In lieu of this week's review post, let's talk about Batman and Catwoman #$%^ing.
Specifically: The last scene of this week's Catwoman # 1, which fairly explicitly shows the two lovebirds getting it on.
This has caused.... some controversy in the comics blogsphere. Basically, I figured it was gonna eat up all the comments to my regularly scheduled review post anyway, so I'll throw in my 1500 or so words and everybody else can have at it. RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS # 1 was also indicted in the uproar, but my shop was sold out so I ain't gonna talk about it.
Catwoman # 1 "... and most of the costumes stay on..." by Judd Winnick (writer), Guillem March (artist) Momeu Morey (colors), Sal Cipriano (letters). $2.99, 20pp, FC, DC Comics.
Pictures after the cut...
1) So that's what all the uproar was all about. Initial reactions to the last page: (A) kinda skeevy, and (B) very confusing. As far as I can tell there's no actual penetration implied on panel - There are a lot of limbs all scattered every which-way, and there's definitely sexy nipple-touching, but the costumes are mostly on, and the costumes are definitely preventing genital contact.
Here's what Abhay Khosla had to say on the scans.
(Really, check the link. The one thing your life is missing is an essay by Abhay Khosla on Batman and premature ejaculation.)
2) Laura Hudson from Comics Alliance was upset by this comic. (And Red Hood, which I didn't read.) Keep in mind, for context, that this is a lady who started a whole blog about Cerebus. So it's not like she's completely uncomfotable dealing with non-feminist, anti-feminist, and crazzitttty ass ideas.
3) Here's one of the comments in response to the above link: "Stopped reading a quarter the way through, because your femanazi rant was making me physically sick. Get off your high horse all ready. This article ran long, an I'm sure your fish eating lesbian book club is wondering where you are. I won't sit here for a minute an be made to feel like a perv, because I enjoyed catwoman ( no desire to read outsiders), it wasn't done distastefully in my opinion, in fact my fiancee liked it as well."
4) I kind of miss the days when Rush Limbaugh quoting republicans bragged about being Real Men, rather than talking about how their precious widdle baby's-not-on-solid-food-yet stomachs are all upset and quakey quivery.
A helpful debating tip: If the core of your argument is "I am a tremendous wuss" it is probably time to reconsider your thesis.
5) Greg McElhaton from CBR main has some issues as well and, I dunno - That wasn't really a review. It's 80% a statement of moral objection, with very little discussion of craft and a one star rating at the end. "Uncomforable to read in public places" is not analogous to bad. Plenty of, say, Paul Cezanne's stuff is technically Not Safe For Wwork. Moral arguments can be part of a review, but I don't think they should be the meat of the review. Basically, I think a reviewer here should answer two questions: 1) Is it good? and 2) Did I like it? And if the reviewer is worth a damn, the answer to the two questions are, occasionally, gonna be different. If you dislike something so much that you can't critically analyze the work, then you should pass on reviewing it. (I'd give the book: **1/2 to ***, except that I think star rating systems are dumb, and my argument is as much that as it is dumpin' on Mr. McElhaton.)
I have similar issues with Brian Hibbs' take at the Savage Critics - I don't think one off-putting sex scene automatically makes a GOOD book an AWFUL.
6) "This feels like a soft core skin flick" rankled me a bit as well - Let's not be putting superhero comics on TOO much of a high horse, here, please.
The way males consume superhero comics isn't so far removed from the way males consume porn. In superhero comics the reader sees himself as the muscle-bound virile superhero who dominates his opponents through superior physical and maaaaaayyyybe mental attributes. In porn the reader sees himself as the guy who gets to screw (is it to much of a stretch to say dominate?) the most beautiful women. They're both alpha male displacement fantasy. I'm a consumer of both. I'll defend both in most scenarios. I make no judgements. But let us call a spade a damn shovel. Comics are, historically, only a notch higher on lowest common denominator trash culture scale. They're not sanitized. They're sort of bad for you....
7) And I don't see this, in comics case, as completely inaccurate. I also don't see this as a bad thing - Most of the important are and most of the great art produced in the 20th century is hanging out at the moral fringes, and could be deemed offensive. Guernica. Ulysses. The Hot Fives and Sevens. The White Album. Elvis' hip shake, or Lady Gaga's meat dress.
8) On a semi-related note. I liked the first sequence in Catwoman # 1. Catwoman is trying to get dressed in her Kitty-Cat Suit (all bra all hanging out) and save the lives of her cats while armed intruders try to kill her. I thought it was well drawn. Exciting. I thought general chaos and Catwoman's kinetic movement were very well portrayed. And the cats - Oh My God, the cats! They're these expressionistic, big-eyed manga things, these hilariously rendered cartoons with vast emotional range. And they're cute, too! I'm callin' it right now: Guillem March is the best cat artist since Frank Quitely. And the barely-coverdness-of-the-boobs didn't bother me at all. And there was a logical in-story reason for Selina to be dressed the way she was. Sure, it was designed to arise the prurient fanboy interests - (Full disclosure: It arose the HELL out of my prurient interest) but it didn't feel like pandering.
