‘Please, the Hawkeye Initiative is about drawing Hawkeye smut, nothing to do with with showing the disparity between the genders. There’s nothing wrong with that, but lets not call it something it isn’t. ‘
I did write a reply which some people wanted me to make re-bloggable, so here it is with some elaboration on why we need things like the Hawkeye Initiative.
Firstly, the Hawkeye Initiative is all about showing disparity between the genders. It was created solely for that reason, and of course to have a laugh at the industry’s expense at the same time. What better way to show the difference between the depiction of women in the comic media then by swapping the genders of the characters being presented?
In most cases, people won’t recognize things like the presentation of women in the media until the tables are turned. This initiative isn’t the first time someone has used it to illustrate such a disparity either. Some examples:
Breakdown of ‘if men posed like women’
While this initiative may not seem like much to you, it means a lot to many of us who are sick and tired of women depicted as nothing in comics other than a walking set of breasts. (Or asses, or both.)
Yes, it’s all in good fun and is pretty much just us having a laugh; and some people may be doing this for less than noble reasons. But that doesn’t negate the gender disparity issue this initiative is making fun of. Just yesterday when I shared my Hawkeye drawing on Facebook I was met with comments like:
‘Sex sells, so of course women are presented this way in comics.’
‘The guys are half naked too so maybe you should complain about that instead.’
‘You want to take the sexiness away from comics, prude.’
Comments like this usually arise when the representation of women in the media comes up, but there-in lies the problem and what I feel is a miscalculation of the comics audience. People say that ‘sex sells,’ but I’d like to at least think that quality comics featuring realistic and relate-able characters and their stories is worth far more to the average reader than how low cut Catwoman’s costume is.
And even if it is the case that ‘sex sells’ to the lowest common denominator of your buyers, is that worth the numbers of readers who will drop the books who start overly sexualizing women for no reason? The comics market, and the audience has changed. The fact that publishers are still sticking to an unsubstantiated prehistoric paradigm who assumes that their audience is just a bunch of sweaty virgins who will throw money at anything with a pair of breasts is insulting, to me and to their ‘target audience.’
Comic sales have been dropping steadily over the years, in 1966 the biggest selling title of the year as Batman from DC comics, they sold just under 900,000 copies.
In 1969 it was Superman, with just over 500,000.
In 1995 Marvel sold over 300,000 copies of Fantastic Four volume 2, #1.
In 2009, the highest selling comic was DC’s Blackest Night issue #3, which sold exactly 140,666 copies.
These days it’s phenomenal for a comic to break the 200k mark in sales, and there has been a steady long-term decline, with a small improvement in 2000 due to things like selling trade paperbacks and all of the comic book movies that had come out at the time.
Some of our comics are moretitillating than ever, so if ‘sex sells’ then why aren’t we selling more comics?
For that matter, why aren’t comic publishers like Zenescope and Big Dog Ink comics whose entire business model is based on the idea that ‘sex sells’ constantly out-selling the publishers like Marvel, DC and Image?
In 2011, Diamond’s final sale figures list the first company that wasn’t Marvel or DC to make it into the top 1000 best selling comics list for the year was IDW at 102 with ‘Godzilla – Kingdom of Monsters’ selling 71,700 books. Next, Image made it to 120 with ‘Spawn,’ selling 67,900 copies.
In fact, Zenescope first appears on the list at 487 for ‘Grimm Fairy Tales’ volume 9 with a mere 2,300 sales.
Gail Simone has pointed out that suggesting that we hate sex in our comics and want to ‘take the sexy’ away in comics is ridiculous, and it’s not what we want at all. I love sex in my comics and can enjoy seeing sex in comics, but my enjoyment comes down to how it’s presented.
Take these two examples of sex and ‘sexy’ female characters from two books that have come out in the past year or so. Catwoman #1 from DC and Conan the Barbarian #3 and #10 from Dark Horse.
In the first issue of Catwoman there was that infamous sex scene. I for one wasn’t bothered by the idea of a sex scene, especially one between Bruce and Selina. I think they’re a highly sexually-charged couple with a lot of potential for some hot and steamy rendezvous, but like most people who had an issue with this scene - I didn’t like the way it was presented to us.
