Women in the Squishyverse

Discuss the comic strip!

Re: Women in the Squishyverse

Postby Zokrah on Mon Nov 14, 2011 10:22 pm

It has been a great while since I was roused into replying on the forums. But this post has me compelled to add my thoughts into the fray.

First and foremost, this is a work of fiction.

The characters and personalities are loosely based upon real people, both whom illustrate, write, create, or are friends of the individuals involved.

Simply put, it's THEIR comic.

It's their choice to portray each character as they see fit. This is not in fact a comic owned by the forum community nor does it grant each reader clemency into making their opinions heard. Frankly, I find it offensive that someone feels the need to 'correct or inform' the Squishy/Direman crew that the characters in their universe are not what a specific reader finds to meet their requirements of a character in their world should be.

While it's good to philosophize about how one character should or should not act, this is rather like watching a TV drama unfold. When I watch House MD, I do not sit there and think that Dr. Greg House is a bad role model for children since he has many character flaws. Neither do I ponder about how Dr. Chase is or is not a good representation of the people from Australia. I enjoy the show BECAUSE of their character flaws and their interactions...in fact, I'd wager that's why ANYONE watches those TV show's to enjoy watching the different people interact with each other.

With the Squishy comics portrayal of Helen seemingly generating a large amount of frustration at female roles, let's look at it from another perspective that seems to have been largely ignored by those offering complaints and concerns: This is a work of fiction.

With no insult intended to the owners of Direman Press, I hardly think anyone reads these forums and uses it as a guide or reference for how one should act.

I think the bottom line should be: Who the hell cares and why should it matter?

I personally enjoy reading the comics for their entertainment value. I suppose if one can suspend belief that a demon works for a group of gamers then one can suspend that the characters in that universe will obey everyone one of the readers perceptions of how they should act.

When people are emotional they lose their composure. They don't act rationally. In the example of Mike calling Helen a "slut", Mike was angry. I don't think Dave had any reason to explain why Mike said that, nor should he have to defend what was written on the comics.

Another example is racist websites. They're out there, and they're there a plenty. But I don't visit them, nor do I plague their forums trying to change their ways. I know I can't, and by simply choosing not to participate in something I do not agree with, I am taking what personal action I can to stop something I don't support.

Or, simply put: "If you don't like it, go somewhere else."

I'm all for people commenting and critiquing different works, but really. Do we need to try and correct or chastise the Direman Press people for their work in the comics?
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Re: Women in the Squishyverse

Postby MadCat on Mon Nov 14, 2011 11:03 pm

... wow. All I'm going to say is, I'm glad you aren't one of the creators of Squishy.
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Re: Women in the Squishyverse

Postby blackfirefox on Tue Nov 15, 2011 8:48 am

... that was very ... stunning. I'm not sure what to say to that... except, chill. You mad bro?
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Re: Women in the Squishyverse

Postby trebuchet on Tue Nov 15, 2011 12:11 pm

First of all, thank you for that impassioned response, Zokrah. It's always good to hear from you.

I think Zokrah makes some interesting points. Let's not be overly prone to being dismissive.

The main point, correct me if I'm wrong, is that Squishy is a work of fiction and that It shouldn't be taken too seriously. I think this adds tremendous value to the topic at hand. Where Zalee's original argument posited that Squishy is not doing enough for the portrayal of women in popular culture and that Squishy is actually harmful to the overall image of women (the sexual assault argument), Zokrah offers the question: should Squishy, or any other work of fiction for that matter, be held to such an unreasonable standard in the first place when, after all, it is merely fiction? I believe the question is rhetorical in nature, as evidenced by the premise that the creators of Squishy have the right to portray their creations in any manner that they deem fit.

I believe the argument is valid, and I'd like to see a response from its detractors.
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Re: Women in the Squishyverse

Postby Dave on Tue Nov 15, 2011 12:19 pm

There's nothing wrong with fans sharing their thoughts. I actually welcome feedback, especially when it's obvious the reader put a lot of thought into it. It tells me that people actually care about the work I do. I believe Paul feels the same way.

