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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

“punched in the gut and launched into space” is the new “women in refrigerators”

Superman kills Lois Lane

Superman. Embodying truth, justice, and the American way. Hey, it’s not Superman’s fault if “the American way” now includes virulent misogyny. John Gholson at Gutters & Panels:

Some Thoughts on ‘Injustice’ #3 aka the One Where Superman Punches Lois Lane to Death

[S]omewhere, some editor (Jim Chadwick, editor of Injustice?) is wringing his hands with glee, thinking, “This is exactly why we allowed it! We want to get people talking about comics!” Well, that’s all fine and good, but how about we do it without resorting to the most pure fictional symbol of Truth, Justice, and the American Way slugging a woman in the gut so hard that she leaves the Earth’s atmosphere? There’s a lot of discussion about sexism in comics and video games, and hooray – DC gets to be a part of that discussion now, on the totally wrong side of it, by promoting their upcoming video game with a story that, and I can not understate this, hinges on Superman beating a woman to death.

I would say that Superman beating women to death, hallucination or not, is so beyond what people expect of Superman in an all-ages comic that all may be lost with DC’s new editorial regime. … [I]t’s especially troubling to female readers. There’s a conversation going on right now about the marginalization of female geeks that can not be ignored. Injustice #3 does its best to ignore that conversation, and reinforces DC as an ignorant company that doesn’t understand why decisions like this would offend anyone.

Dunno why Gholson is so touchy. Everyone knows that, in fiction, the death of a woman is simply a traditional way to advance a man’s personal spiritual journey.

Via @ scottEweinberg.

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  • Tonio Kruger

    John Gholson is right. That story is wrong on so many levels that it’s hard to imagine it being written by anyone who gave a damn about people.

  • bracyman

    You know, a little physics may flip this situation on its head. This is actually empowering. If you munched any man in the stomach with enough force to obtain escape velocity with something the size of a fist, he would literally explode. The fact that Lois not only doesn’t atomize but seems to show no damage from the atmospheric friction, near absolute zero temperatures or cosmic radiation suggests that the artists have a great deal of respect for how tough woman can be. Science to the rescue!

  • Dr. Rocketscience


    I already hated the entire idea of Injustice on general principle. Now I get to hate it on specific principles.

  • RogerBW

    Comics fans: this is why people look on you with utter contempt. Because these are the people you think are great artists and writers, and this is the shit you buy.

  • innpchan

    Not specific to this storyline, but isn’t it ironic that at a time when comics are receiving the most astonishing level of free advertising imaginable they are actually driving away readers with one misogynistic and “edgy” headline grabbing stunt after another?

  • RogerBW

    As I understand it, actual comics sales are constantly falling (hey, why not blame piracy), and these various stunts are all they can think of to get that precious teenage boy market.

  • LaSargenta

    I don’t usually munch men in the stomach…I do it a little lower down.

    (Don’t you DARE edit that!)

  • Bluejay

    Are you sure you wouldn’t like to refine the term “comics fans” a little further? Because that’s an awfully big umbrella to heap your utter contempt upon. It includes critics and fans (many of whom are women) who are outraged by this, as well as female fans who are struggling with this and trying to make distinctions about what the comic does and doesn’t do in terms of misogyny.

    It’s interesting to read an interview with the writer, who says he was disturbed to write this particular story but was told to do it. The decision to have this done to Lois comes from higher up, and that’s where criticism should probably be directed.

