The most famous of internet laws is well, most likely Rule 34: There's porn versions of everything, from movies to cartoons to breakfast cereals (ESPECIALLY breakfast cereals). The second most commonplace is Rule 63, which dictates that every fictional character has, somewhere, a gender-swapped equivalent. One of the most prevalent examples is in comic books, where every Batman has a Batgirl and every Superman has a Supergirl. Though there are some exceptions, for the most part Rule 63 characters are just really lazy attempts to add sex appeal to popular male characters. It's a shady and sometimes nauseating practice, but it's just so much easier than creating a compelling female character who stands on her own without owing her identity to a man.
We've compiled a list of the worst offenders below. And before you soil your browser history in the name of curiosity: Yes, Rule 34 and Rule 63 go hand-in-hand.
Following a lethal gunshot wound, Ann Weying -- ex-wife of original Venom Eddie Brock -- bonded with Venom's alien symbiote to save her life and ended up the subject of terrible fan art for decades. Venom's alien symbiote has had several female hosts, but at least Scream and Agony bothered to open to a random page of R.L. Stine's Goosebumps Book of Blood-Curdling Baby Names. Despite keeping her maiden name in the divorce, Weying still ended up going with She-Venom for her alter-ego.
It's only fitting, really, since she looks like a carbon copy of Venom after someone took a bicycle pump to her chest and buttal regions. Weying was so thrilled with her transformation that she ended her story arc by killing herself.
You could say that her death was representative of the fact that the symbiote would infect and kill everything Brock loved, but that message is just a smidge muddled when morally ambiguous T and A is being shoved in your face. As you can see, the artist repeatedly broke poor Ann's spine in the name of an edgy butt shot to go with those rockin' jugs. The overt sexualization is made more disturbing when taken together with Venom's typical sharp teeth and slimy tongue. Was the pubescent boy demographic supposed to be turned on by their favorite anti-hero sprouting a rack? Was there some kind of "butterface" initiative put forth at an editorial meeting? Is talking about it years later inadvertently proving the effectiveness of this cheap publicity stunt?
You might start noticing a theme here. She-Venom, MODAM (more on that later) and now the Joker's "daughter," are all female versions of supervillains -- or at best, anti-heroes. The reason that you won't see Supergirl or Spider-Woman on this list is because they're good guys who have been around long enough to the point where someone fleshed them out into something resembling a human being. Rule 63 supervillains, on the other hand, are often just products of creators running up against a deadline.
"Shit Hank, we need a new villain this month. What're we gonna do?"
"I dunno, how about a character that makes the audience contemplate a world where someone is willing to have sex with The Joker and carry his baby to term?"
And so we had the Joker's "daughter," a mischievous scamp with The Joker's sick sense of humor and access to the Golden Girls' wardrobe. The "daughter" is in quotes because eventually she was outed as Duela Dent, daughter of Two-Face (eventually this was retconned into something even more incomprehensible, but we can skip that headache). From then on, Duela's persona shifted as often as her name, from Card Queen to the precursor Harlequin. Her identity and power set changed constantly because no one knew what to do with her, but she was still too weird an anomaly to ignore. Eventually she was put out of her misery by a god-like being who killed her because she shouldn't exist.
Cue the dark and gritty reboot:
That's Duela Dent as seen in DC Comics' New 52 universe, less Bea Arthur and more Ed Gein. In current continuity, Duela dug up The Joker's actual disembodied face in the sewers (long story) and decided that she liked it more than her own. She uses her new persona to rule the underground and make the local men subservient to women. You could explain anything away with "Well, she's crazy!" but her whole mega-feminist schtick is undercut by the fact that she owes her name and personality to a dude, down to wearing an ironic "Daddy's Grrl" t-shirt from Goodwill. Duela would probably be better off as Lady Howard the Duck.
M.O.D.O.K., or Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing, is one of those ideas so stupid that it's only awesome in comics. The subject of AIM's freaky-deaky experiments, MODOK is nothing but four tiny T-Rex limbs and a huge head supported by a rocket chair. If the future is anything like Wall-E, this is what we have to look forward to in retirement, and it couldn't be more rad. As perfectly stupid as MODOK is, someone had to go and ruin him by adding eyelashes, lipstick and lots of pink.
