Mark Millar’s rape comments, ‘Superheroes’ TCA panel: The comics world responds

Aug. 08, 2013 | 4:44 p.m.
Michael Kantor, director of "Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle," and comic book writers Todd McFarlane, Len Wein and Gerry Conway discuss the docu-series during their panel at the 2013 Television Critics Assn. tour on Aug. 7, 2013. (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

Michael Kantor, director of “Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle,” and comic book writers Todd McFarlane, Len Wein and Gerry Conway discuss the docu-series during their panel at the 2013 Television Critics Assn. tour on Wednesday. (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

PERSPECTIVE

It’s been a rough week for women in comics.

First, Wonder Woman was (once again) relegated to the back burner, while a TV series for the Flash is being fast-tracked in her place. Then, during Wednesday’s Television Critics Assn. press tour panel for the new PBS docu-series  “Superheroes: The Never-Ending Battle,” several comics creators said of the dearth of women and people of color in their pages, that readers are “not interested” in those characters.

Today comes a New Republic story that quotes “Kick-Ass” creator Mark Millar defending his comic book depictions of rape and sexual violence, saying “I don’t really think it matters.”

Comics creators, journalists and others of the comics community took to Twitter to respond to what they saw as blatant sexism, both in the TCA panel and in Millar’s comments.

Mark Millar (Courtesy Mark Millar)

Mark Millar (Courtesy Mark Millar)

Millar, the boundary-pushing comics writer who in recent years has become a Hollywood heavyweight thanks to film adaptations of his comics and a position as chief creative consultant for Fox’s Marvel films (“X-Men,” “Fantastic Four”), told New Republic writer Abraham Riesman that rape, when depicted in the pages of comics, is simply a storytelling device.

“The ultimate [act] that would be the taboo, to show how bad some villain is, was to have somebody being raped, you know?” Millar said. “I don’t really think it matters. It’s the same as, like, a decapitation. It’s just a horrible act to show that somebody’s a bad guy.”

The story also quoted Laura Hudson, the former editor in chief of the popular blog Comics Alliance and a senior editor at Wired, who rejected Millar’s stance.

“There’s one and only one reason that happens, and it’s to piss off the male character,” she said. “It’s using a trauma you don’t understand in a way whose implications you can’t understand, and then talking about it as though you’re doing the same thing as having someone’s head explode. You’re not. Those two things are not equivalent, and if you don’t understand, you shouldn’t be writing rape scenes.”

READ: Women in comics: You can’t keep a good creator down

Famously dubbed the “women in refrigerators” syndrome by Gail Simone, the overwhelmingly disproportionate number of female comic characters who are killed, maimed, raped or stripped of their powers for the sake of advancing a male character’s plot has long been a problematic strain in the world of comics. When Simone and other writers were gathering creator responses for the “women in refrigerators” project in 1999, Millar had this to say.

“Granted, the female stuff has more of a sexual violence theme and this is something people should probably watch out for, but rape is a rare thing in comics and is seldom done in an exploitative way,” he said at the time.

Not surprisingly, his more recent comments have drawn the ire of comics creators and journalists.

“In a culture in which rape is undeniably endemic, Millar’s steadfast refusal to consider the potential ramifications of his work remains astounding, infuriating, irresponsible, and sad,” writes Joseph Hughes of Comics Alliance. “To pretend depictions of rape and sexual assault in popular fiction play absolutely no role in further informing a culture that seems largely hellbent on not dealing with these statistics is, at best, willfully ignorant, a position adopted by a writer more concerned about the money he’s making than actually improving as a creator.”

Here is a very small selection of responses from Twitter:

Millar’s comments came the day after a TCA panel for the PBS documentary “Superheroes: The Never-Ending Battle.” The panel included the documentary’s director Michael Kantor, as well as creators Todd MacFarlane (Spawn), Len Wein (Wolverine) and Gerry Conway (the Punisher).

When asked by ThinkProgress writer Alyssa Rosenberg about why there are so few women and minorities represented in comic books, McFarlane argued that aiming for more diverse characters would lead to tokenism and would come at the expense of good storytelling. Kantor said that women and minorities have been marginalized in comics because they’ve been marginalized in history.

