Why!?! Why Does It Have To Be This Way?!

Why when a new ongoing is released for a strong female lead, and with a strong female writer on board (Marjorie Liu) – why does it HAVE to come with objectifying imagery?  Do they not know what they’re doing?  Or do they just not care?  These are the kind of releases that lead me to giant columns asking whether Marvel is just stupid or cloaked in misogyny.

Because I have to tell you…it’s upsetting.  It upsets me greatly to realize that in the year 2010 (2010!!!!), Marvel does not think they can market a book with a strong female lead and a strong female writer without using sexist imagery that horribly objectifies their lead.

And that they’re willing to make a character like Black Widow look like she doesn’t know how to dress herself.  Does she not know how to use a zipper?  Does she not know how to purchase clothing for herself that can contain her massive breasts?  Does she have so little confidence in her ability as a fighter and hero that she thinks she has to try to distract people with her zipper unzipped to somewhere below her tits?  Does she have such low self esteem that she thinks people will only like her if she runs around with her top unzipped?  Why do I have to keep talking about this? I am so sick of this crap.  One of the worst things about this image is that if the zipper was simply zipped up to a more reasonable level…this cover would be awesome.  What a waste.

Is this what I have to look forward to in Marvel’s ‘year of women’?  Cause if so, I’ll fucking pass. Thanks Marvel.


  1. Greg Burgas’s avatar

    Wow. I agree, that’s a great cover … except for the boobs. Sheesh. The problem is, whoever draws it probably won’t show her with the zipper like that. It’s just like Marvel Divas, which looked nothing like the horrible Campbell cover.

    Who’s writing it, anyway? You write “a strong female writer,” but who? WHO?????

  2. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    It’s Marjorie Liu – I updated the post above – cause you’re right – why didn’t I say it? – likely because while writing this post inside my head everything mostly sounded like “AGH!”.

    Yeah, hopefully the interiors will be better – it just bums me out that it has to be this way – I really don’t get it, y’know?

    I apologize by the way for bringing drama into your preview post comments – I forgot I can’t say anything remotely feminist or female positive, or worse – anything remotely negative on CSBG without drawing you know who and his fire. Apologies!

  3. Greg Burgas’s avatar

    Ah, it’s all good. Drama is fine, as long as it’s on the Internet. I don’t know why he (I assume it’s a “he”) gets all bothered about your opinions. It’s very odd.

  4. tk.’s avatar

    To be fair to the artist– Acuna?– looking at the other Black Widow covers in the CBR article, they all feature the plunging zipper so it’s probably part of their costume style guide or something.

    And frankly, I don’t think this looks very objectifying. She’s not weak, submissive, or placed in the picture as just a plaything. She’s the focus of the picture and in a strong, dominating position with a fierce expression on her face. She looks like a bad ass.

    The costume may be gratuitous and impractical but in a world where everyone’s running around in underwear with fins and wings and lightning bolts on their heads, it’s par for the course.

  5. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    No, it’s a very new development – the whole “zipped down outfit”. A really disturbing new trend actually.

    And the CBR article I linked to is MY article, and those covers were selected to specifically show the ridiculousness of this new trend – which is part of what the article is about. And in point of fact, the book that has those covers (Deadly Origin) doesn’t have the costume unzipped inside – so it’s clearly not a directive handed down from Marvel Editorial.

    Black Widow has had that costume for years (decades?) but generally it’s zipped up – usually all the way. All of a sudden all these artists are showing it unzipped to her stomach and it’s just unacceptable.

    She doesn’t looks powerful and badass to me, she looks like someone that is either too stupid to dress herself or got interrupted in the middle of dressing…either way, it’s not a female positive look.

    The costume IS gratuitous and impractical, as you say, but it’s NOT par for the course. Show me a male equivalent (other than maybe Namor or Kazar whose costumes are a little silly but make some sense) and I’ll consider re-considering. Of course you’ll have to show me a bunch of male equivalents because then I’ll start parading out the ridiculous female outfits from Rogue to Psylocke to Powergirl to Star Sapphire to Wonder Woman to…eh, I could go on, but I’m getting tired…

  6. tk.’s avatar

    By gratuitous I didn’t mean in a sexual way, I just mean in general, the costumes are generally impractical and random, like the head-wings of Captain American or Thor, Wolverine’s gigantic skull-spoilers, or Catwoman’s tail. Or Colossus’ costume, which borders on being a Borat-thong.

