The Boy’s Club[p][p]There is an unofficial rule of comics that has stood the test of time, right up to this very moment – girls suck. A lot. Anything a female character can do, a male character will do it better. [p]Hey, I’m sorry to have to point it out, but everyone knows it, even if they don’t say it out loud. I’m not happy about it either, but them’s the facts. [p]Before you get indignent enough to start writing death threats, I’ll explain. For almost all the years that comics have been around, there have been male characters and female characters (and monkeys and androids and Communists et al, but this dilutes my point). For the most part, male characters have run around saving female characters before going off to have bouts of romantic vine-swinging (ie Tarzan) or bizzare sex (eg almost every Heavy Metal story to date) or something in between. For all intents and purposes, female characters exist to give the male characters someone to save. [p]Sure, it has been the other way round occasionally, with a female going in to save a guy, but then the dynamics change. The female hero often saves the guy without him knowing it (or in some passive aggressive way, like the villain falling in love with her) instead of just smashing down the door like a guy would do. See, that way the male character gets to keep his pride while the female hero gets silent satisfaction from a job well done. In this case the female hero also usually has a secret identity that is so completely mousey and wussy that no-one would ever expect her to be what she really is. (I know – Bruce Wayne gets a similar deal, but at least he’s a millionaire playboy rather than someone’s secretary.) [p]Regardless, the female character is usually a helpless yet demanding ball of stereotypes that is attractive enough for us not to wonder why Hero Man is hanging around her. This hasn’t really changed despite other progressions in comics. In fact, changes in what is allowed in comics has seen things move from low-key bondage (ala Wonder Woman or the Phantom Lady) to dismemberment or worse (see _insert link here_) as an eventuality of victimisation. [p]Even when woman perhaps are given some power of their own, they are usually second rate to the guys. Wonder Woman used to be the second most powerful DC hero with her own book (which isn’t bad given the competition), but I’m sure she’s slipped in the rankings. In the Marvel universe the more popular girls are the ones that show the most skin rather than are the most effective – why else would White Queen be given an origin series except to use those covers? [p]If a female character IS given power and IS allowed to be more powerful than the boys then it is almost certain she will be / turn evil. Marvel Girl to Phoenix (to Dark Phoenix) is a good example of this. There is always the chance that when a male character is given ultimate power he will find a way to control it / not turn to the Dark Side, but a female character is almost certain to go leaping into the Abyss with wild abandon. Off the top of my head, the only extremely powerful female character who is allowed to remain good and sane is Vertigo’s Death from Sandman, but she is very much the exception. [p]Of course, the reason why girls suck is easy – it’s lazy writing. Comic book readers don’t begrudge their heroes going off half-cocked (“Let’s see, I can shrink to the size of an ant… all I need is a uniform and a catchy name and I’m set!”) but only if they have something to do. Usually that means 1) rescuing the helpless (woman), and 2) have some sort of ‘normal’ life to come back to (which can involve an understanding and / or clueless female figure). It’s an easy formula to write to and has been replicated many times. Female heroes are there for back-up, be it moral, physical or emotional, with there being few exceptions to this rule. Guys are king in the world of comics. [p]I really wish female characters didn’t suck. There are a few bright lights out there that stand in stark contrast to the above – woman who can look after themselves that aren’t written as men with breasts – but they really are the exception. Until comics can move past the concepts of female characters as victims, eye-candy or both then this rule shall remain in force: Girls suck.
Comic Watch: Global Frequency[p]This comic series is about to reach the end of its indicated life (ie 12 issues) and the first 6 issues are coming out in TPB, so it’s around if you want to look at it. [p]Global Frequency is a collection of single issue stories based around the Global Frequency organisation. Global Frequency is a worldwide organisation consisting of 1001 members, each highly skilled in what they do. Owned and operated by ****, Global Frequency exists to deal with the things other organisations and departments aren’t equipped for – imminent terrorist threats, cold war weaponry that won’t stay buried, mysteries that seem supernatural and even alien invasion. Despite the description above, don’t expect any spandex in these stories – the setting is very much real world, with most of the characters involved being exceptionally (rather than superhumanly) talented. [p]I enjoy Warren Ellis’ writing, but think the man can only stay interested with an idea for a short period before forgetting it and moving on to something else (I cite Planetary as evidence of this, particulary the number of specials versus the ongoing series in recent times). Global Frequency gives Ellis the ability to genre hop in the same series and to explore a variety of concepts. The stories are short, punchy and kinetic, not letting up to the final page. This is gripping stuff. [p]Global Frequency is a mature title. It contains some nasty ideas on both a physical and metaphysical level and one issue has perhaps the most brutal knock-down drag-out fight you are perhaps likely to see outside of … well, another Warren Ellis title. I really enjoy not knowing what will happen in each new issue regardless of having read most of the series. Pick this title up if you are looking for something different.