“I think the bigger question is why readers are not interested in those characters,” Conway said. “Comics follow society. They don’t lead society, they reflect it.”

Comic book writer Todd McFarlane speaks onstage during the TCA press tour's panel on "Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle." (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

Comic book writer Todd McFarlane speaks onstage during the TCA press tour’s panel on “Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle.” (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

McFarlane also suggested that superhero comics are, by nature, testosterone-driven and therefore the wrong platform for messages of female empowerment.

“I’ve got two daughters, and if I wanted to do something that I thought was emboldened to a female, I probably wouldn’t choose superhero comic books to get that message across,” he said.

Conway added to the argument that superhero comics fall strictly into the realm of men and boys’ fare, and also spoke about his daughter, saying she is “not interested in the guy stories,” but rather in those by “a girl named Faith Erin Hicks.” (Never mind that Hicks is a woman, not a girl, and the author of “The Adventures of Superhero Girl,” which has garnered a following among both men and women.)

“I think it’s a mistake to sort of, like, pigeonhole superheroes, or to add so much to superheroes that you’re missing the fact it’s a genre within itself,” he said. “It’s like saying, ‘Why are there no medieval stories about female knights?’ Because there was only one, you know, Joan of Arc. … It’s an inherent limitation of that particular genre, superheroes.”

Rosenberg criticized their logic in her story, saying they “ignore that superheroes don’t actually exist, and that the production of superhero comics is not actually a biological function determined by whatever bodies we’re born with…. The decision to stay within the narrow lanes of your own fantasies is a choice, not biological determinism.”

She wasn’t the only one to speak up.

What’s your take on the controversy? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark | Google+

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Comments


75 Responses to Mark Millar’s rape comments, ‘Superheroes’ TCA panel: The comics world responds

  1. Dan Jones says:

    As a father to a little girl who, at only three years old, is already interested in superheroes, I wish there were more Faith Erin Hickses and fewer Mark Millars and Gerry Conways.

  2. @SonsofAres says:

    So the comic book world is staffed by men who appeared fully formed on Earth and apparently (exception noted) no knowledge of mothers, sisters, or daughters. And fhey write for an audience comprised of barnyard exhibits and other assorted eunuchs. *What* a surprise you hear this crap. I would pay money to see the look on McFarlane's face when his daughter tells him she was discouraged from math or science because "girls just don't do that." Hypocrite.

  3. Joshua Logan says:

    As a white male comic book reader for the past 20 years (29 here), I'm a bit tired of the fact that people can't write a strong female lead by now. The ones who can seem to rely less on character and more on character design (ie Powergirl, Wonderwoman, Psylocke, Emma Frost, etc.) Women aren't uninteresting in comic books b/c women are uninteresting, women are uninteresting in comic books b/c they are used for little more than eye candy and runner up to lead male characters. It seems like no one writes them strong. I think we need some George R.R. Martin logic here and stop writing women as second to men and start writing them as people.

    Women aren't interesting? Daenerys Targaryen. It's not the characters, it's the writers.

    And rape in comics … it's not something I ever want to see.

  4. Steven R. Stahl says:

    The primary reason for the dearth of females and minorities in superhero comics is probably that so many superhero comics are simple power fantasies, and appeal primarily to readers who want to immerse themselves in fantasies. The stories lack meaning, to the extent that they even qualify as stories; more often, they’re simply platforms for the characters.

    Conversely, in commercial fiction and, of course, in literary fiction, giving a character exposure isn’t the only reason that the story exists. When a writer has something to say and wants to appeal to a reader’s intellect, the material will reflect that, and use of women, minorities–any sorts of people–will depend on the writer’s preferences and the audience for the story.

    That’s not to say that people who enjoy simple superhero stories are necessarily stupid, but if the repetition in the stories and the lack of creativity in the stories don’t turn them off, they’re not reading them for the intellectual stimulation. Fantasy, like a drug, can be addictive.

    SRS

    • Megan says:

      I feel like your comments are regarding superhero comics as "simple fantasies for white dudes who are writing them for write dudes." Which is a huge chunk of the industry, to be sure. But if women and minorities were writing a higher percentage of stories at the big two, you'd see plenty of empowerment fantasies from them, for women and minority characters. And empowerment fantasies being written by people who are traditionally disempowered in society can be a very powerful thing indeed, and anything but "meaningless."