After taking the time to mull it over, I ended up disagreeing with Zalee regarding how women in Squishy Comics (the key argument, I believe) are portrayed. Paul disagreed as well (and posted a well thought out retort which is still generating a good conversation). However we both agree that Zalee's criticism is intelligent, respectful, and constructive. It made us think about the work that we do, and the characters that we love. We were not at all insulted by Zalee, but instead appreciated the level of dedication shown.

Like Zokrah said, this is our comic. Paul and I will ultimately do what we think is best for Squishy Comics, but we still need to hear from our audience. At the very least it can get us to think about our work, which can only serve to help us.
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Re: Women in the Squishyverse

Postby Zalee on Tue Nov 15, 2011 9:32 pm

Warning: I'm well aware that the following post is way way longer than any forum post probably should be, feel free to either bear with me and read it or dismiss it as way too long (don't really care either way, just yeah, pre-emptive apology for how long this is).

I'm sorry that I haven't responded sooner, as I briefly mentioned in my last post (and in some PM's with Dave and MadCat), this time of year is ridiculously busy in my line of work and features weekends on call and 13+ hour shifts. I wanted to be able to give a real response and not a hurried one, so I have taken a few days to reread the archives (again) and take some notes so that I can fully back up my position.

The first response I want to address is the role of Kimmy. Dave states that
...I think Kimmy's appropriate for her age. She was Mike's intern, now she's his assistant. Given enough time, she might get promoted above Mike


and Paul confirms this opinion, stating
I am in total disagreement with your remark about Kimmy. Your statement is categorically false. I don't know any other way to say it. She's young and inexperienced but she's Mike's go-to intern -- the one intern who shows great promise. When I took over as writer I felt that her valley girl voice was forced so I toned it down considerably. Ever since then, I think she's really started to emerge as a permanent fixture in the Squishyverse. Consider her role in the recent Joel Noir arc. She was a lead detective running a dangerous undercover sting operation out of the DA's office...in the 1940's! I don't know about you, but she wasn't flirting with a man, or drunk, or partying, or dressed in skimpy outfits in that entire arc. You're also forgetting that she has Timmy wrapped around her little finger. Poor guy would snap in two if she just looked at him funny.


Both of you make sure to point out how she is Mike's "go to intern" or has been promoted "to his assistant," etc. That may very well be, and that may be information that you 2, as the creators, are privy to, but there is zero evidence in the comic of that position, making it impossible for anyone without firsthand knowledge of the behind the scenes development to have that opinion.

As I said, I went through and read the entire archives again, and I wrote down every strip that Kimmy is in (I may have missed one or two where she was purely background). I did, however, purposely ignore the Joel Noir plotline. As Madcat stated in a previous post, this does not count as Kimmy's character growth. This is not "Kimmy," it is merely the same characters being used in a different story. This is different than even the role-playing plotlines, as at least in those plotlines it is the characters acting out roleplaying (therefore the decisions made by the roleplayed characters are decisions that are actually made by the Squishy characters, if that makes sense).

If you read through the comic, you see many instances of Kimmy performing normal, intern jobs. She files, helps to clean up the rubble after the zombie attack (when she isn't playing on the camel), and she does some more filing. These are all perfectly normal intern jobs; however, none of these point to her being "Mike's second in command." Now, he does specifically refer to her as his second in command when he begins training the new interns, but he also refers to Timmy as a “Special Forces Black Ops operative,” making it more likely to be viewed as joking rather than her being promoted to his assistant. When Kimmy isn’t working, she’s often seen partying it up (sometimes even while she is working, although once the idea is shown to actually be a decent one, the comic is quick to point out that it was Timmy’s idea, and once she is shown having a good time singing karaoke with the other interns on the very day of Bianca’s funeral). If she isn’t specifically partying, she’s gossiping, hanging out, playing video games, or lounging around. This, of course, ignores the times when she is specifically used to just be a hottie drawn in the comic strip. (Dave even states in his commentary on the rain one (comic #598), that a reader wanted to “see more of Kimmy’s backside,” so he thought her playing in the rain was hot. She’s not a character with a personality, she’s a hottie to look at.) Outside of these appearances, and some background ones (such as being part of a large group running from zombies), Kimmy’s main purpose is to flirt with police officers, think stereotypically about how she wants to change a man to suit her purposes, or makeTimmy nervous because omgacutegirlomg. It’s also important to note that she falls into many of the stereotypes perpetuated by the “pick up artist” community (which very clearly thinks poorly of women) and is only interested in guys who are jerks, or who ignore her.

