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Women in refrigerators--I mean, comics

QuothQuoth the RavenMiami, FL FOR REALRegistered User regular
edited March 2010 in Graphic Violence
Female characters, super or otherwise, are by no means absent from a medium that tends to be avoided by members of that gender. But how are women portrayed in comics? Are they just as awesome as the fellas or are they mostly eye candy and plot fodder? Which female characters do you like the best and which ones drive you crazy, and why? And most importantly, why do all of them have unreasonably large breasts under their skin-tight costumes?

Points to ponder (I'll add more if people suggest them):

Wikipedia's take
Women in Refrigerators
When Fangirls Attack

Quoth on
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    FalloutFallout GIRL'S DAY WAS PRETTY GOOD WHILE THEY LASTEDRegistered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Quoth wrote: »
    why do all of them have unreasonably large breasts under their skin-tight costumes?

    because it would be nice if women all looked like that in real life

    Fallout on
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    TexiKenTexiKen Dammit! That fish really got me!Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    It basically boils down to writers and how they can write women. And even then a writer's gender doesn't help in writing a female character, as demonstrated by Kathryn Immonen in Runaways.


    Lois Lane when under the correct writers is one of the best characters in comics. She is strong, yet sometimes insecure about Clark hanging out with other heroines who are more endowed than herself. But she also knows when to stop being the crazy reporter and be a loving wife.

    And Oracle doesn't have a skin tight costume.......that's all I got.

    TexiKen on
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    MarkGoodhartMarkGoodhart Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Honestly I think the problem with women in the big 2 is that the writers don't want to give them noticable flaws and it translates to bland, bland characters with big boobs. Wonder Woman doesn't have a three-dimensional personality because she's too perfect. What is Ms. Marvel actauuly like? What is Zatanna's most notable personality trait? Fishnets?

    Women tend to have two personalities in superhero comics... bland and bitch (ie Huntress & Powergirl). Which is why we tend to focus on the boobs, there isn't a whole lot else to go on.

    MarkGoodhart on
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    FaynorFaynor Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Nice one, Quoth.

    So, from what I glanced of the H/A thread, that survey gave a supposed resounding no on boob size affecting buying habits, right?

    Liars.

    Faynor on
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    Robos A Go GoRobos A Go Go Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Fallout wrote: »
    Quoth wrote: »
    why do all of them have unreasonably large breasts under their skin-tight costumes?

    because it would be nice if women all looked like that in real life

    You are the most straight-forward person in the world.

    Robos A Go Go on
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    FaynorFaynor Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    While I disagree with Mark's implication that Ms. Marvel doesn't really have a personality, I can agree that many characters can sometimes fall down to those two categories in the hands of an incapable writer.

    I mean, let's take a look at Janet, the Wasp.

    250px-Janet_van_Dyne_(Earth-616).png?imgmax=800

    She is a founding Avenger. She's had over forty years to grow as a character, and it seems like the only character development she's ever had was moving from Bland to Bitchy to Crazy and back again. And oh god, the slap. We'll see if my grandchildren see the day when writers have moved past that one. I mean, I've said it before. How many words does it take to describe her? Less than 4, still hitting most of the main points? Pretty much.

    By all rights, she should be an awesome, three-dimensional character. She still could be. But it's a damn shame she isn't, and that's the case with a lot of females in comics.

    Faynor on
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    TexiKenTexiKen Dammit! That fish really got me!Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Songbird.jpg


    Songbird is one of the best female characters out there. She's not slutty, has developed from being a villain to a hero to strong enough to put herself in line with Osborn's T-Bolts to watch them. And her boobs aren't that big.

    TexiKen on
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    Robos A Go GoRobos A Go Go Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Conversely, Sue Storm is a female character from the same era with a similar characterization who ended up growing a great deal over the subsequent years.

    Robos A Go Go on
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    Centipede DamascusCentipede Damascus Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    There's a reason The Sensational She-Hulk was such a groundbreaking book back in the day besides the fourth wall breakage. Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk was written as a far more interesting character than nearly any other female superhero in comics until then.

