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Men writing about women in webcomics

Since we're talking about women in webcomics, let's talk about the men who write about women in webcomics, and how do they fare in the portrayal of the fairer sex.

Jamie Robertson's picture

I have been told that I do a fair job. :)

Jamie

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Katie Sekelsky's picture

michael21 wrote:
Which men do you think actually write women realistically?
Although I stopped reading it a few months ago, Paul from Wapsi Square seemed to me to do a good job. As well as Adis from Count Your Sheep (hell, I read the strip for quite some time before I realize the author was male in the first place) I know there's others, but those are the ones that pop into my head first out of my daily-reading-repotoire.

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A few people reading my comic have been surprised to learn that I am a straight guy, rather than, say, a twenty-something lesbian. I guess that means something, right?

Erik Melander's picture

I'd say stereotyping is hardly limited to female characters

Uncle Ghastly's picture

I defy you to find anyone, male or female, in my comic that is not a stereotype of one sort or another.

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Uncle Ghastly's picture

Adis may well have the least noticed penis in webcomics.

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Uncle Ghastly's picture

"I think of a man and then I remove reason and accountability."

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Uncle Ghastly's picture

I couldn't write for TOS era Uhura. I'd keep making her have sex, probably with Yoeman Rand.

Spock would watch.

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Uncle Ghastly's picture

Rincewind wrote:
A few people reading my comic have been surprised to learn that I am a straight guy, rather than, say, a twenty-something lesbian. I guess that means something, right?
In my mind everyone is a twenty-something lesbian... and it's clothing optional day... with free ice-cream. Man, my mind ROCKS!

Uncle Ghastly's picture

Count your Sheep... yeah I know what you mean. I thought Aidis was a girl too. It would be pretty funny if he was a 6'4" 280 lb hulk with a perma-beard and hairy back. Even though I know the creator is a guy I still picture him as a guy who would look cute in a schoolgirl uniform.

MegaTokyo... not paying attention to the creators real names I thought Piro (aka Fred Gallagher) was a girl up until that one comic where he's in the manga store reading shoujo and one of the lolicon girls says something about him being a cute american girl and the other lolicon girl says something like "I think she's actually a boy". That's when I looked at the credits and went "Oh crap, Piro is a boy".

Wendy, Cute Wendy, Girly, etc... I've always known that deep down inside Josh Lesnik is a lipstick lesbian trapped in a scruffy man's body.

Our Home Planet... I put GD down in the lipstick lesbian trapped in a man's body crowd too but not having seen him I don't know if it's a scruffy man as in Josh's case or is soft, sensual man who looks disturbingly cute in a frilly little french maid uniform, bound bent over the back of a sturdy wooden chair. Vulnerable naked flesh trembling in excited, nervous anticipation of the cruel sweet kiss of Master's punishing touch...

...errr... what were we talking about again?

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tynic's picture

Ghastly wrote:
"I think of a man and then I remove reason and accountability."
Heh. I wrote that here last night and then removed it because I had nothing more constructive to add. ... but seriously, just write for a person. For realism, gender shouldn't be the defining feature, just a facet.

GiantPanda wrote:
I'd say stereotyping is hardly limited to female characters
And I'd say that there are different kinds of stereotyping, and we should try to consider the motivation behind the stereotype as to whether it should be considered objectionable or not. My point is stereotypes do not automatically exist to offend or criticize -- stereotypes are used in humorous context because they are funny. The Office Manager. The Geek. The Country Bumpkin. Etc.

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Liz wrote:
Personally, I think Paul Taylor really nails his female characters. Speaking of men putting women in their comic - so few men have a good grasp at drawing cleavage! Why? What is so hard about drawing a correctly-shaped BOOB that doesn't look like a glued on tennis ball?
In Paul's world every woman jokes about their breasts every 10 minutes. :) I'm a big fan of Paul's work, as far as my experiences with comics go he's the one I'd say handles his female characters best. As far as I understand every artist who first tries their hand at drawing a boob tends to ignore gravity because "a saggy boob is an ugly boob" in amateurland, and thus we have two tennis balls stuffed in a sweater. As an added thought, an arm hanging relaxed at someone's side, that goes right up there with the improperly drawn boobses

scarfman's picture

I try to write people who're one gender or the other, rather than men or women. I've never had any complaints about the women in my cartoons; so either I'm doing all right, I'm doing so poorly that absolutely no one thinks criticism will help, or my men are written equally badly.

