My thanks to all of you!
Email as of 5/26/99
One of the great things about being a man-hating, paranoid feminist is you get such cool e-mail! Man, if I'd known I'd be this popular, I would have started male-bashing AGES ago. You all should try it!
And apologies for the delay in this update-I've been on vacation at Disneyland...woowoo!
As I'd hoped, the e-mail so far has been very telling and interesting--my suspicion that most fans and pros are good folks has been confirmed, which is nice. One thing I guess I shouldn't be surprised about is the amount of back seat driving we've gotten for this site. Something I loathe about the net is the lack of true give-and-take discourse. Lots of guys who missed the point have given advice on how we SHOULD have done it, and in a patronizing sort of way... funny at first, but getting old fast. Guys, this is what we wanted: a site designed to provoke thought and discussion. Not just an anal listing of facts designed to bolster our own opinions. I think this way has proven to be a lot more interesting, since we get to see your opinions uncontaminated by the clutter of our own. Make your own site if you feel you have a point to make and we're not making it, I say!
Okay, on with the email!! As always, some e-mails have been edited for reasons of redundancy, clarity, or space. NONE will be edited for content, and negative letters are just as welcome as positive ones. In fact, it's pretty rare that I'll print a letter that's nothing but raves, due to modesty, believe it or not. However, this first one I'm printing for a reason. (GS)
KENT G. ORLANDO said:
AWESOME site! Intelligently conceived and extrapolated, attractively laid out and user-friendly, and (more to the point) scrupulously even-handed.
Ma'am: I bow in your general direction. ;-))
I'd like (if I may) to link your site to mine own: The CHEEKS THE TOY WONDER HOME PAGE.
Take a quick gander, if and/or when you find the time; see if it's the sort of thing you wouldn't mind being associated with (I'm a congenital smartass; *know* this, going in < g >); and--assuming you don't mind returning the favor on any future links page of your own--I'll do my best to spread the good word, re: your own exemplary efforts. < g >
In any event: take care... and: [Insert Standing Ovation Here] ;-)))
GS: Thanks, Kent! What a nice letter! I printed this for two reasons; first, I've been a fan of Kent's site for a good while, so it was neat to get email from him out of the blue--and second, it's a good opportunity to point out that the site is the result of a team effort. I thought up the idea of the WiR list and have become a sort of spokesperson, I guess, but it would be unfair to forget the people who did a huge portion of the work. My undying gratitude to all of them.Beau Yarbrough: Does the best-written net news column out there, at Jonah Weiland's Comic Book Resources. He actually designed and built the site for us, as well as submitting it to a bunch of different search engines and such. The credit people keep giving me for the site's cool design should be going to him. He's getting married this summer to the ultimate Wonder Woman fan.(Does not! (RH))
Rob Harris: Invaluable aide-de-camp. He's done some of the posting, list editing, and all the updating of pages, as well as writing a very intelligent response to the "bad things happen to guys, too!" comment, in our "Reactions" section. He has blue ceramic dogs.
John Norris: He forwarded the list to many of the pros who ended up responding, and has also promoted the site all over the web. He's not right in the head, but you've gotta love him.
Jason Yu: Kindly arranged for the company he works for, Angelhaven, to host our site, so that we don't have those annoying console pop-up things. Thanks a million, Jason!
John Bartol: Provided lots of editorial input, and wrote the Dead Men Defrosting column, which eloquently made a point that people kept bringing up.
Merlin Goodbrey: Did the oh-so-cool WiR cover, and is working on another piece for us as we speak... check out his site, Triple Distilled!
Plus thanks to Stephen Cmelack and Brian Joines for their funny pieces (check them out under "Reactions") and thanks to the whole Pantheon for all their input.
Back to email!
My favorites, thus far, have been Ron Marz's incredibly disingenuous self-defense of the notorious "Alex" incident (i.e., "... it's all the fault of that darned COMICS CODE, dammit!! Geez. I mean... how did Alex end up in the refrigerator to *begin* with, Ron? Just reaching in for a leftover turkey leg, and *tripped*...? < g >) and Jim Shooter's "glad *I* didn't have any responsibility for any of these terrible things" bit o' business. (Oh. Okay... then I guess someone *else* was E.I.C. of Marvel Comics during the "pregnant Ms. Marvel" and "Dark Phoenix" storylines, then. Okay. < g >).
