Must Be the Unstable Molecules

Here we have the cover to the upcoming Fantastic Four #550. If you don't recognize the emphasis on posing rather than storytelling and the simply dreadful grasp of human anatomy, this image was drawn by Michael Turner.

The thing about the rampant sexism constantly displayed by Marvel and DC is that it isn't just the big things - it isn't just Mary Jane doing Spidey's laundry, it isn't just Marvel putting out tentacle-rape hentai, and then saying, "Whut? What's wrong with it?" It's not just the "fangirl" outrage of the moment. It's the little things, too. It's the little things that happen in nearly every single comic that people just accept and never even comment on.

Look at this cover. One might say it's an FF group shot. I say that it's a lovingly-rendered Sue Richards ass shot that happens to have some other characters in the background, too.

The standard fanboy response when someone mentions absurdities like these is that the male bodies are just as sculpted and idealized as the female. That's broadly true, and more or less as it should be. Reed Richards, absurd as it seems for a character who spends nearly every free moment in his lab, should look like a Greek statue, because he's a hero. Sue Richards should be idealized as well - though it seems reasonable that she should look a little more Brandi Chastain than Molly Sims. Here's a question, though - would you ever see a cover with Reed thrusting his ass at the reader while Sue stands in the background? Of course not, and therein lies the problem.

Yes, yes, I know. "Comics are made by and for men, yadda yadda yadda, I have a million excuses for maintaining the status quo rather than aspiring for something better, etc. etc. ad nauseam ad infinitum..." I've said it before (as have others) and I'll say it again - there is nothing inherent to the comics medium or to the super-hero genre that makes it inherently "by men" or "for men." Yes, it's a boys' club currently, but just because that's the way it is doesn't mean that's the way it has to be. So how to improve the situation?

Well, not hiring Michael Turner would be a start.

Memo to Mr. Turner: It seems you've never seen a person wearing a pair of bicycle shorts, or worn a pair yourself, so here's some artistic advice. Spandex is form-fitting, yes. Spandex does not, however, ride all the way up the ass of the wearer. Nor does it cling so tightly to the body that we should be able to see every tiny line on Sue's back or the perfect outline of her entire breast as you've so carefully drawn. This drawing of Sue Richards looks like she's heading out to save the universe dressed in blue body paint. Not that much more impractical than spandex, but less likely, methinks.

Let me reiterate that there's nothing wrong with cheesecake. Jim Balent will readily admit that one of his major intents with his Tarot - Witch of the Black Rose comics is cheesecake/soft-core porn. I won't read it, but he's being honest about what he's doing, so I've got no problem with it. But cheesecake images aren't really the intent of Fantastic Four, or Justice League, or any of the main output of Marvel or DC, are they?

I wouldn't find this troublesome in the slightest if Marvel were to come right out and say, "We're not interested in selling comics to girls." Fine, fair enough. Odd and limiting, but honest. But they keep saying that they're interested in attracting female readers. C'mon, Joey Q - do you really think a potential new female reader is going to see this cover and say, "Yeah, that's something I want to read!"? Yeah, me neither.

This is far from the most offensive thing Marvel's ever done. In fact, it's not really offensive at all - just strange and baffling. This isn't a big outrage or an enormous problem by itself. But sometimes, it's the little things that count the most.