For starters these scenes are about the male gaze. Selina is usually posed in ways to make both her buttocks and her breasts visible to the reader, even when it makes no anatomical sense.
Even in the last climactic panel when we assume they’re actually ‘doing it,’ we cannot even see Bruce’s face. We don’t know if he’s enjoying it, from what we can see it looks like he’s just sitting there not engaging with Selina at all. Like the viewer he seems like just a spectator, or another inanimate object for Selina to pose all over.
Not to be crude, but nothing ruins my lady boner faster than a guy who looks like he doesn’t even care if he’s having sex with me or not. For it to be hot for me, it has to be hot for him too.
Conversely, let’s look at a couple Conan and Belit’s sexual encounters. One thing to know about Belit, is that like Selina Kyle – this woman is sex on legs. She usually doesn’t wear much, at all… funnily enough Belit can usually be seen wearing more clothing just before sex than when she’s casually walking around her ship. However there is a huge disparity between the way Belit and the way Selina are both drawn from panel to panel.
During a lot of the sex scenes drawn by Becky Cloonan the emphasis is on touching and facial expressions. You rarely get a full-body glimpse of the couple, but the moment is still intense and you get the sense that the pair is a tangle of sweaty bodies and body parts.
In a later issue in a scene drawn by Declan Shalvey we have a clearer view of the couple in the throws of passion, and yet again we can see a lot of unbridled passion and intense need from both Conan and Belit. Conan isn’t just laying there like a dead fish, nor is Belit posing for a viewer she doesn’t know is there. Both characters are right there with each-other in the moment, not taking a second away from each-other and not being distracted by anything other than their (shared) passion.
For further reading on the disparity between the presentations of gender in comics I highly suggest reading Kelly Thompson’s, ‘It’s Not Equal.’ Especially before you’re about to spout something like ‘men are also objectified and idealized in comics.’
And lastly, think about this - the entire blog and idea of The Hawkeye Initiative wouldn’t exist for you to have an opinion on if such silly comic covers and pin-ups didn’t exist in the first place. So if you really feel that strongly, take your anger out on the industry that’s helping fuel blogs like this.
the art he chose in general, especially for the female heroes, is really gross and terrible, but here are a few more sexist, misogynistic, sex-shaming gems:
- “for those men that love rude bitches, [emma frost] the white queen is the way”
- [on natasha romanoff, the highest ~debut] “considering she’s fucked half the guys in the marvel universe, that’s quite a feat”
- [on elektra] she’ll “give you a nice, ninja-trained blow job”
- [on black canary] “i used to think she was the hottest chick in the dcu, but then i remembered that she fucks green arrow”
- [on dazzler] “a friggin’ great vagina”
- [on kitty pryde] “i want to anally do her”
- [on choice of art for jade] “i picked the one with the big tits”
- [on batwoman] “i’m hoping for a dc-marvel crossover so that tony stark can turn her; she could also have sex with nightwing and still be a lesbian”
- calls tigra ‘easy’ for no discernible reason along with calling stephanie brown that because she’s a single mother
- says that he’ll blow a load onto jessica jones’ face so he doesn’t have to look at her
This same article also includes such charmingly puerile humor as calling Gambit a “Cajun fruit” and sharing his vivid imaginings of “my balls slapping against Gambit’s” which, he immediately points out, “makes me sick to my stomach,” just so you don’t get the wrong idea.
He goes on to make fun of Dr. Manhattan’s penis size, and then, ”Many of the people who voted for the Flash were gay men. I have no idea why this is. But I do know if I was going to get fucked in the butt I too would want it to be by someone who would get it over with quick.”
And he STILL manages to treat the male characters with more respect in general than the female ones.
This is the man that Marvel chose (and Joss Whedon endorsed) to direct the Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
super important to note as well
why did I read the comments
“Being a teen mom and all, you know she’s easy. Go for it.”
Wait, this is an actual working professional in the entertainment business? Is he stupid? He has now alienated tons of people who will now boycott his work(I know that’s what I plan to do). When will people learn that trying to be “humorous” at the expense of large groups of people will only work against you. That might not have been so a few years ago, but I think it’s safe to say that women, gays, and racial/ethnic minorities are starting to be more vocal about being treated as less than human, especially when it comes to where we spend our money/put our support. We make up a pretty significant part of the population, and if you want to consistently alienate us from your movies/comics/whatever else, than fine. Have a nice trip to the unemployment office.