Marz, especially, has a long and well-documented history of this sort of thing, really. It was during his "watch," after all, that Jade was depowered; Donna Troy was reduced to the unhappy status of Kyle Rayner's compliant "boy toy"; and Kyle created such "useful" ring constructs as (f'rinstance) a giant Pamela Lee Anderson. Such a sensitive guy, Our Ron. < g >
Believe you me: had there been any one-size-fits-all "male bashing" going on... I most assuredly would have been first in line to point it out! < g > And your policy of allowing the creators to ramble on *sans* any editorializing whatsoever is so beautifully effective, it practically redefines the old saying: "... give 'em enough rope...." < g >
Incidentally, I didn't see '70's Marvel abomination "Marada, the She-Wolf" listed anywhere (another "getting-her-powers-after-being-raped" atrocity... this time by a *demon*, no less). Is this one on the way, as well?
GS: Thanks again, Kent. I'm not familiar with Marada, so maybe she's one we missed. And yeah--again, I think it's been more interesting to keep my voice out of the creator responses. In some cases, their responses have contrasted strongly with the content of their work, seemingly.
CYNTHIA POOL said:
My experience with comics is pretty much limited to Neil Gaiman's Sandman and a few ElfQuest books but, as an avid feminist, I agree that this topic needs some serious research. If I were still in school (U of Texas, Class of '98) I might even be inspired to write a thesis on it. If you know any lit/sociology professors, maybe you could encourage them to make it a class project....
Anyway, my personal theory is that this "kill off the chicks" mentality stems from the tendency of males to misunderstand and undervalue women, as well as from the pervasive misogyny of our culture. Did you know that the military will pay for Viagra, but not birth-control pills? I'm sure it all ties in somehow.
Good luck with your research! Remember: girls kick ass.
GS: Thanks, Cynthia! Not sure I agree entirely, but girls do indeed kick ass. Let no one forget!
Dear Ms. Simone -
I am not a reader of comics, generally, Sandman excepted, and logged on to your site because a friend of mine had a letter on it. Scanning the reader responses briefly, I can't help but think that the basic problem is opposing worldviews. The various responses, including "it's just fictional drama, relax" to "we're too awkward to deal with women characters," seem to me to reflect basic differences in points of view. Your points are well taken by me, specifically that the very few women characters there are seem to meet a grim demise. Yet a few readers do not see this as a problem.
I think in general, people have great difficulty seeing the connections between media and real life. People fail to realize how they are subtly influenced by what they see and hear. Frank said in his letter that comics are a reflection of our society, but it is also true that our society is a reflection of comics. In the first years of the TV series NYPD Blue, the creators justified their graphic violence and language by saying it was a depiction of real life. The same may be true for some comic situations involving violence. However, that does not mean seeing it reproduced in any medium is desirable. It is also true that exposure to images of violence has a deep impact on us psychologically (any psych major could tell you).
It is very concerning that much of the violence in media is perpetrated against women. While it is true that the years have seen an increase in positive depictions of female characters, many "victims" are still women. Fortunately, most people are not victims of violent crime, though crime touches many of us in some way at some point in our lives. Women, I believe, are more sensitive to violence against women because we are members of that group. We identify on some level with women who are victimized. Unless a man personally knows a woman who has been victimized, he is unlikely to identify at all. Hence, he is not as sensitive to portrayals of violence against women in media. This is the opposing worldview. Men see their local world as generally safe. Yet many women see their local world as potentially harmful due to the presence of rapists and muggers who target women.
You have raised a very complicated issue. As you have recognized, it is far greater than the comics, and is symbolic of our entire world culture. I applaud you for bringing the debate to a medium that is so excessively sexist and violent.
GS: Wow, Donna. Quite a letter. Okay, here's my chance to say something I've been meaning to for a while. These are adventure/action stories we're talking about. If women are in these stories as major players, then the typical fates suffered by male characters (being beat up or shot at) SHOULD happen to females as well. No one at the WiR site has any problem with women characters suffering the standard elements of drama.
