Rape and Comics

Posted: November 8, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

It is no shock to anyone who knows me that I am into comics. I have been a reader and collector for 27 years and have spent over a fifth of that time directly involved in the industry, mostly in distribution, flanked by two stints in retail. I enjoy comics for all that they offer, despite their occasional journeys into not exactly uplifting areas.

They are getting better, in some ways. Batwoman was a big step forward, as was the new Ultimate Spider-man, but they still lag behind in some areas.

This past week, I bought a comic called Avengers 1959 #3. It is the third issue (duh) of a five issue miniseries. The premise is that Nick Fury gathered a team of ‘heroes’ at the end of the 50’s to deal with a few threats. (The ‘real’ Avengers book was started in 1963, so this would predate that.)

It started as a feature in one of the modern Avengers books, written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Howard Chaykin. This mini is both written and drawn by Chaykin.

There were already problems in this series. A character called the Blonde Phantom is a female spy whose normal purpose appears to be to sleep with enemies to get information. This sterotype is not new and, as I said, comics are not always at the forefront of enlightenment. I didn’t like that, but I didn’t make a fuss either.

In issue #3, things got worse. Blonde Phantom needed to incapacitate two guards. She did so in the cliche fashion – acting flirty and then, when they dropped their guard, knocking them out. The issue here is that the guards discussed (in German, if memory serves) what they were going to do as she approached.

Guard 1: I’ll hold her down.
Guard 2: No, I had firsts last time.

The next panel they were knocked out, never to appear in the comic again.

What just happened there? The writer (Chaykin) used multiple rapes as a joke.

Now, because I have been over this with some people who think there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, let me explain. I understand fiction. I understand characterization. I understand the value of a nasty antagonist. If there is a major villain who they are trying to set up as a particularily nasty piece of work, I can understand why they would make him a rapist. Heck, make him a child murderer and a violator of puppies, if that is what you need to do to make the story work.

That is NOT what happened here. We are talking about two throw away characters that only appeared on two panels. They did not need to give us a reason for B.P. to knock them out. She was already going to do that. No. This was added for ZERO narrative advantage. It existed only so they could make a joke.

A joke about rape.

I have more that I would say but I would be repeating myself. Here is a letter I sent to Marvel Comics, letting them know what I thought about this little comic ‘joke’.

Everything in this letter is true.

“““““““““““““`
I read Avengers 1959 #3 and I feel compelled to do something I rarely do, which is write in to express my disappointment.

I want to give you a little background so that you can understand where I am coming from.

I rediscovered comics at the age of 16 back in 1984. The book that hooked me and turned me into a comics fan was the Avengers. Since that time I made comics my career for a while, working in both retail and distribution. During that time Avengers turned into a quest of mine, as I tracked down every issue, all the way back to #1 in 1963. I now have every Avengers comic ever printed.

That will change next month when Avengers 1959 #4 is released as I will not be buying it (or #5).

What could convince me to stop now? Can you guess what is that comic that would anger me enough to make this decision?

I would HOPE that it would be obvious.

There were already some supect things about the series. I am not thrilled that the Blonde Phantom’s secret power appears to be the ability to have sex with people. That annoyance is hardly new in the industry, so it was not going to be any more than that.

But this issue, you fell to a new low.

A rape joke.

A rape JOKE.

This was not character development. There was absolutely zero reason to have these two guards making jokes about raping women. ZERO. This was not a method to show how heinous they were as their only purpose was to be knocked out one panel later.

Comments about holding a woman down while the other one has his way with her? Stated in a ‘humorous’ fashion mixing the image of sexual assault with an overly-polite ‘no please, after YOU’ comment.

There are IGNORANT people who DO make jokes like this. There are also people who make homophobic comments. There are also people who are racist. There is no shortage of ignorant people in the world… but that does not mean you should publish this sort of bile.

I am NOT saying you can never have a rapist in a comic. I strongly believe that comics can serve as any other sort of art: they can display many different things to get many different responses. If you do a story that includes a rapist, and he is portrayed as a horrible person committing heinous acts and he pays for his crimes… that is part of comics and part of all (crime-based) fiction.

That isn’t what you did here.

You made a JOKE.

If you can explain to me, in rational terms, what was added to this story by having these two THROW-AWAY CHARACTERS make light of such a terrible crime, I will acknowledge it… but you can’t.

How could anyone think that this was okay?

Someone should be fired over this.

Rusty Priske

Ottawa, ON, Canada

“““““““““

No response yet.

Interested in letting Marvel know what you think of that issue?

mheroes@marvel.com

Sometimes you have to draw a line. Does it seem like intentionally leaving a hole in your collection is a small thing? Well I suppose it is, but not to a collector. (I have already been accused of lying on a comic forum where I stated I would be doing this.)

It isn’t much, but it is what I can do.

Comments
  1. smgatcomb says:

    I can see that this upset you and is a good reason to stop reading this series. How far are you going to take this? Will you stop buying Marvel comics?, Will you stop seeing anything Disney? Stop Watching ESPN or ABC programming? I agree that the dialog may be inappropriate but they were just trying to show that they were bad guys and they had it coming regardless of what the “hero” was going to do. The audience does need to see that “evil” is pervasive throughout the organization and not just drones following the leader. It was just a literary device. I have not read the mentioned comic, but from your description, it does not appear that they were glamorizing or promoting rape, but just trying to show that they were not good and had what ever they got because they were bad.

  2. Knut Robert Knutsen says:

    First: Both male and female agents at the time slept with people they were spying on to get close enough to secure the information. Ever seen a James Bond movie? Blonde Phantom isn’t doing anything James Bond wasn’t doing all the time. Second: As for the “rape-joke”? This isn’t Chaykin joking about rape. This is Chaykin having his characters beat up two Nazi would-be rapists who joke about rape.

    Also: This is a Chaykin book. Sex, sex-jokes and kink is to be expected. His villains are frequently racists, bigots, murderers and rapists. His racist villain-characters make racist jokes and then get punished for it. That’s the important point: they are portrayed as vile people and punished for their misdeeds. This isn’t Chaykin looking for an excuse to make off-color jokes. This is Chaykin using off-color jokes to give emotional justification to violence.

    You might say that Blonde Phantom was (plotwise) justified in knocking these guys out because she needed to get past. But emotionally, it feels a lot better for the reader when there is no doubt that these guys are arseholes who deserve a beating. And arseholes who rape (and make jokes about it) really deserve a beating.

    Chaykin is jewish, yet he’ll have Nazi villains tell jew-jokes to show how bad they are. It wouldn’t occur to us to call him an anti-semite because his villains make anti-semitic jokes before being killed in horrible, painful ways? Would it?

  3. Is it not possible that the response is not a joke made to you the reader, but an indication of the callousness of the two extras?

  4. Max says:

    Would you be this pissed if they’d made a joke about murder?

  5. I would tend to agree with Knut and Adrian. This incident aside, have you been enjoying this series?

  6. [...] Comments Chris @ Ridiculously… on Rape and Comicsrpriske on Rape and ComicsMax on Rape and ComicsAdrian Reynolds on Rape [...]

  7. cs3ink says:

    I agree that this is an over-reaction. This was not a joke about rape. This was two asswipes NOT joking about rape, but rather callously expressing their intention to commit said horrible act. And it’s pure Chaykin. Much ado about nada, sorry.

  8. This is NOT an overreaction! I was also disgusted by the inclusion of a rape joke in this comic. Anyone who says Rusty is oversensitive has never been raped. It is not something to joke about, it is a real thing that large parts of our society dismiss as no big deal. As a woman, I can tell you that being raped is THE WORST THINGS I CAN IMAGINE HAPPENING TO ME. The fact that there are so many rape apologists amongst comic fandom I suppose shouldn’t surprise me, but it does. I don’t care how evil the 2 guards were supposed to be, that joke was unnecessary and symptomatic of how pervasive rape culture is without those who are a part of it even realizing it. Get your heads out of your asses.

    • cs3ink says:

      I think the point Chaykin was making was that it WAS A BIG DEAL. The guys were scumbags. It was NOT a joke, but rather an illustration of what evil SOBs the two characters were. Chaykin WAS NOT making a joke. He was not making light of that horrendous crime.

      Seriously, you think Chaykin chuckled to himself as he wrote the dialogue or something. Yeesh.

