Where's the Mark?

Blog post inspired by some awesome Alert Nerding done by Sarah over here. Sometimes I'm just not sure who comic book companies are aiming at. Sometimes it's frustrating being a woman who thoroughly enjoys comic books, because we get paragraphs like this about upcoming titles (in this case, Marvel Divas):

“The idea behind the series was to have some sudsy fun and lift the curtain a bit and take a peep at some of our most fabulous super heroines. In the series, they’re an unlikely foursome of friends–Black Cat, Hell Cat, Firestar, and Photon–with TWO things in common: They’re all leading double-lives and they’re all having romantic trouble. The pitch started as “Sex and the City” in the Marvel Universe, and there’s definitely that “naughty” element to it, but I also think the series is doing to a deeper place, asking question about what it means…truly means…to be a woman in an industry dominated by testosterone and guns. (And I mean both the super hero industry and the comic book industry.) But mostly it’s just a lot of hot fun.”

-Marvel Divas writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, via My Cup o' Joe

Let's break this statement down.

Judging by the first sentence, which is the Topic Sentence, this is a book aimed at Men Who Want To See Boobs/Ass/Bubble Baths. Also, it discusses peeping on sexy women. Strangely, I do not find this appealing. The next sentence introduces the characters involved and the Main Plot Summary, which is the cliché female standard: Strong women having man troubles. Sex and the City was partially tiered around this-and largely pitched as this-but they did it right. Third sentence . . . wait--third sentence entirely subverts the first two. The third sentence actually makes me interested. What the hell? I was all turned-off, and now I'm doing a 180. I'm confused. I want to be hopeful. I'm interested and a bit cheered and confused as to why Aguirre-Sacasa led with 'sudsy fun' when this sentence was hiding up his sleeve. The sort-of-fourth-parenthesis sentence is a decent one, it tells me that someone's starting to Get It. I'm leaning over the fence now. I'm reading the last sentence. I'm . . . abruptly back on the fence once more. I'm dizzy and also irritated. I may be falling off the fence again, because it feels like a two versus one and my side is losing.

That paragraph tells me they don't know how to sell their product and are also slightly confused about what their product is. Saying 'But mostly it's just a lot of hot fun' after discussing the series going to a deeper place in the connections between strong women seems like an apology to the "WE WANT BOOOOOBIES" crowd for having actual depth. Starting the main definition of the title with 'sudsy fun' seems like this book will just be soft-core porn with a T.V. Repairman plot to string it all together. Is that what Marvel Divas is?

More importantly, are all books possibly aimed for women (they brought up SATC in the pitch room, which leads me to believe they are trying to nudge the door open farther for their female readership) going to be apologized for? I'm not a member of the 'Girls Only club'. I don't feel like I need a comic book that is aimed specifically at my vagina for me to enjoy comic books, but if one is going to be made I think that it should be done well. Sarah brought up Ultra by the Luna Brothers in her post and I completely agree (this is a subtle recommendation that you all read it) that it is a good standard for Female Superhero Books.

I'll ask it again, because this is an important question I'd like an answer to: Are all comic books aimed at women going to be apologized for?


PalinDrome said...

I have always taken the phrase "sudsy fun" to mean that it has a soap opera feel to it. Think Desperate Housewives and not Desperate House-whores. (Apparently a real porn title {Thank You Google})

Anonymous said...

Great post and thanks for the link-back :) Yeah, you know...I think the annoying part is really the apologetic "a lot of hot fun!" disclaimer. Like, hot fun can be good, but why "just" hot fun? It sounds so hasty, like they realized they were about to alienate male readers or something. I wouldn't mind more comics aimed at my vagina if they were like Ultra.

Mike Miller said...

I have no vagina and I thoroughly enjoyed Ultra, so really I think the apoligizing is unnecessary... but i fear that sadly I might be in a minority of male comic readers... I HOPE that I'm not though.

Elwood said...

Ultra was awesome.

Also, a comic book aimed at your vagina might result in unwanted injury. DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, IDW, et.al. wish to inform you that they will not be hedl responsible for any mishaps caused by an untrained Comic/Vag relationship.

qtilla said...

Yes, they should just make a blanket apology every year.

I really liked Ultra, but I don't recall thinking thinking, "Ah, finally a great comic from a female perspective."

In other news, there is no such thing as a "diva". A diva is just an asshole with a manicure.

qtilla said...

OH and ps- "just a lot of hot fun" is the most adorable way to rephrase: "People please don't get mad at us for our portrayal of women. We just wanted to make a fun little titty comic. Boys will be boys. It's just a comic, it's not art or literature or anything..."

Kristina said...

@palindrome: So that may be a generation gap misunderstanding! That does make a bit of sense, and I know it's happened before. My point is still entirely intact, 'sudsy' or no 'sudsy'. And on the note of Desperate Housewives, I enjoyed the first season, but the following ones were just insulting.

@Sarah: Psh, thanks for the awesome post. It's a time-bomb issue you walked onto today. The 'a lot of hot fun!' apology is completely undeserved. I really hope that tone doesn't follow him into the title.

@Mike: See, that's a good comment, but here's the thing: You don't need a vagina to enjoy vagina titles. That's the biggest misconception out of them all, and the reason I find the need to pander to a vagina annoying. Girls Like Explosions, Boys Like Drama. Fuck it--there's the title for my post tomorrow.

@Elwood: "A comic book aimed at your vagina might result in unwanted injury" THAT'S TOTALLY WHAT I'M SAYING!! I have an UNWANTED VAGINAL INJURY from comic books! Stop aiming them at me!
FUCK it, I'm writing that post NOW.

Kristina said...

@Q: I thought it was a great comic about the female perspective. Because they still have penises. Let's face it, I'll never be perfect about writing the burning need to scratch at my balls.

Comic books aren't REAL food, we leave that to those small things, with all those words . . . yeah. I hate that excuse.

Also: "A dive is just an asshole with a manicure" needs to be a bumper sticker. So that I may buy it.