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G. Willow Wilson Responds to The New Yorker’s “A-Force” “Porn Star” Criticism

by  in Comic News Comment
G. Willow Wilson Responds to The New Yorker’s “A-Force” “Porn Star” Criticism

On her blog, “A-Force” co-writer G. Willow Wilson responded to some harsh criticism from “The Secret History of Wonder Woman” author Jill Lepore, whose “Looking at Female Superheroes with Ten-Year-Old Boys” editorial appeared in The New Yorker last week.

In the original article, Lepore looks at the characters of “A-Force” #1 through the eyes of her 10-year-old son and his friend, remarking that the characters “all look like porn stars” and that “maybe it’s not possible to create reasonable female comic-book superheroes, since their origins are so tangled up with magazines for men.” She records the boys’ responses, which range from “weak” to “all the girls here have, like, gigantic cleavages.”

After discovering an open letter response to the article from Leia Calderon, Wilson formulated a response of her own, saying, “So I was rather chuffed by this piece, though I do want to respond to some of the points raised, because they tie into some of the broader conversations we’ve been having lately in the comics community.”

In her response, Wilson writes,

The heroines on the cover of “A-Force” #1 are also posed in a very specific way. They face us head-on. She Hulk has her arms crossed over her chest. Nobody is in the brokeback pose (I’ll let Dr. Lepore google that one too), nobody has her butt up in the air. None of them are in the sexually objectified contortions that have become standard issue in recent decades. They are, in other words, posed the way their male colleagues are typically posed. They are posed as heroes.

To anyone familiar with the often heated dialogue surrounding the role and representation of women in comics, these choices are pretty symbolic. There are many women (and plenty more men!) in the comics industry and in comics fandom who have fought hard to get us to this point-costumes that cover the butt, book covers where no one is spread-eagle, storylines that don’t involve women being sexually brutalized in order to provide motivation. This may not seem like much to someone outside the comics-reading community. But to those of us with a vested interest in this medium — who do not aspire to whatever self-congratulatory bar of high culture Dr. Lepore requires us to leap over in order to be considered ‘real’ artists — it is a coup.

It is a shame that, in this recent wave of mainstream media attention toward comics, actually reading comic books does not appear to be a prerequisite. And it shows. Where is the call to action in Dr. Lepore’s article? What is the aspirational message we are meant to take away? Who does she imagine she is helping? What is the appropriate amount a 9-foot-tall green woman should cover up in order not to be considered ‘pervy’ by Harvard professors? Can we get a hem length?

However, she concludes on a much less tongue-in-cheek note. “I have been a little cheeky thus far, so let me close by saying that I imagine Dr. Lepore and I want the same thing: better, more nuanced portrayals of women in pop culture. What I don’t understand is why someone in her position would, from her perch a thousand feet up in the ivory tower, take pot shots at those of us who are in the trenches, doing exactly that.”

“A-Force” #1 arrives at retailers next Wednesday, May 20.

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