    • Maher says:

      It amazes and worries me that people keep referring to this dialogue as a “rape Joke”. It isnt a joke and is pure characterization to show that these 2 are unpleasant people. Like it or not, that sort of thing did take place and never ever mentioning it again will never change that.

      Where do you stop with your condemnations. Lets face it, near enough every foreigner in comics is quite often shown as either a bad person or stupid and yet thats ok.

  9. schmakt says:

    I’m more offended by your letter. “Someone should be fired over this?” Seriously? What we need is more censorship! That will makes things better.

    This just reads like someone looking for something about which they can complain. This is a non-issue, and this article is, as others have noted, a total overreaction.

    • rpriske says:

      You do not understand what censorship is. A company choosing to not publish something offensive is not censorship.

      What I said is that Marvel should have chosen not to publish this – just like they chose (after the fact) to not publish the issue where Sabretooth utters an anti-semetic slur.

      Calling it censorship belittles the ACTUAL issue surrounding censorship in society.

      • cs3ink says:

        Villians and bad people say bad things, Rusty. The reader is *supposed* to hate the comment and become angry. So, what, evils characters can only say hateful things as long as no one is offended? Really? Sabretooth *should* have said what they censored. He’s an evil SOB. It’s okay for a villain to kill and maim, but they are not allowed to say hateful things?

  10. schmakt says:

    sure it is. You can put it on the low end of the spectrum if you want, but it would absolutely be a form of censorship. Is it somehow different b/c a corporation would do it instead of the government? It’s still someone putting the ideals of one group of people above the ability of an artist to create something without interference.

    The only reason a publisher “should not” print something in a free market is if it affects their sales, which this doesn’t appear to have done at all. They have no obligation to only publish things that conform to any one group or person’s sense of right and wrong.

    And, again, the suggestion that someone should be fired over this is one of the most inane things I’ve heard in quite a while.

    • rpriske says:

      This is a whole different discussion but a publishing company is not REQUIRED to publish anything. To choose to NOT publish something is not censorship.

      In fact, the idea that it IS censorship is pretty much ridiculous.

      Marvel just cancelled Alpha Flight… but the writer wanted to do more issues! CENSORSHIP!

      You want to talk about inane?

      • schmakt says:

        They cancelled Alpha Flight b/c it wasn’t making enough money. That’s the free market and has nothing to do with censorship.

        You are suggesting that a company should have changed what an artist did b/c it runs afoul of your sensibilities. You are suggesting that someone lose their job b/c you didn’t like something that was published. How is that anything other than advocating censorship?

  11. rpriske says:

    Now we are down to it.

    cs3ink (many, I hate internet names…) you think it is okay to say anything, ever, as long as the writer puts into into the voice of a character.

    Who cares that it makes casual usage of such comments commonplace and the damage that can do to people. Too bad.

    (and AGAIN, for the UMPTEENTH TIME, there is a HUGE difference between making remarks that SERVE A NARRATIVE PURPOSE. That is not the case here. They were throw away lines for throw away characters. They were NOT useful in ANY way.)

    • cs3ink says:

      Call me “Chip” then. These comments did serve a narrative purpose, maybe not one you thought was necessary, but that does not change their intent.

      Yes, I think characters can say anything, as long as it is true to the character. As a creator myself, I write dialogue for characters with whose opinions I strongly disagree. A murder or rapist tends to not view the world as do I, and so will often say things with which I take great umbrage. If we censor our evil characters (or even good characters with insensitive points of view) because we fear we’ll insult others, or fear such dialogue will encourage like-minded thinking, then we cannot truly explore or define the world around us. Simply because I write a racist character committing murder does not mean others will begin to think doing so is right and proper. I have much more faith in my fellow man apparently. I do not believe to asswipes trivializing rape will lead to more rape. In fact I believe it will lead to less, as people recognize the repugnance of such thinking.

  12. Ian Thal says:

    Is it really odd that two members of a neo-Nazi paramilitary, that is, an organization dedicated to genocide, Aryan-supremacy, and enslavement of those they view as their lessers, not only be rapists, but blasé about committing rape? Look at the history of the SS: these people committed heinous acts not just in their official capacity, but indulged in all sorts of sadistic impulses (like rape) simply because the genocidal policies of their government gave them license to devise any torture they could imagine.

    Accusing Chaykin of wrong doing here is absurd: He’s simply showing the most fanatical of Nazis (ones who would still be fighting after the Reich had been defeated) as the moral monsters they really were.

    • Ian Thal says:

      I’d also note that Chaykin is quite open about his left-wing, anti-fascist politics, and any time he presents Nazis in his comics, it’s fair to say that he’s done his research.

  13. cs3ink says:

    No jab perceived, Rusty. I hate enames as well.

  14. Knut Robert Knutsen says:

    The statement that these remarks have no narrative purpose makes no sense to me. This is a scene that follows on two scenes of conversation, so it’s an action scene, a fight scene. It’s a typical distract and incapacitate scene with a fight in it.
    Now, in the scene as it is set up , the guards need to have dialogue.We’ve only just met these guards and in the scene Chaykin needs to establish 2 things:

    1) that these guys are distracted by the Blonde Phantom in a way that is convincingly at odds with their duties as guards (a dutiful guard might have raised an alarm) and

    2) These guys are bad enough to deserve being pistol-whipped and punched in the throat (both of which are potentially fatal).

    And that is what their dialogue does, by portraying them as distracted by a desire to rape. In addition, it reinforces the portrayal of this entire villainous organization as morally corrupt.

    And what happens to the would-be rapists? Beaten to within an inch of their lives. And however “wrong” and politically incorrect it may be, don’t we find that we get a greater emotional satisfaction from learning that these guys (who were going to get beaten anyway) were rapists rather than nice family men working minimum wage or poor village boys pressed into military service against their will?

    These remarks do serve a narrative purpose, not only in that story beat, but the scene, it justifies “action” that raises interest level between talking-heads scenes and it reinforces the impression of the base villainy of the antagonists as portrayed throughout the series. It is one thing to want to conquer the world, that’s too big a crime to relate meaningfully to. But we can all feel revulsion at the rape and brutality that this triggers on an individual level.

    I was at a storytelling Seminar led by Chaykin, and if there’s one thing he kept pounding into us, it was that everything you did, every choice you made with panels and dialogue, should earn its place in the story and, in short, have a narrative purpose.

    And clearly these remarks do.

    • rpriske says:

      No they do not.

      If they had NOT made the rape joke, would the scene have been just as effective? Yes it would have. There was nothing gained. You would have had a scene where one character distracted two guards and then knocked them out… only without a rape joke.

      So, it seems that Chaykin failed at the one thing he kept pounding into you.

      • cs3ink says:

        I disagree, Rusty. The reader is MORE invested in the scene BECAUSE of the offensive dialogue, therefore the emotional payoff is greater.

      • schmakt says:

        “Yes it would have. There was nothing gained.”
        That’s my issue… b/c that’s your opinion of the way the story progressed. An opinion to which you’re, obviously, entitled, but expecting the publisher to force your opinion on an artist’s work is… well, I only know one word to describe that, so I think we’ll just have to disagree about what to call it. :)

  15. [...] Rusty made this entry to his blog.  I strongly recommend that you read the post for yourself, but the nuts and bolts is [...]

  16. Carol says:

    Rusty, I agree with your point. For those trying to uphold “art for art’s sake” here I have a question, which essentially echoes some already posed:

    Suppose, instead, just to make sure everyone understood that these were evil characters, they talked about grabbing a seven-year old boy and holding him down while one of the two guards had “firsts” this time…
    Would that be perfectly acceptable as characterization for the sake of advancing the story? DOES it advance the story? How? And in what way, except perhaps degree, is it any different than other things that would be deemed at best inappropriate? What about the growing tendency for the blurring of lines between fiction and reality that has certainly had some impact on the nature and frequency of violent anti-social behaviour today?

    Flinging the word censorship around does not make the opposing argument work. As Rusty points out, there are decisions made in favour of or against publication for every issue of every magazine. But just because you label it censorship, does not make it so.

    Regardless of what you may think of the argument itself, speak for or against the argument, but don’t malign the speaker.

    Carol

    • cs3ink says:

      Yes, Carol, it would enhance the story in that it would CLEARLY define the characters in question as reprehensible. Again, evil, despicable people SHOULD say evil, despicable things. Do so is one of the tools used to define such characters.