    Not to turn this into a Marvel vs. DC thread, but Marvel has done great things with such characters as Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Spider-Girl, Jessica Jones, and Spider-Woman, just to name a few with distinctive personalities and are generally not used for cheesecake full page layouts. Well, excluding Cho's work with Spider-Woman and Emma Frost's general fashion sense.

    Centipede Damascus on
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    FaynorFaynor Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Also, while I was looking for that Wasp picture, I saw this image and couldn't decide if it was...suggestive.
    Mighty%2BAvengers%2B5-3.jpg

    Yeah, Carol. You take that big missle.

    Faynor on
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    TexiKenTexiKen Dammit! That fish really got me!Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Not to turn this into a Marvel vs. DC thread, but Marvel has done great things with such characters as Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Spider-Girl, Jessica Jones, and Spider-Woman, just to name a few with distinctive personalities and are generally not used for cheesecake full page layouts. Well, excluding Cho's work with Spider-Woman and Emma Frost's general fashion sense.

    Outside of the Spider-Man family right now, I agree.

    DC has some good characters, but they're at the lower rung of the spectrum, like Vandal Savage, Jeanette, Ice, Fire, Oracle, Black Canary, Vixen...

    Sasha Bordeaux, there's always been something off about her for some reason.

    TexiKen on
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    ServoServo Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited September 2009
    Faynor wrote: »
    Yeah, Carol. You take that big missle.

    yeah i remember reading that the first time and being like "haha oh my, carol"

    Servo on
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    AriviaArivia I Like A Challenge Earth-1Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    I think the assumption of superheroic women having perfect bodies is fine in so far as that's applied across the board to men often with no evidence of training. The issue is that the idea of perfect physicality for "women" is predicated as a sexual practice, and that the writers can't or don't know how to unwrite that in texts.

    This is also the same reason many woman have thin stereotypical personalities in so far as many of them were originally written as narrative objects to male characters. Sexuality is often one of the few ways that can be understood as interaction with them. I'm not going to get into too much detail about this, but I think one of the formative issues is that the actions and agency of superhero comics are seen as formally masculine, that writers can't see writing women in that space.

    Also, just going to point out Mystique here. While she's often been written as a sex object by men, the intriguing bit is that Marvel's focus on her as the eternal renegade has removed many of the penalties enacted in stories towards strong, independent women. Because of this, she's really the most powerful female character in comics. The utterly fascinating consequence of this is that in the process of working her into stories, writers basically keep writing her as feminist texts over and over and over again. Her part in Messiah Complex is basically an application of the ethics of care. Her miniseries in parts was just Judith Butler 101. She's the most realistic and powerful woman in comics, and yet that's something everyone tries to stop. And that's fascinating both at a textual and cultural level.

    Arivia on
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    TexiKenTexiKen Dammit! That fish really got me!Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Re Carol's big missile adventure:

    And Natasha had that short East German 1980's hair in those issues, yuck. It didn't even look that bad during her appearances in old DD issues.

    TexiKen on
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    ServoServo Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited September 2009
    TexiKen wrote: »
    Vandal Savage, Jeanette, Ice, Fire, Oracle, Black Canary, Vixen...

    Sasha Bordeaux, there's always been something off about her for some reason.

    scandal savage. vandal savage is a dude. one huge totally badass dude.

    there's also the batgirls and now the new question, huntress, spoiler (aka one of the batgirls, i guess), and particularly catwoman

    Servo on
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    BlackjackBlackjack Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    TexiKen wrote: »
    Not to turn this into a Marvel vs. DC thread, but Marvel has done great things with such characters as Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Spider-Girl, Jessica Jones, and Spider-Woman, just to name a few with distinctive personalities and are generally not used for cheesecake full page layouts. Well, excluding Cho's work with Spider-Woman and Emma Frost's general fashion sense.

    Outside of the Spider-Man family right now, I agree.

    DC has some good characters, but they're at the lower rung of the spectrum, like Vandal Savage, Jeanette, Ice, Fire, Oracle, Black Canary, Vixen...

    Sasha Bordeaux, there's always been something off about her for some reason.
    I don't read a lot of DC, just because of budget issues, but I was always fond of what I saw of Amanda Waller. I like a lady that doesn't hesitate to shoot someone in the dick just because he called her fat.

