Women in Comics: DC v Marvel, the Bechdel Test

“The lower percentage of women creators in superhero comics has been well documented, but what about the portrayal of women characters? Since Alison Bechdel created the Bechdel Test in her famous comic strip, Dykes To Watch Out For, which provided an easy way to determine gender bias in films, the test has also been used for other media, including comics. While the automatic assumption of many might be that superhero comics would fail this test miserably, my results may well surprise you. DC for example not only outscore Marvel, but performbetter for women than they do for men.”

San Diego Comic Con was always going to be all about the DC reboot: Superman’s new outfits; Barbara Gordon leaving her wheelchair; Wonder Woman’s disappearing and reappearing legwear; that Harley Quinn outfit; the new 52. This was the time for DC to win over the fans, attract new readers, and leave us enthused and eager for what September will bring. Instead, women who have attended the panels or listened to the podcasts have described the experience as uncomfortable at best, offensive at worst.

Women in Comics History: Rose O'Neill

The diversity of her work is exquisite, from her old-fashioned super-cute cherubs to her dark and spiky Sweet Monsters. Self-taught and highly driven, Rose established herself as both a prolific commercial artist and a master of fine arts, using her elevated position to back the Suffrage movement and push for women’s rights.

Source: Women in Comics History: Rose O'Neill

If our media wasn’t already dominated by hyper-sexualised portrayals of women, this would be brilliant. Just like the New 52 Catwoman’s hyper-sexualised portrayal would be no big deal if she was the only character, or in a minority of women characters, treated that way. Sexy women? Yes please! Only, can’t we have every other woman too?
—  comicbookgrrrl on the breast cancer awareness ad campaign. this is everything i wanted to say about these ads but with less swearing.

How about a collection of everything Grant Morrison has said in published interviews about his upcoming Wonder Woman project? Because as much as I joked in the New Statesman piece that "Morrison says Wonder Woman needs sex!“ was the wrongly quoted interpretation of his plans, it still seems to be coming up again and again… 

New Statesman: Grant Morrison: Why I’m stepping away from superheroes 15/09/12

Throughout our chat, Morrison is laughing and grinning, invested in conversation rather than just talking to a tape recorder. Much of this is often stripped out in print, the jokes and dry humour edited to arseyness and the enthusiasm poisoned to conceit. Quizzed on his upcoming Wonder Woman story last year, Morrison stated that he wanted her to be able to have both her sexuality and her personality, the former often being glaringly omitted. This was summarily regurgitated as "Morrison says Wonder Woman needs sex!”

Wonder Woman has long been a character I’ve wanted to like, yet it’s only her earliest very daft adventures that entertain me, I tell him.

“I feel the same,” Morrison says, “There’s something fantastic here but it’s never quite been focused on. And the earliest stuff comes closest to it but you want to see it done in a more contemporary way.

"The trouble is the men were a bit weak and that’s what I’m trying to also resolve in Wonder Woman – why is that Steve Trevor guy so dull, you know? You just think he’s not fit to be Wonder Woman’s boyfriend, he’s terrible. So I’ve done a lot of work on him and it really became about, in a lot of ways how men see women and how women see each other. So it’s been a lot of research this one, talking to people. But it’s going good. The opening image is quite shocking.”

With Batman and Superman already under his belt, Wonder Woman will complete Morrison’s DC trifecta. With the recent focus on women in comics, and debates on the inherent sexism within the comics themselves, is he prepared for a feminist backlash?

“No, no, I’m hoping, I’ve really done my research.” He pauses before continuing. “And again I find that a lot of that stuff, and I know it gets me into more trouble, it’s just all artificial to me. I don’t give a fuck what gender you are, or whether you’re a worm or a zebra. Honestly as long as you’re friendly and can communicate, that’s all I care about. And I can understand why you might take certain separatist positions but I just don’t feel that way.

"Honestly I’m really trying to make it work and again, the sexuality – it’s there, but it’s really weird, because I thought it had to be quite weird. These are women who’ve allegedly been cut off from all male contact for three thousand years or something, since the days of Hercules. And none of them have died. And none of them have given birth.

"So it seems like it’s actually quite stifling and weird the more you think about it. So I wanted to deal with that, what happens to eroticism and sex when it’s [three] thousand years after men, you know when even the women who’ve been doing it to one another are bored shitless after twenty five [hundred] years. So I think there’s something a lot weirder than what people anticipate coming up with this!”


