COMIC SQUABBLE: Hyper-Physiques and Reader Turn-Off

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Mai and Alex are in real life married. They often have debates over all things, including comics. Alex generally plays devil’s advocate and says all kind of “reasonable” stuff in order to infuriate Mai and make her question her opinions. He was a psychology major, so that’s how he gets his kicks. But Mai is always, always right so it doesn’t matter anyway.

Today, for your amusement, they discuss female physique in comics and how it can be a turn off for female readers. 

Mai: I think women and girls have a harder time getting interested in comics, especially later on, and one of the reasons is because of the way women are generally depicted in comics.

Alex: Why do you think girls can’t get into it?

It’s not that I don’t think they can’t get into it. But I do think it’s harder. It feels like the ladies in DC and Marvel are unrealistic.

Are we talking about just the human female characters or all female characters?

Mainly human because I’m okay with the non-human and super-humans being tough-stuff and still having big boobs and butts.

Okay, so are we only talking about the unrealistic female physique being the only issue or just this issue we want to focus on for this discussion?

Yeah, for today.

Yeah, I can see that, but it’s the same for male characters, and plenty of guys seem to love comics.

I think that the human male comic heroes’ physiques are attainable—maybe not probable but still attainable, while the women counterparts are not.

Have you seen Superman? Or even Batman for that matter. There are plenty of male characters that are potentially obtainable. Like I’ll give you Green Arrow or Hawk Eye, but look at Wolverine or Black Panther. I’ve rarely seen dudes that ripped in regular life. You could argue the same about female characters being attainable.

Superman and Wolverine are not human. Well, wolverine isn’t a normal human. I don’t know who Black Panther is. And as athletic as a woman would need to be to pull off the stuff they do, they would have to have zero body fat, all muscle, and that would eliminate any curves.

 Okay, first off Wonder Woman is an Amazon, so she counts as much as Wolverine then.

In Heroes for Hire, Elektra is a waif with a big rack and she holds off a whole prison. Not possible. Maybe if she had legs like Chung-Li. Wonder Woman doesn’t count either; she has magical stuff going on.

I’ve seen women with plastic surgery manage it, and I’ve also seen chicks in professional wrestling manage it. Have you seen yoga pants? I’m not saying it’s a positive image or one that every female finds accessible, but I am saying that it is the same for male and female characters. Does it turn you away to see female characters like that? Also the Flash is a male waif.

It is off-putting and makes me roll my eyes. Flash has super powers! Doesn’t count. And these characters didn’t have plastic surgery.

Flash is still very human.

Let’s take Catwoman as an example. The girl can climb on the ceiling if she has the right hand holds! There is no way she’d be able to do that in real life. She’s need some huge upper body strength.

Okay, we aren’t debating what they could humanly survive or do; we are talking about their unreasonable physique being a turn off for the reader. And yeah, no way.

If they could humanly do that they wouldn’t look like that. That’s all I’m saying. 

You have to suspend disbelief for that. She’s wearing leather yoga pants; you have seen how that can transform normal butt into super butt.

Girls see sexy figures thrown at them from all over the place, and for the most part they can’t catch break—not even from DC or Marvel. I mean there are some characters that aren’t that bad; Marvel NOW!’s X-men aren’t bad and Storm looks like a badass. Batwoman always looked more athletic than sexy, but I wonder if that’s because she’s a lesbian (I’ll save that for another day…). I think Image is doing a much better job of representing real women—might help that there are more women writers and artists there…

I’ll give you that with Image, they are doing a better job. But when was the last time you saw a fat or even pudgy male super-hero? Or one that doesn’t have a perfect jawline and has a receding hairline or a zit or had anyone complain that he farts too much?

I’ll give you fat/pudgy super-hero. Athletic is in the description. The rest, though: you might be right.

As for the female form, modern society is just as bad and women are partly the criminals behind it. Fake hair, fake eyelashes, push-up bras, make-up. There are many who try to shun that societal “requirement,” but there are also way too many that embrace it and celebrate it as identity. Women also do the same for male stereotypes. Take online shooting games: girls like to have pink armor and a girls voice why?’

I get that I do. I wear make-up. But I like to see a girl who is badass, not just sexy. Forever from Lazarus is a badass. She is my ideal female heroine. She’s strong with reasonable-size breasts for someone strong, and she’s got an athletic build. I could see her chopping up a whole group of dudes that cross her.

Oh, and they pick pink armor and a girls voice because they are girls or at least that’s why I do. I get tired of being boy characters since that’s my main option.

Okay, I know I have heard you and several other ladies say that it’s because you want guys to know they’ve been beaten by a girl. But that’s beside the point now. I agree with you; I would like to see realistic heroes and heroines in the comic book world. Our generation is a major consumer of comic books and so is the generation above. I understand having super bulky dudes and majorly curvy babes during our teenage years, but I think it’s time the comic world grew up with its audience. I want to see someone who can’t run a mile in under ten minutes save the world.

I only say that about douches.

Yeah me too, lol.

It turns out that we are for the most part, in agreement over how stereotyped mainstream comics are. But really, are they any different from most of the rest of the world? Unfortunately not.  

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In the real world Tattoogirl is known as Mai Byers and is a store manager at a video game store. She loves all things nerdy but has only recently gotten interested in the American comic book scene. She writes the column Point of Entry and reviews books and comics incessantly. It’s not just a clever name, she has 30 tattoos. Contact her at maibyers@gmail.com
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Alex “Danger” Byers is a regular person in the working world, but at night (after work) he transforms into a video game loving, comic book reading, super tasty beer drinking, foodie of near hipster level. You can contact him at alexoftheazuresky@gmail.com or with a beer signal.
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