I’m not a fan of the “Ame-Comi” statues—they’re cute, but they too often cross the line into stripper-wear. They’re also far too expense for what are not actually Japanese imports. (Despite the packaging, the Ame-Comi character designs were commissioned from a Canadian art collective called UDON Entertainment.) So I knew going into this series what kind of costumes to expect.
When I first heard about the Ame-Comi Girls digital comic I wrote it off, due to it being based on a rather annoying toy line that promises anime inspired reinterpretations of female superheroes and villains but mostly gives DC an excuse to sexually objectify their female characters in even more ridiculous ways. I enjoy a lot of manga and anime art styles, but when mainstream North American companies try to imitate those aesthetics, they seem to gravitate towards the more porny depictions.
While the Ame-Comi statues are definitely cute – I might have bought a few if they weren’t so darn expensive – the designers obviously think that “anime inspired” means BOOBIES! and stripper-wear as much as spikey hair and Final Fantasy-esque/steampunk costumes. The wasted potential of the Ame-Comi line makes me very sad.
I decided to give the currently available Ame-Comi: Wonder Woman chapters a try due to the creative team and the excitement over having all my favourite female characters starring together. (I would have been a lot more enthusiastic if Supergirl’s costume didn’t make me weep.)
Having read the Wonder Woman installments, I’m a bit disappointed about the direction being taken but still hopeful for the next chapter starring Batgirl, which features some beautiful, delicate artwork by Sanford Greene, and then the Duela Dent chapter being illustrated by Ted Naifeh of Courtney Crumrin fame (wow).
In the Wonder Woman chapters, it feels like Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Amanda Conner are revisiting their schtick of of parodying the “sexy, scantily-clad warrior maiden” trope in a way that skates just this side of offensive, while reinforcing the same old, tired patriarchal patterns. I’m getting tired of their habit of putting powerful women into sexually humiliating situations and beating the crap out of them for laughs.
The Amazons are a bloodthirsty lot (who claim to want peace yet are suspiciously experienced in brutal slaughter) who wear inexplicably revealing clothing both on and off the battlefield. I don’t even know what to make of Diana’s regal outfit, which consists of a loincloth and a sweep of cloth over her breasts. Even Amanda Conner’s charming cartoony art can’t make up for the ridiculously sexist way the Amazons are dressed.
The low point comes when Diana is forced by her mother into wearing a metal bikini for her foray into “man’s world”. This is the authors’ attempt to work in the totally ridiculous costume from the second Ame-Comi Wonder Woman figure, and there’s just no way for it not to come across as really, really degrading. There is no justifiable reason for her to have to wear that thing in a public setting. Why couldn’t it have made a cameo in a scene where she’s actually swimming?
Diana finds the costume so humiliating that she describes it as advertising herself as “a whore for the nation of men”. Ouch. The idea that Hippolyta would force her daughter to degrade herself before the ruling men of the outside world unfortunately only reinforces the trope of pandering to the fantasies of a presumed male audience. Besides, how does a woman raised in an all-female culture even know what a “whore” is? Such a peculiarly patriarchal concept should be completely unknown to the Amazons, unless they’ve been intercepting foreign broadcasts or something.
I should point out that this Diana bears little resemblance to canon Wonder Woman. She’s arrogant, violent, and most uncharacteristically, hates the idea of going to Man’s World. Of course, that’s probably because she’s being sent out of desperation, to enter into what feels to the Amazons like a servile contract with whichever is the “strongest, most democratic nation” (just once I wish that wouldn’t turn out to be the USA). No longer are the Amazons powerful enough to defend themselves from the war machine of mortal men. This isn’t the peace loving, wise and generous Wonder Woman whose strength issues from a bedrock of confidence in her culture’s ideals.
Near the end of Ame-Comi: WW #3 we are introduced to the Ame-Comi versions of Catwoman, Duela Dent, and Poison Ivy, as they watch Wonder Woman beat up Cheetah on closed circuit television. I’m not sure why it was necessary for Duela to offhandedly call Wonder Woman “a big bitch”; the casual misogyny of that comment is annoying.
I’m hoping that the chapters dealing with some of the less, uh, easily exploitable characters will be better. Much will depend on the artists and which versions of the Ame-Comi costumes they have to work with. I just wish that my favourite character weren’t stuck with the worst costume :(
Ame-Comi Girls is published weekly every Monday through Comixology. Each installment is 10 pages (Comixology breaks each full sized page into mobile-friendly chunks). The individual installments will later be published as 30-page print comics. According to DC Comics, there will be five individual character arcs with 3 chapters each, leading up to a united ongoing Ame-Comi Girls series. All stories are written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with Wonder Woman art by Amanda Conner and Tony Akins, Batgirl art by Sanford Greene, Duela Dent art by Ted Naifeh, Power Girl art by Mike Bowden and Supergirl art by Santi Casas.
June 19, 2012: This post has been revised since its original posting: some changes in copy, and promotional images of Batgirl and Duela Dent have been moved to their own post.