CHRISTY MARX responds
Ever notice how often comics' loss is Hollywood's gain? Christy Marx hasn't been doing a lot in comics since her groundbreaking series, "Sisterhood of Steel," but she's been crazy busy scripting, developing, and story editing such animated series as "Spider-Man," Fantastic Four," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "War Planets," and many more--as well as live action series "The Hypernauts, "Babylon 5," "Captain Power," and the "Twighlight Zone."
"Sisterhood of Steel" was particularly notable as a rare commodity: an adventure comic seemingly aimed at adult women. I miss that book! Check out Christy's webpage (http://www.sierratel.com/moonfire/) for more information, including sample scripts and writing tips, as well as a glimpse into her photography sample book. Thanks, Christy! (GS)
A lot of other pros have commented and said things I strongly agree with, so I may come off a bit repetitive.
Frankly, I pretty much lost interest in mainstream superhero comics years ago. Now I mainly read alternative books like Strangers in Paradise or whatever seems of special worth or interest. So I'm out of it in terms of what's going on in those books currently.
On first glace, the list is one that could certainly make a person go, "Jeez, women sure get the rotten end of the sword in comics." But the only fair evaluation would be to draw up the same list of male characters and see whether the tendency toward abuse is more a general problem than a gender problem. Comics isn't the only place where characters are tortured and abused, be it sexually or through violent loss of loved one, etc. Maybe what we're seeing is a combination of many influences. Maybe it's the Springer Show Syndrome--More sex! More violence! More idiots wanting to stomp on other idiots in public! More empty and meaningless titillation!
The more the general level of violence and exposure to it is raised, the more we have to up the ante to get a thrill out of our audience. Is this why we're seeing so much extreme abuse to comic book characters? Because otherwise the writers fear the audience will yawn?
On the other hand, drama requires a certain amount of... well... drama. Things have to happen to the characters. A certain amount of "character torture" (I used that in a loose, general sense) is needed for the character to grow and change, for the reader/viewer to care about what happens to that character.
If you take a look at how I handled strong, women characters in The Sisterhood of Steel, you'll find I'm guilty of having a woman who was hideously victimized--captured, humiliated, enslaved, tongue cut out, raped, and finally left to die. I had a bunch of virgins get their throats cut so a mad king could ascend to "godhood". Obviously, I had reasons for doing that within my overall storyline. That was counterbalanced by a lot of very strong women fighting, winning, losing and living life on their own terms. Objectively, what you don't find a lot of in my series were likeable male characters, not because I don't like men, but just because of the particular kind of story I was telling.
To be fair, we'd have to evaluate each writer to find out why the character met the fate she did. It's possible a lot of these were cases of adolescent-minded male writers who didn't know any better, or angry male writers who wanted to punish a woman for something (this *does* happen), or suck-ass writers who can't come up with a better way to achieve an emotionally-charged story, or lazy writers who take the easy and clichéd way out.
And some of these come from good writers doing good stories that happened to lead to bad things happening to women, and probably to men as well. It's easy for a writer's intentions to be perceived wrongly. Example: in the Sisterhood graphic novel, I had a couple of women bitching about their periods. For this, a woman "feminist" in Canada accused me of being a woman-hater!!!
Before I can conclude we have a trend, I'd have to do a lot more research. But it makes for an interesting discussion. Thanks for inviting me to comment.