      Now, your example would not work in context with the story in question, but would in one involving children in peril. I’ve written a child rapist character. I did not pull back on his thinking, actions and words so as too fail to offend. Rather, I sought to offend, as the character was offensive. As a proud father of 3 girls, I took zero joy from writing the character, but understanding what made him tick was important to the piece.

      In Chaykin’s piece, said dialogue was a masterful stroke in that it completely summed up the villainy of the two characters in very few words. You are SUPPOSED to be offended. They are bad people with bad inner and outer dialogue.

      There was no joke here. There was no desire to soften the views on rape by trivializing them. The words did what Chaykin wanted them to do.

      • rpriske says:

        Why do peple keep saying there was no joke? Guard #2 is clearly making a joking comment to Guard #1.

        (And for people who claim it is ‘character development’, please note that we are talking about characters I can only refer to as Guard #1 and Guard #2 who last two panels. There IS no character development.)

      • Carol says:

        I was not intending that my example would work in this context, but to attempt to illustrate the wider point that Rusty was making. It appears that I was not successful.

    • schmakt says:

      yes, that would have been perfectly acceptable as well. Your argument about blurring the lines b/t fiction and reality is fine… but you’re still just advocating censorship. No matter what your reasoning for wanting it is, that’s what it comes down to.

      Everyone that thinks the initial post makes sense thinks it makes sense b/c it’s somehow “right” or “expected” for a publisher to support your values by removing something that somehow offends you.

      And I get it… fine, you’re offended. Writing a letter to the publisher is a great way to show that. Not buying the rest of the series is a much much better way to show it. If you want to affect what sees print, that is your recourse. If something doesn’t sell they won’t publish it. But expecting them to make a decision regarding what they publish (and who they fire?!) based on your personal values is clearly, in my mind, a call for censorship.

      And I find that much more offensive than any ink on any paper ever could be.

      • rpriske says:

        Once again, you do not understand what censorship is.

        I did write a letter to the publisher. I also am not going to buy the rest of the series.

        The ‘fire’ comment comes because I believe that the editor allowed something to be published that I believe Marvel would choose not to publish. (Again, the Sabrtooth recall backs me up.)

        I do not believe that the Marvel higher ups would consider this okay. Therefore the editor has not done her job properly and deserves admonishment for that. Is it a serious enough offense to lose a job over?

        I think it is, but that is just my opinion.

      • schmakt says:

        then please explain what you think it is.
        Why would they choose to not publish it? If they are making a business decision, then great; they are a business.

        But you are approaching this as though Marvel has some sort of moral obligation to not publish something. They have no such obligation, and expecting them to enforce your moral code because you find something offensive is absolutely censorship.

        I definitely think that writing them and not buying the rest of the series is exactly what you should do if you find it offensive. Heck, if anyone has any obligation here at all, it’s your obligation to do exactly what you did. That’s how our market works. That’s how these decisions should be made. You would prefer to spend your money on books that have been pre-censored by an editor so as not to offend your sensibilities. I’m fine with that too, but I am really struggling to understand how you don’t see that what you’re requesting is censorship of the author.

        Does censorship have its place in mass publishing? Of course it does. If I’m going to market something to little kids, I probably shouldn’t show [insert whatever you think offends little kids], but I still have no moral obligation to show or not show it. The market will tell the tale.

        It seems as though you want to make this an argument that this scene was simply bad storytelling (and, by extension, bad editing). But that’s not holding water for me. You’re offended by the content, not the style. If the conversation had been about shooting Jews would you have been equally offended? Or if it was about hanging a run-away slave? What about stealing a car? At what point do you stop being offended?

      • rpriske says:

        The market dictates all?

        Once again we are diverging into a different topic. Just as my views on censorship (and what you CALL censorship – for example, choosing to not market a book to little kids if you feel the content is not appropriate is NOT cencership) appear to vary widely from yours.

        Well it also seems that your view of what should occur in a marketplace also varies wildly from mine. You appear to think that businesses should have no reason for making decisions other than the bottom line. I disagree. I have had discussions with the blindly capitalist before and it goes nowhere.

        I suppose you don’t think much of the Occupy movement either.

        Capitalism has its upside. This (passing the onus of decision making onto the ‘market’) is its downside.

      • schmakt says:

        I actually think Capitalism is a horrible system that caters to the basest human desires, but it’s what we’re living in. The one upside to it is that it *should* allow for complete freedom of expression. If people don’t want something it will cease to exist. And if people do want something it should exist.

        I’m just really struggling to figure out how to understand what you’re asking for. I think maybe it boils down to whether or not you see comics as art. And a lot also depends on whether or not the publisher sees what they’re doing as art. With the “kid-friendly” thing… they’re marketing and creating a product to fill a need more than they are creating art. Self-censorship is still censorship, but it does have its place. Definitely when one is creating a “product.”

        What I’m trying to argue is that Chaykin’s work does (and should) fall more into the category of “art” than “product.” Perhaps I’m wrong about that… and often (especially from the big two) the sense is becoming more and more that they are simply producing product. Should the editor have censored his author in service to the idea of the product? Maybe… if sales drop on 4 & 5 then yes, definitely. But that’s still an opinion until there are facts to support the success or failure of the product that was created.

        Changing art to fit someone’s morals is always censorship.

        But yeah, I guess we really do just see things from different angles. Passing the judgment of morals to the market is the biggest positive that Capitalism has, in my opinion. Its biggest downside is that success is measured by what you have. Greed is rewarded, and people will do just about anything to win.

        In theory I’m fully behind the Occupy thing.
        In reality my cynical side sees a bunch of people who aren’t good enough at Capitalism to be the top 1% complaining about those who are, yet offering no solution past, “give me some of what they’ve got b/c I can’t figure out how to get it for myself.”

        I’d also like to agree with you that businesses should care about more than the bottom line, but how often does that ever happen? Capitalism does not reward that. (obviously, social decisions can lead to more sales… but there is no direct reward for a corporation who behaves in a “moral” way)

        If this was an Image comic would you have felt the same?
        What if it was creator owned?
        What if it had a “Mature” label on it?
        Is what was depicted just wrong in all possible circumstances in your opinion?

      • rpriske says:

        That is the first reasonable argument I have seen from the ‘other side’.

        Congratulations.

        I still don’t agree with you, but at least you are making rational arguments and not just throwing up straw men.

        (We are still straying far from the topic however.)

        The only issue is whether it is okay for Marvel to publish this. I don’t think so and I make my decisions based on that. Further, I don’t think MARVEL would think it is okay. I think this was an oversight on the part of editorial. Thus I chose to bring it to their attention.

        This was never an attack on Chaykin. I don’t think he is a very good writer, based on what I have seen, but if that were the only standard there would be a lot fewer books being published. I blame Marvel editorial for not realizing that they were making light of something that should never be made fun of.

        (Have you ever seen George Carlin’s bit on how you can make a joke about anything? He says that before the show is over he will make a joke about rape. He does, and despite his normal brilliance… it wasn’t funny.)

      • schmakt says:

        I don’t think I’ve seen that, but I’ll have to check it out… I agree; he’s definitely most often incredibly funny. :)

        I think that what you said there is SO much more clear than the initial post. I don’t think Marvel has any obligation to agree with you, but to frame the argument more as, “I thought Marvel was [this] kind of company as opposed to [that] kind of company; my disappointment in learning that this is not the case will cause me to no longer invest in your product.” really makes things fit together better. (Sorry for my paraphrasing.)

        Initially everything just felt like such a knee-jerk (over-)reaction that seemed far too unforgiving due to a different understanding of what is morally acceptable that the underlying ideas got lost. (on me)

        I would like to reiterate that I do think that this is exactly why and how a completely free-market Capitalist society can work. Participation is key.

  17. Here is the text of the letter I just sent to Marvel about this comic. What all you people commenting don’t see is the way you are personally perpetrating a culture that dismisses and trivializes rape and sexual assault. Girlfriend in the refrigerator run rampant. It is disgusting.

    “I just finished reading issue 3 of Avengers 1959. I can hardly believe that the content was published that has prompted my letter. A rape joke? Really? A joke about one man holding a woman down so the other one can have first dibs on raping her? I was disgusted. This shows incredibly poor judgement on the part of Chaykin and the book’s editor. Oh, I know people will say lighten up, it was meant to show how evil the 2 guards were, Chaykin doesn’t make rape jokes himself, don’t be so sensitive, you have no sense of humour, etc, etc. Consciously or otherwise, the creators of this book are perpetrating the pervasive rape culture in our society. Rape and sexual assault are serious criminal acts, not something to make jokes about, to minimize or to dismiss as no big deal. I already turn my cheek at so much of the sexism that pervades comics, but this I could not let slide.

