Witchblade: Revelations (Image Comics)
GALS! (DC Comics)
Clark Kent saved the spunky Lois Lane early on in the Superman series, and since then the role of woman as victim has been one of the prime shticks of the comics industry. From the 1960s on, however, women gained a second role in comics, that of the barely clad, big-boobed ogle-fests that have adorned books as unsuspecting whores for much of the past 30 years. Despite advances made by independent artists like the Hernandez Brothers, women still haven't broken the SkinMag Barbie mold. The result is that modern comic books are often like porn with guns, a bunch of naked chicks wandering around blowing shit up. And we wonder why women have such a hard time in the comic book industry. AC Comics proudly advertises that their Femforce series, created by Bill Black in 1984, is the longest running independent comic book series. Continuing a storyline over two decades is indeed a major feat, especially when one isn't garnering the kind of recognition given something like Spiderman. The newest trade paperback in the series, Time Storm, is a story about Yankee Girl, a woman frozen in time in the 1940s and brought to the future to save mankind. She wears an American Flag bustier. The story is minimal, there's little inventiveness or eloquence, and the women have a large catfight at the end, culminating in clothes being torn from their almost naked bodies. It isn't hard to spot the sexism in the Femforce graphic novels, it's plastered across the pages in the sexually charged drawings and soft-porn content. The story supports the pictures, making this comic book a shy step from Playboy minus the decent articles.
Sara Pezzini, a New York City police detective, stars in Witchblade: Revelations, the second collected volume of the fan favorite comic Witchblade. Creators Silvestri, Wohl, Haberlin and Turner made their fortune with this comic, a fantastic story about a detective who becomes symbiotically bound to the Witchblade, a mystical medieval weapon. She's drawn into the twisted underbelly of New York, which is involved in all sorts of hoodoo and Middle Ages black magic. Pezzini hops from thick storyline to dense emotional interplay, all the while wading through dazzling art. (Unfortunately after this volume, the story gets stretched a bit thin.) Pezzini is a feminist character, being one of the strongest elements in the book, and a kick-ass fighter to boot. She acts as a full character and the television spin-off came across as a good thing for women's rights.
There's just one snag. Pezzini is a cop in a miniskirt and high heels. I just don't see any seasoned detective trying to run down a perp in a pair of spikes, no matter how good they make her calves look. On top of that, Pezzini ends up naked except for the revealing cover of the Witchblade, which isn't much. So every time she fights, she's fighting bare. The Greeks did it, but once again, this is now. Add in about 40 nipple shots (it's cold in NYC) and an odd beach scene with string bikinis and again we've exited the artistic world and entered the remnants of these artists' frat days. Despite the distractions and sexism, Witchblade is admittedly still a great read and an industry solid.
CMX, DC Comics' manga label, recently released GALS!, a Fuji Mihona creation about kogals, pretty much the Clueless gals of Japan. Addicted to high fashion, living in shopping malls, these girls wear Catholic uniforms adapted to mini-skirts and long, loose socks. They dye their hair in red streaks to show they have boyfriends and collect famous schoolboys' man-purses. The book, written by a woman who daily observes the kogals and is, I suspect, quickly becoming one, is a nice way to look at a pop-culture aspect of Japan. It brings American readers something quite new and I hate to admit, very enjoyable. The lead character is Kotobuki Ran, a top kogal who slams a guy in the nose on the first page. While I found myself rooting for her, I was also ashamed to be swallowed by the absolute girlishness of this book. There are segments on shoes, illustrations of creator Mihona's favorite wigs, and the girls fall over themselves for popular boys. Yet there are satisfying elements, such as Mihona's running commentary, a humorous and fun break of the "fourth wall."
By the end, I wanted to read more, but I think it was the teenage gal in me asking for another volume. This seemingly honest representation of fashion-obsessed girls was great late-night junk reading, but it lacked the solidity of more artistically done manga.