WHY BIG SUPERHERO MUSCLES AREN’T ‘THE SAME THING’ AS SEXY CURVES
By Andrew Wheeler
As a man who reads superhero comics, I confess that I share a commonly-held prurient interest in big-chested, long-legged heroes in skin-baring costumes that barely cover their naughty bits — or as I like to call him, Namor.
Sadly, Namor is pretty much alone in his category. Contrary to the perception that male heroes in comics are frequently sexually objectified, it’s my experience that even Namor is only rarely presented as someone to lust over. Yet I’m fortunate that my tastes run towards the Hemsworth end of the scale. Like many straight men, I admire the kind of buff dudes that are the staple of superhero comics, even though they are rarely sexualized. If I shared the tastes of most of the women I know, I think I’d find superhero comics an even more frustratingly sexless wasteland.
Big muscles are a male fantasy. That’s not to say that women aren’t ever into them, but let’s face facts; women have never been the primary target audience for superhero comics, and male heroes are drawn with big muscles anyway. Make no mistake; women are there. But those big muscles are not there for women. They’re there for men; straight men who find male power exhilarating. If women didn’t exist, superheroes would be drawn just as buff as they are today — because as far as most superhero comics are concerned, women as consumers do not exist.
Yet I’ve seen it said more times than I can count that male heroes are objectified, sexualized, idealized, just the same as the women — because they’re big and ripped and dressed in tight costumes. It’s an idea that’s completely tied up in the narcissistic notion that androphile women are attracted to the same qualities that men find appealing.
Talk to a few women, and you’ll find that’s broadly untrue.
I love and agree with everything this article has to say 1000%.
Power Girl and Warbird/Ms. Marvel are two characters I love, and two characters I’ve dressed up as. The costumes are fun; I appreciate their aesthetic. However, whenever I’ve suggested that these outfits are 100% pandering to guys fantasies (especially given how awkward they’ve been to wear in stage fights!), I’ve been dismissed. ‘The men are designed to attract women, so the women are designed to attract men. Get over it.’ On deaf ears have my protests of ‘I don’t really find bulging muscles attractive’ gone. ‘Well, that’s just you.’ BUT IT’S NOT JUST ME. THANK YOU COMICS ALLIANCE.
This article actually puts into words what I’ve been trying to figure out about why I’m drawn to the comics I am. Having just relatively recently fallen head first into the world of comic books, I am occasionally a bit picky about what I read and which characters I enjoy. I agree with this article on all the points. Not that I’ve ever had this discussion with anyone in person, but I have certainly heard the argument that the super muscular guys in comics are made to look good for the ladies.
For the most part, I gravitate towards X-titles. I’m loving All New X-Factor, and All New X-Men (having finally found a jumping in point). I like the new Loki comics, but not the new Thor comics (Thor came off as an oafish brute in the one I read, while Loki came off as a charming scamp. I should probably give Thor a second chance, after some of the recent events.) Captain Marvel and Nightcrawler, too. Atomic Robo. I’m still just getting started in reading comics, so the list is mostly new-ish publications of the titles, but it’s a place to start.
I don’t find exceedingly bulging muscles to be attractive - quite honestly, in real life or comics. I’m sure some individuals do, but I just don’t really find the body-builder-esq bulk pleasant to look at. I think from an attractiveness perspective, my favorite male characters in the comics I read are Loki (lithe, thin, but well defined muscles, expressive eyes, somewhere between handsome and pretty), and Gambit (handsome, scruffy, muscular, but not over the top exploding out of his clothing ‘roid raging muscles, speaks French, expressive). Also, Loki starts off singing show-tunes in the shower in his new comic… how can I resist that?
The whole topic reminds me a bit of the scene from Rocky Horror where Frank is introducing Rocky, asking for opinions.
Janet: I don’t like men with too many muscles.
Frank: I didn’t make him for /you/.