|Art by Alivepixel|
During my recent trip to Albuquerque I made a point of visiting many of the comic book stores there. On a bit of a tangent, I think it’s weird that a city of around 550,000 had so many comic book stores whereas the Northern Virginia area, home to 2.6 million people, has slightly fewer. Hell, Washington, D.C. has a grand total of two, and one of them is about as big as a news stand and it’s tucked away in the corner of a train station! Probably my favorite comic book store of those I visited was Lobo Anime & Comics which had a nice clean layout, good prices, and a variety of action figures both newer and vintage. However the Astro Zombies wins hands down in terms of having a mural. Oddly, they weren’t the only comic book store with art on the outside. There were a couple of others with wall art. It’s some sort of weird trend.
While I was touring the comic shops of Albuquerque I picked up a couple of sets of miniseries. One was The Un-Men, which was intended to be an ongoing series but ended abruptly at issue #13 due to poor sales, and All Nighter. The short reviews:
- The Un-Men was very “meh.” Think of it as the TV series Eureka but taking place in a city populated by sideshow freaks but with more of an “epic” bent as it focused primarily on political intrigue as the most powerful people in the city did … stuff.
- I liked All Nighter a bit more. At first you expect it to be a fairly mundane “slice of life” series, which it was, but it also developed a much clearer story arc towards the end.
Now here’s my problem with both of these series.
- In the Un-Men there were exactly two female characters of significance. One was a villain and the other, for all intents and purposes, little more than “the love interest of the male protagonist.” Drawn to be generically attractive she had wings (that were useless) and was missing an arm (how very moe.) Near the end of the series, this character revealed to the protagonist that she had been sexually abused as a child, killed her father, and became an un-man with wings (and losing an arm in the process to escape her past.) Then she got turned to a giant, bloodthirsty bug.
- In All Nighter a mysterious young woman appeared in the life of the main character (since the protagonist was a woman and not lesbian or bi-sexual we were spared the characterization of “just another love interest.”) She says something profound to the main character and then disappeared from her life. Sometime later the main character leaned about this mysterious young woman, namely that she had been abused most of her life and now devoted herself to helping other women in their time of need. The protagonist then sought out to find her, but unfortunately the young woman had been killed shortly after leaving her.
It struck me as bizarre that here were these two totally unrelated comic book series (publisher, creative team, subject matter) that had the same tired old tropes of having female characters defined by past victimization and then, as the coup de grâce, the story had them further victimized.
Why is this? What is it about comic book writers that makes them go “oh, there’s a woman here? Make sure she’s been raped!” It seems like such a go to for lazy writing that it’s not even offensive anymore due to its subject matter so much as irritating because of the obvious contempt it shows for the reader.
- The Unlikeable/Relatable Paradox: Image’s All Nighter at Pop Matters
- Women in Refrigerators at Feminist Frequency