edit 4/15 It occurred to me today that, judging by the couples at the moment amongst the six primary castmembers in Arthur, King of Time and Space - to wit: Arthur and Morgan, Guenevere and Lancelot (Guenevere and Lancelot aren't a couple yet but we know they will be) - it could be inferred that the author believes all couples consist of a mild-mannered man and an, er, outspoken woman. I could say more, but all I'll say is, remember this story's projected to last twenty-five years.

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scarfman's picture

Demetric wrote:
How does one write a real female character without being one?
At less than fifteen I read David Gerrold's book on the writing of the STAR TREK episode "The Trouble With Tribbles" (the book titled The Trouble With Tribbles). In the book he writes of an incident during his composition of the script. He relates telling himself, "I can write in a part for a woman." Himself answered, "But you have a woman. You have Uhura." He replied to himself, "But Uhura isn't a woman, she's a person." ...Or maybe it was, "I can write in a part for a Negro." I'm not sure. But I think the point remains either way.

Gianna's picture

I think that the worst obstacle in scripting the other sex, is that you're the gender you are. You can be very good at scripting and emulate the other gender's mannerisms as much as you can, but you're still faking it.

Sometimes it's just so obvious. I remember reading a very nice sci fi comic (link found on the r.i.p. buzzcomix site and since lost) where I couldn't make sense of the fact that the male lead was crushing on a misterious woman with the type of inner dialogue that you'd expect from a 16 year old girl. When I finished the archives I read the "about" page and discovered that the author was female. BINGO.

--------
Gianna Masetti
thenoobcomic.com

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Lets see if i can word this right. Its already been listed as to the males that write realistic or believable women. As someone who’s trying not to write The Living Breast or the Uber Airhead.

How does one write a real female character without being one?

brideau wrote:
There is no woman alive who hasn't been affected by the fact that she's a woman.
That right there is what i mean now clearly anyone can grasp that concept. Just using that statment, there are going to be things women go through a guy wont every have to worry about. And simply creating the character as a person instead of a woman does work. But well when u hit those issuse a guy knows nothing about u either have to seek outside help from a woman or guess. I think my female characters are real enough but still i know they lack an insight. Which i feel i won't be able to understand unless i have a special operation. Nonetheless this has helped me a lot so thanks.

Sure the cold babelet is overdone, but you can go too far the other way and end up with a Nancy-type character eternally worried about gaining weight. It's more realistic, but quite unpleasant to read.

RE: Men writing about women in webcomics

With a few exceptions, I'd say not particularly well. In most I've seen they very quickly fall into stereotypes, and in the worse ones the women are basically nothing more than cleavage-delivery devices.

Which men do you think actually write women realistically?

I don't object to stereotypes in webcomics because they're offensive, I object to them because they're boring. They're something I've seen over and over and don't do it for me any more. They need a tweak to make them interesting: The Country Bumpkin who's secretly a Geek or whatnot. And when they get that tweak, of course, they cease to be stereotypes.

Good tip on Mitch in Wonderland, by the way, pclips. Thanks.

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dave_roman's picture

I often forget that some of my protagonists are women.
Because most of the time I'm just writing characters reacting to situations.
If you know what makes the character unique you can just sort of imagine how they'd deal with different events and actions. And if your characters are based on real world inspiration it's even easier.

pclips's picture

I would say Matt Gidney of Mitch In Wonderland is a male writer who writes believable and funny, if somewhat unflattering female characters. Randy Milholland of Something Positive does a really fine job of it, too. But my top choice might be Charles Schneeflock Snow of the vastly-underappreciated Sordid City Blues. The depth and subtlety of his female characters is something to aspire to.

And for the record, even though I don't have recurring characters in my strip, I am always striving for depth and versimilitude and to avoid clichés. I have males and females in a variety of roles: strong and weak, aggressive and shy, clever and clueless. Examples:

Strong, shy, clever woman and bold, weak, clueless man.

Strong, bold man and equally strong, bold woman.