    I will not be buying issues 4 and 5 and I will seriously reconsider buying anything written by Howard Chaykin or edited by Lauren Sankovitch. I feel they owe an apology and an explanation as to why they think rape is a joking matter to all victims of sexual assault and those who love them.”

  18. This blogger said it all so well I am re-posting it as a comment. Read it and tell me you still think this is no big deal.

    In Defense of Rusty.
    Posted on November 9, 2011 by nadinethornhill
    Trigger warning: This is a post about sexual assault. Please practice self-care and cruise past this entry if you need to.

    I’m cracking the tab on the rant can.

    Rusty is a cherished friend. He is a kind soul and a wonderful poet. He is also compassionate, feminist-minded and a very smart man. I respect the hell out of him.

    Yesterday, Rusty made this entry to his blog. I strongly recommend that you read the post for yourself, but the nuts and bolts is this. Rusty is a conoissuer of comic books. Recently he was reading a story, wherein two minor villains share a short, throw away joke with each other about raping the female protagonist, before she dispatches them and they are never seen again.

    Rusty objects to the use of rape humour in this instance. It was casual, insensitive and ultimately unecessary to the overall plot of the story.

    With the exception of Whedonverse-related stories, I don’t read a lot comics. I have not read the comic in question. But I know and respect Rusty enough to trust his assesment of how it went down. I absolutely support his decision to boycott the rest of the series. I applaud him for speaking out against when sexual violence is bandied about for casual entertainment. Because guess what?

    SEXUAL VIOLENCE ISN’T FUN!

    It’s not fucking fun! It’s not funny and it’s not some macabre, but ultimately harmless plot device that authors can use as short hand to indicate “badness” in a character! It is a violent, violating reality for an overwhleming portion of people…women in particular. I understand why Rusty is pissed off and dissapointed. I am too.

    However, I am ten times pissier and ten times more dissapointed by the response to Rusty’s post. Dissapointed by those who don’t see the harm in a little rape joke. And I’m just plain old fashioned MAD that anyone would call my friend names and insult his character, because he dared to speak out against a rape joke.

    I’m curious. What exactly are Rusty’s dissenters – especially those who have made this personal – what exactly are they so upset about? Rusty believes that rape and sexual violence are a despicable, prevelant reality. He objects to the subject being treated lightly. HOW IS THIS WRONG?

    What is it about the presence of rape humour or casual mentions of sexual assault in a comic book that is SO important to people, that they will personal malign a stranger in it’s defense.

    Reading through the comments on Rusty’s blog, I’ve seen several arguments that justify this particular use of rape because the author is using it to illustrate that the minor characters in question are bad men, who deserve their imminent pounding.

    That’s not the point.

    The point isn’t, “it’s okay to casually mention rape, as long as we aren’t saying rape is good.” I can’t speak to the comic itself, so I will use another example of entertainment fiction as an example.

    A few years ago I watched a show called Veronica Mars. In the first season, we learned that the eponymous Veronica had been druged and sexually assaulted at a party by an unknown assailant. This was never portrayed as a positive thing; however, it was very clear that the issue of sexaul assualt was being used as a convenient plot device to alternatively paint Veronica in a sympathic light and at various times, villify or cast suspicion on various secondary characters throughout the season. In my opinion, the writers/creators used sexual violence in a very irresponisible way. Yes, the narrative was “rapists are bad” but it was done in a very dismissive manner. It was meant to entertain…and I’m sorry, but rape is not entertainment.

    One person made the observation that Rusty wouldn’t object to the author using Nazi-ism as a villify device in his story. I can’t speak to what Rusty would do, but I would certainly object to usage if the Nazi regime were still alive, thriving and killing millions of people around the world every day.

    Because that’s the rub, people. Women, children and yes, even some men are sexually assualted and abused. Every. Single. Day. By the millions. And it’s not funny. It’s not entertaining and there’s nothing casual about it.

    And for those who think that two throw away lines in a comic book have no consequences and don’t influence anyone’s thinking, come talk to me after after a sweat-stained stranger has groped you in a bar, or on a bus or in line at the store.

    Come talk to me after you’ve received a sexually gratuitious phone or two or five.

    Come talk to me after you’ve run home, lungs bursting after hearing a meanacing comment from a man walking behind you.

    Come talk to me after you told someone what happened and they said, “It’s not a big deal”.

    Come talk to me after you’ve become so accustomed to casual acts of invasion, that you no longer think it’s fucked up and resign yourself to life lived in constant vigilance.

    Come talk to me after those things have happened and tell me again why your rape-based entertainment is worth defending.

  19. cs3ink says:

    ARGH! THE SCENE IN QUESTION WAS NOT TRIVIALIZING RAPE! THERE WAS NO “RAPE JOKE”! THE SCENE IS NOT MEANT TO BE FUNNY. THE SS WERE KNOWN FOR THIS TYPE OF ACTIVITY! THIS SCENE IS MEANT TO BE INFLAMATORY AGAINST(!!!!!!!!!) RAPE!

    And I’ve yet to see anyone in this comment section insult Rusty. Maybe he’s getting private messages, but all the comments have come across to me as fairly even-handed.

    • rpriske says:

      The insults were actually on a different board.

      And there WAS a rape joke. It was a joke between the two guards. I do not understand how you can’t see that.

      (for some reason I can’t reply to the following comment… so I will edit here: ‘congrats on all the hits’? That was NOT my goal when I brought it up. I gave the info to Bleeding Cool because I thought it deserved coverage… NOT because I thought they were going to link back to my blog. It caught me off guard. I have never even had 100 hits in a day before. This is normally a poetry blog…)

      • cs3ink says:

        Of course they… ah, fergit it. I shall agree to disagree. There is little I can say that would not be grossly repetitive.

        Enjoyed the discussion. Congrats on all the hits. I hope it serves you well.

        Later,
        Chip

    • Ian Thal says:

      Agreed, cs3ink.

      The Shutzstaffel (SS) were known to use rape as just one of many ways to torture their victims (which numbered in the millions) during WWII. Similarly, we see widespread use of rape by Bosnian Serb militias against Bosniak and Croatian women during the break-up of Yugoslavia.

      Fascist militiamen are not well-known for having respect for women’s bodily integrity.

      Is Chaykin really making light of rape or is he pointing out how often rape accompanies other forms of violence, and how often misogyny accompanies other forms of hatred?

  20. Guard #1 “I’ll hold her down”
    Guard #2 “No, no — I took firsts with the last one.”

    How in the hell is that not trivializing rape? There are a great many ways to show the 2 guards were wicked asshats without resorting to this. I argue it is laziness on Chaykin’s part that he resorted to such a tactic.

  21. For everyone now trying to make this about censorship – http://derailingfordummies.com/

    Mind you, you are pretty good at it already, so I suppose you don’t really need the help.

  22. Knut Robert Knutsen says:

    The scene in question does not trivialize rape. The two guards are portrayed as being people to whom rape is trivial. And then they are punished. Severely.

    I am a fan of Law and Order shows (and other procedurals) and from Special Victims Unit on down, there is a tendency, when a suspect is a rapist or accused of rape (sometimes of children) to make remarks along the lines of “Enjoy being raped in prison, scumbag”. In those cases those remarks are made by good guys showing a callous disregard towards the possible rape of a prisoner. Even Judges on TV shows have made such remarks.

    Those remarks may in fact trivialize rape by suggesting that some people “deserve” to be raped. And by showing the good guys being indifferent to it.

    But showing bad guys discussing a crime they intend to commit (in this case) and then showing them being punished for it, does not trivialize rape. The scene does appeal to and reinforce a low impulse in us, yes. But it’s the impulse that reacts to attempted rape with a desire to violently punish the would-be rapists. Perhaps even kill them. If anything, it’s an attack on the idea that rape is trivial.

    Now, for some reason some people can’t separate the attitudes of the villains from the attitude of the writer. This is not uncommon.

    All I can think of is that perhaps those of us who do not see Chaykin as trivializing rape should also write in to Marvel and express our support for Chaykin and his book. Personally, I think it’s one of the more interesting projects to come out of Marvel in some time.

