Tag Archives: Marvel

Comics & Girls: We want to kick ass

It has been said that super hero comics are male fantasies. I don’t remember when and I don’t remember where, but it’s true. So when Hope Larson posted the results of a survey on what women want from comics, it was clear that every female who read those results was hoping to see more comics that satisfy female fantasies.

Girls and women want mainstream comics to change to include them. By include them, I mean that Marvel or DC shouldn’t be creating separate comics for the ladies (which is terribly sexist), but to allow female readers everywhere to read a comic without cringing at a super heroine who looks like a Barbie doll who’s gone under the knife or sighing at stories where women take a backseat to a more powerful male hero.

That isn’t to say we want all those male heroes to be replaced by strong women in outfits that don’t make them look like hookers, but that we’d really like more of a team dynamic. More ladies stepping up to the plate would be nice. If we can look up to those ladies and not see someone who looks like her primary function is to make guys horny and isn’t kicking ass as much as she should. Below are my suggestions to help make super-hero comics more accessible without compromising what makes them popular in the first place…

1. Stop with the Porn Star Barbie: I get that guys want their eye-candy, but to be honest it grosses me out (and a lot of other girls I know) to see the way most ladies are drawn in comic-books. It’s actually one of my main complaints about comic book art is that everything is so grossly over-exaggerated and 0ver-stylized. I am not saying that needs to change drastically, but it would really really be great if got to see some thick girls (they don’t have to be fat girls,  some girls are just naturally thick at their healthiest weight) or girls that can fit into bra sizes regularly sold at Kohl’s or someone who wears sneakers with their crime-fighting garb instead of some ridiculous heels. Don’t force everyone to show off their tits either. Let a girl cover her chest up. Maybe then she can show off her J.Lo booty. Maybe there are some male readers who would really like to see some J.Lo booty. And a lot of girls with big butts ARE proud of them. Anyway, you don’t have to change Emma Frost’s bra size. Just stop turning her into some exotic dancer whenever she puts on a costume. It would actually be way nice to see the men toned down too.  The one really nice thing about Kick Ass was that Mark Millar did not force us to believe that Kick Ass was anything more than a normal guy with a normal body type. And let’s face it, few people are instantly attracted to men with monstrous muscles when they walk down the street but intimidated!

2. None of this: If you clicked on that link, you just saw a bunch Disney princesses and other characters in various states of sexy pin-up girl. They are also in various states of vulnerability, with the exception of Maleficent, and undress. Guys, your first reaction may be “so what?” but there are tons of women out there who look at something that has art like this and choke down guilt for buying something so demeaning just because they like the story or a character. It’s like making a girl buy condoms when she would never ever make you buy her tampons or pads. It’s uncomfortable and what if someone notices? Awkward! In this art, these female characters have to pose like models when most of them AREN’T models. Do you ever see the guys pose like that? No. Because that would look (excuse my language) gay.  So they get action shots or power stances when they’re on a cover, but when a woman (or women) gets one, she’s more likely to look like she’s auditioning for Victoria’s Secret.  Where are the ladies’ power stances? Just once, I’d like to see a bunch of women on a cover with no tits pushed out for the world to see!

3. No more sexual violence: Like the above, it makes women in these comics vulnerable. And do we ever see a male super hero become the victim of sexual violence? Uh, no. That would be emasculating. Guys wouldn’t respect Batman anymore if he had to reach for the soap in a prison shower. Even gay characters don’t have to deal with that kind of violence. So why is it O.K. for the ladies to be the subject of that kind of violence? It isn’t no matter how you put it. If you can’t make it happen to both men and women without turning off your readers, THEN DON’T DO IT. Figure out some other way for a character to be humiliated and shamed. It’s not impossible.

