I have always been a huge fan of all things pin up. The art, the tattoos, the sense of dress, the forties and fifties way of life and the contemporary rockabilly take on pin up styling. However, since DC announced their bombshell covers, I have had nothing but a cautious eye on them. Before even opening the cover, it seemed disturbing to me that all the images we see feature only women. Part of me could not believe that in the year 2014, an entire company could be so unbelievably tone deaf and ignorant that they would create so called sexy, variant, bombshell covers featuring ONLYwomen.
And yet, that is exactly what they have done.
All the covers have been released and all of them are racy female ones. Of course they are. Why do I even bother to hope that they will be any different?
This painfully reaffirms, in fact it screams from the rooftops, how DC perceives both men and women as characters and as people. Their message is clear to me at least that men cannot be “sexy bombshells” and women are and MUST be just that and that alone.
Fifties pinup “bombshell” imagery is a very specific thing and there is nothing wrong with that thing at all, in fact I love it. Neither is there anything wrong with sexiness in general, I love that too. However, to make a push to feature a huge strip of sexy women on all of the covers for an entire series, many who currently don’t even play a role in the universe and many others who play a diminished role at best puts a terrible message out there. Worst of all, not even featuring a single cover with a male character in this same capacity sends a specific, precise and devastating message about how DC views gender and how they feel about the narrow view that they so wrongly assume their readers share. I don't really see myself as a feminist but I personally perceive these covers to be both offensive and limiting to both men and women alike. They define how both sexes are seen and what they can or cannot be and to me that is far from the truth. DC is so afraid of the idea that men can be sexy, despite having one of the hottest playboys of all time - Bruce Wayne - as their pre-eminent leading man, that not a single man gets a bombshell cover. The idea that men cannot be visually suggestive too and that every woman across the board has to be erotically stimulating is so worrying that I can barely comprehend it. Where is the stunning Nightwing/Dick Grayson who has long been the poster boy of sexiness? Is there really no room for just one male character to be sexy? Really DC?
I cannot deny that the covers are not beautiful overall, in fact on balance they are far superior to DC’s regular covers and that in itself is a whole other highly disturbing fact. But, the antiquated, small minded exclusive message they send out far outweighs any empirical beauty that these covers can possess.
Perhaps I should take these covers with the playfully fun perspective that they are clearly intended to be depicted in? If DC was doing better with women more generally then yeah, perhaps I would but their position with women is so weak right now that it is hard to see this as anything except another arrow to the hearts of those that want to love their comics and characters for whom they are and not their bra size or how little they are wearing.
Many of DC’s great female characters are still side lined or relegated to insignificant parts or have been repeatedly sexed up and dumbed down. Plus, despite DC retaining a decent number of monthly female led books (nine to my knowledge), I am finding myself avoiding all of them at this point based on their lack of quality or significant issues with character changes. So, while the numbers are technically there, they are just failing to deliver in the actual content and quality department. Additionally, given the massive scope of what characters they could be featuring (they have the most popular and well known super heroines in the world), I don’t find that grand total of nine books to be that impressive.
Unfortunately, I am not saying anything new here but I still feel the need to add my voice to the chorus and I thought perhaps I could draw a contrast between what I see Marvel and Independent comics doing these days compared to what DC is publishing. A passing glance at the current Marvel vs DC publications featuring women speaks volumes. Check out a selection of the bombshell covers. Very pretty but they are deliberately one note versus a selection of the variety we are seeing at Marvel. Sure, the Marvel ladies are still sexy; but they are superheroes, assassins, spies, teenagers, rock stars and lawyers, goddesses, pilots, scientists and thieves. Meanwhile, the bombshells continue to look like dressed up glamour models.
Come on DC, provide us with a refreshing change. Your female characters are amazing and they and we deserve more than this.