Genderswapped, sexualized comic art

The Hawkeye Initiative is a Tumblr-wide fan-art genderswap extravaganza in which fan-artists redraw highly sexualized images of female superheros, swapping in male superheros and reproducing the original provocative pose (The Mary Sue has the backstory). There's some very good stuff here indeed.

The Hawkeye Initiative


  1. It’s so cool seeing the Hawkeye Initiative catch on like this!  

    Also, that’s the first comic book cover I’ve seen featuring full on camel-toe.  As realistic as that might be given the fact that superheroes wear skin tight outfits, it feels like a new low in comics.

    1.  I’ve seen it before, sadly. (Some artists try to disguise it by running a seam down the center of the crotch, something that I’ve seen in no underwear or activewear that women wear in real life outside of undies meant strictly for the boudoir.)

  2. The Hawkeye initiative is a great idea.

    On another note, I’m curious about the market segment of that Champions issue. Those poses are straight out of porn mags. Does it go in the “Comics” section or the “Erotica” section? If the former, I find it fascinating that a market has developed in selling “not-erotica” (anyone have a better name?)

    1.  It’s one of the reasons why I’m becoming increasingly embarrassed to be seen in a comics store these days.

      1. There’s a world beyond the marvel / mass-franchised super hero universe. 

        Why not try Hellblazer, The Unwritten, Sweet Tooth etc.?

        There’s a huge amount of incredibly well-written and beautifully-drawn comics out there. Just step beyond the popular average mass-produced sludge.

        1.  There is also a world beyond Time Warner Turner AOL DC Vertigo–you know, the guys who licensed Hellblazer to Hollywood to make a Keanu Reeves vehicle out of….

          Though, to be fair, Tilda Swinton was mesmerizing, as usual.

        2.  Hasn’t Hellblazer been canned in favor of moving Vertigo’s magicians over to the primary DC label? Or was that just a horrible nightmare? (Hope springs eternal.)

        3.  Done, and have been doing so for decades, thanks. The problem that I’m talking about is that I don’t want to walk into the average brick-and-mortar comics shop, since they feature this sort of stuff so prominently; I don’t even want to have to walk past it. It’s as if your average bookstore stuck the most risible porn face out, everywhere on the shelves. It’s one of the reasons why I end up getting the latest from Chris Ware, Alison Bechdel, Kevin Huizenga etc. from someplace like Amazon.

  3. Oh, so now that it’s images of men that are being sexualized, is it okay?  Or is it still sexist?   Is it okay to be sexist if someone else did it first?  Or just hypocritcal? 

    1. Men arent as twisted around to show off camel toe/tits/etc… would that be camel hump for testicle shots? I dunno.)

      Sure ther’es beefcake ‘strong man’ poses, but look at just the examples shown here. These poses are in no way practical or even realistic. These poor women are being contorted and bent to show off as much of themselves as possible. Seriously. What… the fork? I thought frank miler was the king of whores, but this is just too much.


      The point is that when women are shown this way it’s just ‘normal’, but when men are shown in the exact same poses, they look like they’re in a photo shoot in a male brothel.

      1. Saw this on another blog.  It’s amazingly effective too.  I have to *specifically* look for boobs and notice their absence, to stop assuming I’m looking at a woman with short hair.

      2. You mean this picture wasn’t about lesbian lardosis behavior?

        If the original’s mega vulvas are any indication, those lil nubs might just be stubble. How ironic and humorous, this picture about landing strip lesbians.   

      3. I have trouble imagining anyone considering the female version “normal”. It still looks like a photo shoot in a brothel.

      4. I think the challenge is that no one seems to be able to agree on what would be an ‘equitable’ level or method of sexualization of men as compared to women. That is to say, it may be an interesting exercise to draw men in these positions, which are positions that emphasize female anatomy, but since men aren’t put together the same way, is it really sexualizing them in a comparable way, or is it just making them look ridiculous?

        The fact is, most people who are attracted to men LIKE seeing them in relatively straightforward positions that emphasize their power and musculature – especially of the upper body and buttocks. So that’s what their depictions do. The unfairness is that those poses simply don’t demand as much in the way of contortions or exposure as, say, being bent over in a pair of ball-huggers would – but few people really WANT to see the latter. It isn’t what represents male sexual appeal to most people. It’s tough to find equivalency in sexualization when the anatomy, and even more importantly, the way people experience attraction, may just not be quite the same.

    3. Don’t you think intent matters? Consider that the men are being sexualized in a satirical way purely to make a point about how badly women are sexualized in comics and how absurd and unnatural it looks to anyone conscious of it. It’s not hypocritical, it’s pointing out hypocrisy by showing that comic artists almost never do this to male characters. The idea is to get them to stop doing it altogether and draw females like people instead of sex objects, not to get males sexualized in comics equally. Meanwhile, the female characters were sexualized in the first place for no reason other than profit. Isn’t the difference obvious?

