The Real Power is Choosing What You Want

January 26th, 2010 by | Tags: ,

I remember when this poster first came out.  It was entitled “The Real Power of the DC Universe.” 

I hated it.  Absolutely hated it.  Oh, the women are the real power in the DCU, are they?  Sure they’re not headlining books or saving the day in stories.  Their emotional arcs don’t form the backbone of continuity, and there are no movies about them, and mostly they seem as decorative and unnecessary in the comics as they do in that poster, but they’re the real power in the DCU.

It reminded me of all the condescending crap that women have been tossed for a long time – that they have all the power because they can be sexy.  They have all the power because they can be feminine.  Just because all that power depends on pleasing other people, and all that power can be taken away in a heartbeat, that doesn’t mean that women aren’t the real power.

When David posted about Benes doing the art for Birds of Prey earlier this month, I felt some flickerings of that old irritation.  Rather than festering, though, as much of my irritation does; it passed away pretty quickly.

Here’s why:

I can go to the shelf and buy Detective Comics, which have a grittiness that, in my opinion, often clashes with the almost surreal artwork of JH Williams.  And there will be a Renee Montoya back-up, with an art style that matches up better, but a more conventional story.

Or I can buy that confection of a comic book, Power Girl, and laugh at the stories and try to find the cat in every issue.

Or I can buy Wonder Woman, although I can only read it when I’m not feeling depressed because, come on, can’t Wondy chalk up *one* in the win column?  She and everyone else in the comic have been kicked down and down and down since the third issue.

Or I can buy Batgirl, because it has two characters I love in a relatively by-the-numbers coming-of-age superhero story, and one character I despise making things interesting.

Or I can buy Supergirl, although its embroiled in a massive crossover continuity nightmare.  I liked the kids mini-series of it much better.

Pretty soon I’ll be able to buy Birds of Prey, the funny, soapy, wildly varied team book.

I could even buy that abomination, Gotham City Sirens, although I never will.  Ever.

And of course, if I have a few extra dollars I’m willing to throw away, I can buy the Streets of Gotham series, rip out the first 22 pages, and find Kate Spencer in a kind of Law & Order: Superheroes Unit comic.

I can find funny books starring women, and sexy books starring women, and dark books starring women, and kid’s books starring women.  I can like some of the books for the story, and some for the tone, and some for the characters, and some for the writer.

There are a bunch of books about women out there.  If I’m reading DC I can choose, out of that bunch of books, the ones the ones that suit my taste at the moment.  It was not always so.  I like, very much, that it has changed.

Which is not to say that there can’t be improvements.  There are a lot of books that are lead by female characters, but the percentage isn’t half.  Yet.  Almost all the characters are white, straight, young, and are drawn so that they are exceptionally easy on the eyes first, and characters second.  And if there is never again a story that mentions, contains, threatens, or even alludes to a rape, it will be too soon.  However, being able to pick and choose, not having to search the shelves for female characters, not feeling like I have to support that one book that has a female lead, having a selection presented to me and comparing, contrasting, and finally choosing what I like; I enjoy this feeling.   It feels like real power.

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11 comments to “The Real Power is Choosing What You Want”

  1. There’s also brief bursts of femme fatales in Criminal, women as part of a creepy/horror ensemble cast in BPRD, and real life African slice of life in Aya!

  2. I am very glad you don’t like GCS. For a second I thought I was the only one.

  3. The options are even scarcer in the Marvel section. She-Hulk is constantly being canceled, and I’m pretty sure that book is produced for fetishists 95% of the time anyway, other female title are only mini series (Hellcat, Storm, Emma Frost…) They at least have some key players as team members, but still. Long way to go indeed!

  4. Hey, apparently Power Girl wears that actual dress this month with Zardoz… er, I mean Cosmic Connery

  5. @Liquidben: Yep. And that’s a lot better than what Zardoz himself wears.


    @Stig: I know! God, that *art*! That art! Why?

  6. Say what you will about the current status quo in the Superbooks, but i love Gates/Igle’s run. Can’t really explain it other than this is simply the first time I’ve ever really liked Supergirl and the book is actually on my must buy list (to my friend’s horror >_>)

    but yeah the kids mini was terrific.

  7. @Stig: indeed, I’m as big a Dini fan as you can come by (I *loved* his Detective run and liking Streets of Gotham , sue me).

    But daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn does Sirens suck.

  8. Yes, a thousand times yes. More women doing more things in more comics. I won’t like all of them, but I’ll like some of them. And someone else will like the rest.

  9. I remember when this poster first came out too, and like you I was bothered by it for some reason I couldn’t put my finger on, but your first paragraph hits very close to what I was feeling: It was this kind of lip service that really didn’t go anywhere at the end of the day, a poster made more to reassure guys than to motivate the idea that the female characters are actually the “real power.”

  10. Yeah, DC is actually doing pretty well these days. Marvel will never catch up. But damn, what I wouldn’t give for a good Lois Lane title. Even a mini series.

  11. It’s also dumb because it’s the old boy’s club comment: “My wife is the real power in my marriage because she’s a bitch who makes me wash the dishes!”

    Thank you for saying things have improved. Too often I think that message is lost in the mix and it really needs to be said. Nobody likes feeling that their interest (or their work) is *completely* horrible or so out of touch, and often this can lead to people just shutting their ears.