I was never big on superhero comics. Back when I was a kid I retrieved a big stack of Nembo Kid that had belonged to my uncle, from the attic in my grandmother’s house. For the uninitiated, Nembo Kid was the Italian name of Superman in the ’50s – and the magazine printed a number of stories featuring Superman (and various Superboy and Supergirl stories), Batman and the Flash. I was seven or eight, it was good fun.
Later, with the exception of Mike Grell’s Green Arrow and the quirky Captain Britain and Excalibur, I steered clear of superhero comics, simply because they were not my sort of thing – until I chanced upon Grant Morrison’s Animal Man and Doom Patrol, and from there I moved to The Invisibles, some things by Alan Moore, once again distancing myself from mainstream superheroes. I did read a few of Batman graphic novels, like Gotham by Gaslight, but I’m no big Bats fan.
In general, comics-wise, I was more into things like Savage Sword of Conan or The Warlord, satirical strips like Bloom County or Liberty Meadows, or Italian comics like Alan Ford or Lo Sconosciuto, or Franco-Belgian stuff. I did read a quite a few manga, too, when they became available – stuff like Sword of the Immortal, or Miyazaki’s Nausicaa.
In the early 2000s, reading comics became an expensive habit, and I decided to stick to novels and non-fiction books, with the occasional one-off for special reasons – Mark Schultz’ Xenozoic Tales, or Dark Horse’s Conan.
But a few days back I got a big fat stack of DC comics, and I’m going through them one per evening. I’m reading through a few issues of Power Girl.
Now as I said I am no big superhero or Superman fan – and in the good old days Power Girl was not featured in Nembo Kid. So I did not know very much about the whole mythos behind the character. One thing I knew, though – Power Girl’s got boobs.
And indeed it was a guy doing a public auto da fe on Facebook, to explain that he had seen the wrong of his ways, and had therefore burned his collection of Power Girl comics, hoping he would one day get over the shame and redeem himself, that got me curious. File under “research”.
Apparently only very very bad men read that series. Male chauvinists that objectify the female form and are, as a whole, a solid mass of wannabe rapists. Or worse. It was this that got me curious, because I had heard similar nonsense about other comics I read in the past, and books, and movies.
Yes, I am looking at you, Conan the Cimmerian, in all your incarnations.
What got my peeve going is this strange idea, that all art is inherently pornography, and there is no other way of seeing it. It’s a twisted way of thinking.
At the same time, we can look at a body – sketched, drawn, photographed or live, without necessarily getting dirty thoughts, or disrespecting the person portrayed because of their looks.
Does somebody really respects women based on their brassiere’s size?
And do we want to have anything to do with such individuals?
Turns out it’s the usual Nembo Kid fare I used to read when I was a kid (not that I really expected anything very different), with an extra of parallel dimensions and other fun stuff. And, yes, a main character that shows her cleavage. It’s not been life-changing for me so far.
The comic is somewhat tongue in cheek, with too much text and exposition for my tastes sometimes, but good fun. And I do not find it particularly depraved or corrupting. The titular character is smart, does not take herself too seriously, and the boob window (and male characters’ reaction to it) thing is often played for laughs.
On the other hand, I do not know how a woman might take it, especially considering the series’ been written and drawn only by men as far as I know, but talking with a few friends of the female persuasion, they do not seem to think poor Kara Zor-L is a menace to the rights they have acquired in the last century and a half, and in general shrug it off or laugh about it.
Some have pointed out that the character does break quite a few clichés, like the one that wants well-endowed women to be air-heads, and the one that imagines all female characters to be passive (Power Girl is pretty tough and pro-active), or the horrid equation sexy = evil.
But some guys DO read those comics only because of that boob window! someone observed. People like that guy that burned his collection and self-flagellated publicly, probably.
And yet, really, are we responsible of what other people seek or find in our stories?
Also, in one of the storylines, there’s an evil gorilla mastermind.
Come on, you think I could resist a story with an inter-dimensional primate super-villain?