Darkseid is… Just Another Man: Gaze in “Female Furies” #1

Darkseid is… Just Another Man: Gaze in “Female Furies” #1

The male gaze is a term used to show how the typical perspective into a story tends to be the perspective a (white) man brings to it. The way they view the world is the way they view the story, and in a medium where men have so much sway and women aren’t given the same opportunities – like comics – it means that stories often do have inadvertent and, well, vertent male gaze. This extends to the way the female characters are presented, where their importance can often be in relation to the men around them or by their “worth” to others, and tends to focus the heterosexual male’s perspective as being the “primary” or “dominant” perspective. In other words: the girls have to be hot, the men have to be cool, the presentation of the whole needs to be designed for cis men to find enjoyable. Take that in whatever dubious way you like, and you’ll probably be right to do so.

New Gods, then, could certainly be presented as being an inadvertent presentation of the male gaze: full of bravado and feats of power and defiance, the series often sidelines women in favour of exploring the stories of the men around them, relegating women to secondary positions and, when they are shown, establishing how the men around them are important and contribute to their continued existence. This isn’t to say that Jack Kirby was a proactive sexist or that he was misogynist: this is simply to say that the male gaze was and is the established norm, and this is simply how stories are presented. When designing the contemporaries of Darkseid, the harsh core of the Fourth World, Kirby simply centred his own understanding and perspective as a heterosexual white male when approaching the characters. Hence you have a war which centres itself only around the men participating within it.

This is all my means of heading towards this week’s release of Female Furies #1, which sees a female central creative team of Cecil Castellucci and Adriana Melo heading into the fourth world, and immediately, unquestioningly offering a new gaze. Some will refer to it as the female gaze; I’m going to refer to it as the other gaze. In the issue the creative team focus on the female character Granny Goodness, and the Female Furies, who are the soldiers she trains in the art of war. The perspective immediately shifts, with the women being the focused characters – and the importance of the men around them being played into to deliberately show the patriarchal vision of Apokolips. This isn’t a reworking of Kirby’s vision in any way: it’s simply a different perspective.

What’s so stunning about Female Furies is how effortlessly it fits this new gaze into the pre-established ideas and goals of the original comics, and all successive attempts to recapture Kirby’s magic. The creative team don’t change a single thing about the structure of society within Apokolips, nor do they rewrite characters to be unrecognisable: Granny Goodness remains the harsh and sadistic leader, forcing every greater improvements on her charges regardless of the pain and suffering her one-note approach may cause. Desaad remains a sadist. Darkseid remains the pragmatic and forcefully blunt instrument of war. But within those known and cultivated personas, Castellucci is able to find a second undercurrent of cruelty which she places without any subtlety to the fore: patriarchy.

Darkseid is… Just Another Man: Gaze in “Female Furies” #1 Shelfdust.com February 7th 2019