Artists Target Comic Sexism By Tarting Up A Male Icon

"The Hawkeye Initiative" calls out comic book inequality, showing how male superheroes would look if dressed and posed like their female counterparts.

In the poster for The Avengers, inescapable this past spring, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow was the only superhero whose assets were displayed as perhaps they would be on the poster for a porno parody version of the movie. Everyone else got to look like ass-kicking saviors ready for battle; she looked like Cirque Du Soleil: After Hours. The poster was sent up in a widely Reddit-circulated image of all the Avengers posed in a likewise fashion, ridiculing this disparity. Now a new project called The Hawkeye Initiative is drawing even more attention to it… with drawings.

During The Avengers, Jeremy Renner’s arrow-happy Hawkeye spends some screen time topless, showing way more skin than Black Widow ever does, and yet the poster doesn’t represent as much. When the two shared a comic book cover in 2011, their poses provided a similar contrast. Now, graphic artists Blue and Ginger Haze have apparently decided that perhaps Hawkeye should be the one striking sultry poses. The two got the ball rolling with a call for other artists to re-envision Hawkeye in the ass-hugging outfits and stripper twirls of not just Black Widow, but all of the comic book universe’s so-called "Strong Female Characters." If the resulting images look a little ridiculous on Hawkeye, well, perhaps they’re a little ridiculous on them too.

Look through some of the best side-by-side comparison images from The Hawkeye Initiative in the slide show above.

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  • Ibai Canales Benito

    So, are romance novel covers sexist for their depiction of muscular, shirtless highlanders and pirates? What about Twilight and the half-naked nubile werewolves in it? Is that sexist too?

    If you don't like it, don't read it. But people have the right to draw whatever they want however they want to. Even if they're white straight men.

  • Scott Fecher

    Stupid comparison. Do women find the Hawkeye pictures attractive? I doubt it. Have a female artist make a depiction that most straight cis women would find sexy, and then we can talk.

  • victoria

    That fact that everyone is saying "comics are for men" is sexism in itself. Comics are for anyone. Thats like saying "nope, the color blue is for boys only" do you realize youre only encouraging gender stereotypes by saying that? Toys, colors, books, items to not have a gender... this ONLY toy that is meant specifically for a male or female means that you require genetalia to use it... and at that point, its really mot meant for children, is it?

  • Scott Fecher

    Comics aren't "just for men." but the majority of the market is male, although that is changing and may someday be roughly equivalent. Sexy "tarted up" ladies move books and comics is a business. Artists are going to do what sells.

  • Elisabeth Schmidt

    Seems to me like most guys having responded to this article are a bunch of uptight and rather conservative people who do not wish to reflect upon things dear to them, are to lazy to even cosider taking somebody elses perspective and most importantly didn't get the beautiful irony of the whole project. I imagine few women actually want to see men posing and dressing as shown above. The point was to make you realize that NEITHER DO WE WANT TO SEE WOMEN LIKE THIS. Yes, in Marvel and Dc comics both sexes are as a rule portrayed in a highly unrealistic fashion (which I personally find extremely boring), however the men are not degraded to bloody objects that you might as well use as replacement for a porn magazine. So why on earth are you guys surprised that female readers feel offended when opening a DC comic? Truth be told, I think you yourself were offended when seeing the pictures done by the Hawkeye Initiative, hence your reaction. Maybe you should go and think a bit about that.

  • brett

    Who's we? Comics are written by men for men. If you don't like it, go make your own comics.

    No, really, I mean it. Women come in and start criticizing things for being "sexist", when the only reason these things is because men made them. The people who comics are made for, men, have no problem with them. You're the one with the problem, so go make something yourself instead of imposing your ideology onto the creations of men.

  • Regan Lei Tueckes

    I'm not upset about the bodies these women have. Look at the men in comics, they're all highly muscular and masculine. So I see no inequality there. I'm not even upset by the overly sexual, spine-breaking and unrealistic eye-candy poses (Though I do wish there were more eye-candy poses of male characters to even the playing field). The only thing that irks me is the clothing. Most of the women are usually in very tight and often revealing clothing. I'm not saying I want them to stop, I'm just saying if you're going to give your straight male fans so much fan-service- then please do the same for us straight female fans. I'm not looking for a man in a CLEARLY feminine outfit like the pictures above (trying to prove a point with an invalid argument), I'm just asking for an equal amount of male characters wearing tight clothing, sexy poses and shirtless scenes, etc.. as the female characters. Maybe also make a point to hire more women to broaden your views of what women want. A great example is when creating the character of Flynn Ryder for the Disney movie Tangled, many women in the building working on the project were brought in together to get their opinions on what they found physically attractive in order to create Flynn's appearance. They then combined their opinions and settled on a finished look. Check it out here: Yes comics were originally made for men, by men, but times have changed and are continuing to do so. I'm a HUGE Batman fan myself and would be more inclined to read more comic books if they put a little more thought towards what women like. You don't have to change the way you portray women. None of these men and women are physically realistic to begin with. Just try to make the negatives and positives equal for both genders. I don't blame men for the things I'm unhappy with when it comes to this sort of thing. I blame marketing teams, developers, etc.. That's where the real fault lies. Now if you were kind and patient enough to read all of this, perhaps you care enough about equality to take a step further in understanding where we women come from (and I apologize for the women who come off as raving nags, giving us women a bad rep when talking about equality issues, making it seem like we're just ready to throw the blame on men and take away the things they enjoy. I'm aware that it's not what we say, it's HOW we choose to say it.), if that's the case, please do me the incredible favor of watching this video on The Truth About Gamer Girls, where this young woman beautifully explains what most people don't yet know about women who enjoy "real" video games:

