Friday, June 16, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: Rape is Bad for You

I, for one, think J. Michael Straczynski deserves a big pat on the back for being so brave. If you haven't read the latest issue of Squadron Supreme--and for shame if you haven't... unless you just hate feminism and are threatened by strong, empowered, self-reliant female characters--the story takes place during and after the team fights an army of a hostile Middle Eastern country. After the battle is over, we learn a little of the background story of Inertia, a woman capable of redirecting kinetic energy.

Her story is a sad one, but one that must be told!

Inertia is unlike any other character in comics. First, she is a woman, but she doesn't rely on men to take care of her and protect her. No, sir (or ma'am as the case may be)! Instead, she takes care of herself and is just as capable of kicking butt as any of the big boys.

Second, she wears skimpy outfits and has a lean, muscular body. She is beautiful and isn't afraid to show it. I will, however, draw attention to the fact Gary Frank's rendering of her makes her seem a little flat-chested. She appears to be no larger than a B-cup, though she wears a sportsbra, so she may be larger. Either way, I would encourage Frank to be bolder and give her large mammaries. Do not try to hide her femininity! If anything, fanboys who are afraid of strong feminist icons like Inertia should be visually assaulted by their feminine virtues.

Third, she grew up with a father who was unloving and who cheated on her mother. He is very mean to her and suspects that her powers are a result of her sinfulness. At one point, when he realizes he cannot harm her by hitting her, he opts instead to hit her mother. This abusive background helps to shape her worldview.

Fourth, she is a lesbian. The plight of homosexuals may be taboo dinner conversation in this country, but Squadron Supreme is pushing it to the forefront of the national consciousness by confronting the homophobes out there in a way no other comic is daring enough to do: with images of sexy girls kissing each other! Take that, Ma and Pa Kettle!

But last, and most important, she is the victim of rape. If you thought lesbianism was verboten, just while Middle America is reeling from that revelation, we're hit with this hot button issue. Straczynski is one of the few writers, comic or otherwise, willing to take on the subject of sexual assault. What's really interesting is the way he frames it and the fact that it took place early in Inertia's life to have it truly become a motivating factor behind what she does and who she is.

Rape, it seems, can be a traumatic experience for some women and Inertia is one of them. In fact, it is still something she thinks about even though it happened years ago. This powerful juxtaposition of a strong woman, who has taken charge of her life and become a hero with the intention of helping others, with the scenes of her helpless against sexual assault, makes you think about how rape is a really bad thing and how normal "non-superpowered" women might have an even harder time putting the pieces back together.

I know when most of us read stories about Psylocke or Black Cat or Wonder Woman, we only see the strong, daring women within, but this is a grim reminder that some people are more likely to see them as nothing but sex objects.

It's a shame more writers haven't the guts to explore pressing issues like these or to create characters as deep, unique, and multifaceted as Inertia. Industry pundits who are always complaining about the lack of female comic book readers need look no further than Mr. Straczynski and Inertia to see exactly what it's going to take to pull in that all-important demographic: strong, foul-mouthed, sexy, scantily-dressed lesbians who have daddy issues and recount their sexual assaults in graphic detail. Why can't we have more characters like this?

I know a lot of the men out there won't like it, but that's why they publish Archie.

9 Comments:

Blogger Chris said...

JMS: His finger is on the pulse of American comic fans, as always. One can only hope that one day he'll have the courage to shine the light of truth on the deep, dark secret that child abuse can also have lasting harmful effects.

(sigh)

7:21 PM  
Blogger Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

You know what's sad? Realizing that there's some people out there reading along for whom your sarcasm is going to be too subtle.

Sigh, indeed...

8:07 PM  
Blogger Jake said...

Sadly, I was debating whether I should clarify that. I also wanted to point out that I'm having a very rousing debate with myself as to whether it's worth my money to keep buying this crappy book just for the pretty, pretty art. It's like wrapping a dog turd in fine silk.

8:30 PM  
Blogger heath said...

sarcasm concerning rape??

yeah, bye bye.

10:49 PM  
Blogger Peter Hensel said...

not so much the rape, but its ubiquity as a hurdle for strong women to become.

Just sayin'

12:04 AM  
Anonymous Zeb Aslam said...

Heh...nice. Been waiting for someone to do something like this.

The whole "rape as a past traumatic experience" bit is so cliche now, I don't think I even give it a second thought when it happens...and that's the real tragedy. I love Ragnell's take on it over on Written World. Just wish the writers could take a hint and give it a rest...atleast for a while.

12:36 AM  
Blogger Cap'n Neurotic said...

Y'know, I often find myself in the role of a JMS apologist (I blame Babylon 5), but this . . . ugh.

Maybe instead of "waiting to buy the trade" I'll be "waiting to request the trade through Interlibrary Loan so I don't actually have to spend any of my money on it," which is the tactic I use with any and all Chuck Austen titles.

7:11 AM  
Blogger redlib said...

Sarcasm is not the refuge of the weak!

I do like Book of Lost Souls by JMS- but it's written in such a flowery way it's not like his superhero stuff at all.

And B cups-- they can be spectacular *wink*

5:16 PM  
Blogger The Fortress Keeper said...

Gee, and here I was skipping Squadron Supreme because it seemed to be an unimaginative rehash of grim, "realistic" comics.

Looks like I was wrong.

7:16 PM  

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