First post on the new website!
Is representation in comics a net positive no matter what? There have been several comics series which uplift female and gender diverse characters, even championing queer love and …all wrapped up in medievalist fantasy! If your first reaction is “wow, what’s not to love, sign me up,” then I am right there with you, but I have to caution against limiting inclusive stories to fantasy. What does that leave the self-proclaimed ‘realistic’ comics? Check out my article Permission for Brutality at the interdisciplinary journal of literary studies, criticism, and theory, antae, and their special issue on Literature and Gender. The issue appropriately sets the tone of the various contributions within Simeon Solomon’s painting Sappho and Erinna, and the contributions range from representations of the maternal body to the female audience as a body.
This study examines how medievalist comics insist on their historical accuracy (implying that they represent authentic facts, rather than simulacra) routinely present brutality and invisibility as linked with an authentic Middle Ages, while restricting fair representation to the world of fantasy. Witches and pagan magical beings are contextualized in a medievalist story world, and the patina of historicity that story world dictates not only the presence or absence of these types of characters, but predicates the representation of females and queer characters in general, especially their parts in the violence of the medievalized story world. While the magical beings are clearly simulacra, authors and readers seem to overlook the fact that the Brutal Middle Ages are also simulacra. The positioning of equality and the presence of queer folk squarely in the fantastical story world, beside ostentatiously fantastical beings, creates a correlation for the readers and authors that equality and representation are, too, only simulacra.