Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

I'm back! And reading! And maybe even blogging! No promises!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Gender and Positioning in the JSA Cover Preview, My Interpretations:

Okay, so in my last post, I've responded celebrating four women in an apparent cast of seventeen. In the comments, Tekanji makes a valid point about the size of the ratio with regards to the authority present at the table:

"Let me preface this with, "Yay, four women!"

Now let me be the party-pooper, glass is half-empty girl. I feel like it's a bit of a commentary on just how bad gender parity is in comments currently if we get all excited over having 4 out of 16 people being women on a cover. That's only 25% women, which isn't even close to the 50% that would be nice to see.

Also, the first thing that struck me about the gender layout is that the people sitting around the table are all male. Maybe this is my own interpretation, but I feel like people with seniority/authority would get the seats, which would imply that the women there aren't as senior/important as the men.

But... uh... yay, four women! (please don't hurt me)"

Since a similar topic, the number part at least, showed up on ComicBloc, I thought I'd post the relevant post and my response here, because it contains my opinion regarding that. And I like the sound of my own voice.

Matt posts:

"There are only 4 women, out of the 17 members shown, that's kinda sad. But I guess JSA has always been more a "boys" club mentality...


My response follows:

"Honestly, I'd be upset if that proportion was in another large cast. But this is JSA. The Golden Age connection/legacy requirement means that it's going to be harder to work more female characters in without replacing a lot of great male characters.

Alan, Jay, Ted and Carter are the old guard. It'd be a bad idea to replace them as they're the core of the team. The 40s heroes. Debatably Sand falls under the same category as Wes's sidekick.

Then characters like Pieter, Rick and Michael were/are staples in the modern take on the JSA. Todd and Al's stories constantly intertwined with the modern JSA. The legacy and character ties they've developed make them very valuable.

So personally, I really wouldn't want to see any of these guys replaced. All it would do is get rid of a popular, likeable character for someone without all the pre-established development and interaction. It'd actually, I think, be more harmful than beneficial to insert more female characters that way. JSA's themes have always seemed to be legacy and family. Mid-Nite and Terrific's replacements worked because their predecessors hadn't been terribly active at the time. But a replacement now would be more disruptive and I'd imagine, not incredibly well-recieved, regardless of gender. BUT, the ill-reception of the replacement characters would probably be blamed on the fact that the new characters would be female.

This way though, it works for me. Power Girl and Stargirl are already members. Liberty Belle (going by the way the crack in the bell looks like a lightning bolt) is a pre-established character with familial ties inheriting a proper legacy. While having a human Red Tornado (I assume that's her) is long overdue.

This way, we've got two already accepted female characters presumably here to stay, with two that will be evaluated on their own merits rather than based on who they're replacing.

There seems to be a lot of inactive Golden Age-connected identities, so it's possible that if these two stick, there'll be an open door for more female characters to inherit some of those as well.

That said, I was kind of hoping for Hawkgirl and Jade (NOT as a replacement for Alan...and presumably alive again) to join, but well, there're always later possibilities. :-)"

To add to this, it's a bit of a catch-22. How do we add more female members when they basically need to be replacing popular male characters. This might make me a bad feminist, but I do NOT want that to happen. When it comes down to it, if I have a choice to get more female characters but it means losing the guys pictured above...I wouldn't take it. I love those guys. (Especially Sand. There will be no trading Sand for a woman. Ever. I'm a bad feminist but no.)

But Geoff Johns said that this cast of seventeen isn't the entire team, leading folks to believe this may end up something like the JLU, with a base core of characters and others taking part specifically for the storyline. This means that there's a lot of potential right now for the infusion of more female characters without the stigma of having to replace beloved characters.

Now to continue on, Tek's point about the placement is very valid. Only men are sitting. I can see how that could definitely be seen as imparting visual authority.


However, (and here's where I start trying to do that Image Analysis thing that Ragnell is so good at and I'm so...not) there are three members that really catch my eye in this picture when I see it, and none of them are sitting at the table. Stargirl of course is very prominent, but given that she's the kid sister of the team, that makes perfect sense. The other characters that draw my eye most though are Wildcat and Powergirl.