My problem arises when:a) The female characters are shown ONLY as victims or hostages,There are a few other annoying plot contrivances that seem to be directed more at women, but those are my personal pet peeves. Supergirl getting beat up in a fight doesn't bother me.
b) Female characters with long histories are casually tossed aside while male characters of equal stature don't seem to be at a similar rate,
c) A beloved female character is killed/depowered/tortured/whatever purely for shock value, for the effect it produces on a male character. This is a pretty tiresome ploy no matter what gender the victim is, but I think most will agree it happens to women more than men.
CHRISTIAN READ said:
I read comics, all sorts of comics. I also read books and not just SF-Fantasy. I'm a guy. I have a girlfriend. I have a job. I'm a normal guy.
I just damn well never thought about my guilty little pleasure in this way before. I perhaps would have argued that comics have a positive effect for young women, that despite the tits and arse, these were still powerful and strong women.
Christ. I'm going to have to have a think about this.
Thank you very much for making me question my values again. This is an amazing site, one that I shall be highly recommending to my friends and associates.
Christian Read, Australia.
GS: Hey, Christian! thanks for the nice letter. I personally think it's good to take our values out and give them a good looking at once in a while, but obviously, it's not our intent to take the enjoyment out of comics for guys. As always, the best idea is to support those creators doing good work.
HEIDI PAYNE said:
Hi, I'm a fan of yours, to say the least. I've been handing the site around to friends of mine, and I guess you're interested in what other people think about the subject.
I love your site, and found that it kind of complements something I've been working on, albeit with *far* less effort than you've shown in your site. I call it Writing Women and Children (Badly), and I'd like to know if you'd like to look it over. It's at: http://18.104.22.168/hpayne/women&children.htm.
A copy can be sent to you if you'd like; I just found it amusing that, well, your site's *there*. I think it's a really cool thing to get up there and say, considering how many people will so take it the wrong way. :-D
Anyway, I hope my own list doesn't offend; it started out as a joke, but I'm afraid that somewhere out there somebody *is* using this to write with. Good luck with the site; I'll be checking back often. :-)
GS: Heidi's list is pretty funny-you guys should check it out. I'm sure you'll recognize all the situations listed. Thanks, Heidi! Hope to see your friend's dissertation soon!
It seems distrubing to me how easily WiR disregars DAVID's letter, whom had many good points. Like one thing he pointed out was that a lot of those women on the list are apart of the "love interest" category. The women in these roles are at great risk, because they are easier to attack them than to attack the hero directly. Anyways, speaking of suffering look at Batman. He is someone who has suffered his entire life and everyday Bruce Wayne lives on the brink of insanity. Someone like Spawn has undergone suffering far greater than most Characters that I have read. Or take Shadowhawk whom was infected with the AIDS virus by some villans. Men suffer too. I know the point of WiR is to show that women suffer and never get their powers back. But men suffer too in comic books ok? Also, I would like to see the rest of Scott's first letter that was severely editorialized. Instead of telling us what he had written maybe we, readers, can evaluate his points directly from our own standpoint. I know some space had to be saved for other letter, but there is so much space devoted to praise of WiR instead of criticism. Criticism breeds thought and diversity.
Also, in the financial picture, male characters sell better than most female characters. What would a reader, male or female, buy a book of SpiderMan or SpiderWoman? Also, there is a rapid climb in the amount of female superheroes, like WitchBlade, Gen13(mostly women), Shi...just to name a few. And most of them are far more powerful than their male counterparts. The Women in gen13 could take the men anyday. Also, someone like Psylocke or Rogue or Storm could take out most of the X-men.
In closing, Comic books are a violent world like our own reality, where there are injustices. I would rather chase after the REAL offenders of rape, abuse, sexual discrimination in the REAL world than waste my time protesting that Supergirl should've had a proper funeral.
And why don't you look at how racist the comic book world is if you are looking at it through the ethical standpoint? I'm Asian-American and I take no offense in the lack of ethnic diversity in the comic world. Granted Spawn and Shadowhawk are black, but who else in the mainstream comicland? There are very few asian people in comic books or film yet they make up more than a fifth of the world's population. But I am not enraged because it is all make-believe. Comics are comics are shady representation at best of the real world. I love Comic Books a lot, and I have a strong devotion to Batman (except the movies, yuck!) and Astro City, but I wuld rather be spending time talking with peers, laughing and bonding than reading a comic book. Because comics books are just fantasy. The moment people compare them with real world values people start seeing imperfection.(granted some books have more social value than others) But that is because comics are imperfect...there is no rationalism or physical laws of thermodynamics that govern Comics. They are just stories leave them at that....
