Sex Sells at DC Comics
Wow. DC Comics is really taking the whole ‘sex sells’ thing to new heights with their relaunch. Issue after issue so far has featured their heroines and female characters either stripping naked, nearly naked, already naked or having casual sex. Not every issue has done this, but enough to stand up and take notice. I realize there is the unfortunate belief that comic book nerds are all lonely, depraved men living in their parents’ basements, but come on! Why are they doing this?
Because boobies, that’s why!
Is this getting out of hand? Are readers titillated or irritated?
I haven’t read all of the new issue #1s, but I’ve read enough to notice this sexy trend. DC seems to be going out of their way to oversexualize their female characters, even the popular, famous characters. And it’s not like the nudity or sex adds anything to the specific scene or character. Most of these scenes could very easily be skipped or drawn with clothes on. And the sex is as gratuitous as possible. At least one superheroine, Starfire, was flirty and sexy before relaunch, but her new incarnation is that of a total slut who hops into bed with Roy Harper just for kicks and giggles. It’s practically the first thing she does once she appears in the issue.
And Starfire’s not alone. Check out the oversexualized moments I’ve found in just three weeks of new releases. There will be spoilers:
Let’s start with Starfire in this week’s Red Hood and the Outlaws. Perhaps some of you are familiar with the character from the Teen Titans cartoon show. That was definitely her most prominent appearance so far. And it’s feasible that young fans of that show have now grown up enough to want to read Starfire in the comics. But will they find their favorite orange-skinned, naively innocent, alien princess in this comic?
Starfire’s sexuality was always at the forefront of her character. She was never bothered by modesty and had no problem with nudity. But before now it tended to be a bit more tasteful. There was the occasional ‘morning after’ shot with Dick Grayson, the two of them covered by the sheets. Or maybe she was nude sunbathing for a panel at Animal Man’s house (in front of his kids!). But Starfire knew passion, she knew love and her friends and relationships were very important to her.
Now she doesn’t remember any of them, including Dick Grayson, and offers herself up freely to Roy Harper out of the blue. Her character is now defined by the quickie. DC couldn’t have come up with less slutty personality quirks? They took Starfire’s previous sexuality and engorged it even further. I bet she’s done porn in this new continuity.
Last weeks’ first issue of Batwoman featured not one, but two separate scenes of Batwoman and her sidekick Flamebird undressing. First they had to change out of their civilian clothes into their uniforms, and then a few pages later they had to change out of their uniforms back into their civilian clothes. I understand that the scenes were more focused on the dialogue between the two, but DC couldn’t have found a more tasteful way to feature this dialogue? And in both scenes, at least one of the two women flashes her bare back at the reader. Such teases.
Batwoman is famous for being a lesbian superheroine. DC and their writers have always treated this with respect and normalcy. Batwoman #1 features a delightfully cute scene where love interest Maggie Sawyer and Batwoman Kate Kane (in her civilian identity) arrange a date. It’s perfectly normal and friendly.
How long before we get shots of the two of them between the sheets?
Power Girl’s introduction into this new DC universe is perhaps one of the most throw-away character changes yet, and it still involves sex. She debuted in Mister Terrific #1 as Karen Starr, millionaire CEO of Starrware. This was her civilian identity before the reboot. She wasn’t that rich, but she was the CEO of her own tech company .We don’t yet know if she’s also Power Girl with her full complement of Krptonian superpowers. But this is definitely Karen Starr. And how does she make her first appearance?
As Mister Terrific’s sex-buddy.
The two weren’t a couple before the reboot. Later in the issue, Karen even insists that she and Mister Terrific are just “friends”. So she’s only there for the sex. Power Girl loses her own awesome ongoing title to become the sex-buddy of a C-list superhero in his new ongoing title.
The most famous female superhero ever, and an icon of feminism, does not escape the new DC mandate. Wonder Woman #1 was a fun read and a good start to her new series, but DC does not miss the chance to have Wonder Woman naked. She doesn’t appear until about halfway through the issue, and when we meet Wonder Woman, she’s sleeping in the nude. She is woken up suddenly and gets to cover her naked body with the sheets.
Then she has to put on her uniform, so we’re treated to a scene where she walks to her closet and drops the sheet on the floor.
Not only that, but you’ll notice that the other female character in the issue, the woman in need of rescuing, spends the entire issue in her underwear. She’s under attack by Godly forces – which is why she goes to Wonder Woman for help – but she’s never given time to put on a pair of pants! Are you telling me this story wouldn’t have been exactly the same if this woman had on a pair of jeans? Or pajama pants? She had to be wearing only panties?
Of course, the debate of underwear vs. pants when it comes to Wonder Woman was decided months ago.
When the new revamp was announced back in the spring, the first images of Wonder Woman involved her wearing pants. But then about a month later, those same images came back with her only wearing her star-spangled knickers. Someone at DC decided that they wanted shorts instead of pants, even after the pants had already been announced!
Which brings us to the most gratuitous issue of the relaunch so far…
She has sex with Batman on panel. On a rootop. In full costume. No shadows, no sheets in the way, no cutting to black. Catwoman mounts Batman on the final page of the first issue right out in public. His costume is pushed up, they’re pelvis-to-pelvis, and the two of them get it on! Every teenage boy in America should be buying Catwoman! It’s like Rule 34 right there in the comics!
The Batman/Catwoman flirtation has always been a big part of their chemistry. In fact, pre-relaunch, the pair had indeed made love a few times. But it was always implied, always something that we sort of inferred in the background. They didn’t make it a public spectacle! Couldn’t DC have done that same thing in this case? Couldn’t they have only hinted at the sex? Or cut off the issue one page prior? Did they have to give us the full booty shot right there on the page?
Catwoman #1 is alive with gratuitous sex and nudity. It’s even right there on the cover.
Then the first page, with the very first panel.
And then throughout the book. Catwoman has to go undercover to infiltrate the bad guys. First she poses as bartender to get into the club. Then to get closer to the bad guy, she shows some skin and poses as a prostitute. Granted the bad guy then gets sliced up instead of laid, but still.
Then, of course, Batman pays her a visit at the end.
I’m starting to think sex and nudity were Rule #1 when it came to the new DC revamp. Superheroines everywhere are dropping their clothes or bedsheets and giving the reading a flash of skin. Not all of them did it, of course. Somehow DC managed to restrain themselves in Supergirl #1. But then if you remember when Supergirl made her first appearance years ago before the relaunch, she was naked back then.
What is DC’s strategy here? Are they really banking so heavily on male readers getting all excited about these naked superheroines? Is that really all they think of us?
That’s not to say I’m against sexuality in comics. It’s a part of adult life, and these are all adult characters. Relationships, even just sex-buddy ones, are a great source of conflict and story in comics, movies, TV, everything. My issue here is that out of so many #1 issues as part of DC’s big relaunch, they’re really pushing the sex and nudity. If Catwoman is going to be walking around in just her bra every issue, then it’s going to lose all meaning. If Starfire has already slept with both the Red Hood and Arsenal in the first issue, there’s no tension between the characters anymore. What are they building towards?
The relationship between Batman and Catwoman has always been based on their sexual tension. Now it’s gone.
DC may be attracting a lot of male readers with this strategy, but it’s going to lose people who want to stick around for a good story.
And here’s a link to somebody who wrote a much more intelligent article on the subject, someone who is also a female comic book fan: The Big Sexy Problem.