The Comments Thread: Busiek Tells It Like It Is

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So this morning I was checking out an article on The Beat, and as usual proceeded into the belly of the beast, a.k.a. the comments section, to see what great things people men had to say on the subject of the sexualization of men vs. women in comics. The post had used a few pictures to highlight what it looks like when men are sexualized.

It started out as expected, with commenters wondering just what sort of problem women could possibly have with this unequal and oftentimes inappropriate representation. It must have something to do with our self-esteem! Continue reading

WTF? Wednesday: Girl Gone Wild

As every smart parent knows, the best way to keep kids from becoming sexually active is to treat their feelings as something dirty, destructive and unmentionable. This is particularly true when you are raising daughters, because society does not go far enough in enforcing a double standard for males and females. Girls, nothing is more important than maintaining a good reputation! Take it from “First Kiss,” the cautionary tale from Falling In Love #118:

Your first boyfriend … Your first date … And your first kiss! And suddenly that one kiss leads to another and another and another … until you finally have to ask yourself: “Am I still worthy of love?” Continue reading

WTF? Wednesday: ‘Full Hands, Empty Heart’

Young Romance #194 (DC Comics, 1973) totally ruined my usual ritual of finding a histrionic romance comic story and mocking it from start to finish. Not that “Full Hands, Empty Heart,” the story about the thwarted love of an African-American nurse and a white doctor, doesn’t have its ridiculous parts. However, I found myself having sincere feelings after reading it. That’s not how WTF? Wednesday is supposed to work! Continue reading

WTF? Wednesday: Miss Peeping Tom

Confused about whether someone’s really into you? Look for these three signs: Verbal bullying, shaming and physical intimidation. As the Young Romance #193 (1973) gem “Miss Peeping Tom!” teaches us, cruelty is simply misguided passion. All it takes is a little nudge to get that man on the right track!

Tina, a lonely teen shutterbug, is bold enough to take photos of unsuspecting couples in broad daylight while they’re making out, but too timid to talk to boys. Her best friend, Wendy, tries to school her with sage observations about the opposite sex: “Any girl can cut (guys) down to half their size by making them bend over to kiss her! And the only way to do that is to get real close to them!” Continue reading

WTF? Wednesday: ‘That Strange Girl’

When you’re a gay teen in a heteronormative society, there’s nothing more reassuring than tragic portrayals of homosexual people and being told, “You can be fixed!” In 1974, Young Romance #197 flirted with this subject with all the finesse you’d expect from a story titled “That Strange Girl.” They really called it that. Continue reading

WTF? Wednesday: Cruel to Be Kind

When it comes to receiving soul-crushing messages about weight, most women are pretty well covered, thanks. But in 1979, Charlton Comics decided that some of us weren’t paying attention. Described as the low-rent district of comics publishing, Charlton packed so much sexist, body-shaming hostility into a single story in Secret Romance #44 that it made even the most regressive women’s magazine look like Ms.

The story’s title is simply: “Fat!” Yes, with an exclamation point. Continue reading

WTF? Hall of Fame: Archie and Betty’s Motel Scandal

Remember that time Archie and Betty checked into a motel cabin far from Riverdale, shed their clothes and spent a memorable night together in front of a crackling fire? And then Betty’s dad showed up in a rage just as Archie was putting his clothes back on, subjecting them to a lengthy diatribe about values and his daughter’s compromised honor? No? Then you’ve clearly missed the best story ever printed in an Archie comic. Continue reading

BatWondy Nation Weeps

BatWondy fans everywhere — OK, maybe just me — were brokenhearted today when DC announced that Superman and Wonder Woman are officially an item. Justice League writer Geoff Johns described it as “the new status quo,” and Jim Lee’s cover for issue #12 suggests that Wondy keeps a toothbrush at the Fortress of Solitude.

I hate everything about this idea. Aside from being predictable and bland, it dashes any hope, at least for now, that Batman and Wonder Woman will rekindle the romance that stirred so many hearts just a few short years ago. Continue reading

WTF? Wednesday: Snow’s Ugly Lecture

Fables character Mrs. Spratt (as in wife of Jack) is easy to hate. She’s spiteful and seems to delight in saying awful things to vulnerable people, which sucks considering that she’s a nurse. Those deplorable characteristics were evident in issue #100 during the birth of Beauty and Sheriff Beast’s child. She coldly dismissed Beast’s concerns after Beauty went into a difficult labor, and she then pelted him with insults when he suggested that the Fabletown physician, Dr. Swineheart, was not on point. Since Beast goes into furry and fanged mode when he’s mad, old girl is very lucky that she wasn’t mauled. Continue reading

WTF? Wednesday: Punishing Diana

In the world of many superheroes, killing a villain is verboten. Theoretically, doing so would undermine their moral authority and blur the line between angels and demons — even if the target is a cold-blooded murderer with no remorse and a high recidivism rate. Better to break a few of the bad guy’s bones and ship him or her off to the nearest prison or high-security facility for sociopaths. Right? Not always. Sometimes a character does something so heinous and/or is such a threat to society that a hero is justified in choosing the nuclear option. Continue reading

WTF? Wednesday: Justice Served Cold – Or Toasted!