GS: Sigh... Okay, Dan. Your points, in order.
First, if it seemed like I disregarded David's letter, it's simply because I didn't refute his points one by one. A lot of what he said had been covered before. I had no intention of disregarding his letter, and in fact, made a point of printing it last so that it wouldn't be surrounded by letters of praise. The rest of your first paragraph is stuff I keep hearing over and over, even though, no offense, it's weak, weak stuff.
First, no one on the WiR list is on there because of something bad in their origin. Batman and Spawn are tragic conceptually... this is quite different from taking a bright character like Black Canary and depowering her, or crippling Batgirl permanently. I don't think I should have to explain this repeatedly, but apparently I do. As for Scott's letter, to be brutal--it was formatted oddly, and was a bit difficult to follow. I'm going to include it unedited at the bottom of this page just for you--you guys write enough alike it's almost suspicious. As for criticism, I agree completely. Most of the really adoring letters we've been sent don't get printed, though they're appreciated. By contrast, I've printed EVERY SINGLE letter that was even slightly critical. So far, I'd say David's was the most articulate. To be honest, I'd hoped for a bit more criticism, assuming it was well thought out.
The point about male characters selling better is immediately destroyed by the proven saleability of the many comics out right now with females as their selling point. It's funny... for years, the industry avoided making books with strong female leads because they didn't sell, only to jump on the bandwagon when proven wrong by Gen 13, X-Men, Supergirl, Lady Death, Witchblade, and many others.
As for chasing after REAL offenders... well, that's interesting. I've done seven years of volunteer work with abuse victims, Dan. I AM doing something in the real world. I don't consider the WiR list about real abuse. But let me ask you this... would you defend comics stories that were racist? Of course not. So, the "they're just stories" comment is kind of a weird thing to say--To assume that the stories are value neutral is a slippery slope. They're not created in a vacuum, Dan.
That said, I do appreciate your comments.
I checked out the site. It was pretty interesting. Not really for the list of women and the bad things that have happened to them, since it's not really a good portrayal being in a vacuum like that, but more for the responses of the pros and what it had to say about them.
Some jumped on the let's-bash-males bandwagon. Others calmly pointed out that the list was very exclusive and left nothing as a measuring stick since it makes no mention of percentages of women in comics, women in comics versus men, or women in comice who have had bad things done to them versus men in comic who have had bad things done to them. Some got really defensive (feeling guilty maybe?). And one even turned it into an attempt to bash America and say how all the evils we have here don't happen in other countries like his beloved Canada. It was worth a laugh.
But here's my take. I agree with most of the writers that most of the characters were supporting characters and therefore expendable, which is why they were singled out, not because of gender. But even the women who were in starring roles have a few things that can act as a defense for the misdeeds done to them in their lives.
In all forms of mythology, it plays an important role for the hero/heroine to travel into the underworld/the world beyond/the dark jungle/the deep caverns/whatever as she starts her journey to become a better person, in this case symbolized by her becoming a superhero (or in some cases where she was already a superhero, becoming a major superhero, or a superhero with a different outlook.)
Now before the hero/heroine can make this journey into the otherworld (which is really the subconscious, but is also the realm of death), they must go through a trial that usually involves the cutting away of the flesh. In the case of the two Navajo children that go looking for Father Sun, they are cut at by reeds and sharp stones along the way. The goddess Innanna (from Babylonian mythology) must stop at each of the seven portals into the underworld and remove a garment of her clothing until she is naked before the goddess of the underworld. This is all supposed to symbolise the cutting away of the outer, physical, material self so that the inner, spiritual and true self may continue the journey to enlightenment that only the spirit itself can achieve.
