Comics, Fashion, Gender

Bombshells and Broken Backs

I don’t read a lot of single issues anymore. On a grad student budget, for both time and cash, it makes more sense to just pick up trades and catch up on series I enjoy when I can. For no other series is that more true than for DC’s Bombshells, the Marguerite Bennett and Sauvage-led weekly series.

As a reminder, for those who aren’t familiar, Bombshells is based on the wildly popular collectible statues, in turn based on artwork by Ant Lucia, featuring DC heroines in pin-up clothes and poses. The title imagines an alternate reality set in World War II, where Amanda Waller’s Bombshells act as secret weapons, spies, front line battering rams, and where I am continually surprised, though I shouldn’t be, that they still look like pin-ups.

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Art by Mirka Andolfo

Now, I have no problem with pin-ups. The Bombshells have been some of my favorite re-imaginings in recent years. I love their retro look, how they’re sexy without being objectified. I love that Bombshells the book almost exclusively employs female artists, and that the storyline is driven by women, for women.

What I don’t love is how nervous I get that Wonder Woman is about to break her ankles and fall flat on her face at any given second.

Wonder Woman Bombshells Full

These shoes belong on Lady Gaga, not in the middle of a firefight. I was so concerned for Diana’s tendons while reading this storyline that I actually have no idea what happened or even if she won. It looks like she’s championing foot-binding. My feet hurt just looking at this. Check out how awkward it makes her hero shot.

Wonder Woman Bombshells Hero Shot

Art by Laura Braga

For goodness’ sake, Steve, grab her by a belt loop before she topples off that thing!

I realize this is a small thing to nitpick. “But Laura!” you are surely saying, while hitting Leave Comment, “She’s supposed to look like a pin-up! It’s fantasy.”

You’re right there, commentator I just made up. Those shoes are a fantasy, if only because they’d be physically impossible to walk in. But here’s my point, gang: Even in a world in which women are the heroes, where in the 1940s, lesbian Jews can snuggle freely with their girlfriends and Amanda Waller’s hand-picked task force represents a rainbow of skin colors and more religions than a “coexist” bumper sticker, Diana is still forced into ankle-breaking, tendon-tearing heels that minimize her footprint to a mere pinprick.

Why.

Why.

Big Barda doesn’t get a uniform that buttons all the way up.

Why?

Why?

And Mera is going to need to see her chiropractor.

Bombshells Mera

Art by M.L. Sanapo

It is picking nits. But when a series builds itself on the premise of female empowerment and strength, those nits are fair game. Especially when this is possible in the very next arc.

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Look at those glorious flats! Look at the way her ankles aren’t snapping under the added weight of a giant monster arm! This panel does not give me anxiety. This panel is AWESOME.

My point here is: In a book by women, aimed at women, we are still bombarded with misogynistic standards of beauty. Wonder Woman couldn’t fight in those heels. Wonder Woman shouldn’t even be able to stand in those heels, let alone run, jump, or kick, even in a world where she is the ultimate powerhouse. Bombshells is far from being the worst offender, but it somehow stings even more to see those puffed-out chests, broken backs, and torqued ankles here than in books where I expect it.

Here’s hoping the flats win the day. In the meantime, I hope Steve Trevor has a few extra Ace bandages hanging around. My guess is Diana’s gonna need them sooner rather than later.

  1. Anthony

    October 5, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    Is there a point anymore in me criticizing (yet again) Wonder Woman constantly wielding a sword? Oh, well… *sigh*

  2. DMaster

    October 5, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    What’s also a problem is the consistency on the artwork. Like with footgear, some artists force the heels in (or default to it) and others draw the sensible flats like you pointed out in the last panel. I recall seeing this happen with the multi-chapter stories in Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman as well; the story that had Wondy confront Superwoman had the two in heels at one point, and in the next (digital) chapter when the artist changed, suddenly it was more appropriate (possibly the other way; it’s been a while). Even when these errors crop up, they can’t even stay consistent with them, or be inconsistent long enough to correct it to something that makes sense and then stick with that. On every level it’s frustrating.

    1. Wendy Browne

      October 6, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      The inconsistency in artists is something that really, really bothers me these days, especially when the particular series is advertised with a particular artist, only to have them changed out barely three issues in. My complaint is a general one, but you make a good point about the specifics of things like costuming. It’s very frustrating!

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