Friday, July 2, 2010

COVER STORIES

Thanks to Wonder Woman's forthcoming costume-change there's been a recent resurgence to that old standby fan-topic: Superheroines Who Dress Slutty and the Fanboys Who Make Them Do It.

I came across this 2-16-09 Noah Berlatsky post thanks to a reference in one of Curt Purcell's blogs (more on which later):

Disempowerment in various forms is a staple of super-hero covers. For men, though, it usually involves bodily transformation (Flash's big head) or humiliations in which the sexual implications are at least a bit more repressed. But here...Wonder Woman tied up and smiling as she playfully cocks her crotch and begs for it with the (ahem) Elongated Man looking on eagerly; Wonder Woman tied up and legs spread with a missile propitiously aimed; kneeling with legs spread...I mean, it's not especially subtle, is it?


For now I'll put aside my general disagreements with NB's theories on sexual objectification and ask, "Is his basic contention about the gender disparity true? Let's grant that in the fifty years since Feb 1959-- when THE FLASH got a title that put his covers on the same stand as the published-since-1942 WONDER WOMAN-- there probably have been *on the whole* more sexy-disempowerment WONDER WOMAN covers than sexy-disempowerment FLASH covers.

But frankly, I don't think either character has quite as many *sexual* disempowerments as Berlatsky indicates, given that I think most disempowerments in comics have more to do with *thanatos* than *eros.*

Let's see what happens when we compare the covers of Silver-to-Bronze-Age FLASH and WONDER WOMAN with a random sampling. I'll start with Feb 1959 for both titles and then jump about five years to the next Febrary-labelled comic for respectively 1965, 1970, 1975, 1980, and 1985, which is about the time when CRISIS killed those incarnations of the respective titles.

Here goes:
























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