Even the rape incidents to a large extent are doing just this. While the woman is not losing any body part (with the possible exception of her hymen if is she is still a virgin) by being raped, brutally savaged, the story is forcing upon her a breaking away from humanity and society. Her body has become the symbol of the spirit, and the attacker is doing what is necessary to force the alienation away from the corporeal, material world of society. If you look at the case of Red Sonja (who was not on the list for some reason): After being raped and having her family killed (more of the cutting away of the "flesh") she sudddenly gets a vision of the Goddess (a spiritual revelation). From that, she is granted a near perfect skill in the art of combat. Likewise, she must vow never to love a man unless he can first best her in combat. (And this, of course, is like saying you can never drink your water until it has evaporated.) This reinforces the schism between the new, spiritual Red Sonja and the old, fleshly Sonja. She has made a vow to renounce the material world now that she is a vibrant part of the otherworld.
Despite what has happened to her to create her particular mythos, the only thing really shocking or sexist about it is the damn get up they had her wearing in the '70s. C'mon, a scalemail bikini? Doesn't she get cold? And exactly how much protection could that really give her? That's where the sexism comes into play.
I am glad to meet a comic book aficionado like yourself on the Net. I read what you had to say in the frightening "Women In Refrigerators" website. Superheroines have been poorly portrayed in the comic book industry because the majority of readers have been known to be male. Therefore, action heroines are drawn and sometimes written more for sexual exploitation than to highlight them as individuals who are as competent in their chosen "career" as the supermen are. You realize by the different way that heroines pose as compared to the men. The men's pose can be accompanied by any country's flag flying behind them, while the women seem to be primping themselves up for Playboy.
Let us hope that a new intelligence would invade the comic book industry that will highlight the competence of its female defenders of justice.
GS: That would be nice, Julian... maybe such a thing is coming. It's an uncertain industry.
Thanks again to everybody--a big special thanks to those who have linked our website to theirs... the reviews have been terrific and encouraging. Also, about awards... I applied for a few and got them all... are these awards legit? Do they just get given to anyone who applies? Do they mean anything? The ease with which we got them makes me wonder if it's worth even listing them. Let me know what you guys think!
Til next time,
And now, as promise, Scott Promish's unedited letter:
This is ridiculous. Basically, you're saying that female characters shouldn't undergo any kind of character development whatsoever. I'm not saying I agree with everything that happened to them (Snowbird's death upset me greatly, for example), but come on, if I liked every comic that was out there, well, I'd be homeless for one thing... So anyway, you make this list but you don't give a thought to what happens to male characters. Sure, male characters don't often get raped, and obviously they aren't going to have pregnancy issues, but as far as insanity, death and transfiguration, male characters have suffered just as much. I went through your list real quick and plugged in some counterexamples, and I think they're all pretty solid.Arisia (dead)
Katma Tui (dead)
--Hal Jordan (insane, dead)
--Batman (back broken...but back to normal now, so fine...)
--Killer Moth (turned into demonic thing)
--Clayface II (dead)
Wonder Woman (raped, dead, brought back)
Wonder Girl I (identity and powers stripped from her multiple times)
Black Canary (tortured, made infertile, depowered)
--Green Arrow (dead)
Raven (evil, sometimes dead)
--Jericho (turned evil)
Lady Flash (evil)
--Reverse Flash (also dead)
--didn't Flash's whole Rogue's Gallery die recently?
Phoenix (evil-dead-who knows)
Elektra (the real one ... dead)
Elasti-Girl (the only original Doom Patroller to stay dead, I believe)
Supergirl (they killed her, let's face it)
Captain Marvel II of the Avengers (depowered)
--she seemed to have her powers in the latest issue of Avengers. I could be wrong.
--Captain Marvel I (dead)
Marrina of Alpha Flight
Aurora of Alpha Flight (crazy)
--Sasquatch (killed, lost body, came back as woman)
Moira MacTaggert (diseased)
--Banshee (lost powers)
Rachel Summers (lobotomized)
Nova (Frankie Raye)
Red Guardian II (kidnapped and brainwashed into being the love-slave of a super-villain)
--Titanium Man I and II (both dead)
Power Girl (gained a vulnerability to unprocessed natural materials... like sharp sticks)
Supergirl, PAD version (lost her invisibility and most of her shapeshifting)
--Superman was depowered somewhat. Didn't he die for a short while, too?
Mera (insane, child murdered)
Huntress II (sexually abused)
Zatanna (powers severely limited)
--Doctor Strange (lost an eye, lost powers at least once)
Lightning Lass (lightning powers changed to anti-gravity)
Triplicate Girl (one triplet killed)
Shrinking Violet (lost a leg in Giffen's Legion)
--Ferro Lad...um, I know there are other dead male Legionnaires...