I believe someone pointed out that Kimmy played a role in rescuing Timmy from Dan, but I’d argue that she was no more than one of many background characters (the interns) simply following orders from Mike. She did take him to her sorority (where the sorority girls bounced around and fulfilled most stereotypical male fantasies of sororities), but other than that she was simply another intern following orders. Again, none of this is to say that interns shouldn’t follow the orders of their bosses. I am simply pointing out that the writer/artist may feel that Kimmy is Mike’s “go to intern,” but that as a reader, there is no evidence of that. She simply is another intern who is, more often than not, shown partying, flirting with men, and acting very stereotypically.

My next point was Helen. Dave argued that
Helen was hired as the office manager. Her job is to make sure that the monkeys don’t have run of the place. Sometimes she provides them with coffee, sometimes she orders them to do their jobs (in one strip, she provides Arturo and Mike with some much needed caffeine, and at the same time she’s bossing Dave to do his job… and Dave’s TECHNICALLY the CEO of the company). Helen may not be “the boss”, but she’s not a peon. With that said, yeah, she could be shown doing more “I’m in charge” things.


Whatever title she was given when she was hired, she was initially interviewing for ”Experienced Clerical Staff.” While most of the strips do not focus on the group doing their actual jobs, what jobs we do see Helen performing include delivering pages that Dave has drawn to Dan, Dan wanting her to go to Staples to pick up supplies, ordering supplies, and then 2 strips where she is both pouring coffee/getting donuts and whipping/yelling at Dave. Obviously she has some authority here because she’s yelling at Dave, but still the majority of things she is shown doing are clerical work, nothing “managerial,” despite what Arturo claimed was her title in order to convince her to take the job. Additionally, the majority of the plotlines that involve Helen as a major character, revolve around men and her reactions to or feelings about them. After she’s hired, her first major plotline involves her being sexually assaulted by Dave when he kisses her. She then is involved in a plotline that was almost good, where she reaches out to Bianca and offers to be roommates, but it’s punctuated by misogyny (“You have a great body, why don’t you show it off?” Bianca asks Helen, because everyone knows that if you are hot and choose to dress in a work appropriate manner that something is wrong with you and you should be encouraged to bare more skin for the benefit of the men around you). She then reveals her DUI, giving her more dependence on the men of the comic, needing them to drive her around (there’s no public transportation in LA?). She has a plotline involving her going on a date (a date who must, first, meet the approval of the men she knows, because she can’t be trusted to make a decision on potential dates on her own). Then an entire plotline about inappropriate pictures of her being posted on the internet by Chip (at one point even being told to wait in the car [yes she doesn’t, and she ends up coming up with the plan to ultimately win, but the cliches are still there]). Then she sleeps with Dave before being involved in a plotline with Mike and Timmy where it is discussed at length how women like assholes (the PUA community would be thrilled). After this she is involved in “drunk storytelling.” The guys mostly have humorous stories, hers involves her sleeping with Dave, which then leads to a storyline where she fights with Bianca (again about Dave), culminating in the pirate and ninja party where the men get to actively declare which one of the women they “choose” to “keep,” because they are clearly the property of the Squishy men. She needs Joel to teach her how to drive, being chastised about how dangerous she is on the road (despite the fact that I’m sure she drove for years and she lost her license due to a mistake she is not likely to make again – a DUI). There is the plotline about taking Bianca out, which again results in “teehee I’m hot so I’ll just wear LESS clothes and then all men will look at is my boobies.” Her best plotline so far was probably the Thanksgiving one, but even there she needed Dan and the guys to “rescue” her from having to be alone. She didn’t organize a Thanksgiving for her and Timmy, the guys had to do it for her. She’s a non-factor in the entire zombie apocalypse plotline.

