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May 9, 2006

Styrofoam tits
Posted by Teresa at 03:49 PM * 363 comments

Earlier today I Particle’d this LiveJournal post, with its wonderful collection of suggested DC cover art. It’s making fun of this Frank Miller cover: an egregious butt shot.

That wasn’t the only thing that bothered me about the Frank Miller cover. Look at the upper left portion of the illustration. That thing in the corner is in theory her left breast. So what, you may ask, is that strange excrescence partway up her ribcage?

I believe I can explain it. I’ve seen its like before.

What you have to understand is that the breasts you see in comics are made of styrofoam, which is why they’re pretty much the same from one female character to another, don’t affect the wearer’s center of gravity, and don’t change shape under acceleration. Unless they’re built into the costume, the styro-tits are worn in a sort of tight-fitting flesh-colored stretch halter thingy.

Anyway, what sometimes happens is that the artist’s mind will wander, and their hindbrain (which had human anatomy drilled into it, way back in art school) will try to put a normal human breast into a normal position, underneath the stretch halter with its styrofoam prostheses.

I’m trying to remember now where I first observed the phenomenon. The breast in question was green, so it was either the She-Hulk, or a female superhero who wears a green uniform. It was shown from the front. You could see the normal supporting musculature and some of the breast tissue belonging to the intrusive normal anatomy. Slightly below and to the side of it was a structurally unrelated styro-tit.

This bothered me. I could tell something was wrong, but not what it was, so I stared at that green-tinted breast until I could see what was actually there. It’s quite bizarre, once you realize what’s going on.

No, if you’ll go back to the Frank Miller illustration, what you’ll see is that that “ribcage deformity” is actually located where a normal breast would be, and in fact is shaped quite a lot like a real breast. It follows that the woman’s brown upper garment (with its defective lacing pattern) must be the harness for the styro-tits.

This raises the question of where her left arm could be. On reflection, I think it’s sticking straight up, and that what we’re seeing is this character pulling the styro-tit halter off over her head. I expect it’s a relief to get it off.

Remember to tune in next time, when we’ll be discussing the role of high heels and lordosis in modern crimefighting.

Comments on Styrofoam tits:
#1 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 04:24 PM:

The term I usually use for such breasts when observed in their natural habitat, the SF convention art show, is "improbable breasts."

#2 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 04:28 PM:

'The term I usually use for such breasts when observed in their natural habitat, the SF convention art show, is "improbable breasts."'

oh yeah, I saw that guy.

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 04:28 PM:

A merely improbable breast might be made of anything. Tits in comics? Definitely styrofoam.

#4 ::: Electric Landlady ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 04:30 PM:

I like the styrofoam hypothesis -- better, in fact, than the helium-filled-implants hypothesis. It does explain so much.

#5 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 04:31 PM:

Criticizing comic-book breasts is like criticizing the scientific content of an Irwin Allen show.

#6 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 04:37 PM:

okay, then is someone appreciating comic book tits like someone appreciating the scientific content of an irwin allen show? and if so should those people be criticized. And if criticizing those people leads inevitably to criticising the tits (hey, there's a pun in some dialects of english!) is this like criticising the scientific content of an irwin allen show, or is it in some way useful, or is it more like picking on a lame puppy dog.

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 04:38 PM:

It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it.

#8 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 04:40 PM:

Well..

I care a lot.

#9 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 04:46 PM:

is someone appreciating comic book tits

Oh alright, I'll appreciate them. But only because you asked.

#10 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 04:51 PM:

Faith No More! I love that song.

#11 ::: Max ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 04:51 PM:

Althernately, breast implants in comic books use flubber instead of silicone.

#12 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 04:54 PM:

Nah, flubber would deform under acceleration.

#13 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 05:18 PM:

Styrofoam breasts--this explains so much.

BTW, on another tits-in-art angle--ever notice how, in much of the nude work by the great masters, the breasts occupy a position (without any relation to the posture of the figure in question) that, in most women, they only assume when the woman those breasts belong to is lying on her back--somewhat separated, and tending towards the armpits?

A friend posits that is because that's the principle position the artists in question were used to seeing uncovered breasts in.

Art History--it's not just about discussing foreshortening and chiaroscuro.

#14 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 05:21 PM:

Actually, I think Miller just did a rather bad job of indicating the lower edge of the ribcage.

The explanatory power of the Nielsen Hayden Styrofoam Tit Hypothesis (NHSTS) is quite adequate, to be sure. However, before this can be submitted for review prior to formal publication, it will requre confirmation by means of a well designed experiment, employing a control group of course. Then of course there is the challenge, if the NHSTS is confirmed, of documenting replication of these results.

We certainly have our work cut out for us.

#15 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 05:24 PM:

Pardon, the NHSTH, of course.

#16 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 05:26 PM:

So it stands for Scientifical T & A Research Labs. That explains all sortsa things. On the other side of the bed, of course, we have Unstable Molecules.

If you'll excuse me, the Stark Autumn Couture Line is finishing up (we've had an excellent production season -- no deaths, only four major injuries) and the Adamantium Springform Instep is proving . . . difficult, shall we say?

See you in Paris.

John M. "not Tom" Ford

#17 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 05:29 PM:

Styrofoam--of course! I assumed some secret scientific spandex that had the property of rigid armor. (When I was younger, I kept on hoping they'd create a bra out of it so I could run without bouncing, but even our technology has improved, thank goodness...)

#18 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 05:33 PM:

Mr. Ford, we have a unique opportunity here to combine Serious Scientific Research with Haute Coture. There is no reason that the experiment to confirm the NHSTH could not be carried out on the runway. Properly carried out, you could combine the experiment with the public announcment, while picking up a nice sum in licensing for ready-to-wear.

If we move fast we could make next year's spring lines.

#19 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 05:43 PM:

And yet...

...no shit, there I was at a party, and a woman with the shape and features of Power Girl walked in.

*wow* Man, I didn't know those action figures used live models!

(No, I didn't say a word to the woman. I was afraid she'd rip a large tree out of the ground and smack me with it.)

#20 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 06:06 PM:

yeah, the newish comic book trend of ribs that are, apparently, made out of ropey muscles & stick out at 30-degree angles on women. i hope it goes away soon.

#21 ::: wrye ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 06:06 PM:

C'mon. You only live once, Bruce.

#22 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 06:12 PM:

wrye: yes, and therefore he wanted it to be for a long time.

#23 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 06:12 PM:

Easily the most gruesome mammary displacement on record since the great Rob Liefeld Transdimensional Man-Boob Controversy:

http://s8.invisionfree.com/Superdickery_Forum/index.php?showtopic=1458

#24 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 06:13 PM:

Teresa: I only looked at a couple of gratuitous butt shots on that site (I'm at work), but I didn't see what was egregious about them.

#25 ::: Max ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 06:17 PM:

Flubber has anti-acceleration properties when bombarded by ... Gamma Rays.

Or maybe it was beta rays, I forget.

#26 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 06:36 PM:

Scott Lynch, wow.

#27 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 06:52 PM:

A couple of friends and I once had to leave a WorldCon art show because we were disgracing ourselves giggling: our "migrating tit" jokes became "nomadic tits of the plains" jokes, and things did not get better from there.

#28 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 06:59 PM:

fidelio said: Art History--it's not just about discussing foreshortening and chiaroscuro.

What is it with 'chiaroscuro' these last few days? I'd never come across the word until three days ago, and since then I've seen it here and within a matter of hours I found it again here (note the near-complete lack of connection between the subject matters of those sites). And now it's here. What's going on?

#30 ::: Xyz ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 07:12 PM:

Since when was comic art supposed to be realistic? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure that the human form as presented in cartoon is meant to be a caricature. Does the word "comic" mean anything here? Let's be honest. Would you rather open up your comics to a bunch of stocky, obese heroes in baggy clothing, or to something with some sort of aesthetic appeal to it?
Folks, this 7th-grade quality illustration passing as a comic book cover isn't "objectifying" women like the livejournal article says it does. Granted, its really quite crappy looking, but it isn't the ruin of civilization!
And even if it was... you don't see men going up in arms about how metrosexuality is objectifying them!

#31 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 07:16 PM:

Greg, those balloons look exactly like the bad bolt on implants of the trashy Dlist celebrities.

#32 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 07:19 PM:

The draftsmanship isn't that great, and of course the breasts are rather exaggerated, but if you've ever seen a woman with a narrow waist and a big rib cage from that angle, you'll recognize immediately what he was trying to draw. Lots of Scandinavian-derived hard-working farm girls, for example.

#33 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 07:23 PM:

I dunno, I think there's a future in "Migrating Tits of the Plains"

Or possibly some variation of the Mam-gol Hordes.

#34 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 07:36 PM:

Improbable Mammary Suspension is a technology brought to Earth by aliens in the mid-80s, and shared among the various comic book publishers to assure Mutually Assured Mammary Upthrust, or MAAU.

Teresa, I miss the old days when you counselled Keith Giffen to put bombs in the tits.

#35 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 07:44 PM:

Sequential Tart examined the subject at no little length, until supply o'erwhelmed demand, and they battened down the hatches for a bit.

#36 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 07:47 PM:

Why styrofoam? I think that some of those improbable, cantilevered frontages are actually fibreglass. That would explain their rigidity even better than styrofoam.

#37 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 07:51 PM:

Fiberglass is much heavier, though.

#38 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 07:58 PM:

"Chiaroscuro" is one of those words that run in packs. It may feel that it's safer that way.

I love "Migrating Tits of the Plains". However, right about now (or at least very soon), some poor soul researching bird migrations is going to get a google search result they didn't expect.

#39 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 07:59 PM:

And remember, ladies, when dictating to your voice recorder, it's most convenient to be wearing only a bra, panties, high heels, jewelry, and lipstick, while stroking the stem of a martini glass.

#40 ::: Michael Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 08:00 PM:

My wife used to work in a comic store and tells me that Styrofoam as we know it cannot be the material of which Artificial Supertits are constructed. Based on the height/weight/dimensions listed in Who's Who in the [Marvel/DC] Universe, the density is such that the Artificial Supertits must be lighter than air.

There's a mathematical proof, but I am lazy.

#41 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 08:00 PM:

Can't be bothered right now, I'm too busy appreciating. tough work, that.

#42 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 08:01 PM:

ohmygawdthesecretisaerogel!Ack!

#43 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 08:09 PM:

AliceB: On doit suffrir pour être belle.

#44 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 08:24 PM:

"Mrs. Dibny! Stop that this instant!"

#45 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 08:26 PM:

Michael Croft: Is that like the proof that shows a woman conforming to Barbie's measurements would be incapable of standing up?

As for the styrotits - okay, but does that mean if I punched her in the chest, her boobs would collapse? And then pollute the ozone layer?

#46 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 08:38 PM:
Since when was comic art supposed to be realistic?
Since when was it supposed to be ridiculous?
Correct me if I'm wrong
In progress.
but I'm pretty sure that the human form as presented in cartoon is meant to be a caricature.
You mean we're supposed to find bad figure drawing amusing? No, I'm afraid the word you're looking for is somewhere around "stylized" or perhaps "exaggerated." I don't think that the classic superhero artists would tell you they were drawing caricatures. That's Mad Magazine.
Does the word "comic" mean anything here?
In some contexts it means "laughable," but that's not supposed to be the idea here.
Let's be honest.
Aw, gee. Can't we be intelligent instead?

"Let's be honest" is one of the lamest rhetorical bludgeons in the bullshit arsenal. If you all would just be honest and admit what you really think, you'd agree with me.


Would you rather open up your comics to a bunch of stocky, obese heroes in baggy clothing, or to something with some sort of aesthetic appeal to it?

Personally -- since you're asking -- drawings of realistic-looking people have a great deal more aesthetic appeal to me than figure drawing aimed at the libido of teenage boys. But even when I'm in the mood for classic-style superheroes, I prefer them without (unintentional) extra breasts.

#47 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 08:43 PM:

if I punched her in the chest, her boobs would collapse?

Aerogel. Not only is it extremely light, it's also complete protection from any sort of fire/freeze attacks.

#48 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 08:43 PM:

This is all reminding me of some of my less successful attempts to decode Baen cover art - "now if that's the shoulder, I guess that must be the left arm - though I don't think it goes on at that angle - so by process of elimination, that lump must be... the right breast".

Also:
Teresa wrote:
> Faith No More! I love that song.

My respect for them rose when I saw them in concert, and between songs the singer called out asking why there was a big gap in the crowd. Someone from the audience called back that someone had vomited there.

The singer's response: "Come *on* people - it's only *puke*!"

#49 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 09:19 PM:

Leigh, Greg - while aerogel mammary analogues (mammalogues?) would indeed be excellent protection against fire/freeze attacks (in much the same way that chainmail bikinis are effective protection against large edged weapons), they would indeed collapse - into itty bitty shards - if you punched her in the chest. Or, for that matter, if you embraced her a little too enthusiastically.

