Saturday, February 04, 2006

A Good Book In Peril

Marvel Comics has let the word come down that they intend to cancel Spider-Girl at issue #100, unless they see a serious up-tick in sales. (Issue #95 is in stores now.) It's worth noting (and celebrating) that Spider-Girl is Marvel's longest running, continually published title headlined by a female superhero.

Having been a serious webhead as a kid, Spider-Girl was one of the comics I discovered upon my return to comics. And given the unwelcome paths that the Peter Parker franchise has chosen to travel in recent years, I actually prefer SG to Marvel's "mainstream" Spider-offerings. I'd like to see Spider-Girl removed from the chopping-block.

Spider-Girl definitely has a welcome old-school Marvel-feel to it: a young, irreverent hero learning as she goes; the familiar travails of high school linked to saving the universe; all presented with a sense of humor. The title has been helped by a rare consistency amongst the creative team: Tom DeFalco has penned the book from the start, and the artists have had long tenures as well.

Back issues of SG are available in inexpensive digest volumes; they're actually out-selling individual issues. Information on all things Spider-Girl can be found at, the SG message board, and wikipedia.

It's also worth noting that this series is the longest running Marvel series with a female lead.

With all the brouhaha about women's treatment in comics, this book is a gem that shows how it could be done. I'm surprised more women themselves don't read it.
Hi James, I just wanted to comment...

There are a couple reasons that I (as a woman) wouldn't pick up Spider-Girl without a good recommendation.

I don't like heroines that were created by the comic industry by just tacking on "girl" to the end of a male character's name. It feels like a cop-out. It tweaks me and makes me feel disrespected as a comic reader.

I prefer to read stories about women, not girls. (I appreciate what teens experience, but having experienced it myself I prefer to just move on and forget it ;)

What I do like is comics with female leads that are well written. I've found myself fascinated by Rucka's run on Wonder Woman because of the adult complexity of the storyline. I would never have hoped for such a thing in a mainstream comic - and I'm glad I caught it before he moved on.

As far as Spider-girl, since I've got such a good recommendation, I'll check it out. :)

I can respect that. Personally, a good recommendation is something I would need to try out a title I probably am unfamiliar with, too.

But, Spider-Girl has had that already. Most site and blogs that even mention the series (in a review or whatever), usually having nothing but good things to say about it. I've reviewed the series several times over the years, at my blog and for comic websites, and I have year to give it a "bad grade."

I guess what gets me is all the noise being made about comics not giving women characters enough respect, yet a series like Spider-Girl is getting cancelled. It's like complaining about starving, but having a restraunt right next door to you.

I certainly do agree more should be done, in regards to how women are portrayed in comics, but I alos think that women themselves need to really look at what is out there. Don't just balk at stuff like Power Girl bustline and complain. Really check it out. If more did so, prehaps Spider-Girl would not be facing cencellation now.

Comic publishers are a business, despite the creative side to the product they sell. If women want better portrayals in comics, then they need to support the ones that are currently out there, not just complain there aren;t enough. Otherwise, publishers (and reatilers) won't see any reason to change "what sells."

Just food for thought. That said, I hope you enjoy Spider-Girl. She might have "girl" in her title, but the character is much more mature than that.
Hi James,

I wonder, have any titles concerning a junior character ever really been successful? I ask this more as a question, because I'm just getting back into reading comics after a long hiatus (too much crap pushed me away). For that same reason I am unaware of the reviews/blogs are saying about the title. Maybe now that I'll be checking it out, it will rocket to success. ;)

Concerning Power Girl's bustline (the way she is drawn)...I think you were making the point that women shouldn't be put off by the physical representation of the character, but investigate it further? Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I will go with that assumption for my comment.

You mentioned that there is noise about female characters getting enough respect, and make the point that some titles are written well.

I'm going to counter with the belief that respect in the comic industry should include how the character is drawn, not just how it is written.

I think this is one of the frustrating things for me. I really can't get past the way a character is drawn, it's as much for me as the story itself. If a character is drawn for the express interest of sexual appeal (as, I assume the people complaining about PG's bustline would say), then I'll definitely not read it. It's just too much to get past to enjoy the story.

For that same reason I've not played a Lara Croft game, or fallen in love with other titles reflecting that same mentality. It's not enough that a character is tough and well written, especially if her physical representation is a caricature. The more that a woman is drawn with exaggeration, the more I feel that the intended audience is straight male, and not me.

Of course, there have been times that I've read a title with over-the-top drawings, but I can tell you I never enjoy it enough as when the characters are drawn in the same manner as the men (you don't usually see super heroes running around with huge bulges between their legs).

It's getting late, and I'm starting to feel a bit rambly - so I'll stop here. Thank you for the discussion, I find it interesting.

Thanks for your comments, James and Nida!

James, I'm going to update the post to include the crucial information about the longevity of the title.

Nida, I definitely hear you. Since May Parker is about 15 when her book begins, the "girl" part of her name fits, though the naming off the title was no doubt influenced by Marvel's pre-existing Spider-Woman...

And I totally agree with your point on how you prefer to see the women in your comics drawn. Though I didn't mention it in my post on Felicia Hardy/Black Cat, the relentless, in-every-panel T & A served up by the Dodsons in Smith's book put me off as much as the idiotic and poorly-handled date-rape did.

Similarly, I've already mentioned on the blog how Ed Benes' "style" in depicting women detracted from my enjoyment of Birds of Prey. Catwoman is an interesting case because although more than a few of Adam Hughes' covers have been straight-up masturbation fodder for teen-aged boys, Peter Woods' interior art has definitely not gone that route.

Finally, I must admit that I fear the rumor that Terry Dodson will be pencilling the re-booted Wonder Woman. It would be a monumental irony if the book went the cheesecake route.
Yes, I'm worried about that also. I fear that DC got the massive hint and supported a great run, only to throw it back into the dark ages. I even had issues with some of Deodato's panels way back in the day.

Interesting points about the other issues, I'll definitely have to take a look once work lets up long enough to give me time for recreation. :|

Btw, I want to be clear that I realized I was using "straight male" in a stereotypical manner - my apologies, I knew what I meant in my head, but it was so late that it never made it down in words. I should restrict my writing to before midnight.
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