  • Bluejay

    For accuracy’s sake, I think it should be pointed out that the descriptions of “Superman beating a woman to death” and “slugging a woman in the gut so hard that she leaves the Earth’s atmosphere” appear to be flat-out wrong. Here’s Tom Taylor, who wrote the story (boldface mine):

    When I was told that I had to write a comic where my hero was tricked into killing his wife and unborn child, I was horrified. All I’ve ever wanted to do in licensed comics is write Superman. To have to do this to him and to have to do this to Lois, was a task that, frankly, I didn’t relish. […]I dislike violence as a rule, and I abhhor violence towards women. And so, I made it my mission to find a way where Superman has absolutely no idea of what he was doing. I engineered a situation where, in actuality, he thinks he’s protecting the woman he loves and his unborn child.I also made it clear to Mike Miller, the artist who drew those incredibly powerful and emotional pages so well, that at no point does Superman strike Lois. Editor Jim Chadwick and I even made sure we tore a hole in the submarine in the previous issue so that Lois wouldn’t be pushed through anything. Superman, severely weakened, drugged and believing Lois is Doomsday, grabs Lois and pushes her into space, where she tragically dies. For some, despite the fact that Superman is drugged and thinks he’s carrying Doomsday, all they could see was a husband killing his wife. I completely understand, and I am sorry for this.

    (This description is confirmed in the video I linked to downthread — upthread? — by the woman who seems to have read the comic.)

    There’s certainly plenty of room to argue that, despite the writer’s intent, the end result is still misogynistic and conforms to a pattern of women (and their deaths) being used as props for the man’s personal spiritual journey. But that argument should be about the act that actually happens, rather than an imagined action that simply didn’t occur. Superman didn’t beat Lois to death, or punch her in the gut. Let’s not argue as if he did.

  • englerp

    Also there are other comics besides American superhero comics.

  • teenygozer

    It is pretty well understood by everyone in the biz that certain persons at the highest levels at DC Comics hate, detest, and abhor women in general and Lois (how DARE she love a God!) Lane in specific. Her spunk, her verve, her pushiness, her success in her chose field, her smart mouth: these are all the characteristics they hate most and are most frightened of in a woman.

    These persons cannot be fired or retired because they have the backing of the execs at Time-Warner. So we’re stuck with them and their crappy and insulting story lines for the time being.

    They talk the talk about changing their ways and opening up to get more readers in new demographics, but they are apparently incapable of actually doing it, because they always return to the same old, same old: the middle-aged/aging fanboy demographic, who hates anyone else reading “his” books or the idea that the comics may no longer be written just for his tastes.

    (edited for typo-fixin’)

  • teenygozer

    Actually, they only *think* they’re going for the “young male demographic”… but they have no idea what young men are interested in. For the most part, this stuff they’re pushing sells to the middle-aged fanboy. The same guy who’s been buying comics since the 80s and avidly read the women-in-the-fridge and “a woman gets raped to advance the stories of the male characters” stories.

    Wanna know what teen boys buy? They buy, and I am not kidding, “My Little Pony”. “Adventure Time” is also popular. Most of the young men at our store seem to be way less sexist than any other crop of young men I’ve ever seen before.

  • RogerBW


  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Do you really think details like that make that much of a difference here? Superman solving his problems by punching them is a long-standing shorthand for everything the character does, and one the writers have lampshaded more that occasionally. (They did, after all, once have Superboy literally break the universe by literally punching it.)

    Whether Superman punches, or throws, or kicks, or head butts, or punts, or shoulder-checks Lois in to space, the upshot is the same: they had Superman physically, personally, kill Lois Lane and (just for shits and giggles) their unborn child. I don’t see how any specific means lessens the utter WTFness of that plot device.

    It’s nice to see that Taylor is not completely clueless, even if it then becomes clear that he’s completely spineless.

  • Bluejay

    Well, yes, I think the details matter. It matters that when we’re speaking out against misogyny (or any other injustice), we don’t misrepresent the details, because otherwise we lose credibility and it’s easier for detractors to dismiss us. It matters that Superman carries her into space and that he doesn’t punch, kick, head-butt, or strike her in any way, because even if it doesn’t lessen the WTFness of the plot, it does change the character of the violence.

    I think there’s been a bit of a game of telephone here:

    1) Here’s an image of the original panel. Superman, drugged and weakened by the Joker, hallucinates that Lois is Doomsday, whisks her off into space, and only realizes his mistake when it’s too late.

