Recently, Ben Affleck has been the height of comic book controversy after being assigned the role of The Dark Knight in Zack Snyder’s upcoming feature Batman v. Superman. While it’s expected that fans of a massive franchise will be vocal about their disapproval when there’s a disturbance in the force, it’s hard to overlook the fact that at the end of the day, Batman’s rich white male quota has still been met. Regardless of how you feel about Affleck’s acting caliber, his inclusion in the DC universe leaves much unchanged; Batman will make yet another appearance in yet another dude-centric storyline featuring yet another plot revolving around buff powerful white guys competing for best jawline (Cavill wins that round – sorry, Ben).
And let’s be real: Even if the movie tanks, it’s a stretch to say Batman’s reputation will suffer. We have films upon films of varied incarnations of the iconic ninja billionaire to choose from, and it won’t be long before he resurfaces as someone who isn’t Affleck. Big-name superheroes and their fans are resilient like that — I mean, everyone recovered from Spiderman 3, right? (Right?)
Unfortunately, superheroes who suffer from far less mass-scale exposure don’t have quite as much leeway in how they’re represented. Another upcoming crossover–also featuring Superman (because Superdude just needs to be up everyone’s business, apparently)–is threatening to compromise the badass integrity of perhaps the pinnacle of well-known women in comics: none other than Wonder Woman. And what’s worse is that it’s taking her female fans down with her. Or at least that’s the impression the creators gave in a rather condescending Q&A this weekend.
As reported by The Mary Sue, DC Comics recently held a panel at Canadian comic convention Fan Expo. Among the discussion of upcoming projects was mention of the yet-to-be-released book Superman/Wonder Woman, which has been framed as an attempt to finally cater to female readership. Great, right? Yeah, not so much. As revealed by a recording of the panel, writer and artist Tony Daniel had this to say on the subject:
“I was talking to Bobbie Chase and Bob Harras about making a book, I wasn’t referring to creating this book, but I mentioned maybe, can we create a book that targets a little bit more of the female readership that’s been growing. And maybe a book that has a little bit of romance in it, a little big of sex appeal, you know, something that would, for lack of a better example, that hits on theTwilight audience. You know, millions of people went to see those in the theaters because it has those kind of, you know, subject matter. The drama, the characterization with love triangles and forbidden love and things like that. Literally a month later they asked me, “Hey, what do you think of Superman/Wonder Woman?” And I think it took all of maybe three seconds for me to say, “Yeah, that’s great. Let’s do that.” Because that’s exactly what I was describing that we need.”
…It gets worse. A reader named Liz participated in the Q&A portion of the panel to press for further information about this so-called appeal for women–and the response she got was really disheartening.
Liz: When you were talking about Superman/Wonder Woman, what caught my ear was, you’re making it romance and romantic to catch the women. My question is, that’s not all you’re doing, right? [Laughter and applause from the audience]
Daniel: Are you asking if you’ll see like, Superman butt shots? I’ll be sure to keep it even.
Haha, butt shots! Women love butts.
Okay, while that might be true, come on now. There must be something else in it for us.
Liz: I love reading you guys but sometimes it really feels like you’re not making anything that’s remotely comfortable for me. So how are you going to make…
Daniel: Well why don’t you wait until October and find out?
It’s funny that Daniel and his crew claim to be bent on designing a comic that will make female readers happy but then proceed to completely disregard and patronize the concerns of a female reader in the flesh.
These guys seem to have it in their heads that women who read comics are, for one, all alike, and more over they are identical to, well, any and every woman who has ever held a book. Treating Wonder Woman and comic book fans as the exact same demographic of women who read and enjoyed a hugely popular young adult romance series is not only wildly presumptuous but truly revealing of how women are (mis)understood by men in geekdom as well as marketing: we are all the same goddamn woman.
It’s important to note that while some women prefer Twilight to Wonder Woman and vice versa, there are, of course, women who actively enjoy both comics and vampire romance novels. And that’s exactly the point: women are individuals and we are varied–even greater than the 13 different white guys that have already played and voiced Batman.
Let’s take a step back here and consider that women are part of many, many freakin’ fandoms. Women helped take Harry Potter to soaring heights. Women continue to propel the Star Trek franchise. You will find women in the seats of showings for The Wolverine, the aforementioned questionable Superman v. Batman release, and in line for every video game on the market. Yet because Twilight was fronted predominantly by female tweens, women–in our entirety–are recognized by this particular fandom more than any other.
But maybe we should cut Daniel & co. a little slack. After all, despite our best efforts, women are still struggling to be recognized as legitimate members of the nerd community (whatever the hell that even means), so how are we to expect male creators of nerd universes to know what women want?
At the same time, one would think that people who make careers out of both inventing and writing within a “believable” archetype for characters who come from nonexistent planets, possess unhuman super abilities, and roam between a ridiculous amount of universes, parallel universes, and timelines would have a little more imagination.
But as it turns out, all this marketing toward women stuff is just a bunch of guesswork. Throughout Liz’s strenuous quest for a real answer, John Cunningham, VP of Marketing for DC Comics and the panel moderator, eventually interjected to ask the following:
Cunningham: Does the cover imagery work for you? The stuff that we’re showing? I mean the…I mean I’m really curious. Like Lee asks, what you said, if that’s not what you’re looking for, what specifically are you looking for? Or is there anything specific?
Wait, the romance gimmick isn’t what you wanted? But your name is Liz! Female not want love book?! Then what do you want?!
Maybe, maybe women want the same goddamn storylines, character development, and kickass action that dudes are into but with women characters who aren’t just empty love interests. But what do I know?
Written by Marinda Valenti
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