It is not difficult to find yourself or your beliefs in iconic heroic imagery. I think that’s one reason why comics fans cosplay (“costume play” … play dress-up. Also, it’s one reason why sports fans wear warpaint and replica jerseys to ball games… What is “cosplay”? What is “nerd”? But I digress…) We see ourselves in superheroes or, at least, what we believe, what we want, what we admire and what we aspire to be.
There is something universally badass about deception—hiding your inner hero beneath an unassuming facade. As a kid, I wore my Superman pajamas (cape and all) underneath the suit I’d wear to church on Sundays. “Ha! You think I’m just some kid but, underneath these Ninja-Turtle suspenders, I’m Superman!” Deception works in so many stories too. Power Rangers. Transformers. The Man in Black from The Princess Bride who reveals in mid-battle that though he had been sword fighting with his left-hand … he’s actually right-handed! Or Goku and Picollo dropping their weighted clothes when battling Raditz! Deception is so badass. And I believe deception is metaphorically entwined in cosplay culture. I could be normal. I could be me. Or maybe you’ve underestimated me. Maybe I’ve underestimated me. Hell, I could be just like that totally badass splash of Nightwing above. He is, after all, the fantastical embodiment of the values I hold dear…
Oh … umm … Why is Batgirl falling doggystyle through Gotham City?
If we dissect the above splash of Batgirl (from Batgirl #5, February 2012) into the rule of thirds (one of the earliest design principles you’ll learn in any photography or graphic design program … i.e., it’s basic and DC artists know this stuff) the focal point of the image is Batgirl’s ass and vajayjay. Face down. Ass up. I get that Batgirl is an acrobatic superhero but artists make choices and the ways in which artists choose to showcase Nightwing (another acrobatic superhero) and his skills suggests power and not sexual submission like the ways in which artists choose to portray Batgirl.
Even in the most balls-in-your-face drawings of Nightwing—like the Nightwing #1 cover, Sept. 2011 (see below)—Nightwing’s face is the focal point of the image. Nightwing (below) is moving toward the reader from a position of power or advantage. Batgirl (above) is fleeing the reader who predatorily stalks her from above, staring down omnisciently at her penetration points.
My point in this comparison is to show that the above splash of Batgirl was not simply an innocent illustration of an acrobatic superhero performing a stunt that was then misinterpreted by a disgruntled audience. DC’s artists are professionals and they have purposely chosen this pose to serve a purpose.
Writers make choices. Artists make choices. Editors make choices. Have you heard DC (and Marvel for that matter) spout off this stuff about world-building and reaching out to an expanding female readership? Yet, they suggest (for lack of a better term… maybe proclaim on high) that the apex of feminine worth and heroism is rooted in sexuality.
To be brief and blunt, DC misrepresents and devalues women—mothers, daughters, sisters—and womanhood. DC has chosen to portray an iconic heroine (a role-model for little and grown girls alike) as a sexual object. If you love comics, respect the art, and want to see it develop into a deeper and more innovative literary medium, this overtly sexualized image that DC has crafted for girls to gaze into and see themselves should piss you off.