    • schmakt says:

      *thumbs up*
      already wrote them :)

    • rpriske says:

      They are not punished for it. They are punished for being guards. They would have been knocked out whether they made those comments or not. Claiming they are punished for their attitude in just a smokescreen.

      Writing to support rape jokes? My faith in humanity is taking a beating today…

      • Carol says:

        So at the risk of things up further…Rusty, you are to be commended for your stance on this. I didn’t notice any women defending the other side, only male comments. I wonder if underneath there is some feeling of guilt by gender association (unconscious of course) that needs to be rationalized away by defending the attitude? Just sayin’!

        Carol

    • Nadine says:

      I assume the attitude of the characters is “It’s funny and trivial to force women to have sex”.

      I assume the attitude of the author is, “This is the simplest, most economical way show the audience that these two characters are very, very bad men who deserve what happens to them next.”

      I assume that the author is at best, not aware and at worst, is not concerned with how reading a callous exchange of “I’ll hold her down”/ “Like we did the last time” might affect any reader who has in fact been held down, while the person who violated her laughed about it.

      Even those specific characters are eliminated in the next panel, those words are still there. They’ve been read. And for many, many, many people they trigger fearful, painful memories that don’t go away when they turn to the next page.

      Furthermore, casual references to rape and sexual violence happen all the time in popular entertainment. The police procedurals you mention are a perfect examples. For someone who’s actually been assaulted, it’s not just gritty but ultimately harmless TV. It’s a pretty visceral reminder of some very real, horrible shit.

      When is rape is channeled as a two-line throw away beat for incidental characters, it doesn’t make me think the author is condoning rape. But it does make me think he’s insensitive to how difficult it is to constantly have rape pop up randomly in books, in movies, on TV and in comics – particularly when someone has been through it.

      Rusty isn’t saying that the author is condoning rape or that the author thinks rape is funny. Rusty is saying that seeing characters casually joke about rape…even if they’re bad characters…EVEN if they’re bad characters who get the shit kicked out of them…is a painful trigger for a lot of readers. Throwing it in for the sake of a minor story point, THAT’S what trivial.

  23. Knut Robert Knutsen says:

    “Writing to support rape jokes?”

    No. Writing letters in support of a comic, a creator and an editor falesly accused (by you) of trivializing rape. You are urging people to write letters asking Marvel to fire someone over what in my opinion is a misinterpretation of the comic on your part. Granted, you are not alone in misreading the comic.

    As someone who thinks this is a good book, who wishes to see it continued (with future miniseries), and who wishes to see further work by Howard Chaykin by Marvel, I think it’s important that those of us who clearly disagree with your assessment in one way or another, also make our voices heard.

    Surely you see that to someone who does not share your opinion that the scene in question trivializes rape, having someone fired over it seems unwarranted.

    You ask that people share their genuine opinions about this book with Marvel. I do that, too. My intent is simply to remind those among us who don’t share your opinion that we can let OUR opinions be heard, too. It’s easy to forget.

  24. But it wasn’t a rape joke! They were to mongrels so detached from any sense of humanity that they consider assault commonplace. The twist in this scene is they show such disregard for women, that they didn’t even consider that Blonde Phantom was physically strong and, for a lack of a better phrase, kick ass. They assumed they would have their way with her, and it turned out to be quite opposite.

    If this scene does anything to trivialize sexual assault, it would have to be that Blonde Phantom wasn’t phased at all by the prospect of the two guards attempting to attack her, like having to deal with it is something she is accustomed to. That’s how I felt when I reread it on my lunch break.

    What I will say now Rusty is something that you will definitely agree with is that plot points like this, regardless of how well are poorly they are executed, only reinforces the stigma that comics have about their portrayal of women. I’m sure some of the women who’ve posted here can vouch that’s a big turn off to the comics world, and I won’t get into how creepy some comic dudes get. That’s why they don’t go to the comic book store. And its funny, that up unto the late 1960s/early 1970s–when the modern, more grown up comics became all the rage–is that comics were very friendly to women and had highly circulating lady titles. They’ve even referenced this in Mad Men, as Peggy and Joan have been shown reading Patty and Hetty a few times.

    While we all have our own opinions and experiences, I do say that this and the other thread have been interesting to read with people explaining and defending their opinions.

    • rpriske says:

      {sigh} It WAS a joke. Not a joke aimed at you, the reader, but a jok edelivered from one guard to the other.

      I am with you on the second half of your post, though. It amazes me how some stores seem to TRY to alienate half of their potential clientel.

  25. Knut Robert Knutsen says:

    “a painful trigger for a lot of readers. Throwing it in for the sake of a minor story point, THAT’S what trivial.”

    It seems like the argument is turning to almost all mentions of rape trivializing it.

    Yes, I’m sure a lot of people who have been through rape are sensitive to such portrayals on TV, in films or elsewhere. If that is the case, they should avoid entertainment where that is an issue. I know a girl who was beaten by her Middle-Eastern stepfather as a child, and as a consequence has a severe physical fear reaction when she sees Middle-eastern men. It would be absurd to demand to have all middle-eastern men banned from any place she might wish to go to accomodate her reaction. Instead, until she can deal with that reaction, she’ll have to avoid them. Even if that puts the burden on her.

    Fear and sensitivity to various issues may drive our subjective responses to media products, but for us to demand that films, TV-shows, books or comics be taken out of production and out of public view and the people behind them punished (which, make no mistake, is exactly what Rusty is pushing for) requires some sort of objective standard of transgression. Where we can say “this, right here, is dehumanizing and indefensible and far outside the standards and norms of civilized society). Avengers 1959 issue 3 is far from that.

    In the way you describe what supposedly “trivializes” rape, you set a very loose standard. And if the standard is anything that might upset a rape survivor, then that would include ALL mentions of rape. We had such a state of affairs once, where mention of rape was taboo. The result being that victims were shamed into silence and rapists walked free.

    In combatting the oppressive “shaming” of victims or survivors, the focus where I’m from has been on openness and communication. Not in trivializing rape but in making rape something that can be discussed every day without the weight of taboos. And sometimes, the contexts may seem trivial, but that doesn’t make the use or discussion trivial.

    You may see the use of a rape attempt here as trivial, but it isn’t just about these guards, it also ties into the dehumanizing philosophies of the entire villainous organization. Rape is seen in the context of the same dehumanizing ideas that lead to the Holocaust. That, to me, isn’t trivial.

    It should also be considered that comics are a short-hand form.

    I encounter things that offend me and upset me all the time in various media. But most of it is apparently well-intentioned. So I either endure what I don’t like or I drop it. For me to actively ask for someone to be fired, I’d require there to be malice, hate speech or a call to violence.

    • Nadine says:

      Knut,

      Thank you for taking the time to read and reply to my comment. I appreciate that we can have this discussion.

      Just to be clear, I don’t think that all mentions of rape trivialize it. However, I do feel that sexual violence is insidious and that it’s casual use in works of fiction is one of the many contributing factors.

      If my research is correct the guards are members of post WW-II Nazi organziation. Nazi are despicable people, who do despicable things and deserve the comeuppance that they receive. I am totally on board with that.

      I’m going to digress for a paragraph or two, but only for a moment.

      Schindler’s List is another work of fiction that depicts Nazi’s at their villainous worst. It’s a pretty violent film. Graphic depictions of concentration camp detainees being shot, beaten, humilated and tortured. These depictions evoke not only sympathy for the victim of the Nazi regime, but also anger at it’s perpetrators.

      However, when it comes to the issue of children being murdered at the hands of Nazis, Schindler’s List, this otherwise graphic film uses the lightest hand possible. An iconic little girl in a red coat, seen fleeing the violence early in the film is later seen dead a top a pile of bodies. That’s it.

      The Nazis killed children. Violently. But that film chose not to show us those acts of violence, because as a society we’ve decided that violence against children is unpalatable. It does exist in our fiction and our stories, but as a general rule we’re very careful about how and when it’s portrayed. Furthermore, when viewers or readers are disturbed by it, most people are sympathetic to that point of view.

      We don’t treat sexual violence, particularly sexual violence against women with that same light hand. When people express that they can’t find the murder of a child funny or that disturbs them to the point that they can’t enjoy a movie, novel or comic, most people accept that. We scrutinize and temper it’s use as a storytelling device.

      The use of rape in the context of this story has disturbed Rusty to the point that he can’t enjoy this comic anymore. He has said as much the overwhelming reaction has been one of defensiveness.

