Thursday, December 13, 2007

A spoiler for Stephanie?

Like most comic readers who hacked their way through the weekly jungle that was DC's 52, I've gotten into the habit of reading what's scribbled on the blackboards planted in Rip Hunter's time lab, which are now now making regular appearances in Booster Gold.

Most of the time they're filled with things that get glossed over — I usually like watching a story unfold instead of trying to map out the details in advance. But sometimes there's something that gets my eyebrow to go all Spocky and makes me mutter a scholarly, "Whuh?" That's what happened when I was reading this week's Booster Gold #5 and squinting at the chalkboards in this panel.

Didja see it? Let's take a closer look:

Dun dun DUNNN!

It'll be interesting to see what some of the feminist comic readers make of this; I know I'm wondering whether this is hinting a long-sought after memorial case might be added to the Batcave, or if this is just a mean-spirited tease.


Luis said...

I had no idea there was so much controversy over this, do you think it's warranted?

Maxo said...

Oof - that's a complicated question. Personally, I think many of the people who are active on the issue have a point; historically, comics have used images of women as sexual objects. At some point there was definitely a sense of misogyny behind it - the men in charge of publishing thought less of women, and it showed in what they produced.

That might still be true today, but I don't think it's the vast conspiracy some bloggers would have you think it is. As cynical and grossly oversimplified as it sounds, sex sells and publishers - rightly or wrongly - are still trying to sell superhero comics to men in a certain age bracket.

The attitude toward female characters has been changing for the better, but it's been slow and, especially lately, it seems to take steps backward. That might be a symptom of the industry as a whole, though - graphic violence, gloomy storylines and other "mature" storytelling elements have been pushed pretty hard, and cheesecake shots are another part of the idea of selling the lowest common denominator.

Do I think any of that is an excuse? Of course not. Female characters should be treated with the same respect as male characters, much in the way characters of different ethnic backgrounds have begun to reach some level of parity (though that's fairly recent, really, and there's still a long, long way to go). Women characters shouldn't be used as just props in a story, any more than any male character.

That said, I think some people who advocate to bring attention to the "women in refrigerators" issue are unnecessarily reactionary. Which is fine. But for my part, when that happens it just becomes noise and the message gets lost in it. It's an important message to deliver, and it deserves to be heard in a balanced way.

I guess this is a simple way to say it, for myself: Do I think Stephanie Brown deserves a trophy case? Yes. And not because she was a woman, but because she was a Robin.

Do I think there is a misogynist behind every storyline and comic book rack? No. And I don't think sexuality will ever stop, or even should stop, being a part of comics, but that doesn't mean it can't be handled in a truly mature and fair way.

Like I said — it's a pretty complicated question, and I'm not sure I answered it. Essentially, I think people on both sides of the issue should give each other a little more credit.

mordicai said...

As a feminist comic reader, I gotta say, yeah, it is kind of warranted. can lay out the case better than I could.

presetyourjet said...

Something's up for Stephanie Brown. She was also featured in Gotham Underground #2. Maybe this is her comeback?