The sexuality of superheroines has been something of a hot topic over the past few years. What is interesting is that most of the complaints have been coming from two diametrically opposed groups: feminists and conservatives.
Feminists have complained about cheesecake artwork and gratuitously skimpy costuming. Some conservatives made the same complaints, while others complained about the efforts to present more female heroes in more modest costuming as positive examples of powerful women. Indeed, this was one of the key complaints of the Comicsgate movement and has resulted in a lot of trash-talking and down-voting of movies and shows centering around female superheroes. Yet the most successful of these movements was launched by women who felt that Wonder Woman should not be an official UN ambassador because of her skimpy costume!
As a white cis man, this isn’t really my fight. On the one hand, I can see the point that Wonder Woman’s costume might not be appropriate on a global level, given various cultures. Then again, I can easily see Diana (as a fictional character) not caring because that is their problem, not hers, and she is comfortable in her own skin and armor. I know women who read comics who dislike Jim Balent’s artwork. I also know several women who love his take on Catwoman. I love that we have characters like Kamala Khan headlining their own comics. I think Frank Cho is an ass for drawing underage superheroines twerking in an effort to “own the libs.”
This brings us to Halloween Man #20 – the final chapter of Drew Edwards’ Ugly America trilogy and Edwards’ examination of his own heroine, Lucy Chaplin. Edwards has openly admitted to designing Lucy based on his own ideal woman – big, beautiful, strong and smart. The irony is that Edwards was acclaimed for presenting a positive image of plus-sized women in superhero comics long before Faith of Valiant Comics, yet this wasn’t entirely his intent. This begs the question, which Edwards discusses in the foreword and afterword of this issue; is it possible for a character to be strong and sexualized?
Lucy believes that she can, but the issue sees her fighting two colleagues – a feminist who disapproves of women flaunting their sexuality and a conservative who disapproves of plus-sized women not being appropriately ashamed of who they are. It’s an odd coupling and, unsurprisingly, their creation of a Lucy Chaplin 2.0 replicant meant to replace the super scientist is rather confused in its programming.
Sadly, I’m afraid that this is the weakest chapter of Ugly America. While Edwards has a noble intent with this story, the scenes of Lucy pondering her public image and talking with her boyfriend Halloween Man about her worries are far more effective and ring far truer than the action sequences of her fighting her own “improved” clone. There’s also little sense of suspense to the story, as Lucy is far more competent than her ever-arguing enemies.
The artwork is also a bit off this time around. There is an odd leanness to Luis Inzunza’s characters (apart from Lucy herself) and there is little sense of real space in his action scenes. The finished artwork looks very flat and while the colors by Natalee Glockzin are vivid, there is only so much they can do to liven things up.
Despite this, I still enjoyed Halloween Man #20. It hits more than it misses, but it is still the most lackluster issue of this three-part mini-series. Granted, I say that in the same sense that Return of the Jedi is the weakest of the original Star Wars movies. It’s a good comic, but it could have been better.
Halloween Man #20 is available for download on Comixology.