    Blackjack on
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    MarkGoodhartMarkGoodhart Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Comparing Sue Storm to the rest of the Fantasic Four she comes off as the muted, responsible one in a family full of cartoon characters. Which is fine, but women always seem to be the muted ones. Like their development is based on plot rather than their personality. Songbird seems strong to me because of what shes done and not because of who she is. I think women in comics would benefit more from the second form of development.

    MarkGoodhart on
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    TexiKenTexiKen Dammit! That fish really got me!Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Servo wrote: »
    TexiKen wrote: »
    Vandal Savage, Jeanette, Ice, Fire, Oracle, Black Canary, Vixen...

    Sasha Bordeaux, there's always been something off about her for some reason.

    scandal savage. vandal savage is a dude. one huge totally badass dude.

    there's also the batgirls and now the new question, huntress, spoiler (aka one of the batgirls, i guess), and particularly catwoman

    Sorry, the lesbian thing threw me off (oh ho ho edgy family guy humor!).


    And Amanda Waller is badass. She fought Granny Goodness without hesitation. She was kind of based upon follows that fat black woman won't take no sass stereotype but has grown into a strong nationalistic character, who has unwavering support of her country. Which is what I love about her character.

    TexiKen on
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    ServoServo Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited September 2009
    Arivia wrote: »
    I'm not going to get into too much detail about this, but I think one of the formative issues is that the actions and agency of superhero comics are seen as formally masculine, that writers can't see writing women in that space.

    i think this is a good point, but i also think it doesn't have to be that way. i would point to Promethea (alan moore of course being kind of a genius) as a very feminine text, both in terms of subject matter and in technical construction. it's the only thing i know of that approaches ecriture feminine literature in comics (ironically by a male author, but again moore is a genius). unfortunately, of course, this is the only example i can think of, but it at least proves that comics can be done in that manner.

    Servo on
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    ServoServo Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited September 2009
    TexiKen wrote: »

    And Amanda Waller is badass. She fought Granny Goodness without hesitation. She was kind of based upon follows that fat black woman won't take no sass stereotype but has grown into a strong nationalistic character, who has unwavering support of her country. Which is what I love about her character.

    heh i had an acting and directing teacher in college who was exactly like amanda waller. she was a short stoutish middle-aged black woman who was that a double-header of lesbian and republican. she completely kicked my ass. good teacher.

    Servo on
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    TexiKenTexiKen Dammit! That fish really got me!Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Comparing Sue Storm to the rest of the Fantasic Four she comes off as the muted, responsible one in a family full of cartoon characters. Which is fine, but women always seem to be the muted ones. Like their development is based on plot rather than their personality. Songbird seems strong to me because of what shes done and not because of who she is. I think women in comics would benefit more from the second form of development.

    The "silent issue" of Thunderbolts dealt around Songbird and her past (ha, get it? silent issue around a character who needs to scream to have powers) and really fleshed out her character. Her Screaming Mimi days, etc.

    TexiKen on
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    MarkGoodhartMarkGoodhart Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Arivia wrote: »
    I think the assumption of superheroic women having perfect bodies is fine in so far as that's applied across the board to men often with no evidence of training. The issue is that the idea of perfect physicality for "women" is predicated as a sexual practice, and that the writers can't or don't know how to unwrite that in texts.

    Can I just mention how when Kyle Raynor got picked at random to be Green Lantern he STILL had a six pack and looked just like every other superhero it pissed me off?

    <-- Loves Kyle

    MarkGoodhart on
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    AriviaArivia I Like A Challenge Earth-1Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Servo wrote: »
    Arivia wrote: »
    I'm not going to get into too much detail about this, but I think one of the formative issues is that the actions and agency of superhero comics are seen as formally masculine, that writers can't see writing women in that space.

    i think this is a good point, but i also think it doesn't have to be that way. i would point to Promethea (alan moore of course being kind of a genius) as a very feminine text, both in terms of subject matter and in technical construction. it's the only thing i know of that approaches ecriture feminine literature in comics (ironically by a male author, but again moore is a genius). unfortunately, of course, this is the only example i can think of, but it at least proves that comics can be done in that manner.