4. Treat your ladies like they are your bros: Not every woman in super hero comics has to be so much a part of the team that she only dates/marries/sleeps with/etc. with other super heroes. There are plenty of girls who wouldn’t even think of dating some of their guy friends because they don’t want to ruin that friendship or make it awkward. And where are the great romances between super-heroines and their civilian partners? I can’t think of any that are as well-known or long-lasting as Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson or Clark Kent and Lois. Sure, it’s normal for a group of close friends to have hookups, but that can easily lead to the kind of drama you left back in high school. Do you really want to read about that AGAIN? Wouldn’t it be cool for more super heroes and heroines to find love and acceptance outside the world of capes? Yeah. Wouldn’t it be cool for them to still be totally active as a super hero with super hero and non-super hero friends? Oh yeah.  I want to see more super heroes and heroines just be great friends who plan parties and go drinking with the X-Men AND people outside the JLA.

5. Let the ladies kick ass and take names: It’s not that they can’t, it’s that men so often steal the spotlight. Letting a lady shine every once in awhile will probably make her more popular. Then all the much-ignored super-heroines might be able to become the stars of blockbuster movies and whatnot. That seems like a really great way to monetize the ladies. Either way, if publishers depend on what they know will interest the readers they already have, they lose a lot of opportunities to create interest where there wasn’t any before.

6. Don’t make your super hero comics about romance: Let’s face it, if women were getting into capes because we wanted to squeal about such and such with so and so, we would probably avoid all the issues that didn’t focus on a romance. Ladies like action too! That’s why any devout female reader buys comic books.  We know where to get our romance fix a lot faster and a lot cheaper than collecting tons of issues of comics. That isn’t to say you can’t include romance at all, but include it in such a way that a reader is getting a glimpse of the life outside super hero life. Let them do their laundry on top of going out on a date. Show real life when you’re showing real life! Super heroes need to make dinner too! In the end, you should be creating your super hero comics for everyone. Not just women, not just men, not just children. Expand your market as much as you can and you’re more likely to get more readers. It can’t hurt to try. What have you got to lose? Readers you didn’t have before anyway?

By starting to cater to more than just grown men and children, comic book publishing companies will be fulfilling not just male fantasies, but female ones as well.  Not just women, but catering minorities or other ethnicities will probably have more of an impact than most publishers would think. I know the way the Jewish community works, anything that involves Jewish people some way somehow gets talked about in Jewish papers worldwide. I doubt other communities are much different. If a comic book company does it right, they’ll get good press with an untapped audience. People will probably buy their stuff just because it’s got an Armenian or Cambodian or transgendered super hero or heroine. Why? Because  people will think it’s cool that someone in the mainstream media is finally paying attention to THEM.

What we have now is a world of fans that would love growth, but an industry that relies too much on a world of fans who are stuck in their ways. Just look at the comments of this interview with Hope Larson, who did her survey in order to better reach more people who would want to read her comics. The misogyny, hatred and arrogance of some of the commentators will just make super hero comics a dying breed because people will start moving over to where their fantasies are satisfied.

It’s time to get with it. Starting with the ladies and working our way through everyone else.

Another great read on the subject:

The Problem with Representations of Women in Comics – Jezebel.com

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Ten REALLY GOOD Ways to Buy and Not Steal Manga

There’s been a lot of debate going on lately about plagiarism, piracy and scanlations in the manga world. No doubt you’ve heard of the recent trouble Nick Simmons has gotten himself into. With everyone up in arms and the conversations starting to turn to the feelings of entitlement amongst fans who feel it is right to steal, I came up with a few ideas on how to not steal manga and ruin things for the rest of us who actually do buy manga.

1. Go to the library:
Some people have some misguided ideas about how libraries work and think that it’s akin to reading scanlations. WRONG. At some point the library either had to buy the book or it was donated by someone else who had bought the book. Also, if a book is worn out from frequent use, the library will (more likely than not) buy a new copy to replace the old one. Most, if not all, libraries are free. All you have to do is sign up and you can borrow manga for free! FREE!!!!!!!

2. Make Friends, Borrow Their Manga:

Again, unless your friends are kleptos, they bought the manga at some point, so it’s not like scanlations either. Not only does this method allow you to read manga for free (FREE, YOU GUYS!!!), but it encourages you to read manga that you may not have read before because your friends suggested it or something. And it’s always good to have friends, especially ones with similar interests. If you’re still not convinced, look at your mom. Does she lend and borrow books from her friend? If so, you see anyone getting upset over it? Nope. Why’s that? Because this method of sharing allows word of mouth to spread and word of mouth is a GOOD thing for publishers.

