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Shoshana Kessock's Wonder Woman Comics and the Violation of the Amazons
james_nicoll

Welcome to the Amazon culture, newly rewritten to include rape, murder and slavery.

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.

strictly speaking they went from Amazons Attack! to more in line with the myths of hyper-misogynistic hellenic greece... which is an improvement.

I know. *groans* I know.

Why does the idea of, "hey, let's make it darker and edgier!" always seem to be the first one to pop into the minds of people trying to reinvent a title? Is that the only thing they can think of? More sex and gore and a lot of vagueness and menacing hints about things that never really solidify? I'm still bitter about The All-New Atom... >_>

If we are to accept that all the mythologies embedded in DC Comics ought to go grittier, then what’s next? Kryptonian cattle mutilations and probing in all the wrong places?

Hah! Bloody well wouldn't surprise me...

Because carebear glitter doesn't sell except to the Disney Channel demographic.

There's no middle ground between "Hey, rape and murder and the world's dark and pathetic" and "carebear glitter"?

I write much more on the glitter side, and I get a lot of people telling me "thank GOD, I was getting tired of the gloom-and-doom".

Have you seen the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fandom?

My Little Ponies: Friendship Is Magic, which admittedly is edgier but not darker than the original, seems to be doing quite well outside the Disney demo. And I note that Sailor Moon has held three spots in Bookscan's GN bestseller list since November, which is equal to the best month DC had.

Not the same thing at all. (On top of MLP and BSSM being outliers.)

My Little Ponies seated *itself* at the kids table, and attention from the adults table is gravy. Comics have been trying to pry themselves out of that perceptual ghetto for decades - for them, the adult fan is the mainstay and younger adults (not YA) the base they seek to woo.

Looking at the most recent Bookscan bestseller list for graphic novels, Sailor Moon doesn't appear to be an outlier at all. Of the top twenty, only five are what I'd consider darker & edgier titles, and four of those are in the Walking Dead series, which, you may've noticed, is receiving a boost from the new season starting. The rest is dominated by Sailor Moon, Naruto, Negima, Bakuman, etc, with a handful of American titles that aren't in the darker & edgier camp either.

As for Ponies, everything I've read says Lauren Faust intended to make a more mature show that could attract adult viewers, where mature =/= rape and murder.

Anything that isn't shock full of rape and horror is automatically kiddie stuff? Seriously now?

"Carebear Glitter" is the name of my next band. And Gary is not a member.

I am unconvinced. While I agree that the tale as related is incredibly improbable (WW never notices all the pregnancies around her? No gay sailors radio for help when the spears come out?), that just makes her an idiot for not immediately challenging the story based on those grounds.

Comic book fans - they want everything to change, yet they want nothing to change. And don't you dare touch the character's Golden Age except to fix the parts that sucked about it, or were illogical, or were plot holes... except of course for the suck, illogic, and plot holes that defined the Golden Age. Don't touch those!

Yeah, it couldn't be that people are upset that the new origin story has Wonder Woman the unwitting representative of a bunch of nasties, and she was apparently too clueless to notice for her entire life. Or in general that the DC reboot seems to be bringing back the more annoying elements of the "Extreeeemeeeee '90s!!!!!"

I'm not a comic book fan of any sort, yet I'm disappointed with this change. ANY character being remade into a representative of a rapist/murder culture saddens me, but especially since Wonder Woman was one of a small handful of strong women in what is regarded as an already ridiculously misogynistic genre.

Oh well, there went another few thousand readers - I know that the younger fanboys will lap it up, but there's a reason I don't buy many comics new these days, and DC just reinforced it.

So... In the period between roughly 1985 and 1992, Dark and Gritty became the thing for comics. And, being in Middle School and then High School, I ate it with a big old spoon, because twelve year old me through that Frank Miller + murder + rape + Jim Lee was "adult" and "showed the world how it really is."

But it's now 2012. I have a bald spot, a doctoral degree, and a bursa on my right shoulder that often aches. There are people with BAs who've entered the workforce who hadn't yet been conceived when Grim n' Gritty was the Next Big Thing.

Is the comics industry really that creatively spent? Is it doomed to an every-dwindling share of comic-and-game store sales to Cat Piss Men who leer uncomfortably at the pubescent Magic players? Is the best we can hope for for comics to stay alive as a sort of loss leader for splashy summer blockbusters.

Seems to be. Don't forget that Jim Lee is one of the bigwigs at DC at the moment, and had major input into "The New 52" as they're calling the current reboot.