    4.  There’s this crazy little thing called “satire” that you may want to check out one of these first days, chief.

    5. Yeah, it’s better than OK! For the irony-impaired: this is making a point about the fucking embarrassing state of superhero comic art in 2012! How do you like having that package thrust in your face?

    6.  Yeah, and why is everyone always calling Jonathan Swift a “great satirist”?  He wrote this huge, long essay telling people they should eat babies!  And make gloves out their skin!  And yet we’re still talking about him as if he’s some sort of author of legitimate literature! 

  4. That’s what people on Tumblr do all day long – and they don’t need any “initiative” to draw Iron Man in skin-tight underwear. Or any other Avenger. Or Dr Who. Or Sherlock Holmes. Or the guy from Supernatural. Or Homestuck characters. Or presidential candidates.

    1.  Um, I wrote the comment before clicking the actual link – and lo and behold: it’s a Tumblr blog:)

    2. If nothing else, the proliferating tumblr fandoms should be telling comic publishers that there’s a big market for bishounen depictions of their male characters.
      Something like DC’s “Ame-Comi” line, but with dudes, might be worth putting out there if they want to snag a new audience.

  5. I’m surprised that people are surprised at the porn-mag poses. It has LONG been an open secret that comicbook artists routinely copy or just straight-up trace magazine photos (or their digital equivalents), porn or otherwise. 

    They DO make for excellent anatomy reference , I suppose.

        1. Googling ‘contortionist porn’ brings up many results. Adding ‘gay’, not so much.

    1. Porn actually makes SHIT anatomy ref because it tends to show women in just a few not very normal poses. Not being a prude here, and totally in favour of nude and erotic art but porn just makes a terrible figure reference for comic book art. You know, there is probably an art studio in your town that has an open studio night where you can draw nudes from life, both male and female, and get some idea of how to REALLY draw a nude human.

      1. Also, some of the top female nude models are actually short and wide hipped, but this gives an intereting effect when they bend over. 

  6. This is one of the things that gives me hope for the superhero genre. It may be false hope, but what the hell.

  7. What a joke you think that just because they are female they are put in these poses in comic books? These are typical poses for agile characters, let’s take a look at some Spiderman covers shall we in the attached images?

    Just look at all junk in his trunk and poses eh?

    How about some Nightcraller too, he’s definitely packing..

    I could go on and on with characters such as Daredevil,
    Deadpool, Beast, Mr Fantastic, etc… but I think I’m wasting my time. You’re all pathetic.

    1. You are missing the point by a mile. It is not the impossible poses. It is not even the skin-tight outfits. It is that the female characters are put in “agile” poses expressly designed to sexualise them. The male characters are put in heroic poses designed to idolise them.

      I mean, are you seriously telling me that the drawing Cory posted makes Hawkeye look heroic and athletic, rather than absurd? Or for that matter the original picture makes the women look anything other than direct traces from some porno?

    2. “Typical poses” for agile male characters?  Not so much.  Take another look at the Champions cover.  No matter how gingerly Captain America needed to descend from that icy shelf (maybe Cap threw his back out, who knows?), you’d never see him drawn in that pose.  And that’s for one reason: because Captain America is not what your typical male 14-year-old comic-book buyer wants to envision splayed out before him in such a pose.  But Tigress and Skater, complete with unusually-explicit cameltoes and erect nipples on display, apparently are.

      Spider-man and Nightcrawler are drawn as both agile and masculine, and typically in poses that evoke action, strength, and asskickery.  They are not drawn as come-hither receptacles for the viewer’s throbbing stiffie.

      The ridiculously oversized breasts are one thing (not that an aspiring superheroine should be discouraged in her choice of career by a voluptuous bustline; rather she should invest in sturdy and sensible support), especially the fact that every single costumed superheroine I’ve ever seen has an impractically heaving bosom out to there, but the issue here just points to the stupidly sexualized poses.  And I seriously doubt you’re blind to it; I just think you refuse to admit it, for god knows what reason.

      1. Perhaps I am simply tired of one demographic tying to interfere in the products of another demographic when they do not even buy those products.
        It is akin to me complaining that I do not like how men are portrayed in their ever so popular smutty novels.

        1. I used to love superhero comics but this porny crap is one thing that has contributed in a large way to turning me off the stuff. When you pander to a narrow demographic you limit the appeal — and relevance — of your art,

          1. It should be up to the artists to decide the art style of their comics. If no one likes it, no one will buy it. People shouldn’t alter their art style simply because it may offend some people.

            Personally I think ‘Champions’ comic cover at the top of this article is pretty ugly, but that doesn’t mean I will go about demanding that they change it. I will simply not buy it and instead buy something else.

            Just because people are limiting their target audience doesn’t mean we need to try and convince them to do otherwise. 