The next issues was the clothing issue. Trebuchet writes that:
I beg to differ on the sexy clothing issue. Dave has made a conscious effort to cloth the characters in season-appropriate clothing since my stint as Squishy writer began. If you’ll notice, all the characters wear lighter clothing during the hotter months of the year and bring out the heavier stuff during the colder months. Also, I just went through all the strips since the end of 2009, and I really don’t see all this cleavage you’re talking about. The only ones that specifically, intentionally show a lot of skin ar ethe recent ones with the interns going crazy on the roof.


Now, with no disrespect, the comics “since the end of 2009” include 2 very long plotlines that basically don’t include Helen. She was not a major player in the zombie apocalypse, and as I have stated before, the Joel Noir arc does not really count in this discussion. The zombie apocalypse started at the end of 2009 and ran through September of 2010. The Joel Noir arc was May of 2011 through August of 2011. This is a huge chunk of comics that basically don’t include her (not a problem, just skews your data). This post is already getting way too long, so I’m not going to go through and list every comic where she has cleavage in her work attire, but it is 73 comics. Obviously she is not in every comic. She also does wear winter clothing in the winter. But it’s also important to note that Helen has specifically been shown to be the most “conservative” or “professional” person on the staff, yet her work clothing is cut down low enough to show her cleavage? That seems out of character for what you’ve tried to portray her as.

Now to address the sexual assault. Treb asks me if I would consider that Prince Charming raped Snow White. Of course he did not rape her, as there was no sex, but I would say that yes, he did sexually assault her. The fact remains that if you are not able to give consent, then it is sexual assault. Treb also argues that because Helen “wanted Dave, deep down” that it was ok for him to force himself on her during their kiss. That this, in fact, is what made her sleeping with Dave even worse. Whatever her feelings were for Dave, I find it absolutely ridiculous to put forth that she would have consented to that kiss. Part of why she was so upset by it was that she knew Bianca was interested in Dave and would not ever knowingly do anything to hurt Bianca (that’s why she was drunk when she slept with Dave, not sober). It doesn’t matter if she was attracted to Dave or not, she still has a right to say no. She could have fucked him the night before, planned on fucking him tomorrow, and that STILL doesn’t give him the right to kiss her without her consent.

It’s pointed out that I left Bianca’s mother out of my discussion of women. That she is, in fact, a strong character. I’d argue otherwise. Bianca’s father is willing to actually discuss the issue (him hurting B), with Dave. Her mother (in a strip titled “Le Coq Blocker,” and you want me to take her seriously as a female character?) is totally emotional and irrational. She won’t listen to him or be willing to talk to him. All she wants is to hurt him because, surprise, SHE was hurt by a man once so now men are bad and she has to protect her daughter from the scary men. Sorry, but I can’t see how you can argue that she’s a strong female character.

Olivia is the same. You say that you drew on “James Bond” as your cultural reference, but that’s hardly a vote for taking females seriously as people and not as pretty objects. James Bond isnt’ exactly known for the equality it shows women. She also immediately falls in love with Arturo, and in fact has to be rescued by Arturo and Dee at their very first meeting. Arturo abandons her at the space station and she’s STILL in love with him when she meets him in California.

Lastly, and I promise this really is last, because I have already spent far too long typing this and I doubt even I will want to reread it as long as this has gotten, I would like to address Zokrah’s post and Trebuchet’s response to that post.
I think Zokrah makes some interesting points. Let's not be overly prone to being dismissive.

The main point, correct me if I'm wrong, is that Squishy is a work of fiction and that It shouldn't be taken too seriously. I think this adds tremendous value to the topic at hand. Where Zalee's original argument posited that Squishy is not doing enough for the portrayal of women in popular culture and that Squishy is actually harmful to the overall image of women (the sexual assault argument), Zokrah offers the question: should Squishy, or any other work of fiction for that matter, be held to such an unreasonable standard in the first place when, after all, it is merely fiction? I believe the question is rhetorical in nature, as evidenced by the premise that the creators of Squishy have the right to portray their creations in any manner that they deem fit.