#50 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 09:23 PM:

xyz,

Would you rather open up your comics to a bunch of stocky, obese heroes in baggy clothing..?

well, now that you mention it....

#51 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 09:24 PM:

Folks, this 7th-grade quality illustration passing as a comic book cover isn't "objectifying" women like the livejournal article says it does.

Hey, you're right. That Frank Miller cover girl is showing some serious personality there. I'd love to interact with her on a strictly person-to-person level sometime.

This message is brought to you on behalf of the Catholic chiaroscuro conspiracy.

#52 ::: Ross Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 09:26 PM:

Dave Weingart: I dunno, I think there's a future in "Migrating Tits of the Plains". Or possibly some variation of the Mam-gol Hordes.

Why do I get the impression there are any number of puns on the word "mammoth" lurking on the outskirts of this train of thought, awaiting the slightest excuse to protrude? Er, I mean intrude?

#53 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 09:35 PM:

xyz: stocky, obese heroes in baggy clothing

Didn't Alan Moore do that one already?

#54 ::: Mel ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 09:41 PM:

There's stylization done well, and then there are people with scarily jutting ribcages, levitating breasts, and legs that bend in ways that violate the physics of human joints. That standard anime girl pose with the knees together and the ankles wide apart? Try it sometime. Owie.

I think artists should learn human anatomy before they go stylizing, just like writers should learn grammar before they start breaking the rules.

(That cover is both disturbing and poorly-drawn.)

#55 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 10:16 PM:

There's a reason that Scans Daily has a frequently used tag "Boobs Don't Work That Way!"

#56 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 10:26 PM:

Scraps addressed Xyz at length. I'll merely note that, being a mammal myself, I find drawings of women who actually look like live women more appealing than drawings that suggest that the artist has never even seen a live woman.

#57 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 10:29 PM:

Aerogel ... would indeed collapse - into itty bitty shards - if you punched her in the chest.

(sniff) But the aerogel saleman... (sniff) he promised it would make great armor... (sniff) and I gave him all the money from my savings... (sniff) where shall I go? (sniff) What shall I do? (sniff)

#58 ::: SFEley ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 10:38 PM:

I'm frequently surprised at how old-fashioned comic culture is. I expected that by now, superwomen's breasts would be made of aerogel.

#59 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2006, 10:56 PM:

[laughing at Greg's comment]

All your savings indeed - aerogel is pricy stuff. When it finally became commercially available a few months ago, I paid something like thirty bucks for a bitty broken piece, about a centimetre on a side. Even though it's not big enough to do fun demos of its thermal properties, it's still pretty cool to hand around and so far no one has accidentally squished it to dust.

#60 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 12:09 AM:

I forget who it was, but I was reading a "name" comic artist's advice on learning to draw. For learning how to draw women, he advised porno mags. For men, he suggested sports illustrated or a weightlifting mag. It's not about objectifying women's body parts. It's just that they wear too many clothes in all the other magazines to get realistic nipple resources. You don't need to see a naked man to draw a blank, flat area in his crotch.

#61 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 12:14 AM:
"In progress."
I've missed you.
#62 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 12:28 AM:

Part of what creeps me about this is...

Okay, when I was in my mid to late teens, Frank Miller was doing this astonishing work on Daredevil. Then about the time I hit 20, he did Dark Knight Returns, and a great return run to Daredevil, and like that. I'm 40 now. I don't know how much older he is than me, but it has to be at least a few years - I know he didn't his start like Jim Shooter. For some reason it feels much creepier to have a man coming up on 50 doing this kind of thing than to have it from someone not far out of puberty.

#63 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 12:34 AM:

I decided years ago at the San Diego ComicCon that if I were really rotten in this life I'd be reborn as one of the women hired by publishers who wander the convention wearing superhero costumes.

(I remember a panel where the head of the con described how to make best use of costumed babes. Stephen King attended one year but couldn't visit the dealer's booths on the main floor--they were afraid he'd be mobbed. The con head gathered together several of the babes in costume and told them "Stay within 10 feet of this man while he's on the show floor." King got his shopping done in record time.)

I also ended up wondering why the only women around the Dave Stevens booth looked like "Dave Stevens Women" but that's a different topic entirely.

#64 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 12:58 AM:

Back during my too-brief stint in comics, I really liked working with Kevin Kobasic. There were a lot of reasons for that -- intelligence, reliability, good communications skills -- but one of them was definitely the way he drew women. They were attractive and obviously much appreciated, but they were also real people. This allowed them to have readable human movements and gestures, instead of just standing around and posing, which was a great help to the storytelling; and since they weren't unthinkingly sexualized all the time, the moments that were intentionally sexual packed a lot more punch.

#65 ::: Mari ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 01:04 AM:

Betty (no joke) has a nice collection of Sequential Tart breast articles here:
http://del.icio.us/betty_fic/breasts

#66 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 01:07 AM:

The caption to this one was something like Do we need to have that gravity talk again?"

#67 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 01:13 AM:

1. Odd looking breasts

Well, in some circles, the technical name is 'anti-gravititties'. It explains the hemispherical shape, and the total lack of sag.

2. Master painters and odd looking breasts

Back in the 20th century, when I was a snarky undergrad, I used to consider women with their breasts in their armpits(not to mention the male torsos carrying those breasts and armpits) as proof that some artists were paying more attention to other men than to women. But in graduate school, I developed a better theory - much of the Renaissance's figure theory derived from classical Greek sculpture which often displayed a similar anatomy - check the Cnidian Venus. Why the Greeks did this, I'm really not sure.

#68 ::: Carl Caputo ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 01:33 AM:

Dave at Dave's Long Box talks about this, er, lofty? phenomenon in terms of the Boob War. And Power Girl is its zenith.

#69 ::: keith k. ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 01:37 AM:

A lot of the renaissance breast thing actually comes from a general cultural taboo of the time. It was considered okay to use men as figure models, but not women (as I guess that would be more lewd somehow?)
For example, it's a pretty safe bet that the reason Michaelangelo's women look so beefy
is that he did the original drawings from male models and added breasts later.
Even the masters could have stood to draw from life a little more.

#70 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 01:39 AM:

I rembember one year being at the San Diego Comicon while a friend was doing portfolio review. It was the umpteenth review, and while she was being polite, she was also being frank and told the artist, "Draw people who look like real people. This man--those shoulders, those hips. People don't have proportions like that."

The artist was baffled, but this was because he was one of those one-in-a-thousand men who actually naturally had the ideal comic book proportions, with unusually broad shoulders, extremely narrow hips, and a strongly defined musculature. But rather than doing the "Draw stylized comic book men" problem, he'd been doing the common young artist's thing of using himself as anatomy reference. When she looked up and realized this, there was a very awkward moment.

Of course, with the breasts, my personal theory is that mutant powers cause them to develop that way. You cand have an author introduce a female character, and no matter how young or small breasted she starts, she goes up a cup size with each successive artist until you end up with breasts like Jean Grey, whose origin story I've never bought--supposedly she had her telekinesis surface in adolescence after a friend was run over by a car, but I think that's just a cover story for her having developed it because of the inability of even the most amazing underwire support to deal with her growing bust.

Her telekinesis also explains how her breasts defy gravity and there's no underwire showing through her costume.

#71 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 04:13 AM:

Jenny Sparks, the only superheroine I've ever seen with A-cups, is my personal heroine.

#72 ::: Elusis ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 04:23 AM:

Perhaps Frank Miller's model is related to Nuclia Waste, the triple-nippled Plutonium Princess (and one of Denver's most beloved fundraisers). I have it on good authority that she favors Nerf footballs cut in half for that "oddly firm, pointed, gravity-defying" look.

Oh, and they're not wearing baggy clothing, but... I'm fond of the Seven Deadly Curves as a starting point anyway...

#73 ::: Eve ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 04:53 AM:

Back in the 20th century, when I was a snarky undergrad, I used to consider women with their breasts in their armpits(not to mention the male torsos carrying those breasts and armpits) as proof that some artists were paying more attention to other men than to women. But in graduate school, I developed a better theory - much of the Renaissance's figure theory derived from classical Greek sculpture which often displayed a similar anatomy - check the Cnidian Venus. Why the Greeks did this, I'm really not sure.

I think perhaps you answered that last bit already.

#74 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 05:05 AM:

Xyz, your comment sounds remarkably similar to the usual excuse of the young artist as to why they won't draw from life, usually trotted out after they have been told their drawing skills aren't good enough for something.It doesn't hold water and doesn't fool anyone - weak skills are weak skills, no matter what excuse one tries to fancy them up with.

I'd love to see more stocky comic characters, which is why the last two comic books I've bought were by afore-linked Ross Campbell.

#75 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 05:56 AM:

If comic-books were real, how would that affect what goes on at the office of a comic-book publisher?

Here's one answer.

#76 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 07:49 AM:

Kevin Andrew Murphy: Your theory on mutant breast development (hereinafter referred to as "mutittions") reminded me why I quit reading Witchblade. The first artist, who drew her as an A cup, was replaced by some idiot who turned her into Witchboob.

#77 ::: JoshJasper ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 08:54 AM:

I've always been a Bill Reinhold fan myself. He does somewhat comic-book-style females, but all all with huge breasts.

#78 ::: Ceri ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 09:17 AM:

Greg: Clearly in that last example the superheroine's breasts are held in by her uniform, which must be made of some kind of molded steel. That's why it curves under her breasts so...exactly.

This might also be a good time to bring the term "boob socks" into the conversation.

#79 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 09:24 AM:

I've noticed that in science-fiction novels of serious intent written by men, women's breasts are frequently specifically described as being small, even if the women don't get much physical description otherwise. To me it comes across as self-conscious reaction to this trope, and perhaps having it both ways: you can go out of your way to describe some breasts as long as you're careful to insist that they're not great big ones, which would be tawdry.

I think I first noticed this in middle-to-late Isaac Asimov and in Greg Bear, though Bear turns out to be not such a good example since he's lovingly described breasts of all different sizes. It seems to come up in space opera a lot.

Maybe I'm just really good at noticing the breast descriptions...

#80 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 09:27 AM:

Where did the whole skin-tight costume thing come from, anyway? I mean, obviously Superman was the first, but why did Superman wear it? Is it a wind-resistance thing or what? Or did his creators just like showing off the fact that they knew how to draw human musculature?


#81 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 09:32 AM:

I think the Phantom actually predated Superman. But I'm not sure if his costume was like that from the very beginning. I think it was.

Before them, there were real-world circus acrobats and strongmen and such. I think the basic idea is pretty simple, just showing off the musculature.

#82 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 09:33 AM:

And why are these costumes often described as "uniforms"? I can't for the life of me think of anything less uniform.

#83 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 09:39 AM:

Matt McIrvin: In general, people in serious science fiction and urban fantasy novels are often described as nerdy-lookin'. The A-cup thing seems to be a subset of that, I think. Men are often a little tubby, or graying, or un-muscular, or overly tall or overly short; women are often a little flabby, or small-chested, or gawky, or overly tall or overly short, and there are glasses resting on large noses everywhere you look.

This is self-insertion, but it is also anti-Mary-Sue-ism, and I think it's a fine thing. Since humans are stereotype-making creatures, many who notice that physicality does not conform to surreal 'perfect' stereotypes are liable to then describe physicality in terms of 'lovably imperfect' stereotypes.

#84 ::: Ceri ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 09:42 AM:

On the uniform/un-uniform thing...from dictionary.com:

Uniform:
"A distinctive outfit intended to identify those who wear it as members of a specific group."

I'd say they mostly (loudly) indicate "Superhero!" or at the very least "comic book character!" And "distinctive" is certainly a good word for them.

Though you're right. Costume might be a better term.

#85 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 09:43 AM:

Actually, my sympathetic reading, when I'm feeling sympathetic, is the opposite: these characters in space operas are usually lean action-heroine types, who logically would tend to have smaller-than-average breasts.

#86 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 10:09 AM:

Dave Luckett: The Phantom's certainly is a uniform, since it is only worn by Phantoms, generation after generation.

#87 ::: dotsomething ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 10:53 AM:

Xyz's comment has already been addressed a number of times, but it can't be said enough:

There is a vast gulf between Frank Miller's work in that image, and the work of a long list of comic book artists who draw people ultra-comic-book-attractive AND with realistic proportions (look at almost any image by Greg Land or Butch Guice, both the men and the women).

#88 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 10:58 AM:

Gee, this thread appeared just in time! I won't have to be totally random on the Open Thread with a posting my husband found on a friend's website (though it was random there). A certain Guy Gascoigne - Piggford has come up with a lovely parody song, Xena and Sullivan. (Could John M. Ford be haunting an obscure site under an assumed name?)

