On my Tumblr blog [LINK], I post an image a day of things I like, usually comic book covers. As well as books that represent my comic book collection, I also post covers from the solicitations for DC and Marvel that catch my eye. In doing so, I’ve become worried about the fact that sexuality is used, and female sexuality only, for selling comic books supposedly to kids in the mainstream superhero market. Now, this isn’t news to anybody who reads comic books, and nor do I have a problem with beautifully drawn women, but it seems incongruous to have the imagery on superhero comic books. I’m not an old fuddy duddy who objects on moral grounds, or believed that things were better when I were a young man, but looking through the last few months of covers seem to bring up the same unnecessary focussing on breasts on bottoms.
The cover that started this train of thought in this month was for Amazing Spider-Man Family #6 by Paulo Siqueirai – I like the penmanship, the face of the woman is beautiful, but the breasts seem to defy gravity. However, this is quite tame compared with others.
The bottom obsession of J Scott Campbell is first seen, albeit from a distance, in Black Panther #4, but this is nothing to the pathetic obviousness of the cover to All-New Savage She-Hulk #2 – I mean, come on, if it was any more blatant they might as well call it All-New ASS. I think it’s the casual nature of using the female form to sell comic books that I find so depressing – I’m used to sex selling everything else (there was a ridiculously sexist ad on the side of a van that used a woman to sell eggs by Lays, for crying out loud) even if I don’t agree with it, but why on comic books?
The strange thing is the prevalence – and it’s not just the usual suspects who are completely open about their love of drawing the female derriere, such as Ed Benes and Frank Cho: at least they are honest about their obsessions (which doesn’t forgive them). From Marvel, we have Fantastic Force #2 by Bryan Hitch and New Avengers: The Reunion #1 by Jo Chen, which use the now far too common ‘woman twisting her back to show her bum’, which is just embarrassing, especially the Jo Chen cover.
And it’s not just Marvel: DC has had some recent covers that made me double-take at the sexuality of the covers, particularly because they were covers for strong female characters. The cover for Oracle #2 is by Guillem March – it sets up a strong dynamic by having the reflection of the threat in the glasses, and the line work is strong and graceful. However, the view from above looks straight down the cleavage of a very open shirt, which reveals a lack of bra (which doesn’t seem like the sort of thing Barbara Gordon would do). It just removes the power of the composition.
Then there is Supergirl #40 by Joshua Middleton – it’s trying to go for a ‘suspense reveal’ cover, as Supergirl is shocked by the unmasking of an unknown character, but the focus of the image is the lovingly rendered bottom of this mystery person. Is it really necessary? It could easily have been drawn without the focus on the posterior and still had the same power.
These covers aren’t going to increase sales on the comics – ‘sexiness’ is not the way to lure and retain new comic book readers – so why do the editors of these books allow them? Do they think it will help? Perhaps somebody could explain it to me, but I fear that it wouldn’t help – these sort of images aren’t what we need on the front of our comic books. Is this how we want to show ourselves to the world? It just makes the whole industry seem seedy and pervy, an aspect it’s been fighting for a long time. You stay classy, comic book industry …