Thursday, May 24, 2007

When Fanboys Strike Back!

Much is said in comic forums and blog sites about the misogynistic manner in which women are marginalized, brutalized and generally treated like crap in comic books. I can't really argue with that as history shows it to be mostly factual. It occurs more today than in the comics of decades past and is made all the worse by the fact that the creative teams should know better by now.

But does no one think of the men?

For years in between the beating up of Loki and Starro the male characters of comic books have been subjected to countless soap-opera machinations by women. Nearly without exception the women in comics heaped scathing contempt upon the males of the cast.

For example, Pepper Potts was merciless in her dislike for Tony Stark's chauffeur, Harry "Happy" Hogan, a broken down but honest boxer. Pepper publicly humiliated Happy in the Executive Offices of Stark Industrial when they first met. If Pepper acted today as she did then she'd have been on the unemployment line and Hogan would be getting handed a big check for personal damages.

Tales of Suspense #45 (September 1963).
Pepper was infatuated with Tony Stark but he had little interest. While smart, efficient and hard-working Pepper was clearly not his type, being kind of a spinster-scarecrow who favored school-marm fashions. She was, basically, a real woman and not the jet-set starlet eye-candy that Tony Stark preferred.

This horrible, emasculating treatment of Happy went on for several years. Pepper and Happy gradually evolved into being less plain in appearance and got married, then divorced, then got back together again. I suspect Pepper only became involved with Happy as a way of proving to Tony Stark that he missed a good thing because he started chasing her after that. Pepper certainly didn't do anything to discourage him all during the time she and Happy were in their highly dysfunctional marriage.

The women of comics have a long, long history of treating men poorly. Most famously, Lois Lane was vicious in her personal attacks against Clark Kent. Mary Jane Watson constantly belittled Peter Parker and often interfered with his other relationships out of fun, then tossed him aside for a party she wanted to attend that night. The girl in the Charles Atlas ads could barely keep from throwing up on her boyfriend when he got sand kicked in his face by the Nuisance of Muscle Beach.

Lois and Clark from Superman #1 ( Summer 1939).
Pre-manly Mac from undated issue of Modern Mechanix and Invention.

The thing is, all these men knew what these harpies were like and still pursued them. In most cases, unbelievably, getting married to them.
Amazing Spider-Man #123 (August 1975).
This conversation takes place a short time after Gwen Stacy was murdered.

What should be remembered is that the spandex and heroic fights are incidental. As much as fans would like to ignore the fact, all comic books are really just soap-opera romances and they are all about about the boy/girl (or sometimes other combinations) relationships. Lois married Clark, Mary Jane and Peter married and Pepper's rocky relationship with Happy is still on-going. It is almost unimaginable that any of the men in comics would wed the women in their cast after their experiences. I would love to see a story where the male character recalled years of relationship continuity and rebuffed the woman who for their entire relationship tore him down at every opportunity.
"Clark, I have to confess. I love you and want to be with you for the rest of my life."
"What's that, Lois? You want to be The milk-sop, the spineless toad, the wet-blanket, the coward, the foolish, pathetic laughable loser? GO TO HELL. Now excuse me while I crush this mountain of coal into a giant diamond for Chloe."


  1. "GO TO HELL. Now excuse me while I crush this mountain of coal into a giant diamond for Chloe."

    Oh, man, what I would give to read that in a Superman comic...

  2. Chloe is much, much hotter; and much more deserving of a giant diamond than any incarnation of Lois, ever. Smart is sexy. But in sadder news, isn't Happy currently dead?


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