      Look at the magical girl genre in Japan: written by women, for girls. Portrayals generally manage to be feminine and powerful at once, without being sexualized. Sailormoon is a prime example of it, and that franchise is still going strong now, twenty years after its debut. It means something to girls.

      Look at reactions online from parents waxing poetic about how much their kids love Miles Morales as Spider-Man, how much it means to kids to see someone who looks like them wearing the Spider-Man suit and saving the day. And the character was inspired by the online backlash to the campaign for Donald Glover to be cast as Peter Parker in the Spider-Man reboot. So many people shouted down discussion about the issue, saying that a minority could never be Spider-Man. And then came Miles to tell people, "It can happen."

      Superheroes have the power to inspire, to touch on real life issues, to be better than we are. When writers tap into that, magical things can happen. But nothing innovative comes from people who just shrug and write to the status quo they want to see.

  5. Anonymous says:

    You know, I was with the article about this insensitive hack, but that "in a culture where rape is undeniably endemic" thing is a bit much. Sense of proportion, please, Mr. Hughes. If you're talking about geek culture then you're overstating it some, and if you're talking about American culture you're overstating it a LOT. The Congo is a culture where rape is endemic. This is a culture where it's a significant issue.

  6. I think this is all just a result of people being desensitized to the brutal murders that go on every day ( of which, decapitation was just an example).

    Honestly, what action would you have a character do to show a modern audience that he's the worst kind of evil scumbag? In today's culture, what is the scummiest thing a character can do?

    • Megan says:

      People who have been brutally murdered aren't consuming media. Women are not "desensitized" to the threat of rape when one in three women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

      The fact that most men writing comics aren't in a position where they have to fear being raped on a regular basis, results in this kind of thinking. "Hey, I'm just trying to show that this villain is a bad dude! Murders just don't do it anymore!" And then they defend it with these kinds of comments, and these portrayals are judged as "okay" because "comics aren't FOR women!" So it's fine to use sexual violence against women as a weak storytelling tool, inevitably used as a prop to just make a prominent male character sad, and rarely ever touching on the trauma from the female character's point of view in depictions that might actually mean something to the people who went through it in real life.

      When comic con attendance is getting put at 40% female these days, the whole "women don't read comics" line is a joke. Women are buying comics. They are reading these stories, since if you're pulling a book or following a character longterm, they're often hard to avoid. And when the number of women who have been sexually assaulted is so large, you can bet that survivors of sexual violence are reading these depictions – but men writing comics brush this off, since if they had to accept that women read comics, they'd also have to confront how insensitive their portrayals are to women who've had to face these problems in real life. And, let's be real, if these types of storylines weren't actively driving women away from the industry, you'd see even higher percentages of female fans. Look at the numbers shoujo manga are capable of doing on the NYT bestseller lists for proof that the audience is there.

      If one in three men had to be worrying about being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, you can bet we would not be seeing these ignorant comments excusing it (or see the amount of sexual assault depictions in comics in the first place).

  7. This is what is wrong with comics today, no one has the guts to reach out to the female fans (or the LGBTG fans) who are starving for a hero to call their own who isn't a bikini model, male hero accessory or wearing negligee to fight crime! #beheroic

  8. Randy says:

    Alan Moore would smack each of these guys down and then write an awesome, thought-provoking comic about it!

    • Megan says:

      Alan Moore who wrote a Joker who took nude photographs of Barbara Gordon after having shot out her spine? Alan Moore who wrote the Sally Jupiter rape scene in Watchmen? That Alan Moore? Do you even go here? Sit down.

      • To be fair, Moore has admitted he was wrong to do those things and has said if he could take it back, he would.

        However, that doesn't explain all the other rape scenes he's written. As Grant Morrison once said, "we know Alan Moore isn't a misogynist but @#$%, he's obsessed with rape."

  9. Da´na R. says:

    So those comic book creators think women don't read superhero comics??? Gee, thank you so much for dismissing the fact that I as a woman read DC comics since 1978!!!

    I make sure never to buy anything Millar or McFarlane have written. We don't need misogynistic writers, so do boycott all their works, and spread the word!

    • Cat says:

      And Conway, too. I've tossed my collection of theirs OUT the window! Absolutely disgusting.

