Okay, so. You grow up surviving on a steady diet of comic books, Saturday morning cartoons and sandwiches out of lunchboxes with superheroes on the front. Coming up in the world, you play with action figures and wear t-shirts with your favorite comic book characters proudly displayed on your chest. The greasy-looking guy behind the counter at the local comic book shop knows you by name. There are probably pictures of you cosplaying on friend’s Facebook pages and convention round-up reports all over the internet. You’re what we call a geek. A dork. A nerd. Whatever the current nomenclature, that’s you, through and through.
But every representation you find in comic books that you could possibly identity with, well. They’re all kind of strange. These characters are scantily clothed, their anatomy stretched and mutilated by lengthened spines, wildly pivoted hips, heaving chests. They’re often posed like Playboy models with drooping lids and pouting mouths, crammed into impossible latex outfits and stiletto heels. All these characters can’t possibly have anything to do with you, though. They really don’t look like you, or anybody you know. They don’t really act like anybody you know, either. Still, they’re your heroes, the characters you have to look up to. So you keep reading, because you grew up on these things, and you hope for the best.
As you get a little older, get out of the safety of comic book shops and conventions, and begin interacting with a larger body of fans, things start to change. The stories really don’t get better, and the people that you’re supposed to look up to drift further and further away from any reality you’ve ever known. Your heroes are still shown as grossly sexualized objects. (There have been some good moments, of course, but even those moments are usually mixed with sour notes.) Comic book publishers disregard you. They say you don’t really matter to their bottom line and you’re not their core audience but they really appreciate your patronage, batting you away with one hand while taking your money with the other.
But it doesn’t stop there. You’re not really worth hiring as writers or artists, because publishers and editors only hire the best in the business, and you’re apparently not it. Smart-mouthed bloggers and pop culture news hosts ignore you, claiming that you don’t exist one moment then bemoaning your absence the next. (Unless you’re fat, or unattractive, or whatever other adjectives they can throw at you, in which case they can’t stop talking about you.) If you try to complain about these problems, these absurd representations, these hurtful business tactics perpetrated by major publishing houses, you’re called a bully. You’re told to sit down and shut up, but to have your wallet out for next month’s issue or movie or new limited edition what-have-you. You don’t matter, anyway. It’s not like you really read comics or have opinions or anything. You should just be happy with what you get. (Hey, they put pants on Wonder Woman, right? That should be good enough.)
Congratulations. You’re me, the average female superhero comic fan. Now you know why I’ve given up on DC and Marvel, and gone on to smaller publishers who at least pretend to give a damn. They may not all be perfect, but none of their editors or creative staff have attempted to boo me out of a panel, either…