3. Watch for deals and sales at retailers that stock manga:

I buy a LOT of manga. I have to save money somewhere, right? Right. So I sign up for every reward benefit thing at every store I go to that sells manga. Barnes & Noble gives members a little bit off each purchase and coupons; Borders often has coupons or buy 4, get 1 free deals; the local comic book shop in my hometown takes $1 off every $10 spent; RightStuf has amazing deals every single week and a well-stocked bargain bin. Those are only a few examples, but most every retailer uses such tactics because they know you’re more likely to come and buy one or two books from them if you have a coupon in your hand.

4. Contests and giveaways:

Let’s start with TOKYOPOP because I know them best. They keep giving away free copies of their new releases if you follow them closely on twitter. There’s plenty of other contests through their website. DMP also gives away free previews online manga to their followers on a regular basis. I’ve seen a number of manga blogs do the same thing. I’ve already gotten a few manga this way myself. VERY USEFUL. Even if I don’t enjoy the manga, I’ve read something and kept myself from being bored for awhile. Again: FREEEEEEEEEEEE!

5. Publisher-endorsed online manga:

Publishers are getting the hang of the whole online manga thing. Viz has it’s SigIkki website, as well as Rin-ne and Arata: the Legend. I know TOKYOPOP is already releasing a few chapters of manga here and there (most notably Re:Play) and is looking interestedly into getting digital rights to put more online. Netcomics has everything online for pretty low prices. So does DMP. Vertical has previews up (the glory of their print editions really demand that you purchase the hard copies, however.) Even Marvel is putting more comics online. Not all of these online manga are free, but most of the prices are pretty reasonable in my opinion.

6. Used Book Stores:

There are a number of used manga book stores in my area, but I’m lucky because there are large populations of Asians in Los Angeles and Orange County. Still, when I lived in my small college town, I was able to find used manga every once in awhile in the many used bookstores the town held. You might have to be pretty diligent, but I think it’s worth it for cheap manga.

7. Go to Cons:

Cons are great places to buy manga because retailers always have great deals going on so you’ll buy THEIR manga. In fact, I just went to Long Beach Comic Expo a few Saturdays ago and got some manga for $1. That’s an AMAZINGLY GOOD DEAL. Sure, it was a little hard to find something I was interested in, but my friends who got there before me kind of cleaned the place out of stuff I really wanted. I also got 40% some hardcover graphic novels! At Anime Los Angeles, I bought so much manga, the retailer gave me an even better discount than posted and gave me a box to carry it all in. Any manga fan who knows where their towel is will be walking out of a con with armfuls of deeply discounted manga.

8. Learn Japanese:

This is the most expensive and time-consuming way to buy and not steal manga, but it has other non-manga related benefits. If you are around the average age of manga and anime fans (high school- or college-age), then you could actually do with a foreign language in your repertoire. A lot of colleges and certain jobs really really like bi- or multi-lingual people, so it’ll increase the chances of you getting hired in the recession. Hey! You could even get a job in the manga publishing industry. Wouldn’t that be a dream?

9. Turn off your computer:

Being on the computer a lot is actually really bad for your health. It deteriorates your eyes and causes a lot of joint problems in your hands. I know so many people who are slowly going blind or have carpal tunnel from too much computer time. These are pretty young people too. So you might as well save a little bit on your health care bills by turning off the computer and reading a print edition of something.

10. Feed me:

By buying manga you are essentially allowing me to eat. Since you’re reading this blog, I assume that you might care whether or not I live or die. Since I’m currently working in the American manga publishing industry, buying manga (TOKYOPOP manga, but I won’t judge if you buy Viz) inevitably puts food on my table. Now just think of all the hundreds of other employees like me who publish  manga in order to buy their daily bread. If all of  you keep reading scanlations all the time instead of buying the manga, the companies we work for will STOP PUBLISHING MANGA. Sure you may think that’s a good thing, but just wait until you want to read your favorite series and the scanlation group has decided to disband, leaving you in the dark. And what if no other groups take it up? Huh? Well, guess what: publishers (YES, EVEN TOKYOPOP) try REALLY REALLY hard not to do that to you. Yeah.