And a huge thanks to Greg Rucka for responding. I feel honored.
And he corrected his message.
I don’t share his opinions, but I can respect them now.
And this is why I love Rucka. Not everyone is perfect, sometimes people say stupid things or use problematic terminology. His willingness to learn from it, listen to other people’s opinions, and change what he did wrong, is what makes me respect him as an author and person.
I’m really disappointed right now.
Disappointed and sad. So a single woman who decides to have sex with someone is now authomatically a whore?
Am I the only one that doesn’t think that’s what he meant when he wrote that? If you look at Greg Rucka’s work, he doesn’t admonish or shame his female characters for being openly sexual or having more than one sexual partner, so I don’t think that’s what he was getting at. To me he was just referring to the fact that Kori was written in a way that made her seem like nothing other than an empty sex toy who existed for the sexual gratification of the other male characters, and consequently the male viewers.
Of course, if someone isn’t familiar with his work, I can definitely understand how his statement would make them feel bad. The wording he used is most definitely problematic. Instead of using demeaning terms to describe the character, he should have called out the writers who wrote her that way, and the artists who made the conscious decision to draw her specifically to satisfy the male gaze.
The term “whore” should never be used for any woman; even sex workers should be referred to by their proper term(prostitute, sex worker, etc.)
This is not so much a critique post as it is a conformation of how absurd the standards of art in the comic book industry have become.
I traveled to San Diego Comic Con this year and participated in the portfolio reviews they where holding from Thursday to Sunday. Although I will admit I am not the best artist in the world, I really wanted to try and show them that comic book art could be done in a realistic manor while still keeping the superhuman aesthetics of the art form.
This Batwoman piece was the work that I gained the most flack for from all the companies because the anatomy was as they quoted ‘not industry standard.’ At one company (which I shall choose to not name) I was given a full critique on the anatomical incorrections as the following.
“Her breasts are much too small and do not have the lift that superhero women should have. Her jawline is fat and her neck much too long. The style of her hair is clunky and does not flow in a sense that a super human would. Her hips, waist and thighs are too big and she honestly looks fat. No one is going to want to read a comic with a fat female protagonist. I honestly recommend looking at issues of Sport’s Illustrated to get the right anatomy. Those women are the peak of human perfection, and that is what we want in this industry.”
Peak of human perfection? I don’t know about you, but I don’t see living on salad and dietary pills as perfection.
I would like to say this was just the opinion of one editor from one company, but I found similar opinions at almost every review I went to. By the end I was pretty upset, having been following this blog for very long and trying hard to make my anatomy believable and human. But this is not something the comic book industry seems to want, and it’s something that I thought everyone deserved to be informed on.
Again, this is not to bring attention to me and my own art, but rather inform the community of just what their artistic standards are, and why so many what we deem ‘bad artists’ are able to get full careers working for these companies.
Your Batwoman pic is awesome, and it’s not like you didn’t give her curves or anything and her breasts aren’t small. What do they think swimsuit models look like in a costume anyway? And honestly, your piece is a lot closer to that SI cover than a lot of the “industry standard” art, but it is interesting that they consider Sports Illustrated swimsuit models as what superheroines should look like (even though they don’t end up looking like SI swimsuit models either.)
It doesn’t surprise me though, but it’s sad that that is considered the “peak of human perfection” though. I think they’re confusing “what I find attractive in women” and “a woman at the peak of athletic perfection” much less “human perfection.”
(As a note, I don’t think we should assume that professional models necessarily exist on diet pills and salads, nor that thin people are necessarily unhealthily starving themselves. Also, SI images probably are quite touched up too.)
I would like to add that I find it sad that there even is an industry standard when it comes to body types (this goes for men and women). “Physical perfection” looks different for everybody. If two people were to follow the same training, exercise, and food diets, their bodies would still look different from each other. I think artists should have creative freedom to draw superhero bodies in a way that they interpret athletic perfection to look like, and not have standards put on them from the company they work for.