    • the Omega Qunt says:

      Fans of one writers work may not be a fan of another piece of work. And therein lies the beauty of options. If you don't like it, don't read it. No wait, instead go online and tell other people what to do. That seems logical. Rape is awful. Murder is awful. Most of the real world is awful. That's the reason I believe we all read comics, to escape the mundane reality of the real world, not be a cunt and go online to bring someone down who is doing well for themselves. But then again, I would expect nothing less from a bottom feeder like you.

  10. paul says:

    i'm a little confused. i've been led to believe that violence in comics (or video games or movies) doesn't correlate with violence in the real world. are you suggesting that this is untrue for violence specifically directed towards women?

    • Beth says:

      We're not saying that depictions of sexual violence in comics correlate necessarily with cases sexual violence towards women, but it's depiction of disregarding the trauma that a raped woman experiences or only relating it in regards to a male character certainly propagates the dismissive culture we have towards sexual violence.

    • Anonymous says:

      If nothing else, those depictions hurt the 40% of comics fans who are women, the 10% of comics fans who are GLBT, and those cis straight male fans who have experienced or feared sexual assault. That's a huge chunk of your audience to ignore the feelings of. Depictions of rape in media can trigger serious emotional responses, up to and including self-harm, by those who have been traumatized. If in writing a comics scene, these guys seriously understood that they might be causing someone to feel like hurting themselves, would they still do it?

  11. Polite Elliot says:

    And how many times did Shakespeare write about rape? Are you burning his plays too?

    There is terrible insensitivity in the comic world – how can anyone write about Galactus without having experienced having one's world eaten, or the terrible plight of the mole-men rejected from society, and lets not forget the persecution of the skrulls and being unfairly forced into bovine form.

    More perspective, less internet/twitter hysteria please. Hit Girl & Jenny Sparks ftw!

    • Beth says:

      You don't get it. The rape in these situations is used as a male characters motivation. It doesn't show the aftermath of the trauma for the victim. It's cheapening a serious issue as ONE IN THREE women will be sexually assaulted. I have 3 sisters and a mother. Every single one of use has experienced some form of sexual assault which resulted in years of trauma and issues for each and every one of us.

      Using rape as this kind of story telling device is harmful, triggering, dismissive and just plain bad storytelling.

      Rape can be used as a good story telling device, but I have only found it to be the case where it has followed the victim and how they deal with the trauma. It should be used sparingly and with great thought. None of which is being shown here.

      I am not interested in reading MacFarlene's work because I am not interested in reading the work of a man who thinks my experience don't matter or disregards the fact that I read comics.

      • seandixon says:

        Shakespeare is a great example for these modern male morons to follow. After depicting rape one single time in a very early play (Titus Andronicus), as a spur to inspire a male character's later revenge, he went on in later plays (Measure for Measure, Pericles) to depict female characters who used their wits to outwit the men who were threatening to rape them. It's odd that Polite Elliott up there would assume that he would do anything else. The guy's been reading too many comic books, I guess.

  12. Anonymous Coward says:

    So, one comment is taken out of context and everyone goes nuts with their own activist agendas. Seize the moment! Get out there are cry "RAPE CULTURE!" when a writer says that rape is a violent act equivalent to decapitation. If you had to choose, which would you prefer? It's absurd. People need to learn the difference between portrayal and advocacy. He didn't rape someone. He's a writer. He expressed an opinion about violence of different types being used to show how terrible a villain is in a comic book. He didn't say, "rape is great and fun for all" here, people. Stop overreacting.

    Also, whomever made the comment that men cannot understand rape is an ignorant sexist. Men get raped. It does happen. Our society marginalizes the rape of men. If you think women are scared to file charges against a rapist, but men aren't, you've got it wrong. Men are much more afraid to openly admit to being raped or filing charges against a rapist, especially against a woman. There are even people who deny that it's even possible for a woman to rape a man. Women who commit sexual assaults against men use this to their advantage. A male can be the victim too.

    • Heather says:

      So where are all the comics that show men being raped then? Wouldn't that be a MILLION times more effective at getting into the psychology of your male character? I mean, women aren't reading these at all, so you don't have to worry about them.