I’m not going to lie: I don’t really have problems with anyone reading scanlations of unlicensed series. That’s one of the very few nice things about scanlations, you can read some manga that aren’t licensed yet or might never be licensed in the U.S. BUT IT’S NOT COOL TO STEAL FROM PEOPLE WHO ARE JUST TRYING TO MAKE A LIVING. (Trust me, very few people in the industry are raking in the dough.) If you insist on doing so, I’m going to haunt you when I die from starvation. Just so you know. No high horse here. I don’t think I’ve ever read a licensed scanlation, except for one time when I read one in order potentially promote the legit licensed version because I was short on time. I felt so dirty afterward, I definitely don’t want to do THAT again.

If anyone has any other suggestions on how to buy and not steal manga, let’s hear them!

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Guest Post: Sam Kusek’s V-Day Gift Guide for Comic-Loving Lovers

Whether you are in a romantic relationship or are just single and loving it, Valentines Day can be an important day for all of us. It’s good to let people know how to you feel about them, showing them that you care deeply. Heck, I still get a card from my grandma every year! For those of us who are heavily invested in comics and manga though, we’d like to add our own personal touch to our gifts and good wishes! I know that I love introducing my friends to manga & comics, helping them understand the art form and I can’t think of a better opportunity to give out some good books!

1. Red Snow by Susumu Katsumata; Published Drawn & Quarterly – This anthology of short stories about life in rural Japan and its mythical folklore is sure to impress any history buff you may have in your circle!

2. Pluto by Naoki Urasawa; Published by Viz – I can’t recommend this series enough. Not only is it a stunning reinterpretation of a great sci-fi tale, it is emotionally touching! A must read for anyone with a soft spot for robots!

3. Swallowing the Earth by Osamu Tezuka; Published by Digital Manga Publishing – Even with all the crime dramas on television, you can’t beat a classic noir story! Tezuka keeps us on our toes at every turn as he explores the complex relationships between men, money, woman and gold!

4. GoGo Monster by Taiyo Matsumoto; Published by Viz – Gogo Monster may not be the most straightforward story (it really makes you think and rethink your opinions), but its certainly got its charm! If you have any artsy friends or someone looking for a “deeper” meaning in life, pass this along to them.

5. Cyborg 009 by Shotaro Ishinomori; Published by Tokyopop – Thought hard to find, this series really is worth searching for. Starting its original run in the 60’s, Cyborg 009 deals a lot with race relations and unity, as nine strangers from around the globe have their lives changed forever as they are changed into machines of war!

6. Nana by Ai Yazawa; Published by Viz – The quintessential girls comic. The story of two utterly different girls who share the same name and pretty soon, the same apartment. It’s an amazing series and a great read for any girl who is going through some big life changes.

7. Cat Eyed Boy by Kazuo Umezu; Published by Viz – If you are a horror fan or know someone who likes a good scare, look no further. CEB is a great example of all Japanese horror, getting under and into the skin of the reader. Not only that, but the main character is cute enough to hit a warm spot with anyone.

8. Earth X by Jim Kreuger and Alex Ross; Published by Marvel – Marvel has some great characters under their belt, but how great can they be when they are put to the ultimate test of just being a face in the crowd? Check out this exciting first of 4 books that makes you question everything you thought you knew about Marvel.

9. Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Perez; Published by DC – In a similar vein to Earth X, this book changed the DC universe forever, giving birth to some new great heroes and eras but bringing death to some of the most beloved. It’s an essential read for understanding the DC universe today.

10. Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud; Published by Harper Perennial – Finally, this is for anyone who truly wants to make comics a profession, whether as an artist, marketer or whatever. McCloud is a visionary, touching upon perception and the way the human mind works to explain everything you could ever think of (and not think of) about comics all across the world!

Thanks and I hope that you and your loved ones find some good things to read!

~Sam Kusek


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