Lines by Carlos Gomez
Colors by Steven Mack
Posted at HeroChan
Nerd culture has, for seemingly time immemorial, been heavily male-dominated, and comic books are at the forefront. This is no secret to anyone; the genre and art form arose in a very male-dominated time period, as its early themes, characters, and stories show. It's gotten better to an extent, but the nerd stigma has provided a socially insulating bubble that has allowed comic books to progress more slowly than the rest of pop culture. Nerd culture's newfound overwhelming acceptance by pop culture at large has forced an uncomfortable light on comic books in particular: go see nearly any movie released between May and September.
Wonder Woman has long been comic books' Number One Feminist. And as the most known female character in the game, it's a title well-earned and wisely given. She comes from an advanced, ancient island culture entirely comprised of and ruled by women, Themyscira, to teach the people of the "Patriarch's World" the Amazonian ideals of peace and love. She kicks ass with the big boys even being the sole female representative of DC's Big Three. She's as close as comic books get to a hugely popular “strong female character."
Which is why it's such a disappointment to see her portrayed like she is above. Come on nerds, we're better than this.
Let me be the first to say that I have no problem with cheesecake and beefcake in all its forms. I believe in, endorse, and refuse to publicly admit to a strange, shameful fascination with Rule 34 (If you do not know what Rule 34 is, do not look it up. I know what I just said, just... trust me, you probably won't like what it means for humanity. Consider yourself warned. [MOM- This goes double trip five times over for you.]). Sex and sexuality in all its forms is something to be encouraged, celebrated, and openly, positively, and honestly discussed, both the fictional and non-fictional elements of it. But nerd culture, comic books and video games in particular, has long taken it to grossly extreme lengths and depths.
Every time I see a woman chasing vampires, delivering roundhouse kicks, or leaping from buildings in six-inch stilettos and a bikini top, a large part of my soul just groans. I know comic books are supposed to be about removing myself from reality and putting my mind in a world where the fantastic, strange, and amazing are possible, but cognitive dissonance relies on things not getting too fantastic or, well, strange, lest the audience ceases to believe this world is possible within the loosest definitions of physics or reality. And I'm sorry, but someone sprinting across four rooftops, falling down three stories and punching out a villain--even a slow villain--with unsupported DDDs flapping about, teetering on the aforementioned six inch stilettos, is just flat out impossible in every reality.
Not that I'm saying female superheroes (or male ones, for that matter) need to be wearing body armor and New Balances for me to believe in their adventures. Both sexes are physically idealized, and their costumes are designed to draw attention to those features. Yes, Superman, Batman, and Spiderman might not show the same amount of skin as Wonder Woman or Ms. Marvel, but make all of their costumes flesh-colored, and suddenly you've got a bunch of extremely muscular, weirdly-tattooed naked men. Hearkening back to the ancient Greeks, we subconsciously long to see physical perfection in our heroes and gods, but in our more modern, prude times, we cover up all the unseemly bits. But that cultural ideal of physical perfection is still there, from Hercules and Athena to Superman and Wonder Woman. But are we really so primitive an audience that we can't accept a more realistically proportioned woman in something that offers some support? Can a sister get a pair of combat boots?
This is completely out of character for her, and is Wonder Woman's traditional costume not sexy enough already? This is the biggest feminist in comic books’ history, a woman who looks evil in the face and mightily vanquishes it, regardless of what it has between its evil legs. And here she is, wearing nearly nothing but a smile and a tiara, stretching out that lasso with the implication that she’s going to get you to tell all kinds of truths. Dirty truths. Sexy truths. When, in comic book reality, one would find oneself strapped to the front of the invisible jet doing Mach 4 before one could finish the statement, “I’d like to take pictures of you in a bikini, Wonder Woman.”
Does Wonder Woman, or any empowered woman, have sexual thoughts and moments? Of course. Do women that look like this exist, and do some of them put on tiny little numbers and cast suggestive gazes over their shoulder at the camera? Happily, I’m sure. But would Wonder Woman pose in a bikini for a photoshoot and imply the whole “dirty truths” thing for the whole world to see? No way. It takes a strong character and strips her down to just another pair of tits to look at.
Also, Wonder Woman’s from Themyscira. There’s no way she’d wear an American bikini.
(Title image courtesy of Adam Dello Buono)