      Dude, men don't go around internalizing the possibility they can be raped at any moment, in most situations. Women do. And the reason we have to worry about this is, in part, a culture where men show no fundamental understanding of women and dismiss them outright as worthy of inclusion on equal footing. Rape a woman in comics? Just a story point. Don't think it would be blithely ignored if it were a man.

      • Tony says:

        I believe there was a Nightwing storyline where, distraught after allowing Tarantula to shoot and kill Blockbuster and thereby going back on all his morals, she forces Grayson to have sex with her as he lies motionless and still, numb from the realisation that he allowed someone to die. That is probably the most famous case of male rape in comic books, and yet most people don't see it as rape because they had normal, heterosexual sex. Some even say it should have cheered him up, or that he got something out of the whole mess; disgusting ideas that it's okay to have non-consensual sex as long as it's the man who doesn't consent. Yet make no mistake, Dick Grayson was raped by Catalina Flores.

      • baker says:

        Absolutely that was a depiction of rape, and the way it was responded to, and the fact that acquaintance-rape isn't treated as a heinous act by the author, is a perfect description of the horrors of rape culture.

        Now please name every case of rape of a female in comic books to compare numbers… oh wait, you can't? Tell me about the controversy surrounding each story line that uses a rape as an easy plot point… oh wait, you can't?

      • I remember far more backlash to that Nightwing rape scene than I ever remember for a female rape scene. And that is frightening.

      • guest says:

        In a very good issue of James Robinson's "Starman", the main character, Jack Knight, is raped by the daughter of the mist. A child results from said rape.

      • Alex Reynard says:

        >Dude, men don't go around internalizing the possibility they can be raped at any moment, in most situations. Women do.

        So, how much a person fears something will happen to them is an accurate predictor of their real-life risk?

    • Beth says:

      I don't think anyone said men cannot understand rape or don't get raped. I think what's been said is a man doesn't understand what it's like to live under the constant fear of being raped.

      And no, a cis man won't understand that.

      • llmasucci says:

        I just have to disagree with you here. Both of my parents were molested as children, which means that both of them have had that internalized vulnerability. Do you think that cis men have a magical ability to overcome that kind of trauma?

      • Beth says:

        Of course not, but that's because of having gone through a horrific event. Not because they were born a specific sex.

        This is not "Men can't be raped or vulnerable or experienced sexual assault" this a "Men don't live in a society that constantly tells them 'You can and probably will be raped at any time and we're not going to stop it or help you if it does happen."

        That kind of message hanging over you like a cloud is not something that typically men deal with.

      • Alex Reynard says:

        Which do you think is worse:

        To be told throughout your life that you might be raped, to live in fear of this all the time, yet also have massive amounts of resources available to you if it does happen?

        Or to have culture turn a blind eye to the very idea that such a thing could happen to you, meaning you're never aware of the risk? You have no idea what to do or how to feel if it happens, and comparatively very few resources to help you afterwards.

        Trick question: I don't think either of those can be objectively called 'worse'. Both overprotection and underprotection are wrong, and we should acknowledge both.

      • baker says:

        A cis man who has internalized that vulnerability is an exception, not the rule. That man probably even has additional trauma because of the cultural attitude towards male rape. However, your average cis man has no idea what that fear is like. Every single woman, survivor of rape or not, understands that vulnerability. It has been ingrained by society from the day we were born.

    • anon says:

      as someone who has BEEN raped? and had to live with it for 30 years? I'd have honestly preferred decapitation. at least, then, the torment is over quick.

    • Beth says:

      BTW, if I had to choose being decapitated or being sexually assaulted again I would choose decapitation. It's quick and I wouldn't have to live with the trauma and guilt for another 12 years.

      Think before you ask such an asinine question.

      • Alex Reynard says:

        Has nothing happened to you in those 12 years that you would miss?

        Just because that's your choice doesn't mean it would be everyone's. Think about it this way: you at least have a *chance* of one day healing and reaching a better state of mind. If you're dead, no more chances forever.

  13. Matt says:

    It sounds like these are a bunch of little boys who never pulled down that NO GIRLS ALLOWED sign on their crappily constructed tree houses.

    It also sounds like they're creators totally detached from their audience, who have no idea who even reads comics anymore. (The answer, by the way, is pretty everyone.)