Ted's not sitting down, and that fact if nothing else, disproves the people sitting have the authority interpretation, I think. Ted is old guard. He's from the 40s. He's the gruff uncle to Green Lantern and Flash's dad and mom. He's a character with a lot of prominence. And while he's not the leader type, like Hawkman, his opinion actually carries a lot more weight.

And he's standing. And I think his placement is deliberate. He's standing over Hawkman and Mid-Nite. Towering a little, but not in the almost subservient manner that Atom-Smasher is in the left corner. Wildcat's looking up at the "camera", challengingly. He's in a position of authority.

The other character that draws my eye in this scene is Power Girl. She's standing kitty corner to Wildcat. Two points on a radius. She's in the forefront of the picture, 3/4th's view. Her body is partially turned toward the group while she's glaring out at the audience. While this is in part, I think, due to the fact that this position is good for showing off breasts, it's also a stance of authority/power as well. She's got a very matriarchal stance right here. Like a lioness with cubs. Her body is toward them, nurturing and authoritarian. Protective. Which is an impression helped by her outward glare.

Of the nine unseated figures, there is an element of subordinance in seven of them. Atom-Smasher's (Or Damage, I still think it's Al though) looking down. Starman's facing entirely away from the group. Steel's body language isn't confident, Liberty Belle's looking back, Red Tornado is leaning on Jay and Stargirl's on the table.

But Power Girl and Wildcat's stances aren't weakened at all, thus they are towering over the group in stances of strength, opposite one another. They're visual pillars, holding up the rest of the team. They visually reinforce one another.

I'm reminded of this image actually:


This was released earlier on, promotion for the December release. Here, the authoritarian elements are much more obvious. Once more we have Ted and Karen towering over the group. This time with Mr. Terrific. It occurs to me though, in the round table image, Terrific is sitting. He lacks the reinforcing power stance of the other two. He's essentially visually demoted. I'm not sure why this is, except possibly because his authority has more to do with his Chairmanship position. If another person is now the chairman, he would lack the prominence.

I freely admit, seeing this bottom scan first probably very much influences my read of the top one. The authority is blatant here. Karen, Ted and Michael are sorting through pictures. Choosing. Among those pictures: Superman and Wonder Woman. These three are, at this point, in the position of choosing Superman or Wonder Woman.

But anyway, as I see it, the JSA cover image at the top, presents three tiers of authority:

1. Power Girl, Wildcat. For the reasons above. They're strong stanced, confident and towering.
2. The members seated around the table.
3. Everyone else.

As for Liberty Belle and Red Tornado, I'm not upset at their lack of visual authority (or even Stargirl's, as she is again, the little sister of the group and really the most prominent of the images). Liberty Belle's a prodigal character, now moving to inherit her mother's legacy instead of her father's, while Red Tornado is brand new all together.

But Power Girl is in a position of power. And I like that. (I really think it'd be awesome to make her chairman!) So I'm very very happy about this image.


  • At August 08, 2006 9:11 AM, Blogger Centurion said…

    Everyone keeps pointing out that only the men are sitting at the table, which is obvious.

    No one has pointed out that Stargirl is sitting on the table. That has to mean something, right? In my mind it kind of trumps the power of sitting at the table, as if there really isn't much authority seen in having a chair...

  • At August 08, 2006 9:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It might be worth noting that the cover is an obvious homage to All Star Comics #3, and the seating arrangement comes mostly from that. Jay, Alan, Carter, Sand, and Hourman are all seated in the same places around the table that they or their predecessor occupy on the older cover.

    Mr. Terrific is in the Spectre's spot, Jakeem in the Atom's, and Mid-Nite is in Dr. Fate's. Michael has obvious ties to the Spectre, and Jakeem replaces Al visually as the "smallest" member. As for Mid-Nite, he shares a similar look and build with Fate.