          2. “doesn’t mean we need to try and convince them to do otherwise.” Then why are you here trying to *convince* everyone else that they have no right to say anything?  You aren’t discussing anything about this topic, just trying to shut down all discussion with a sullen tone and bad attitude. 

          3. Fair do’s… but I think the mainstream comic book industry may be strangling itself by trying to appeal to a small, sexually immature market with ready cash to spend on sexist imagery when it could be trying to expand its reach to all kinds of humans.

          4. While I’m not surprised that switching male super heroes with female super heroes will clearly show the sexualisation of the female character, I don’t see why mass produced comics would change their style.

            Comic book artist cater to a narrow audience and this narrow demographic is huge in number and they like what they see – in fact they see nothing wrong with objectifying women, desensitized thanks to culture, media, etc.

            So while this may be a shock to some avid comic book fans, to the artist there is no surprise (it is intentional – sex sells). And honestly straight male comic readers, whom likely make up the majority, aren’t going to all of a sudden want to put an end to this type of art.

          5. Sexualizing characters in pornography is (arguably) fine, since that’s what it’s for, but that’s not what comics have traditionally been about. People want to convince them otherwise because a lot of these characters and comic companies have long histories and people are reluctant to see their beloved comic book universes degrade into softcore porn year by year at the cost of strong female characters and decent art.

            Sure, comic book companies have the right to limit their audience to horny teenagers with their sexist art style, much like the Boy Scouts are gradually limiting their members to religious fundamentalists with their anti-gay policies, but you can’t blame people for mourning that lost potential in either case.

            Maybe they should just stick their current artists on some kind of “Erotic Elseworlds” series and let some fresh talent handle the main storylines?

          6. I’m a 45 year old man, an artist, and I have loved superhero comics for a long time … there are tons of great superhero stories to be told which don’t require female characters to be sexualized… or marginalized (which is one of the great sins of the 60s and 70s comics that I grew up with).. why can’t the comics industry come to terms with the 21st century and understand that women are human? I’m just so embarrassed by this stuff, I would LOVE to be a Marvel/DC superhero comics fan, I mean, I’m just absolutely DYING to be a superhero comics fan, please, please, please! But I just can’t bring myself to it because of this superheroine porn stuff! Who do I like now? Mike Mignola. Cliff Richards (boy, is Buffy good, and such an exemplar of appealing, central, female characters who are not overtly sexualized), Brian Hurtt, Gabriel Rodriguez, Jaime Hernandez… none of whom shy away from showing the female — or male — form in any context, sexual or non-sexual… these are comic artists who are simply telling great, human stories. Porn has its place in our world, there is no denying it anymore, but I think we do the comics medium a great disservice by making porn images a central part of mainstream comics,

          7. The major problem with the “it’s aimed at a particular audience” argument is that the comic reading demographic isn’t primarily 13-year-old (heterosexual) boys these days.  And even if it was, that wouldn’t be a great argument for ham-fistedly alienating other potential audiences for no particular reason with pointlessly sexualized images of what are supposed to be heroic characters.

          8. “It should be up to the artists’? Apparently you’ve never worked in the field. Art direction determines a lot. What determines art direction? Sales. What determines sales? Sex. This is done because it’s easy. 

            The logic of a female character having her bust AND backside prominently facing the viewer at all times is insane.

            The logic that a woman’s thighs cant touch at the crotch (There must always be a ‘gap’) is silly.

            A costume’s purpose is just to cover nipples, and she wears a belt wider than her waist.

            I’m not even going to get into the errors in anatomy, even when they are not constant to the style.

            Sure a woman can be sexy, hot and kick ass, but these poses don’t emote any of that rather they speak of a subordinate undertone. “She’s a woman and she can be powerful, but she still has to please me.”

          9.  So wait, I’m not supposed to talk about something I see as bad or wrong?  Why not again?

            I mean, if you’re asking should there be a law against objectifying women in comics — obviously not.  But if my opinion is that it’s a stupid and juvenile aspect of comics and constitutes low-hanging fruit in terms of improving the quality and respectability of comics and bringing new readers into the fold — explain to me again why I shouldn’t be talking about that?

          10. You’re also turning your legions of fans–who could be promoting your work to new readers! — into people who look like weird perverts whenever they defend their medium.

          1. Great point! I guess this stuff is fine in the context of smut, but is smut what we really want from mainstream superhero comics? Not me!

        2. Privileged people are often uncomfortable when that privilege is made explicit. As a male, presumably heterosexual comic-book fan, you have been serviced by this kind silliness for so long that it feels normal. But for a very large part of the world it feels, to put it mildly, uncomfortable.

          That tiredness you feel may be unpleasant, but it’s also a sign of healthy personal growth. Instead of complaining about it (and making yourself look a little silly), embrace it. Learn to empathize with people who don’t share your safe, pampered experience.

