Featured Post


This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Well, I would not have thought that in just a little over a month, the comics biz could generate another silly sex-controversy equal to that of "Spiderbuttgate." But I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

The original image, from JUSTICE LEAGUE #12, was a pretty uncontroversial cover showing Superman and Wonder Woman making out in mid-air.

At some point, a T-shirt company used the image thusly:

This probably seemed only mildly provocative to the shirt-makers, whose business is come up with weird shit that people are willing to wear on their shirt-fronts.  Unfortunately, the idea that a male hero might want to shout "score" when he's gettin' some incited various netheads to view the shirt as yet another marginalization of femininity.  It also spurred artist Bill Siekiewicz to do his own version.

I'm indebted to this column on Robot 6 for reproducing the Siekiewicz image; it also features a particularly lively discussion of the moral issues regarding both the original shirt and Siekiewicz's response.  It's a better than average discussion, though I don't imagine that any of the "victimologists" convinced any of the "mansplainers," or vice versa.  The final poster as of today notes that contrary to Siekiewicz's interpretation, the original illustration isn't showing Wonder Woman closing her hand into a fist with the intention of belting the Man of Steel; it's because she's holding her magic lasso.

The selective reading of the image is on a par with the deliberate misreadings of the Manara Spider-butt, comparing it with another image in which a Manara female was "presenting" her butt for a sexual encounter. However, the shirt doesn't just present an image, but also text, and it's certainly the text that got some knickers twisted.

So what are the objectionable features of that text? If it had only featured the word "Score!," then I hypothesize that it would have been viewed as tacky, but not a marginalization of all things feminine. It seems likely that the other phrase, "Superman does it again," is what twisted the panties. The shirt might have even escaped condemnation had it left off the word "again," for with the addition of that word, the shirt as a whole implies to some minds that Wonder Woman has been reduced to a notch on Superman's bedpost.  And according to Siekiewicz, being a Lothario merits a punch in the face.

Obviously, there are creepy Lotharios out there, even when they don't resort to illegal actions like using date-drugs, etc. But the image doesn't show Superman either forcing himself on the Amazing Amazon or even using any sort of psychological tactics to get into her pants. Even with the text, all it says is that Superman is successfully seducing an entirely willing Wonder Woman. If this is a crime, then it's one of which a great many men are guilty, ranging from actors like Errol Flynn and Warren Beatty to sports figures like Wilt Chamberlain.

Ironically, the "victimology" side, in claiming that Wonder Woman has been reduced to an "object"-- e.g, that "notch on the bedpost"-- they actually subtract from her character the ability to choose. In sports, to "score" means to meet a challenge and overcome opposition, not to take something forcefully or, conversely, to take it without effort. And it's arguable that the countless women who "surrendered" to male celebrities did so because the men had gained the reputation for being satisfying on a number of levels.  Since the T-shirt image does not show Superman imposing any force on Wonder Woman, Siekiewicz's response is tantamount to his saying, "A woman has the right to assault a man for making sexual overtures, particularly when that man has gained a reputation for bedding other women."

To be sure, one can see this conceit used for comedy throughout dozens of Japanese manga-series. Whether or not the male star of a comedy-manga is a real Lothario or merely succeeds in attracting a harem of women into his orbit, it's customary for that male to be continually beaten up by at least one woman.

Here's RANMA 1/2:


And finally, CITY HUNTER:

But in these comic circumstances, the beating may be deemed a symbolic displacement for the sex-act, since the female is almost always hot for the male. On the terms of comedy, then, these assaults are amusing and thus stand as positive forces. To the best of my knowledge, there's no political content to these displays-- which is fortunate, since, as Sienkiewicz has aptly shown, applying this sort of sex-and-sadism mix to the real world is the worst kind of bad politics.


A. Sherman Barros said...

Why is Superman going for an ass-grope in Sienkiewicz's drawing?

Gene Phillips said...

Yeah, you would think that if the Amazing Amazon didn't want his lips in her face in the first place, the Man o'Steel woulda been punched out before his hand could even get down that far!