#89 ::: Rasselas ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 10:58 AM:

I think the iconogrpahy of skintight superhero garb generally follows the example of Superman, who was the forerunner, and whose costume mimicked those of circus acrobats. But a heroic figure in a skintight suit, as Warren Ellis has pointed out ad nauseam, is effectively naked, and heroes have been routinely depicted in the nude before (i.e., on Greek vases).

#90 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 11:01 AM:

Matt McIrvin : To me it comes across as self-conscious reaction to this trope, and perhaps having it both ways: you can go out of your way to describe some breasts as long as you're careful to insist that they're not great big ones, which would be tawdry.

I wonder what the new taboo descriptions are? Could you substitute saggy for small? Or floppy?

#91 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 11:02 AM:

The explanation for "underwear on the outside" that I got, and am passing along without research*:

You had a large stock of illustrators around- people who did drawings for advertisements or whatever. And you hired one of these people to do your art- nine panels a page, 22 pages a month [or whatever], however many books it took to feed him at comic-book pay rates.

And so he needed to draw Superman 200 times in a row, and clothes have to drape and wave in the wind and whatnot. So it was a lot faster to do quasi-nudes.

I'm not saying this excuses boob-socks or other totally thoughtless art. There's more money and higher standards in comic art than there used to be. On the other hand, there's fewer other jobs for people who can draw a man in a suit. . .

*I think some of it came from "Kavalier and Clay". There is a lot of history in that fiction, but I can't guarantee which is which.

#92 ::: keith k. ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 11:05 AM:

ajay:Where did the whole skin-tight costume thing come from, anyway? I mean, obviously Superman was the first, but why did Superman wear it? Is it a wind-resistance thing or what? Or did his creators just like showing off the fact that they knew how to draw human musculature?

Pretty much anyone with anything close to a formal education in art spent a lot more time drawing naked people than fully-clothed ones, so I think there's a natural tendency to feel more comfortable with using less or tighter clothing. There's also a tendency of artists to rush toward what they like to look at, so it reflects some sort of physical ideal in the mind of the artist. Of course, the more mature artists can get over this and draw clothed, less-than-perfect people

#93 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 11:15 AM:

Not long ago, TCM had Sabrina on. At some point there's a scene where Audrey Hepburn is wearing a tight black outfit. That's when I said to my wife that Audrey was actually curvy, only not up there. My wife immediately said: "My God, she has big feet!"

#94 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 11:47 AM:
I've noticed that in science-fiction novels of serious intent written by men, women's breasts are frequently specifically described as being small, even if the women don't get much physical description otherwise. To me it comes across as self-conscious reaction to this trope, and perhaps having it both ways: you can go out of your way to describe some breasts as long as you're careful to insist that they're not great big ones, which would be tawdry.
It's also true that many men like small breasts, and may be just describing what they like. (Leaving aside the writers who simply want a reasonable cross-section of humanity.) It's always perplexed me that the comic book world seems never to have noticed that Nastassja Kinski (for example) was a sex symbol.
I think I first noticed this in middle-to-late Isaac Asimov
Whose lover and then wife for the last twenty-five or so years of his life was a small-breasted woman.
#95 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 12:16 PM:

This reminds me of one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons by Charles Barsotti showing a balding, bearded, bespeckled, overweight man writing at a table while thinking: "'A writer?' she gasped, her perky breasts heaving. 'God, I love writers!'"

#96 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 12:17 PM:

In case anyone's wondering why I posted that link, here's a brief excerpt (as sung by Xena):

My armory is brazen, but my weapons are ironical;
My sword is rather phallic, but my chakram's rather yonical
(To find out what that means, you'll have to study Indo-Aryan.)
I am the very model of a heroine barbarian!

And did anyone see yesterday's "Bizarro" about Baroque models? (Sorry, don't have a link.) Funny!

#97 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 12:22 PM:

Faren: the "Xena" filk was originally written by Kevin Wald (check the "Literary Endeavors" directory).

#98 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 01:00 PM:

OK, I've been appreciating comic book art all night long. My vision is fading and my hands are developing a thin film of palm-fur, but I was willing to take on the tough job. Anyway, due to lack of sleep, I'm a little fuzzy on some things.

what exactly was I looking for? I seem to have developed this secondary voice in the back of my head that insists the answer is boobies, but I don't think that's what I started out looking for. Is it ever OK to look at a totally non-proportional drawing and think "Yeah, I like the look of that?" 12 hours of nonstop comic book art does funny things to the brain... and... other parts... anyway never mind that.

Oh, and someone mentioned something about greek art showing their subjects in the nude and comic book superheroes in spandex were, for all intents and puposes, in the nude as well. So this other voice in my head insists that ancient Greeks also fought in the nude, maybe shoes, a belt to hold their sword, and a helmet, but otherwise, butt-ass naked. The voice then draws rather rough images (yeah, he has a projector in there somewhere and I cant figure out how to unplug it) of, say, 10,000 greeks lined up with shields and spears, stacked 4 to 8 men deep, all of them naked but for their shields. If true, superheroes fighting in spandex isn't totally far-fetched, just drafty.

I don't know if its true. In my hazy state, part of me is thinking, you know, he might be right. And another part of me is thinking, damn on the battlefield and naked? Are you insane? But I thought I'd throw it out there.

#99 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 01:11 PM:

The series Strangers in Paradise caught my attention years ago
precisely because the artist ( Terry Moore ) drew women
( and men ) with believable proportions.

I see a lot of figure illustration
( particularly on covers ) which seems to look okay 'locally',
but which doesn't hang together taking the figure as a whole;
i.e., the hand looks okay, but the forearm looks too long,
and the arm is positioned awkwardly...

It doesn't help that the art looks a lot 'slicker' nowdays
than it used to look years ago;
a lot more painterly.

This might relate to the 'uncanny valley' phenomenon
which has been discussed with regards to human characters in CGI films:
the closer the characters come to matching our expectation of human appearance,
the more they fail to do so irritates us.

[ An art school maxim: "No matter how much you polish it, you can't make shit shine." ]

Adam Hughes and Alex Ross are a couple of artists who also get it right;
but they also have the luxury of working with models ( AFAIK ).

Poser is an advanced 'mannequin' program;
I see it used ( in conjunction with Photoshop ) for a lot of digital art.
Some recent JLA covers looked like they might have been done using Poser.
And Poser certainly could be used to 'create' models
for those of us who could not afford to hire any.

But all of that might be taking more time and effort
than the job ( producing pages of comic book art ) could afford...

Other artists would argue that literal figure drawing is not the point.

In Manwatching, Desmond Morris uses a Vargas pinup
to illustrate the idea of supernormal stimulus.

In his example, long legs are a sexual signal,
so extra long legs are a super signal.

[ In another aside,
  using the word literal to describe figure drawing...
  what is that? Is it considered a metaphor,
  or is it just totally the wrong word?
]

#100 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 01:13 PM:

Naw. Greeks wore armor. It was Celts who thought armor (and clothing) was for wimps. They felt that their wode and confidence would protect them.

My dumbass ancestors. 'Fnot for that an' whiskey, we'd rule th' world.

#101 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 01:35 PM:

Not only did the Greeks wear armor to fight, they put clothes under it, because otherwise, you get not only chafing and blisters but bruising from the various pieces of gear. The Spartans dressed their hoplites (heavy-armored infantry) in red tunics, so the blood wouldn't show and distract them.

There are a fair number of pieces of art showing men who are nude except for armor, but this is apparently because the Greeks liked looking at more-or-less naked people, and not because they went out to fight dressed that way. There was also a race run at the ancient Olympics by men who were in hoplite kit--I don't know if they wore anything else besides the breastplate, helmet, and shield, although the dress for Olympic competitiors was, generally, no dress at all. However, these men were running a race, not fighting, and so their posible lack of additional clothing should not be considered an endorsement of naked fighting by Greeks.

Consider the motivation for staying in shape if you have to work out at the gym naked.

#102 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 01:35 PM:

Greg London -- Oh, and someone mentioned something about greek art showing their subjects in the nude and comic book superheroes in spandex were, for all intents and puposes, in the nude as well.

Spandex isn't nude. Chiffon, gauze or voile is nude. Spandex, particularly heavier-duty grades, is girdle. Or at least control panty. In any case, it has body, and it deforms what's underneath.

#103 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 01:40 PM:

Just an odd thought. Why Styrofoam? Wouldn't that squeak in those leather/tight outfits and leave a visible crumbly white bead trail?

Would you really want the last voice balloon dialog of the criminals to be, "Hey, Tony, do you hear that."

"Sure, sound like mice wrestling."

"Hmm, must be a super-heroine around."

#104 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 01:44 PM:

Mark DF -- I forget who it was, but I was reading a "name" comic artist's advice on learning to draw. For learning how to draw women, he advised porno mags. For men, he suggested sports illustrated or a weightlifting mag. It's not about objectifying women's body parts. It's just that they wear too many clothes in all the other magazines to get realistic nipple resources. You don't need to see a naked man to draw a blank, flat area in his crotch.

My Greek sculpture professor in grad school advised us all that if we wanted to see how muscles work, the best resource was the bodybuilding mags. He used this to deal with one really obvious area of cognitive dissonance: the things that look like love handles on the Doryphoros, pointing out, with imported evidence, that a truly well-conditioned male, not an ounce of fat, but w/ abs of steel, will display these.

#105 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 01:49 PM:

The series Strangers in Paradise caught my attention years ago precisely because the artist ( Terry Moore ) drew women (and men ) with believable proportions.

Yeah, but on the SiP website the stats he gives make it clear that he has no idea what weights go with the bodies he draws - he's got Francine listed about 50 pounds lighter than she's drawn most of the time.

This doesn't prevent me from really liking SiP.

#106 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 01:54 PM:

This reminds me of one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons by Charles Barsotti showing a balding, bearded, bespeckled, overweight man writing at a table while thinking: "'A writer?' she gasped, her perky breasts heaving. 'God, I love writers!'"

I've done things like that in person a few times (minus the perkiness). The responses are entertaining.

#107 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 02:34 PM:

Hmm. "Hoplitodromos", the web tells me, sprint in full armor with shield.

( http://ablemedia.com/ctcweb/consortium/ancientolympics11.html )

#108 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 02:34 PM:

Terry Moore once did a piece in Wizard Magazine's "How to" series about drawing realistic women, which started off with his characters Francine and Katchoo peering at a standard unrealistic superheroine (a foot taller than either, and bulging and waning in the usual places) with equal parts fascination and pity. Great article.

An illustration of Moore's more realistic observation was an early sequence of Francine getting ready for a job interview. She was in her underwear, working her hose up, and her bra and panties did not match. Imagine! A character in a comic book who wears anything besides elegant lingerie from Victoria's Secret. Is that even allowed?

#109 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 02:38 PM:

"Imagine! A character in a comic book who wears anything besides elegant lingerie from Victoria's Secret. Is that even allowed?"

I figured they never wore undewear, since there are no panty/bra lines to speak of. And don't the boys wear their skivvies on the outside anyway (cause it won't fit under the spandex)?

#110 ::: Vito Excalibur ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 03:19 PM:

It was Celts who thought armor (and clothing) was for wimps. They felt that their wode and confidence would protect them.

This is the sort of thing I think of every time I see another children's movie or whatever with the message, "You can do anything as long as you believe in yourself!"

#111 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 03:42 PM:

Well, the thing is that stripping naked, painting yourself blue, and rushing joyously into the fray waving a big-ass spear is the kind of tactic that might just work. Unfortunately, the "Don't fuck with us, we're batshit insane" card is one you can probably only usefully play once.

#112 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 03:50 PM:

Actually, I think that, at least for some writers, the 'small breast' analog is 'short hair.' In one of Robert Sawyer's books (can't remember which one), at least three of the female characters were described as having short hair, which I interpreted as being shorthand for serious, intelligent, independent, you know - all those things that you couldn't possibly be if you have long hair. Although it was mostly just annoyingly repetitive.

#113 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 04:12 PM:

Dan, it worked and worked and worked until they tried it against the Romans, who were more afraid of their commanders than (as one of them put it in a Mary Renault book) "a battle-line of insane gods."

Celts also had this competitive thing...they wanted to be the first to get to the enemy. And they'd show off by throwing and catching their swords as they ran. Scared the shit out of most people. The Romans cut them to ribbons.

#114 ::: Sugar ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 04:20 PM:

I suppose it would be impolitic to note that the words "Frank Miller" and "realistic" don't belong in the same sentence. Not that I'm too fond of his brand of fantasy, anyway.

This thread reminds me of this picture of an anime-ish sex doll. It's illustrating this article (scroll up) about a doll factory. Interesting article. Both safe for work, by the way.

#115 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 04:27 PM:

I guess we need to add a new category to the old joke about girls checking their bust lines when they're 16 and deciding if they're going to be brainy or popular or superhero.

