Women In Refrigerators
This is a list I made when it occurred to me that it’s not that healthy to be a female character in comics. I’m curious to find out if this list seems somewhat disproportionate, and if so, what it means, really.
These are superheroines who have been either depowered, raped, or cut up and stuck in the refrigerator. I know I missed a bunch. Some have been revived, even improved — although the question remains as to why they were thrown in the wood chipper in the first place.
Green Lantern writer Ron Marz responds:
“The more infamous example, I suspect, is Alex, Kyle Rayner’s then girlfriend. I see a reference to her being “cut up and stuck in a refrigerator.” Firstly, you assume incorrectly Alex was “cut up,” which is frankly a rather common mistake. The real story behind that page is that as initially written and drawn, Kyle finds her body stuffed into the fridge. Her WHOLE body, in one piece. In fact, I still have a copy of that original page. The Comics Code went bananas and made us change the artwork so that the door was mostly shut. This had the effect of forcing readers to use their imaginations as to what the “unseen scene” was, and a lot of readers went for the most grisly thing imaginable — a dismembered body. I think this actually says a great deal more about some readers’ minds than it does about our original intentions. Score one for the Comics Code.
All that said, I can tell you Alex was a character destined to die from the moment she was first introduced in GL #48. I created her with the intention of having her be murdered at the hands of Major Force. I took a lot of care in building her as a character, because I wanted her to be liked and her death to mean something to the readers. I wanted readers to be horrified at the crime, and to empathize with Kyle’s loss. Her death was meant to bring brutal realization to Kyle that being GL wasn’t fun and games. It was also meant to sever his links with his old life, paving the way for his move to New York. And ultimately I wanted her death to be memorable and illustrate just how truly heinous Major Force was. Thus the fridge. From the reactions, I think I succeeded fairly well at those goals. It’s five years later and people are still talking about it. More than anything as a writer, you want the audience to react emotionally to your work, to care. I wrote a villain committing a truly despicable deed. That doesn’t mean I endorse or admire that behavior. I doubt Thomas Harris thinks of Hannibal Lecter as a positive role model, either. And it’s probably worth mentioning that Major Force was punished for the act.
Comics have a long history as a male-oriented and male-dominated industry. That’s not a statement of judgment, simply one of fact. I do think comics can and should be more sensitive to female characters. But these are times in which the general editorial mindset is “cut to the fight scene,” in which half-naked women on covers spike sales. Publishers are unfortunately more concerned with survival than with sensitivity to women. And that’s a shame. If we want to save our industry, maybe we should stop ignoring half the population as possible readers.”