I believe the argument is valid, and I'd like to see a response from its detractors.


The way that Treb phrases this IS valid, but frankly, Zokrah’s post should be dismissed. Zokrah’s post does not open communication. In fact, it’s a common strategy used by people to get others to shut up. “If you don’t like it go somewhere else.” This does absolutely nothing to continue a dialog and simply dismisses everything myself, and others who have agreed with me, have said as being unworthy of even being listened to. Had he worded his question the way that Treb did, then yes it would have merit and be worth discussing, but he clearly does not want to discuss it. He simply wants us to shut up and go away, and that will be, and should be, summarily dismissed.

As for Treb’s question, I personally find the question itself to be flawed. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable standard to ask that there be a single female character that has depth and realistic responses, rather than having all her plotlines revolve around men or her body. I don’t think it’s an unrealistic standard to ask the creators of a work of fiction to at least THINK about how they portray women and ask themselves if they are perpetuating poor stereotypes. Yes, this is fiction; yes, this is your work and you are free to do what you want. Yes, I even enjoy the comic a great deal, but I also think it’s worth thinking about and discussing (without simply telling the detractors to shut up and go away). I think that the more works of “fiction” there are portraying women as one-dimensional hot pieces of ass to look at, regardless of how many people “appreciate the ability to draw such beauty,” it simply normalizes this opinion. The more works of fiction that show this, the more it becomes part of your every day life to think of women like this. If you think Kimmy’s ass needs to be portrayed more prominently in the comic, you’re saying that it’s ok to ignore her personality and character. All that matters is how she looks, and this perpetuates a very sad state of affairs for women.

I’m not asking that you change what you do. I’m not saying what you do is bad or evil or wrong. I’m saying that I hope that in the future, you are able to look at the comic strips and try to see it from the perspective from someone who isn’t a straight male. Try to accept the fact that you do have a privileged perspective and to understand the views of someone with less privilege than you (and I hate to bring privilege into it, because I know many people dismiss that as feminist bullshit). Whether you change or not I’ll continue to read it, because it is amusing, but please don’t tell me that I need to not dismiss someone who tells me to “shut up and go away” for having an opinion. Especially when all I’m asking is that we have a conversation.
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Re: Women in the Squishyverse

Postby Dave on Wed Nov 16, 2011 1:01 am

Real quick regarding Helen's job as office manager (got a strip to do):
I was actually the office manager for a law firm. My job had me doing a LOT of filing. I delivered a lot of paperwork to both my boss and my staff. I did all the orders for supplies. It actually does involve a ton of clerical work. Basically, I did everything that Helen is shown doing because that was my job. I even brought coffee from the coffee shop from time to time. An office manager does exactly what Helen does. She makes sure that everything that's needed in the office is available.
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Re: Women in the Squishyverse

Postby Mike on Wed Nov 16, 2011 1:37 am

I'll speak from my perspective, briefly, since I have essays to grade.

I wrote a long thing out but realized that it's just ranting. As such I want to speak purely of context of the issue with Bianca.

She's a succubus. Her sole purpose in life/unlife/whatever is to rip soul's out through a man's penis.

Instead, she fights this nature to be wicked awesome, caring, and terrifying. She's also young and kinda stupid... like everybody else.

Basically, when I wrote the strip I completely emphasized character's flaws instead of "strong points" unless appropriate for the context it was in. The way I see it... the "fucked up shit" about everybody is way higher on the entertainment ladder than successes.

Also, the only character who truly got raped in the strip is Dave. His ferocious masculinity (sarcasm?) caused Mike to fuck his leg like a pit bull (though drawer Dave failed to capture the vigor and emotion).

Skimpy shit is sometimes fan service. That's just pretty much a blunt fact.

I'd cite specific examples of all of this, but I have essays to grade.