          1.  No one disagrees that women are being objectified. It is obvious, but it is also intentional.

            Comic books readers (to some degree) and artists both know that this is what sells. This is what their audience wants. There are many non-mainstream comics that don’t rely on this type of portrayal to get readers – and that’s why they’re not mainstream because they don’t sell as well.

            Objectification of women (or any gender) can be wrong, and comic book is just one of the many mediums that exploits this to make money.

          2. I agree that it’s intentional. But that doesn’t make it less worthy of mockery and discussion.

            I have to admit, I am a huge comic-book fan. I truly love the medium, but as I mature and learn to empathize with the people around me, this kind of exploitive artwork makes me more and more uncomfortable. On a personal level (as a heterosexual male), I resent the inherent manipulation. And as a friend to the women around me, I hate the way it treats them.

            I want comics to be something that I can enjoy reading and sharing with all of my friends. Until this kind of artwork is addressed, it remains an uncomfortable, and slightly embarassing, pleasure.

        3. Aactually no small amount of the art mocking the hypersexualized poses of female characters in superhero comics is from female artists who are into this stuff. And who are so into it that they keep on buying the things DESPITE the superhero comics companies constantly trying to push them away by having all the female characters be straight out of Playboy.

          So this is like if smutty romance novels started getting a huge following among men, along with big-budget blockbuster summer movie adaptations, and then all the guys started muttering about how the male characters were portrayed.

          1. But comics don’t actually have a history of smut (or at least not a “complete” history of smut..)… pre-code books have a lot of sexualized images of women (eg 1950s jungle girls).. but then we have a couple decades of Comics Code approved books which still managed to be compelling despite the lack of hypersexualized female imagery… today’s comic industry was not sprung wholly from the 1990s.. softcore porn imagery as we see it in today’s comics is really a new thing dating from the 1990s.

          2. Dan, what market are you referring to? The comic market?  It’s been in a tailspin for decades.  They’ve offset that decline by raising prices and pandering to collectors, but the fact is that the comics market has been on a steady decline for a long, long time.  DC’s ‘New 52’ and Marvel’s ‘Marvel Now’ initiatives are the most recent attempts to gain market share.

            Read Sean Howe’s excellent “Marvel: The Untold Story” for the trials and tribulations of the market and it’s effects on the company.  The industry has had massive layoffs multiple times and it exists more now as a way to create IP for other mediums (TV, movies, video games, bed sheets, action figures) than it does for the actual comics.


          3. Sorry — 1950’s fetish comics were explicitly for adults ie Eneg’s crazy technical bondage ordeals…or Carlo’s bizarre fetish illustrations from the 1920’s. And don’t forget Tijuana bibles either… Adult comics are a form of pornography that has always run parallel to regular comics. It is the new intersection, that is not limited to adult only comics that becomes problematic.

          4. So it is the fault of the female artists who buy these comics in order to parody them that keeps this particular genre saturated, as their demand is what stokes the proliferation ? Is there an alternate internet/universe I am unfamiliar with ?

            Logic ?

          5. No. I’m just saying that there are women out there who buy these things because they like superheros. Some of them are artists, some of these female artists who read superhero comics draw things mocking the giant throbbing gender issues that superhero comics have.

            You know. The “geek girls”. Who are apparently all supposedly “fake” or something in the eyes of most male superhero comics people.

        4. What you mean – what you actually said – there is: comics are for boys only and girls aren’t meant to read them, it’s a boys-only clubhouse, so go away.

          I’d be offended on behalf of every comic-reading woman I know (which is the vast majority of women I know), except that there’s no need; they’re perfectly capable of expressing their own offence. 

          So I’ll be offended on my own behalf: how dare you tell all the women to go away and “stop interfering” in one of my favourite hobbies?  I like reading comics with women, I like comic shopping with women, and I don’t want that to stop just so you can have second-rate teenage porn pics.

        5.  Uh… “don’t even buy those products?” I’ve been reading superhero comics since I was a little girl – despite the terrible, terrible representations of women in mainstream American superhero books. A LOT of women read comics, even your precious superhero comics.

          I am tired of boys rolling out the “this is our clubhouse” excuse every time someone points this out. Women are in superhero comics. We read comics, we draw superhero comics, we write superhero comics, we edit superhero comics, we help make movies about superhero comics. Stop trying to claim this as some weird tree-house with a crude “NO GIRLS” sign posted.

        6. The demographic of humans who are disinterested in misogyny and standard issue Hustler photo shoots for anatomical reference ?

    3.  In all fairness, a few of them really DO look fairly normal when replaced with Hawkeye, and I can accept that they’re just agile poses. But only a handful. I find it very hard to believe that you honestly don’t see the difference between the examples you posted and the vast majority of images on The Hawkeye Initiative, but just in case, here’s a hint: it’s not as simple as “legs spread = sexist pose”. Spidey or Nightcrawler squatting as if to wrestle a foe or survey the city is not the same as the example above, where the superheroines are posing provocatively and awkwardly without any plausible in-universe reason.

