Red Hood and The Outlaws #1 and Catwoman #1, or “The Problem with Female Sexuality in Comic Books”

These are okay comics. Both books had interesting characters and engaging plot points. Red Hood was especially entertaining, I really enjoyed seeing a Jason Todd that isn’t a homicidal maniac (maybe). Based on art (I have to say Kenneth Rockafort did an outstanding job on Red Hood), plot, and dialogue I would have given Red Hood a solid 8.0/10 and Catwoman a respectable 7.0/10. Unfortunately, there is a major problem with these books. This problem is their portrayal of female characters. It’s a common problem with comics, women are often nothing but eye candy, depicted with impossible figures and gravity defying breasts. But the content in these books is so frustratingly juvenile and objectifying (in Red Hood), and flat out distasteful (in Catwoman) that I feel I can’t help but hate these books.

First I’ll talk about Red Hood, the lesser offender of the two books featured. The problem with this book is the portrayal of ex-Teen Titanw member Starfire. I’m not super familiar with Starfire. She has alwasy been an oversexualized character, but what Scott Lobdell does to her in this book is awful.  Lobdell, in an apparent attempt to reconcile Starfire’s past affiliation with the Teen Titans, has given the character the memory and attention span of a 4 year old. However, this 4 year old also has the sex drive and emotional depth of a frat boy. Here is a scene with Starfire and Roy Harper, ex-side kick of Green Arrow:

This scene takes place after it is established that Starfire does not remember anything about her time with the Teen Titans, or her relationship (which was also sexual) with Dick Grayson, apparently due to apathy. I understand trying to underscore the alien nature of the character, but Lobdell has turned a perfectly good character into a ridiculous male fantasy; a hot alien chick that only wants to bang with no emotional attachment. What’s worse, is that the two male characters in the book treat her like what she is, a sex object. Earlier I said Red Hood was the lesser offender. You may be wondering, “How could it get worse?”. Well I promise you, it does.

Here is the opening page to Judd Winick’s Catwoman.

Credit-ComicsAlliance

Can you tell me what is missing from this sequence of panels? The main character’s face. Do you know what isn’t missing? Breasts. Over the following couple of pages we see lots of leather clad TnA, and it isn’t until the third page that we actually see Catwoman’s face (she doesn’t get dressed till the fourth). All in all this is pretty much par for the comics book course, as sad as that is. It’s not till this end of the issue that this book earns its T+ rating and my absolutely disdain. Let me preface this rant with a little background. Batman and Catwoman have always had sexual tension. In the pre-crisis Earth-2, the two of them even fell in love and had a child, the original Huntress. Even in modern stories like Batman: Hush and Heart of Hush we see that there is a strong connection between the Cat and the Bat, and I enjoy these stories very much. What we have at the end of this issue is a victimized Catwoman mounting Batman in a full page spread. I refuse to post the image on here, but if you want to see it head over to comicsalliance.com, where they discuss the very problems I’m discussing. This is like a creepy fan fiction bordering on softcore porn. No emotional depth is gained from the image, it’s pure shock value.

These aren’t the only two instances of objectification of women in the DCnU. Off the top of my head there are two instances where women are seen getting down to their skivvies, once in Batwoman and again in Wonder Woman. There is Harley Quinn’s ridiculous new costume in Suicide Squad. It’s even come to my attention that next week’s Voodoo features an overly sexual performance by the main character in a strip club. This isn’t just a problem in DC’s comics, it’s present across all media. Nevertheless this relaunch should be seen as more than just a chance to grab new readers, it’s a chance to change the way woman are perceived and depicted in comics. This is a problem that cuts away at whatever little respect comic books have gained as a form of art or literature, and it needs to rectified it the medium is ever to gain a real foothold. I expect more out of my comics than this, and I expect more from the people who make them.

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