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Earlier this Week DC Comics Released their Variant Covers for June. Featuring the art of Ant Lucia, each cover has one or two of DC Comics women posed in the style of vintage bombshell pinups.
The artwork is clearly lovely (although the concept of comic heroines as bombshells isn’t a new one - check out this Cliff Chiang art from 2008) and in many cases characters are wearing more clothing than they do in their new 52 design. Frankly I’d be pretty happy if Starfire was dressed as she is her rather than how she is shown on the covers of Red Hood and the Outlaws,
So what’s the problem?
Sexy superheroes isn’t problem either. There are some artists who can draw terrific sexy versions of our favorite male superheroes. A Nicola Scott Dick Grayson is a thing of beauty and I’m sure enjoyed by many male readers just as much as these bombshell covers are enjoyed by female readers.
And again, it’s not about the individual covers, look at that Wonder Woman above - she’s not just sexy; she’s powerful too. I’m getting one of the Wonder Woman as Rosie the Riveter, framing it and putting it on my wall.
So you may ask what is my issue? And here it is — ALL these covers are women. There is no Dick Grayson cover (here’s an example of one here) or Batman or Green Lantern.
The overall effect of these cover communicates a message that DC Comics, you would think, would stop trying to communicate to men given that women are the fastest growing demographic - "Superhero Comics are for us men; not for you."
Now one could argue that these are just variants making this argument facile - “No one is going to see these except for those who order them.” But in this case it isn’t quite the truth. These covers can be ordered at face value just like any other cover. In other words, they are basically the cover. Expect to see tons of these on the stand especially as DC is out promoting the hell out of these covers - the latest reveal was on Buzzfeed who attracts millions and millions of views.
DC Comics has had problems with how it has portraying women on its cover - the Catwoman 0 issue was pulled and replaced. Starfire’s teeny weeny top has been made less teeny weeny. And, of course, the most recent problem of an underage Wonder Girl being given breasts that are bigger than shown previously. Criticism of that cover ended with the writer of the piece being threatened with rape.
As Kelly Thompson wrote women in superhero comics are drawn, and almost broke the internet, about the , "No, It’s not equal."
And as long as sexy female characters are used solely as a way to drive comic sales, which is EXACTLY what variant covers are designed to do, than it won’t be equal and comics will remain in its state of serving an audience that is increasingly being encroached upon. (Update: it is also important to note there are no women of color on the cover which speaks to the level of diversity within comics).
We can discuss the sales of comics endlessly as the change like the weather but right now the are flat. One would think increasing the already growing demographic of female readers would be a smart thing.
Variant covers that feature “sexy” 1940s bombshell versions of only female characters seems counter intuitive.
Coincidently, another female comic character from the 1940s was in the news yesterday. ABC has optioned a series for Peggy Carter spinning out of the Marvel verse and Captain America. And funnily enough Marvel also promoted the pilot of the series with vintage art:
Here’s the bombshell about that - a female lead in a comic sourced media piece, who isn’t posing “teh sexy” and has her shirt buttoned up, will be seen by millions of viewers on national TV rather than just the just under 100K folks who currently buy comics.