On portrayals in American versus Japanese comics

Chicks on Anime has again hit my sweet spot. They have an interview with Barbara Guttman from DC Comics talking about how women are potrayed in American comics versus Japanese manga. Although Barbara sees them as different in a lot of ways, I think they suffer from many of the same problems when it comes to female characters. As I have discussed previously there is a definite lack of strong women, no less those who are not insanely boob-uous or otherwise gorgeous. This is definitely a part of American comics as well- although Barbara doesn’t think that Wonder Woman is defined by her sexy outfit, there’s no doubt of what catches the reader’s attention first. Just like Matsumoto from Bleach could kill you five ways from yesterday, but you know the first thing you see is her insane cleavage.

Perhaps the biggest difference I see in Japanese versus American comments is how much attention is drawn to the actual physical beauty or other characteristics of the female. While the similarities are present in both mediums, it is repeatedly pointed out with both dialog and physical gags that Matsumoto is extremely well endowed. Ditto Haruhi Suzumiya, who on the surface seems to be much closer to the average image for a female heroine but is repeatedly pointed out to be “a surreal beauty” by the male characters.

There is definitely something to be said for the fact that male characters in both America and Japan are “allowed” to be dorks (and frequently are) but females aren’t. Haruhi is smart, but not a dork. Naruto is a hardcore dork. Ami from Sailor Moon is smart but attractive and social. Superman is stomped on as Clark Kent.

There’s a definite imbalance there and it’s interesting to hear about it from the American comic perspective. I think a lot of it stems from a still male-dominated profession (and that’s both the writers and the consumers) but I sincerely hope a market develops for female characters who are more down to earth and easy to relate to.

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