Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The "Power" of POWER GIRL?

The portrayal of women in comics has obviously been a hot topic since comics' inception - the question is, how far have we come since? I'm a rational member of the comic book reader community - and I admit that artwork like this gets attention from the demographic. I'm not naive or blind - I'm aware of women's stance in entertainment and our society, especially with the presence of other media outlets perpetuating these ever-lingering conventions. There are certain stereotypes and even archetypes that women, no matter how hard we try to deflect it, seem doomed to be deemed.

I posted this new Power Girl Issue 1 cover on my Facebook and Twitter, to gather some feedback from my friends and followers, and that's what I got. I got some good stuff, too, and now I want to share it, to maybe spark an even larger conversation.

As I receive more comments throughout the day, I'll update and post them here - anonymously, of course, unless otherwise requested!

The Convo / Comments from Facebook & Twitter:
  • Stuff like that's one of the reasons comics don't get taken seriously by a buncha people.
  • Theres a fine line isn't there? I don't mind art of sexy, beautiful women- but can't stand the cartoon/comic melon chested hats-off to porn star creepy sad male fantasy art..the difference is purely my personal taste. comic bimbos offend me way less than 'celebrity' pop fashion media portrayal of women though.
  • Sadly we have to consider the "audience" to which comics are geared towards (well, mainstream comics at least). I know that there's been kinda-sorta a down trend in this kind of imagery (or maybe it's just me and the comics I choose to read (fan of BPRD, Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina)), but this kind of stuff just holds the medium back and continues to trap it with the "juvenile" context everyone associates it with.
  • Its a post modern, ironic, self referential humorous in-joke comment on PG's ever expanding cleavage, which makes it okay to perv over it. I mean, to nod our heads and say how we get all those levels and layers...
  • Lighten up. Nothing wrong with blatant misogyny and exploitation.
  • But why is big tits funny? i don't get it. as a comedian once said why arent women rolling around laughing every time they look in the mirror... ooo look breasts !
  • Good point. But still - I'm pretty sure there's another way to invoke parody without overemphasizing her bazooms.
  • I guess I just don't expect any better from comics anymore.
  • getting offended by that sort of thing is an exhausting pursuit. i've sorta given up--comics=chauvinism.
  • It looks like they took a Superman pose and used it for Powergirl. Just think of it as equality in the work place.
  • Its because of her character design. It's harder to draw her in a non-offensive way than not.

  • Click "Read More" for the rest of the convo!

  • *facepalm*
  • Is she on her way to a Playboy shoot or to perform a super deed of goodness? You're non-lame. That cover is über-boobified. I expect that kind of puberty smash-n-grab from Dynamite but not from @Marvel.
  • Sometimes it's almost like the '90s never ended. Where's my shotgun?
  • I gotta be honest... I think it's a great cover. The looks on the faces in the background are classic!
  • They kind of over do it sometimes, Power Girl especially. its really pretty silly.
  • If you don't like the human body please send a letter of complaint to God for creating it in the form it is in now.
  • I think it depends why you find it offensive. To me, it's almost like she's a drunk college girl on spring break.
  • I see nothing wrong with Power Girl letting the world know that her gravity (and physicality) defying breasts can smother a fire.
  • Too much overthinking on this. funny, guys dont complain when male heros are protrayed with huge members bulging in their costumes, but women see the boobs and outrage reigns. just grin and bear it. i've definetly seen worse art than this. this one is very tame in comparison.
  • The thing is, guys do complain about penises; remember the outcry that resulted when DC solicited an image that Alex Ross drew in which some guy named Commander Steel had a revealing bulge? Here are the details:
  • One cover image of a chick is not a real concern. Males are over staurated in comics all the time yet no one complains. Will power Women show her boobs in this issue? Will she have sex with one the characters? No she just has a nice cleavage and look how Americans are all getting worked up as if they have never seen that before. 
    I must remind people that the male teen market is long gone for comic buyers, They are playing Video Games. Only people 20 and over buy and read comics.

  • Unfortunately in this society women are constantly objectified. It's just sad that this structure in world culture is so rigid that you can't really see how much we've progressed from the T & A days of old because those days are still pretty much here intact. All we can do as individual human beings is know the difference between what is exploitation and what is human... and read more Margaret Atwood!
  • HULK not have shirt and hardly any pants either.
  • Know thy demographics.
  • Comic book sellers are seeing more Teen and older female buyers in the MANGA market because they offer a different kind of story than costumed heros. Yet Manga are far more sexual than many American comics. Why is the Japanese product doing so well in attracting teen girl buyers than are publishers in the U.S.? Often the main female lead is Boy hungery and is chasing a Shy male that is far more interested in building a giant robot in his high school science class. The young male is often Objectified as a GIRLY looking youth (metrosexual) and that just drives these teen girls wild. Objectifing a gender is not always coming from male comic artists.


