There’s a reason why Jack is always smiling

Forget subliminal shadows in well-defined musculature. Strips like this is why the Comics Code Authority was created. Yet these funnies served an unintended purpose beyond sales-inspiring titillation, giving the young access to some material that provided, albeit through an unrealistic filter set in place by mostly old men, education in what for the era were proper gender roles and societal expectations.

Smilin’ Jack story re-printed in the Dell title Popular Comics #101 (May 1946).

Hey! My All-Seeing Eyes are up here, creep!

Wow, the 90s. I hope by focusing in on the torso of Pele the artist was making a point about the pandering hyper-sexualization and blatant sales-grubbing cheesecake art of the era. Then again the creative crew may have defined human nature perfectly. There are basically two options to witnessing a ridiculously attractive demi-godess striding from a churning pool of molten lava and declaring she would destroy the Hawaiian islands with super-volcanoes: One is to run screaming the opposite direction and the other is to plan on how you are going to score with her.

Panels from X-Force #81 (September 1998).

Skinning the Cat

I’m concerned enough about the state of comic books that I pay attention to, if not campaign about, the negative portrayal of women in comics. My stance is usually that much of the fanboy/girl service in the way women are drawn and scripted that abounds in comic books is not necessary and is therefore just ridiculous. Silly attempts to justify the Power Girl costume aside there are a few instances where the exploitation of the female form in a comic book is an important part of the story. One such example was in the Seven Soldiers mini featuring The Bulleteer. One premise of the story was the fetishistic nature of the superhero so it could be argued the manner in which the female Bulleteer was rendered was necessary since she was the victim of her husband’s sexual obsession with superheroes.

Another example could be the recent issue of World’s Finest #3 (February 2010) featuring Supergirl, Batgirl and Catwoman. In this issue Batgirl and Catwoman find themselves in conflict with robots created by the Toyman. Throughout the entire very physical fight Catwoman’s costume remains closed and serves as protection, which is what a good costume should do. It is only when she is rendered unconscious and tied up that her costume is unzipped exposing her breasts. Catwoman is often portrayed with a casual opened front to her costume but in this instance it is doubtful she did this to herself.

I don’t know if her costume being unzipped once she is bound was intentional on the part of the creators but it looks like the Toyman robot, once it had Catwoman helpless, decided to play with the captive a bit. That adds an unstated layer of creepiness to the whole scene. That Catwoman was perhaps violated isn’t even addressed in this story and in fact she is casually dismissed by Batgirl and Supergirl, a couple of young heroes who are acting just a bit too pleased with themselves over the whole thing. It would be interesting to see a hurt and angry Catwoman lecture the World’s Finest Teens while she uses the real Toyman as a scratching post.

On the other hand, if the creators just decided that a woman being tied up and showing her boobs was sexy and drew her that way just because they could, then shame on them.