  • At August 08, 2006 11:05 AM, Blogger Marionette said…

    I agree it would be difficult to add any female characters, especially ones who would fit in with the "old guard" vibe, since the only females in the golden age JSA are unavailable.

    It's such a shame Sun Girl is owned by the competition. She would so fit in.

    What I'd like to see is the return of the Crimson Avenger. I know The Spectre got her in IC, but we never saw her die (and iirc she was already dead anyway).

  • At August 08, 2006 11:05 AM, Blogger Dorian said…

    I think you're spot-on in your assessment of the body language of Power Girl and Wildcat, and how their posistions translate into visual authority. It's also a good bit of characterization, as going back to Power Girl's first appearance, her relationship with Wildcat has been defined as one of mostly playful bickering and one-up-manship. Simply put, from both Karen and Ted's perspective, if one of them is going to be in charge, then dammit the other is too!

  • At August 08, 2006 11:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Women-schemen. My initial reaction, after the relief of finding out that Sand and Peej were still on the team, was "Man, that's an awful lot of white people".

    On a related topic I agree with Marionette on the return of the Crimson Avenger, who is generally awesome though will need to stop killing so many people before she can fit-in.

  • At August 08, 2006 12:56 PM, Blogger Dr. Flem said…

    Ah, but killing people as part of supernatural retribution is an long-running JSA tradition. If they were OK with the Spectre on the team, Crimson Avenger should be just fine.

    And if we're talking female legacy characters, they could do worse than adding Zatanna...

  • At August 08, 2006 1:00 PM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said…

    "This might make me a bad feminist . . . "

    No, it doesn't. You shouldn't add more women for the sake of adding more women. You should add more because they deserve to be there: because they've proven themselves worthy of being on the team, not to satisfy some quota.

    Now, whether there are more female characters out there who are available and worthy of joining the JSA - well, that's a debate I leave to better-informed comics nerds than myself. :-) As you say, legacy issues complicate the matter.

    "Man, that's an awful lot of white people."

    Yeah, well, that's kind of the other legacy issue which needs to be worked on, too...

  • At August 08, 2006 1:35 PM, Blogger Scott said…

    My initial reaction, after the relief of finding out that Sand and Peej were still on the team, was "Man, that's an awful lot of white people".

    Really? Mr. Terrific and Jakeem make 2 out of 17. That's fairly close to the 12.8% figure I most commonly see for the African-American proportion of the US population.

    Of course, there are no women of color (Crimson Avenger would be a good addition here) and perhaps more notably no Hispanics that I can tell - at 14.1%, there should be two to three in proportional terms, but I don't know that there are any Golden Age legacies other than the Whip to use for that.

  • At August 08, 2006 1:55 PM, Blogger Zaratustra said…

    What if Sand turns into a girl? He -can- change his form a bit after all.

  • At August 08, 2006 2:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yeah, the Legacy issue complicates the race issue and I do agree that Legacy is the most important part of the JSA.

    And yeah, there's very few minority Legacies that aren't African American. The only one I can personally think of is Wildcat II, who's Hispanic but also currently dead so that's no good.

    I do continue to hope that Conner Hawke will eventually make onto the roster through his connection with Dinah. Mostly because I love Conner, but he does have the advantage of being a threefor.

  • At August 08, 2006 2:44 PM, Blogger Matthew E said…

    There's another major female legacy character who could theoretically be included, and as far as I can recall she isn't currently affiliated with any other group:

    Donna Troy.

    It could work!

  • At August 08, 2006 2:46 PM, Blogger Matthew E said…

    Oh, and. The reason Stargirl is sitting on the table?

    Because she's the baby.