      I also can’t see your male examples’ nipples or clearly-defined genitals, despite them wearing skin-tight outfits very much like the womens’ on the Champions cover. Gee, I wonder why that might be?

  8. The thing that gets me is that the defenders of sexist comic book poses usually go straight to arguing that male superheroes are also physically idealized and wear skin-tight costumes.

    The problem with objectification is not recognizing that human beings are aesthetically, erotically interesting objects. The problem with objectification is the denial that human beings, particularly women, are subjects.

    The trouble with the ridiculous poses is that they imply that the only reason those characters are present is to be sex objects, that their subjectivity is irrelevant, that they are not as (super)human as the male characters.

    1. Why can’t they be both? That is, why does a woman being the object of attraction make her no longer a human or a badass, crime-fighting subject? Are readers not capable of holding both in their heads at once? I think they may be – in fact, for a lot of them, that’s the appeal of these characters. Sure, the more ridiculous the contortions get the more emphasis you’re placing on the sexual aspect as opposed to the rest, but generally speaking, I don’t think one necessarily precludes the other.

      1. No, one doesn’t *necessarily* preclude the other. That was much of my point. For instance, male superheros are, I believe, intended to be perceived as sex objects. But they almost never appear in poses as ridiculous as those shown above. Their subjectivity isn’t denied. I’m saying that the insistence on showing female characters posing in absurd ways is a denial of their subjectivity.

      2. Why can’t they be both?

        Do please post a photo of yourself spreadeagled with your tits and ass hanging out so that we can understand you as a whole person. I’m sure that it wouldn’t distract anyone from the depth of your philosophical argument.

  9. I, for one, appreciate the Hawkeye Initiative for its ability to graphically describe what the pose is actually doing and ending the question “Wait, is that her arm?  What is going on here?”

  10. The ‘porn-pose’ that drives me the most nuts is the “I show off my ass and breasts in the most painfull looking twist possible”. It’s become a real wall banger for me.

    1. This, exactly.  It’s annoyingly infectious; consider this Avengers poster.  Guess who is the only Avenger posed showing off ass and chest and face all at once?  (Bonus points for Cobie Smulders’ half-turned pose in the background of the group shot.)

      At least Avengers did it right in many of the posters, which is more than most comics manage.

  11. Man I would love to see superhero comics that looked like this. I might even be tempted to buy them.

    And the Hawkeye Initiative is kinda making me want to check out the new Hawkeye book, since apparently Hawkeye is drawn pretty hot in it? FUCK YEAH

  12. Is this not just Jack Kirby-type art? Did he not start the “frog-leap” comic pose? In his case, I don’t think it had anything to do with gender.

    1. There’s ‘frog leap’, which works for deliberately agile characters a la Nightcrawler or Spider-Man. Then there is what’s portrayed above, which is a strange mash-up of erotica and a trip to the gynecologist’s.

      Some poses are very clearly action poses. So long as it’s drawn well, then great, awesome. But page through half a dozen or so superhero titles, pay attention to how the women are posed and drawn, and the absurdity does out itself. My childhood X-Men-reading self used to attempt reenacting the poses of my favorite characters, as much to try and figure out some awful ’90s artwork as to emulate what was going on. The older I got, the more impossible I realized the poses were, and the more disheartening it became to keep up my favorite hobby. (Why bother, when Psylocke wore a battle-thong and Polaris posed for Victoria’s Secret during action scenes?)

      I think part of this whole movement — because it’s been growing into one for a couple of years now — is as much about giving female readers something more to identify with, as it is about restoring an inch of dignity (and fairness, and equality, both of which would be refreshing) to a troubled industry.

      1. “There’s ‘frog leap’, which works for deliberately agile… Then there is…a strange mash-up of erotica and a trip to the gynecologist’s.”

        I was just pointing out that I’ve seen this before. It was a standard pose in the Jack Kirby universe. Look at anything late 60s through the 70s. Look at New Gods. Everyone is either hurtling around in a hunchback-battering-ram pose or a frog leap.

        Look, I’m not saying the current trend is not sexualized and strange, but I am maintaining that pose was used before and was just as weird in its own way, so much so, that I noticed it at the time and assumed Kirby had a series of micro-strokes, or had really gotten lazy what with his myriad black squiggles and frog poses. Bug was the quintessential frog leap super hero whether he deserved to be portrayed that way or not.

      1. That would require the honesty to admit that’s where you get your sexual thrills and the courage to make the purchase.

    1. That’s because they are adult film performers who are PAID to have sex (ie perform). In case you haven’t noticed, there are also some adult videos with men in them, who are also highly sexualized.