Weak, shy, clueless woman.

Seemingly weak, clueless woman who suddenly reveals enormous strength and cleverness, forcing man to catch up.

The last thing I ever want to do when writing is to fall into the trap of repeating stereotypes. The second-to-last thing I want is to fall into the trap of repeating myself.

pclips's picture

brideau wrote:
Truly there is no one right way to write for female characters
Lots of wrong ways, though. I'm not an artist, but I can understand when artists look at work they consider amateurish and say to themselves "Learn to draw hands, bozo!" or whatever. As a writer, the one that drives me up the wall is the impossibly sexy, impossibly cold babelet who for some reason hangs around the goofy loser male character. The male is always a loser either for his low self-esteem, or his ridiculous ego and obnoxious come-ons. He always strikes out, and she always gets the supposedly clever last line. Of the thousands of people and social situations I have been in, I have never seen two people act like that. But it seems like half of all comics with female characters contain a dynamic like this. If you must portray a loser male with an unrequited passion for the "just friends" female, that's a perfectly legitimate social construct I've seen and been in. But let's have some depth to the players, okay? Maybe she's not clueless about his feelings. Maybe she knows she's kind of toying with him and feels guilty about it. Or maybe she grew up with a little brother she bullied and is just more comfortable with someone in her life she can kick around. Maybe she's crushing back on him but is terrified anything will happen because her strict religious background is in conflict with what she wants to do in her heart. As brideau says, do some homework on your characters. Try something like writing a five minute conversation with the character when he or she was ten years old. You don't have to tell the reader everything you know about your characters, but you have to know everything about your characters or they're going to come out flat and cliched. I say do this even if you just have a gag strip, even if you view your characters as simple coatracks to hang your jokes on. The one thing every writer can do to improve his or her writing is simply to spend more time thinking about it and doing it.

brideau's picture

Truly there is no one right way to write for female characters, as there is no way to write for black, latino, white, male, gay, straight, catholic, agnostic etc. etc. etc. characters....

BUT! While designing your characters, how their gender, race, religion, et al. affects them is important. To design believable characters, it's important to create an existance for them outside of your comic. What was life like growing up? What's their favorite food? Were they left at an amusment park once when they were five? The way your characters grew up should have as much bearing on who they are today as your life has on you. That includes school, family members, friends, their gender, race religion etc.

There is no woman alive who hasn't been affected by the fact that she's a woman. Whether she's an ultra feminist, or someone subserviant to males, or thinks gender plays no part in her own life. She is a woman, and that has played a major role in her life...the same can be said for any gender, race or religion, or geographic location, or political persuasion, or family make up, or socio-economic status and on and on and on.

Unfortunately a lot of men use women as sexual objects in their comics. And as men are more established in the world of comics (as is the case for most industries and cultural institutions), that's the prevailing push on female characters today.

boo.

I draw comics, [url="http://www.sock-monster.com"]Sock-Monster[/url] [url="http://www.fromthewell.info"]From the Well[/url]

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Personally, I think Paul Taylor really nails his female characters. I think it helps to have had many girlfriends (platonic or not) in order to get a grasp of the female mind and be able to put down believable characters.

Speaking of men putting women in their comic - so few men have a good grasp at drawing cleavage! Why? What is so hard about drawing a correctly-shaped BOOB that doesn't look like a glued on tennis ball?

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Christopher Baldwin (who does Bruno) writes women fairly well, I think.

Mark Iradian from Chronicles of Garas writes pretty interesting female characters. Despite the fantasy setting, his dialog is really modern and the women aren't portrayed as needy helpless girls. Too bad it is only updated once a week because the storyline is presented well in Chapter 2. I hated the character Red at first since she appeared to be nothing more then TnA for the comic. Chapter 2 really showed her as being a bit of a joker who seems to believe she is on top of the world due to good genetics and reflexes. The other characters like Anna and the new protangist really have a strong introduction in chapter 2.

Count Your Sheep ...I thought the guy was a chick at first. It's kind of good and scary that this guy is able to write very realistic female characters.

Least I could do has pretty well done female characters as well. It is pretty obvious that unlike most webcomic authors (;)), he actually talks to them once in a while.

Don't really need to mention it again, but Something Positive.