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worstblogever
04-19-2009, 03:06 AM
Sexual Undertones in Comics- The Chicken, or the Egg?


I was having a discussion earlier today in a thread where a creator in the comics industry was being discussed, and it was laid to bare that like in a lot of the medium, things over over-sexualized, with athletic bodies for both sexes, often crammed into the tightest outfits imaginable for their conflicts with other superhumans. It’s nothing out of ordinary for the medium, but one has to ask… where was the sexual undertones in comics born first? Is it a creator, who in telling a story, expresses their own subconscious desires on the page, or is it more that it’s a creator, catering to his fans, and using the “sex sells” angle to push the envelope, and entice readers into wanting more, whether they ever even realize the hidden undertones to what they’re reading in the comic? Or, in some cases, a bit of both?


Now, I’d like to state, that any discussion of a specific comic book creator in this thread is in no way a witch hunt, or meant to be an accusation of someone peddling smut (gasp!) or dare I say it, have their own personal fantasies. Hell, if any of them show up and announce, “Yeah, I’m into kink, and it’s made some scenes I’ve written damned fun,” or perhaps, “well, we added just enough sexuality to capture the hearts, minds, and other parts of our lonely-hearted fanbase,” I’ll be the first to applaud them for admitting it.

This isn’t about looking at the writers, any more than we’d look at ourselves. After all, in the end, people are buying what they’re selling. The catch to veiled imagery, though, as even Freud put it is, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”.

All the same, a lot of the time, it is a phallic object.



Anyway, I thought I’d fire out a few examples, to get the ball rolling.



- As CBR’s own contributing writer, Charles Lyons once pointed out in a story here on the site, the origins of Wonder Woman (http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=7921) involve that, Charles Moulton Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman, was a psychologist, and creator of the lie detector test (likely the inspiration for Diana’s magic lasso of truth) incorporated much of his own life around him into the character. The strong feminist character of Diana was based in part on his wife, and physically, she was based off of Olive Byrne, a companion both he and his wife kept in their polyamorous relationship, and her own Arab “protective” bracelets were the basis for Diana’s. Now, given some hints on public record regarding Marston’s interest in some more risqué activities, it should come as little surprise that on the page, his stories featured bondage featuring both sexes, sorority initiation rituals, cross-dressing, infantilism, submission and domination, and spanking. Diana herself, for all her strength, was often seen bound from head to toe within at least one page of each issue, and she reflects on playing “binding games” with the Amazons back home.

So, was Marston more writing these stories for the public, aware the content might entice readers, often citing Diana as a good role model for young women, or was it more about his fantasies? And were they for the reader, or for himself?


Next up, so there’s no company bias… a Marvel creator…


- Chris Claremont is quite simply, one of the driving forces behind one of the most successful franchises in all of comic books. With a myriad of artists, he worked for over a decade and a half on the X-Men, and wrote many of the satellite titles that spun from Uncanny X-Men, such as Excalibur, and the New Mutants.

However, as pointed out in a few discussions online, the amount of sexual imagery, much of it not even veiled, has caused controversy to follow the work of the creator, making some wonder why the patterns of supposed strong female protagonists being overtaken by “wicked, dark” alternate personalities, particularly when influenced by an outside male dominating force. The first example of this, of course, is the “Dark Phoenix Saga”, where Jean Grey is manipulated into becoming the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club, before her cosmically powered alter-ego manifests itself, corrupted by the club, as the Dark Phoenix. In the tale, the Hellfire Club is based on several sources, as documented here in a CBR thread (http://forums.comicbookresources.com/showthread.php?t=217625)…

But the Hellfire Club are without much doubt, an S&M club, with female members wearing corsets and carrying around riding crops while using their assets as a great of a weapon as their superhuman abilities. Many of the X-Men, while in their captivity, are bound, held, humiliated, tortured, and in the case of Donald Pierce and Nightcrawler, there’s even some odd breath-play, as he gets choked by the cyborg Hellfire Club member.

And, outside of this saga, there have been several instances of Claremont written female protagonists still having to overcome a male antagonist who seeks to dominate them. In years that followed, members of the X-Men seem to have found themselves in more risqué situations, that read into, can show more kinds of fetishism than I can mention in this original post.