      There are also adult videos that challenge the mainstream with performers that may have a different standard of beauty, body weight, age, etc., and some videos that are even made by feminists and/or producers who are actually concerned about aesthetics.
      Super hero female comic book characters are not adult XXX performers — they are only drawn like they are, with unimaginative roles as supporting characters, BY unimaginative artists/writers who don’t seem to have any comprehension of female characters acting any other way.

  13. I think we are rightly highly vigilant about portrayals of women as overly sexualized, but reading a lot of comments here I see a dismissal of the sexualization of men. Both genders are sexualized, just not in the same way (though probably for the same audience?)… it’s just that male stereotypes of gender are based on what women find, or we feel they find, attractive.

     All the features of standard male hero ARE sexualizations; powerful-looking, intimidating, looking like they are ready to kick-ass, etc. With emphasis on the “generally speaking”, minus the skimpy costumes (which would actually undermine their sexualization) it seems to me they are just as sexualized caricatures as the women are. Case in point would probably be Spider-man; before he was a hero he was weak, nerdy and smart. No hero qualities there. But one spider bite later he falls into the “powerful” class and now is a hero… and incidentally wins the love of the woman he’s coveted for years. Or Superman; his disguise is actually to look weak and he hides not only from the public, but under the nose of the women who is in love with his POWERFUL MANLY true self. What message is that, if not a overtly blunt stereotype of male sexualization?

    Watch enough nature television and you see’ll that animals use their specific gender traits in entirely different ways to reach the same goal. Gender for us is tricky, I don’t think we really see these things clearly at all.

    1. Ok so what do the women do? What do they think? What do they win? Do they do anything but exist to fulfill a part in this sexist masculine fantasy? If not, then they don’t even exist to the extent that the male character does. While the hyper masculine male is the sexist star of the sexist show the “woman” is just a thing to extend and validate that hyper masculine sexist narrative. She’s not even relevant. She has no point except as a part of the main story to validate the ego (he gets the girl, you don’t say!?). Water is wet. The superhero masculinity is sexist. Women in the superhero masculine world, however, don’t even have identities to protect do they? They’re basically superhero penis jewelry. They are non entities, and I’d put forth that existing only for the consumption and gratification of a fragile ego broken by sexism is even worse than having a fragile ego broken by sexism. 

      And THAT is the difference between the two messages. One is validating and perpetuating male sexist insecurity, and the other is invalidating any kind of existence for women other than objects to validate male sexist insecurity.

        1. Strange conclusion. Obviously not the same ones you read, but really who cares.

          I would ask you this though: Why *would* I read something like the above when it is obvious that it is NOT FOR ME and when even people in this thread in defending it do so by saying IT IS NOT FOR ME.

          Why would I read something that says “fuck you” on so many levels?

        2. You’ve obviously never read a comic outside of your comfort zone, or perhaps you think that the way things are with regards to this issue is just fine (by you). Wake-up call: it’s not fine.

      1. …and I would also offer that you didn’t read the first paragraph of my comment either. That said, I think 99% of what you say here doesn’t contradict what I said, it actually complements/completes it.

        Whatever you think about female-specific sexualization, I think it is wrong to be so dismissive of male sexualization and gender identity, especially in the day of emerging LGBT rights and roles. As a society we are currently redefining these roles and stereotypes, so it is good to look at all of them and the burdens they place on both sides of the gender line.

        1. “Whatever you think about female-specific sexualization, I think it is wrong to be so dismissive of male sexualization and gender identity, especially in the day of emerging LGBT rights and roles.”

          Yes. I get it. What about the men. It’s just that… noooo we can’t talk about the women because THE MENNNN!

    2. Ian, I recognize what you’re saying but that isn’t exactly sexualization you’re talking about, that’s an example of stereotyping gender roles. Not necessarily a good thing either.

      1. To be very clear, I am in no way suggesting that the implications or impacts of sexualization of the two genders is in any way equal, they are not. But in a realm where we are identifying and highlighting the characteristic features of a sexualized portrayal, it is useful to see how they manifest in both genders, and how that manifestation plays off one another.

        My point is that while we clearly recognize sexual objectification of women generally, we fail to do it for male roles. The hyper-stylized portrayals of men and women in comics do a good job of illustrating (no pun intended) both.

    3. There’s a very important difference between male gender stereotypes being based on things women find attractive vs. what men think woman find attractive; so much so that I think it’s weird you cruise over this distinction with apparently very little thought (other than to note that both are possible).  In no small part because men gender police on the basis of what they insist women find attractive (but which women don’t seem to actually find all that attractive). 

      You do have a point somewhere in there.  Superhero comics are juvenile wish fulfillment fantasies and this comes out in the depictions of both genders: women as slinky sex objects, men as absurd “bags of meat” (I’ve heard this is how Leonardo described Raphael’s depictions of the human form — the artists, not the turtles).  I do think this is bad in some ways for males, and bad in many ways already discussed in this thread for comics in general.