  • brett

    Sorry, but comics are made for men. If comics started featuring men dressed/acting overtly "sexy" rather than masculine, tough and heroic,their sales would plummet. If there's really enough females that this is an issue for, then clearly there would be sufficient demand for comics written for women. There's obviously not comics for women (otherwise we wouldn't be having this discussion), which means theres not enough female demand to change comics for "straight female audience". Instead of sitting here bitching and trying to impose your ideology onto something male, why not go and make your own comics. Set up a kickstarter and make it happen.

    Let men keep what they like.

  • FiachSidhe

    Could you be any more of a disingenuous horny nerd loser stereotype, defending your crappy "I can't like females characters unless they sexy it up for me" bullshit attitude?

  • David Martin

    have you actually seen how the men are drawn? No human being actually looks like that, they are "super" men and uber male, just as the women are drawn outlandishly feminine - extra curvy and yet lean and long. It's a fantasy world, with over the top caricatures of the human form. Is it sexest? Maybe, but it's equal opportunity sexist.

  • Michele Johnston

    Jesus H., let guys enjoy their comics. Why do we have to pummel everything masculine into the ground until we've basically created a society of women and eunuchs? If some women hate what they see as "sexist" in comic books, they have two choices:

    A. Don't buy them.
    B. Make your own.

    It's as simple as that.

    If Superman wears bottoms that accentuate his dong, is that objectification, too? Hmm.

  • John K.

    Not everything is meant to be gender-equal, nor should it be. Equality is a delusion, biologically it rarely is seen to exist (if at all). *Balance* is what needs to be worked towards, not equality. Fairness is in balance, equality just seeks to neutralize difference. Difference is what makes people unique, the acceptance of differences is what creates unity and the leveraging of differences is what propels humanity forward.

    That being said, these comics are not necessarily meant to be read by women. As horrible as that sounds, that is the reality. Should all things really be tailored for both genders? Should there be nothing that is specifically designed with men in mind or women in mind? What about tastes? Take hunting magazines for example, should they also be made to incorporate all other interests outside of hunting? There is nothing wrong with a man liking something designed with a woman in mind or vice versa but we should not expect everything to be designed for everybody. We should not seek to neutralize differences and individual tastes.

    These comics are the way they are because the consumers that buy them enjoy them that way and that drives the companies that make them to continue to make them that way. I personally don't care for them these days, as I got older and matured I began to favor more realistic body shapes, maturer themes, etc. but I don't take a torch and pitchfork to these companies, I went out and started creating my own works to tell the kinds of stories I want to tell and to create the kind of visuals and representations I want to create.

    I am not saying don't be disgusted by what you see in these comics, because we all have our differing tastes and sensibilities, I am just saying understand that maybe they weren't made with you in mind and your energy would be better spent creating something that is (with the added bonus being you've now created something for others who feel the same to enjoy).

  • Halloween_Jack

    Because you obviously totally care about kids dying in Africa even when you're not trying to change the subject. It really shows.

  • brett

    He doesn't care about the kids in Africa, but he's not the one acting self-righteous though, idiot. That's the whole point. He's not getting on his soapbox about anything, he's just pointing out the ridiculousness of doing so over such a breath-takingly trivial issue.

  • ChadHenderson

    Well, if they want to print comics with dudes posing like that I wouldn't cry or bitch about it. I just wouldn't read those comics. Maybe the girls who are offended by this stuff should try that.

  • krzystoff

    the examples given are all so poorly drawn, they convey zero emotive reactive, no allure or sex appeal and no imagination. 
    they do show the male characters dressed in thongs, which would probably sell in gay mags, reasonably well if only they were drawn better than an elementary school sketch.
    I don't see the problem with the female comic characters, the caricatures are quite dated, obviously and would probably be done very differently if they were new comic characters of today, but they highlight the physical strengths of women over men, which is not through size or brute strength, but beauty -- the Hawkeye scribbles offer nothing on any level. 

  • Halloween_Jack

    Typical fanboy response, labeling similar treatment of male characters as "gay", because there are no women in your worldview who would enjoy that sort of thing, or if there were you don't really care.

  • chacha

    Oh wow, women's strength is beauty? Nice job trying to sound all intelligent with those big words but basically women = hot = all they have to offer.

    THANKS MAN.  I think the crude drawings showcase how ridiculous the women are because how can you fight crime with your tit literally constrained by a string.
    I can't even run without a sports bra and some serious coverage. 

    FAIL indeed