Thursday, October 26, 2006

Strong women

So imagine that the fella with the topknot is Tharg, and Ingrid is all 2000 AD women. Then add the twist that Tharg created these women and made them the way they are. This sequence displays well my feelings about 2000 ADs long and somewhat odd relationship with women. Basically, Tharg wants to use them, but doesn't quite know how to strike the balance between women characters for boys to ogle and charactes for people of bith sexes to identify with, and in the end makes them violent, in keeping with the general 2000 AD fallback ethos. Well, it's a start.

Most of the creators and one assumes most of the readership have been men; the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre in general has always been thought of as something boys enjoy more than girls. But I've always felt that 2000 AD has tried (relatively hard) to include women, both as characters and as readers.
Of course, regarding its characters, it seems right that women should be drawn along the same lines as men, and this seems to be where the difficulties start. By and large, 2000 AD protagonists are prone to violence, wiry rather than hulking, sardonic, self-sufficient and above all, hard. And so it's no surprise that the bulk of 2000 AD women fit this profile, too. But there's perhaps something that doesn't work about this, else why have so few female-centric stories managed to last beyond a series or two? Anderson, Psi has had a good long run and is still going. Halo Jones is perenially revered, although of course she won't be in any new adventures. Tyranny Rex comes and goes, but seems to be mildly re-invented each time. Durham Red - although she's had to have one major re-invention. Is that it? Is it that the readers don't want any more, or is it that the writers aren't inspired by their female creations - perhaps because they feel a bit forced sometimes? Who knows. As I was saying earlier, I do think Tharg tries to be fair about his inclusion of female characters, even if he fails more often than he succeeds. He certainly can't be accused of using simpering, stereotypical damsels in distress; nor indeed are they all outrageously butch men with boobs. Most of them are indeed pretty, but then I'd argue so are the men, so that's not the issue. There have been attempts to feature female-centric strips that keep the 2000 AD 'future shock' mission statement but hold back on the violence, but somehow these haven't quite worked. I mean, Alan Moore tried with Halo Jones but was asked to put more action into books 2 and 3; MoonRunners was, in the end, woefully bad (more on that one day); Zippy Couriers was fun but just didn't seem to be going anywhere - again, though, not clear to me whether this was a lack of excitement on the part of the writer or readers. Poor Tao de Moto ran out of steam, but I think had great potential. I think one area where 2000 AD has let women down is in the aliens/robots department. To be sure, robots ought to be genderless and aliens can be of a whole weird number and kind of gender, but in practice male writers and male artists all too often give a male bent to their non-human characters. And for all his successes with Terri, Pat Mills is probably guilty of the worst woman figure to appear in 2000 AD, sometime ABC Warrior Morrigun. And this mostly because she was essentially flawless, which is unfair given that the whole thing that makes the ABC Warriors a good strip is exploring human flaws in robot characters (with guns). So Morrigun ends up just being eye-candy. Anyway, there is plenty more to say about women in 2000 AD (and indeed about men in 2000 AD, who also have their stereoptypes). Pat Mills' approach in Slaine, for example. Why Judge Anderson works as a character so well. Which artists draw the best-looking babes... But for now, here's a short montage of some lesser-known women doing what 2000 AD does best...
Getting its guns out
Kicking people in the head while giving them something to stare at
Pointing out yet agian that women are stronger than men (I suppose this can't be said too often)
Bringing you the latest in future fashions. I sad MoonRunners was bad, didn't I? Although this is a very endearing panel. I'm glad it had its time in the comic, I'm just sad that the story didn't live up to its characters.


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