5 Insane Things Comic Books Believe Women's Bodies Can Do
Popular culture has had issues with women for, oh, several thousand years or more. So, we're not exactly blowing everyone's minds by pointing out that even to this day, women tend to get depicted as trophies or sex toys for the (male) hero. But, comics really do inhabit their own category here -- if not in the storylines, then just in the frankly ludicrous way females are drawn.
It's not only a matter of relying on unrealistic body standards, but doing it to a degree that we're not sure these characters could even survive. We're talking about things like ...
Breasts as Alien Organisms
We don't want to perpetuate the hateful stereotype that everyone who enjoys or works with comics is a virgin. But, maybe it would help if boobs weren't constantly drawn as if the artist had never actually seen one (or, you know, two). Those who have usually don't think of them as perfect spheres loosely attached to a woman's collarbone ...
"They protect the clavicle during motorcycle crashes!"
... or as independent organisms who hate the body they're attached to so much that they're constantly trying to escape in opposite directions:
Wow, even breasts want to distance themselves from the way women are portrayed in comics.
Over the years, the hilariously inept depiction of breasts in comic books has actually given rise to many helpful guides on how to properly draw the main reason many young males get into comics in the first place. They all boil down to one thing: Stop treating breasts like unmovable, quantum events that the rest of the universe revolves around. For example, when a character turns, her chest shouldn't stay right where it was -- as if trying to make sure that no one sneaks up on them.
You might say they are keeping the heroes abreast of the situation ... we'll let ourselves out.
Failing that, it would probably be a good idea to remember that breasts are meant to be three-dimensional objects and thus shouldn't be drawn as two modesty flaps occasionally obscuring a character's midriff.
"Hey, a girl has to have some self-respect."
And while we sorely wish it wasn't the case, thousands of years of advances in the field of human clothing have sort of proved that breasts can only really be held in place with bras, not bitchin' leather belts. If you feel like that's too many rules for you to remember, you can always print out this page from Jade Warriors and look at it whenever you want to remind yourself how natural-looking breasts should never, ever be drawn.
Origin story: woke up naked in a belt store.
And while we're on the subject ...
Torpedo Nipples That Dent Armor
How many characters in this picture have breasts?
"Carol, clear my schedule. This may take me a while."
"All of them," you say? But, how can you be sure? Those are comic book characters, so maybe you're looking at a bunch of aliens with two extra heads hidden under their shirts, or robots with missile launchers cleverly hidden inside their chests. There's just no way to know without doubt, except with Black Canary, the first character on the left.
You can be sure SHE has breasts because of her nipples standing visibly at attention at the mere thought of justice (or possibly because fishnets are a poor substitute for pants). In any case, that extra visible piece of her anatomy provides irrevocable proof that the character is female, and that's why so many artists have to draw their heroines with nips hard enough to peek through leather ... or even solid armor.
"THIS CHAIN MAIL IS SO FUCKING COLD!"
But, of course, we all know the real reason why artists do this. It's to make their stories a bit sexier without outright drawing the characters naked and having to admit to their dates that they make cartoon porn for a living. And we could actually respect that if the conspicuous nipples only visited while a character was relaxing at home in her T-shirt or something. However, when they start making appearances in the middle of brutal fights, undeterred by the heroine's thick battle attire, you can't help but think that you're looking at ladies -- with adamantium-tipped boobs -- who live in a world where cold showers can be lethal to the people around them.
You're fighting crime without a sports bra, so who's the crazy one here?
Rubber Spine Syndrome
In the comic book business, it's crucial not to lose your audience's attention for even a second. This can be achieved either by crafting original, engaging stories or by grabbing your female character's spine and brutally mangling it -- until you can position her in such a way that her breasts and butt are pointing directly at the reader's rapt face. Most artists tend to go with the latter.
Good thing cats have nine lives because such severe scoliosis just has to be terminal.
And, look, we get it. Comics are all about wish fulfillment, but it just seems weird that the "wish" in question involves correcting evolution's mistake of placing the sexiest parts of a woman on opposite sides of her body:
All superheroes should be mutant-proud!
