Superhero chicklit? Lipstick covers infiltrate comics

The horrific epidemic in the publishing world of mutating great female writers (like Virgina Woolf and Sylvia Plath) and great heroines (like Anne of Green Gables) into “chick lit” as a desperate attempt to attract female readers is infecting Marvel and DC Comics.

Wired.com reports:

Today, Marvel Entertainment announced a new partnership with Hyperion Books — like Marvel, a Disney subsidiary — to publish The She-Hulk Diaries and Rogue Touch, two novels described as featuring ‘strong, smart heroines seeking happiness and love while battling cosmic evil.’ Yes, it’s time for superhero chick-lit.

Here’s the art Wired used in its post:

she-hulk-cover-3_4_r536_c534

When I saw this, I wondered if Wired created the image as a parody. Then I saw the same art on a USA Today post, and the photo is credited to Hyperion/ Marvel. Also, notice any similarity between the She-Hulk art and the new 50th anniversary cover of The Bell Jar?

belljar

That’s right, if you want to sell to women, put make-up on the cover. That’s what we girls care about. Looks like a compelling read full of complex characters and exciting drama!

Wired reports:

The move could potentially be part of a response to the realization that Marvel had no female-led comics as of this time last year

Huh? Who “realized” there were no females? How did that great epiphany happen? (I can’t wait for everyone to “realize” that girls have gone missing from children’s movies.) Was it a Marvel insight? They were all in a meeting and one of the artists slapped his hand to his forehead, shouting, “Whoa dudes, we forgot the women!”

Baffled, I went to that link to see if I could find out more. The ComicsAlliance.com report is  actually dated Dec 8, 2011:

Both Marvel and DC Comics have been at the center of concerns and controversies recently regarding women in comics, both in terms of the way they are represented on the page and in the offices of the Big Two comics publishers.

 

While DC Comics has quite a few ongoing titles devoted to female characters (Batgirl, Batwoman, Birds of Prey, Catwoman Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Voodoo), there are very few women actually involved in creating them, an issue that has infused criticism of the company’s relaunch since the beginning, and was recently compounded by the news that writer Gail Simone is leaving Firestorm.

 

This post made me wonder what it feels like to be a female artist at Marvel or DC and marvel (ha ha) at how challenging it must be for women to get their own narratives out on the page in that kind of environment. It’s already risky for any artist to put her vision out in the world. Can you imagine trying to achieve that there? Talk about the opposite of support.

ComicsAlliance goes on:

Marvel Comics, meanwhile, seems to have the opposite problem; with the recent cancellation of X-23, there are no female-led ongoings in the Marvel Universe (with the possible exception of the 12-issue miniseries The Fearless) but significantly more women working in creative and editorial roles. The two companies illustrate two different but interrelated problems: the lack of women playing major roles in the comics, and the lack of women playing major roles in creating them. While neither situation is ideal, what are the implications of both problems, and which has a bigger impact on the comics that are created or the audience they reach?

 

I don’t see these as “opposite problems,” or even “different” or “interrelated.”
Here’s the problem in a nutshell. Marvel and DC, are you listening because right now, I’m going to save you millions of dollars in consulting fees and identify the root of your problem for you in just 4 words: NO WOMEN IN POWER. Every time you make a hire, think up a character, or draw an image, ask yourself this simple question: woman in power, yes or no? FYI, this image would be a no.
she-hulk-cover-3_4_r536_c534

Thank you to Cynthia Rodgers, AKA Theamat for the link to the Wired story. I’ll leave you with Theamat’s drawing of Reel Girl.

reelgirl2.gif

 

 

 

11 thoughts on “Superhero chicklit? Lipstick covers infiltrate comics

  1. I don’t like the use of the word “chick lit” as an insult, Margot. I think it segregates women’s writing and presupposes a lack of quality because the works concerns women’s issues and may be perceived as falling into gender stereotypes. Is there bad chick lit? Yes. Is there also bad teen fiction? Bad detective stories? Bad autobiographies? Bad highbrow novels? Of course. It just irks me the way genres that are dominated by female authors are discounted and made to feel like trifles. (Random tangent: have you read A Jury of Her Peers or Trifles by Susan Glaspell?)