      But you’re making a false equivalence.  As I pointed out in my first paragraph, there’s a difference between women’s sexual fantasies and what men think may be women’s sexual fantasies, and comics are written with what men think in mind.  Male characters aren’t sexualized in the same way female characters are in comics, because comics are male wish fulfillment fantasies.  The male characters aren’t written and drawn the way they are to win over female readers — but the female characters are drawn to appeal to (emotionally adolescent) males.

      1. What I was trying to point out is that as long as we are questioning this issue, we should open the thing up and really look at what is going on here instead of just the linear ‘Men do Stuff to Women’ discussion.

        It is my understanding that these gender/sexual roles are derivative behaviors from our basest natural instincts, twisting and turning as social and cultural pressures molded them to what we see today. These didn’t occur in a gender vacuum; certain behaviors elicited certain results… even if the behavior was “I will encourage your submission by punching you in the head, cavewoman.” These aren’t the baseless “wish-fulfillment fantasies” you imply they are, they’re fantasy rooted in real world social interactions and to a large extent MUTUALLY expected gender roles. These gender roles affect the portrayal of men and women in this art form.

        What we are saying now in this day and age is “Hey, why don’t we use our big brains and actually make some deliberate conscious and conscientious decisions about how we view and treat each other?” Sounds good to me, but what I am arguing is that to do that, we should really understand the full nature of gender roles to avoid going in circles. For example, the criticism here is that women are shown as submissive, flat, and zero-dimensional simple sexual objects. So women should be portrayed instead as powerful, yes? But then why is power a positive image or trait? Isn’t that a male-oriented canard that forces women to adapt and integrate into a male dominated social structure? What about stripping sexuality from women, is that good? The Puritans seemed to think so, but that is not something to crow about. 

        It’s too easy to throw up the same old arguments, we need a bit more depth in this discussion.

        1. It is my understanding that these gender/sexual roles are derivative behaviors from our basest natural instincts

          You probably should have outed yourself as a Victorian time-traveler earlier in the conversation.

          1. HG Wells-Style, for reals yo!

            But seriously, if evolution is your thing, it should come as no surprise that we have evolving social structures as well as physiology. I think it is beyond reasonable to assume we do. Supposedly our big ole’ brains allow us to act beyond instinct, I say we prove it and try.

          2. And yet, cultures across the world have quite different interpretations of masculine and feminine. So that assertion is basically phrenology.

    4. The sexualisation of men in comics is not the same deal because their sexualisation is exactly the same as women in comics: for MEN from a MALE perspective.

      See: every single one of your examples, where women are the ‘reward’ for a man conforming to a traditional male gender role.

      1. All True. My point is just that we accept or are blind to the elements that are characteristic to male sexualization, they are so ingrained in our culture we don’t even see them. They are part of the manacle around women’s identity, and must be recognized before we can reform things.

        To illustrate, what is a trait that we can see in comics that we might not recognize as a stereotypical male display of “attractiveness.” What about heroism? If you break it down, heroism is someone overcoming all obstacles, for great benefit to all/many. It puts that character in a separate class, they are above the average person. But we seem to revere heroes differently based on gender most of the time. Why is that? How are female heroes viewed by society? As desirable objects? Are women even often referred to as heroes? Compare that to the view and appeal of male heroes(real and literary), and there seems to be a difference, female heroes do not get the same attributes from heroism in our society. So heroism, in my view, is seen culturally as a “male” attribute, and confers a certain amount of desirability. Women apparently aren’t portrayed as powerful in the same way because it makes them seem less feminine, not because there is some grand paternalistic conspiracy, but because we ignore the impact of male stereotypes. Other characteristics of the way men are portrayed in comics should be examined as well to see how they focus or direct the way women are portrayed. Whether each characteristic is “right or wrong” should be discussed, but they have to be recognized first.

        1. I disagree entirely that ‘heroism’ is seen as a masculine trait. Women aren’t portrayed as powerful in the same way because they are portrayed as sexual ideals, which typically runs counter to having muscles the size of your torso running down your arms.

          It’s not supposed to be some part of a grand paternalistic conspiracy. Nobody believes that. “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”.
          That’s the whole point of the entire tumbler: to get the people who draw and write these things to look at it in a different way and reappraise what they’re doing out of nothing but ignorance.

          1. If that is the case then you are grossly incapable of articulating your beliefs as anything but the complete opposite of what they are.

    5. it’s just that male stereotypes of gender are based on what women find, or we feel they find, attractive.

      Setting aside your assumptions about what women find attractive in men, that leaves men idealized as muscular and powerful, traits which many men would embrace.

      How many women embrace being idealized as big tits and a couple of wet holes?

    6. I have to say that it’s interesting that it seems more people are disagreeing with what they THINK I’m saying rather than with what I am actually saying. 

