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Superman and Wonder Woman Join the Ranks of Unsexy Superheroes

By Alyssa Rosenberg on August 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm

"Superman and Wonder Woman Join the Ranks of Unsexy Superheroes"

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The big comics news of the day is that DC Comics, having annulled Superman’s marriage to Lois Lane when it hit the reset button on the franchise with the New 52 have decided that the Man of Steel is going to start knocking aerial boots with Wonder Woman herself. I’ll have to wait and see how the story works out to decide how I feel about it, but the cover image released to promote the team-up is a reminder for all that comics can draw the female body in exaggeratedly sexual ways, they can be depressingly awful at making actual sexual contact between adult superheroes look remotely appealing. Take a look:

The fact that Superman is tied up in Wonder Woman’s lasso is a nice little nod to her fetish pin-up origins, and a way of playing with the power dynamic between them that lends the image a nice little frisson. Or it would if Superman and Wonder Woman’s actual bodies are posed so it looks like someone is smushing a Barbie and a Ken Doll together. These don’t look like humans who are attracted to each other and in the process of making actual sexual contact.

It’s not quite as bad as DC’s Batman-and-Catwoman-bang-on-a-roof panel, in which Batman’s abs look less like human’s than a stack of chicken cutlets and Catwoman’s expression is more slack-jawed than erotically intent. If you can leach the sex appeal out of Catwoman, you’re doing something wrong:

The same is true of Frank Miller’s Holy Terror. Everything about that comic is ugly, from its vicious Islamophobia to its illustrations, but its attempts at sexytimes are particularly inept:

This sort of rampant incompetence is part of what makes something like the current characterization of Namor as a stud who will hook up with anyone, irrespective of species, fun. Even if the panels themselves aren’t always alluring, the strips have an actual grown-up sense of humor about sex that doesn’t require me to risk headache via eye-roll:

The slam that comics are the provenance of slobbering teenaged boys is an irritating one, given the sophistication of the ideas superhero stories can explore when they’re at their best. But it would definitely help if comics artists started drawing superheroines like people instead of figurines, and superhero sexuality in a way that suggested some familiarity with intimacy and the functioning of the human body.

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