The world of superheroes is a funny old place, home to some of the craziest and most imaginative storytelling of the last century, but eternally trapped in a constantly regressive rut. Long time fans simultaneously demand change and uniformity, for heroes to evolve and remain the same age forever more.
This month Marvel announced three key upcoming changes in its comics line, which was met with familiar outrage and increasing mainstream press interest towards this medium that has given the public their favourite superhero movies. But what was most interesting to many onlookers were not the announcements themselves, but the chosen method of broadcast.
The View, a US daytime talk show, exclusively announced that Thor was to be female in an upcoming title. "It’s a huge day in the Marvel Universe," revealed Whoopi Goldberg. "Thor, the God of Thunder, he messed up. He is no longer worthy to hold that damn hammer of his. And for the first time in history that hammer is being held by a woman."
It’s not often that a superhero comic gives me chills, particularly when we’re talking villains, but then it’s not often you that see a superhero comic from someone like Kate Brown.
Confession: Kate Brown is one of my favourite comic creators. In my other life as a bookseller the most common comics related question I get is, “what graphic novel should I read if I’ve never read comics before?”, and my answer is always this: “Fish + Chocolate by Kate Brown”. (and Karrie Fransman’s The House that Groaned and Hannah Berry’s Adamtine – my unholy trinity now joined by Mary Talbot!)
Brown’s art and storytelling skills are phenomenal, and it doesn’t hurt that in person she is cooler than a whole bag of cucumbers.
Marvel continue to tempt me with their extraordinary cover designs that are leaving many other publishers in the shade. Coming to Fearless Defenders blind of recent continuity, I had high hopes for this all female line-up, and was promptly swept off my feet.
...Yes there are tits. There is indeed ass. But for the first time, I get the sense that this is cheesecake that isn’t being aimed primarily at the male readers. There is a whole other demographic out there that loves reading about smart, sassy women who happen to be fantastically gorgeous without being objectified for the male gaze.
In the last couple of weeks there has been a slew of articles about the subject of "women in comics" that range from calling out "hot" women that supposedly pretend to be into "geek culture", to telling us that the phrase "women in comics" is passée because the battle has been won, and to other articles taking the depressing line that superhero comics will never change.
The first takes a line on policing just how geeky an attractive women has to be to count as a geek, while ignoring the inherent sexism of industries that pay women to dress in provocative clothes and strut their stuff. The second, makes the mistake of thinking that the experiences of some of the women who have had success in comics are universal, and the third is a tad confusing as I know the author is not against giving up on working towards better representation and portrayals of women at DC and Marvel, yet takes the angle that we should focus on indie comics instead where women are more welcome.
"For a bulky segment of a century, I have been an avid follower of comic strips - all comic strips; this is a statement made with approximately the same amount of pride with which one would say, 'I've been shooting cocaine into my arm for the past twenty-five years.' I cannot remember how the habit started, and I am presently unable to explain why it persists. I only know that I'm hooked, by now, that's all." - Dorothy Parker, 1943