Thursday, 11 May 2017

Is The Valkyrie a sex object?

The 'splash page' - here taken from The Defenders issue 5, page 1 (1973) - operates in the manner that Diderot suggests for the 'tableau'. Inspired by painting, Diderot encourages writers to include moments of mime or physical theatre that establish, visually, the relationship between the characters on stage. 

Here, the splash also operates as a metonym for the comic book: Valkyrie is clearly the centre of attention and, without the usual violent action associated with the superhero, establishes her presence. Other, anonymous characters stare and gesture towards her, and the text hints that her mysterious public presence echoes her interior confusion.

Whether Valkyrie is a sexual object, or a source of fear, is not clear: a young lad in the foreground seems delighted but the older man, as he drops a lamp, appears as frightened as aroused. The single image is ambiguous, having the same problem often described for Wonder Woman: does her costume sexualise her and diminish her power? She even has the bracelets that are a feature of Wonder Woman's costume.

The crowd's variety of responses is telling: as Valkyrie is confused by her own identity, her digetic audience suggest the reader's own responses. Equally, they provide the conditions of Valkyrie's character. She walks alone, provoking pleasure and anxiety in those around her, but not caring.

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