Aloha, my tactless brethren, and welcome to another installment of Tact is for the Weak, the article that has naked pictures of all those other articles from that one really crazy party back in January!
It’s no secret that the target demographic for comic books centers on males between the ages of 8 and 38. Usually, good writing and good art should be enough to propel a book to decent sales, but sometimes a little bit “extra” has to be thrown in to an issue to have fans coming back for the next issue. In the case of the younger end of this target audience, a few fart jokes and explosions should be enough to sufficiently spice up an already-fine issue. However, in order to further entice older readers, comic book creators typically find themselves falling back on a tried-and-true recipe for generating (or prolonging) interest: they sex it up.
Now, I don’t mean that the creators get really drunk, gather all the staff together in Dan Didio’s office and start a giant orgy, which goes along swimmingly until Judd Winick shows up with his latest boy toy from the West Indies (which would never in a million years happen; we all know Winick likes the Latino Fire); I mean that, cliché as it may sound, sex does in fact sell, and thus is added to what are usually already solid comic book stories.
“Hold up,” you may say, “more often than not, sexy scenes serve the story in some capacity beyond flashing some skin; we’re not that shallow!” Well, I’m here to tell you that yes, in fact, sometimes it is that shallow, and in some specific cases, an entire book can be about a single sexual item.
Case in point: the recent Teen Titans Annual #1 from DC Comics. Yes, there are some important scenes in the book that serve to color the periphery of the Infinite Crisis story, as well as some touching moments in the development of the emotional bond between Superboy and Wonder Girl, but did anyone talk about those things when the book came out? Hardly! This was and will be forever known as the book were Superboy and Wonder Girl, future heroic icons of the DC Universe, had teenaged sex. There were no tear-jerking declarations of love (except maybe after the fact), nor even the consumption of large amounts of alcohol; the world was ending, and what better way for responsible superhero protégés to go out than by doing the nasty outside Ma and Pa Kent’s window?
And did the ploy work? You bet your ass it did! While the resurrected Batman Annual was widely seen as a dud (despite the revelations about Jason Todd’s return), every lonely male comic book fan (and probably females, too) at least considered buying the Titans book, if for nothing else than to see the two teenaged titans get it on.
While the physical act of sex (pardon me; SEX) was central to this particular storyline, it is not so necessary in most other cases. There is a famous example from Gerard Jones’ early 1990′s run on DC’s Justice League Europe, in which, during a lengthy battle with the villain Sonar, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), despite suffering from amnesia, manages to shoot a force field around himself and Power Girl as protection from Sonar’s attacks. And, ladies’ man that he is, Hal (damaged memory and all!) then proceeds to thoroughly shag Power Girl under the (hopefully opaque) green shield. Just imagine; it takes some real f**king willpower to put it in Power Girl (who could probably break one’s pelvis in the act of sexual congress) and maintain an energy shield the entire time! I bet most of you had no idea that the Emerald Gladiator had once “stuck it to” the cousin of Earth-2′s Superman! Thankfully, no “complications” (pregnancies) developed; the experienced Mr. Jordan probably whipped up some sort of green energy condom.
(This would be where I would put a picture, but instead, I’ll let fate draw you to this week’s graphic supplement. Enjoy!)
Of course, there are many other cases of sexual tension (and subsequent release) in comic books; sometimes, even the threat of sex is enough to send characters (and fans) into a dizzying spiral of hormone-driven confusion. Batman and Wonder Woman, Superman and Lois, Wolverine and Jean Grey, Vision and the Scarlet Witch; all these couples were doomed from the start to never physically consummate their love (or fleeting lust). Sometimes, the sheer physical mechanics of the activity simply prevent it from happening; Kal-el’s super-seed would undoubtedly rip throughLois Lane like buckshot, and I’m not sure Vision was built with the proper outlets for sex (perhaps he should look into upgrading).
However, the primary function of sexual content in comics is simply to provide a little eye candy and gently stroke readers’ natural addictions to the carnal side of life (thus bolstering sales). “Cheesecake artists”(artists known for their ability to draw sexually appealing art) are growing in popularity, particularly when it comes to cover artwork. And sexuality itself is becoming a more popular subject in current stories; DC Comics recently promoted the emergence of the new Batwoman as a lesbian, and while they claim that her sexuality is not the focus of the character, we all know that this isn’t entirely true. Let’s be brutally honest, here: the target males ages 8-38 aren’t interested in adding to the colors of diversity around the DC Universe so much as waiting to see a little girl-on-girl action. It’s the truth, and if you’re naïve or judgmental enough to say otherwise, you most likely know deep down that you’re wrong, but are probably too insecure with that unsettling truth to (gasp!) admit it.
So, what’s the point of my little soap box tirade this week? Simply put, you don’t need to feel guilty or ashamed for taking that second look at that sexy chick in the second panel on the last page of your latest comic acquisition (personally, I feel Bovine Feces Quarterly could use a little sexiness to spice up what has become a dreary title of late); that half-naked girl was put there for a reason: to make you, the 8-to-38-year-old male (or otherwise-interested comic fan) a little happier.
…in your pants.
And with that, I bring us all to the handing out of this week’s Tactless Book of the Week Award! This week, the award goes to… DC Comics’s Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #1. First off, let me say that, despite Marvel’s Civil War #2 showing up on the Tactless Wall of Shame, DC is still a head and shoulders above Marvel in the tactless department. Get to it, Quesada! Nothing says “tactless” (as well as “cross-promotional”) like revealing Catwoman’s baby-daddy as Professor X!
…*ahem*. In any event, the latest Flash book started out confusing and disjunctive, and ended with much of the same. We still don’t know who the new Flash is (and probably won’t for many months), and the changing narrative voices (was that Barry Allen?) serve only to further plunge the empty role of central character into further question. Granted, the art was terrific, and once things settle down, I’m sure the series will take off on its own, but as a first issue, this book does very little to draw new readers in. Sure, there are the obligatory expositions on the speed force and whatnot, but, as with the latest Wonder Woman relaunch, DC seems to take pleasure in publishing books without main characters.
Well, that’s enough of that for one week. Be sure to tune in next week as I delve into yet another topic of infinite importance; perhaps even my own review of Superman Returns! But I’m making no promises; the last time I made an important promise, I had to drive someone three hours to an abortion clinic. So, until next week, keep it clean, and be sure to wash behind you ears! Splat!