We don't feel like this is nitpicking here -- body position is a huge part of the visual storytelling in comics. It conveys action, mood, and character, and if done right, you can tell a lot about characters' intentions without having them say a word. But when it's a female superhero, what we learn -- more often than not -- is that she always has to stop and do her yoga exercises before she can go into battle:
This position is called "Greeting the Free Internet-Outrage Publicity."
Strangely, all of this "pretzelization" of our superhero's skeletal structures seems to have unfairly focused on poor Psylocke, the popular X-Men character with the power of precognition, telekinesis, and telepathy. You wouldn't know any of that by looking at her because practically every depiction of Psylocke in the comics feels like a sneaky attempt to reboot her as a mutant with the ability to turn her bones into licorice:
"We wouldn't want you to get hurt," said the woman whose spine has been replaced with a giant Twizzler.
Speaking of impossible anatomy ...
A Disturbing Lack of Internal Organs
Here's something we've been wondering: How do superheroes have babies? Thanks to hours upon hours of analyzing fan-made diagrams on the Internet, we fully understand the ins and outs of superheroes making babies, but the birthing part is a little unclear to us. Mainly because most superheroines have so comically narrow torsos, you could barely fit a foot of intestines in there, to say nothing of forming an entire tiny human.
"Duh, that's what storks are for."
We realize that times and beauty standards have changed significantly and that we probably won't see a plus-size female hero in a mainstream comic anytime soon. But, we would be equally happy with regular-size female heroes -- or pretty much anyone who isn't capable of taking cover behind a stop sign.
They call her "Danger Girl" because she's dangerously in need of anorexia counseling.
Of course, it's nothing new to point out the unrealistic proportions of comic book characters -- most male superheroes are already so muscular you'd swear they were smuggling steroid-infused watermelons under their skin, so who cares if comics exaggerate a few feminine traits here and there? Well, see, the thing is that giant muscles are primarily a male fantasy, while waists barely wider than your ankle are primarily ... a male fantasy.
Also: a natural defense against Wolverine's claws.
We can't speak for all women, but we assume most of them would rather possess a stomach that can hold more than a thimble of Chardonnay and half an olive, especially if they're in a line of work in which you burn a lot of calories, like, say, superheroism. But in the world of comic books, even the daughter of the Hulk -- a green giant the size of a pregnant Hummer -- sports a stomach that's so sunken-in, you could fill it with guacamole and use it as a salsa bowl.
"You don't want to see me when I'm concave."
Every Female Character Sharing One Face
Male superheroes wear distinctive costumes to reflect their personal style of justice. Superman doesn't wear a mask and dresses in bright colors because he is honest, helpful, and relatively law-abiding, while Batman's attire says something more along the lines of: "Alright, who's gotten bored with their teeth?!" On the other hand, the costumes of female superheroes seem to exist only so that we can tell the people wearing them apart.
You may have noticed throughout this article that many comic book women have the exact same body type and face, with, besides their costumes, only their hairstyles distinguishing them from each other. Shave their heads bald, and you'd be left with enough clones to create your own Stormtrooper army.
Admittedly, this isn't exclusively a comic book problem. Even the animators of Frozen said that "female characters are really, really difficult because they have to go through these range of emotions, but you have to keep them pretty." The problem is that the current definition of "pretty" in our culture is very limited, requiring a narrow face with high cheekbones and a pointy chin, a small nose, and full lips to bring it all together.
The only thing that comic book artists can really control with such a restrictive set-up is the color of the female characters' hair and which part of their body to show off. That's why you can quickly tell fans of Black Cat and Ms. Marvel apart by asking them whether they're breast men or ass men.
2018 will be a great year for indistinguishable superwomen.
Hell, if Superman ever wants to spice things up with Wonder Woman, he can simply ask her to take off her tiara and pretend that she's pretty much any other superheroine with black hair, from the magician Zatanna to the Asgardian goddess Sif.
Of course, if Sups ever actually suggested anything like that, Diana would probably jam
her entire invisible plane up his super butthole.
Caitlin Donovan can be found ranting about cartoons and comics like a child on her tumblr, Lady Love and Justice. She'd like to thank the folks at Escher Girls, who collect pictures of comic book women's bizarre poses and were a great resource for this article.
For more ways comics really screw things up, check out The 6 Creepiest Sexual Encounters in Comic Book History and The 6 Creepiest Comic Book Characters of All Time.
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