M.O.D.A.M. (Mental Organism Designed for Aggressive Maneuvers) isn't the good kind of dumb, like say, a baby MODOK ruling a secret organization from inside a robotic man-suit. No, MODAM was designed to be more subservient and yet even more vicious than her male counterpart. So instead of performing further experiments on the existing creature to make something like MODOK Mk II, AIM decided to start over from scratch on a new subject.
It probably wouldn't be a big deal if they didn't spend tons of money on industrial-strength makeup and eyeliner to make sure that Captain America and Iron Man knew that they were being defeated by a female freak of science with terrifying eyes, gnashing Klingon teeth and titanium boob-plate armor. With something as stupidly-awesome as MODOK, you need to take the kookiness to another level, and "Now he's a girl!" is as boring and pointless an addition as you can get. When it comes down to it, MODAM is the comic book version of Canadian-American Gladiators.
Like Venom, we're sadly spoiled for choice when it comes to female versions of The Punisher. This one actually comes from the Punisher 2099 universe, which centers on a different vigilante named Jake "Subtlety" Gallows, set in the year when Google Fiber finally comes to your town. Previously a Venus 8 Gene Doll, Vendetta revolted and reprogrammed herself to have superstrength, mega-intelligence and more 90s 'tude than Sonic the Hedgehog on a Surge commercial.
Though she modeled her outlook and costume after a male hero, Vendetta at least had the dignity to give herself a unique name so that she would be known as something other than "a female Punisher."
The only thing more shocking than someone saying "Shock!" out loud is that anyone would be surprised that someone came up with a female Punisher. What separates Vendetta from her less bodacious counterparts is the insane world of Punisher 2099, which is like Dredd meets Demolition Man meets really big shoulder pads. Instead of a vigilante who happens to be female, Vendetta is an exaggerated parody(?) of the "man-hating feminist psychopath" stereotype, hellbent on destroying space sex trafficking and the space male pigs behind it.
She's so extreme that she borders on satire. Now that you mention it... Vendetta was previously a clone made for the explicit purpose of sex, which is not terribly different than the reasoning behind the creation a female version of a male superhero. And she worked offworld, serving lonely miners -- which is one letter away from a sexy female superhero servicing lonely minors, like the teenage boys getting off on a sexy female Punisher. Damn. Vendetta could actually be a brilliant parody of the Rule 63 characters so common in comics. Or maybe Punisher 2099 is just one of the best-worst comics ever made. It's possible those don't have to be mutually exclusive.
Rule 63 is a Rule for a reason. Even if there weren't official, hard-canon gender-swapped superheroes and villains, the internet would make sure that they were reblogged into existence anyway. That kind of inevitability is what drove Stan Lee to create She-Hulk, as Marvel feared that the old Incredible Hulk TV show would make her first and thus own the rights to the character. Around the same time, DC decided to get all of their Rule 63 characters out of the way in one fell swoop, using Mr. Mxyzptlk to send Superman to a parallel universe where boys are girls and girls are boys.
It's almost innocent by today's standards. Everything is so matter-of-fact, from Batwoman's impractically long hair jutting out from under her mask to Black Condor completely owning those leather hot pants. Superman is surprised, but not shocked. Crazy shit like this happens in Metropolis on the regular; a dude wearing a tiara and star-spangled underwear pales in comparison to being turned into a baby and forced into underage marriage. You could even consider it as light social commentary, like that Sliders episode where they go to a universe where women were the dominant gender. Remember Sliders? It's on Netflix. You should watch it after we get through with this depressing survey of one of comic books' worst tropes. Anyway, where were we? Right, Wonder Man.
Sure, putting a buff hairy dude in Wonder Woman's costume is hilarious. But the humor is derived from subverting the double-standard in comics -- if a male wore an outfit like that, there's a good chance he'd have a super-wardrobe malfunction. See how his foot kind of already looks like a Wonder Weiner peeking out from underneath his skirt? Now you'll never un-see it. So hey, what was the problem with Earth-11 anyway?
Oh, right. Batwoman's ass.
Any thought-provoking subtext, any statement made by illustrating a world run by female superheroes goes out the goddamned window when you point the butt of the World's Greatest Detective at the reader like a presenting baboon. Batwoman is shown in the comic to be just as intelligent and capable as Batman. Batwoman's single weakness is a light breeze blowing her cape, revealing a bow-legged stance that both shows off her juicy Bat-donkadonk and makes it look like she really has to pee. But other than that, they're both equals who deserve the same amount of respect.
Tristan Cooper might be obsessed with comic book butts. He's also on Twitter.