Laurel Gand (dead)
--Negative Man (changed into...something)
--Cliff Steele (dismantled/demollished many a time, was just a brain for a while)
--The Chief (decapitated, existed for a while as just a head)
Jet of the New Guardians (died in battle after contracting HIV)
Starfire (forced into marriage ... twice)
Ms. Marvel (mentally controlled, impregnated by rape, depowered, alcoholic)
--Iron Man (alcoholic)
Spider Woman I (dead for a while, depowered)
Huntress I (apparently crushed under a building, I believe)
Mantis (dead, I think)
Crimson Fox (dead)
Looker (now a vampire)
Aquagirl (periodically dead)
Lady Quark (dead)
Fury II (child kidnapped, husband killed twice, insane)
Dove II (dead)
--as is Dove I
Dawnstar (wings cut off, taken over by an evil spirit)
--Angel (wings cut off, turned evil)
Redwing (of the Team Titans)
Ms. Marvel II (became a monster in "Fantastic Four")
Mirage (from "Team Titans")
Mystek (from JLTF)
Enchantress -- technically a villain, but she worked with the Suicide Squad (crazy)
--wasn't she always crazy? Most of Suicide Squad were villains.
Element Girl (dead)
Francis Kane (crazy, sometimes evil and crazy)
Rogue (just plain messed up)
She-Hulk (Locked in her monstrous form forever)
Storm (depowered, repowered, periodically crazy to one degree or another)
Betty Banner (abused, changed into a harpy, DEAD)
Marlo -- Rick Jones' wife (killed and brought back, formerly a porno star)
Gwen Stacy (VERY DEAD)
Invisible Woman (miscarriage of second child)
--don't forget that she was made evil by Hate Monger II. Look, the F.F. have been through so much, I bet you could find any number of examples of anything for all four. Reed lost his powers once. The Thing has been changed from monster to human more times than anyone can count. Which reminds me of the Hulk...
Scarlet Witch (children 'die'/vanish/are lost because they are figments of her imagination)
--Vision (corrupted by alien computer, dismantled, rebuilt without memory or emotion)
--Wonder Man (died a couple times, reborn as energy being)
Firestar (powers either killing her/sterilizing her)
--she's getting better now, thanks to Hank Pym, who by the way, was a little unstable for a while.
Namorita (revealed to be a clone, reverted to a more primal Atlantean form)
--Namor (lost memory once)
Karen Page (addicted to drugs, infected with HIV, dead)
Illyana Rasputin (kidnaped and raised by demons, aged, de-aged, KILLED)
Candy Southern (dead)
Jean DeWolff (dead)
Wolfsbane (locked in her werewolf form for awhile, needs major therapy)
Madelyn Pryor (clone, brood mare, demon queen, dead, brought back)
Laurel Kent (turned into a robot, dead) Mentalla (dead)
Dawn Allen (dead)
Shvaugn Erin (turned into a man)
SW6 Projectra (dead)
Sensor/"Jeka" (reintroduced as a snake)
Apparition (one of her three bodies dead, soul bound to boyfriend)
Kinetix (depowered twice, catatonic)
All of Savage Dragon's girlfriends (dead)
Psylocke (eviscerated, depowered)
Domino (kidnapped, tortured)
Tarot (dead, brought back w/life bound to an evil man)
Cloud (turned INTO a man)
--actually, Cloud was split into two entities (or more correctly, the being that was Cloud took the form of two teenagers - one male and one female - Cloud has since been returned to its proper stellar form (Defenders #150, I believe))
Snowbird (child and husband murdered, insane, dead)
--See other Alpha Notes above. Oh, here are some more.
--Box (turned evil, killed)
--Puck (turned into normal sized old man)
--Northstar (turned gay...oh, now there's a touchy subject)
Diamond Lil (kidnapped, experimented on by own government)
--Flashback (future self killed)
--Smart Alec (lost his mind)
Linda Park (kidnapped, removed from history)
Wildcat II (dead)
Dr. Midnight II (dead)
Tomorrow Woman (dead)
--a robot who appeared for one issue. Big deal.
Buf (from X-Man) (crippled)
--Colossus (evil for one story, nearly killed much later on)