*trigger warning: rape, rape culture, abuse*
Sexism is everywhere. It’s visible in all of our media sources and even our everyday lives. But sexism has become more and more prominent in the comic book industry. It seems at least once a month I’m seeing another story about a popular male comic writer or artist saying incredibly misogynistic and problematic things to female comic creators or critics.
A perfect example of a comic creator who makes offensive statements is none other than the writer of “Kick-Ass”, Mark Millar. In a lot of the series that Millar has written, a recurring theme is rape. Obviously, this is a problematic motif to include into your writing on a regular basis, as it could seriously trigger sexual assault survivors. When asked about this, he replied:
“The ultimate [act] that would be the taboo, to show how bad some villain is, was to have somebody being raped, you know? I don’t really think it matters. It’s the same as, like, a decapitation. It’s just a horrible act to show that somebody’s a bad guy.”
This man refuses to believe that his comics are offensive, triggering, sexist, or problematic in any sense. He doesn’t “think it matters” that he’s putting rape scenes into almost every one of his comic books. Not to mention that Millar thinks the only way he can make it clear that a character is the villain is by making them rape someone. I’ve read my fair share of comics, and at no point have I stopped and thought to myself “Well, clearly this character isn’t the villain because they haven’t raped someone.” The majority of writers have been able to create a well written villain, without having them force themselves onto another character. Grant Morrison, one of the most popular writers over at DC and former mentor to Millar, criticized Alan Moore for doing almost the same thing as Millar.
“I was reading some Alan Moore “Marvelman“ for some reason today. I found one in the back there and I couldn’t believe. I pick it up and there are f***ing two rapes in it…he’s obsessed with rape. I managed to do thirty years in comics without any rape!”
Another issue with the quote from Millar was that he compared rape to decapitation. While both acts are horrifying and vile, there’s a clear difference: the victims of decapitation don’t have to see people being decapitated in Millar’s comics. The emotional trauma that a rape victim has to deal with is crushing and causes more damage than one would think. It’s mind boggling to me that he thinks it’s perfectly okay to use rape as a plot device to progress his evil characters.
The writer for the current run of “Captain America” and “Uncanny Avengers”, Rick Remender, has been becoming infamous for his fridging of Sharon Carter and Wanda Maximoff. People tend to forget that fridging a female character isn’t just a writing technique (and a lazy one, at that); it’s a form of sexism. Not only that, but he’s also known for turning Steve Roger’s father into an abusive drunk. In past comics, Joseph Rogers is written as a drunk, but turning him into an abusive husband and father is not only a stereotype for alcoholics, but also for Irish immigrants, which he and Sarah Rogers happen to be. He isn’t being criticized for changing Joseph’s storyline; he’s being criticized for being offensive and insensitive. To make matters worse, he’s awful at taking criticism. When people were upset with a specific line from “Uncanny Avengers”, he tweeted (and then later deleted) “Heads up– If Havok’s position in UA #5 really upset you, it’s time to drown yourself [in] hobo piss. Seriously, do it. It’s the only solution.” How professional.
Probably one of the worst things about popular comic creators being sexist is their army of fanboys that are willing to go to horrific measures to protect them. And one of the most common methods they use to attack the woman via internet is with death and rape threats. It’s amazing how these people think it’s perfectly reasonable to say to someone “I will find you and rape you because you disagreed with something that someone I admire said.” And then the person that said fanboy admires will say absolutely nothing in regards to the fact that his fans are sending out rape threats to someone over the internet because of him. The most famous and recent case, and the one that inspired me to write about sexist comic creators, is where a comic book artist at DC, Brett Booth, verbally attacked a woman online over something that had absolutely nothing to do with him.
Janelle Asselin wrote a piece for Comic Book Resources, discussing the very problematic cover for the new “Teen Titans” #1. She said her point of the piece was “there’s a broad demographic DC could be hitting with this book but the cover is certainly not made for that potential demographic.” She talked about how the artist of the cover had hyper sexualized Wonder Girl, a teenage girl, and gave her unnatural looking breasts. Asselin later on went to explain, that not everyone who watched the animated show “Teen Titans” as a child, would want to associate themselves with a comic with that cover. It wasn’t directed at the demographic that it could have so easily been directed to.