    I mean, the amount of people who pass through my comic shop, women and men and kids and people with three-inch thick glasses and people who look like they do nothing but run track, and who all pick up and pull from all these different books and stories. It's not a boy's club thing. It hasn't been one for a long time, I think. And these creators are diminishing the importance of the medium by saying all this sexist mumbo jumbo because they're the ones keeping alive the stereotype that people who read comics are middle aged men in their 30s who can't get over women.

    And so the question becomes, why are they the people who get the attention?

  14. What a moron. In twenty years time Mark Millar will be long forgotten.

  15. kisaoda says:

    I suppose what's bothering me about the outcry is that we're assuming these three are defending the "Women in Refrigerators" motif. How can we tell? I've read some pretty serious rape scenes and, IMO, they have pretty well shown the gruesome atrocity that it is from the perspective of the victim as well as the main character (if they're not one in the same). How do we not know that's the type of scene they're defending?

    I don't mean to be a white knight rushing to their defense as McFarlane made a pretty stupid remark about female readers, but I just am not sure that we're seeing what they're seeing in terms of writing those sorts of scenes.

    • kisaoda says:

      I should also amend that I have not read much of any of their own works, so I can't say what is or isn't appropriate in what they have written. If they've done the Women in Refrigerators, I'm prepared to back off my defense.

  16. misslustfulenvy says:

    one scene comes to my mind when i read the part of ''rape''….in the movie ''under the red hood'' the scene where robin gets beaten up by the joker and he just leaves…im sorry i was for sure that robin got raped!!! look at his expression, the faq that he's shackled, his clothing ripped… he got raped. lol but anyway, there's super heroes comic for young(teen titan,young justice,etc) there's for teenagers and young adult, and the last one that people always pick on….the Dark Adult Comics…a good example, Watchmen,Spawn,Batman(dark knight) Deadpool…. i wouldn't give a deadpool comics to a kid, but i would totally read it as an adult.

    the fact that you put ALL comics in the same range of age is wrong, it's like giving 50 shades of grey to a 14 years old girl… it's wrong. It's not true that women are always let down in comics, most of the time they have great roles but aren't exploited. Either that or the writer just want to write his little Fantasy. Girls do read comic books, do they always go around telling how bad it is cause there's not enough girls? nooooo! They go around making Pairing witht he guys because they look gay!!

    best example would be Batman and Robin!!! seriously, they're gay! even with catwomen in the back, sorry i dont believe that Bruce Wayne is straight…

    Harley quinn and Poison Ivy, they're lesbos! i love that pairing! even mroe then Harley /joker… but eh..what do you want. Not exploited much because A)they're villains B)Girls C) Both A and B.

    There's comics for girls, they're just not popular like the big name of the industry.

    • Beth says:

      I have a problem with you saying "he got raped. lol " rape, whether it is a female character or a male character should never be followed by someone saying "they got raped. lol"

      That's offensive

      • LilyP says:

        Wow, the worst part is this lunatic thinks she speaks for female readers as a whole. It's repulsive for people to create a fetish out of homosexuality, because that is clearly what's going on here. Honestly, how does someone 'look gay'? The fact you're saying Pamela/Harley is an inherently better couple based on the fact they're women makes me think you're one of the many girls who doesn't give a shit about LGBT couples and more on whether or not it looks sexy.

        I sincerely hope you're a troll, because this garbage is downright embarrassing.

  17. Ric Lancaster says:

    When was the last time any of these men attended a Diversity training course, attended a workshop about women in comics or stepped outside of their genre to observe their compatriots and what they do, think and say ! Its embarrassing !

  18. jenfoolery says:

    I guarantee you if there were a wave of decapitations happening to the same extent that rapes happen? Nobody would be using them as a trope in comic books. We would be having a massive international war on decapitation.

  19. dg101 says:

    …stop whining and make your own superheroes. Don't like the way women are depicted? Make your own. don't just sit there and cry about it, DO something. Write it, draw it, promote the living crap out of it and MAKE the change. But if you're expecting MEN to fairly represent a woman in comics, I think you're going to be waiting a LONG time.

    • For the record, I have created my own female characters, published two novels to date with them, with nary a rape scene in sight. Not superheroes, but strong, female heroines (although I am in the preliminary process of a superhero novel).

