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. 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:


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?


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 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.

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.





Want to see a messed up book cover?

I just blogged about the book covers from Rick Riordan’s fantasy series where girls go missing. Today, on Jezebel, believe it or not, I saw an even more distressing book cover: the new 50th anniversary edition of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.


Do you think the ghost of Ted Hughes could be haunting Britian’s Faber publishing house? It seems like only he could’ve come up with something so distorted to cover Plath’s work.

Jezebel comments:

For a book all about a woman’s clinical depression that’s exacerbated by the suffocating gender stereotypes… it’s pretty fucking stupid to feature a low-rent retro wannabe pinup applying makeup.

Couldn’t agree more.

Total bummer, but I’m going to leave you feeling slightly better about depictions of women in good old America in 2013. Here’s a very cool new stamp celebrating Rosa Park’s 100th birthday:



I Prefer My Misogyny Straight Up

For those of you who think I am pro-censorship, I’m posting something I wrote years ago about Eminem. I wrote this when I was talk radio producer for KGO and the male radio hosts were upset about Eminem’s lyrics.

I am more into parent education than I was when I wrote this. Though then and now, I didn’t think Eminem was good for little kids. What annoyed me so much back then is the same thing as today– protestors who normally don’t care much about sexism or women focusing on the wrong issue, the way Eminem described inequality instead of actual inequality. I remain passionately committed to helping women get into a position where they can tell their own stories.

This op-ed is from I hope its not illegal to post the whole thing but I can’t believe they’d really care. Here it is.

‘I prefer my misogyny straight up’
Wednesday, July 12, 2000

I LIKE hip-hop music. I know I’m not supposed to because so many of the songs have horrifyingly violent, sexist or homophobic lyrics.

Hip-hop is also the most innovative thing to happen to music in a long time.

When you compare hip-hop to its biggest rival for domination of the music charts – the corporate-created Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, and pop-princess clones Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera – rappers/producers like Dr. Dre and Method Man are infinitely more talented. Hip-hop is captivating precisely because it tells a story, overlaying lyrics on top of familiar backbeats, creating songs that are at once new and familiar.

The story hip-hop tells may be disturbing or degrading, but that’s no reason to shun it. As art has always done, hip-hop describes our times, exposing a sometimes ugly world – of drugs, sexism, poverty and violence – that middle-class America may prefer to hide away.

In the ’60s, Bob Dylan enraged those who upheld the status quo. Today, we have a whole new slew of musical poets.

Just like they did with Dylan, the older generation asks, “How can you listen to this awful music? There’s no melody! And those lyrics!”

Baby boomers protest that THEIR songs were about peace and love, while hip-hop celebrates killing and humiliates women.

But surely rock ‘n’ roll stars have never been known for their kindness to women. The Rolling Stones cranked out hits like “Under My Thumb,” “Brown Sugar” and “Little T & A,” sneered through lyrics like “You make a dead man come” and glorified violence in songs like “Midnight Rambler.”

Sexual violence in lyrics wasn’t limited to bad boy bands either. Old peaceniks Jerry Garcia and Neil Young sang songs like “Down by the River” about murdering a lover. Ever since Elvis shook his pelvis, music has shocked, and the older generation just didn’t get it.

Critics charge that hip-hop crosses a line, most recently fingering rap sensation Eminem, who sings about raping his mother and slicing up his wife in front of their daughter.

But Freudians would tell you Eminem’s mother rage and sexual fantasies are pure id, the uncensored subconscious struggling for self expression. The views of Sigmund Freud, of course, are infamous for his distorted views on women, though that doesn’t stop us from studying him in our best educational institutions. Nor should it.

Hip-hop may be more shocking and graphic than your run-of-the-mill shapers of Western thought, but I prefer my misogyny straight up. Movies like “Pretty Woman,” in which Julia Roberts plays a prostitute with a heart of gold, may be prettier packaging, but if you think women are “hos,” just tell me so.

Tales of sex and violence aren’t limited to male artists. “Goodbye Earl” by the Dixie Chicks and Macy Gray’s “I Committed Murder,” two recent hits by women artists, both detail violent killings with unrestrained glee. Angry young women muttering obscenities include Alanis Morissette, Courtney Love and Ani DiFranco.

Nor is disdain for men by women artists a new fad. Sylvia Plath, the late poet and darling of ’60s English lit majors, famously compared male genitalia to turkey necks and gizzards. Never one to shy away from sex or violence, she once said she “eats men like air.”

The difference, of course, is when women say these things, it really is just art. Because men are the guys with power, their expressions of domination, violence and sexual exploitation contribute to a culture where women really are forced into limited categories of queens or hos, where masculinity is defined by how many babes you score, and where women often are left powerless and exploited.

But sanitizing music is just shooting the messenger; it can’t transform a sexist culture. Warning stickers on CD covers are no protection from the deeply entrenched social realities that hip-hop pushes right in your face.

Women won’t feel threatened by lyrics when they overcome real inequities and get real power. Women will then be too busy making art and making deals to waste time wondering if they should side with the radical right, clamoring to keep obscenities out of Wal-Mart.