    2) Comics Alliance describes the scene as “Superman punches Lois Lane into outer space.”

    3) John Gholson runs with the description, turning it into “Superman punching his pregnant wife so hard that it kills her and sends her flying into space” and “Superman beating a woman to death.”

    4) MaryAnn picks up on this and turns it into “punched in the gut and launched into space.”

    What we get, after all this, is the strong impression that Lois is killed by wife-beating — that Superman murders her with an extreme form of domestic violence. Which, if you look again at the original comic, simply didn’t happen.

    Yes, Lois’s death is horrifying and fucked-up in so many ways. (And the Joker’s master plan is just unbelievably sick.) Yes, there’s a very strong argument to be made that her death is the latest example of the shoddy way that superhero comics treat their female characters. I absolutely think we should make that argument. I don’t think that it’s helpful to make claims that are purposely inflammatory and demonstrably false. You don’t need to say, as Gholson does, that Superman gut-punched his wife and beat her to death (which isn’t true) in order to compellingly argue that misogyny is widespread in superhero comics (which IS true).

    All I’m saying is, let’s stick to the facts. There’s plenty of real misogyny to point out, and there’s no need to misrepresent or embellish. It’s already all there.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    It matters that Superman carries her into space and that he doesn’t punch, kick, head-butt, or strike her in any way, because even if it doesn’t lessen the WTFness of the plot, it does change the character of the violence.

    So, what? It’s bad, but it’s not that bad? Is that really your argument? That doesn’t strike you as a little apologist. Cause, I gotta tell ya, it strikes me as a lot apologist. I mean, just turn it around: he pushed her, but at least he didn’t hit her. Which becomes: he hit her, bit at least he didn’t kick her. He kicked her, but at least he didn’t brake anything. And so on. Is that road you want to start down?

    So, no, the “character” of the violence doesn’t matter. It’s entirely beside the point. And if people want to “embellish” it, I say good. This is not a court of law. Better that than to leave an opening to say, “Well, he didn’t hit her, he ‘just’ pushed her into space. And he was hallucinating, so it wasn’t even his fault. So, there really isn’t a problem.” That’s a bullshit rationalization, the same one Taylor is peddling so that he can live with himself for doing this to the characters of both Lois Lane and Superman.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Boy, that escalated quickly…

  • RogerBW

    Dr R, I believe Bluejay’s point is that the sort of person who remains an unrepentant superhero comics fan will say “oh, well, they’re accusing Superman of punching someone into space, which isn’t what happened in the comic, therefore I will ignore their entire argument”.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Oh, whatever. That sort of unrepentant superhero comics fan asshole is going to find a way to ignore the entire argument anyway. They are unbelievably good at it, as I can attest to due to spending the last few days following the fallout of the Steubenville verdict and the recent ridiculousness coming out of PyCon. So why bother even starting down the road of apology, even in the name of “accuracy”, for the opportunity to cut a few jackwagons off from one possible avenue of their douchbaggery?

  • Bluejay

    What RogerBW said.

    I’m not saying “It’s bad, but it’s not that bad.” I’m saying “It’s definitely bad, but in a different way.”

    I’m not saying “there really isn’t a problem.” (You really think I’m saying that? I must be a poorer writer than I thought.) I’m saying there IS a problem, but if we get derailed into an argument about Superman being a wife-beater (which never happened), then we’re not talking about the REAL problem, which is that the fact that Lois has to die at Superman’s hands AT ALL to manipulate the hero’s character and advance the plot is emblematic of the misogyny of DC comics culture. Lois’s death was a terrible move by the creators, and we should rightly say so. But Superman still didn’t gut-punch her or beat her to death. What’s the point of claiming he did? What’s wrong with sticking to facts? Why not trust the facts, and argue using the truth?

    I think embellishment hurts, because then you’re open to being seen as a fabricator or exaggerator or sloppy researcher and dismissed as such. I can make a perfectly strong, valid, compelling argument that racism is alive and well in NYC. But I only hurt my credibility if I claim that there’s a burning cross at every corner.

