In the wake of the controversy of the variant cover of Batgirl #41, I have discovered many articles. One link lead to a headline posited by a (self-identified) feminist Twitter activist who’s name was blocked on the screen-captures. She said, “Show me the cover where Batman is the Victim of the Joker… Show me Batman helpless, stripped of all agency.” This was followed by several followers posting what they thought met that request. The only one that I thought came close to the Batgirl cover was one of Batman #674, showing Batman tied to a chair with a power drill being wielded threateningly by the (off-panel) Joker, in vaguely the direction of Batman’s genitals. This still doesn’t equal the Batgirl cover to me on a few levels: 1) Batman has agency, his facial expression is fierce there, defiant—He is still fighting. 2) The Joker is only implied and not shown, we are actually made to side with the Joker as the angle forces us the viewer to see things from the Joker’s perspective. 3) The Joker has never sexually assaulted the Batman—He has sexually assaulted Batgirl/ Barbara Gordon, in the pages of 1988’s “The Killing Joke”, which the cover in question was referring directly to. (For more Batgirl, Batman and the Joker, please redirect to our Batman Hoodie category.)
So to me, this all begs the question: Does the Joker want to rape Batman? We know next to nothing about the Joker other than that he’s a violent psychopath who is locked in a mutual obsession with the Caped Crusader. Even in the Joker’s own short-run series or when referred to by other villains, most notably his sidekick/ not exactly girlfriend Harley Quinn, he is oddly non-sexual, at least when immediate pain and power are not involved. And in the Killing Joke, he didn’t rape Barbara, and he didn’t know she was Batgirl, he just shot whoever answered the door and got lucky: it was Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, whom he then stripped naked while she bled out and took photographs of her to show to Jim later, in order to torture Jim, not to do anything with Barbara.
The Joker in films is often depicted as sadistic, delusional, deeply narcissistic and more than a little… Effeminate. The idea of the “Gay Serial Killer” is an unfortunate reminder of old prejudices we still see in cinema, most often in Film Nior, which Batman has it’s roots firmly in. In 2008’s “The Dark Knight” Heath Ledger won an Oscar© for playing the most infamous nemesis as a spooky, kooky, sometimes dressed-in-drag anarchist who tells Batman: “You complete me”, arguably the most quotable line from a romantic comedy in the 20th century.
Backing up for a second, the first cover in the thread that I mentioned wasn’t Batman and the Joker, but Batman and Harley—A female Joker who is less threatening than the real thing. She has Batman tied up on the floor, his bat-manhood shoved toward the viewer, and it’s still not about her threatening him, sexually or otherwise. It’s about making Harley Quinn a desirable object in the foreground for the assumed white-hetero-male demographic, and about making Batman a fetishized self-insert wish-fulfillment character. The viewer is supposed to say, “Yeah, I’d let her tie me up anytime. Crazy chicks are great in bed.” It’s not about Batman at all, and it’s not about him being threatened with sexual assault, because the person who commissioned the cover or who drew it decided, consciously or subconsciously that women either don’t or can’t be a sexual threat to men, at least not if the woman is hot enough.
But nobody is saying that Batman wants the Joker to tie him (or anyone else) up. Nobody ever saw Batman stripped naked, without his cowl and cape and armor, bleeding and violated and unconscious at the mercy of someone who was doing it in order to say… Emotionally harm Selina Kyle/ Catwoman. Batman has endured great horrors and losses, he’s that kind of Hero, he’s dark and he’s human and he comes from tragedy, but he’s not a woman. And yes, men can be, and unfortunately are raped and sexually assaulted, by both women (of all levels of attractiveness) and by other men. But women are sexually assaulted a great deal more often, and usually by men who are close to them—not strangers in alleyways with weapons. Women in comic books are harmed so often in order to get an emotional response from the Male hero that writer Gail Simone started a website about the trope: Women in Refrigerators.
Back to the Joker: it has been posited that during the death of Jason Todd, the Joker takes a sexual pleasure either from the brutality of Todd’s murder at his hands itself, or simply in molesting Todd’s unconscious/ dead body (off-panel) after the fact. Does the Joker get off on anyone’s pain, or does he get off because he knows he’s indirectly causing Batman trauma? Or because Todd was a pretty teenage boy in tights? Maybe all three. Also, on Batman: The Animated Series, especially in films such as “Mask of the Phantasm”, the Joker laughs hysterically, even euphorically whenever Batman causes him physical pain, even imminent death. This can be interpreted as more than just common madness—The Joker is aroused by Batman beating him, conquering him, physically overpowering him and having to give in to Batman’s darkest desire: to finally kill the Joker. There is undoubtedly something psycho-sexual there.