Probably the reverse would be true for guys after a package check: jock, brainy, or superhero.

#116 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 04:33 PM:

As it happens, I use the program Poser, and fiddle around with 3D art. It's quite good at rendering a CGI image, but it's realism still depends on knowing human anatomy, how joints bend, and working withing the limits of the program.

You can download a similar program for free from www.daz3d.com and they also give away some usable figures.

A guy known as Little_Dragon has produced some very nice figures for free, which can be obtained from http://www.448studios.com/Index2.html

It's been alleged that some Baen covers used Poser-generated images, not for the main characters but for serried ranks of soldiers, who look a little too identical.

Many Poser figures are short of the necessary pose-controls to handle naked breasts. It isn't that good a solution to the ignorant artist problem. And many of the people who user Poser to create porn (at least you don't get any complaints from your models) appear to use the very limited free versions of Poser models--the same face and body, every time.

Age-frayed recollections of real naked women suggest to me that many artists learn from the rather artificial world of pornography. I find myself wondering if the puritan streak in the USA forces this misconception. Would anyone like to comment on whether European artists do that same thing. It's a long time since I saw a copy of Metal Hurlant.

#117 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 04:48 PM:

Quoth Xopher:
My dumbass ancestors. 'Fnot for that an' whiskey, we'd rule th' world.

But then you'd have no appreciation of nudity and no whisky. Speaking as someone who quite likes nudity (of many shapes, thankyouverymuch) and has a glass of Auchentoshan at her elbow right now, let me point out that ruling the world is overrated.

#118 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 04:50 PM:

Dave Bell: Age-frayed recollections of real naked women suggest to me that many artists learn from the rather artificial world of pornography.

My age-frayed recollections of being a cartooning major at the School of Visual Arts verify your suggestion.

A few weeks back I saw a post by a cartoonist (I forget who) talking about how much of a boon the Web was for him, since lots of homemade Internet porn shows the typical-looking women he likes to draw rather than toned and skinny professional models.

#119 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 05:03 PM:

Abi comments on Xopher's post:
Quoth Xopher:
My dumbass ancestors. 'Fnot for that an' whiskey, we'd rule th' world.

But then you'd have no appreciation of nudity and no whisky. Speaking as someone who quite likes nudity (of many shapes, thankyouverymuch) and has a glass of Auchentoshan at her elbow right now, let me point out that ruling the world is overrated.

May I note that if you're good at training the rulers of the world to appreciate nudity and whisky (and possibly providing at least some of the supply of same), you can probably rule the ones who do rule the world, which likely to be both a lot less work and a lot more fun.

#120 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 05:14 PM:

fidelio,

True. And I'd still get the whisky and the nudity. I could even get to the whisky first and siphon off the good stuff, plus previewing the nudity. This begins to sound promising.

It occurs to me that I might need some assistance with the heavy task of dealing out all this firewater and skin. I know Greg's tired out from all his comic book art appreciation, but this seems a good crowd to draw my whisky and nudity fans from.

(Really, it's a shame we're all so scattered, because this sounds like the recipe for a really good party. Or maybe that's the Auchentoshan talking. It really is a good dram.)

#121 ::: Bill Altreuter ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 05:16 PM:

I can't believe I just read that entire thread. I always thought of myself as a leg man.

#122 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 05:47 PM:

Xopher --

The celts, or at least some subset of same, burned Rome to the ground around 300 BCE. There's this huge lacuna in the history of the Roman Republic in consequence.

Nor were Cesar's campaign's in Gaul thought to be easy; classic example of winning through superior logistics, not superior ferocity.

And, hey, the Celts invented mail armors, long iron swords, casters on furniture, and a bunch of gold working techniques. Hard to do that first if no one ever wore armor in battle.

#123 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 06:36 PM:

Graydon, I thought the Goths and Vandals were Teutons. Live and learn.

#124 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 06:54 PM:

Xopher --

The Goths and Vandals were eight hundred years later. (390 BCE to 410 CE)

#125 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 08:14 PM:

In re: male authors giving their characters A-cups and the like:

I know that when I was writing up Maggie-Sue Percy, I used as many cliches as I thought I could get away with before moving above her neckline. In fact, let me check... yep, I even said her top "struggles to contain her bosom." I'm proud of that one: "bosom" is one of those words that often means the writer had to go to the thesaurus. Hence, it has a nice meta-effect: "Oh, geez, here comes the character the author is fanstasizing about schtupping." (Metaphors generally don't make literal sense, but still-- talk about a weird thing to ascribe volition of purpose to. Is her top also yelling, "Have at thee, savage breasts!"? Perhaps if it fails and tears, her knockers will spring off her chest and bound away to join the migrating herds y'all mentioned...)

Beyond that, I didn't worry about such things. (Somewhat to TNH's dismay, since she had to deal with my mulishness to get me to put in at least SOME description of the other characters.) Yes, Chloe (for example) is a pretty woman, and I think I mentioned that at some point-- but I saw no reason to take a tape measure to her and report the results. (That even though she's a figment of my imagination, she STILL would have taken my arm off if I'd tried has nothing to do with it.)

#126 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 09:06 PM:

Graydon, you said BCE. Damn. Sorry.

Was that before the development of the military techniques with which they conquered the known world?

#127 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 09:55 PM:

abi, I think I could be persuaded all too easily to take up some of the minion work on whiskey and nudity in exchange for sharing in the partaking of same. I am, after all, of proud fighting-drunk-and-naked (-and-covered-in-woad) stock myself.

#128 ::: Ian Myles Slater ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 10:12 PM:

Concerning Naked Gauls, and Goths, Vandals, and Teutons.

The "naked Gaul" is a vivid image in classical sources. It has apparent echoes in medieval accounts of the Irish fighting "naked" -- which in some cases, however, seems to mean men turning up for battle fully dressed *in cloth,* unlike either the Norse and Normans. There is a strong suspicion that the former reflects a ritualized performance (battle magic), or a bid for status (liking "counting coup" in North America), rather than the preferred state for those Celtic fighting men able to afford worthwhile armor.

There is a running dispute (very long-running) over whether the Cimbri and Teutones, who smashed Roman armies (notably at Arausio, 105 BC), were Germanic or Celtic. Given the Greek and Latin versions of the names, either explanation seems to be plausible. (Modern English "Teutonic" takes the "German" side, but is a modern formation.)

They were sequentially defeated by Marius, after a reform of the legions, the Teutones at Aquae Sextiae in 102 BC, and the Cimbri at Campi Raudii near Vercella, in 101 BC. The experience left a long-lasting impression, only partially obscured by the following Civil Wars.

Julius Caesar (politically a Marian) seems to have felt at some point that it was convenient that the Cimbri and Teutones were recognized as "Germani," and not "Galli." He had to explain why he was making war against the very German Ariovistus of the Suebi, an official "Friend of the Roman People," and linking him to the dreaded Teutonic Menace may have been too good a propaganda point to pass up.

Of course, he may have been right about it.

In Caesar's time, the upper-class Gauls were extremely well-armed, although not well-organized, and some of the their technology was better than anything available to the Romans. Better leadership, and less internal bickering, might well have made a difference; especially if they had been fighting against commanders less determined and competent than Caesar. And in his early campaigns he owed a lot to the stubborn discipline of the legions.

I have to agree about the logistics side, although it wasn't just having a good quartermaster corps or something. Caesar also had the advantage that living off the land at the expense of the Gauls actually weakened his actual or potential enemies -- although it seemed to have had a bit part in provoking revolts. Gauls who tried that approach would wind up bringing their neighbors down on their heads, or at a minimum diminish their own overall effectiveness. The Gauls' lack of an effective supply system which didn't antagonize the people they were supposed to be defending may account for some of their difficulties in mustering and fielding large armies.

#129 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 10:17 PM:

Hey, I have nothing against nudity. Woad (which I misspelled above!) and whisky (or even whiskey) are not for me though.

But naked in battle? That I wouldn't do, even if I were going to be in a battle, which is also unlikely.

#130 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 10:20 PM:

Xopher --

There weren't any Roman military techniques, strictly speaking, superior to those of their opponents. (Sometimes grossly inferior; there's a reason they had terrible problems with the Parthians, frex.)

What the Romans had going for them was social and administrative; a legion could be defeated or destroyed, and another one would show up. It would be in supply; it would be at least decently and often enough excellently equipped. It would have supporting fortifications, good roads, and good communications. This kept going for generations.

That the individual warriors opposing the legion could fight legionaries at better than 1:1 odds and beat them in a straight up fight -- often the case -- stopped mattering all that much, because they could, maybe, do it once. The legion would keep on coming; it wouldn't quit for the harvest, it would be recruited back up to strength, it had written records and written communications and (in effect) communication with its past as a store of experience stretching beyond any individual life, and eventually the population resources of half the known world would get applied to tiny pieces of opposition which did have to quit for the harvest.

This matters way more than our-guys-can-beat-your-guys-with-swords; very often, they couldn't.

#131 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 10:56 PM:

joann: Yes, I quite agree. I've used muscle mags for reference myself. While being sarcastic, I might have muddled my point, which was the learning suggestion for women was an intentionally sexualized source (porn) while for men it was a source whose first intent is not sexual (i.e., the supposed perfect physique--tho muscle mags have certainly helped a few closet cases thru the night). In fact, if it was just about muscles, women have been appearing in muscle mags for a long long time. No porn necessary if you are just interested in form.

#132 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 11:05 PM:

A similar, more subtle, sexualized women/nonsexualized men situation is something I noticed during the last summer Olympics. In almost any event requiring a form fitting outfit, women are shown in full camera shot or from the waist up. Except when they are actually competing, men are shown in head shots, although even some of the running competitions tended to show chest up (no bouncy shorts!). I noticed it most blatantly during swim meets: full shot of women on the platform, head shot of the men. And it's not just the Olympics. Check it out next time your watching most any sports program.

#133 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 11:11 PM:

That's so annoying! They should show the men from the neck DOWN.

#134 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 11:34 PM:

I'm with Xopher- neck down.

I'd also like to be a whiskey (esp. Irish) and nudity judge.

#135 ::: Mickle ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 11:41 PM:

you can go out of your way to describe some breasts as long as you're careful to insist that they're not great big ones, which would be tawdry.

Which - as a large breasted woman - bugs me as much as the styrofoam tits do. Way to go from defining women by their bodies to...defining women by their bodies.

It seems to come up in space opera a lot.

Which partly accounts for my (temporary) dumping of sci-fi/fantasy in favor of romance mid-adolescence. I figured that, if reading "grown-up" books meant reading about sexual fantasies, I might as well read some that were more in line with my own.

Although it was a few too many books by David Eddings and Piers Anthony - not anything as cerebral as Asimov - that caused this epiphany. If I recall correctly, Eddings had a particularly annoying way of making all the whores large breasted and all the heroines adorably petite.

If you really want to read descriptions of a variety of breasts sizes, just thumb through the romance section. Romance novel heroines come in all kinds of shapes and sizes - just like the readers they are meant to be stand-ins for. Of course, the heroines are still pretty, not too fat, and with clear skin. Most importantly, sagging breasts are never mentioned, no matter the size. It is still fantasy, after all.

#136 ::: Jack Ruttan ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2006, 11:58 PM:

Maybe the super ladies are our Venuses of Willendorf, or Minoan snake women. Few of them had earthly proportions.

I do comics, and don't pretend to understand. I can't fetishise women that way, but my hand moves in certain directions when drawing, in part controlled by background and society. Why does R. Crumb draw women with big feet, or E Gorey with no foreheads?

Remember those Italian masters, and how subjects looked according to whether the artist was Dutch or French.

#137 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 12:03 AM:

i'm' with Mickle at least in wanting my heroines more real. I tried to read romance to write it and it just nauseated me.

I'm back to actually working on a novel project, thanks to life settling down a little bit and copious notes done up on history, etc. I also just recently had a Big Revelation that might make the whole idea more powerful. My main character is a bit thin and short.

When I finished the first draft, I had a lucid nightmare where I went down to my local drugstore (my bookstand when I was an adolescent) and found My Novel with a brass-bound big-busted amazon warrior on the cover. And actually the biggest part of the nightmare was that I hadn't known I'd SOLD the thing in the first place.

#138 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 01:13 AM:

Ah, but that's a problem I anticipated. If marketing decides the cover needs an improbably-proportioned blonde and a dragon, those things are in the book.

#139 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 04:19 AM:

I've noticed, in my writing attempts, that I'm a bit vague in descriptions. Heights tend to be relative, and I tend to stop at general body shape.

Yes, it's a cliche now, but I'm a great admirer of the concept of bishops kicking holes in stained-glass windows. That's what matters to the story; how a character reacts to another.

You can't do that in comics. Not often.

