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4.14: Sample Pages

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    Asher 1 Lauren Asher

    Professor Samra

    ENGL 152:02

    29 November 2015

    Crime Fighters in Corsets: Sexism in Superhero Comics

    A villain holds up a bank, the police are at a loss, and the hostages are terrified. Suddenly, the local female superhero bursts through the wall dressed for battle. Surely that strapless corset and those stiletto boots are the perfect outfit to fight crime in, right? How would it feel to know that your life is in the hands of someone dressed like a dominatrix? Unfortunately, many of today’s super heroines are depicted this way. Even in the 21st century, women continue to be misrepresented and objectified in American superhero comics. Superheroes have been a staple in comics for many years. Created in 1939, DC Comics’ Superman was the first official superhero. Featured in the comic is Lois Lane, a reporter portrayed conflictingly as an independent career woman and as a damsel in distress (“Women in Comics”). Many of the other women who appeared in early comics took on similar roles, whether the hero they fawned over had powers or not. Often these women never actually got their man either, as he was too busy saving the world to ever settle down. A change occurred in the 1940s; it was wartime in the United States and patriotism was at an all-time high, and with this attitude patriotic superheroes such as Captain America became popular. In 1942 Wonder Woman was created; finally there was a fierce, strong woman who was also a superhero (Lavin 93). Problems with Wonder Woman do exist, however. She is depicted

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    in what basically amounts to a red corset, blue underwear and tall boots; her main weapon is the lasso of truth, which, among other uses, often suggests bondage. Novelist Jodi Picoult has even wondered how Wonder Woman manages to “fight crime in a freaking bikini” (qtd. in Yabroff 59). After an initial influx of crime-fighting heroines in the 1950s, artists began to take risks with them. “In the days before... Playboy and Penthouse, comic books offered one way to girl-watch,” comic book historian Ron Goulart explains (qtd. in Lavin 93). This interest inspired creators to make women’s costumes more revealing and their encounters sexier. These shameless portrayals of women are the precursors to today’s scantily clad comic book vixens. As one source puts it, comics have always been about “the male gaze” (Birch and Romans 51).

    At the heart of this sexism is the fact that most of the people who create comic books are men. According to statistics gathered by Tim Hanley, women represented fewer than twelve percent of the creative staff at DC Comics in 2011 (see figure 1). Simply put, the industry remains a male-dominated field.

    Credits in DC Comic Books By Profession, Percentage — October 12, 2011 100 908070 Male 6050 Female 403020100

    Cover Writer Pencils Inks Colors Letters Editor Asst. Editor Fig. 1. Gender breakdown of comic-related professions at DC Comics

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    Clearly the creative side of the industry remains far too closed to female contributors, yet as a recent article in The Guardian points out, the number of female readers and creators has been growing since 2011:

    Much of the growth in female comic readers can be [attributed] to the fact that there are far more women working in comics these days.... [and that] comic

    books from Marvel and DC featuring women characters are proliferating....

    There is also the rise of digital comics, which can be bought from home

    without having to step foot across the threshold of the local comic shop,....

    [traditionally] a male-dominated territory. (Barnett)

    Though female characters continue to be objectified, the spike in female readers and contributors is a promising sign for the entire industry. Additionally, contemporary artists like Paul Sizer are starting to reimagine figures like Wonder Woman as powerful and less sexualized characters (see Appendix A). Notice the clothing is revealing only in the sense that it accentuates Wonder Woman’s toned physique; otherwise, the

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    Appendix A

    MLA: The Works Cited Page

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    Works Cited

    Barnett, David. “Kapow! The Unstoppable Rise of Female Comic

    Readers.” The Guardian , 18 Sept. 2015, books/2015/barnett.

    [ Article from a popular magazine found online ]

    Birch, Cassie and Ella Romans. “Comic Book Vixens.” Journal of Comics , vol. 18, no. 4, 2012, pp. 49-61, doi:10.00473892213.

    [ Article from an online journal with doi ]

    Brown, Jeffery A. “Gender, Sexuality and Toughness: The Bad Girls

    of Action Film and Comic Books.” New Images of Tough Women in Pop Culture, edited by Sherrie A. Inness, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, pp. 55-73.

    [ Selection from an anthology with an editor ]

    Lavin, Michael R. “Women in Comic Books.” Serials Review , vol. 24,

    no. 2, 1998, pp. 93-100, Academic Search Elite .

    [ Article from our databases with no doi number ]

    Sizer, Paul. “Wonder Woman and the Legion of Super Heroes.” Sizer Design

    + Illustration, 2016, Accessed 13 Oct. 2016.

    [ Image from a website ]

    Winick, Judd. Catwoman 1 . DC Comics, 2011.

    [ Book with one author ]

    “Women in Comics.” Comic Vine ,

    women-in-comics/4015-43357/. Accessed 13 Oct. 2016.

    [ Unsigned article from a website ]

    Yabroff, Jennie. “Holy Hot Flash, Batman!” Newsweek, vol. 151, no. 2, 2008, pp. 7-8, Academic OneFile.

    [ Article from our databases with no doi number ]

    This page titled 4.14: Sample Pages is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Frost & Samra et al..

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