      Killing a child is so wrong, we as a society can barely tolerate it, even as a fictional plot device. Why don’t we feel that way about sexual violence – something that happens far more frequently?

      Rusty was deeply disturbed by characters joking about rape? Why is that wrong? I’m not going to lie – the fact that people are more disturbed by Rusty’s objection than they are by a portrayal of serial rapists concerns me.

      This one page in this one comic book isn’t responsible for the prevalence of sexual violence in our society. Currently statistics tell us that 51% of women have reported being sexually and/or physically assaulted. That says nothing of men, children and then women who don’t report. So yes, maybe we need to be a little more sensitive and think more carefully about how often and in what ways rape is portrayed in media. Because clearly the simple, easy “Rape/Rapists are bad” isn’t working.

      • Knut Robert Knutsen says:

        Nadine, what troubles me about Rusty’s objection is this: He wrote Marvel asking for someone to get fired over this. Presumably either Chaykin or his editor,

        If I thought he was correct in his reading of the comic, I could sort of understand that, though it would seem a peculiar place to start since this is a fairly common type of scene in the “espionage thriller” genre that this comic belongs to.

        Since I do not share his view that this scene trivializes rape, his plea for “justice” (i.e, someone getting fired) does not seem fair. It seems outrageous. That is why I urged people on this thread who disagree either with Rusty’s assertion that this is trivializing rape or with his conclusions that this book should be boycotted by readers or cancelled by Marvel and “someone” should be fired, to also write in and express their contrary opinions.

        I think that is why so many of us object so strongly to what Rusty is saying. We don’t think people should get fired over his reaction. We don’t think this comic should be cancelled and taken off the shelves for this.

        I think there are a lot of things that should be portrayed more sensibly in the media, but I also know that this type of action doesn’t help with that.

        I know that in my country, Norway, a letter campaign similar to Rusty’s got Xena kicked off the air. Those people weren’t objecting to violence, they were objecting to the supposed “worship of Pagan gods” in the show (funny, considering the strong promotion of judeo-christian and humanist values in the show). That bummed me out.

        They were wrong, too, but stuff still got cancelled. Meanwhile, a show like “Touched with an Angel” that in my opinion promotes a strong prejudice against Atheists as being immoral, continued to be broadcast in a country where about half the population is atheist.

        Did I object to it, even though I found it hateful? No. I just didn’t watch it. I also know that for those who are not atheists, not sensitive to that type of prejudice, the show was probably pleasant, uncontroversial and somewhat dull. Do I think people should be fired for putting it on air? Hardly.

        And don’t get me started on Fox News. That thing has probably set human civilization back by two decades. But why ask for anyone to get fired. Just don’t watch.

        Rusty is wrong about that scene having no narrative purpose, and I’ve explained why. He’s wrong about it trivializing rape and I’ve explained why. That is my opinion. But even if Rusty were right, does anyone really think that Chaykin would trivialize rape on purpose, or that his editor would let that scene stand if she thought it trivialized rape? Does anyone really think that this scene was written and approved with a clear and malicious intent to trivialize rape?

        Because if it’s just another example of someone not realizing that something they wrote/edited would offend someone, how does that justify getting them fired for what seems an honest mistake?

        Not even if Rusty were right about the content, would I consider asking someone to be fired to be an appropriate measure. Rewriting the offending dialogue for the collection, perhaps. But people getting fired and the book completely cancelled? No. That does not seem right to me.

        But again: I do not agree with Rusty’s assessment.

  26. Knut Robert Knutsen says:

    ” I wonder if underneath there is some feeling of guilt by gender association (unconscious of course) that needs to be rationalized away by defending the attitude? Just sayin’!”

    Mmm. No. That’s not the case. Men do not self-identify with rapists. All the men I know absolutely loathe rapists, and view them as something vile, unmanly and “other”. Ironically, even actual rapists feel that way. The scene we’re discussing is not unique in this genre, of a female protagonist distracting men with her sexuality. It was practically a modus operandi of Modesty Blaise,the fiercest secret operative in comics history.
    In such scenes men do not identify with the lecherous guards or soldiers that ogle or attempt to rape the female protagonist. They identify the transgressors as “unmanly” and weak and are more than happy to see them “beaten by a girl”.
    Yes, rape is often joked about, just like all the other things we feel uncomfortable about. Not because men consider rape to be trivial, but because in situations where a loved one is raped, men feel powerless to help. They do not know how to react, since it became socially and legally prohibited to kill the rapist on sight.

    Personally I do not defend the attitude that rape is trivial. That is not what I’m doing here. I do not think Chaykin trivialized rape. And what Rusty is calling for (for Chaykin and/or his editor to be fired and for the book to be taken off the shelves, cancelled , and presumably not published in a collected edition) would be wildly disproprtionate even if the allegations were true.

    That’s funny, really. I expected a push like this about his upcoming Black Kiss 2. not about a Marvel Comic.

  27. waynebeaton says:

    So this discussion has been weighing on me all day. Frankly, I’m just not getting it.

    The suggestion that it’d be okay to see this sort of “humor” in Black Kiss, but not in Avengers because the reader knows what they’re getting into confuses me. I don’t read a lot of comic books (unless you count those The Simpsons issues that my kids leave in the bathroom), but I do recall that women are generally draw in a scantily-clad overly curvaceous manner. In short, in my admittedly-limited experience, women are portrayed in a sexually-suggestive manner. We have a character that uses sex as a weapon. In this context, the exchange between the guards doesn’t seem out of place.

    I’m not suggesting that I think it’s right, I just don’t understand the distinction that you’re drawing between Black Kiss and Avengers. Perhaps I need to see Black Kiss to get some perspective.

    Also… would it be better if the guards were joking glibly about killing her rather than being suggestive of rape?

    To be clear, joking about rape is a serious manner and I respect your stance. I’m just trying to understand how you draw the line there. For me the line is a little further back: at the point where women are pretty much universally drawn as sexual objects.

    • rpriske says:

      The line is exactly how I spelled it out to the person who commented above. Assuming you think porn should be allowed (I have no idea if you do, but let’s assume), does the right for porn to exist mean that it is okay to show hardcore sex in a Disney movie?

      • rpriske says:

        As usual, despite answering a completely different question, Nadine said it better than I could ever hope to. Scroll up and rad her response to Knut.

      • waynebeaton says:

        Nope. I still don’t get it.

        Again, this may be the result of my inexperience with comics, but I would think that something like Archie or The Simpsons is the moral equivalent of a Disney movie. As a father, I have copious experience with that particular genre. And, yes, glib jokes about rape in a Disney movie would bother me. Likewise, glib humour or irresponsible writing about murder, homophobia, bigotry, etc. would be a cause for concern.

        But, frankly, I’m not sure that I’d let my young children watch a Disney movie that featured an overtly sexual character who used sex as a weapon. In fact, there are few Disney movies that my kids haven’t experienced because of sketchy content. FWIW, I’m only now letting my 15 year old experience the 007 movies.

        In my limited experience with the superhero comics, they’re more like R-rated movies. Some are like movies–again, in my limited experience–that inject gratuitous scenes of nudity or sexuality to bump up the rating (on the misguided notion that the higher rating will translate into greater viewership).

        So, again, the comment doesn’t seem of place in that context.

        I get it that rape is among the most evil of offenses and that it is something that needs to be treated with care and respect. What I’m having trouble with is how the line gets drawn there. Why isn’t the line at the objectification of women? Or, am I totally off base with that assessment (again, I have limited experience with the genre)? Or murder? Or wanton violence?

        I don’t expect an answer. The world is a shaded and nuanced place, and where to draw the line is a very personal thing. Again, I respect your decision even if I don’t fully understand it.

        I’ve already voted with my feet.

      • rpriske says:

        Just to clarify, the comic in question is rated asT for Teen. So when you say that you wouldn’t let your kids watch such a movie… this comic is marketed directly to them.

      • waynebeaton says:

        So the rating system is messed up. This is the same system that cuts out the part where poor old Wile E. hits the ground in one half-hour segment, but then permits wanton violence–that’s apparently okay because the targets are robots, or humans that eject safely from their destroyed aircraft–in the next. This is the same system that permits my kids to watch violent murder in the early evening, but carefully protects them from observing the naked human form.