#140 ::: Mickle ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 05:05 AM:

"i'm' with Mickle at least in wanting my heroines more real. I tried to read romance to write it and it just nauseated me."

Well, I meant that the characters only looked slightly more realistic. Romance readers didn't come up with the acronym TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) for nothing.

#141 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 05:39 AM:

"That's what matters to the story; how a character reacts to another.
You can't do that in comics. Not often."

Fred Clark on Slacktivist made the same point with reference to the awful 'Left Behind' series: if you have a character in the novel who is the World's Greatest Sculptor, then you can describe what they do in general terms, add in other characters' appreciative remarks, and convince the reader fairly easily. But if you have the World's Funniest Standup or the World's Greatest Orator, then at some point you will have to have examples of their comedy or oratory, and - as you, the author, are not the World's Funniest Standup - the results will be disappointing.

Similarly, it's a lot easier to describe a stunningly attractive woman than it is to draw one that all your readers will find stunningly attractive...

#142 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 06:33 AM:

My wife the writer has repeatedly pointed out to me that female writers seldom describe a woman's bust size. My reading experiences so far have borne this out, the exception being the Amelia Peabody mysteries.

#143 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 06:57 AM:

It depends, Graydon, on what you mean by "military techniques". In actual weaponry, it's true that the only branch in which the Romans were considerably in advance of their opponents was seige weaponry, a superiority which they exploited to the point where they were one of the very few ancient armies that actually deployed field artillery on a regular basis. Their field engineering was also considerably in advance of any other. You can say that this only amounted to better digging of holes, but the Roman marching fort, or their bridging ability, or their seige engineering, is certainly a branch of "military technique", too.

But even outside of that, it isn't enough to ascribe all the other advantages of the Romans to their logistics support and their resilience in recruiting. No other army in antiquity, and very few since, evolved and extended tactical method with such a clear outlook, which was in the case of the Romans toward battlefield flexibility combined with shock power in the same arm.

This tactical doctrine was Rome's own creation, having at its heart the idea that battles are won by shock, but shock essentially delivered by infantry that is tactically flexible yet resilient under duress, well-protected yet capable of rapid movement, remorselessly drilled to maintain spacing and formation while remaining lethal in melee, and willing to accept lengthy attrition yet also able to throw the enemy into confusion at the outset.

These somewhat-opposed qualities could only be attained by effective small-unit organisation with the units able to relieve each other in the line, by devising a well-organised signalling and communications system, and by devolving command in the field to unit officers who could read the patterns of battle and respond to them as well as to the orders of the commander. The legionary weapons system - the pilum/gladius - was also Rome's own development, fulfilling the last of the aims mentioned above. It wasn't entirely unique, nor was the technical complexity of these weapons beyond other ancient peoples - but the Roman army took it to a plane of efficiency far beyond any other, to the point where it made a qualitative difference, not just a quantitative one.

#144 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 08:24 AM:

I've read long and scholarly-seeming arguments on just how a Roman army could operate at the low level, and how sub-units such as the Century could be relieved in the middle of a battle. One view is that the Roman system left you with a small, local, reserve that could be thrown in at the critical time. The classical sources rarely describe all the details of these things, and sometimes they could be describing your last throw of the dice. You fight the enemy to a standstill, and then the Triarii try to disrupt their formation; that sort of thing.

There's a lot of guesswork, but when combat range is no more than arm's length it is not easy to withdraw.

#145 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 09:12 AM:

I can't believe I just read that entire thread. I always thought of myself as a leg man.

I read the entire thread too, but I'm a word woman.

#146 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 09:26 AM:

C. A. Bridges: Terry Moore once did a piece in Wizard Magazine's "How to" series about drawing realistic women,
which started off with his characters Francine and Katchoo peering at a standard unrealistic superheroine
(a foot taller than either, and bulging and waning in the usual places) with equal parts fascination and pity.
Great article.

I had a friend who had picked up that issue, specifically for that drawing lesson.

Wizard has recently been re-printing their lessons in a series of 'How To Draw' books.
Terry Moore's lesson was in volume 1; the main reason I bought that book.

#147 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 09:28 AM:

If you really want to read descriptions of a variety of breasts sizes, just thumb through the romance section. [...] Most importantly, sagging breasts are never mentioned, no matter the size. It is still fantasy, after all.

Exception: Jennifer Crusie's _Anyone But You_. Which is another example of how, in many ways, Crusie critiques the genre she's writing in.

#148 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 09:38 AM:

I can't believe I just read that entire thread. I always thought of myself as a leg man.

That's OK - we're discussing improbable artificial legs in fiction over on the anti-Catholic thread.

#149 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 09:46 AM:

Paula H M: Romance novels makes you nauseated? One reason might be that you caught a bad batch. You've stumbled into the classic writer's success story:

1. Writer doesn't think genre lives up to potential
2. Writer writes own genre novel---the one the Writer wishes were out there
3. Novel gets picked up by Major Publisher and becomes runaway bestseller
4. Riches roll in. Large breasted women hawk your books at trade shows.
5. Um..am I back to square one?

#150 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 09:48 AM:

I've read long and scholarly-seeming arguments on just how a Roman army could operate at the low level...

Jeesh! I can't believe how quickly a rant on breasts degenerated into a discussion on ancient history.

You people!

#151 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 10:26 AM:

*looks up from note-taking*

"Degenerated?"

*looks crestfallen*

*winks and looks mischeivous*

Crazy(and going back to the note-taking)Soph

#152 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 10:41 AM:

Stephan, did I ever get around to mentioning that the description of Maggie-Sue startled me to an extent I'm sure you'd have found very satisfactory if you'd been watching at the time?

#153 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 10:53 AM:

I can't believe how quickly a rant on breasts degenerated into a discussion on ancient history.

Some people have no shame, eh, Michelle? Meanwhile, in a manner sort-of related to the thread's main subject... Last night's MythBusters was about explosive pants.

#154 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 10:57 AM:

I expect some of you saw the recent "Bizarro" where one hefty Baroque Supermodel was gushing to the other: "Oh, you look lovely! Have you gained weight?" Physical ideals and fetishes certainly change over the centuries -- the long & lean of one era being the freakishly tall starving peasant of another. The Victorians seemed mad for wasp waists (viz the changing appearance of Annie Oakley on the PBs bio a few days ago, from natural proportions to nearly cut in half by her corsets). And don't get me started on high heels....

#155 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 11:03 AM:

*twirl*

(Sorry, folks; I know there's nothing quite so ghastly as a middle-aged bald man coquettishly fishing for a compliment from his editor. Sometimes, I phone her up and say, "Does this dependent clause make me look fat?" Whatever Tor pays her, it isn't enough; if I had to deal with people like me on a regular basis, it would only be a matter of time before someone got brained with a toner cartridge.)

#156 ::: Rasselas ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 11:12 AM:

I can't believe how quickly a rant on breasts degenerated into a discussion on ancient history.

Isn't that sort of a reversal of the usual progress of comment threads? I.e., start out arguing about the identity of the inventor of the pith helmet, end up discussing how actresses on television are too thin.

#157 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 11:14 AM:

Stephan, if it helps at all to know, I think you got pretty much exactly the reaction to that passage you were hoping for out of this reader; something along the lines of, "Oh, for fuck's sake... GYAAAAAGH!"

Of course, the real attack of the wiggins doesn't kick in until the Thing-shagging scene, thoughtfully faded-to-black though it be. Man, that book is all full up with delightful wrongness.

#158 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 11:21 AM:

I can't believe how quickly a rant on breasts degenerated into a discussion on ancient history.

Yeah, we're just so slutty here.

Dave Luckett, that's what I thought. Roman siegecraft and tactics (the formations in particular) I thought were major innovations in the world of warcraft (small ws). But Graydon seems to think that's not the case.

#159 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 11:57 AM:

Xopher, Dave --

Neither the siegecraft (Syracuse, anyone?) nor the small unit tactics (hopilites, phalanx tactics, the Germanic and Celtic warbands obsessed with individual prowess and close formation fighting, et multi cetera) were inherently innovative.

Being consistent and repeatable about them was a major innovation, comparable to the Prussian invention of the General Staff. (The current term for the Roman innovation is "tactical doctrine".)

But it wasn't the first example of combined arms, nor the first example of disciplined infantry as the core of an army, nor the first example of good engineering associated with an army, and it certainly wasn't the first example of disciplined tactical flexibility. All those things were variously commonly attested at the time Marius figured out how to give an army reflexes.

The Roman rep gets badly overstated in fiction, and once the idea of doctrine was out there, it could interact with technical progress. (A serious problem in the later days of the Empire, being compelled to doctrinal innovation.)

A Norman cavalry army from the time of the First Crusade would give a legion serious trouble; an English archer army from 1350 could have creamed one like spinach. A War-of-the-Roses army would have had an even easier time of it, because the good armor ("white armors") had got to the point where nothing the individual legionaries had would go through it.

#160 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 01:23 PM:

Stephen Zielinski, Dan Layman-Kennedy, and our illustrious hostess:
What book? Title please! I wish to share the wrongness.

Michelle K (and Xopher, Graydon, Rasselas and Serge):

I can't believe how quickly a rant on breasts degenerated into a discussion on ancient history.

Okay then, let's try to bring history more in line with the topic: What about (non-Roman) innovations in armoring that put exaggerated pectorals on the soldier/knight. Not to mention the (apocryphal?) stuffed-cod-pieces that were all the rage in the renaissance.

Or, as far as illustrating goes, what about the insane illustrations of "dress-armor" in comics and covers (and elsewhere) which if they actually existed would
a) give Mr. Warrior a hernia; or
b) prevent him from lifting his arms over his head or (in some cases) drawing his sword.

c) How does one reach over one's shoulder and draw a four+ foot sword that is in a tightly-strapped full-to-the-hilt scabbard? If one can, how does one keep one's head attached throughout? and finally,
d) What about the great "evil one's" armor that has so many intimidating evil spikey's that he'd kill his horse the first time he mounted, or poke out an eye if he salutes.

#161 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 01:44 PM:

"What about the great 'evil one's' armor that has so many intimidating evil spikey's that he'd kill his horse the first time he mounted, or poke out an eye if he salutes. "

Oooh, I love those. I always wanted someone to bring in a washerwoman, have her fling a basketfull of laundry on all those spikes, and see how the poor sob could possibly cope.

Xopher--what's slutty is all in the eyes of the beholder... Woad, after all, is a fabulously suggestive word.

#162 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 01:58 PM:

Jules: What is it with 'chiaroscuro' these last few days?

Anne and I were talking about the meaning of "coruscate" as a word we mislearned from context, and I saw a great need for a word describing flashes of blackness: coruscuro.

And on the topic that started all this, if you want to make huge styrojugs with a shape that is more globular than tubular, you need to glue them to a big ribcage, and when the desired waist is sized so that it would fit in the cleavage (and you know she's limber enough) of course you're going to see some jut at the bottom of the ribcage.

I wouldn't want to be her orthopod.

#163 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 02:01 PM:

pedantic, I don't know about the other stuff, but the codpieces are for real. They're if anything understated in modern depictions. And they were not only stuffed, but elaborately decorated to call additional attention to them. For example, they could be covered with feathers or tiny mirrors.

And I'm sure there are ridiculous armor illustrations out there (never really looked). But some extreme things are real: there really was med/ren armor in which the knight could barely walk. I use the term 'knight' advisedly; they were for cavalry use only. Sometimes the guy had to be lifted onto his horse with a crane.

This reminds me: someone mentioned Michelangelo upthread. Did you know that Mary as depicted in his Pietà would be seven feet tall if she stood up? Anatomically bizarre. But in my opinion it works in that sculpture. Yes, she's a giantess. But she looks right somehow.

That means something, but I'm not sure what.

#164 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 02:15 PM:

There is a running dispute (very long-running) over whether the Cimbri and Teutones, who smashed Roman armies (notably at Arausio, 105 BC), were Germanic or Celtic.

Fair enough. But the same doesn't apply to Graydon's reference to the sack of Rome by actual honest-to-goodness Gauls in the 300s BC. No question about their Celtic nature.

On the other hand, this was indeed before most of the developments in the Roman military which have been listed already. Most notably, this was still the point at which the army was entirely a militia and *would* in fact have knocked off for the harvest every year. It was only with the Punic Wars (siege engines, ships) and with Marius (professionalisation, tactical training) that the Roman army became the kind of legionary army we are used to. And the effectiveness of even that, as Graydon says, can be overstated. It is possible to list plenty of Roman defeats, even under the empire.

Although I like to think that, despite Gladiator, they would be unlikely to direct their first cavalry charge in a battle directly into a dense forest.

#165 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 02:23 PM:

The Victorians seemed mad for wasp waists (viz the changing appearance of Annie Oakley on the PBs bio a few days ago, from natural proportions to nearly cut in half by her corsets).