Borrowed from the Aquaman Shrine

For many a geek, food ads featuring superheroes were integral to the childhood comic-reading experience. In between scenes of Wonder Woman whupping Nazis, you’d see spots for Hostess fruit pies — usually illustrated as nicely as the main story itself — starring Justice League members. Those ads are considered retro comedy gold now, but my 8-year-old self rather enjoyed them. Continue reading

WTF? Wednesday: Longsuffering Sue

Saying that Sue Storm has come a long way since the pre-feminist era is like saying Joan Rivers has had a little work done. While the portrayal of female characters was sketchy across the board in decades past, Sue was practically her own category. We know her today as an incredibly powerful heroine, a leader, and the most impressive working mom in comics, but the road to respect was paved with a whole lot of insults and condescension. The source was usually her husband, Reed Richards. Continue reading

Fast Times at Riverdale High

I hadn’t intended to write about anything Archie-related again so soon, but when my friend Craig sent me this link, well, it had to happen. Canadian sketch comedy group The Cross Eyed Bear, with the help of donors from the Vancouver film industry, put together a brilliant, live-action movie trailer that imagines the Archie gang as live fast, die young types. Imagine Less than Zero plus Skins plus Archie’s Digest, and you’ve got the R-rated parody gem simply titled Riverdale. Reggie does coke, Jughead reveals his crush on Archie with disastrous results, and Moose is in a murderous rage over a Midge-Chuck hookup. It’s as genius as it is disturbing. You’ll never look at Dilton quite the same way again. I would totally pay money to see this fully-realized movie.

WTF? Wednesday: Three’s Company

If a picture says a thousand words, the World’s Finest covers of yore are entire novels. Faulkner novels. As in, engrossing and deeply troubling.  While this storied title was innocent, action-packed fun for generations of comic book-loving kids, things look very different when viewed from an adult perspective. It’s like when you look at H.R. Pufnstuf clips on YouTube and realize that it’s one big LSD endorsement. Continue reading

WTF? Wednesday: Bottoms Up!

Corporeal punishment was once considered an acceptable form of discipline, and apparently, it wasn’t just for naughty young’uns. During the golden, silver, and even bronze ages, everyone from Superman to uppity dames were getting their bottoms smacked — and some of ‘em liked it. Look, what grown folks do is their business. But the flagrantly sexist images, combined with the shock of seeing Superman bent over Dwight Eisenhower’s lap, is enough to make a person seek therapy. Check out our ass-centric gallery, and keep your shrink’s number handy.

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WTF? Wednesday: Neigh, I Say!

Like the song says: Don't ride the white horse.

DC fans like to joke about how Grant Morrison’s mind-bending stories often seem influenced by, shall we say, exotic substances. But Morrison’s got nothing on the Silver Age scribes who were responsible for some of the nuttiest comic book stories ever printed. One of the best examples? Comet the freakin’ Super-Horse. Continue reading

WTF? Wednesday: Silly Dames In Love

Really?

There’s a whole other commenatary — a book, really — to be written about the phenomenon of romance comics that were published from the 1940s through the ’70s. It’s a bizarre, fascinating, sexist genre that is ripe for examination and analysis. But for now, let’s take a look at one of the grooviest: Marvel Comics’ My Love #14: “It happened at Woodstock!” Continue reading

WTF? Wednesday: You Better Work, Jimmy!

We knew Jimmy Olsen was handy with a camera, but who knew the Daily Planet photojournalist had such a tight drag game? Superman’s loyal friend has quite the history of cross-dressing, and I gotta say, he’s pretty damn good at it. Take this panel from Jimmy Olsen #95, in which he goes undercover in hopes of busting some jewel thieves/racketeers. He’s so convincing that other men sexually harass him! Continue reading

WTF? Wednesday: Boys Will Be Boys

Making fun of vintage Batman and Robin scenarios is like shooting fish in a barrel. With an AK-47. It’s just too easy, and I’m convinced that the writers and artists responsible for these gems knew exactly what they were doing. After all, these were young, creative guys hanging out in smoke-filled studios in New York — the working-class equivalent of “Mad Men.” (“You know what’d be hilarious? What if we showed Dick Grayson crying like a jilted lover because Batman has a new squeeze? Oh, and let’s see how many times we can use the word ‘boner’ before people catch on.”) Continue reading