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The Problem with Female Representation in the Art of Comics

The problem

Time and time again I encounter comic books or strips from comics that include horrendous art of a female character. The bodies are not only drawn in a way that is completely unrealistic but also highly sexualized. 

People of all ages read comics. ALL AGES! The younger comic readers see this and it could either:

1. Make them feel insecure about their own selves and 2. Make them feel very uncomfortable and 3. Potentially make their parents stop them from reading comics.

Nothing bothers me more than knowing the majority of characters that are drawn like this are kids and teenagers. The artists and everyone who approves of the way they are drawn are agreeing to the sexualization of kids and young adults. Yet, no one apparently finds this to be an issue. At least, not enough for something to be done about it. 

The outfits

Many female heroes and villains suits are incredibly sexualized and impractical. How can anyone possibly fight or do anything for that matter in those outfits? They are in intense risk of getting hurt with all of their body exposed. Male heroes and villains rarely have suits like these because their suits make sense, are practical and are rarely sexualized to the extent of females. I’m well aware there is sexualization of the male characters too and this is clearly also an issue. In my opinion, it occurs much less frequently than with females.  

 

Above is an example of how a female character (in this case Mockingbird) can wear minimal clothing yet still not be sexualized or drawn in a way that overdramatizes her figure.

If sexualization was the same for males

As stated, of course the comics present unrealistic body types and unattainable standards but they are not as prevalent as the issues with the families characters.

An artist redrew sexist comic book covers of females with male characters displaying this fact. Here are some examples:

Comics versus Movies

This is where the differences between the MCU and the comics play a role; All the Marvel women:

1. Look amazing

2. Have practical suits/outfits

3. Are not overly sexualized

So why is this necessary in the comics?

Note: Personally, the earlier movies heavily sexualized Black Widow but over time that subtext decreased and her story became more important.

a force

Examples of this “art”

1.MJ Watson

This occurs a lot with Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man comics. One example below:

Spiderman art

2. Riri Williams (Ironheart)

She is a teenager. The cover shown below if you can’t tell is very sexual especially for such a young character. These artists should not be drawing teenagers in this manner. Frankly, it is disgusting, upsetting and backwards.

"art"

3. Viv & Kamala

I’ve seen lots of commentary about the latest Champions issue (#5). Both Viv & Kamala are teenagers and given an unrealistic figure.

champions art

4. Kate Bishop

A less extreme version is Kate Bishop (Hawkeye)’s portrayal. Famously, her suit contains hip holes which are completely impractical. The hip holes are not so much an example of sexualization but rather an example of how female characters have suits that make zero sense.

Kate bishop art

Recently in War of Realms: Journey Into Mystery (which has an amazing creative team) removed these pointless hip holes and Kate has never looked better.

journey into mystery art

5. Black Cat

When I decide if I want to get a comic series, I typically flip through it quickly and see if I like the art style and coloration. Seeing the cover for the upcoming Black Cat series made me change my mind and have second thoughts about supporting and buying that comic. Do I want a Black Cat series? YES, but not like this. This isn’t a win. Black Cat is a victim to this “art” over and over again. There are other ways to draw her without even changing her suit. Clearly, on the cover there is a main focal point focusing on her cleavage and it seems to always be this way.

A variant cover is shockingly worse. Does this cover look strangely familiar to the MJ one? Why yes it does because it is by the same artist Marvel keeps hiring to create these atrocities of covers.

Personally…

Before writing this I asked permission to write on this topic. However, I’m simply stating the facts seen in comics. You open a comic and you’ll see this and maybe you’re reading this or see the topic and think well that’s not appropriate. Exactly my point! This type of art and visuals are not appropriate and at the very least are not even accurate.

Obviously I’m not saying men shouldn’t draw women or comics in general but instead educate themselves on why it’s wrong to do so in this manner.

Also, I’m not saying that females in comics should not have exposed body parts or cleavage. I strongly believe that women should wear anything that makes them happy and clothing is a way to express one selves and reveals a lot about a character’s personality. There is just a point where it is clearly there as sexualization and to make the comics sell using sex appeal. This isn’t a matter of what they should wear but rather how the creators are forcing these characters to be a certain way to sell more and please a certain audience which is adult males. By doing this however, another big audience of younger people who read comics are losing interest in some series and characters.

What can you do about this?

Choose wisely on the comics you support. If people stop supporting and buying the comics with this type of art style; Perhaps, the artists will realize something is wrong.

Support artists who do amazing art and represent both the female and male bodies as they should be. Artists who do not use sex to sell their stories that will sell on their own because of the fans that already exist.

While I could go on and on about the bad, I can also go on and on about the good there is out their in comic books. So many current series have great art, representation and diversity. Some quick examples off the top of my head: Marvel Rising, War of Realms and many of the tie-ins, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Captain Marvel and The Unstoppable Wasp.

A great book, I recommend, displaying information on powerful female characters  and that includes beautiful art is Powers of a Girl by Lorraine Cink (The link gives you an inside look into the book!)

Note: I focused on Marvel comics and the MCU because that is what I have knowledge on, but there is plenty evidence of DC and other comic publishers that do this same thing.
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