Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Study in the Male Form: Sexy, Sleazy or Neither?

In another entry I talked about the handling of male sexual assault in comics. I'm going to be discussing four different male characters and how their creative team handled sex appeal with them.

Batman/Bruce Wayne 

This may seem like an odd choice since Bruce hasn't been in a relationship for a good bulk of Snyder and Capullo's run. I chose this example because Scott Snyder specifically wanted to sexualize Bruce Wayne. He was generally miffed when no one commented on the characters' sex appeal despite his efforts. Deciding to take it to the next level he wanted Bruces' naked rear to be seen and didn't understand why no one commented on it. I think the reasoning had to do with the set up. Bruce was injured and needed to be patched up. His father figure Alfred is present and this isn't sexy because of the scenario. Later on Bruce gets together with his old girlfriend and is in the shower talking to her. The second example is sexy without being out of place or vulgar.

The two are causal about their state of undress and manage to carry a conversation like mature adults. It's noticeable that Bruce is naked without being in your face about it.

Agent 37/Dick Grayson

Like Snyder the creative team of Grayson wanted to up their characters' sex appeal. The problem is that nearly every character treats Dick like an object despite his protests, one character going as far as an implied probing against his wishes. Dick is literally recognized by various people by butt. He's fetishized to ridiculous lengths complete with his own gaggle of extremely annoying fangirls that literally chase him. Most of them get paddled for this (seriously), the girl that was stalking him via cameras is rewarded and Dick is punished for indulging them by being their new "gay" teacher. If that's not over the top enough for you King had one of the WAR members note that the official Robins call Dick "Tight Ass." I don't know about you but I wouldn't call a sibling that unless it's to scoff at their strictness. I doubt that's the reason it was mentioned.

Red Hood/Jason Todd and (to a lesser degree) Arsenal/Roy Harper

I would say that out of the two of them Roy has had the least amount of sexy moments but their always treated seriously. His moments in bed with Kori (with Rocafort) give plenty of detail that tells you all you need to know about their relationship. I'm not going to spell it out but the art is very telling in  regards to their alone time. As for Roy himself his body language is loving and very relaxed. Their second time in bed has him as the one showing the most skin. This falls in line with the Snyder shower scene only without needing to say anything to convey their bond.

Jasons' had three different occasions he's been naked under Lobdell and what's interesting is how this differs from the others listed above. While he does come off looking sexy we never get to linger on it too long before something comical happens. The first time is when Kori is nursing him back to health and Rocafort draws a very attractive nude Jason that seems to come out of no where, then Jasons' awkwardly trying to stay covered while introducing himself to Kori. He's in the shower then he's fighting in a pink towel (granted this one was more badass than funny.) Another shower scene happens with Roy testing the fireproof form on Jason (without telling him) with a flamethrower.

So to recap:

Snyder/Capullo: In the first case he doesn't call attention to the nakedness in text but the situation voids any sexiness. He gets it right with his shower scene while keeping it in character. It's more tastefully done, respects the characters and manages to show how close the couple are.

King/Seeley: I have a hard time trying to figure out the tone for Grayson. Most of the sexualizing comes straight out of fanfiction (which is mentioned by the woman obsessed with Dick) and panders past the confort zone. A fan of the character stated Dick's treatment made them uncomfortable since they suffered through similar treatment. The answer they got was basically "then maybe this isn't for you." I think the title is supposed to be sexy and comedic but it usually misses the mark on both targets. In many cases Dick tries to ignore the attention directed at him and those leering at him still continue to treat him like a piece of meat. His opinion on this mostly unwanted attention doesn't matter in the slightest.

Lobdell: With Roy there's not much but the artist is trusted to get the message out. Nothing needs to be said. He's effortlessly sexy which is a nice twist since Roys' usually the "funny one."

Jason is an unusual case, he gets to be sexy although it's in his alone time. He's not trying to be, while he's been complimented on his looks he isn't seen as an object. The first time he's naked around someone (Kori when she checks on him) it embarrasses him despite the fact Kori acts like its natural. She treats him respectfully and never mentions his nudity. Noticing how much it bothers him she helps him find clothes for his sake. Something many would find emasculating--wearing a pink towel--doesn't even occur to him. In fact this happens in the midst of Jokers' attack. In the next moment it become badass and hilarious as he's fighting in nothing but the towel. RHA has Roy coming in with a flamethrower and it's clear the intent is humor.

The situation and the characters reaction inform us what the tone is. If the undressed person isn't comfortable and/or being treated with respect the tone isn't comfortable. It isn't sexy and becomes invasive. Art can inform us by its self but much like the writing the direction of the information it's giving us decides how we feel about the scene. Snyders' second scene works because it has two consenting adults who act naturally. The same thing occurs with Roy and Kori in bed. No one ever addresses Jasons' nudity, we view the situation through his eyes and when we do find humor it's based off of the contrast of the situation. The fact he's embarrassed despite Kori already seeing him naked when she nursed him back to health. She doesn't have a problem with it. The fact he manages to keep a towel on in a fight. And his WTF reaction to Roy gleeful shooting fire at him without a warning.

With Dick he's usually presented as eye candy to many of the people in Grayson. In the scan he's naked to make sure he's not carrying any trackers but the old lady is outright ogling him. This is the same woman that talked about writing fanfiction on him. Now she gets to feel him up and get closer than she should. The obsession is creepy but it's supposed to be funny. Why? Because she finds him sexy and has no sense of personal boundaries ? Would we find this humorous if the genders were reversed?


  1. Despite my recent critcism at Snyder's writing, I have to admit he gets Bruce's character, and that shower scene is the perfect example of that. On the actual topic, he is also the only one author (Rocafort also manages the same thing with Roy but well, that is more Lobdell trusting him with the issue) who willingly presents some eye candy using the male form without making it feel over the top or using it for comedy.

    Grayson is simply wrong. If King and Seeley would bothered to write all the women in the scen as acting professional it would be a great example but no, they had to be "clever" and lean too much in the fourth wall. Is like they want to turn Dick into Deadpool but without the self awareness.

    Lobdell use of Jason is more of an old school take, where the main goal is to get a good laugh from the audience due the lack of clothing on Jason and the bizarre situations he gets involved with. Is also interesting to compare it with the way he handled Kori.

  2. The shower scene had a lot of taste which I also had to credit Capullo for. He clearly knows what he's doing something a lot of artists can learn from. Less is more especially in these sort of intimate scenes. Showing Bruce being in a relationship isn't as easy as it sounds. While Snyder gave himself more leeway with the memory block he could have fumbled but he still stayed in character.

    Lobdell apparently gives artists a basic idea to draw and trusts them to fill in the blanks. Rocafort did an amazing job with Kori and Roy.

    Yeah, they have already pushed Dick into a role he's ill suited for. The "humor" doesn't work for the character. Exactly, no one takes the sexual harassment seriously. They all know she has an unhealthy interest in him and its ignored. The stalker girls basically get away with their behavior and Dick is presented to them to leer at. Even if they don't give a damn about Dick you'd think they'd want to keep their agents focused on their work.

    Interestingly it's a complete change from Winick trying to over-sexualize Jason in his last arc. If I want to overthink this I'm sure there's a meta to be made about Jason being awkward when he's vulnerable. I find it fascinating that Jason is given this role and not Roy. I'm sure Lobdell just wanted to do something funny and didn't intend for it to be anything more.