  • At August 08, 2006 2:52 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    centurion: There is that. :-)

    anthony: It makes sense to me too, but I can see how it'd be visually throwing though. The fact that all seated are men is something that could accidently underscore such a reading.

    marionette: The Crimson Avenger's a good choice. Though I wish she'd pull up her pants. The problem is that she's largely controlled by the ghosts for vengeance. If she, perhaps, had a story whre she became the agent using the ghosts instead of their weapon, I think she'd suit it well.

    dorian: Thanks! I've always liked their relationship, personally. Especially the lack of romantic entanglement. They're a man and a woman with a complex and still completely platonic interaction. I like that.

    flidget: There's that too. I'm hoping we'll see more inherited legacies being of other ethnicities though. There are lots of heroes that are largely untouched in the modern age that could be revitalized with a successor...who doesn't have to necessarily be a white man. :-)

    dr. flem: For me it's more her lack of control over it. Spectre is at least portrayed to have some self-autonomy. Now if she gets a story where she can get it...that'dbe awesome.

    Zatanna would be a great choice. With that mini-Zatara on a new Infinity Inc or something. :-)

    Ferrous: Legacy complicates pre-existing characters, but allows for the introduction of more like Red Tornado, which is a good thing. :-)

    I also might like to see Diana's-sister-Donna as Wonder Woman, carrying on Hippolyta's legacy. :-) That'd be neat.

    scott: Really any unused legacy could work for a minority. I mean, neither Johnny Thunder or Terry Sloane were black but that didn't stop the inclusion of Michael or Jakeem.

    Actually, what I'd like to see is Tsunami having a granddaughter or something. I hate Tsunami as a character (as she was given no development aside from issue representative), but there could be a lot of potential in a granddaughter.

    zaratustra: That'd make me laugh.

    flidget: Connor easing in via Black Canary would be pretty neat, I think. Bit of a stretch, but I could see it working. :-) He and Sand could talk Buddhism and martial arts and such. It'd be cute!

    matthew: As long as we're talking the Donna we saw in WW #1, sure! (NOT the harbinger one!). Actually I proposed below the idea that she could be, thanks to immortality, a daughter concieved by Hippolyta with Wildcat during her time with the JSA. (Having her leave the island to fight nazis instead of time travel though).

    That'd allow a joint legacy, neat familial ties to exploit, and wouldn't interfere with Diana's uniqueness as the gift of the gods from clay.

  • At August 08, 2006 9:20 PM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    Whoever told you the seated members had authority was misreading it completely. In a boardroom, in a throneroom, yes that translates to authrity.

    This is a superhero book. Sitting is not powerful, sitting is ineffectual. The movers and shakers, the people who will make an impact in a superhero story, they are the action oriented people, not the thinkers and debaters. The people standing are in a much strong position.

    Notice who's sitting -- old men and children, with the exception of the team geniuses Mr Terrific, Dr. Midnite and Sand. Students and Teachers. The meat of the team, the people who are acting and not learning or there to advise, are standing around the table.

    In short, I'd agree with you on Wildcat and Power Girl in positions of strength. I'd go far enough to say Power Girl and Starman are in leadership positions on that cover, by their placement and posing.

  • At August 08, 2006 10:05 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I actually wouldn't agree with Starman. His back is to the team. There's no interaction there. He's highlighted, but I think it's as the novelty perhaps as opposed to as a leader. He's going to be very different from the others.

  • At August 09, 2006 3:46 PM, Blogger Matthew E said…

    Someone pointed out in some other discussion of this cover that the characters' stances recall not only the classic JSA seated-around-the-table cover, but also the JLI wanna-make-something-of-it cover.

    But the other cover shown in this post is also a callback to All-Star Squadron #1, with Wildcat, Power Girl and Mr. Terrific taking the places of Hawkman, Dr. Mid-Nite and the Atom. In A-SS, Hawkman, Dr. Mid-Nite and the Atom spent most of the first part of the series as the elder JSA mentors to the less-prominent All-Stars like Liberty Belle, Johnny Quick, Firebrand, Robotman and Commander Steel. Could we have something similar here? Obvious correspondences are with the newer versions of Liberty Belle and Steel, but there are other new heroes here also that could more loosely match up with Johnny Quick and the rest.

  • At August 09, 2006 4:49 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    *nod* It's a pretty nifty homage, I think. :-)


Post a Comment

<< Home