        1. No I think people can’t read, or rather, they see what they want to see (apparently). Half the  people say they disagree with me and then restate or complement what I am saying. 

          I guess this is the part where I finally just go WHOOOOOSH!

  14. Jeez, they really had to dig to find this cover. The publisher, Heroic Publishing, is so obscure that they don’t even have a Wikipedia page. I used to work at a comic store and I’d never heard of them. It appears this title’s primary marketing tool is T&A.  Its tagline is “The best comics you’ve never seen!” I’m pretty sure Marvel has never published a cover with visible nipples on a female.

    I don’t get the thesis of this “initiative” in general. Will they also be drawing female characters with perfect ravioli abs, three-foot shoulders, basketball biceps, perfect slab pecs, and 90-degrees-square glass-cutting chins? Of course it looks ridiculous when you put men into women’s anatomy and clothes.

    It seems like their problem is that an idealized fantasy world is idealized and fantastic — the obscure, desperate, cherry-picked, obvious attempts at titillation notwithstanding.

    1.  You can have an idealized fantasy world that also draws women with actual spines, and not some weird rubber substitute that allows them to twist in ways impossible to actual anatomy.

      THAT is the point of this initiative. The male characters in comics are generally drawn with plausible, if exaggerated, anatomy and heroically posed. The women in comics are drawn with strange rubber anatomy in the service of making sure that their tits and ass are both visible at once, to make sure that they’re as sexually posed as possible. (This goal is often furthered by patently ridiculous outfits.)

      One group of characters are treated as people, and one group of characters are treated as objects. By putting men into these ridiculous poses, the objectification becomes very obvious.

      1. “You can have an idealized fantasy world that also draws women with actual spines, and not some weird rubber substitute that allows them to twist in ways impossible to actual anatomy. THAT is the point of this initiative.”
        This can’t be the case, because very few of the images posted to the tumblr fit this criteria. Most of them are, as I said, idealized female forms in poses that may be provocative, but as certainly not impossible:

        In fact, very few of the women in comics in general are “rubberized.”
        In the cases where the art is genuinely bad in an anatomically-impossible way, it gets critiqued without the need for an “initiative”:

        “One group of characters are treated as people, and one group of characters are treated as objects.” 

        This is simply not borne out by the examples, except, as I said, for the obscure, desperate, cherry-picked, obvious attempts at titillation. I mean, come on, who’s read this: ?

        No one, that’s who.

          1. That’s a different site. We’re discussing “The Hawkeye Initiative.”

            Regarding this other site, it appears to be 80% manga/anime, extremely obscure (appearing multiple times is Boundless Comics’ “War Goddess” which probably has nil circulation), or Rob Liefeld art or other artists’ technically poor art. Many images appear multiple times.

            In other cases, scans of photoshop disasters from catalogs are posted, which has nothing to do with comics.

            The people who do that site must be stiff as hell. I have a bad back, and I can rotate my torso at least 110 degrees.

  15. I like an auld comic every now and then, a while ago I started reading Deadpool, after hearing that the guy behind Dr McNinja would be writing for it, I became curious, and I quite liked the character. Normally I’d shy away from spandex, because comics like that tend to be a bit shit.

    But did I ever get some strange looks from my girlfriend over the full-page pin-up stuff in some of the later comics. It’s fucking embarassing to be seen with, this Marvel shit.

    That’s the real danger with this stuff, it puts normal people off comics, and restricts it to the feverishly masturbating shut-ins who have no shame left.

  16. Has Escher Girls been mentioned in Boingboing yet? It really makes it painfully clear how much women in comics are sexualised to the extent of distorting their anatomy.

    ‘Course, what with The Hawkeye Initiative having caught on so quickly (the HI site’s only a few days old), there’s a fair few Hawkeye posts recently, but they’ve posts dating back a year or more, covering a range of publishers and artists.

    1. You took the Escher Girls link right out of my keyboard! I think the defenders of this crap needs to take a look at the Escher Girls site and realize that new examples of the butt/boobs poses are posted just about every. Single. Day. 

      Think about that, boys. The idea that a woman can’t kick ass unless she’s pornified is so ingrained in mainstream comics that new examples of it can be found and posted ALL THE TIME.

  17. I do feel that doing this and exaggerating the skin shown/ adding come hither looks/ proportions even more takes away from the point you’re making when you do this.

  18. I’m not really offended by sexy illustrations, but why do all the illustrators insist on drawing women with fake looking breasts when they could just as easily draw them with natural looking breasts?

  19. For those of you young’ns who didn’t come of age in the early-to-mid 1990s, this here is exactly what it was like.  Hopefully, ya’ll get your versions of Answer Me! , Susie Bright and Camille Paglia real soon (Tank Girl is part of the deal, too).  Cause right now, all ya got’s yr Andrea Dworkins and Catharine MacKinnons.   Anyhow, hang in there y’all, “It Gets Better.”

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