So, is this a writer, fulfilling his own fantasies, or tapping into the subconscious of his readers, and appealing to their own sexuality via subtext?


And… someone who’s worked for both DC and Marvel…


- Chuck Austen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Austen), as the link here goes… has often, with unabashed aplomb, has written sexual situations, openly into mainstream comics after a few years of working independently, including on pornographic comics such as Hardball and WorldWatch. In his time working for Marvel and DC comics, his goal, as stated in interviews, was to add “soap drama” to the lives of the heroic protagonists, with many sexually-realized romances, and fights or fallout stemming from them. While being lampooned often, for some of the sexual situations that were included, with angry fans upset as Lana Lang and Lois Lane bickering like schoolchildren over Superman, Angel and Husk of the X-Men stripping and having sex in midair over the latter character’s mother, or a nurse falling in love with a comatose Havok referring to herself as some sort of necrophile, it at least cannot be disputed that his books certainly were talked about. Now, many fans, as stated in the link to his Wikipedia entry, began to question that the content within the issue spoke of Austen’s own morals himself (an unfounded association, which Austen has flatly denied). Some of the doubt about the ramifications of Austen’s personal life, however, could have stemmed from an interview where he admitted the character of Nurse Annie, which he introduced, was based off of his wife, and whom slept with two of the X-Men cast members.

The question however, remains, was this a writer portraying his own personal life on the page, or simply trying to oversexualize a book to be a provocateur and entice fans with openly discussed adult themes?


Anyhow, these are but three creators, and discussion of others in the comic book medium, or simply the industry overall are more than welcome. Was it the chicken, or the egg? Do creators more often push their own fantasies to the page, or are they playing to the fantasies of fans?

Paul McEnery
04-19-2009, 03:10 AM
I would just like to say that I have never sexed a chicken.

Beni
04-19-2009, 03:15 AM
My opinion is that probably the subtext is motivated by selling to the customers. Sex sells as is said often. And comics are probably not any exception to this.

worstblogever
04-19-2009, 03:19 AM
I would just like to say that I have never sexed a chicken.

Only because the chicken got a restraining order.

SNAP!

Paul McEnery
04-19-2009, 03:20 AM
Only because the chicken got a restraining order.

SNAP!

I was looking for the punchline: Even though she egged me on.

*sigh*

xgeek52
04-19-2009, 04:22 AM
*tries to focus*

i should probably do this later but what the hell...

i always thought it was a little of both...yeah a writer is gonna insert his own subconscious feelings/opinions/desires he has for certain characters -- all writers do...it was clear in mechanix and in the end series that there was sexual tension between kitty and karma and kitty and rachel...and though i never read the actual issues morrison wanted a new tension filled aspect in scott's life by throwing in emma...

and that interplay between scott and betsy -- i liked it...

there is always going to be that dance...the editors will whisper in the writer's ear 'let's give this character this...' but the writer's muse is gonna say 'let's give 'em a little of that...'

Donald M.
04-19-2009, 09:50 AM
i always thought it was a little of both...

Yes, this.

Some creators undoubtedly brought their own sexual kinks in the superhero adventures they wrote, with the most notable example being Wonder Woman's creator William Moulton Marston, whose tenure on the series was dominated by themes of bondage and submission.

Just as often it's obviously done specifically to appeal to readers, as with much of the "good girl" art prevalent in early comics, with characters like Phantom Lady. While the artists who worked on that stuff no doubt had fun drawing it. it is most likely they were doing it mainly to appeal to young male readers/

howyadoin
04-19-2009, 12:48 PM
You bring up the ramifications of Austen’s personal life, but leave Claremont's out?

Michael P
04-19-2009, 12:50 PM
You bring up the ramifications of Austen’s personal life, but leave Claremont's out?

With Claremont, isn't it just rumors?

howyadoin
04-19-2009, 12:57 PM
With Claremont, isn't it just rumors?I'm honestly not sure. It just seemed like such an odd thing to leave out.

mikekerr3
04-19-2009, 02:02 PM
I'm honestly not sure. It just seemed like such an odd thing to leave out.

