The Inquirer of Diablo Valley College reported on a webinar hosting author Mike Madrid, where he discussed history of superheroines since the Golden Age. Predictably, some politically correct narratives seeped in, including feminism:
In an April 8 webinar hosted by the San Ramon Campus of Diablo Valley College, author Mike Madrid spoke about these and other female superheroes as he explored comic book heroines’ impact on feminism and other aspects of American culture.
“When some comic book fans hear the term ‘female superhero,’ there is an immediate bias,” Madrid, author of The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines, told The Inquirer. “Because characters like Superman and Batman debuted first, there’s an implication that the ‘male’ superhero set the standard.”
Still today, he continued, “there is a resistance to accept the idea that these characters are as popular as male superheroes. And as long as that attitude persists, women will be considered ‘female superheroes’ as opposed to just ‘superheroes.’”
Oh, please. We all admire many heroines so long as their stories are written and illustrated well. That’s the crucial point for selling them. How else does he think Wonder Woman made a significant mark on history? But, it gets worse:
A San Francisco native and lifelong fan of comics, Madrid recalled that graphic books were always present when he was a child. He was an avid reader of Marvel comics in particular. Then, around the age of 12, Madrid took notice of a library section dedicated to the history of comics. He was especially interested in the female characters and what made them tick.
“They would talk about mainly how they looked, but they wouldn’t talk about their histories or adventures that they had,” he said.
As he got older, Madrid began to connect the pervasive, dismissive portrayal of women in comics to the oft-discounted notion that true female comic fans even existed. “There is a real sexism problem. [I’ve] talked to [a] number of women who are put off from reading comics because they are not comfortable in the comic book store environment, he said.
This stereotype can also be found at comic fan events and “cosplay,” or costume play gatherings, where female comic fans and cosplayers are sometimes accused of participating for attention.
A hyper-sexualized depiction of characters has long been prevalent in the comic book world, affecting both males and female characters, said Madrid. This is “always a reflection of what is happening in the larger society,” he noted, but things are changing. Now, “we have more women drawing comics” and more depictions of realistic body types.
When he makes it sound like all women prefer less physically attractive character design, you know something’s wrong, ditto when he obscures what’s really wrong with alleged female fans is whether they’re feminists hell-bent on causing trouble with anti-sex propaganda, and whether they’re going out of their way to frame fandom as sexist and racist. It’s a problem that’s also affected RPG fandoms like Dungeons and Dragons, and the worst part is that now, there’s company executives who’re willing to risk damaging the products to suit a PC viewpoint. And by the way: I’ve been in a few specialty stores over the years where women came in and felt quite at home, and where women were practically clerks at the cash register. So I think Mr. Madrid might want to climb off his high horse for a change.
I can also tell you that, if we were to allude to the time I’d first gotten into this blogging gig in the mid-2000s, the problem with sexism happens to have begun within the publishers themselves, as demonstrated by Marvel/DC when they put out Avengers: Disassembled and Identity Crisis, which both minimized misogyny, and in the latter, sexual assault. Yet Madrid’s argument is presented so superficially here, I doubt he even brought that all up. Indeed, only PC viewpoints of the past several years like anti-sex viewpoints and body-shaming seem to be driving the narrative here. How a woman is drawn is the least of what should be a worry. It’s whether violence – including sexual – is being fetishized for cheap sensationalism that is.
To base this whole discussion on hyper-sexualization is an insult to all artists who’d specialized in it over the past years, including those who worked under Stan Lee at Marvel back in the day. I’m also skeptical he’s being honest when he says the history books he read only spoke of how the heroines looked. How can you build a whole book that way?
Towards the end:
The landscape of comic books and superhero characters continues to evolve, reflecting different American values than the ones that shaped their debut some eight decades ago. Contemporary heroes like the queer woman of color, America Chavez, is a prime example. “One of the good things about comics today is that we’re seeing a more diverse array of female heroes than we’ve had in the past. So, there are more opportunities for readers to find a character that represents their idea of what a hero should be,” Madrid said.
Well, well, well I think this is giving a pretty good idea where Mr. Madrid is really going with his lazy narrative. He’s merely elevating what he considers the perfect example of how a woman should be portrayed by modern standards. Chavez was not marketed on entertainment value, but on social justice propaganda. That sums up what Madrid thinks a hero should be like.
As a result, I’m pretty dismayed when people like him take the role of “experts” on creations of people whom he obviously doesn’t have much respect for. I really wish men like Madrid wouldn’t bother to cover the history of comicdom anymore, because they’re only doing more harm than good in the long run.
Originally published here.