P.S. It would be interesting to hear what the standards for male bodies are. I’m sure it’s some ridiculous muscle magazine.
I think it’s awful. First of all, there are plenty of lame male superheroes out there, why single out the female ones? Well, according to person who created the poll, girl superheroes are always crappy, because they don’t wear proper costumes (the original text is: Girls are great. So why are girl superheros always so crappy? Any why aren’t they allowed to wear reasonable crime fighting outfits, like slacks or bras? There is probably a correlation between impractical costume and general lameness, but we don’t have time to find that out. We just want to know which female superhero is the worst.). Notice how he doesn’t even bother to figure out just why he thinks these characters are crappy…after all they’re just silly girls, why waste the time?
First of all, if you really insist on focusing only on female characters, atleast take the time to a)list actual lame superheroes, b)give reasons to why they are the worst. Neither of these things are presented in the poll. Most of the characters that are listed are empowered, kick-ass, iconic, loved, and even groundbreaking female heroes. Vixen was the first Black female hero to have her own series at DC, Misty Knight was one of the first popular Black characters over at Marvel, and Batwoman was the first gay character to don a Bat-title. Starfire is one of the most beloved characters, and has been in several series, including a popular tv show. Even though Harley Quinn was created for the Batman cartoon, she was so popular that creators started writing her into comics, and she’s been a favorite ever since. Emma Frost is one of the most powerful and influential characters in modern X-Men comics.
I could give an argument for every character in that poll as to why they are amazing, unique, kickass, and influential women…and his argument as to why they’re “the worst” is that he doesn’t like their costumes. While I agree that most female superhero costumes are problematic, there is more to these women than how they look. Most of these women have really cool powers, are smart and resourceful, and are just generally cool and interesting to read about. But all of that is thrown out the window here, and no respect is given to these awesome characters or the people who read their comics.
I don’t think this poll is the most horrific thing to happen in the world. It’s just a stupid poll, created by someone who I don’t even think reads comics. However, it is a symptom of a society that puts a value on women based on their appearances, and that is a problem.
Let’s just start with the obvious. Guillem March is not a bad artist. While most of the work he produces is not to my liking, on a technical level is he’s quite competent and can product some lovely pages. But let’s also start with another obvious fact, Catwoman #0 displays a lack of key artistic skill - an understanding of basic skill of human anatomy.
It’s a fact that women’s bodies don’t work that way. The cover has already has art mocking it. But the cover’s lack of recognition of the basics of anatomy is not the problem.
And this isn’t just a problem of the cover being highly sexualized and exploitative, which it is and which March’s work is known for (although he seems to have other thoughts on that issue - mildy NSFW).
And it’s not just the problem of how men vs. women are portrayed in comics. This despite the concept of “boobs don’t work that way” or, the brokeback, or as in this case, “asses don’t work that way” is a familiar meme in comics to the point that more than a few websites have popped up to illustrate them. And despite that the discussion of the inequality of how male vs. female characters of portrayed in comics has happened many, many times.
And it can’t be the problem of “but comics are for men and men need the sexy to buy female led comics” argument. If so then how come Batgirl, Batwoman and Wonder Woman, without having wonky asses and unzipped tops, have been the best selling female led comics from DC for the last 9 months? And why do so many men also complain about covers like this?
And it can’t be the problem of “how do you show a sexy character without being sexy?” Catwoman is sexy. But she also has been drawn as sexy and with two buttocks of the same size for many decades. Catwoman being a sexy character isn’t the problem. So what is the problem?
The sad part about all of this, is that artists like March know how to draw proper female anatomy, they just choose not to. And we’re not just talking about making a women bustier than what’s natural or common, but drawing her in positions that are physically impossible, just so the reader can view her butt and her breasts at the same time. They choose sexualization of a character over artistic integrity. If they were drawing for a porn magazine or something, than that would be perfectly understandable, but they aren’t. They’re drawing for a wide audience of people, of all ages and genders, many of which don’t want to be forced to view the characters they love in an overtly sexualized manner.
I don’t have anything against characters being sexy. Like the OP stated, Catwoman is sexy. The artist doesn’t have to shove her boobs and butt in everyone’s face to express that. However I do have a problem with characters being sexualized. There is a difference, and this cover is an example of that.