Was this film footage or photographs? If the latter, they were often touched up to make waists appear smaller. It also makes a difference if it's a frontal or side view - the corset doesn't change the overall circumference as much as it rearranges it - remember, you're adding the entire not-inconsiderable bulk of the corset to the overall dimensions. One looks much thicker from the side. There are also special tricks with the shaping of the belt that give the illusion of a much smaller waist.

#166 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 02:25 PM:

I wonder how freaky Agatha Heterodyne would look in the real world?

#167 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 02:57 PM:

pedantic peasant: the book in question is this one.

#168 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 04:10 PM:

pedantic peasant: The book you want is Bad Magic, and yes, you do want to share in the wrongness. It's the only serio-fantastic novel I can recall that can stand next to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell without blushing. And I say that with the author here, because it isn't often I get to gush at an author where it's due. The lagniappe at the end is worth the price of admission.

Stephan, I hope you're writing another at least half as good.

#169 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 04:16 PM:

Aside from the cost, and the fact that aerogel shatters like glass (which it is, after all), it's terribly vulnerable to a water attack. When aerogel gets wet, it stops being a super-light glass and becomes a glass that is heavier than the fat it was supposed to replace.

#170 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 04:23 PM:

fidelio wrote: Consider the motivation for staying in shape if you have to work out at the gym naked.

Remember etymology: "Gymnasium" is a word for the place we go to get naked. Of course, etymology does lead us down strange pathways. Are those orchids, or did your jockstrap spring a leak?

#171 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 04:38 PM:

There's a reason for the Pectoral of Doom on armor too. The thing about armouring your torso is that a plate that goes all the way across your chest will prevent you from swinging your sword. As you thin it down you go from hurting your arms to ripping off your nipples to not protecting anything in the neighborhood of your shoulders. So you add one or more overlapping layers.

That, coupled with fluting (which also has a practical purpose), creates a lot of room for pointless decoration.

Also, what most of us think of as armor was only around for the last 15 minutes of the middle ages, and that a lot of museum stuff is not so much a piece of military equipment as it is either a costume or a sporting good.

#172 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 04:40 PM:

Wizard has recently been re-printing their lessons in a series of 'How To Draw' books.
Terry Moore's lesson was in volume 1; the main reason I bought that book.

That's the only reason I bought the book, the other stuff in there I enjoyed was just gravy. Or maybe icing.

I agree with the Crusie-love. She has my eternal respect as someone who not only recognizes the value of comedy in romance but someone who can write a very passionate sex scene without ever getting medical or "throbbing."

#173 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 06:34 PM:

I have heard that the Battle of Culloden, in 1746, was the last time that the "throw off your plaid and charge screaming, 'naked', at the opposition" technique was used. Certainly the Scots/Celts did not triumph there.

#174 ::: Ian Myles Slater ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 06:50 PM:

I went on at some length about the "Teuton" problem because it explains a certain amount of modern confusion about who "the barbarians" were at any given time.

Marius seems to have largely completed a process of professionalizing the Legions that had started long before; particularly by following the logic of state-issued standard equipment to open the ranks to the poor. And notably by enforcing an even fiercer march-discipline. His solders became known as "Marius' Mules" because they carried their own burdens, instead of passing them on to non-combatants who had to be fed and housed, besides slowing the army.

However, if one can trust Polybius -- and he is usually considered pretty trustworthy -- Roman discipline, and the tactics it supported, was already making a big difference in fighting the Gauls in Northern Italy back at the beginning of the Second Punic War, and was a factor even earlier. His account of the long struggle against the Cisalpine Gauls, covering events from about 399 BC to about 200 BC, is found in Book II, Chapters 13-35, of "The Histories." (This is available, in a nineteenth century translation, on the Perseus site, starting at http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0234&layout=&loc=2.13).

(The passages are also available in the Loeb Classical Library, and in the Penguin Classics selection as "The Rise of the Roman Empire," both of which I prefer.)

Polybius is rather harsh on his fellow Greeks for letting themselves be intimidated by the Celts (Gauls, Galatians) in the East; but the states of Hellenistic Greece may really have lacked the manpower and economic resources to cope more effectively than they did.

By the way, he does in fact mention in passing Gauls "naked behind their shields," and in Book 2, chapter 28, for about 225 B.C. he has a set-piece description: "The Insubres and the Boii wore their trousers and light cloaks, but the Gaesatae had been moved by their thirst for glory and their defiant spirit to throw away these garments, and so they took up their positions in front of the whole army naked and wearing nothing but their arms. They believed that they would be better–equipped for action in this state, as the ground was in places overgrown with brambles and these might catch in their clothes and hamper them in the use of their weapons." (Penguin).

The Gaesatae were, according to Polybius, mercenaries; but the name seems to mean "spear-fighters" (anyone else reminded of Cuchulain's "gae bolga"?). His rationalization may also be wrong.

#175 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 07:27 PM:

Elise wrote: I read the entire thread too, but I'm a word woman.

*swoon*

#176 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 08:11 PM:

Xopher: I don't know about the other stuff, but the codpieces are for real. They're if anything understated in modern depictions. And they were not only stuffed, but elaborately decorated to call additional attention to them. For example, they could be covered with feathers or tiny mirrors.

And in modern times, LEDs. With sequencing circuits to *really* draw attention. And then there's Priapus of Borg

#177 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 09:11 PM:

Couple things:

1. I have noticed bras with molded cups as a current fashion design. I wonder just who they are supposed to fit on.... there are lots of the things in stores these days. Are there really women whose shapes those things conform to in significant percentages?!

2.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/timdawks/135436197/ Henry VIII's armor, including a piece that has been on display, and off-display, over the centuries....

#178 ::: Kayjay ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 09:38 PM:

<deeply in love with this thread>

#179 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 10:09 PM:

1. I have noticed bras with molded cups as a current fashion design. I wonder just who they are supposed to fit on.... there are lots of the things in stores these days. Are there really women whose shapes those things conform to in significant percentages?!

Natural, non-styrofoam breasts are, y'know, squishy, so they conform to the bra rather than vice-versa. Else why have a bra? I suspect the molded cups give excellent support.

#180 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 11:13 PM:

Susan posited:

Natural, non-styrofoam breasts are, y'know, squishy, so they conform to the bra rather than vice-versa. Else why have a bra? I suspect the molded cups give excellent support.

I suspect that moulded cups are, as usual, comfortable for the mythical average woman ;)

#181 ::: morfydd ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 11:15 PM:

"I've noticed that in science-fiction novels of serious intent written by men, women's breasts are frequently specifically described as being small, even if the women don't get much physical description otherwise."

This is true. However, once I was deeply weirded out by one SF novel in which the heroine was specifically described as having *huge* breasts... and the cover art had her with *tiny* breasts.

This went against everything I've ever known about SF cover art.

(Larissa, by Emily Davenport. Amazon has a decent cover shot.)

#182 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2006, 11:45 PM:

Is it a safari weirdness or something that the text on the last three messages in this thread are virtually illegible due to text color? I did not change any settings.... And the last thread I looked into was okay to read.

#183 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 12:51 AM:

Molded bra cups;

The proportions are okay, and no visible seams or that weird leprous look that lace sometimes gives under thin fabrics. But that said, they're hotter than hell because they don't breathe, and once the fabric pulls away from the cup, it goes..uh.. downhill from there. Molded bras are in the "bras with their own boobs" category, which is very unforgiving of the otherwise unnoticeably lopsided.
I'm still snorting over "sounds like mice wrestling..."

#184 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 12:57 AM:

that weird leprous look, or, when Lovecraft writes the text for a bra ad.

#185 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 01:10 AM:

i have gotten to like bras with some padding. i like my breasts, & certainly don't wish for them to be larger, but...

i am a comic creator. & being a young, female one, i am my own booth babe.

& they keep san diego comic con cold these days. i'd really rather have an extra bit of foam between me & my t-shirt, if you see what i mean.

#186 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 01:10 AM:

Ok, here's a question: When did the fascination with breasts become so hypersexualized? We currently live in a culture that absolutely freaked out over a "wardrobe malfunction" that lasted a microsecond. Yet, the nude breast is quite common in the public arena in other Western countries. Are Americans more immature or just puritanical? I don't recall gi-normous breasts in comics back in the 70s tho I think they started to grow in the 80s. Was there a culture shift or was I just not paying attention when I was 8?

#187 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 01:14 AM:

For a wonderful deconstruction of fantasy armour, may I recommend the Esther Freisner "Chicks in Chainmail" series, especially the stories about the Brass Bra League. Good heavens, what chutzpah!

#188 ::: Dr Paisley ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 01:18 AM:

Art History--it's not just about discussing foreshortening and chiaroscuro.

Suffering from foreshortening? Try the little blue pill.

But if your chiaroscuro lasts more than four hours, see your doctor immediately. Then write a blog post about it.

#189 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 01:20 AM:

Mark DF, that is an excellent question.
Instead of anyone going "oh, poor thing" when Janet's breast popped out, there was this huge tantrum. It's only getting worse--I went on an hour-long rant the other day, because I was flipping through the channels, and one of those plastic surgery shows was on. Obviously a breast reduction, augmentation, or reconstruction, with some of the interior tissue and a little blood showing. And they blurred the *nipple* out. TLC is now blurring the nipples on *depictions* of women--like tattoos, sculptures, Ukiyo-e.
WTF, over?

#190 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 01:33 AM:

Mark, I was around when Munroe and Jane Russell and the other one, Miss United Dairies herself, Jayne Mansfield - not to mention Anita Eckberg, Diana Dors, Mamie van Doren, Sabrina et al - were, um, prominent. Slightly earlier we had - in the chaste, non-biblical sense - Virginia Mayo, Lana Turner, and earlier still the inimitable Mae West, whose puppies, though never displayed on screen, were sufficiently bodacious to have a flotation device named after them.

I am here to say that although mammary hypertrophy was certainly more common after 1965, this was essentially because it was, how shall we say this delicately, achievable without relying on what nature alone has provided. The fashion was always there.

Which leads me away into the realms of birds of paradise and other speculations. Reading Dr Tatiana has this effect on me. Do pardon me. What were you saying?

Oh, and you're right. Whatever was I thinking, getting involved in the Roman army, of all things? I beg your pardon, again.

#191 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 01:47 AM:

The fashion was always there, but was the fear? Of course they're sexy, but so are a lot of things.
Did I dream this, or did Ashcroft once order an obscenely overpriced giant blue velvet curtain made to cover Blind Justice's terrifying bronze juggy?

#192 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 01:50 AM:

Not a dream.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1788845.stm

#193 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 02:09 AM:

You may know that the US government is pushing laws to make it highly illegal for a website to not warn that it contains nakedness. This is after killing off the proposed .xxx top-level domain which was intended to make the nature of the site obvious.

Now, I'm not so directly concerned with what lunacies the US government comes up with inside the USA, but what right have they to deny the rest of the world easy access to vile and perverted filth of the sort that has converted Europe to a sea of chaos and barbarism?

#194 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 02:14 AM:

Converted?

#195 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 02:18 AM:

Munroe and Jane Russell

Should read "Monroe." Charles Munroe is remembered wrt blowing things up, but not in that particular way.

#196 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 02:20 AM:

Nudity warnings? By the way, does anybody know what the Skiffy Channel did when it recently showed Planet of the Apes? There was this scene in the original theatrical release where an ape rips away Heston's clothing, thus exposing the Heston buns.

#197 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 03:05 AM:

"thus exposing the Heston buns."

Cold and dead, no doubt.

#198 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 07:23 AM:

Along with his hands, you mean?

#199 ::: jGraydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 07:49 AM:

J Austin --

The neocon right are misogynists; serious, severe, if-they're-people-I'm-scum, no-third-option Divine Order misogynists.

Which means that they'd like to declare all women useless, but they can't, because they can't procreate without them.

If the neocons weren't such intense misogynists, they could conclude that procreation was the chief importance, rather like some of the vague and amiable sorts in the nineteenth; since they are intense misogynists, and generally pretty sick and twisted about it into the bargain, they've decided that procreation is the only value of women.

Sex gets collapsed into procreation because they need some alleged moral justification for being against all the twentieth century reproductive tech that starts to even out the unevenness of biology. (And they are, too; they're against automation and mechanization of labour, at least for other people, not just contraception.) If they weren't against that, it would be much more difficult -- though one would think it ought to be impossible now -- to argue that the only value of women is procreation.

So that's about 1950, neocon theory wise; in the subsequent half century, it becomes obvious that women are valuable in large degree and many ways; that technologically fully decoupling sex and reproduction is a massive, massive net win for individuals and society; and that facts work better than morals.

So the neocons could change their minds -- which would involve acknowledging that they're ghastly perverted[1] and dealing with their conception of evil being wildly in error -- or they can increase the intensity and inflexibility of their opposition to the exists of sex as a social mechanism.

