I realize that the world of comic books is – by and large – a boys club.
I accept that.
And I definitely get the appeal: big guns, big tits, big muscles, big violence, big battles, and when it’s done right, all those elements tied in with a big idea. I don’t want to change it, or even complain about the status quo.
But since my tastes skew towards concepts that are a little different from the standard superhero fare, I tend to look outside Marvel and DC for my funny books.
A number of people recommended that I read Garth Ennis’ “The Boys” – a book that turns the superhero universe upside down by asking “Who watches the Watchmen?” A group of government contractors are hired to intimidate, and if necessary, assassinate, out-of-control superpowered jerks who abuse their gifts (many of whom bear a resemblance to iconic DC characters like Superman and The Flash).
Fun idea, great writer, very nice artwork.
After reading volume #1 of The Boys a few weeks ago, I was thoroughly entertained. It was violent, funny, interesting, and even had a couple heartfelt moments. But it left me wondering: what the hell does Ennis think about women?
Strap in – here comes the complaining
Is this the portion of the blog post where a girl bitches about other girls being treated unfairly in comics?
Yes and no.
No, I’m not offended by the treatment of women in The Boys, or any comic. It’s Ennis’ vision, and he’s a talented artist plying his craft – he’s entitled to write women any way he sees fit and that’s perfectly fine. I was thoroughly entertained, and will likely pick up volume 2 at some point in the near future.
Yes, I question him to a small degree, only because if this were the only Ennis book I had ever read, it would seem that his sole interaction with women has come from observing them in German porno movies.
Bring on the whores!
Female Character Breakdown: (a couple spoiler-ish things get spilled here out of necessity, so please don’t go any further if you plan on reading The Boys)
1. The Butcher’s main contact is the director of the CIA, Susan L. Rayner. She’s a deranged sex addict who likes to be bent over her desk and treated like filthy whore while she does her paperwork. I know this sounds like a joke if you’ve never read The Boys, but I assure you I’m neither joking nor exaggerating.
2. The Female is the sole female member of The Boys, which makes sense because, well…you know. She’s an unbelievably violent mute. No dialogue, just homicide. Moving on…
3. Hookers. And plenty of them. A group of sluts have sex with superheroes for money, and get vaginally pummeled in the process. Classy.
4. Janine, a mouthy, out-of-control teenager that dresses like a skank and hooks up with random guys, including gun-toting thugs.
5. Finally, we have Annie January, a.k.a Starlight – a perky blonde girl who is down-to-earth, sweet and wholesome. But as soon as she’s faced with the opportunity to join the ranks of the most powerful superhero team in the world, she abandons her southern family values and performs oral sex on several members of the team.
Sluts. Skanks. Whores. Hookers. And just to mix things up, a girl who keeps her goddamned mouth shut.
It has to get better than this for the chicks…doesn’t it?
OK, I admit it, The Boys represents an extreme in the world of comics where men are bad-ass, and women are…well, you just read the character breakdown.
But it highlights an issue that’s prevalent: all too often in movies, TV, and my beloved comics, women area given very little to do, and very little to say.
And when a writer tries to make a “strong female character”, typically it’s handled like Lara Croft in Tomb Raider: a sassy and sarcastic vixen with DD breast implants and a skin-tight outfit.
She kicks, punches, and shoots her way through a number of baddies, and hey, even stomps the shit out of a few boys in the process. Girl power! She’s an equal, so that’s how you know she’s a strong female character!
Buffy Summers. Ripley. Lois Lane. Starbuck. Sydney Bristow. Scarlet. Trinity.
They’re female characters from comics, television and film with something to say. They have multiple layers. They’re rugged and tough when the situation requires, but are still vulnerable, and at times even maternal. They have more to offer than enormous jugs and titanic ass-whoopings.
Why is this so rare?
Part of it is demographics. Guys writing for guys. I get that.
Part of it is that people write what they’re comfortable with. Men feel more natural writing from a male perspective, and women write from a female.
But part of it eludes me. Even if the women are not central to a story, can’t they just be…people? The damsel in distress, the nagging ball-and-chain, the scantily-clad ho…we don’t ALL just fall naturally into one of these one-dimensional stereotypes (at least most of us don’t…I can’t speak for my college roommate).
So is this a male fantasy type of thing? Women either need rescuing, are an annoyance, or are simply available for sexual gratification?
I can definitely draw a comparison on the other side, as women are notorious for writing stronger female leads, while their leading men are either brainless (and often shirtless) hunks, or overly-sensitive nancy-boys (if you think I’m making a Twilight reference here you’re no the right track).
So I have no logical conclusion to this review/rant, but I open the floor to you, my fellow comic book junkies.
Are there enough strong female characters?
Are women as guilty as men for stereotyping roles in comics and sci-fi/fantasy?
And what did you think of “The Boys”?
Post away…and thanks for reading!
Love you guys,
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PPPS: More blog posts coming soon – I promise!!!