How do I answer my own question here? The Joker doesn’t much care for sex, and he gets off on power and abuse, regardless of whether there are sexual overtones or not. He may desire a sexual relationship with Batman, but it doesn’t come off as one where he wants to particularly assert himself. He is playing a game with Batman, and playing chicken with Death, hoping he can get the Dark Knight to go off the rails and break his one rule. There’s the same sexual tension between the Joker and Batman that someone with a car-crash fetish has when they don’t hit the breaks, or a storm-chaser goes through when getting too close to a level 5 twister: the Joker wants to lose himself in Batman, and in so doing, have Batman be lost as well. (Joker Poster – “Bats” can be found with our other Posters.)
In that case: nice try with those covers, but no cigar. Batman doesn’t lose anything from the Joker winning some of the time, because that is not representative of the relationship that they have as characters. Barbara Gordon was dealing with PTSD from her encounter with the Joker when I last read her, and rightfully so. I think that’s what the woman who had her Twitter handle but not her picture erased was trying to say: there is a double-standard in how female super heroes are treated vs. how male super heroes are treated in comics. You can’t show me a cover of Batman being reminded of that time the Joker took his power away—because that never happened to Batman. But it did happen to Batgirl, and in a Batman book.
I can’t tell you how many girl crush #’s I’ve used to say that I love Kelly Sue DeConnick. But here I go again. Let me add gratuitously to the pile of praise heaped on to Image Comic’s intersectional feminist baby: Bitch Planet!
I’ve read the first 3 issues and it’s a self-aware Quentin Terantino-style retro women-in-prison exploitation series but set in the near future… In SPACE!!! (Terantino XXX and Girls in Prison from our extensive Movie T-shirts library.) The things that make BP so good are twofold: 1) Its use of diverse female characters to tell actual women’s stories of alienation, personal discovery and fighting the Patriarchy are as relevant as they are fun (and violent!). 2) After the first 2 issues setting up the setting and cast, each issue is using a special guest artist to highlight and tell a character’s personal story, interwoven into the larger narrative. This starts in issue #3, “The Secret History of Penny Rolle”, my personal favorite of the trio. In it, Big, bold and BAD Penny is taken from her loving home at a young age because her grandmother (and assumedly also mother) is a single, black, morbidly obese woman, which in this near-future dystopia is enough to make her considered “Non-Compliant” in the eyes of the state and nation: you don’t look like you should look or act like society wants you to act, you go to jail.
Still, Penny is my hero because when forced to look through a magic-tech mirror (SPOILERS!) to see her most idealized self, she sees exactly who she is already: a big, angry, woman of color fighting to be free even in her cage. Because God don’t make no junk, and honey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
So, ladies, gentlemen, friends all across the gender spectrum, are you ready to party like it’s your last night before being shipped to Bitch Planet? Are you mad about the status quo? Are you ready to be Non-Compliant?
DC was my first comic book love, starting with Catwoman Year One on a grocery store spinning rack when I was about 9 years old. The women of the “Bat Family” have continued to enthrall me over the years, but around 2012, I stopped and dropped many of my formerly favorite titles due to changes in tone, direction and creative teams. Feminist dynamo was fired, then re-hired, then voluntarily left the Batgirl title, and things haven’t been the same since. I made no secret of the fact that I’m no fan of Dan DiDio’s practices as head of creative at DC or of the New 52.
I wanted to have something nice to say about DC and feminism—I met Babs Tarr, the current artist on Batgirl, and San Francisco resident, and she seemed really cool. But I don’t like the book any more than I did before and I don’t buy it, or any other DC titles anymore. They’re boring retreads of continuity with constant re-branding instead of hiring actually diverse creative teams. And anytime I’ve seen Batgirl in the news, it’s because of some new, unfortunate decision.
I read the Killing Joke a few years ago, and it’s a great book, but 2 things it is not: It was never meant to be in main Batman continuity, and it was never about Barbara Gordon. This is why making it the focus of the “Batgirl #41: Joker Variant Cover” was a bad idea to begin with. The cover showed a terrified Batgirl with blood-like makeup smeared over her face as the Joker threatened her in a sexual manner with phallic handgun. The sexual assault overtones are enough to make this inappropriate for a cover in a Teen or Family aimed female-led comic, but the fact that it isn’t about Barbera or the batsuit at all made it way over the top, making her an object, de-powered. Girls and women are not props to be used to evoke feelings in men, and especially should not be depicted that way in their own books.
Rat Queens Special: Braga #1
Image Comics’ “Rat Queens” has courted controversy and critical praise for its intersectional feminist take on the oft-male-dominated Dungeons & Dragons inspired tales of high-fantasy action. For the uninitiated, the best-selling book was created last year by Writer Curtis J Weibe and Artist Roc Upchurch, who was asked to leave the book about an all-female and racially diverse cast of 4 merry mad mistresses of magic and mayhem, when he was arrested on domestic violence charges against his wife in December. Upchurch was then replaced by artist Stjepan Sejic.
