Catwoman Illustration: Is It Offensive?

In case it’s not already clear, we like sexy art and well-done cheesecake. Superheroes (and antiheroes) are hot, and in the DCU, Catwoman is definitely in the top five — the dangerous curves, the skin-tight black suit, the purring. Selina owns her sexuality, and when she’s near Batman, the panels practically crackle with tension.

However, Greg Horn’s BatCat illustration recently set off a debate about when art goes from provocative to offensive. I’m the first to admit that there’s a fine line, and that tastes are very personal. (Our shirtless Batman/Catman poll illustration drew some criticism, for example.) Plus, few kids are reading comics anymore, so the chances of Junior seeing this are slim. In general, I’d rather an artist go over the top than play it safe. Horn has done some lovely work. However, the crouched, ass-in-the-air shot in front of Batman (complete with licking!) disgusted both of us. Catwoman doesn’t have to go there to set off fire alarms. Can you imagine the roles being reversed? I can’t.

What do you think? Is this a silly tempest in a teapot or another disturbing example of blatant sexism in comics? (If nothing else, the image prompted a very funny response from artist Phil Noto.)

21 thoughts on “Catwoman Illustration: Is It Offensive?

  1. The Catwoman depiction is a little over the top, not much subtlety there…but as you said, there is a market of folks who like more sexually charged art, if for nothing more than nerd-boners and eye-candy. However, my first impression was that it came across as pretty degrading.

    Sans the milk carton, I really like his drawing of Batman though.

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  2. Wow, there is such a strong sense of violence just under the surface of those pictures that it is kind of creepy. This isnt even about playful sexuality. Its simply about degradation.

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  3. I like your test: can you imagine the roles being reversed? It won’t always work because let’s face it, Batman is totally incapable of being as overtly sexual as Catwoman even if he was naked, but that pose and all of the other things going on is a bit too much for my taste.

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  4. This is just a tad sad and sets things back a bit.
    Selina is a sexy and sexual character but she is at her best when she owns her sexuality and the gaze, not when it is cheaply foisted upon her.
    Nothing but Jank here, and you know that we would never see a drawing like this with the male character in this position.

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  5. I have to ask, why is this a tough call?
    Say for example that it was a drawing of John Stewart being subjugated by Batman, would not people find that racist?
    And why does it make any iota of difference if this rendition of Selina looks like Halle Berry to some people? i have read that some have thought that it looks like her, and I have to ask why do they bring it up when the subject at hand is the way that Catwoman is being depicted?
    Yes people have various sexual tastes and appetites but why is the sexual subjugation of women still so acceptable in a mainstream format such as this? We have to consider that kids see this not just adults and even then that does not matter sometimes.

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    • in a way modelling her after Halle Berry makes it worse, doesn’t it? It’s bad enough to show a generalized image of a faceless person, but tying the character being depicted in that manner to an actual person? That definitely crosses a line somewhere.

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      • There’s definitely an audience for this genre, no doubt, and we are all adults here (some moreso than others). Like many of the other hobbies, obsessions, or fetishes to choose from, everybody’s got a right to whatever, provided they don’t infringe on someone else’s rights. It just ain’t my bag, baby.

        And from one instigator to another, you make stirring up shit a true art form my dear.

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      • Yes there always is another point of view, that is a given, but when does one stand and say “hey this is not on!”, “why are we putting up with this?!”, “how is this truly fair?!”, “why is okay to subjugate?!”. Yes we all have points of view, we all have rights, but I for one agree with Craig, that my rights, desires and wants should not and never should infringe on someone else’s in a depreciative, and negative way.
        As if saying that something is not on, because of certain reasons makes one a prude, or small minded in some way. Sometimes it is necessary and wise to consider the “other”.
        Thanks for a thriving debate E, and to everyone for their comments!
        Love it here with you E & V and everyone else! :)

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  6. Hey E and V someone asked on your Facebook page just what context this drawing was being presented? Do you know?

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  7. I’m not up in arms or anything, but yeah, this is offensive and degrading and really cheapens the image of Catwoman. I’m all for sexy, even crazy sexy, but this isn’t sexy anymore– it just makes me uncomfortable. Also, you raise a really good point about the reverse image bringing to light the underlying creepiness of it… all in all, I can’t believe a DC professional produced this– to me, I hate to say it but– it looks like THAT type of “fanart.”

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  8. Ugh, those are both just gross… I’ve actually been having a discussion regarding female submission on another site, but these are just… ugh. They aren’t sexy, they’re disturbing. It’s that whole trope of reducing assertive, strong, sexy women to nothing more than subjugated T&A, and it’s disgusting.

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  9. Victoria, I agree, but I am going to play Devil’s Advocate a teensy bit here. You mention the “trope of reducing assertive, strong, sexy women to nothing more than subjugated T&A.” By your specificity, you in turn imply that it is therefore less offensive (though not acceptable) to reduce mousy, quiet, unassertive women into nothing more than subjugated T&A. Isn’t it enough to just say, “Geez, that’s pretty f-ing demeaning to women?”

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  10. It’s not Catwoman, it’s She-Cat just to make that clear. Offensive? I really don’t know. You know what your getting with Greg Horn. Women with porn star looks on their faces! I am not surprised at all. Artistically it is in poor taste and is gruffly uncreative. I wonder if Greg Horn is trying to see how far he can go? I have met him and will say this: He loves the attention he gets from what he calls “Feminists” who are offended by his work, and then feels validated by the fact that some fangirls do love his work. Personally, I wish he would just stick to drawing NBA players :)

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  11. I LOVE this print, and i find it very funny. I am buying it. keep giving it publicity. Seriously, it is art. It can be offensive, thats the beauty of art…. Get over yourselves, if you dont like it, just dont buy it. I just dont understand why people would make a big deal over it. get over yourself. Im a woman and i think it is very provocative and wonderful! And im gonna buy it for me not my boyfriend….. he wishes HA

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