    Right. There's nothing concrete about the medium that says it will always be masculine, but that many authors can't see it any other way as an issue of discourse. Culturally or critically, they just don't have the tools to question that.

    Arivia on
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    FaynorFaynor Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    I don't really think Sue Storm is "muted" at all. How can you look at Storm beside Reed, who's main personalitys trait are intelligence and arrogance, and call her muted?

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    AriviaArivia I Like A Challenge Earth-1Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Faynor wrote: »
    I don't really think Sue Storm is "muted" at all. How can you look at Storm beside Reed, who's main personalitys trait are intelligence and arrogance, and call her muted?

    I will think about this more in the morning when I didn't just screw myself silly doing much the same in the Mass Effect thread, but if Reed's pushing her out then that's still silencing her culturally/textually/discursively.

    Arivia on
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    MarkGoodhartMarkGoodhart Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Muted in that the other three are SOOO personality driven. Johnny, Ben and Reed can easily drive a plot forward based on their main characteristics while Sue seems like the reactive one who is along for the ride. Reeds brains make him stand out while Sue's ... uhmm main trait... makes her another woman in a comic book.

    MarkGoodhart on
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    ManonvonSuperockManonvonSuperock Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    then again, character depth doesn't really prevail in most of the big-2 comics anyway. I mean taking that FF example, if a female character had ben's attitude she'd be considered "bitchy," and if she had johnny's she'd be considered "slutty."

    What was it, in that little book that Alan Moore wrote about writing comics, that practically all major comic characters can be summed up in 15 words or less, and those traits within those 15 words are crammed down your throat in essentially every story that houses them?

    I wouldn't say it's as bad as he puts it, but i would say that a lack of depth to characters isn't gender-restricted in comics.

    ManonvonSuperock on
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    TexiKenTexiKen Dammit! That fish really got me!Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    She has the best power of them all (one of the most powerful of anyone in the Marvel Universe, really), that's something.

    TexiKen on
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    FaynorFaynor Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    then again, character depth doesn't really prevail in most of the big-2 comics anyway. I mean taking that FF example, if a female character had ben's attitude she'd be considered "bitchy," and if she had johnny's she'd be considered "slutty."

    This isn't just comics, though. That's society for you.

    And I think that Sue Storm moves the plot plenty. The first thing that comes to mind is Civil War when, instead of just sheeping along with Reed, she defected to Cap's side.

    Faynor on
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    AriviaArivia I Like A Challenge Earth-1Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    TexiKen wrote: »
    She has the best power of them all (one of the most powerful of anyone in the Marvel Universe, really), that's something.

    Right, but issues of agency (as powers largely boil down to creation/denial of agency in narrative construction) aren't the same as power (in the cultural sense) itself. I haven't read an FF comic in awhile, but if all she's doing is following Reed's orders/being a member of the "team", then she might as well have a smock/be named Alice for the domesticity of it.

    Arivia on
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    TexiKenTexiKen Dammit! That fish really got me!Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Faynor wrote: »
    then again, character depth doesn't really prevail in most of the big-2 comics anyway. I mean taking that FF example, if a female character had ben's attitude she'd be considered "bitchy," and if she had johnny's she'd be considered "slutty."

    This isn't just comics, though. That's society for you.

    And I think that Sue Storm moves the plot plenty. The first thing that comes to mind is Civil War when, instead of just sheeping along with Reed, she defected to Cap's side.


    After having sex with him and feeding him a meal that is brainfood for the smart guy (....dammit, Millar).

    TexiKen on
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    FaynorFaynor Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    She's not really doing that, though, and I don't think she ever really does. She's pretty quick to pipe up, "Hey, Reed. You're being pretty stupid."

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    TexiKenTexiKen Dammit! That fish really got me!Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Yeah, she does speak up unless not convenient to the plot. The times she goes along with Reed it's because she agrees with him (like in the cool Authoritative Action arc).

    TexiKen on
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    FaynorFaynor Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Invisible_Woman_Steve_Mcniven_art.jpg

    She's just all around awesome, okay.

    Faynor on
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    KidDorkKidDork Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    While Hickman is only two issues in on his FF run, he's shown Sue as the one to call Reed on his excesses. And I agree with Faynor--she is awesome. Beyond awesome on a good day.

