One Girl Dares to Critique an Over Sexualized Comic Cover. Twitter Responds with Rape Threats.

by Mary Rockcastle

This Post may be contain content that is triggering to survivors of sexual assault. 

Whether you’re into the world of comics or not, you know that it’s not a friendly world for women. Whether it’s the impossibly buxom women characters or the (mostly male) die-hard fan base, it’s hard to be a lady and like comics.

Janelle Asselin, a former employee of DC Comics and total comic fangirl, recently wrote a controversial article for the website Comic Book Resources. Asselin describes herself as a total comic junkie, saying:

“I live and breathe the medium. My walls are lined with graphic novels and collections of comics that are diverse in content and in creators. I was qualified to write about this cover based not just on decades of reading comics, but a nearly decade-long career in the industry.”

In a world where anyone with a computer or a smart phone can publish their opinion on just about anything, Janelle Asselin seems more than qualified to speak about comics critically. However, when her article critiquing artist Kenneth Rocafort’s cover for a relaunch of Teen Titans was published, the majority of responses were less than respectful.

Asselin naturally commented on the enormous breasts that the artist gave to an underage girl on the cover of the issue. She points out that each breast is respectively larger than her head, and that her thighs are bigger around than her waist. Asselin even includes a link to an anatomy drawing tutorial on how to draw realistic breasts. She makes a huge point that comics should be for kids, not just boys, and that this cover would never appeal to teen girls.

You can agree or disagree (I happen to think it’s incredibly accurate) with Janelle Asselin’s point of view, but either way you cannot justify what happened next. It started with what Asselin describes as a “low level hum of misogyny,” with people calling her a “feminazi” and accusing her of being a disgruntled former employee via Twitter. A comic professional named Brett Booth argued back and forth with Asselin for a while over Twitter, but these responses were nothing out of the ordinary for an outspoken female comic book fan.

The release of her article about “Teen Titans” coincided with a survey Asselin put out, asking women and non-binary people about their experience with harassment in comics. That’s when a hoard of angry anonymous internet users found her survey and filled it with filthy comments and straight up threats of sexual assault. 

Asselin said she was scared, but refuses to apologize for her opinions or retract the article. She says:

“I get asked a lot why I stay in comics, given how often it can be unwelcoming to me and others. There are so many good comics out there. I wish I could put into words the joy of cracking open a new comic for the first time and discovering it’s one that welcomes me as a reader. There are so many new worlds out there that I haven’t even discovered yet and that’s endlessly exciting. I love editing comics and talking about comics. And I am absolutely not alone. Young women are the fastest-growing demographic in comics.”

As a comic reader and creator, I’m proud to have women like Asselin to pave the way for a place for women in this male dominated subculture. We deserve a place in comics, we will call you out on your misogyny, and we will not leave when you threaten us.  

Pictures Courtesy of Janelle Asselin and DC Comics

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