      But this idea that you should never criticize and should only create your own stuff is asinine. For starters, not everyone is a writer or an artist. Second, you shouldn't have to create your own stuff in order to have a positive portrayal of female characters. Third, many, many, many people, I'd imagine many of the same people you accuse of doing nothing, have called for more creator diversity. Let's not pretend that the problem with a lack of positive female characters is that there aren't any female creators—there are a lot of female creators. Good ones, too. But they're just not being invited into the boy's club.

  20. Jack says:

    I'm sorry, wait wait wait. First off, I'm no fan of Mark Millar. I think he gets way too much attention and far too much credit. At the same time, I find it deeply sexist that it doesn't seem as though anyone brought up his actual wording: “The ultimate [act] that would be the taboo, to show how bad some villain is, was to have somebody being raped, you know?” SOMEBODY. Not a woman. Not a girl. Not even a male. SOMEBODY. He was referencing the fact that rape itself–be it against a male or female–is the terrible act, as terrible as killing someone. Why is it that it immediately became a gender-specific idea?

    I understand the backlash, I do, just as I recall how Kevin Smith said that he found the whole idea of using rape as story tool was reprehensible. He specifically said that he felt the violation of a woman was pathetic as a writing element (paraphrasing him). Millar, who writes very specific stories and usually very dystopian ones, knows exactly what he means and says it. He said "rape." He did NOT say "rape of women."

    • Megan says:

      Well, he seemed to be talking about his own writing. I don't follow his more recent work closely, but I know he's written a scene where a group of villains gang-rape the hero's female love interest, and she's never seen again after it happens.

      How terribly SEXIST of me to "misinterpret" his comments when his own work seems to underline his meaning pretty clearly.

  21. Robert Monroe, Jr. says:

    I think that it's interesting that the article focuses on gender issues and ignores the issue regarding the lack of melanated characters of substance in comic books.

  22. rocky says:

    Such a silly defense for this idiocy.
    Even if the comics are meant just for boys it would be an even bigger deal to treat rape with more care since it is a crime almost entirely committed by men and boys.

    I'm just amazed at how close mined some of these writers are

  23. @CatEdison says:

    Concerning the comment about rape not being endemic and using proportional sense, as well as the response to said comment:

    Certainly many people have experienced sexual assault and rape. Also, consider any statistical estimate as low considering how many people (male and female) don't say anything about their own experience with rape to the institutions that collect data. Being a woman certainly heightens your awareness of how far-reaching the issue is when you hear friends relate their own stories they never reported and you are raised being warned about this crime regularly and it becomes a prominent part of the female culture. As a man if you have ever been in a situation alone when you were frightened or concerned about being attacked/mugged, consider many (even strong) women feel this way every time they are walking down the street alone, in their home alone, etc. THEN add to that feeling the strong awareness of the likelihood that an attack on you will also involve sexual assault and you can begin to understand the endemic part.

    Along with the rape issue, when considering the lack of meaningful female characters, does anyone believe the first success of the first Kick Ass film had nothing to do with Hit-Girl and Chloe Grace Moretz's performance? I know it's not the comic itself, but there is no denying that the comic gained popularity from the film and Millar gained a lot from that success. There is no way without her that the film would have become what it has. She was the reason for my interest, as well as many others that I spoke to about the film before it's release.

    It's idiotic to suggest girls shouldn't look at comics, especially citing they shouldn't look for strong women to follow in them. We should remember that the boys looking at comics need to be reminded that there are strong women as well. This is just rampant ignorance, disheartening and disappointing coming from people whose work I have enjoyed throughout the years.

    P.S. – I'm a woman and a comic lover, my daughter is growing up reading comics because she wants to and she has every right to enjoy them without feeling less-than, objectified or marginalized. I have enjoyed and do enjoy all kind of comics that are respectful and are not respectful to women, the issue I have is not the content that is there already, but the attitude these men have about it and their dismissive response to a real concern about the direction and evolution of comic culture. Their influence is real and if they don't believe that is true, why would they be writing in the first place? Responsibility in the public forum comes with putting your work in a public arena.

  24. Jill Braden says:

    If his daughter is sexually assaulted, will Mark Millar pat her on the arm and say "Thank goodness your boy friends' story is more interesting now?"