It's really the entire entertainment industry, regardless of genre. It's an overall cultural shift toward portraying things as "real" even when they are most certainly not real: Reality shows, of course, but also so-called unplugged music and the stripped-down music Rick Rubin produces (and all the faux Zen that goes along with the publicity); documentaries that merely repeat Doom Doomed Doomity Doomed for 90 minutes; a bazillion YA novels that are filled with rape-murder-dystopia and moderate variations thereof.

That bleak equals real to our culture is an odd thing, something I don't know enough to really discuss beyond seeing gajillions of examples of it. My shock is that the trend has lasted so long. The 1990s I guess had a brief period of less dark entertainment, but that ended right around the fall of 2001, for obvious reasons. You'd think we would be moving into a new entertainment paradigm by now.

Maybe Disney?

(Anonymous)

2012-04-07 07:09 am (UTC)

Say what you like about Team Rodent, they have a consistent record of protecting the long-term value of their intellectual properties, and of knowing the importance of getting new young fans.

And they've owned Marvel Comics for a couple of years now.

What (if any) difference this has made I have no idea, but would be interested in hearing about.

They *are* serious about taking over the book biz...oh, never mind.

I've been reading it over a friend's shoulder. It's an interesting way to reinvent the story, and some of the ideas are good. But yeah, it's going into the same old my-backstory-is-dark territory now. It's just boring, lazy narrative tropes at this point. I object to being bored by rape.

How well does that fit with the classical myths about amazons?

The stuff about the Amazon's reproductive habits takes one aspect of a variant of the original story, and treats it as central. And also makes it darker, I believe. I don't think the original Amazons were ever rumored to throw their male babies into the sea.

In classical myth, there was an all-male tribe, the Gargareans, who were the fathers of the Amazon's children. The Amazon's male children were sent to the Gargareans to be raised. Some myths, though, have the Amazons simply abandoning male children to die in the wilderness - not an uncommon fate for unwanted children in classical Greece, of course.

(Some myths identified the Scythians as the decendants of the Amazon's male children. The Scythians were possibly the inspiration for the Amazon myths in the first place, so things kind of come full circle there...)

The Amazons were also described as taking slaves from time to time - but generally, they were described as keeping them as servants, not killing them out of hand.

So, yeah, not exactly as nasty as this version. That's right - DC comics, presenting a more misogynistic portrayal of the Amazons than classical Greece!

And it's still the least creepy of the New 52.

Wait, no, I forgot about Action Comics.

Dear Geoff Johns: Brian Azzarello and Grant Morrison are your only writers who I'd even consider letting babysit my kids.


[peeved comic book lady fan rant mode ON]

The most depressing thing about this? Is all the DC comics fans who aren't bothered by it. I can understand *not* being a comics fan and not caring, or saying "but it's closer to the original myths, right," but... Really? You're all okay with it. Ugh.

You really wonder, would they *not care* if Peter Parker's Uncle Ben was suddenly revealed, in a reboot, to have been a serial child molester, and Aunt May covered up for him for all those years? That's why Peter didn't have any friends, because all the neighborhood families knew to keep their kids away from creepy Uncle Ben. It's canon now, deal with it!

Or (as I've seen elsewhere) what if Ma and Pa Kent were, now, in this New DCU, KKK members or meth dealers, and Clark had just somehow never realized it during all the years they raised him. And if you object, then you must want comics to be dumb fluffy kiddie stories, there's no other possible objection to be made-- not "It would be illogical for Clark never to have realized this, unless he's a moron," or "Clark being brought up by kind, decent people is the rock-solid basis of his entire characterization and always has been..."

And it's not that people hate any change and it's not that people want the Amazons to be flawless ideals. You didn't see this kind of fuss when Diana learned that there had been an Amazon Civil War, with wrong on both sides, and her people had balkanized their nation and then there was cultural/ethnic strife between the two groups when they met up again. Because that's realistic, that's something people learn as they grow up about their families and their people, it's a good story for Diana to learn that her society isn't as blameless as she always thought. So, no, nobody is saying the Amazons should never do anything wrong and Themyscira should always be the Kumbaya Island of Awesome Perfect Lesbians who are Better Than You.

But it's a huge fucking leap from "The Amazons, a country just like any country, whose leaders and citizens don't always live up to their stated moral and ethical ideals," to "The Amazons: every single one of them is a rapist. EVERY SINGLE ONE. They are ALL rapists and murderers. And they are ALL ok with directly benefiting from selling children-- their *own* children-- into slavery, and living off of child labor. *Every single Amazon* is a rapist, murderer and slaver, and that's where Diana comes from." REALLY? Really. Okay then.