ComicbookGRRRL: Grant Morrison at the Edinburgh Book Festival - Full and Uncut 12/10/11

On Grant’s Wonder Woman as a sexualised/fetishised character and how he’d handle her portrayal:

Grant: Ooh I’m sweating the minute you said fetish! [laughs] Well yeah, interestingly the thing about Wonder Woman, I don’t know if people know this, you probably all know this, but I’m gonna tell you it again just to bore you, but Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston, who was a pop-psychologist and a little bit more than that in the 30s and 40s, and basically he was a kind of proponent of free love and that kind of you know, 1950s post-Kinsey stuff. So him and his wife had a lover called Olive Byrne, a younger, an 18 year old, and they were both sort of professors, and Olive was the original physical model for Wonder Woman. And Elizabeth Marston and Charles [William’s pen name] basically created this character,because they felt that Superman represented a kind of blood-curdling masculinity as they said, so they wanted to introduce somebody who was a bit more feminine, but now at the same time Marston also had all these amazing kinks, because he had this idea that basically the world would be better if men would just submit to women’s complete instruction. And I’m sure many of you may agree! [laughs] But he took it all the way, not just submit to instruction but get collars on, and get down on all fours, and just admit that’s where you belong guys!

So a lot of the Wonder Woman stories had this thread through them, this idea of bondage but it was “loving submission” Marston called it. And it was this notion that, as I said in the book, there’s a story where Wonder Woman rescues the slave girls of an evil Nazi villain, and the slave girls don’t know what to do, even though they’ve been rescued they’re kind of, they like being slaves. So Wonder Woman just says “Oh, don’t worry, you can be slaves on Paradise Island and one of our girls will take over but she’ll be really nice to you unlike the Nazi!”, and that was seen as, that was the resolution to the story! You’ve got a nice mistress instead of a crop-cracking Paula Von Gunther.

So Marston had all these ideas and it was very deep, there was a book by him which was hidden in the DC Comics vaults because they didn’t really want anyone to see it, and a friend of mine at DC sneaked it out for me one time. And it’s this thing, and honestly you can’t read it, it’s deranged, it’s like the guys just done mescaline or something, talking about his sexual theories. And it reads like William Burroughs, it’s all this stuff about the luminous women from Venus and how they’ll tie something round you and you’ll be sorted out! So there was that, the Wonder Woman strip had this weird libidinous kind of element and obviously on Paradise Island, it was this amazing Second Wave, separatist, feminist idea of an entire island where women had ruled for 3000 years and what they did for fun was chase one another! So the girls would dress up like stags and run through the forest and another girl would chase them and then they’d capture the girl, tie her up and put her on a table and pretend to eat her at a mock banquet. This is a typical Wonder Woman adventure! [laughs] In 1941.

But then Marston died, and that energy left the strip, it just disappeared. They were really worried about what he was doing, the bondage elements were becoming more and more overt, but the sales were good! [laughs] This was working! Unlike Superman, as you say, I started looking at trying to do a Wonder Woman that brought back some of these elements but without it being prurient or exploitative.

Superman when he began was, he could throw people out of windows, you used to see him drop kicking guys into the ocean, and obviously that would kill you. You know Batman had a gun and sometimes he would shoot people. But those things weren’t intrinsic to the strips, you know, you could take out those elements, you could take out the murder element of Superman and Batman and the strips still worked. But when you took the sex out of Wonder Woman, the thing went flat. And the sales died immediately after Marston himself died and never ever recovered.

So it seemed that there was something about those libidinous elements that were actually fundamental to the concept of Wonder Woman, and trying to find a way to put those back without being William Moulton Marston and not being into what he was into, was quite a difficult thing. But yeah, I think I’ve found a way, but I’m not gonna tell you what I’ve done because hopefully the Wonder Woman series will be out next year sometime or thereabouts. But I think I’ve found a way to get all that back in again but it took a lot of reading. This has been the hardest project I’ve ever done. I had to read feminist theory all the way through, from Simone De Beauvoir to Andrea Dworkin and apply it to this character. And to try and do something that incorporated those ideas but completely took them in a different direction. So I mean beyond that I’ll say, Wonder Woman needs sex definitely because you know, again as I said in the book, they kind of transformed her into a cross between the Virgin Mary and Mary Tyler Moore. This girl scout who had no sexuality at all and the character’s never quite worked since then.

In the way that Superman’s supposed to stand for men but at least he’s allowed to have some kind of element of sexuality, Wonder Woman is expected to stand for women without any element of sexuality, and that seems wrong. I don’t know if that answers the question but it shows I’ve been thinking about it! [laughs]


CBR: Being Grant Morrison: From “Happy!” to MorrisonCon and Beyond 23/07/12

CBR News: I think a lot of people are surprised that you’ve remained dedicated to writing superhero comics for this long. Did you always foresee a waning of that work, or did it sneak up on you that “I’m not sure if I need to write anymore superhero stories”?

