Back to IndieWire

History Lesson: Female Superheroes Were Not Created to Excite Men

History Lesson: Female Superheroes Were Not Created to Excite Men

Comic book writer B. Clay Moore is urging fans of comics to revisit the history of female superheroes and their costumes. 

Best known for the “Hawaiian Dick” series, Moore wrote a Facebook post (which he later expanded for a piece in Comic Book Resources) that focused on the misconception that female superheroes were created for the sole purpose of providing eye candy to heterosexual male readers. “There’s this conventional wisdom in place that female superheroes were always designed with titillation in mind,” wrote Moore. “Forget the strange, psychosexual implications inherent in that idea. The fact is that most female superheroes up through the ’70s (maybe into the ’80s) were created to attract female readers, not to pander to boys.”

Moore uses the example of Batgirl to illustrate his point. The character was introduced by DC and the producers behind the “Batman” TV show as a means of drawing more female viewers. He later identifies Ms. Marvel as a clumsy acknowledgement of the feminist movement of the ’70s — “even borrowing part of the character’s name from Gloria Steinem’s quite liberal and explicitly feminist Ms. magazine.”

So what went wrong? How did so many female characters end up hypersexualized caricatures? According to Moore, “with the shrinking of the broader demographic, and with comics moving primarily into comic-book shops, publishers (and creators) started shifting the focus to pandering to a male-dominated readership, and that’s when costumes and drawings of women really started to become over-the-top sales pitches to raging boners.” 

In Moore’s estimation, the current trend of trying to appeal to a broader readership — i.e., one that acknowledges that very nearly half of all comic-book readers are female — is not a new approach, but rather a renewed interest in serving a female market. He suggests that, instead of complaining about there being fewer boobs and butts in the medium, comic aficionados should rejoice: “What’s happening now is a good thing for comics, because it’s a return to the idea that the medium doesn’t exist for the enjoyment of a single, narrow demographic.” A-fucking-men. 

Now seems like an appropriate time to mention that the female Thor is outselling her male predecessor by 30 percent. And yet, DC and Marvel have planned 18 movies about superdudes for the next few years — and only 2 about superheroines

[via Comic Book Resources

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: News and tagged ,