We're now observing a "the Empress of Austria has no legs" stage, where all indications of the indications of the possibility of sex are equated with evil, acceptable feminine behaviour is intensely ritualized, masculine behaviour has the empty defintion of 'not feminine!' and because of the degree of evil being attached to hardwired desires, more people are getting badly twisted up.

[1] there's the happy creative sort of perverted that stems from the connection of imagination and desire; there's the ghastly sort of perverted that stems from the connection of fear or disgust and desire. It would be handy if there were distinct words for the two, highly distinct, states, but I don't happen to know what they are if such distinct terms exist.

#200 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 08:20 AM:

As far as the hypersensitivity issue. Yes, we are generally puritanical as a people. We've also been rather obviously hypocritical, which comes with the territory when you decide to deny fundamental aspects of human nature. (Remember Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter?)

As far as the "wardrobe malfunction" -- and again what a sad commentary on our (their?) society such a euphamism is -- I think someone (I forget whether it was Anne Bishop or David Eddings) hit the nail on the head several years back:

A nice, young, pretty woman was going to be burned as a witch. Why? Because, she said, every time the priest looked at her he had nasty, fleshly, sexual thoughts. And, since as a man of God he couldn't possibly have such thoughts on his own, he decided she must be a witch and be putting the thoughts there to tempt him to sin.

Same philosophy applies ... it's not that they don't like them that makes it troubling, it's that they do. So they want to destroy or remove the source of the temptation. Never mind the fundamental problem that according to their own philosophy, you gain God's grace and approval by resisting temptation, not by eliminating it. Living in a sanitized, non-tempting environment does not make you holy or religious or even good, just afraid.

#201 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 08:48 AM:

Never mind the fundamental problem that according to their own philosophy, you gain God's grace and approval by resisting temptation, not by eliminating it. Living in a sanitized, non-tempting environment does not make you holy or religious or even good, just afraid.

I agree with you and with Milton that: "I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat." That only works in a Protestant context, though. Cloistering oneself from temptation is considered a holy and virtuous practice in a range of other faiths--both Christian and non.

However, back to Milton--I think he can help in this thread. Didn't he say, "Seeing therefore that those boobs, and those in great abundance, which are likeliest to taint both life and doctrine cannot be suppressed....and that these boobs of either sort are most and soonest catching to the learned (from whom to the common people whatever is heretical or dissolute may quickly be conveyed), and that evil manners are as perfectly learnt without boobs a thousand other ways which cannot be stopped, and evil doctrine not with boobs can propagate...I am not able to unfold how this cautelous enterprise of licensing can be exempted from the number of vain and impossible attempts."

Or something like that, anyway.

#202 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 11:18 AM:

Is it a safari weirdness

Apparently so, since a) no one else has commented on it, and b) I don't see the problem in IE:mac 5.2, though I do in Safari 1.3.2.

But starting with an unsuccessful link timed at 9:11 PM yesterday, the text has been pale straw color on a gray ground, switching to white if I mouse across it (is that a verb?)

#203 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 11:39 AM:

It seems to be. Safari isn't auto-closing the <a /> tag in Paula Lieberman's message of 9:11. A self-closing anchor with no properties is not of any value, but it shouldn't break things. I think other browsers auto-close tags on leaving divs, which Safari's authors think violates the standards. They may be right, but it means things with bad markup that work in other browsers break for Safari.

#204 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 11:47 AM:

but it means things with bad markup that work in other browsers break for Safari

Possibly it should be considered as an argument for better markup? (I put the close codes in myself.)

#205 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 11:55 AM:

It's a KHTML thing, rather than a Safari thing; it shows up in Konqueror, too.

If the anchor tag is open, I suspect all subsequent text gets your default anchor label colour; how this is getting to effect the text in the Note: block above the comment window is less clear to me.

I'm still with PJ Evans; I'd like to see a lot more "w3c validation without errors or warnings or you don't get paid" web development contracts, rather than "it looks good in $BROWSER"

#206 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 12:00 PM:

Well, < /> is technically closed, it's just useless (unless I'm missing something). It's valid to have an anchor without a name, id, or href, but it shouldn't be minimal form. The rationale is that you'll add something useful with a script.

Asking the internet for better markup is notoriously unsucessful.

#207 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 12:02 PM:

(note: I was missing something and that thing was the 'a' inside the tag above).

Graydon:Yes, but, the bad markup came in a comment to this blog. Are we going to not pay Paula Lieberman for her comment?

#208 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 12:04 PM:

firedoglake has had trouble with unclosed tags, ususally [i] and [b]. All the comments after the unclosed one get the format, until someone with access fixes the problem.

#209 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 12:08 PM:

blogging software could auto-close all included tags in a post. That'd be nice.

Oh, and I also want a pony.

#210 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 12:08 PM:

Michael --

The w3c validators are simple, cheap -- free! -- and fast, as well as being installable locally. Any service hosting blogs should run the comments through them, as an inescapable default.

#211 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 12:24 PM:

There are a variety of different shapes of human breasts, including melon-like (rounded), torpedo-shaped, etc. Molded cups don't allow for any such variations. Softer cups have a lot more flexibility to them as regarding -fitting-... hmm, I think maybe I need to revert to math stuff, about the differences between flattening out or sharpening up the peak of a curve, versus -shifting- the location of the peak. "Minimizer" bras flatten out the peak doing "bandspreading." The old 1960s things sharpened the peak shoving at all forward into protuberan cones. Molded bras are a lot less flexible and dont allow for a different in where the center of the peak of the curve may be.... the non-molded one had a lot flexibility in adjusting that way.... the fabric could -stretch-.

(Note, I tried going bra shopping a few week ago. UGH. Among other things, the sizing seems to have changed along with the shapings. I HATE the fashion industry!!!!

#212 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 12:29 PM:

I think the wardrobe malfunction was the bluenose equivalent of getting Al Capone for not paying his taxes.

My mother had a friend named L.R. who is a classic conservative WASP. I will momentarily channel her:


"It wan't just that. I mean, for god's sake they had an ad with an exploding horse fart. Things really have just gone too far."


. . . it did seem a little like the advertisers were in some sort of teenage push-the-limits escalation which cut WAY back after the Wardrobe Malfunction of Doom. But I watch about twelve minutes of TV a year, so it's possible that the advertisers haven't changed at all.

#213 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 12:58 PM:

(Count me as one of the Safari users irritated by the bad coding that's caused the text to turn beige.)

There are a variety of different shapes of human breasts, including melon-like (rounded), torpedo-shaped, etc. Molded cups don't allow for any such variations.

I can't recall ever wearing a bra that was so stretchy it would take on the shape of my breast rather than vice-versa; if the bra is letting my breast go au naturel, then the bra isn't doing it's job. Maybe this is a function of size; I don't have any bras without serious steel in them, either.

Softer cups have a lot more flexibility to them as regarding -fitting-... hmm, I think maybe I need to revert to math stuff, about the differences between flattening out or sharpening up the peak of a curve, versus -shifting- the location of the peak. "Minimizer" bras flatten out the peak doing "bandspreading." The old 1960s things sharpened the peak shoving at all forward into protuberan cones. Molded bras are a lot less flexible and dont allow for a different in where the center of the peak of the curve may be.... the non-molded one had a lot flexibility in adjusting that way.... the fabric could -stretch-.

Stretchy = jiggle effect = undesirable, at least for me. My various bras are all slightly different shapes; one just sort of tucks things in slightly differently to accomodate. It's like squishing around a partly-filled balloon or a beanbag, not reshaping a solid mass of fixed shape.

(Note, I tried going bra shopping a few week ago. UGH. Among other things, the sizing seems to have changed along with the shapings. I HATE the fashion industry!!!!)

It's a tossup whether I see more badly-fitting bras in dressing rooms or badly-fitting corsets at conventions. The latter make me wince more, because people have usually spent more money to get something that doesn't fit correctly. Me, I go ever so often to Town Shop in NYC, even when I'm pretty sure I know what the problem is. (Two weeks ago: lost enough weight to need a larger cup size.) If you can't find stuff that fits, I really recommend a visit to Town Shop or some other place with experienced fitters and the willingness to do alterations if you can't do them yourself.

#214 ::: Northland ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 01:07 PM:

Not only did the Greeks wear armor to fight, they put clothes under it

What, fidelio, you mean this movie won't be historically accurate?

Oh, well. I can think of a couple reasons to see it anyways.

(And to tie all the strands of this comment thread together in one bow, it's based on... Frank Miller.)

#215 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 01:08 PM:

"Note, I tried going bra shopping a few week ago. UGH. Among other things, the sizing seems to have changed along with the shapings. I HATE the fashion industry!!!! "

I have resorted to catalogs--Title Nine in particular which seems to cater to real women of different sizes who don't spend their days in camisoles draped across their beds. They're on-line (www.titlenine.com) but hold out for their catalog--not because of the selection (which I am assuming is the same) but because the catalogs make for great reading. Every other page or so features a beautiful woman doing something other than staring off into the distance (you know, real work, real fun) with captions like "Deborah. 37. Champion surfer. Favorite book: Don Quixote. Is a marine biologist who loves to grow arugula." or something along those lines. A real hoot! (...on this thread: no pun intended...)

#216 ::: dave ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 01:21 PM:

Graydon:
> The w3c validators are simple, cheap -- free! --
> and fast, as well as being installable locally.
> Any service hosting blogs should run the comments
> through them, as an inescapable default.

TidyText is what you want. It does seem to default to showing nothing if the <div> containing the HTML is not clean, though. Usable with care.

On the topic of molded bras, they're quite popular here (Hong Kong) with the local and other Asian ladies who, naturally gifted with an A*, arrive at a B with the wonders of lingerie (and a lot of padding).

* ( The Chinese would describe a very slender lady like that as a 'Fei Gei Chung' or Airport, meaning that "you could land an airplane on her, she's so flat".)

Also, given the local tendency to have office air-conditioning set at 16°C, a well-padded bra is probably good at minimising distraction in the office. Heck, *my* nipples went SPUNG! in one office and I'm certainly not gifted with an XX chromosome.

#217 ::: Trip the Space Parasite ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 01:46 PM:

morfydd: "... once I was deeply weirded out by one SF novel in which the heroine was specifically described as having *huge* breasts... and the cover art had her with *tiny* breasts. ... (Larissa, by Emily Davenport. Amazon has a decent cover shot.)"

Oh yes, the painted-on cleavage. I found that bizarre too.

However, it did not completely violate the norms of SF cover art, as the heroine was also specifically described in the book as black. :(

#218 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 01:57 PM:

jGraydon, do you know what a neocon actually is? The description you're giving look more like an extreme paleo conservative, not a neoconservative. Neocons usually lean towards libertarianism on social policy; their defining attribute is their aggressive interventionist stance on foreign policy.

#219 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 02:00 PM:

I've been looking for tank tops with molded cups for some time, and while they've finally hit the fat lady sizes, I've noticed that there is just too much "cup" at the top. Who gave these designers the idea that someone with a DD cup had as much boob on the top as on the bottom? Perhaps too many comic books?

They'd be great for any large-chested woman who looks like she has cantaloupes stapled to her chest though!

#220 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 02:02 PM:

Dave, it's far from clear that the .xxx top-level domain would have performed any useful function. The ICANN report on it (and the .kids TLD) said it "does not appear to meet unmet needs" and recommended against its adoption.

#221 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 02:11 PM:

Ross: Why do I get the impression there are any number of puns on the word "mammoth" lurking on the outskirts of this train of thought, awaiting the slightest excuse to protrude? Er, I mean intrude?


Well...I am a filker...

#222 ::: neotoma ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 02:15 PM:

nerdycellist, you might want to look at what's available from Bravissimo, as they have a range of tops with in-built bras in the D-and-more cup sizes.

They might hav exactly what you're looking for.

#223 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 02:16 PM:

All this comic discussion reminds me of the first time I saw Neil Gaiman at a con. I was a big fan of his books, but I had never read his comics.

It was SDComicon a few years ago, and he was doing a Q&A to a packed room. One guy got up and asked Neil why so many girls liked Sandman. Actually, he got kind of a hostile whine in his voice, and stated that "Why is it that if I tell a hot chick I read comics, she says 'Oh, I love Sandman'!? I mean, why is it that so many chicks like your comics?"

It almost sounded like a complaint - why have you let them in to our male domain? - as much as a tacit acknowledgement that regular girls who read comics are beneath notice, on accounta they're not "hot chicks". I was a little shocked by the hostility, frankly. But Neil paused a moment and answered:

"Well, because they're not post-adolescent male power fantasies."

There were a lot of cheers (and a woman in the back yelled that chicks dug Sandman because he was hot) and then Neil continued to patiently explain that like other humans, women enjoy good storytelling.

After that Q&A, I picked up volume 1 of the Sandman collection, and haven't looked back.