Grant Morrison: The idea was always that I’d keep doing it as long as it gave me a lot of pleasure and allowed me to express myself . And it still does, but I can see the end coming closer. I’m coming to the end of long runs and stories I’ve had planned in my notebooks for years and the stuff I’m developing now is quite different.

The “Action Comics” run concludes with issue #16, “Batman Incorporated” wraps up my take with issue #12, and after that I don’t have any plans for monthly superhero books for a while. “Multiversity” is eight issues and I’m 30-odd pages into a Wonder Woman project but those are finite stories.

I’m not saying that I’ll never write superheroes again. It’s just that my relationship to them has changed especially after finishing the book and I’m not sure if I want to maintain the same kind of relentless level of production.


Playboy: The Super Psyche 18/04/12

Wonder Woman

First appearance: All Star Comics #8 (DC Comics, 1941).

Created by: William Moulton Marston, art by Harry G. Peter.

Grant Morrison version: He’s currently working on a stand-alone Wonder Woman graphic novel for DC.

Morrison: "William Moulton Marston, the guy who created Wonder Woman, was a noted psychiatrist. He’s the guy who invented the polygraph, the lie detector. He was one of those bohemian free-love guys; he and his wife, Elizabeth, shared a lover, Olive, who was the physical model for Wonder Woman. What he and Elizabeth did was to consider an Amazonian society of women that had been cut off from men for 3,000 years. That developed along the lines of Marston’s most fevered fantasies into a lesbian utopia. Although they’re supposedly a peace-loving culture, all these supergirls’ pursuits seem to revolve around fighting one another, and this mad, ritualistic stuff where girls dress as stags and get chased and tied up and eaten symbolically on a banquet table. The whole thing was lush with bondage and slavery. Wonder Woman was constantly being tied up or shackled—and it was hugely successful. When Marston died in 1947, they got rid of the pervy elements, and instantly sales plummeted. Wonder Woman should be the most sexually attractive, intelligent, potent woman you can imagine. Instead she became this weird cross between the Virgin Mary and Mary Tyler Moore that didn’t even appeal to girls.“


Newsarama: Grant Morrison: Final Crisis Exit Interview, Part 1 28/01/09

NRAMA: Regarding the big legends of the DCU: Superman got his mini-event, Batman took on Darkseid, Flash tries to outrun death, Green Lantern overcomes granny … but Wonder Woman turns out to be Anti-Life Patient Zero and spends the bulk of the series as a disfigured thrall. Why does Wonder Woman not have a comparable moment in that context?

GM: I wondered about that myself. I love what Gail Simone (especially) and other writers have done to empower the Wonder Woman concept but I must admit I’ve always sensed something slightly bogus and troubling at its heart. When I dug into the roots of the character I found an uneasy melange of girl power, bondage and disturbed sexuality that has never been adequately dealt with or fully processed out to my mind. I’ve always felt there was something oddly artificial about Wonder Woman, something not like a woman at all.

Having said that, I became quite fascinated by these contradictions and problems and tried to resolve them for what turned into a different project entirely. Partly because I didn’t want to use any of that new material in Final Crisis, I relegated Wonder Woman to a role that best summed up my original negative feelings about the character. My apologies to her fans and I promise to be a little more constructive next time around.

Wonder Woman gets a ‘moment’ in Final Crisis #7 but by that time, Mandrakk has sucked all the life out of the story!


And a word from Greg Rucka about one of the reasons he left DC, as told to 3 Chicks Review Comics (around the 1:28:30 mark)

"I at one point was supposed to write Wonder Woman Earth One, like they did with Superman, Batman, and JH [Williams] was gonna draw it.”

Asked what happened, Greg replied:

“I was told I wasn’t going to do it. That’s what happened. Didio called me and said, "I’m giving it to somebody else.” And I said to him if you do that I can no longer work for you, because I have taken many a job for you, sir, on the promise of me doing this, and now you are taking it away and I cannot accept your promises any more.

“He had his reasons for- he had his reasons for doing this. This is not me throwing stones, this is just the way things shook out.”

Asked if he knew it was Grant Morrison that was the somebody else, Rucka replied:


Greg also commented on twitter, when asked his thoughts on “Grant Morrison being given the Wonder Woman Earth One you wanted”:

I wish I could’ve written it, and I hope he knocks it so far out of the park the skin comes off the ball, honestly.