9) So I am, at least in this case, pro bra and panty shots in superhero comics. If you are anti bra and panty shots, I will be willing to listen, but I think you need to address the historical context - IE scantily clad females have been part of American comics for a long, long, looonnnng time. I grantya, the "We've always done it this way so it must be right" argument is always bullshit when presented alone, but there's also the "Y'know, comics sold in the millions and they didn't turn out a generation of sex perverts" argument and the "CMON, Matt Baker is freakin' awesome!" argument. I find the latter especially hard to disprove.
10) All that said - I am in complete agreement with Laura Hudson on the actual (if not) sex (then erotic nipple play and implied PE) scene. To whit:
11) The moral stance that the book itself takes is... puzzling and disturbing to me. (And I'd argue that every work of art can be defined by a moral position.) The first 16 pages could be described as "a fun romp" except for one page of extremely graphic and bloody violence. It's clear that Selina Kyle enjoys being Catwoman - There's a scene where she cuisinarts the snot out of a room full or Russian Mobsters with a big ol' cheesy grin on her face. Here's what the comic tells us. Beating people up is FUN. Chloroforming the bartender and leaving her in the closet is FUN. But the sex scene reads like a memoir of heroin addiction: "Usually it's because I want him. Tonight I think it's because I NEED him." "And he seems.... Angry. But that doesn't slow either of us down." Actual quotes, sweartagod.
Raking people with your claws is Fun. Sexual activity is an Addiction, fueled by anger and hate. Certainly, there are those of you who disagree with wanton, lustful, pre-maritial sex, which is a perfectly valid position. But here's it's shown to be a lot less healthy and far more personally probelmatic than cutting someone's face open with your kitty cat claws. And that's just a weird position to take.
12) And here's the feminist argument - But cut me some slack, weaked-stomached feminazi guy, at least it's dirty.
The scene was meant to arouse some sexual excitement in the audience. Right? Anybody arguing this? But as a sexual fantasy, this was resolutely one-sided. Having a Strong Assertive Woman throw herself at you - you try to resist, but are overcome by her yearning for your body - is a pretty good erotic story. Everyone who is interested in fucking Catwoman should be happy.
Conversely, throwing yourself breasts first at this dude who doesn't really want you and seems angry so you can avoid possible incarceration.... Well, that hardly sounds like every straight woman's fantasy. If you're interested in fucking Catwoman, you're SOL.
God forgive me for the double entendre, but I can't think of any other way to phrase this: Good sex scenes provide multiple entry points. At the v-e-r-y least it should be satisfying for straight men to imagine themselves in the straight man's role, and straight women to imagine them in the straight woman's role. Here, one side of the dynamic is all "awesome!" and one side is all "Yuuuuggggggh." This is... impolite writing. It feels like your not takin' the time to get your partner off.
And it is worse that the "strong, sexually liberated woman" is used as a plot device to initiate a fantasy sequence which seems to belong only to straight guys.
13) It renders the book tonally inconsistent. It's all FUN ROMP except for one page of truly nasty violence and a sex scene that seems like it came from a different, darker, and SO much worse comic.
14) In the end, I'm mostly let down by the drop-off in craft. My response is not "OH NOS! They are doing the ESS-EEE-EXX! THE CHILDRENS! Think of THE CHILDRENS!" It's "Why do we need THIS sex scene THERE?" It turned a good comic into four/fifths of a good comic with a juvenile bid for attention at the end that doesn't fit with the rest of the story, and now all anyone is going to remember is the sensationalistic bid for attention. I ended all of last week's reviews by asking (am I gonna) buy the next one? And... well, I was 'till page 17.
And, what the heck, here's this weeks rankings for the books I did get - I might try to toss up some reviews in the next couple of days. Red Hood and the Outlaws, Nightwing, and Captain Atom were sold out at my shop. (Before it opened, no less!)
1) Wonder Woman # 1
2) Batman # 1
3) Blue Beetle # 1
4) Birds of Prey # 1
5) Supergirl # 1
6) Catwoman # 1 (See! Not dead last!)
7) Dc Universe Presents Deadman # 1
8) Green Lantern Corps. # 1
9) Legion of Superheroes # 1
I might try to get some reviews in before Burgas drops his big EVERY BOOK REVIEWED post later this week.... Keep ya' posted.