It's been a really interesting month for the topic of gender in comics. Well, "interesting" is one word for it. "Frustrating" is another, but there's been a lot of thoughtful discussion on the topic that I think is really important to the industry.
So, the short version? This month, DC Comics launched "The New 52", a relaunch of their entire line of comics. This has generally meant a reboot of most of their series, each starting over with a new #1 issue. Once details emerged about the upcoming titles and their creative teams a few months ago, it was noticed that the writers and artists were overwhelmingly male, with incredibly few female creators attached to the new titles. It became a bit of a controversy.
Fast-forward to now. A few of the new DC comics have been released recently that have treated their female heroes as little more than male fantasy objects instead of well-rounded characters that could appeal to a wider audience. For more details, it's been well-covered by Comics Alliance EiC Laura Hudson here and here. If you have any interest in the topic, definitely check those articles out. I'd comment on the issue more myself, but she really covered everything I'd want to say anyway. (Though do yourself a favour and avoid the comment section. Trust me.)
So gender in superhero comics is a pretty hot-button topic right now, and for good reason. Not directly related to the controversies above, but Chris Arrant at Robot 6 asked today, "Where are the male versions of female heroes?"
But in this world of male heroes sharing their costume designs with women, I’ve always wondered why there isn’t much going the opposite way: heroes who base their costumes and names on heroines.
One of the key reasons is that by sheer number there are far more popular male superhero characters than female characters. By my unscientific estimation, the only female superheroes the general public could name would be Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Invisible Woman, Catwoman, Jean Grey and Storm. Compare that to the male heroes most people know, and you’ll get the picture. But even then, where are the male counterparts to those female heroes I mentioned?
This is a really good question. As someone who's read a lot of comics over the years -- though I'm currently down to only two superhero titles, neither of which published by DC -- I've wondered about this a lot myself and have always been bothered by it.
So then I drew this.
Okay, far from my strongest work - I pencilled, inked and (very quickly) coloured it in under an hour, all while sick. I don't much care for the pose, either, but you get the idea.
There have been other characters called "Wonder Boy" at various points (or so Wikipedia tells me), but none that have stuck around in any permanent capacity. Meanwhile, female versions of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and others have become superhero staples with long-running histories. Seems a little uneven, doesn't it? I've always loved the idea of younger characters being inspired by their heroes and taking on their symbols. It's a very hopeful tradition. But why are Superman and Batman any more inspirational than Wonder Woman? And why wouldn't she inspire a young man to follow in her footsteps instead of strictly female sidekicks? I'd like to say the obvious response is "of course she would", but it's an unfortunately rare occurrence in the superhero world.
Maybe it's about time that changed.