  25. @sierratac says:

    So intensely enraged at this. Screw your little boys club mentality, it's outdated and gross. Ugh. I wonder how your numbers would look if all females just STOPPED reading, and STOPPED going to movie adaptations??

  26. Margaret says:

    Gerry Conway: "I think it’s a mistake to sort of, like, pigeonhole superheroes, or to add so much to superheroes that you’re missing the fact it’s a genre within itself,” he said. “It’s like saying, ‘Why are there no medieval stories about female knights?’ Because there was only one, you know, Joan of Arc. … It’s an inherent limitation of that particular genre, superheroes.” "

    Maybe Joan of Arc was the only female knight in real life–which is still one more than the total of real-life superheroes of either gender. But female knights played a significant role in popular Renaissance knightly epics like "Orlando Furioso," "Gerusalemme Liberata," and Sir Edmund Spenser's "The Faerie Queen" (which is actually about the adventures of various knights in service to a queen who's a thinly-disguised analogue of Queen Elizabeth I). They may be far outnumbered by the male knights–only "Orlando Furioso" has more than one female knight, the tomboyish jock Marfisa and the less obsessively battle-oriented Bradamante, who winds up marrying one of her male fellow knights–but they play a significant enough role in the story that they were obviously of interest to contemporary audiences. So Conway both got his facts wrong and assumes that modern-day readers are somehow more inherently sexist than those in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Presumably he hasn't heard of Brienne from "Game of Thrones" or Tamora Pierce's YA series about Alanna and other female knights, either.

  27. Tempy says:

    Sexism is wrong. Assumptions of gender roles and preferences is wrong. They are all wrong. Just like casting white girls for the role of a character in a motion picture where the lead role was another ethnicity in a book . . . disgusting. There IS a demand for female comic book badasses! I loves Spawn as a character, hell. They are all wrong. And I think I am done endorsing this industry. Finished.

  28. Carl says:

    I'm not the biggest fan of Millar's work, or his attitude, but he's talking about rape and murder in relation to storytelling. Not reality. Several years ago I spent a month watching a loved one rot in a coma before being forced to make the decision to turn off their life support, but that doesn't mean that I object to similar plots being used in the most trashy and irreverent forms of genre fiction. Those are just stories.

    That said, the mainstream comic industry really needs to grow up and attempt reach out to intelligent readers of both genders and all ages. For too long the industry has relied on "the fans", and an audience of obsessives and collectors who will generally lap up anything the major publishers print.

    But those people saying that there are no comics for female readers are clearly not looking hard enough. If you look beyond Marvel, DC , Dark Horse and IDW you'll find that there are plenty of talented women producing great indie titles.

  29. lordragonstar says:

    Hey, Millar and the rest of you guys who use your positions to denigrate women and prove you've not the intellect to truly understand why women are upset (can never understand what they go through, though), you must be fired and replaced. Even in the Christian line of thought, there is condemnation of Eve; let's not forget 1) She didn't exist to hear God say what He said; hearsay from Adam. 2) Adam NEVER told her of how no animal could reason to question, let alone speak 3) He (Adam) always went for a walk with God; leaving her unguarded; yet women carry the entire stigma. Men, we should know better. Pontificating is in poor taste, what you guys say and do… tastes worse than poor… You embarrass real men

  30. kaystiel says:

    incidentally, there were stories written about female knights, check your La Morte D Arthur by Mallory and read Bradamante, who goes and saves the handsome prince. Not to mention real life warrior women of legend like Queen Bodecia and her daughters, it's all there if you look for it.

  31. good boy123 says:

    i want to know what ALAN MOORE would say.

  32. scarecrow says:

    i picked up wanted, got to that part where the villain rapes the actress, put the book down and never bought another millar book again. hes the howard stern of comics, a pointless shock jock.

    • Poo-Doo says:

      The villain? You mean literally every character in the book? Because they are ALL assholes. All of them.

      It's not even the interesting kind of 'villains rule the world' thing; imagine if Wesley decided to become a good guy and use his ability to kill anything to lead an uprising, INSTEAD of becoming one of the most reprehensible comic book characters put to page.

  33. john says:

    This is coming from a man who has a daughter.

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