Women Are Critiquing The Furiosa Comic, But No One At DC Cares

If you loved “Mad Max: Fury Road” as much as I did, you may be disappointed by the DC/Vertigo Mad Max: Furiosa origins comic book. Feminist blogger Ana Mardoll outlined, page-by-page, why the comic is problematic-bordering-on-if-not-outright-offensive over at Shakesville, ranging from the fact that it lacks continuity and cohesiveness with the movie’s narrative, to the fact that it reinforces really toxic stereotypes about women, to its graphic and unnecessary depiction of rape scenes. (The blog post edits out upsetting panels.)

Don’t get me wrong. I’m OK with rape being a part of a female character’s narrative, because rape happens to women in real life and just ignoring it would be unrealistic. But the Furiosa comic has made rape the only backstory for Immortan Joe’s wives, and for Furiosa; has made rape their only real motivation for attempting to escape, not that they value freedom for its own sake. And that’s a really boring story, at this point. It reduces those characters not just to their vaginas, but what is done to their vaginas, making them passive characters who are dependent on the people who hurt them to determine what they value.

Which might be too deep an analysis for some fans to agree with, and that’s fine; if you like the comic, cool. If you think it’s genuinely empowering, more power to you. But the “Fury Road” movie was empowering to many rape survivors, and to women, because Furiosa and the wives were complicated characters with varying backstories who fought for their autonomy because they simply had the right to it, not because that desire had to be justified by rape. The origins comic deflates that entire sentiment, which is why some other fans are just opting to consider the comic non-canon.

It matters that only men were tasked with writing, drawing, inking, and coloring this comic book. Just consider, skeptical male comic fans: Would you want a team of only women to write a story about the things you struggle with because you’re a man? Would you trust them to get it right and represent you well? Wouldn’t you want at least one or two men around so that they could suggest alternative points of view? That’s what we’re dealing with, here.

The comic’s writers – George Miller, Nico Lathouris, and Mark Sexton – all, bafflingly enough, worked on the movie as well. But they hired Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler as a consultant, and I have the feeling that wasn’t the case for the comic. I don’t know, though, because when I contacted Ensler to ask whether or not she was consulted, her rep only replied, “Thank you very much for your email. Ms. Ensler is on a writing retreat until fall.” And when I asked DC/Vertigo whether Ensler consulted, whether they had a statement on the Shakesville critique, and when exactly the comic was developed, their PR person only replied, “Thanks for reaching out, we appreciate it! We have no comment to provide and are declining the request.” Which is a pretty cheerful way of saying, “We don’t really care.”

I was warned that this would be the case, though. Apparently DC is not well-known for responding to journalists at all, much less responding to journalists about an extensive critique of their comics and movies. And there’s been plenty to critique, especially since DC’s New 52 initiative began in 2011, when they cancelled every single one of their comic book series and started them over with new first issues. Beyond criticism having to do with the utility of the New 52, there’s been widespread disdain for DC’s treatment of racial diversity and their regressive treatment of women characters. So the Furiosa comic, I guess, isn’t really out of the ordinary.

The only statement anyone has issued about the Shakesville critique comes from Mark Sexton, who had this to say:

 

 

If he had ended after the link, that would’ve been great. But instead, Sexton intentionally or maybe unintentionally undermined the idea that it was genuinely a “quite extraordinary review” by calling it “incredibly subjective” and “very angry” (which, let’s be honest, is code for “irrational”). It’s a backhanded compliment, or maybe it’s a compliment that’s so qualified as to render it null as a compliment, but either way, no one officially associated with the comic is willing to validate the Shakesville critique and those of us who either partially or fully agree with it with so much as a comment, or a yes or no as to whether or not Ensler was involved, or any information whatsoever about how the comic was developed.

Which is fine. We can just not buy the comic. So if you’re a fan of Mad Max: Fury Road the movie, maybe don’t buy the Mad Max: Furiosa comic book, and maybe give your money to Bitch Planet instead.

 

[Vertigo]

[Shakesville]

[AV Club]

[What Culture]

[Twitter]

[Image Comics]

[Image via Vertigo]
Send me a line at [email protected] and follow me on Facebook. Thanks to @venneh for her guidance.