(Being the first in a series of reposts being reposted solely because Googlers likes them. After "My Morning," this is the second most popular post on Acephalous. Because Googlers want nothing more than to see some "comic book rape," "rogue rape," and, most distressingly, "comic rape." Because when you get right down to it, is anything inherently funnier than rape?)
This post isn't a direct response to "Comic Book Guys Are Stupid," but it is a response of some kind. Let me walk you through this one:
The year is 1988. I'm a recent transplant to Louisiana and am thus a tad on the introverted side. I spend endless hours reading comic books. I may have liked some girls at this point, but I see no evidence of it in my fourth grade yearbook. (My fifth grade yearbook is an entirely different, hearts-encircling-pictures story.) Point being, I distinctly remember not thinking about nor even knowing what rape was. But I mow my lawn every day—my father having decided to instill the value of hard work by allowing me to earn $4 whenever I want by re-re-re-mowing what my work ethic transformed into a mangy lawn—and so have plenty of money to blow on X-books. So I'm spending my afternoons blissfully unaware of anything which doesn't involve the X-Men or X-Factor or The New Mutants or, if I was desperate enough, Alpha Flight.
One late October afternoon I'm holding in my hands X-Men #236. On the cover Wolverine and Rogue are hung by their on a scaffold, flanked on both sides by grinning fools in military garb. (This picture disturbs me more now than it did then.) What happened? The X-Men sacrificed themselves to save the world, only in the end they were granted a reprieve: they would be dead to the world but would live undetected and undetectable in the Australian outback. They were invisible to all forms of electronic recording devices. They were able to move throughout the world invisible to all by the naked eye. (You want to privilege presence? I'll privilege you some presence.) Then a fascist state called "Genosha" clashes with the X-Men. Shit hits fans. Wolverine and Rogue are captured.
For those unfamiliar with the comics or the films, Rogue has the power to absorb the memories and/or mutant powers of whomever she touches. So naturally, she doesn't touch anyone for fear of knocking them unconscious and draining them of their "life energy." (Stop sniggering. I was in fourth grade.) Her entire life Rogue has wanted nothing more than to touch someone without hurting them. To be loved. But she's come to accept the fact that this will never happen. This self-sacrifice moves the fourth-grade mind. I sympathized with her despite having no clue as to what she sacrificed or why. I only know that it pained her and, being the good sympathetic identifier, felt her pain by proxy. So without really knowing why I want Rogue to able to touch people.
After she's captured by the Genoshans, she's stripped of her mutant powers. Now she can touch people without having to worry about killing them. For a moment I'm happy for her. If only she can get out of this jam she'll be able to touch someone! That's all she ever wanted! Then I hit this panel:
And I'm confused. That's Rogue huddled there in the corner. She's traumatized. Over the next few issues she'll disappear. Another personality—and I mean that literally—will emerge. Rogue will be so hurt by whatever "liberties [were] taken when she was being processed" that she'll cede control of her psyche to Carol Danvers. (Read the link. It's too complicated to explain briefly.) Needless to say, despite not knowing quite what those "liberties" were, countless data points began to constellate for me. I saw "touching" and "forced" and "fascism" and "liberties" circle the pained figure in the panel above and I was confused. Angry. Upset. I didn't know why, but I was. My sympathies had identified with something they couldn't comprehend.
When I was hit by that car and the pain plus the medication turned my mind to cottage cheese and the most "intellectual" material I could stomach were comics—i.e. last week until today—I stumbled into a realization: my feminist sympathies were first marshaled while reading a comic back in the Autumn of '88.
The medium is far from perfect—as noted in the comments to the post linked above—but it is not wholly without value. I'm not defending myself here so much as describing a stage in my development. So please don't read this and think "Scott think spandex is progressive?" I don't.
Only once upon a time, perhaps, it inadvertently was.