Saturday, August 4, 2012

The X-Men "for girls"

A while ago, Lego made some headlines and waves on the internet when they announced their new line of Legos for girls. The response from most people online was a slightly outraged "Legos are unisex. Anyone can love them. The idea that you have to make them pink to sell them to girls is sexist, condescending, patronizing, and insulting." I agreed, but the line turned out to be a huge seller for Lego, so maybe they were on to something, after all. Blame it on societal gender construction and social norming, savvy marketing, or just a love of shiny things, but Lego gambled and seems to have come out ahead.

Marvel Comics, on the other hand, did not end up so lucky.

Back in 2009, Marvel decided to jump onto the "teenage girls love Manga" bandwagon, and decided to repackage the X-Men as a manga property that they could market toward teen girls. Just marketing their regular comics to girls apparently never occured to them, or they figured they'd have to stop being somewhat sexist and start drawing the girls with more clothing and less cleavage. Either way, someone somewhere at Marvel greenlit "X-Men: Misfits", I bought it out of curiousity and stuck it on my reading pile, and then noticed it this morning when I was rearranging my "books to be read" stacks:

x-men: misfits cover

This thing is awful.

Our story focuses on Kitty Pryde, high school student, who suddenly in this story has overbearing older sisters that don't exist in regular comics. Kitty is a mutant, and is offered a scholarship to Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, which is how these things tend to go in the comics fairly often, too. Sure, in the comics Kitty's original invitation to the school involved kidnapping and mind-control, but this is a reimagining, so I was fine with a slightly cleaner entry for the character into the X-Men standard setting. Kitty arrives at school, where she is immediately an object of popular fascination.

Because she is the only female student.

Yes, that's right. In an effort to market the X-Men to teenage girls, Marvel Comics cut out almost all of the female members. (I say "almost" because Storm and Jean Grey are teachers, although Jean is only mentioned and doesn't actually appear. And while I'm reasonably sure that no one is going to read this and go, "What? No Lifeguard? No Stacy X? This is an outrage!", characters like Rogue, Psylocke, Emma Frost, Dazzler, Marvel Girl, Polaris, Jubilee, Pixie, Armor, and even Husk or Marrow have their fans.) You wouldn't always know it from the art, though, because sometimes the boys look like girls:

x-men: misfits (5)

Seriously, I've gone back and reread that page three times, and I still have no idea who Kitty (on the left) is talking to in that scene. I think the one on the right might be Longshot, based on similar hair and necklace in an earlier scene where Longshot and Havok tried to give Kitty a makeover:

x-men: misfits (1)

It's not so much that the boys often look like girls. It's more that they all look like each other, and they all wear the same school uniform, so you can't even tell them apart by costumes. The Hellfire Club, the clique of popular boys that wants Kitty to join them, consists of Havok, Quicksilver, Longshot, Angel, Forge, and Pyro, and for those unfamiliar with comics I'll just sum it up by saying that it's a lot of fair-haired white boys. Drawn in black and white with similar facial features and almost always seen in this book as a group, they tend to just run together into a mass of sharp noses and sparkly eyes.

Girls like that, right?

You know what girls don't like, I guess? Action. Up until the very end, the only fighting in this book consists of boys fighting over Kitty. There aren't any villains, since Pyro and Blob are students, Magneto is a teacher, and Sabretooth is a waiter in the dining hall. Not only that, but there aren't actually any X-Men in this book. There are X-Men characters, but there's no team that goes out to fight villains and right wrongs, and that lack leads to some really odd reimaginings of familiar faces. Cyclops, for example, is still an uptight stick in the mud in this story, but instead of being a stick in the mud about human and mutant relations, mutant rights, or the stress of leading a team of misfits and freaks to save a world that fears and hates them, Cyclops is an uptight jerk:

x-men: misfits (3)

about his veganism.

x-men: misfits (6)

And Colossus, who is in here as a teacher:

x-men: misfits (7)

received what is without doubt the worst redesign in the history of the character:

x-men: misfits (8)

Yes, that's right. The Soviet strongman, the steel powerhouse, is now the fat robot from the Oz books. I can only imagine what the response of the mainstream comics' Colossus would be to this abomination:

I must break you.

Yeah, probably something like that.

Overall, this book is pretty awful. There's not really an actual story, the characterizations are weak, and the art isn't to my personal taste. While I normally wouldn't say that automatically makes the book horrible for everybody, I did notice that the end includes a preview for a Part 2 that has apparently never been released, so it can't be just me who doesn't like this.

It was probably also unpopular with girls.


Dani said...

Ok, that is hilarious that they made Colossus a big fat Russian robot look a like when Colossus and Kitty have one of the best romances. They could have done this whole cool thing with him and her, and they just...ouch.

Also? Fuck Kitty Pryde. Ugh. I do find it awesome that Cyclops is a militant vegan. That is some awesome right there.

But does the world REALLY need more Kitty Pryde? I say no.

Falke said...

You're right about most of this. But this "r they figured they'd have to stop being somewhat sexist and start drawing the girls with more clothing and less cleavage." is one of the most common nerd misconceptions I know. Every succesfull product marketed at girls that I know is extremely sexist and has outifts that are way more outrageous than even the costumes of superheroines aimed at teens.

Joel said...

Falke, that's sadly correct now that I think about it. I guess the makers of Bratz dolls are on to something.