So Dr. Jill Lepore, who wrote a book about the creation of Wonder Woman (quite good according to some reviews) decided to take on A-Force, an Avengers spinoff with an all-female team (not the same team that has John C. Wright freaking out, but I’m sure he’s not happy). Her take (the link is to A-Force author G. Willow Wilson’s response—no need to give Lepore any clicks) is that “they all look like porn stars,” their costumes are “pervy” and that the whole thing is just incomprehensible — dang it, she has no idea who any of these people are!
Wilson picks apart the flaws in Lepore’s It’s All So Sexist argument at the link. I thought I’d add a few more points. First off, I agree that if you don’t know the players, probably any modern comic is going to be a baffling mess of characters and backstories it’s hard to figure out. It’s a valid criticism … except Lepore writes as if the fact she doesn’t know the backstory automatically makes characters and stories bad.That’s a very different point to make, and I don’t think it’s a valid one. Case in point, Lepore appears to hold that female Thor is a stupid idea, not because she’s female but because Lepore doesn’t know how this happened and doesn’t care enough (as Wilson notes) to do even cursory research. Lepore says “”Thor became female because he’s a Norse god and I guess he can be whatever he wants”—No. A different person took up the hammer because Thor, for personal reasons feels no longer worthy.
Similarly, her conclusion asserts that good female super-heroes may be unworkable because “they’re all ridiculous in the same way. Dazzler, Miss Elusive, the Enchantress, She-Wolf, Medusa, She-Hulk. Their power is their allure, which, looked at another way, is the absence of power. Even their bodies are not their own. They are without force.”
She-Hulk’s power is most definitely not that she’s hot. It’s that she has, surprise, Hulk class strength (and during Dan Slott’s terrific run, a first-rate legal brain in her human identity). Sister Grimm, whom Lepore mentions in passing, uses magic, not sex. It’s true female heroes are often drawn for maximum cheesecake but as Wilson points out, that’s hardly the case with the cover of A-Force (I haven’t read it but I trust her when she says it’s the case inside as well)
Likewise, she compares Pepper Potts become Rescue in her own Stark-designed armor the equivalent of “wearing a boyfriend shirt.” Is she arguing it’s somehow worse than Jim Rhodes becoming War Machine in Stark designed armor? If so why? She doesn’t say; possibly she has no idea War Machine exists.
On top of that, Lepore’s trying to write snark and she kind’a sucks at it. Consider this example: “‘Her name is Sister Grimm!’ Mr. What? said. ‘She’s like the Brother Grimm, but not?’ Girls are so lame.”
What exactly is Lepore supposed to be snarking at with that last line? Presumably she doesn’t think girls are inherently lame—does she mean girl super-heroes? Is it that having a name derived from a male source makes Sister Grimm second-rate? And if so why? It’s not like riffing on a male hero like Hulk/She-Hulk. I can’t get the joke, and I’m inclined to think it’s more Lepore’s crappy efforts at humor than my lack of comprehension.
Lepore is writing in an old tradition. For most of my life, non-comics fans have been turning out various forms of Comics Are So Dumb articles for people who know even less of comics than they do. There are fewer of them these days as comics characters have become big-ticket properties, but apparently the flame is still alive.
(Cover by Jim Cheung, all rights with current holder)