Badger Pod Nerd Cast 16: Miss Impossible! Navigating the Minefield of Writing Female Characters


Superfemmes! How to or not to write or draw women in comics!

Comic books, like many other mediums of expression, have quite the checkered past. Comics, at least in the mainstream, have been used as propaganda during World War II in the 1930s and 1940s, were under attack by psychiatrists and politicians for corrupting American youth in the 1950s, entered the Atomic Age with wide-eyed wonder and self-aware sophistication in the 1960s, and became an ever-expansive and inclusive medium of storytelling in the 1970s to today.

The stories in comics today have become more nuanced and complex, characters have grown and changed with the times, and the art has higher standards than ever before. Additionally, comics have become more inclusive and diverse in terms of storytelling devices and characters. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find a demographic that isn’t served by comics. So why are feminists so angry? As a comic artist and writer myself, I have come to notice strong feminist trends rising in comic book media. Art and writing of any female characters is put under the feminist electron microscope in search of signs of the bacteria known as Patriarchus misogyneous.

When they find it, and they often do, they blog on tumblr, complain in “articles,” and even bully artists and publishers to make changes or else. Citing feminist buzz terms like the “male gaze” and “female objectification,” they shame many who would argue against them into silence, or they censor them outright. Sometimes they do the reverse, seeing some sexy heroines as “empowering” and “strong without being a man with boobs.” At first, this seems like a massive contradiction. How can female characters with similar characteristics be at times both empowering and degrading to feminists? We know there are multiple schools of thought on what feminism means, and many ideas are at odds with each other. I find, however, there does seem to be a constant theme. If the comics are made by men, or made by women who do not subscribe to feminist ideas, it is open season. In fact, feminists have argued that male artists and writers have no right or ability to appropriate women and girls in their stories at all, even if the writers and artists ARE male feminists.

For hopeful comics writers and artists like myself, this creates a climate wherein it is extremely dangerous, or dare I say impossible, to write and illustrate stories with female characters that will not offend feminist dogma in one way or another. As a writer, you can easily end up being the latest shitlord misogynist on the pages of XO Jane or the Mary Sue because you wrote your fictional character too feminine or put her in a vulnerable position, even for a moment, which makes her into a damsel, which should never happen according to feminists—unless they’re the ones doing it. On the other hand, make her too efficient and capable and they will say “she’s just a man with breasts and indoor plumbing!”

As an artist, it can be even worse, your work can very easily end up on Escher Girls or Less Tits and Ass, popular tumblr blogs that had at one time criticized bad artwork with the focus on female characters but has since grown far beyond that to criticize very talented and prolific artists of every stripe, searching for new ways to be offended.

Make no mistake: these feminists have ended careers with their antics. So long as this continues, female characters in comics media will be troublesome if not impossible to write or illustrate. For men, that is.

Check us out this coming Tuesday for our live show!


Art produced by kukuruyo:


Brian Martinez
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About the author

Brian Martinez

Part time student, part time concierge and full time illustrator all wrapped up in one creative package. Looking for opportunities to use my aptitudes, talents and competence to serve a worthy company, or start my own. Dude. Roots in Chicago. Thinker and go-getter.

By Brian Martinez

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