        I rarely consider the rating when I my kids are concerned and use my own judgement. Of course this failed miserably with Zombieland, but I digress…

        Given my limited experience with the medium and genre, I remain unsurprised by the exchange.

  28. don says:

    Do your lips move when you read?

    But seriously-

    Stay away from comics.

    Stay away from movies.

    Stay away from television.

    If fact do not even attempt to cross the street with out help. You’re officially an idiot.

    • rpriske says:

      Earlier I was angry (at the comic). Then I was sad at the response to my anger. At this, I am bordering on amused. Congratulations. Your ignorance single handedly changed my mood. Well done.

      Oh, just in case that went over your head, on that last bit I was being sarcastic.

      I realize that is a big word so in case you don’t understand it: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sarcastic

      • rpriske says:

        On, and for the rest of you, thank you for keeping this generally civil. Don’t let one imbecile take away from that.

      • don says:

        I didn’t ask.

        Again, stay away from this material. It is above you’re head but maybe someday when you are ready someone nice will explain this all to you.

        But your sarcasm, angry, outrage, amusement and stupidity are all duly noted.

        Now get back to your monitoring, the world needs more Thought Police.

        Stupidity Uber Alles.

      • rpriske says:

        I realize exchanging with you is a waste of air, but you do understand this “this material” is not something that is particularly high brow, complicated or deep, right? It is a comic book about superheroes. One of the characters is from Atlantis. Another is a mutant with pointy teeth and claws.

        Don’t try and claim that this is somehow coming out of some piece of literature designed for more mature readers…

  29. don says:

    “Rusty was deeply disturbed by characters joking about rape? Why is that wrong? I’m not going to lie – the fact that people are more disturbed by Rusty’s objection than they are by a portrayal of serial rapists concerns me.”

    I think what you are missing and that Rusty is clearly too dim to realize is that he is making a very serious accusation against the writer. It’s the inability to understand the weight of that accusation that is infuriating.

    But that’s okay because clearly the point is for him to prove that he is operating on a more enlightened level than his fellow comic book trogs.

    Congrats Rusty, you’ve proven you are far more sensitive than the rest of us. You can sit higher on your high horse than normal, safe in the knowledge that you are one self-righteous defender of the fair sex. Women are only victims after all and need us gents to look after them (see, I picked up on that sarcasm thing right quick-“wink”).

    God help us when you sit down to watch Blazing Saddles.

    • rpriske says:

      {sigh}

      If you are going to accuse me of something, please read what I actually said. My complaint is against the editors, not the writer.

      Do you feel better now? There is only one person acting self-satisifed at the moment and it isn’t me.

      Feel free to think you understand my motivations, but trust me, you clearly do not.

  30. Felicity says:

    I also read that issue, and I didn’t get the impression that it was intended as a joke, or to make light of rape.

    I will continue to support this series and its writer/artist’s future projects.

  31. Knut Robert Knutsen says:

    Another thing I think gets lost here is a question of difference in perspectives.

    I understand that for some people who have personal experience with rape, either by being raped or because a loved one has been raped, there is a heightened sensitivity to the issue. And a desire to not be confronted with insensitive depictions of such situations. I understand that, both intellectually and emotionally.

    However, there is another perspective the validity of which should not be ignored, and I’ve touched on this earlier. There is a mostly male anti-rape perspective, that I’ve heard most honestly and directly expressed in the context of my working class background and when I worked as a stevedore and day-laborer.

    Men’s reaction to rape is a desire to resolve the problem by doing violence to the rapist. (Let’s leave the psychologically aberrant rapists aside for the sake of this argument). In discussions, men like to bring up things that annoy, frighten and offend them, and then rage about them. Discussing the violent “justice” they’d like to inflict. That is part of how issues are dealt with emotionally in a “masculine” way. So when rape is shown in entertainment it is not primarily to titilate (The attractiveness of a woman actually heightens the outrage expressed at the thought of her being violated). A man who watches rape on film or TV is offended by it, and reacts with disgust, uneasiness and rage. A rage that is satisfied by the rapist being violently punished. Like in the scene we’re discussing. There are at least 5 or 6 Death Wish films where Charles Bronson proved that repeatedly.

    I know a lot of women share that perspective as well. So while there are some who avoid rape stories in media because they bring out bad memories, there are some who seek out rape stories in order to trigger an emotional reaction they can deal with. To reach catharsis. They might not put those words to it, just describe it as exciting.

    In calling for boycotts of scenes like this, this particular perspective and this particular approach to dealing with the issue of rape is invalidated and treated as suspect. Even though, in my opinion, it can be every bit as necessary for some people to deal with rape by confronting their rage this way as it is for some to avoid rape stories.

    I’m not saying that actual violence would be a good thing, but validating feelings of rage in contexts where they can be experienced and satisfied dramatically, can help people move past rage into a more constructive state of mind.

    Entertainment does at times reach in and press our buttons in ways that may seem casual and gratuitous, but in this case I don’t feel it’s gratuitous or trivializing.

    • Nadine says:

      Knut,

      Hello again. I have two sincere questions for you.

      In your response a few comments above, you acknowledged a need for more media sensitivity around certain issues, but that they way Rusty is going about it is wrong. What do you feel would be a more effective way to incite change?

      You also acknowledge a survivor’s need to avoid being confronted with triggering memories of real-life violence. I acknowledge the “masculine” desire for angry vengeance against sexually violent predators. You feel Chaykin has provided a vicarious expression of these feelings with his panel, which is ultimately positive. Why is the need to express those vengeful, “masculine” feelings more important than a survivors need to avoid being re-traumatized?

      • Knut Robert Knutsen says:

        “What do you feel would be a more effective way to incite change?”

        I do not know. I generally think openness and awareness helps, and silence and suppression doesn’t affect positive change.

        Also, to be clear: If Rusty is wrong in his assertions (as he is in my opinion) then it would be outrageous for innocent people to be punished through having books cancelled and losing their jobs as he advocates. If he is right, then it is a disproportionate response to someone unintentionally being offended. There were no racist, sexist or otherwise bigotted remarks.

        The issue is simply the mere mention of rape, in casual tones, by villains who are subsequently beaten up by the heroes. Is that sufficient, in your mind, to call for a book to be cancelled and the writer and/or editor to be fired?

        ” Why is the need to express those vengeful, “masculine” feelings more important than a survivors need to avoid being re-traumatized?”

        First, you suppose them to be at odds. Secondly, why would they be less important? As I mentioned briefly, it is not a purely Male/female divide, that’s just a convenient way to group the types of responses. Clearly Rusty’s response falls into the other camp, without it making him any less of a man for it.

        For some rape survivors, men and women, and men and women who have been touched by the issue of rape through loved ones, the rage response comes more naturally than an avoidance response. As long as it doesn’t manifest itself as violence or vigilante justice I don’t think we should judge one way of dealing with the complex emotions surrounding rape as superior or inferior to others.

        So I’m not saying that wishing to not be subjected to mentions of rape is a less important response. I’m saying that it’s not the only valid response. Are YOU saying that a rage response is less important and less valid than one of avoidance?

        It may not be what you want to hear, but people who want to protect themselves from mentions of rape need to take responsibility for limiting their own choices. In a free society, limiting the choices of others without showing good cause, should not happen.

        And also, in a male dominated medium, in a comic that is a mix of even more male-dominated genres, by a writer famous for dealing frankly with extreme sexual behavior and violence, why would there be an expectation that such issues would be dealt with through avoidance rather than a rage response?

        The price of a free society, the price of tolerance, is that you will be offended. You will be exposed to insensitive remarks and hurtful language. And that’s just from Fox News (little joke there). And personal experiences cannot change that. Do I think the world would be a better place without the things that offend me? Yes. I think most of us feel that way.

        But other people are offended by other things. For instance, I found Rusty’s intial assertions that the scene trivialized rape to be offensive. Yet he continues to re-assert them. He continues to offend me.

        And that’s OK.

  32. Nadine says:

    “Is that sufficient, in your mind, to call for a book to be cancelled and the writer and/or editor to be fired?”

    That I honestly can’t say. I don’t read Marvel comics and I have no idea what their editorial boundaries are like. If rape references are a regular occurrence that a reader should reasonably expect when they pick up a Marvel comic, then no. Of course, if that is the case I have larger issues with Marvel.

