I really need to do a better job at having thoughts to put to keyboard every Thursday, but hey, sometimes things get in the way, sometimes I don’t get inspired…
This week I’m inspired.
Despite the title of this week’s column mirroring that of my last one, I don’t have anything to say about a Wonder Woman film project (or should I say, the Wonder Woman television project – yeesh, I really want to know who greenlit that. I can’t see it going well) and really, I don’t have anything to say about Wonder Woman at all.
Today I want to talk about two other females in comics whose recent appearances have left them, well, to put it bluntly, marginalized. You guys probably know who I’m talking about: their names are Vicki Vale and Lois Lane.
Vicki, having not been featured in the Bat-books for quite some time, recently made her reappearance trying to carry out a pretty daring task: She was going to blow the lid off Batman’s entire operation. Through some impressive investigative reporting, she had pretty much deduced the secret identity of not just Batman, but all of his associates. It would’ve been the story of her career. Still, there was one thing that struck me as odd about her mission, why was she doing it? Sure it would’ve been an impressive story to break, but not only would it have ruined the lives of Bruce and company (i.e. the only people who seem to give a damn about Gotham City) it would have put the lives of everyone in Gotham City at risk.
Then, the final Bruce Wayne: The Road Home one-shot was released and I got my answer:
Vicki Vale – intrepid reporter and independent woman – was going to destroy the lives of Gotham’s protectors…because Bruce Wayne didn’t want to be in a serious relationship with her?
That’s some ol’ bullshit if I’ve ever read it, but the marginalization doesn’t stop there.
I was pretty excited to read this weeks Superman. Why? Because JMS wasn’t writing it. I love the guy to death, but I really haven’t been fond of his preachy, holier-than-thou Superman. I figured this fill-in would be a refreshing break from that. God damn was I wrong.
In Superman #704, Lois Lane heads to Rushmark, Indiana, as it’s the next stop on Superman’s cross country trip. It also happens to be the home of Lois’ alma mater, so it’s no surprise that Lois would get a bit reminiscent of her college days. Naturally this ramps up quite a bit when she runs into her old college boyfriend, who’s been doing pretty well for himself. Nice job, nice wife, nice kids.
Then Lois starts getting all emo, seemingly because she and Clark don’t have any kids and because she’s known as being “Superman’s Girlfriend” rather than the award-winning journalist she really is. And in the end, all of that goes away when Superman sweeps her off into the sky and tells her that he loves her.
It’s a cute scene, it really is, and it says quite a bit about how all our fears and insecurities can vanish when we fall into the arms of that one person who we’ve given our hearts to because they make everything better…
But it’s also bullshit.
Now maybe I’ve got a bit of a bias because of the time I’ve been spending in a newsroom for my internship. Every day I work I’m surrounded by women – editors, reporters, adversing saleswomen – and they’re some of the smartest, strongest, and in some cases, the most intimidating women I’ve ever met, so it ticks me off, just a little, to see such a portral of two the few female journalists in comics, but there’s another thing that riles me up.
We have male characters like Superman and Batman who represent more than just being symbols of good against evil, they represent the triumph of the human spirit over tragedy, they represent the purest and most unadorned and unburdened sense of love for everything and everyone. They represent the best of us. Why can’t the members of their female support casts do the same thing?
Vicki’s Vale’s position as the woman scorned is just blatantly misogynist (and I’d say it’s a lot worse than being stuffed in a fridge) and while it’s understandable that Lois Lane would feel some type of way about not being able to have a child with her husband (if she really cared that much she could adopt or have Batman clone them up a Superboy) but to see Lois struggling with the idea that she’s just second fiddle to Superman, rather than getting to stand on her own merits at a reporter is just fucking disgusting. It’s a disservice to the entire history of the character, especially her portrayal in the modern age of comics. We should be past nonsense like this.
There was an interview between Matt Fraction and Michael Chabon in the back of Cassanova #2 that was recently brought to my attention, and in it, Fraction makes a pretty damning condemnation of the industry’s treatment of female characters.
You can’t read those words and tell me he’s not right. Even when the violence isn’t sexualized, even when it’s only philosophical, like the cases I’ve been discussing today (and I’m sure if I did some research I could find dozens of more examples of such things happening in comics) it’s still something that one day we’re going to have to justify to our little sisters, daughters and granddaughters.
A few months ago Gail Simone basically called out everyone in comics to understand that there is indeed a female audience for their books that needs to be catered to gracefully, and at the time it came out and I read it, I wasn’t really sure what the hell she was going on about. I am now.
Right now, more than ever, with all the changes going on in the medium and media in general, needs to be the time that we decided how the modern age of comics is going to remembered and discussed. Do you want YOUR daughter to call you up from college to tell you all about the “Misogyny and Sequential Art” class she’s taking next semester and how it covers everything from the Golden Age to the present day of artform?
There’s nothing we can do about the past, that’s for damn sure, but there’s quite a bit we can do about the future. Let’s take a stab at it, shall we?
I’m Jay Galette and I’m having an oddly feminist Friday.
PS: Have a safe and happy Halloween!
Tags: Batman, Bruce Wayne, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home, Gail simone, Lois Lane, matt fraction, Superman