  • Bluejay

    Why bother being accurate? Because, as I believe you argued in another thread, the point of Internet debate isn’t actually to convince the douchebag you’re arguing with. It’s to convince all the other people reading that you’ve got the stronger argument. Being solid on your facts helps.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Not in this case, not with these facts, and certainly not to the degree where it is necessary to correct with 5 links and quoting 3 paragraphs of the perpetrator of the problem trying cover his ass.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I’m not saying “It’s bad, but it’s not that bad.”

    I really think you are.

    I’m not saying “there really isn’t a problem.”

    No, but you’re setting up the argument, however inadvertently. And you’re going out of your way to do it.

    if we get derailed into an argument about Superman being a wife-beater (which never happened)

    Here’s the thing: yes, it did. I tried to do a bit of research here, to find examples of men who didn’t beat their wives, but instead threw their wives out of their home. Instead I got page after page about this story:


    So, let’s say this guy was never anything but kind to his wife, never said a harsh word or laid a hand on her. And let’s even postulate that the reason he did it was because he was delirious, perhaps due to a high fever from a flu. Would you jump onto the comments of HuffPo to argue that the headline is clearly misleading; he couldn’t have thrown her anywhere, let alone out of a moving car. All he did was push her, which, for the sake of accuracy, is not the same thing, so let’s not go saying that he’s some sort of wife-beater?

    you’re open to being seen as a fabricator or exaggerator or sloppy researcher and dismissed as such.

    For whatever it’s worth, I’ve read comments on oa half-dozen or so posts about the “Injustice” comic. While I’ve seen plenty of defenses of the comic, I haven’t seen anyone make this argument. Doesn’t mean that, as they start scraping the bottom of the rhetorical barrel, someone won’t. But then again, that’s hardly the only derailing tactic that could get used. And, being an appeal to semantics and pedantry, it’s probably the least effective.

    I can make a perfectly strong, valid, compelling argument that racism is alive and well in NYC. But I only hurt my credibility if I claim that there’s a burning cross at every corner.

    Not necessarily. You could invoke “cross burning” metaphorically. It would create a powerful image, and could easily be worth swatting down a few pedantic apologists and derailers. Or, you can let the pedants and apologists and derailers define the terms of the discussion. Good luck with that.

  • Danielm80

    One quick thought:

    There are two points being made here:

    (1.) The comic book is sexist.

    (2.) The facts are being reported incorrectly.

    Point two doesn’t refute point one, and there’s a long history of sexism in comics. But it’s still important to report the facts correctly, not just because it enhances our credibility, but because they are facts, and it’s important to have an informed discussion.

    The exact details of the scene may not change the character of the story, or the mentality of the people who produced it, but accuracy does matter, for the sake of knowing what the hell it is we’re talking about. So I appreciate Bluejay’s efforts to correct the record.

    You may now return to your regularly-scheduled argument.

  • Bluejay

    Thank you, Danielm80. That’s pretty much the point I was trying to make, and I don’t really have anything to add.

    You may now return to your regularly-scheduled argument.

    I’d rather not, actually. I’ve been away for a few days, and coming back to an accusation of being an apologist for sexism, from someone alongside whom I’ve waged Internet battles against misogyny and homophobia, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And so, as a wise man recently said, I’m walking away from this conversation.

  • Tonio Kruger

    What Danielm80 said.

    Any cause that suffers from an accurate reporting of the facts can’t really be that worthy a cause to begin with.

  • Tonio Kruger

    After all the fuss over this issue, it is kinda ironic to see what kind of violence is getting a free pass in the most recent Superman movie.

    Indeed, after all the brickbats thrown at comic book fans as of late, it is kinda funny that it’s the old-school fans who are objecting to the more violent twists in the recent movie and the “Superman’s not relevant to me anymore” crowd who are defending them.

    The more things change…

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