If it's "just rumours" putting it in could be putting in stuff that blatantly false. Using facts that are not facts adds little value

howyadoin
04-19-2009, 02:04 PM
If it's "just rumours" putting it in could be putting in stuff that blatantly false. Using facts that are not facts adds little valueOh, right. I forgot this was such a serious academic discussion.

worstblogever
04-19-2009, 09:29 PM
You bring up the ramifications of Austen’s personal life, but leave Claremont's out?


With Claremont, isn't it just rumors?


I'm honestly not sure. It just seemed like such an odd thing to leave out.

Austen's personal life really only came into question in the sense, to my knowledge, that he has created pornographic comics, and that he was accused of being a misogynist by fans. Leaving accusations to what they are.

Claremont, I've head some doozies of stories, but don't know if there's any tangible proof, either.

But Marston, the guy admitted to anything he was ever believed to be doing in his personal life, sexually, that was being transferred via fantasy on the page.



Now, if you'd like to share any 411 about any of these guys, or examples of any other creator, feel free to dish.

mgs
04-19-2009, 09:36 PM
The question however, remains, was this a writer portraying his own personal life on the page, or simply trying to oversexualize a book to be a provocateur and entice fans with openly discussed adult themes?


Anyhow, these are but three creators, and discussion of others in the comic book medium, or simply the industry overall are more than welcome. Was it the chicken, or the egg? Do creators more often push their own fantasies to the page, or are they playing to the fantasies of fans?
To me, I think it is the case of a creator simply creating in things they know and love, like Marston. Simplistic and short answer, but that's what it is.



I would just like to say that I have never sexed a chicken.
You really need to watch Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe!

'Sexing' a chick is a disgusting, highly specialized little thing. Involving taking the little babies and squeezing them so they poop, just to check out their internal genitalia when you squeeze them. :wink:

psychic_therapy
04-19-2009, 09:39 PM
I used to do some writing, when I had more time to myself...

And I found it myself more inspired and enthusiastic to write about R-rated stuff than PG-13 or below. Perhaps I am not the only one who feels that way?

howyadoin
04-19-2009, 09:48 PM
Now, if you'd like to share any 411 about any of these guys, or examples of any other creator, feel free to dish.Well, look at it this way - Claremont, despite whatever status he used to have, is a pretty terrible writer, and probably didn't have an idea of his own during his entire X-Men run. That, to me, makes the rumours quite believable.

As for whether he's fulfilling his own fantasies or tapping into the subconscious of his readers, I'd say it's mainly the former, and the latter was a fortunate - in terms of sales, at least - fringe benefit.

Chris N
04-19-2009, 09:48 PM
Claremont's X-Men also tend to involve an unusally high amount of characters taking their clothes off.

Sure, if their method of being teleported doesn't bring the clothes along a la Terminator, that's just being concerned with science fiction.

If Storm doesn't understand Xavier's prudeness about her walking around naked, that's commentary on contrasting societal values.

But there were also one hell of a lot of shower scenes, often coed. Maybe a little gratuitous at times.


Are such scenes because fans like it or because the creator wants to put it in? I assume it's both.

Like anything else in the comic, the creator puts it there because he thought of it and because he hopes it will sell.

xgeek52
04-19-2009, 09:59 PM
you're not psychic...i too found/find it better to write r rated...

psychic_therapy
04-19-2009, 11:30 PM
you're not psychic...i too found/find it better to write r rated...

Thanks, I thought there would be others as well, amateur and professional, that feel that way too.

worstblogever
04-20-2009, 12:51 AM
Well, look at it this way - Claremont, despite whatever status he used to have, is a pretty terrible writer, and probably didn't have an idea of his own during his entire X-Men run. That, to me, makes the rumours quite believable.

As for whether he's fulfilling his own fantasies or tapping into the subconscious of his readers, I'd say it's mainly the former, and the latter was a fortunate - in terms of sales, at least - fringe benefit.

Yeah, I'm thinking so. I started to find it odd when he had Callisto running around during X-Treme X-Men and Excalibur (vol. 3) with tentacle arms, groping or choking Storm, alternatively, every chance she got. It channelled the best of hentai, and I was wondering if it was a subtle (or not so subtle) nod to a porn genre, or something.