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Saturday, October 25, 2014 

Did Gail Simone really change how we view women in superhero comics?

That's what Vox wants us to think, yet female co-stars are curiously absent from this article. It begins with a note relating to Women in Refridgerators:
In the world of comics, men die noble deaths sacrificing themselves for the good of mankind. In the world of comics, those men are rarely in danger of being killed and stuffed in refrigerators. No, in the world of comics, it's wives and girlfriends who are killed, contorted, snapped, and smashed into the fridge alongside the milk and eggs.
I think that's a bit naive to believe men are immune to some of these awful tropes. Let's remember when Ronnie Raymond, aka Firestorm, was killed in Identity Crisis. That's one example of its sort. Earlier, Hal Jordan died a not so noble death in Zero Hour, and still earlier in Emerald Twilight, he executed thousands of GLC members, some very alarmingly. And I recall the time when Sean McKeever wiped out half of a pair of twins in Teen Titans who were meant as a nod to Wendy and Marv from the Super Friends cartoon. The brother was the one who got mauled to death by a monstrous take on Wonder Dog, and the sister certainly ended up in a wheelchair.
"For so long, we had a few female archetypes and that was it. It was like only three types of women existed in the universe, and that's just completely insane," Simone told me during one of New York Comic Con's rare quiet moments.

Her face sharpened into a grin.

"None of us are alike in real life, so why should they all be alike in fiction?"
I'm afraid even today, we're still not out of the woods, and it's foolish for her to act as though we've come away from this 100 percent. This isn't just superheroines we're concerned about. It's also female co-stars. This article doesn't mention a word about Sue Dibny and Jean Loring, two of the biggest victims of Identity Crisis. In fact, it doesn't even mention Mary Jane Watson or Karen Page. Oh, and it doesn't mention the Wendy and Marv seen in Teen Titans either. Not even the panel where Wendy tried to hide in a refridgerator, in an apparent mocking of the site she helped develop.
What male comic book writers did with women and refrigerators, Simone has been doing to shopworn female stereotypes since she started her comic book writing career at the turn of the millennium. From her stint at Wonder Woman and her gritty, career-defining era on Birds of Prey to her brilliant run on the anti-hero group known as the Secret Six and her chewier, very popular Batgirl and upcoming return on Secret Six, Simone has changed the way we think of female characters in comics.
I wonder why they don't mention how editorial mandates later destroyed whatever good she was trying to do in Birds of Prey, before taking the title away from her entirely? How superficial can they get?
Simone's fearlessness is woven into her writing. When talking about female characters, the general conversation often meanders into a debate of what sorts of representation are good and bad for women. Simone doesn't seem to care about this argument, so much as she cares about writing characters who are flawed, who fail, who aren't afraid of being dark, and who don't live on a pedestal.
Something bugs me about this part. Why do they have to be unafraid of being dark? Why not being unafraid of brightness? With so much darkness eating up superhero comics now, that's pretty awkward to emphasize darkness.
Equality, in Simone's eyes, is letting women in comic book stories being as wicked, marred, and sexual as the men in comic books are allowed to be. Equality is giving female characters as much of their own agency as men get.
This part is ridiculous. Plenty of women in comics have been sexual. I'm okay with the part about marred, if it's synonymous with flawed, but wicked? I find that appalling and besides, there's plenty of villainesses over the years who've been wicked, like Queen Bee and Cheetah. But agency, that I can agree on, since it means making them their own protagonists, in their own right.
"It does a disservice to that character, their themes, and their representation to make them so perfect that they're no longer believable and relatable," Simone said. "I like to see [my characters] flawed, make mistakes, have to work for what they get. Or if they haven't worked for it, they need to have it taken away for a while and to work for it again."
In that case, how come she doesn't tell she's impressed with the hard work Jan Strnad did in Sword of the Atom in the mid-80s, depicting Jean Loring as flawed without being disrespectful to the cast? Something that was destroyed by DiDio's regime in 2004. Which brings us again to the biggest problem this article has: supporting casts have no relevancy here. No mention of Lois Lane either, not even whether past writers made an effort to depict her the same way Simone wants to work on her lady cast. Not even a single critique about how the Super-marriage was broken up for the sake of pairing Supes with Wonder Woman. Although they do bring up the case of the t-shirts, and say that:
Simone wasn't shy in criticizing the company that employs her
But why has she been shy about criticizing the company for publishing an abomination like Identity Crisis? That's considerably worse than the t-shirts. I may have noticed her communicating at times with Dan Slott, and connecting with a man who's written such a reprehensible take on Spider-Man's wife demands serious questions. Was the task writing Birds of Prey worth it when there's such degrading storyboards being etched out in the office next door?
A lot has changed since Simone made her mordant and important observation. Warner Bros. announced on Wednesday that Wonder Woman would finally be getting her own movie. Characters like Mera, Black Canary, and Simone's Batgirl have become more prominent figures in the DC Universe. And there are more female editors, creators, and artists that she can call colleagues, Simone tells me.
I'm not sure Mera's become more prominent, and Black Canary's prominence has dwindled ever since Simone lost the helm of BoP.

For some people, it may be great to hear there'll be a WW movie in the works, but what if it turns out to be another "be careful what you wish for" case? Let's remember the time when a Supergirl movie was produced in 1984, and wound up a major failure. Nobody wants another movie with a superheroine to turn out a dud. The talent of assigned screenwriters and quality of the finished product have to count first.

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Kick the pervs and sickos out and maybe people's perception will change. But that would drive away their last 10,000 readers.

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