In the greatest display of breast-beating since Louis Renault collected his gambling winnings, comics fans are astonished at this Times of London column. And not entirely without reason; nominally a response to the Sin City film, the piece amounts to little more than an attack on comics readers. Author Kevin Maher claims to expose "the frank and masturbatory hatred of women that is fundamental to any understanding of the comic-book geek," as if this were news and not well-burnished stereotype.
Unfortunately, the reaction is even more risible than the article. Mark Millar's forum has started a letter-writing campaign, which leads to the high comedy of Alex de Campi (an old IANTB favorite) criticizing another writer for "a bad, unresearched attempt at self-aggrandisement via contrarianism." She's right about the research, but I might take the line more seriously if de Campi's own letter didn't end with a plug for her two comics. (Christ, even Mark Millar had the tact to identify himself simply as "writer, Marvel Comics"... when you're biting at opportunities for self-promotion that Millar would pass on, it's time to take a long hard look in the mirror.) Still, it's not as wacky as a bunch of guys who liked the rape-for-laughs fest that was Millar's Wanted complaining that comics really aren't misogynist, no sir, not at all.
And you know I couldn't let this well-meaning comment go:
Seriously though, I consider myself a bit of a feminist and I think I may have learned that perspective from comics. Storm (an African Goddess leading the best-selling comic team book for years), Jean Grey (most powerful character in the Marvel U sacrificing herself before harming anyone else), Wonder Woman (an ambassador of peace), Pre-Crisis Supergirl (an amazing character who eventually sacrifices herself for the betterment of all reality), Gail and Miho (two of the most uncompromising female characters in comics), Jenny Sparks (one who is trying whatever the cost to make the world a better place) and the list goes on and on...
Of course, the fact that half this list is dead doesn't mean a thing. Comics, misogynist? The devil you say! I find it incredibly amusing, by the way, that one of the creators outraged fans are summoning to defend comics is Gail Simone, originator of this list. (Which, one Fanboy Rampage commenter notices, Kevin Maher appears to plagiarize.)
The Times column gets a lot wrong, mostly in its desire to generalize from one unpleasant movie out to an entire art form and an entire audience. But before comics fans get in an uproar about Maher's pot-shots, maybe we should consider that the comics themselves hand him plenty of ammunition.
And on a related note, I'd appreciate it if fanboys would stop pretending they can excuse the excesses of Sin City by claiming it's "noir." Film noir has its stereotyped, punished women, but unless we uncover a director's cut of Double Indemnity in which Phyllis Dietrichson gets cannibalized and Barton Keys feeds Walter Neff to a dog, Sin City doesn't even inhabit the same universe - it's about as noir as Abu Ghraib. With works like this and the much-publicized Identity Crisis acting as comics' most high-profile representatives to the general public, is it any wonder that we get hatchet-jobs like Maher's?
(A tip of the hat to Fanboy Rampage, which provided the links and some spot-on comments.)