    • Hi Cat,

      I get what you’re saying but as a writer, a female writer, I totally resent the chick lit label. As long as women and men are segregated like this, we will always be stereotyped. I did take a chick lit class years ago b/c it was the one that seemed to fit that project, a piece of which was published in a short story form in anthology called Sugar in My Bowl, Real Women Write About Real Sex.

      Margot

      • I mean, I don’t like the term myself as a way of defining that genre but I think that as long as we’re going to use it, it shouldn’t be as an insult. Chick lit titles are generally somewhat lighter with more comedy than drama. But using chick lit as a insult conflates the lightness of the work with the feminine authors and readers as if the writing can only be “lit” and not “literature” because it’s written by and for women. I don’t really know what I’m getting at. It’s just always bothered me. I feel like chick lit is either a term we need to own and reclaim or something we need to abandon because it is so insulting.

  2. What is so disappointing about the marketing of the She-Hulk Diaries, to me at least, is that Marta Acosta is a wonderful writer. She wrote a series of vampire novels, the Casa Dracula novels, that took the cliches and re-envisioned them, creating a fresh modern vampire world. The heroine is funny, believable and sympathetic as she deals with discovering that world. She grows and changes, over the course of the novels, from a woman who tries to be what she thinks she ought, into a woman who embraces who she is. No, these aren’t high literature, nor are they intended for girls, but they clearly demonstrate Acosta’s love of women and story-telling.

    I don’t read comics, but I would read this just for Acosta’s writing. SHE is a role model for girls who want to grow up to write comics.

  3. Comicbook lack and treatment of women is what made me never like it. I love reading manga, graphic novels and european (other countries) comics. But superhero comicbook never appealed to me, I try to like Wonder Woman, because she’s and icon of superheroine but i barely find her comics where I live, and sometimes the way she’s represented disgust me to the point to not even give a try to her stories.
    The comicbooks industries had decades to see that they could produce and sell stories to girls and women but they always ignored this public, now they want to attrac us?

    • Hi Okasadaioh,

      I keep buying WW and Batgirl, it’s like I can’t accept how awful it is. I want so much to show superheroes to my kids. The last Batgirl I ordered on Amazon had a girl running around in her underwear for the first 5 pages.

      Margot

  4. Okay, so make up is bad.

    In my opinion, that ultimately has to be a problem because if make up is bad, then any other special effort a super heroine would make to be appealing to men, would also be bad. You and I have had a lot of disagreement about whether your criteria are ultimately unworkable, and maybe one of us could learn something about it if you were to take your three-rule Magowan test, and embiggen it so it becomes an exhaustive code applying to all genres, including the make up ban & everything else.

    I contend there is an issue of flexibility here, one that does not apply to the men. Male heroes can be attractive and appealing to the opposite sex without losing any of their hero cachet. Part of that is because our sex appeal has a lot to do with the ability to perform physical feats of strength, which obviously has overlap with the hero thing. We’re also not culturally obliged to reciprocate this admiration. James Bond loves ‘em and leaves ‘em, for that he’s a stud, a woman who’d do the same thing would be a slut. It may or may not be fair. But the fact remains that dude heroes operate with a lot of latitude while chick-heroes are staked to the ground on a rather short tether, which is worth pointing out, since Green Lantern has managed to make a movie before Wonder Woman…and that is absolutely something that should not have happened.

    • Hi Morgan,

      Make-up is not bad, its not high drama. I don’t want to read a story about lipstick. That’s boring for women and for men.

      Margot

      • My most optimistic reading of this poster (not knowing anything about She Hulk) is that it is somehow supposed to subtly represent She Hulk owning her appearance and sexuality though she previously experienced some self-loathing. She has come to realize that she is attractive the way she is and if someone is turned off by her appearance or her strength then that is their problem. And that is why a makeup product is blended with the color associated with the character. Visual metaphor.

        My least optimistic reading is that I know I’ve seen something similar to this before. Not just makeup on a book cover or poster. The font and the placement. It reminds of something. I’m just too tired to remember what it was.

        • Hi Cat,

          I like your analysis, v. creative for what’s provided, but wish we could bust through this metaphorical restrictiveness with new stories and images.

          Margot