    Getting back to Spider-Woman, I picked up the first issue this week. My wife looked at the cover and said, "I see why you're buying that."

    Yes, the aforementioned giant boobs. So I asked her to read it when we got home. After she finished, she said she really enjoyed the story, liked the character (the first time she's ever read about Jessica Drew), but wasn't terribly impressed with the cover, since it went out of its way to draw attention to her breasts.

    I told her that since the majority of comics readers are male, this is how the companies grab the attention of their fans. She felt that she would never have picked up the comic on the basis of the cover alone, and would have missed what she felt was a very, very good story.

    Just throwing that in there.

    KidDork on
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    KVWKVW Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    I could have sworn Women in Fridges was all about the mistreatment of female characters and the use of them as mere objects for the main, male dominant characters to react to, such as killing them (usually in a horrible manner, such as stuffing broken and battered in a fridge) or randomly raping/abusing them (like Tigra in New Avengers and the filmed, borderline rape beating scene).

    Male characters rarely ever receive that level of treatment and, if they do, it's a valid plotpoint that sees the character react to it and how it affects them (overcome a fear or seek justice for a wrong done to them, etc).

    Females, in comparison, are on the fringe, have it done to them to see the reaction on the male character and are promptly forgotten. See Daredevil's wife attacked by the villain, mentally coerced [comic book rape equivilent], sent off to the nuthouse, him cheating on her, moving on and forgetting about her for a recent example of a female treated in this way.

    While there seems to be a lot of talk in this thread about the costumes/physical appearances, I've never actually seen anyone complain about how females are drawn insanely stacked compared to the impossibly muscle bound male counterparts. There is complaining about it, but not as a 'only females are treated this way' kind of thing. Males are just as horribly misrepresented and wear costumes that are painted on like skin and so on. Few show as much skin as females, but males also typically end up losing their costumes to battle damage and showing off the six packs and pecs all the time.

    I did like how Cloud 9 was portrayed in Avengers: The Initiative when reacting to the impossible body types of super heroes and her being normal in comparison. Was a good poke at that physical appearance topic though.

    KVW on
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    FaynorFaynor Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    I'm off to do homework without being distracted by the forums, but I wanted to post this image because it's one of the things that comes to mind when I think of good female character moments.
    mj-713233.jpg

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    TexiKenTexiKen Dammit! That fish really got me!Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    KVW wrote: »
    While there seems to be a lot of talk in this thread about the costumes/physical appearances, I've never actually seen anyone complain about how females are drawn insanely stacked compared to the impossibly muscle bound male counterparts. There is complaining about it, but not as a 'only females are treated this way' kind of thing. Males are just as horribly misrepresented and wear costumes that are painted on like skin and so on. Few show as much skin as females, but males also typically end up losing their costumes to battle damage and showing off the six packs and pecs all the time.

    I guess that just depends on the artist and what we see as their style. The Dodsons do the cheesecake but are consistent throughout, in that everyone is a bit thicker when they draw them, male or female (the same with Madueria, but lol Battle Chasers boooooobs). Adam Hughes is much the same. Immonen has that thin, long style to his art. Cassady has a good grasp of making character looks and appear real, etc.

    TexiKen on
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    emnmnmeemnmnme Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Black Canary is an oddity. I picked up a trade where she and Green Arrow were weeks away from being married. Her boob size changes by the issue. In one issue they're normal C-cups with no cleavage. A sensible outfit for a comic book heroine. Then they have a flashback in the next issue showing how BC and GA first met. Her breasts have transformed int watermelons and the cleavage is ridiculous. Does she want someone to stuff twenty dollar bills in there?

    I wish I could show comparisons but I have no scanner.

    emnmnme on
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    Robos A Go GoRobos A Go Go Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    At least with the idealism of the male form it makes a remote kind of sense due to the physical demands of superheroism requiring a person to be in insanely good shape.

    Being thin with big breasts makes less sense.

    And the sexual element inherent in males reading about sexy men is less pronounced as well, whereas with sex women it's more blatant.

    Robos A Go Go on
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