew the cover for MS MARVEL 17 has always been a huge Legion of Super - Heroes fan so it´s no wonder that he snook a little Legion reference in. You might notice that the gun that threatens Ms Marvel looks a lot like Tyr´s gun - hand from Timber Wolf, Dead Hero, Live Executioner or The Gun That Mastered Men.

Now I already posted a video about Milo Manara in my post about German cult comic Nick Knatterton and I also posted a video of the latino version of the Spider - Woman cartoon a while back. I really don´t want to repeat myself and since it would be too easy to just post a video with hot comic babes I want to post some videos to pimp THE WINTER SOLDIER more.

The first one is with Amy Dallen and she goes to the red carpet premier and asks the actors comic questions ( especially Dominic Monaghan is surprisingly well versed in everything comic related ). She also explains which comic you should buy if you have seen the movie - and liked it.

Our next one is also about this movie. Since Amy Doesn´t really talk much about the movie itself I´m adding Comicbookgirl19´s review. You should not watch this before seeing the movie unless you want to be spoilered.

For those who have already seen WINTER SOLDIER here´s a video about one of the comic series that is going to stay on my pull list as long as it´s going. It should be no surprise that I´m not talking about a Disney or DC property but rather Stan Sakai´s uncomparable Usagi Yojimbo series.

And where staying with Miyamoto Usagi a bit longer but tying in the theme of cartoon shows that has been going on in my last posts. Usagi guest starred a few times on TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES so here is an episode where Leonardo lands in feudal Japan. It´s not the first time Usagi appears on the show but it´s a two parter and to tell the truth I don´t know in which episode Usagi first appeared on the TURTLES.

One last video for the road. When I posted the TOP 25 INTROS TO 80s CARTOONS videos one of the links were to a video about the TOP ELEVEN FORGOTTEN ANIMATED SERIES and after watching I have to say they look all very interesting and well done. Out of the eleven shows I knew three.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest / best of the best

1 comment:

Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

EXCELLENT post! I think the original Ms Marvel costume was designed because she was based in California and that costume mirrored a lot of very fashionable swimwear at the time (yes, I was alive back then). When I did my post to counter this stupid Manara 'debate' I came up with so many images that made his look tame -from fans and others (I got criticised for including fan art!) and a LOT of female artists. No one was holding a gun to their heads. I guess if you watch athletics you note that female athletes wear VERY tight and skimpy shorts and how impractical they are -judging by the amount of pulling shorts out of the butt that goes on after races, jumps, etc.
Neal Adams nailed it. If you are young and male and say you do not "dig" a hot woman who is attractive and has a good figure "Yer lying!" And ditto women re. men -even the ancient Greeks (THE biggest suppressors of women), Romans, et al defined their gods and goddesses as being "perfect of figure" and handsome/beautiful.
Stan Lee said back in the 1970s that comics and super heroes are todays mythology.
Oh, and I'm snatching that Robot Archie illo!!