Brendan McGinley said...

I don't think the joke is her large chest, I think the joke is her costume which accents her large chest. There's no point to that hole except to showcase cleavage, so the comedy stems from the reversal of expectations: whereas Superman would reveal an S-shield, instantly identifying him and what his logo stands for, PowerGirl opens her clothes to reveal...nothing.

So yeah, it's horndoggery, but at least it's self-aware horndoggery; self-awareness here says, at least to me, the character has a shot of being treated as more than simply a pair of breasts.

Odd apocryphal story about Power Girl / Supergirl: Wally Wood drew her breasts slightly larger on the cover of her title each month because he was bored, until the editor asked him about it. Confessing, Wood asked if he should draw the less pulchritudinous version this month.

The editor says..."Nah. Sales are up."

Comics, ladies and gentlemen!

yuurei said...

Woo! I made it on the comment list (third and fifth from top)!

And I'm glad that someone has pointed this out - after reviewing some of the facebook comments, I started thinking about the number of characters with chest emblems. And it's amusing to see that PowerGirl here's chest emblem is, in of itself, her chest.

So in a way I can see that it's a parody, but while acting as parody it also reinforces the whole "funny books are about boobies and stuff blowing up." It's hard to shed that rap, what with media stuffing physiological ideals down our throats on a continual basis.

yuurei said...

...And the continued belief that the form can't go past its mass target audience (as one person noted - seems like 75% of the market is made up of teenage boys).


I'm going to go back to reading me some Y.

Lucy Vonne said...

She stole my moves!

NightFall914 said...

I think that yes it's blatant in the Boob focus but that's been the joke of Power Girl for years now. I think you have to put her in that context. She really should not to be taken to seriously.

Batman said...

I think with all that's out there, you have to attract attention somehow. It's really not as offensive, when seen actual size. And I agree with Brendan....

Brandon said...

A whole lot of people are missing the point.

To address Power Girl #1 briefly, it's not irreverent enough to pull of what amounts to a bunch of prepubescent, breast-related silliness.

Power Girl aside (my review, with my thoughts on its sexism, can be read at, sexism in comics is maybe more prevalent than it is in any other medium. And yes, you can blame the predominantly young, male audience if you want, but that really doesn't excuse it. It really rests in the hands of the old, male creators who can't seem to get past the 1960s and the artists who seem to believe that 90% of women are D cups.

"Women in Refrigerators" exists as a catchphrase and a website because there is a legitimate, far-reaching problem here.

Bottom line, women in comics are represented in a way that does not jive, at all, with the real world. Things are getting better, if slowly, but more creators need to take responsibility and stop pandering. It's not good storytelling. It's wanky, misogynistic, tired shit.

mrchrishunt said...

In the never ending quest for the medium to be "taken seriously", I think we sometimes forget what comics are at their heart; cartoons. They are selective recreations of reality, good or bad, funny or sad. Comics are an art form for sure, but they don't need to be esoteric. What needs to change is the perception in American comics that either you make superhero stories, or you make talking head ones. People talk about broadening the horizon, pushing comics to new levels, but then they arbitrarily decide that certain things are off limits because its been done, or its so deeply ingrained in the genre. If we're talking mainstream superhero stories, the good guys have always appeared as an ideal form whether they are male or female, its romantic escapist literature. That is unless you intentionally digress from that archetype for a SPECIFIC or ORIGINAL reason that is key to the character you've created. As it stands, Powergirl is the reflection of the base ideal for what a super powered woman looks like in the minds of readers. If THAT'S the issue, then I would say that the comics are a symptom rather than a cause...

Brandon said...

mrchrishunt is right, but in the interest of comics evangelism things like this need to fall away from the forefront. I would honestly love a world where indie/alt comics sold as well as mainstream superheroes, but as it stands, Marvel and DC are the FACE of comics to the public at large. When said public seeds Power Girl on a spinner rack while they're going to buy a copy of Home & Garden Magazine at Barnes & Noble, it only helps them continue happily with their dismissal of an entire artistic medium. What is there to help them break this habit of thought? Absolutely nothing.

I believe very strongly that comics are for everyone, just like movies and books and TV shows. The problem is that somehow this tiny subgenre of fiction has taken over the entire medium and (though I love superhero comics and say this regretfully) given it a bad name. Cleaning up the sexism and teenageboy pandering in mainstream superhero comics will go a long way towards ushering comics into the world of mainstream media.

ying-ko-4 said...

I look at this cover and think that Hughes has become as tired an artist as Ross.

And mainstream comics aren't just for kids anymore. There are a wazoo load of middle-aged men who read them, collect them and enjoy them.

The best way to make this sort of thing go away is to quit buying them. Complaining about it whilst plunking your money down for it just tells DC that you're not really very serious.

disa said...


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