And on his tumblr, when asked if there was any fallout between him and Morrison:

Not that I’m aware of! I honestly haven’t seen nor talked with Grant in over three years at this point, but that’s got nothing to do with anything other than the fact that he’s crazy busy, and out paths just don’t cross the way they did when I was writing at DC.

So there we go. Obviously I’m looking forward to it a lot as I love those cracky Golden Age stories, and I’m keen to see what the Grant Morrison that gave us great women characters in The Invisibles, Doom Patrol, Seven Soldiers and Kill Your Boyfriend can do.

Really sad we can’t get Rucka’s take as well though. Bring back Elseworlds! 


Comics in Review: The 2013 Comic Book Grrrl Awards

Click through to the article for full analysis, reviews and the close runners up as well as lots of ever so pretty pictures ^_^

Artist of the Year: Sean Murphy (Punk Rock Jesus, The Wake)

Anthology of the Year: Boo! - Warwick Johnson Cadwell, Paul Harrison-Davies, Jonathan Edwards, James Howard, Gary Northfield, Jamie Smart, Andrew Waugh

Best Alt/Indie Comic of the Year: Raygun Roads - Owen Michael Johnson, Indio

Best in Translation: Blue is the Warmest Color - Julie Maroh

Biggest Surprise Hit:X-Men Legacy - Simon Spurrier, Tan Eng Huat, José Villarrubia (et al)

Biography/Memoir of the Year: Lighter Than My Shadow - Katie Green

Breakthrough Star: Allie Brosh (Hyperbole and a Half)

Characters of the Year: Saga - Brian K Vaughan, Fiona Staples

Collected Edition of the Year: The Abominable Charles Christopher Vol 2 - Karl Kerschl 

Colourist of the Year: Matt Hollingsworth (The Wake, Hawkeye, Daredevil: End of Days, Punisher: War Zone, Wolverine)

Comic of the Year: Ballistic - Adam Egypt Mortimer, Darick Robertson, Diego Rodriguez

Covers to Covet: Emily and The Strangers (Variants) - R Black, Winston Smith, Cynthia Von Buhler

Design of the Year: Hawkeye - Matt Fraction, David Aja, Matt Hollingsworth, Chris Eliopoulos (et al)

Digital Comic of the Year: The Private Eye - Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, Muntsa Vicente

Distinguished Debut: Liberator - Matt Miner, Javier Aranda, Joaquin Pereyra

Gift Choice: My Dog: The Paradox - Matthew Inman

Graphic Novel of the Year: The Lengths - Howard Hardiman

History Choice: Pretty in Ink - Trina Robbins

Innovation of the Year:Knight & Dragon - Matt Gibbs, Bevis Musson, Nathan Ashworth

Kids Choice: Dungeon Fun - Neil Slorrance, Colin Bell

Letterer of the Year: Clayton Cowles (Young Avengers, Fearless Defenders, Pretty Deadly, FF, Zero, Three)

Publisher of the Year: Image

Tears! Tears Everywhere: Action Comics - Grant Morrison, Travel Foreman, Brad Anderson (et al)

The Feels!: Young Avengers - Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson (et al)

Voice of the Year: Alex de Campi (Smoke/Ashes, Grindhouse: Doors Open At Midnight)

Webcomic of the Year: Nimona - Noelle Stevenson

Writer of the Year: Grant Morrison (Batman Incorporated, Action Comics, Happy)

Wrongful Cancellation of the Year: I, Vampire - Joshua Hale Fialkov, Andrea Sorrenntino, Marcelo Maiolo

Zeitgeist of the Year: Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) - Hajime Isayama

Source: The 2013 Comic Book Grrrl Awards

Grant Morrison speaks out about Alan Moore, in my latest article over on The Beat:

Hope the following rather massive info-dump helps clarify a few things. I also hope this may explain why I’ve sometimes felt myself to be the victim of a genuine grudge that seems quite staggering in its sincerity and longevity. Reading the comments section following “The Strange Case of Alan Moore and Grant Morrison” I can’t help but note how heavily my detractors rely on a total lack of research, gross distortions of historical fact, and playground name-calling to support their alleged points.

Not that I expect this to make much difference but the opportunity to separate fact from fantasy is a welcome one. Pádraig quotes from Alan Moore discussing me during a webchat earlier this year without challenging even the most obvious and basic of the many historical inaccuracies and contradictions in Moore’s assertions. In fact, Moore’s recollections are completely unreliable and I wouldn’t mind having some facts put on record, once and for all.

Thanks to Pádraig for allowing me to respond directly to his piece and to Laura for bringing it to my attention and offering me space on The Beat to get some things off my medal-heavy chest.

