“Real Talk” – Does Rape Have a Place in Comics?

By now a number of you will have read Invincible #110, and those of you who haven’t may have heard about its content from a number of news sites. In this issue the title character, Invincible, is quite graphically raped by a female opponent.

*Warning, graphic content below*

I’ve read an interview with Robert Kirkman in which he mentioned that a number of people have said that it wasn’t really a rape because Invincible was, as they put it, able to perform, but if you look at the scene, it is quite obviously a sexual assault. Invincible clearly tells her “no” twice, to which she responds with “yes” as she overpowers him and he is drawn with an expression of horror throughout the assault.

Ceej recently interviewed Nina Burrowes in respect to her comic, “The courage to be me”, which was specifically written to help the survivors of rape and sexual abuse and she spoke about how the psychological complexities surrounding this issue can be conveyed very effectively through illustrations. Invincible isn’t the first comic to feature rape, not even female on male abuse which is arguably seen much less in media. In fact, writers like Alan Moore, Garth Ennis and Mark Millar make quite frequent use of rape in their books and often face accusations that such scenes are included solely for shock value.

Regardless of how credible such accusations may be arguably, if such scenes are included only to shock then they are successful in that delivery. On reading the scene most are gripped by a sense of shock and acute discomfort that the typical forms of violence seen in comics don’t seem able to deliver. The fact that this particular scene was female on male is certainly less commonly depicted than the reverse scenario but it’s hard to say if that adds to the shock through novelty. It would also be interesting to know if people who say “it wasn’t rape if he got it up” are the same people who would say “it wasn’t rape, if she was dressed like that then she was asking for it” or some other variation of the same nonsense.

In saying that, I’ve had conversations with people about the perspective that actually it’s odd that rapes aren’t more frequent in comics. Particularly when quite often you have fights between characters who are shown to be immoral and, well, evil. Certainly in the past the comics code authority would never have allowed such plots but even in the time since they disbanded authors and publishers have been very reluctant to publish stories featuring sexual abuse. However as I’ve mentioned, rapes are becoming more frequently seen in mainstream comics. DC’s Identity Crisis event a number of years back was seen very controversial at the time because rape was a pivotal plot device in the book.

To me, what makes Invincible #110 more shocking than most isn’t that it was a female on male rape but rather that the victim was the flagship character and that he was left with the certain knowledge that it could and might happen again. Although I can point to a number of other rapes in comics, including stories such as Identity crisis which focussed quite strongly on it, I can think of no other example in which the victim was the flasgship character and experienced the assault in continuity rather than as a backstory element.

Does this open flood gates for other such incidents in comics and what does that say about the industry and of us as readership? Is rape as a plot device something we should expect to see, does it have a legitimate purpose in books or is it just there for shock value? Let us know your thoughts.

As this is a very harrowing scene we chose not to include it in our social media links but it is available on our website so that those of you who so choose and who are yet to read the book can judge for themselves.

We would also like to take this opportunity to advise anyone who has been affected by sexual abuse that they can find a number of sources online to seek help and advice and we have included links to several below:

The writer of this piece was:

Stuart Duff

Stuart Duff

Stuart Duff aka (Stu) Article: Mug of Duff
You can also find Stu on Facebook

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