(Targaryen In Red from our Game of Thrones t shirts collection.)
A one-shot side adventure focusing on a background character, the Orc maiden frienemy of the main gals, and leader of another adventuring party, Braga, was published in the interim. Braga just so happens to be a Trans* woman, as the issue reveals, with stunning art by female relative newcomer, Tess Fowler.
The story of Braga herself is fairly straightforward: born the eldest son of an Orc chieftain, “Broog” as he was then known, was always rebellious, favoring peaceful negotiations over his father’s war-mongering ways. Broog’s younger brother challenged him for the throne, gouging Broog’s eye, but losing his good arm in the fight, and Broog left the land in his care. There are hints at a love story, left mercifully ambiguous, and overall, it’s a story of being self-defined in every possible way: it’s like any other Rat Queens tale: diverse, colorful, gory, smart and fiercely contemporary, with just enough sexy and silly to keep it afloat.
Even as Trans* characters seem to be having a “moment” in pop culture, I can not recommend this story enough. Rat Queens #9 is on sale from Image Comics now, as are Braga #1 and the first 6 issue collected graphic novel.
Unlike most of my generation, I didn’t grow up with Robocop in my nostalgia filter. I only saw the original 1987 film for the first time last year, around the same time the remake was coming out, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Joel Kinnaman, Omar from the Wire and Rorschach, plus of course, Michael Keaton. Notice something missing from that amazing cast? There are no women in it. In the original Robocop film, there were two important female leads: Robocop’s partner (who was replaced by Michael K. Williams) and Robocop’s Doctor (replaced by Gary Oldman). I love those actors and the new movie was available on Netflix, so I gave it a shot.
(Robocop Detroit Map T-Shirt from our vast Movie T-Shirt catalog.)
What made the original a classic and the remake suck? It’s certainly not the cast, as Michael Keaton gives a subtle but slimy performance as the corporate bad-guy and the lead, Joel who plays Murphy actually reminds me of a young Michael Bhein more than a young Peter Weller (not a bad thing, either way). If anything, they wasted a perfectly good cast.
The two problems I had with the structure of the remake were evident in the opening of it: there is no protagonist to root for (we meet Sam Jackson’s horrible TV personality first) and instead of focusing on a gang and drug war torn Detroit, we see a stereotypical depiction of war torn Middle East needing the US to save the day. Worst of all sins however is just the new Robocop is boring. It’s shiny plastic PG-13 crap with no blood, no bite and no wit. The Paul Verhoven headed original was an epic blood-caked parable of Christ in a drug apocalypse interwoven with scathing gallows humor and sly satire of commercialism, indoctrination and addiction. The new one had… Black armor and some sloppy, semi-racist talk about police militarization and privatization.
Just watch DREDD for the 1000th time instead.
I didn’t watch a lot of the movies that were nominated for Academy Awards this year, but I did recently watch Birdman. Was it the Best film I saw this year? Sadly, no. That dubious honor goes to the LEGO Movie. But I’m not a member of the Academy, so what do I know? Birdman was however worthy of praise, and far and away the weirdest movie I saw in the last year.
(Batman T-shirt from our Batman Hoodie collection.)
Michael Keaton, whose Birdman costume was molded from his own body form of over 20 years ago when he played Batman, did not win the Oscar for Best Actor. In fact, none of the nominated cast of Birdman won their respective statues, despite being front-runners and hailed with tons of praise by critic and fans alike. Were they robbed? Yeah, maybe.
Birdman is a funhouse mirror play-within-a-movie about a former blockbuster success star who made superheroes mainstream now a relic of his glory days, slipping ever more into madness and trying to prove he’s more than the gruff voice behind the mask, even if he doesn’t believe it himself. It’s kind of like if David Lynch directed Magnolia, and it was supposed to be a family comedy of errors. It was funny, but less funny ha-ha and more funny-weird. Spoilers: you get to see old Batman beat the sissy slapping crap out of former Incredible Hulk, so that’s great.
A Valentine’s Day PSA By Jae Gibbs.
Let me get one thing straight: I am not the Fun Police. I am not here to shame or judge anyone for enjoying the things they like. I am not trying to ban any type of books, movies or artistic expression, or tell people what they should or should not spend their money on. I’m just trying to be a good person, a good friend and a good feminist in a crazy, often scary world. I’m trying to be the change I wish to see, with my words, the articles I post, and most of all with my original writing.
When I was a teenager in a small town, I read Ms. Rice’s Erotic Sleeping Beauty books, some of them out loud at the public library in the children’s section (there were no children present at the time, it was making fun of the idea of a Fairy Tale for adults, and of the awful purple prose and Ikea nature of the sex in those books). And I think “50 Shades” is just more of the same bodice-ripper, Harlequin, free on the internet kind of immature “romance” fiction. There’s nothing new under the sun and no stories left untold.