Booth read the article and didn’t agree with what she had said, and then decided to personally attack her. Which is disgustingly hypocritical, considering the fact that he tweeted “It’s the immediate personal attacks. She was wrong. So instead of either admitting it OR simply ignoring it she attacked.” I should point out, that at no point while reading this article, did I get the feeling that Asselin was personally attacking the artist of the cover, in any manner. In fact, she even said he was “a talented artist”. Booth’s accusations about the piece give me the idea that he didn’t even read the article all the way through.
Once Booth had stuck his nose where it didn’t belong (nor was it wanted), that’s when his committed fanboys started to follow suit. But they have even less self control, and an even greater lack of human decency. These fanboys decided, that since Asselin was a female writing about comics, she is obviously a fake. Asselin is a respected comic book editor that used to work for DC and then worked for Disney. This information can easily be gained by simply looking her up on any search engine. Even after someone found this information and shared it with the rest of the army of sexists, they still continued to basically call her a fake geek girl. The idiotic term “fake geek girl” is typically used by misogynistic men, who believe that that are little to no women in the world that like all the geeky things that they do. Even Booth, a man in the same industry as this woman, started to take that route as well, tweeting “Someone said earlier that a simple trip to a comic store would disprove it.” It’s truly amazing how dumb these people are if they think that someone who edits comic books for a living has never been to a comic book store in her entire life. Maybe they’re the ones who’ve never been to a comic store because if they have, they would have noticed several women there. Or maybe, if they stopped saying demeaning, sexist things like “So how many decades ago did you work at DC? Were you a coffee girl?”, they would see more girls in comic shops.
As if these comments weren’t enough, the Army of Dudebros decided that ridiculing Asselin’s highly impressive
career wasn’t crushing her self esteem like the way they wanted it to. So they decided that the next best option was to send her rape and death threats. All this woman did was voice her opinion on the cover art for a comic book and how it wasn’t selling to the right demographic. She should be praised for writing such a well written article and making such a valid argument. Instead, she’s dealing a misogynistic comic artist and his immature fanboys telling her that they’re going to rape and kill her. It’s a real shame that such a talented young woman is getting harassed for voicing her opinion.
Even though the comic industry seems to be riddled with sexism and prejudice, there are comic creators who are not only fantastic writers, but also great people. Kelly Sue DeConnick is rapidly growing popularity with her run of “Captain Marvel” and “Pretty Deadly” and her representation of women in the comic book industry. During the “Women of Marvel” panel at New York Comic Con in 2013, she answered questions regarding women in the comic book world.
“It is a big deal. I am willing to make people uncomfortable so that my daughter doesn’t have to! I was Smurfette on the Avengers panel yesterday and NO! That’s not good enough. I appreciate and I am proud of the progress that’s being made and I don’t want to sweep it under the table. But this job ain’t done. Nobody sit down!”
Brian Michael Bendis is also another example of how comic creators should be behaving towards sexism and women in comics. When someone asked him if he thought that making comics more female friendly was going to decrease the amount of males readers, whom the asker said was the “core audience” of comic books, Bendis responded by saying they were completely missing the point. He also tweeted saying that anyone who harrasses female creators or fans should stop reading his books and seek out therapy. It’s creators like DeConnick, Bendis and so many others that have restored my faith in the comic industry and I hope that I start hearing about them, rather than the problematic people.
Despite how much progress some comic book companies have made over time, it’s impossible to completely erase sexism in comics. Whether it’s the writing, the art, or the stuff that comes out of the creator’s mouth, these misogynists will always be there. It’s absolutely amazing how these people can get away with the disgusting things they say, to not only critics, but fans as well. If people start boycotting your books because of the awful things that say or post online, that’s a major hint that you need to reevaluate the choices you’ve made in your career. And no matter how many times you try to get rid of women in the comic fanbase, we’ll always be here, standing tall and proud and making a difference.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily reflected in everyone on the UzerFriendly team.