That one paragraph is making me imagine Orson Scott Card's Spider-Man.


*makes a face* Not before I've had my coffee!

Card's Ultimate Iron Man was real, and, from what I've heard, weirder than that.

Well people recently, comicbook people but also real life people, did throw a fit when Superman renounced his American citizenship.

(Pardon me for a moment, while I turn into That Annoying Kid Who Repeats Everything You Say.)

Ahem.

And it's not that people hate any change and it's not that people want Americans to be flawless ideals. You didn't see this kind of fuss when Clark learned that there had been an American Civil War, with wrong on both sides, and his people had balkanized their nation and then there was cultural/ethnic strife between the two groups when they met up again. Because that's realistic, that's something people learn as they grow up about their families and their people, it's a good story for Clark to learn that his society isn't as blameless as he'd always thought. So, no, nobody is saying the Americans should never do anything wrong and Smallville should always be a Mayberry R.F.D. full of gentle folksy Salt Of The Earth types who always think you think you're Better Than Them.

But it's a huge fucking leap from "American, a country just like any country, whose leaders and citizens don't always live up to their stated moral and ethical ideals," to "The Americans: every single one of them is a rapist. EVERY SINGLE ONE. They are ALL rapists and murderers. And they are ALL ok with directly benefiting from selling children-- their *own* children-- into slavery, and living off of child labor. *Every single American* is a rapist, murderer and slaver, and that's where Clark comes from." REALLY? Really. Okay then.


??? Superman didn't renounce his citizenship because he hated America, or as some sort of act of criticism of anything about America. He did it because he went and peacefully showed his support for Iranian protesters and democracy, and the government of Iran took that as aggression from *America* and therefore an act of war. So he only had one choice, in order to show that his actions weren't representative of American foreign policy. Everyone was all "boo, Clark hates America now," but, what were his choices in that situation? Let the Iranian protesters die? Or let Iran and America go to war?

Honestly, it would have made sense for me if he *had* chosen to do it, instead of basically being forced to make a hard choice by the circumstances he'd created with all the best intentions. For someone like Clark who actually speaks every Earth language and has spent time in every country in the world, one imagines that national boundaries would start seeming kind of arbitrary and pointless, like if I had an emotional connection to only the northwest quarter of my living room, and didn't count any of the rest of my place as "home." But that would be a much longer and more complicated story, and not the kind of story mainstream superhero comics are really interested in. (I mean, no one seems to care that whoever is Green Lantern at the moment is a space cop who's taking orders from aliens. Who made Earth part of some alien territory and sent alien cops here to police us, anyway?)

Really, if it had been more than a five minutes' fuss, it was one of those stories that would have been *great*, if it had actually been allowed to organically evolve and have repercussions throughout the world it was set in. I mean, realistically, I think most people would probably be more comfortable if superheroes with god-like, globe-spanning powers *weren't* allied with one nation or another, in the same way and for the same reasons that the Chief of Police isn't supposed to publicly air their specific political views or affiliations. And it could have spawned a lot of interesting stories about the relationship between the government and superheroes-- how powerful does a superhero have to be, and how much meddling outside national borders do they have to do, before people start thinking they ought to become a "citizen of the world" and sign up to work for the UN? How might a government try to restrain or control or militarize their local superhero to prevent this? Etc.

But, given that the DCU's reset button is practically permanently being mashed, obviously that didn't/couldn't happen.

Also (as beaten to death elsewhere), Superman didn't have any American citizenship to give up anyway. Clark Kent is an American citizen, with the records and paperwork to prove it; Superman, no.

I read the issue and saw nothing that suggests rape. Definitely mass murder, child abandonment, and possible slavery (the male Amazons clearly don't see themselves as slaves -- that could be brainwashing, though). There's no doubt it's a dark and ugly story, and my feelings are very mixed on it...I do like the extensive use of mythology in the series. But no rape.

Having sex with people with the preexisting (and undisclosed) intent to murder them immediately after they're done is, at the least, a form of sexual predation that is close enough to rape that it's a distinction without a difference.


It's the kind of thing I would argue falls under "informed consent," yeah. (Also, maybe I am just underestimating how hot the Amazons are and how lonely men get on a boat, but really, no boat full of guys, in all the *thousands and thousands* of years that the Amazons have been pulling this scam, ever got suspicious and said "No thanks, push off?" Either they are using force when necessary, or some kind of magic, or they just kill boat after boat of guys until they find the most desperate/stupid/gullible ones-- which doesn't seem likely to me, as the whole point of this is to produce the next generation of Amazons...)