    I don’t know that I would dismiss it as not being an editorial directive just because the interiors are different, otherwise doesn’t it seem odd that *all* of the Widow covers, by a myriad of different artists, depict the costume that way?

    Either way, I liked the short-haired look better, and I personally think the cover is far less objectifying than, say, this one: http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/marveldatabase/images/thumb/a/a7/Black_Widow_-_The_Thing_They_Say_About_Here_05_01.jpg/300px-Black_Widow_-_The_Thing_They_Say_About_Here_05_01.jpg

  7. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    tk. Sure, superhero costumes can be impractical, but this one is both impractical and objectifying. There’s a difference. Impractical can be laughed off, impractical and objectifying, especially when it pretty much only happens to female characters with regularity is less funny to me.

    Of the BW covers I posted on CBR, two are by the same artist (Adi Granov), and the third in the article is by Greg Land, who is one of the worst artists (according to me) when it comes to objectifying women, and he’s an artist that has openly admitted that he uses pornstars as physical reference…which is not going in the right direction as far as I’m concerned.

    Also, in the “trend of unzipped to the stomach” the same artist (Granov) also gave Rogue the same unzipped treatment


    And Daniel Acuna, who did the Black Widow cover above, is also responsible for this unzipped BS for Rogue’s costume in X-Men Legacy Annual:


    So that doesn’t look like editorial directive to me, it looks like three artists that have decided that unzipping female superhero costumes to their stomachs is HOTT. And I object. I object to the idea that these women can’t sell comics or be significant unless they’re falling out of their unzipped tops. And as I said in a couple of these articles, it’s one thing for a costume to flash a little skin or show a little cleavage, it’s another to make it unzipped to a character’s stomach, and by making it something that CAN be zipped up it implies a collusion on the part of the character – that she is purposely objectifying herself to this degree…while she’s basically at work with her colleagues and friends…well, it’s incredibly insulting.

    Of course, if editorial had a problem with it, they could certainly step in and they haven’t, so they have a certain culpability as far as I’m concerned as well.

    As for the ‘The Things The Say About Her’ cover – that’s a whole other nightmare.

  8. tk.’s avatar

    Thanks for taking the time to give me the context, and, given that, I find that I agree, it’s pretty exploitative and wtf-y.

    I get blinded to the content by the quality of the artwork sometimes, and I like Acuna’s style and his characters are very expressive. I guess I was paying too much attention to the head :) (On the other hand, a guy like Chris Bachalo can manage to make even Psylocke’s costume look slightly reasonable.)

    Rogue has long been one of my favorite characters in comics, and I certainly agree that she doesn’t need to be sexed up to be interesting– in fact it makes little sense for her, even if she has learned to control her power. Like Black Widow, she’s a confident leader and doesn’t have to resort to Emma Frost-like tactics to get things done. (And, as an aside, I thought the Gambit romance represents the worst years for Rogue as a character, where that was essentially the only thing that defined her outside from saying “sugah”.) So yeah, it’s a shame.

  9. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    tk: No problem. Thanks for being open to the discussion. I’m also torn on Acuna because there’s something that I love about his style, but seeing his unzipped treatment on Rogue (and now Black Widow) I can’t really feel I trust my characters in his hands.

    I actually think this tends to be a problem with really talented non-American artists – of which there are many (and let me be clear. I’m not saying that ALL non-American’s have this problem, or that their aren’t American’s that also have this problem, or that this is necessarily the reason for this specific problem in Acuna’s art) but I’ve been noticing a trend in comics to use insanely talented foreign artists and there sometimes appears to be no real understanding characters and situations (because of a language barrier, or maybe just lack of time to get up to speed, or maybe just differing cultures/acceptability standards?)…and sometimes it leads us to beautiful pictures, but a problem in the message some of those pictures send.

    And in that regard it IS up to editorial, be it DC or Marvel to clarify these messages and exert some quality control if the message is not what they have intended.

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