    “First, you suppose them to be at odds. Secondly, why would they be less important? As I mentioned briefly, it is not a purely Male/female divide, that’s just a convenient way to group the types of responses. Clearly Rusty’s response falls into the other camp, without it making him any less of a man for it.”

    I understand why you alluded to the male/female divide. I simply used the term “masculine” to mirror your initial description. And I don’t suppose them to be at odds. You’re the one saying that it’s a survivor’s responsibility to limit their own choices, because it’s the rage-filled person’s right to have their emotions expressed and depicted.

    I also question how a survivor would know to avoid this particular mention of rape if there’s no trigger warning, rating, etc. I read a lot of adult comics with graphic sex and nudity. They are very clearly marked on the cover as being explicit, with a summary of all the types of sex and nakedness within. That way people who wish to avoid that sort material, can. And if those comics weren’t labelled as such…I guarantee someone’s head *would* roll for that.

    • Knut Robert Knutsen says:

      “And I don’t suppose them to be at odds. You’re the one saying that it’s a survivor’s responsibility to limit their own choices, because it’s the rage-filled person’s right to have their emotions expressed and depicted.”

      First, rage-filled is your interpretation. That suggests a more continuous state than what I describe. And they’re not having “their emotions expressed and depicted”. What I’m saying is that for many, the way to deal with rape and other bad things is to allow themselves to experience that rage in a safe context and through a satisfying dramatic narrative to deal with those emotions. Reach a catharsis. It is a way to confront and dissipate rage and gain control of it rather than allowing oneself to be controlled by it.

      Unless we presume that to be an invalid way to deal with strong emotional issues, we must allow entertainment to include such scenes.

      And as I said, in a free society, unless an expression is so beyond the pale that it cannot be tolerated (child pornography would be an example), it is up to those who are offended to limit their choices by not seeking out such entertainment. It is not everybody elses responsibility to limit their own choices so that works can be sanitized for the protection of those who are easily offended. For whatever reason.

      In plain speak: If Rusty wants to stop reading Avengers because of this, that’s his business. When he seeks to prevent others, like me, from reading this book and if (as he suggested) Chaykin and/or his editor were fired, he would have prevented us from seeing other future books by them as well.

      Rusty is offended, and therefore he chooses to limit my choice of reading material. This is aggravated by him just being plain wrong about the dialogu being gratuitous and about the scene trivializing rape.

      What makes this ironic is that over on the CBR boards on the thread about this issue, he is vigorously defending the infamous “Marcus” storyline from about Avengers 200 where a mind controlled (i.e. non-consenting) Ms Marvel is impregnated by a character named Marcus and later declares her love for him with her friends accepting her decision to leave with him. While the creative team did not intend for that to be the case, they have later acknowledged that they unintentionally trivialized rape in that storyline. And in a later storyline Ms Marvel chastizes her team-mates for handing her back over to a rapist who still had her under mind control.

      Yet that storyline, and others of a more serious and exploitative nature, are defended by Rusty.

      If one wants to find genuine comics superhero storylines that trivialize rape or treat it in an exploitative manner, one needs not go far. Avengers 1959 issue 3 is not an example of that, it doesn’t even come near.

      As to whether sexual situations were to be expected from this book? Yes. Only the most uninformed of readers would not know this. It is an espionage thriller by Howard Chaykin. Thinking that there will be no rough sexual situations in it is like expecting chastity in a James Bond movie or a comic by Robert Crumb.

      • rpriske says:

        Hmmm… I was ABOUT to commend you for staying civil (I have had to delete a few comments that were outside the bounds of a reasonable conversation and were purely trolling. I have put up with a couple of those, but I have my limits), and then you had to go an actually lie about what I said elsewhere. ‘vigorously defending’? Give me a break. I did no such thing. What I have said about that story is that the writer made a mistake. There was no intent to trivialize rape… in fact, as you have said, since then they have recognized what went wrong and have admitted it. That is WHY the character chastises her team-mates in a later story… because the writers realized, AFTER THE FACT, what they had done.

        The other storyline I assume you say I am defending (since there was only one other and not ‘others’ as you claim) is the Tigra story. If you STILL can’t tell the difference between that story and this one, then you need to pick up some reading comprehension skills.

        I have said MULTIPLE times in MULTIPLE places that it is possible to use something that you would otherwise find reprehensible for narrative purpose. I did not LIKE that story, but it served a purpose. They were trying to show the brutality of the characters involved to show them as a large threat to the protagonists of that book. There were problems with that story but it is a VERY different issue than dropping a reference in that was CLEARLY a joke and CLEARLY said in a light-hearted manner.

        (and now you are going to argue that it DID serve a narrative purpose and that it WASN’T said in a joking manner. You are wrong.)

        I explained this in that thread you refer to, but you are not actually trying to see why I am angry. You are just trying to ‘prove me wrong’.

        If Marvel had responded to this issue with an acknowledgement of the error (as they later did about the Marcus story), I would have left it at that. They haven’t.

        And again, while I disagree with your opinion, you have been fairly civil, but now you are making things up to try and prove your argument. Avengers 1959 should be seen as an ‘espionage thriller’ should it? Not as a mainstream superhero comic, what with the title Avengers on the front and well known superheroes and villains inside? That is a stretch. A big one.

        At this point I am considering locking this off and not allowing more discussion on this blog. I am NOT going to do that now, because there was an ATTEMPT at actual discussion of the issues. DO that, and it is all good, but I am not going to let this blog be a place where people just try to spread their bullshit. You come close here when you try to twist around what I said on another blog for no reason than to try and make me look bad. There have been comments by someone else who I deleted before they even appeared because I don’t tolerate hate speech. (It a somewhat humorous occurrence, they had somehow been diverted into my spam folder. I decided that was wordpress being prescient…)

        Keep this civil and have an actually discussion and we are all good. Act like most of the internet and just try ton ‘win’, by any means necessary and this is done.

      • Knut Robert Knutsen says:

        It is not a stretch to call this an espionage thriller. Yes. it’s a superhero story set in a superhero universe, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be another genre as well. A lot of superhero books mix genres with horror, science-fiction, fantasy, crime stories and yes, espionage thrillers. This book pays homage to 1950s and 1960s spy movies like the James Bond series, TV-series like the British “The Avengers” and comics like Modesty Blaise. And a lot of other entertainment about Cold War spies.

        I have consistently pointed this out. This is why your claim that the Blonde Phantom is only used for her sexuality is absurd. How is she acting any differently than James Bond of that same era? How is she acting out of character for a CIA spy of that era?

        Distracting guards with a pretty woman is a standard ploy in that genre. Modesty Blaise frequently took her top off for that purpose without it diminishing her as a character. And it is not uncommon for villainous characters in such situations to react with an intent to rape, or to express such intent.

        And having explained numerous times why there is a narrative purpose to the scene, I see no point in repeating myself.

      • rpriske says:

        Of course, if you would pay attention, you will notice that I did NOT make a fuss about her ‘using her sexuality to distract the guards’. I referred to it as a cliche and said I didn’t really like it. I DID NOT say that I would stop buying the book over that or that it angered me. I just said I didn’t care for it.

        What I was angry about was the rape joke. Trying to redirect to something that is more defensible would be a fine idea if I had actually said that was part of why I was mad. I didn’t. This is very similar to your attempt to redirect to my statement about firing someone. Rather than discuss the actual point (which you DID do in your discussion with Nadine. You are not 100% guilty here) you go for the straw man.

        Where we DO agree is the weariness at having to repeat yourself. Every time someone claims there was no rape joke or says that I have claimed that you can never mention rape in literature or otherwise tries to ignore what I have actually said to try and make a point I feel the exact same way.

  33. Ian Thal says:

    Considering the whole raison d’être for Avengers 1959 is that they’re going after a Neo-Nazi organization, the blasé manner in which the guards discuss rape isn’t inappropriate– Nazi militia men aren’t just guys who play on the other team: In actual history these are people who in peace time, smashed shops, places of worship, and beat and murdered people in the streets; and in war time, engaged in torture, mass-murder, mass-rape, and genocide. Indeed: the whole reason we have a concept of “war crimes” is because these were men who needed to be removed from post-war society. So yes, these are the type of men who would discuss rape in a casual manner.

  34. [...] most read post on the blog this year was Rape and Comics. This was a big deal for me… something that bothered me a lot that turned into a hatefest. [...]

  35. [...] Rusty made this entry to his blog.  I strongly recommend that you read the post for yourself, but the nuts and bolts is [...]

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