Friday, 9 August 2013

Trina Robbins: The Rape Of Astoria

Cerebus #95 (February 1987)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard
(from Aardvark Comment, Cerebus #102, September 1987)
You asked for comments from ladies about the Astoria rape scene fooforah, so here goes:

Of course Cerebus should be thrown in jail for what he did, and of course he won't be. The rape of female religious and political prisoners by their interrogators and guards goes back to the Spanish inquisition, to the witch trials in Europe and to every contemporary political dictatorship. The rapists are never thrown in prison; the victims are usually tortured and killed (a fate I'm terriby afraid awaits Astoria - oh, Dave, please don't kill her!). Cerebus (the comic) is a brilliant satire on just those political and religious systems, so of COURSE that's what happens. Cerebus (the earth pig) has, alas, fallen for his own line, is a victim of his own success and is heading for a terrible fall. We nonbelievers who are reading the book know that the pope is VERY fallible, it's only to the believers who are IN the book that the pope can do no wrong.

Of course Astoria didn't "ask for it" - she was proposing a trade. Remember, prositutes, too, can be, and are, raped.

Of course the scene wasn't offensive. First of all, you're not condoning rape. Cerebus is your character: he isn't you. Did your readers also think you condoned throwing babies off rooftops? I get upset when I see comics that graphically represent the rape and / or torture and degredation of women as something fun to do, and when I get the impression that the artists really enjoyed what he was drawing. I get none of those impressions from your work - I never have. You also have the talent, good taste and subtlety to not get graphic. You show us what's going on by drawing one leg, rather than using a gynecological chart: I appreciate that. As for degradation, Astoria is never really degraded. She keeps her sense and her shreds of dignity. Tempting him with sex didn't work: let's try something else. For all 99 issues of Cerebus, your treatment of the women characters has been intelligent and non-sexist, but I really like Astoria - she's the sanest character in the series.

Oh, Dave, please don't kill her!

Comics writer/artist/historian Trina Robbins was an early and influential participant in the underground comix movement. Both as a cartoonist and historian, Robbins has long been involved in creating outlets for and promoting female comics artists. With writer Forrest J. Ackerman, she was the artist co-creator of the character Vampirella.

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