- Grant Morrison

Read in full here: The Strange Case of Grant Morrison and Alan Moore, As Told By Grant Morrison

“I’ve got to say at the comic shop I buy my comics from it’s very seldom I see any women in there buying comics. Maybe those 40% women are at the superhero movies because of their husbands or kids.” - Dudebro

because of their husbands or kids

because of their husbands or kids

because of their husbands or kids

Ooooor, it’s because we’d rather not be condescended to, made to feel unwelcome, stared at, or have our boobs spoken to like they’re our faces. But yeah, I totally just let myself get dragged to superhero films, and god damn but where did all these comics come from?! That’s sure ain’t my Tank Girl t-shirt! I don’t even know who Tom Hiddleston is!!

Let’s be clear, ‘tokenism’ has a very specific meaning: the limited inclusion of a member of a minority that creates a false impression of inclusion. A false impression. It’s a pretty easy pitfall to avoid, just make sure that the women you include are ones you truly want to be there. Like you do already with guys… it’s very easy. 'Tokenism’ is an easy way of saying 'can’t be bothered looking’.“

Source: Women in Comics: Tokenism and of course Hark! A Vagrant

Her best friend was the sugar munching Etta Candy, who along with the Holliday Girls would often rescue Wonder Woman from trouble. Women helping women! Imagine. Etta is a bubbly curvacious young woman, who is of the opinion that her good health and confidence is down to her love of sweets. She drives her own car (named Esmerelda), is brimful of energy (“Woo Woo!”), and to be blunt is both short and fat and completely unapologetic for not conforming to society’s expectations. Etta doesn’t give a damn.

Source: Women in Comics: Wonder Woman and the Attack of the Code

Neonomicon then, as I see it, is more than a horrible story, and more even than a knowing look at what horrors really plagued Lovecraft; it’s a surge of anger and horror at the comics industry itself, as well as the racism, misogyny and lack of imagination within. But can a horrible story ever be more than simply horrible?

Please note, Neonomicon features an extended and brutal rape scene which is referenced (not explicitly) and condemned in this review.

And actually, I think it’s important to give that warning on the book as a whole. I can’t be the only one who got one hell of a shock when flicking through :/

Source: Comic Review: Neonomicon by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows 

A great story, told from multiple perspectives, about two women and their lives and families, unfolding in layers to tell a more complex tale.

I don’t normally read much non-genre fiction, but have had a recent hankering for it, perhaps as a welcome break from research. This one caught my eye and I decided to start it today on my day off.

I always think reading a book in one sitting is the highest praise one can have, and having polished this off in a handful of hours, I can confirm that this is fab summer reading, very stylish and terribly absorbing. I’m always drawn to books with multiple view points, and while I can’t comment on the numerous comparisons people have made between this and The Great Gatsby, it has at least encouraged me to read the latter next, another admirable trait!

24 Hours of Webcomics: The Abominable Charles Christopher

The Abominable Charles Christopher is one of those rare comics that I recommend to absolutely everyone regardless of their age, genre preferences or comic reading habits. It’s also one of the hardest comics to describe in a way that fully conveys the beauty and genius inside, as it is essentially the tale of a Yeti or Abominable Snowman and his woodland friends.”

Read the full article at The Beat!

Bayou Arcana, a female-driven comics anthology title, has already made a surprise splash in the UK headlines, and will now star at Kapow! Comic Con in May.

I took the opportunity to ask the creators their thoughts on the book itself, on appearing at a large comics convention, and for the women, on their experiences within the comics industry as a whole.

Source: Women in Comics: Interview with the Creators of Bayou Arcana | comicbookGRRRL

Please Share!

A new public page has launched today on Facebook, spotlighting Women in Comics in Europe - featuring and promoting various women in and around the industry, and open to all supporters of women and comics.

Women and Comics, Europe has been set up by myself and Maura McHugh. Maura is a well known writer of prose, comic books, plays, and screenplays, and a big supporter of promoting the strength and numbers of women in comics.

The page will feature different women in the industry weekly, and keep you up to date with all events throughout the UK and Europe, as well as new titles coming your way, and items in the news and media.

Additionally, there is a private group set up for those who identify as women and live or work in Europe who are working in or around the comics industry. While we feel that the discussions from all supporters of comics are vital, in some cases it does happen that women in comics is somewhat buried beneath all the other comics news and events, and some women are also a little weary of having to bear the constant disclaimers and caveats that are often required to dissuade the (sometimes well meaning) derailments.

If you are a comics writer, artist, creator, editor, colourer, inker, publisher, letterer, journalist, academic, promoter, organiser, reviewer AND a woman from or working in the UK, please join the group and like the page. If you are a supporter of all of the above, please like the page!