For those of you not familiar with Invincible, it is an independent comic published by Image, about a young man coming to terms with his powers, and the revelation his origins aren’t exactly what he’s been lead to believe. It also happens to be written by Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead.
So, why is there controversy surrounding a comic over one hundred issues in? This week’s issue, #110, ended with the violent, yet still sexualized, rape of main character Mark Grayson.
Now, rape itself isn’t a concept to which the average comic reader is a stranger. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s a standard trope in the comic medium, which is unfortunate, but it can have its place. Misusing rape in a story, however, isn’t made “okay” just because the person being raped happens to be male. MTV published an interview with Kirkman earlier today, and his reasoning behind the story choices might have sounded better in his head, but overall, it kind of felt nonchalant. When asked why it was important to push those taboos in a superhero comic book, Kirkman responded with:
…”‘Invincible’ is a creative exploration of, “okay, this is a very weird thing people are doing in superhero comics. Let’s see if we can do it in a different way, and hopefully a better way.” That’s always the attempt.” …
That answer rubbed me the wrong way, because how can rape be “better”? Because it’s a man being raped instead of a woman? Mums the word at the moment on how Grayson will deal with the after effects, but Kirkman claims to have done his research.
This topic is something that’s been discussed most of Tuesday night until now among The Valkyries, an all-female comic retailer group. Most of us are of the mind that survivors of these situations need hope and validation, and they need hope in narratives; we hope Kirkman intends to do just that. Kirkman does touch on the fact that generally, it’s incorrectly believed you can’t rape a man, or that regardless of what they’re saying, their body “shows they want it”, but while he explores that, his female antagonist is highly sexualized (for scans of the panels, click here, but trigger warning, and these are NSFW). It’s far more graphic than we would expect, were the roles switched, and we do get the idea that, context removed, this could be taken as a particularly rough tryst, since most of the focus is on the woman getting off, instead of the severe trauma for the man.
Rape is a particularly difficult crime because it’s about both power and violence as rape isn’t about sex, at least not in the sense of being motivated by sexual attraction or lust. In Invincible #110 , Annisa thinks herself above mating with humans, so she goes after the one half-Viltrumite, giving proof to the fact that in real life, rapists don’t rape because they can’t “get” sex elsewhere. She is intent on him, and him alone, and gets off on the fact Mark cannot fight her off.
My only hope for the series is that Mark Grayson is able to explore himself as a victim of rape, particularly if this event is something Kirkman plans on happening repeatedly. More often than not, characters are pushed through this bit of recovery speedily, and with no realistic consequences on a character’s life. Repeated sexual abuse should be handled tenderly, and I really hope Kirkman realizes what a spotlight he’s thrust himself into. I’m of the mind that there are always other options for character development than to put them through something as traumatic and life destroying as rape (oh wait, but I forget, some creators don’t think it matters).
I’m curious as to what you think, readers. Did you pick up this issue? Do you think there’s cause for such discussion among the comic reading public?