Last year, I happened to see the Avengers. It immediately became my favorite movie, and I became interested in finding out more about the source material, especially about my favorite character, the Black Widow, or Natasha Romanoff. It was overwhelming to look at the material, since the Avengers have been around for decades. To make my quest easier, I decided to look for volumes on female superheroes, figuring there wouldn’t be quite as much material there.
I have been pleasantly surprised with what I’ve found. Marvel and DC both have multiple volumes on interesting characters such as X-23, Mystique, Batgirl, and Powergirl. The selection for the Black Widow is limited to three books representing three short series featuring the Black Widow. I fell in love with Marjorie Liu’s In the Name of the Rose, which was beautifully written, with excellent art. So far, I’ve read Batwoman, Batgirl, Captain Marvel, and Spider-woman. I’ve enjoyed all the volumes, and can’t seem to stop ordering more books to explore more female characters.
The female characters are no longer all posed in ridiculous positions, while wearing a bikini into battle. The costumes still have some issues (see Powergirl’s boob window), but I was relieved by the art in what I bought. The point was not sexual objectification of the female character; it was to make a good story.
I’m glad that the comic book world has made its comics slightly more female-friendly, though I don’t doubt there are examples of sexual objectification in other current comic books. And I haven’t noticed all that many women writing or drawing comics. I’m encouraged by writers such as Majorie Liu and Kelly Sue Deconnick, but I am discouraged by the backlash against comic book series featuring female teams, such as Fearless Defenders and the upcoming all women X-Men series.
It’s the fanboys who bother me, more than the industry. Sure, I’d like to see more women involved in the industry, more well-developed female characters, more women of color in the comics, more queer women. But the mainly male fans of the comic book industry bother me a lot.
At comic conventions, women often have to put up with being touched or leered at by the men at the con, whatever they might be wearing. They’re made to feel they’re not welcome in the comic book fandom, since a woman can’t possibly be a real fan of comics. “You just like the hot men in the movies,” fanboys accuse. Personally, I have no interest in the men, but I don’t have a problem with women who do. Who cares? All this is just for fun.
But these fanboys can’t possibly tolerate a woman calling herself a comic book nerd, even if she read comic books. “You just read Avengers,” they say. I don’t see the problem there, either. The movie caused a lot of interest in the comic book series, and there are some good runs of the Avengers and a lot of series to choose from.
“Yeah, but you haven’t been reading comic books since you were a kid,” the fanboys say. “You didn’t get picked on for liking comics.” Well, this is just a ridiculous requirement. Not everyone starts off liking a thing. I didn’t like modern poetry when I was 8, but now I do. And there are plenty of girls who did get picked on for being nerdy. I didn’t get bullied, but I was the girl with oversized glasses and messy brown hair that she tried to hide behind. I enjoyed school, and I was very much a nerd. I just didn’t read comic books.
My sister read comic books, mainly X-Men, as a teenager. She no longer does, but she enjoys other nerdy activities, such as LARP. It’s absurd for men to try to exclude women from comic book fandom for any reason, and it typically is indicative of misogyny. Fanboys are happy to objectify a woman in a comic, but let a woman share his passion? Not happening.
I can only hope that as more women join in the comic book fandom, fanboys will begin to understand that yes, women can also be nerds. Let’s just have fun; let’s not make this into something where people have to be excluded because they’re not “real” fans.