P.S., I speak only for myself... not the other writers. But I will say... I think context needs to be viewed a lot more than ignored.
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Re: Women in the Squishyverse

Postby trebuchet on Wed Nov 16, 2011 7:29 am

@Zalee:

Okay, now I'm getting a clearer picture of what you're saying. You have a highly unrealistic view of things for the following reasons:

1)
Now to address the sexual assault. Treb asks me if I would consider that Prince Charming raped Snow White. Of course he did not rape her, as there was no sex, but I would say that yes, he did sexually assault her. The fact remains that if you are not able to give consent, then it is sexual assault.


I can't believe you wrote that in all seriousness. Prince Charming sexually assaulted Snow White (and I'll throw in Sleeping Beauty for good measure)??? I'm sorry, but if this is your stand -- with no further explanation -- then I can't take anything you say about this topic seriously.

2) It saddens me that you spent so much time going through our archives to pick out specific examples to further bolster your argument when it was completely unnecessary. In your entire counter-rebuttal you failed to address one of my major concerns which was your particular exclusion of context in your argument. Your suppositions are based entirely on subtext that you're inferring from specific examples that ignore the overall arc. No amount of examples will help your argument in this case when I believe that the examples you've chosen are taken out of context. Please address this.

3)
I’m not asking that you change what you do. I’m not saying what you do is bad or evil or wrong.


This is disingenuous. Sexual assault is not "bad" or "evil" or "wrong"? If we are putting out a comic strip that depicts men sexually assaulting women, as you claim, then I would consider that to be extremely wrong and in very bad taste. You are saying that what we do is bad and you are saying that you would like that to change.

We obviously have some things to clear up, at least with me, before we can continue this discussion any further.
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Re: Women in the Squishyverse

Postby trebuchet on Wed Nov 16, 2011 8:19 am

Also, I didn't perceive Zokrah's post as an attack on Zalee (or anyone else for that matter). I think if we misread the tone we'll miss some of the finer points of the argument.

It's their choice to portray each character as they see fit. This is not in fact a comic owned by the forum community nor does it grant each reader clemency into making their opinions heard. Frankly, I find it offensive that someone feels the need to 'correct or inform' the Squishy/Direman crew that the characters in their universe are not what a specific reader finds to meet their requirements of a character in their world should be.


Zokrah brings up the point of ownership here. Though often times we fans can get carried away by our attachment to a certain character or universe, at the end of the day, it's the creator's right to make the characters or universe exactly as he or she desires. I believe this is correct though, as a Star Wars fan, sometimes I wish that it wasn't.

While it's good to philosophize about how one character should or should not act, this is rather like watching a TV drama unfold. When I watch House MD, I do not sit there and think that Dr. Greg House is a bad role model for children since he has many character flaws. Neither do I ponder about how Dr. Chase is or is not a good representation of the people from Australia. I enjoy the show BECAUSE of their character flaws and their interactions...in fact, I'd wager that's why ANYONE watches those TV show's to enjoy watching the different people interact with each other.


This is also a good point, but I wanted to point out the differences between a TV show and a comic strip -- specifically Squishy. TV shows have the luxury of time progression and motion. There is a sense of movement and we get to see a lot of subtlety from actors as they progress through the show, moment to moment. Comic strips have to pick and choose their moments to express what is absolutely necessary to move the story along. This is exacerbated by the fact that strips only have a few panels to get their story and characters across. Other than that, the essence of what Zokrah's saying here is sound.

Another example is racist websites. They're out there, and they're there a plenty. But I don't visit them, nor do I plague their forums trying to change their ways. I know I can't, and by simply choosing not to participate in something I do not agree with, I am taking what personal action I can to stop something I don't support.

Or, simply put: "If you don't like it, go somewhere else."

I'm all for people commenting and critiquing different works, but really. Do we need to try and correct or chastise the Direman Press people for their work in the comics?


I think this is the part of Zokrah's post that most people will take exception to. On the one hand we here at Squishy love getting feedback from our fans. On the other hand we're also not in the business of catering to or appeasing individuals or groups. Dave and I are artists and we're going to express ourselves. As we grow as artists so will our expressions.

I also wanted to apologize to Zokrah for not doing this earlier. I felt that my initial brief abstract wasn't quite satisfactory.
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