Writer Robert Kirkman gave an interview with Comic Book Resources concerning the recent issue of Invincible. When asked about the graphic rape scene depicted in the comic, Kirkman answered:
It’s definitely a hectic time in Mark’s life, there’s definitely a lot going on with Robot trying to take over the world, and I’m just trying to throw Mark Grayson — the main character of this book — into the worst possible situation he’s ever been in so we can see where he comes out on the other side and whether he manages to retain his sanity in the process. We’re really putting Mark through his paces.
Also, it’s just another attempt to bring something that’s a bad part of real life into a superhero world and analyze the ramifications of something like this happening to someone in superhero comics. It’s a great medium to be able to deal with real-world issues against a fantastic backdrop that is completely unreal and see how those differences in the situation change how characters behave. It’s really all about exploring Mark’s character, and I can say it’s a very hard scene to read, and it’s meant to be that way. There will be far-reaching ramifications coming from this moment that will extend throughout the life of the book for years and years and years. It’s definitely a huge turning point in Mark’s life and it’s something that’s going to temper almost every scene with that guy moving forward. Issue #110 was a monumental issue as far as the run of the book goes.
The “years and years and years” thing seems a little far-fetched. Setting that side, it appears this is not a money ploy but a plot point. Some people have a problem with writers, particularly male writers, using sexual violence as a plot point. I do not. I think Kirkman’s approach is the right approach. These characters exist in a fictional world, yet writers still throw them into real-world situations. It will be interesting to see how Kirkman has Invincible react to his rape. Invincible is, after all, super strong. He should be able to protect himself from anyone. That works as a metaphor for how people think of real-life male victims.
When asked about the obvious response people have to the idea of female-on-male rape, i.e. a man was not raped if he gets an erection, Kirkman gave a wonderful retort:
I think that’s — I hate to say it, but it’s just an ignorance about what the actual situation is. This is a thing that does happen in real life, and I think for that to be brought up is very unfortunate and very insensitive to the real situation that we’re trying to depict here. But, you know, the Internet is the Internet and people are going to say things like that. I honestly don’t pay attention.
Again, that is a wonderful retort to a stupid response. Most of the people making these comments do not think about what they are saying, especially the men. Every male has unwanted erections at some point in his life. They can happen when one is scared, excited, nervous, or asleep. It has little to do with what the male is thinking. If it did, older men would not suffer from erectile dysfunction.
The erection response is simply a way for people to dodge the issue instead of confronting it. The unfortunate truth is that males can be raped and are often raped by females. It may be difficult for people to understand how it happens because as a society we do not talk about it, yet that does not mean it does not occur.
Invincible #110 provides an insight into what it could look like. One could replace the woman’s superior strength with a weapon or one could imagine the victim being a boy, and that would make it easier to see what female-on-male rape looks like. If Kirkman sticks to his word, we will see how it affects Mark Grayson’s life both in and outside the costume.
Kirkman also addressed the idea of triggering victims with the scene, another issue frequently mentioned whenever anyone depicts sexual violence in fiction:
Sure, you always run the risk of doing that any time you depict any kind of heavy emotional [event]. People have bad breakups with their girlfriends and then they read that kind of stuff in comics. People lose family members and then they read a comic where someone loses a family member and everyone’s always dealing with some kind of traumatic event. We basically live in the spaces between traumatic events, when it gets down to it. As long as you handle things tastefully and really do your research and try to make sure you’re aware of certain situations and how people handle them and you do things as tastefully as possible, I think it could possibly help someone that’s going through an event to see these kind of things. But I would never shy away from a story because I thought I might offend somebody or something like that. Then, I would never tell any story.
That is the response every writer should give whenever questioned about triggering victims. No one thinks twice about showing the Waynes dying in an alley despite that plenty of readers’ parents may have been murdered. No one thinks twice about showing some character being beaten to a pulp despite plenty of readers potentially experiencing the same violence. Every act of violence appears fair game, including child abuse, except for rape.
Speaking as a survivor of sexual violence, I do not think the topic should be dodged because some people cannot handle hearing, reading, or seeing anything about it. Fiction is a powerful tool that allows us to examine social problems from all angles. Avoiding or forbidding certain topics does no one any good. Talking about them can help those who suffered those problems find a way through them.