Character vs Caricature
Travis Hedge Coke
Representation is a hard game. Even when well-intentioned, your personal biases show through for the world. Ill-intentioned? Some idiot will defend it anyway. Draw your mom in a book, someone will tell you mothers don’t look like that. There are people out there getting mad because someone put a jacket on Spider-Woman, and someone else getting mad because Dragon’s chest is absurdly huge compared to his legs, and some other fan is uncomfortable reading a book where boobs are magically perky and perfect globes and defy gravity, logic, and cloth, to show through, globular, at all costs.
Artists and writers should do their best, and everybody makes their own call, but I figured I could help out with a few thoughts.
Black People in England
From Milligan and McCarthy’s Sooner or Later to a handful of John Constantine’s friends in Hellblazer, black people keep showing up in England in comics, as if they live there or something. Which is absurd, because black people come from America. Or, something.
This really upsets people. Who are white. Who live in America.
Storm Doesn’t Look Black
This classic and often beloved X-Man is the go-to for “doesn’t look like her ethnicity”/“secret white woman” in some circles, often being asserted by people who otherwise actually claim to love her. They’d just love her more if she wasn’t drawn like herself.
To be fair, they’d probably hate an Indian drawn to look like me, too. Nothing but Italian’s with a spray on tan and a lotta fringe will satisfy some folks if that’s what they expect.
And, with Storm, what they’re expecting isn’t, well, Storm, whose design comes from meshing two earlier characters of Dave Cockrum’s, one of whom was a humanoid cat. The rounded face, the weird eyes, these are cat features, but… her straight hair is not a sign she wants to be white or that her artists want her to be white. Her body type is not a “white” body type. There’s no such animal. There are tendencies in ethnicities, yes, to certain body types, but there are just as often anomalies in real life.
It may be unfortunate, in terms of instant recognition, and it’s certainly problematic that Storm is probably the most identifiable black woman in American comics, but changing her facial features or the nature of her torso is not going to fix that.
Daken Likes Girls?
Believe it or not, bisexual people don’t just have feelings for or interest in people of one particular sex. Amazing, yes?
So, why do some guys get bent out of shape whenever Daken is shown in an intimate position with a woman, if he doesn’t immediately go out and get two dudes right after?
Gypsy Isn’t Gypsy
Gypsy, formerly of the Justice League and having just made a nice, quiet appearance in The Multiversity, is not ethnically anything that would be called “gypsy,” so far as we know, and definitely not culturally. What she considers to be “gypsy” is pretty offensive, really, as it mostly boils down to “steals things” and crafty and wearing peasant dresses.
Gypsy is a kid, usually, and kind of blatantly ignorant in the Nova, Ray. Jubilee vein, but this does not excuse that her existence is almost as socially damaging as later Justice Leaguer Ice, who is ethnically gypsy sometimes, belongs to a cabal of evil, magic, child-stealing, con artist gypsies. Almost.
I love Gypsy. I love her look, I love her personality, I love that dress. The best “defense” I have for her is, “she’s not playing to the worst ethnic stereotype.”
Stephbats Won a Fight?
There is a StephBats title in Convergence, a mini framed around forty-some two-part comics. “The Love Song of Stephanie Brown” features Steph, sometime will they/won’t they Robin (Tim), and another Batgirl, Cass, fighting against Gorilla Grodd when they’re supposed to be fighting Catman. It’s Steph’s book. It’s Steph’s fight. Somehow, that she didn’t immediately roll over and die is a great offense to… someone.
This happens every time Stephanie Brown wins a fight, going all the way back to when she was Spoiler. Any time Steph does anything other than lose and get lectured by Robin or drilled to death by a Bat-villain. Why?
Well, considering that the same people insisting it’s unrealistic that a young blonde girl won a fight are the same people who very loudly belittle Steph’s general fanbase by calling them (us?), “little blonde girls on Twitter” or “little blonde girls screaming about feminism,” I’m going to go out on a limb and say they have problems with young women. If I was slightly more adventurous, I might say they have problems with young women and probably have a limbless Emma Frost statue by their bed, who never moves and never talks back and the paint’s probably rubbing off the cleavage. But, that might be unkind.