Before you read this. If you haven’t already read my post that lead to this follow-up article read it here now.
Let me be frank about this Frank Cho/Robbi Rodriguez fiasco regarding the depiction of Spider-Gwen’s booty. Under the surface of this internet blow-out is a bigger issue – men are overly sexualized/portrayed negatively in comics too and nobody cares.
Prior to the Frank/Robbi showdown, there was a DC variant cover that was getting a lot of negative publicity. It was the Rafael Abuquerque illustrated cover that was a nod to Batman: The Killing Joke. If you haven’t seen it, here it is (see below).
The variant cover was to be released as one of twenty-five Joker-themed covers during the month of June 2015. Abuquerque’s cover was to be featured on issue #41 of Batgirl. People (I’m assuming those with and without male genitalia) were upset that the cover…um…covered a dark period in the Batgirl mythos.
In Batman: The Killing Joke Barbara Gordon/Batgirl was shot and paralyzed by the Joker, which resulted in her being confined to a wheelchair, which resulted in her transformation to the Oracle. One of the first, female handicapped heroes to hit the comics. Her crime-fighting days didn’t end because she got shot – she triumphed over it. By far, it’s one of the most transformative stories in comics.
Now, does the above cover show Batgirl triumphing? No. Does she look afraid for her life? Yes, who wouldn’t be – it’s the freaking Joker. The idea was to have Joker variant covers, not Batgirl variant covers. Let me say that again. The idea was to have Joker variant covers – highlighting the JOKER – NOT BATGIRL. So, in reality this cover isn’t suppose to be about Batgirl – it’s suppose to be about the Joker.
One of the biggest Batman stories is Batman: The Killing Joke. Don’t believe me. Just go to DC’s website. Batman; The Killing Joke is listed as one of ten ESSENTIAL Batman graphic novels. Their words not mine. Here’s the link:
With all that in mind. If I am a smart artist and I am asked to draw a Batgirl cover that is suppose to be about the Joker – don’t you think it would make sense to do a Batman: The Killing Joke homage?
Yes, the cover shows the Joker triumphing – it’s suppose to because it’s about him. Yes, he shot her. It happened. It’s not going to go away. No matter how hard you try to scrub it away – it’s tattooed into our consciousness as reasonable comic book readers who care about comic book history.
Let’s take a step back for a second. Who in DC’s history was believed to be the unbeatable boy scout? That’s right, Superman. And did he not have a dark period in comic book history? Abso-freaking-lutely. He was killed by a rock-looking guy named Doomsday. Well, just last year, June of 2014, DC revisited said period of Superman’s dark history, kind of with the Doomed storyline. Here is one of the issues that ties into the Doomed storyline (see below).
Ok, so what do we have here? A beaten and bloodied Superman that looks like he just got crucified to a road sign. He looks helpless. He looks weak. He looks…dead. Want to guess how much public outcry there was? Want to guess how many people (male and female) were tweeting with the hashtag #changethecover as they did when Abuquerque’s Batgirl cover was announced? None. No one. Nobody cared.
Below is a current Justice League cover.
Notice any fat, overweight, guys on it? No. They are all freaking ripped. Their faces don’t even have a blemish or a wrinkle. They are perfect looking dudes. They are attractive – and why shouldn’t they be?
I read comics to escape reality. It’s fantasy. It’s to be consumed for momentary pleasure. Hell, if it was anything like reality, I probably wouldn’t read it. For a brief moment, I can put my feet in Superman’s shoes and feel strong, confident, and attractive. I can be the good looking guy that gets the good looking girl as we fly off into the sunset.
As a guy, I do feel inferior to the unattainable image of the male superhero. I’m an average guy and I’m always going to be an average guy. Just because I’m not as sexy as how men are drawn doesn’t make me lash out at the artist. If men are portrayed weak (as shown below) by the storyteller/artist that doesn’t mean I pick up my sign and start picketing.
If an artist’s work doesn’t match what you think it should be, you have the right not to like it, and not to buy it. What you don’t have the right to do is censor it. We live in a free country. That’s what makes this country great. We have the freedom to draw what we want, listen to what we want, etc. No one should try to censor art (no matter what form it takes) unless, of course, it’s depicting something illegal.
That’s what keeps bothering me about Robbi Rodriquez. The guy tried to bully his viewpoint across on Twitter, and when that failed miserably because he sounded like he physically threatened Frank Cho, he took to Facebook and said that he meant that he would give Cho an earful if he saw him. So, verbally abusing someone is ok now?
Rodriquez tries to make the point that the conversation is not about censorship within his Facebook post. What? Wait a minute. The conversation started because Cho drew what he wanted to and you think he shouldn’t have. You even say in your (the correct usage of the word, I might add) post that what Cho drew has no place in modern comics. “I’m not a smart man” but that sounds a lot like censorship.
I’m happy that more female readers are enjoying the comic book medium. I’m happy that comics are making their way to the forefront of pulp culture. These are all good things that we – as comic book readers – should be proud of. What needs to stop is not the sexualization of male and female characters, it’s people like Robbi that want to censor art because it makes them feel a certain way.