I take issue with female protagonists written by female authors using tropes that de-power and rob agency (especially sexual agency) from supposed “strong female characters (TM)”. I take issue with abuse being mislabeled as romance or sexy. I take issue with bad writing and most of all, with authors not bothering to do any research on a subject as touchy as “alternative lifestyles” and presenting their fantasies as accurate portrayals of said lifestyles. But more than any of those combined, I take issue with censorship. We have the right to like what we like, frivolity, flaws and all.
I ask only that people think about what they are consuming, and maybe ask themselves why they enjoy something that’s controversial or a “guilty pleasure”. And please, don’t try it at home unless you do the research that the author failed to do. (Stephon from SNL “Spicy!” from our funny t shirt collection. Let’s not take ourselves too seriously.)
Know yourself, and know the difference between love and being taken advantage of. Have a safe and happy Valentine’s Day.
Fairer Sex Heroes by Jae Gibbs.
Feminism Finally came to Asgard in 2014.
Did you know that the first masked super-heroes were created for and by women? In 1902, Emma Orczy wrote the Scarlet Pimpernel, about a masked vigilante, and in 1936 “The Phantom” was first published in an Australian women’s magazine. If not for women readers, would modern comic books exist? Doubtful, since in the early days of the medium, (1930’s-40’s) more girls read them than boys, regardless of subject matter. And now, studies show that women and girls are buying and reading about half of all comics and graphic novels, more than that if you include sales of Manga.
(The Mighty Thor from our Marvel T-Shirts collection.)
So, when I saw that Marvel’s THOR was going to become a female character, I thought it a ploy, as did many fans and critics. Then I read it. It was really damn good. The writer, Jason Aaron, denied that it was a ploy from on high and said he’d been planning this arc for the two years strong he’d been writing for Thor. Along with outstanding art by Russell Dauterman and colors by Matthew Wilson, the story of Thor Odinson losing his worth to carry the mighty Mjolnir, his arm and his heroic will, while Freya reigns as All-Mother of Asgardia, enchanting the hammer so that it says “If SHE be Worthy” was an amazing story to behold, even if you’re not a fan of super-hero comics or Norse Mythology.
“Hel Yes!” indeed.
“You know what they say about those ‘Fake Geek Girls’ don’t you?”
“Yeah, that they don’t exist.” –Dialog with a vendor at APE 2014.
I started collecting comics when I was about nine years old. Catwoman (DC) and Sam Keith’s the MAXX (Image) were my first loves, (Catwoman “Kitten With a Whip” from our Batman Hoodie collection) but as I grew up I found many more comics and graphic novels to collect, obsess over and love. The argument could be made that I was a geek because I had an older brother who was also a geek. It would be wrong, but it could be made. I went to Magic the Gathering tournaments, played tabletop RPG’s and knew maps in Zelda because of my brother, but I would have found comics all on my own. My tastes in them never matched at near 100% with my big brother’s anyway. Before long, my friends and family stopped giving me Barbie’s and cosmetics and began giving me art supplies and comics. I wasn’t ever just there as a passive spectator: I wanted to contribute.
In this series, I’m going to discuss the female characters represented on the page (in many forms) and the women who work behind the scenes in the comics industry. Some I admire, some I hold in disdain, mostly I just want to write about what I know: Chicks dig comics and these days, sisters are doing it for themselves (and for male fans).
I’ve been a fan of Rooster Teeth productions since pretty much the beginning. This was the early days of internet content, around 2003, when their “Halo” comedy series “Red Vs Blue” already finished their first season and was working on 2. I loved everything about the wacky cast of NSFW trash-talking violent sociopaths in the military IN SPACE and as of 2013, the show is still going strong and released on Netflix.
Then, a couple weeks ago I saw a rated TV-PG animated show called “RWBY” (pronounced Ruby) starring an anime-esque (Attack on Titan T Shirt from our anime selection) group of teen girls in color coded outfits (Red, White, Black and Yellow) added to Netflix. As the parent of a small child missing the freshly over Avatar: the Legend of Korra, I wanted to see if it was any good. I found out that RWBY was also made by Rooster Teeth and that it was the brainchild of 33 year old creator, Monty Oum.
Unfortunately, I found this out because tragically, Monty Oum passed away a week ago after having a severe allergic reaction to antibiotics. The show is fantastic, for any age group or to watch as a family (aside from some Princess Mononoke-like monster blood and violence). The characters are instantly relatable, especially if you play D&D, and the dialog has the signature rapid-fire hilarity that RT is known for with none of the creative profanity.
So if you’re into CGI that looks hand-drawn, fun and funny fantasy, cute girls (and guys) who kick ass and family-friendly action that is well-choreographed and emotionally charged, please check out RWBY on Netflix streaming or on the Rooster Teeth home site. RIP Monty Oum. You were brilliant and generous.