I'm afraid I never got into comics as a kid, specifically because I didn't ever see any female I related to on any level. As an adult I am learning to really enjoy the medium, but I'm still grossly uninterested in Superhero comics - although perversely, I do enjoy many Superhero type movies. I blame Hugh Jackman.

#224 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 02:37 PM:

A friend of ours tried to cure her post-X-men crush on Hugh Jackman [name is correct, but looks wrong today] by going to see "The Boy From Oz" and it just made it worse.

[apropos of nothing.]

#225 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 02:47 PM:

Northland, the Spartans tended to be pretty open to limited clothing--it was part of their training, after all, to send their young men out to cope with as little clothing as possible, in order to accustom them to tolerating bad weather with indifference. However, when it came down to the fighting, pretty much all of the Greeks went for something under the armor, and anyone who's worn armor will be happy to explain why--probably in more colorful language than Teresa will tolerate here.

See Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe, Volume I for a good overview of the Spartans, as well as his take on Xerxes' reaction to the news the Spartans were spending the night before the fighting began at Thermopylae fixing their hair nicely, so as to make good-looking corpses. Alas, I doubt that this line will make it into the movie, but it's priceless, and may very well have been what Xerxes was actually thinking at the time.

For a more scholarly view, see ancient writers like Plutarch and Xenophon. Lycurgus' demonstration of the virtues of training over breeding by way of small dogs is one for the ages.

#226 ::: GeneralBT ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 03:02 PM:

Another thing to keep in mind when looking at the Greeks and fighting is that while the visual evidence that has been left behind, vases, frescoes, etc. all depict naked fighting, we've gotta remember that those are depictions of an artistic ideal...

heh... once again, back to Mr. Miller. Just like "styrofoam breasts" aren't the way real things worked, the Greeks never fought in the nude. *shrug*

As for the Celts, supposedly...

#227 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 03:04 PM:

And I'm sure there are ridiculous armor illustrations out there (never really looked). But some extreme things are real: there really was med/ren armor in which the knight could barely walk. I use the term 'knight' advisedly; they were for cavalry use only. Sometimes the guy had to be lifted onto his horse with a crane.

Xopher, do you have a cite for that within the Renaissance? What I've heard is that the crane thing dates from an Edwardian musical called When Knights Were Bold, but the only review I've found for it (in Punch magazine) didn't give any details. So if you have a counter citation, I'd be definitely interested.

There's a potential sub-topic about the size of medieval and Renaissance horses, and how much they could carry. The big fellas like Clydesdales seem to have been bred for the plough, not for war or tourney.

#228 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 03:11 PM:

Everything I've ever heard of read indicates that armor, even the full plate suits, didn't hinder mobility significantly unless it was badly fitted or made. The weight was distributed fairly evenly over the body, so the effect was mostly to slow movement a bit, especially if you weren't used to the weight (AKA out of training) A back-and-breastplate unit might force one to bend the back in specific places only, and gauntlets tended to limit fine manual dexterity, but that was about it. Certainly the armor-wearers I've known haven't shown signs of severely limited mobility, and I don't know of any who can't get up from the ground unless they have other problems limiting them at that time. (Pig-faced bascinets that get stuck in mud are only one of these problems.)

#229 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 03:16 PM:

nerdycellist, I'm with you. Love the Sandman comics, love superhero movies, never did get into superhero comics. It's odd.

(That may be more a function of lack of money and scarce availability of comics at libraries, though. If I knew I could check out the entire Ultimate Spiderman series at the library, for instance, I probably would. Maybe I should check to see if they have Alan Moore...)

#230 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 03:20 PM:

The big fellas like Clydesdales seem to have been bred for the plough, not for war or tourney.

In fact they seem not to have existed in time to be war horses: A Clyde or Shire stands 16-17-or more hands. There's a decree of Henry VIII (forgive me if I don't look out the actual legal term in case it's not a decree) requiring landowners to keep stallions of a minimum of _15_ hands (a hand is four inches, and if two horses are built to the same proportion a single inch can make a significant difference in bulk).

This strongly indicates that the big draft horses were bred later for, well, draft (drawing weights).

#231 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 03:30 PM:

Or beer!

#232 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 03:30 PM:

If you want to see the ideal knight's horse, look at the Lippizan. They are usually under 16 hands in height.

One of the skills required of knights was that they be able to vault into the saddle from the ground. I wouldn't want to try this with anything over 16 hands...

#233 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 03:51 PM:

I'm reminded here of one specific instruction given by Rebecca Borgstrom in her notes to the artists for Nobilis:

"A Noble female's breasts are invariably smaller than her head. Even if you think of an exception, don't draw her."

The times I've wished some variant of that had been nailed to the wall of some art department or other have been... numerous.

#234 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 03:54 PM:

Hugh Jackman has a lot to answer for, nerdycellist... Not only does he have the looks, but he is actually quite a nice person.

Meanwhile, I am waiting for somebody to release the DVD of his movie paperback hero, where he plays a trucker Downunder who's a closet romance writer.

#235 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 03:56 PM:

"A Noble female's breasts are invariably smaller than her head. Even if you think of an exception, don't draw her."

I have to say, I have yet to meet a woman with a breast larger than her head... thinking... nope. Not one that I can recall.

#236 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 03:56 PM:

I believe I heard of Henry VIII having been conveyed by crane onto his horse for a tourney near the end of his reign. This was not normal, as Tourneys were at that point entirely ceremonial, and he was the King. The crane had less to do with the weight of his armor than his own physical limitations.

Mind you, this could be another Tudor Urban Legend, but it's plausible; the various Henry VIII armors on display at the Tower of London are certainly instructional.

#237 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 05:09 PM:

What little that I have read about knight's horses, or destriers, is that they were not as tall or bulky as the largest draft breeds, such as the Clydesdale and Shire mentioned above. But according to some, the big draft horses are definitely the descendants of the Great Horse.

#238 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 05:13 PM:

Fragano L.: "Along with his hands, you mean?"

Yup, that's what I was thinking of.

#239 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 05:50 PM:

Avram --

The American neocons, at best, are willing to accept a tradeoff of localized theocracy in return for political support.

The multiple criticisms of libertarian positions, and how they both fail to support liberty for anyone but the already-prosperous male segment of the population and depend on a belief in counter-factual positions, to my mind entirely removes the argument of libertarian position as a defense of such conduct; while it is wrong to do evil in the pursuit of some tangible good, it is worse to do evil in the pursuit of personal advantage.

#240 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 05:53 PM:

'I have to say, I have yet to meet a woman with a breast larger than her head... thinking... nope. Not one that I can recall.'

I've seen at least one. I'm saying at least cause the breasts were noticeably bigger, there could be no argument.

I've also seen some doubtful cases, but had no reason to measure.

#241 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 06:40 PM:

>

#242 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 06:43 PM:

>linked text

okay, I'm attempting to close some sort of html tag. I wonder if this will work.

#243 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 06:55 PM:

On the subject of bras, there are very two good posts on Bitch Ph.D. about finding bras that fit:
Girly stuff: the Ultimate Bra Post
More Bra Advice--from a Bra Wizard, no less

As with Making Light, don't skip the comments.

#244 ::: sharon32AA ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 07:02 PM:

Personally (but I'm biased) I can't help thinking that these or these are more likely descendants of the Great Horses than your Clydesdales or Shires. Not (quite) as big but just as powerful.

Not that you want any of them standing on your foot.

#245 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 07:12 PM:

The business about armored knights being immobile, unable to board their horses, vulnerable to large lodestones, etcetera and so forth, has been disposed of so many times and in so many places that its survival would be rather odd, at least if we weren't very familiar with the mode of transmission.

I can think of three different TV series that deal directly with this issue: Arms in Action, produced by the Royal Armouries, Mike Loades's The Weapons that Made Britain, and Peter Woodward's Conquest.* All three illustrate by example, having people wear suits o'plate (of modern manufacture, but accurate weight and design) and Do Athletic Stuff. In the Armouries series, one of their historical presenters does cartwheels; in the other programs, stunt people actually fight (both Loades and Woodward are fight arrangers). The obvious point being, if you cannot move in your clangybritches, you cannot fight (never mind run away), and fighting is supposed to be why you're wearing the stuff at all. Regardless of what Uther Penannular-Brooch does in Mr Boorman's interestin' film.

#246 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 07:46 PM:

I hope it was obvious, but just in case: Bluff King Hal's object in requiring the 15-hand breeding horses was to increase the size and usefulness of the equine population, hence the implication that the run of the mill was smaller than that.

I don't doubt that all the modern heavy breeds link back to the Great Horses eventually (agricultural adaptation of outmoded military technology?). The question is how much they've been modified since they were changed over. It's surprising how readily horse breeds can still respond to selection for increased height, with or without coordinated heft. It may well be that something like the Suffolk or indeed the Lipizzan is closer to what knighthood flowered on. The big stylish Shires and Clydes were dray horses more specialized for city use.

My grandfather and his brothers bred draft horses back in the day, and for their use on Maryland mostly-tobacco farms the purebred Percheron was actually too big to get into the corners.

#247 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 08:29 PM:

bryan, well I admit I'm surprised, although I shouldn't be, given the large variations in the human species (although less, I'd think, than in dogs or horses).

#248 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 08:47 PM:

For all those ladies, and maybe gents, who're visibly cold at the cons, Bliss Spas has "nipple concealers" called Low Beams. A lot chic-er than round band-aids, I suppose. Maybe they work better.
Paula Lieberman--I'm with you on bra shopping, and shopping in general, actually. I got kicked out of Lane Bryant for being too skinny, but nothing in regular wear fits, either. I cried.

On to comic books. I read the hell out of them as a kid, along with SF and Fantasy. I had two older brothers, and as soon as they dropped the comic, I was all over it. That makes me very picky where movie adaptations are concerned, though I try to keep the limitations of movies in mind while I bitch silently in my seat. I never really noticed the way women were depicted, because the men were always my favorite characters, and they weren't very realistic, either. Now, the teta-to-everything-else ratio totally cracks me up.

#249 ::: Rasselas ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 10:13 PM:

Dude, Peter Woodward's Conquest ruled. Wish it was still on.

#250 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 11:43 PM:

I have been told that the nearest modern equivalent to a knightly destrier is the Irish heavy hunter, which usually goes about 16 hands, sometimes taller, but is not as short-coupled as a draught horse, and is definitely capable of carrying weight at a gallop.

As for armour, may I add my two cents' worth: one must not be misled by late armour for the joust, or 'parade' panoply. Field armour weighed about 30 kilos or so, well short of what a modern infantryman is required to carry in full field pack, and the weight was distributed over the whole body. It was fatiguing to wear it for long periods, but for the short intense melees that usually resolved medieval battles - and it was unusual for a battle to last more than a couple of hours - it was not restrictive. If you can't dance in it, you can't fight in it. Knights, as has been said, mounted their horses no stirrups in their armour; they also climbed seige ladders and ran up stairs.

No doubt this would require a high level of aerobic fitness, and considerable strength. But these exercises are not out of the way for trained troops of any era.

#251 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 11:54 PM:

Dave Luckett wrote:

No doubt this would require a high level of aerobic fitness, and considerable strength. But these exercises are not out of the way for trained troops of any era.

I'd have to say (based on my experience with the SCA), that a high level of aerobic fitness is requried to be -good- at running about in armour, but only average fitness is required to be -sufficient at running about in armour. YMMV of course.

#252 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2006, 11:55 PM:

Testing to see if this turns a helpful color

#253 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2006, 12:56 AM:

There is a breed of draft horse in Normandy that is pretty much untouched since the middle ages. I vaguely recall a program on PBS (?it was long ago) where they followed the route of the crusades into the middle east, they had to get special permission to walk the horse across the bridge from Jordan to Israel, nothing so outlandish had ever been asked before.

However (and a reason draft horses are bred with lighter horses for a large hunter....) it's ride was so shockingly hard on the rider that they had to walk it part of the way and eventually got a horse just for riding alongside and leading the draft horse, I can't rememer the word for it.. (. Draft horses have shorter pasterns (the 'ankle' between the hoof and the next bend up in the leg, and shorter backs which means less flexibility) and their 'ride' is very stiff and hard compared to the riding breeds.

That said, the one pure blood Percheron horse they use in the jousts at our renaissance festival Really Digs his job. He's prancing and jumping and acting like a butthead waiting for his 'go' signal.

#254 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2006, 03:21 AM:

'bryan, well I admit I'm surprised, although I shouldn't be, given the large variations in the human species (although less, I'd think, than in dogs or horses).'

I think there is probably less variation in horses, but I read an article a couple years back in a science magazine which said that dogs had the greatest range of genetic variation of any species in the world.

#255 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2006, 03:58 AM:

Apropos of America's titty obsession, I offer this anecdote. I found it on the Web one evening and haven't been able to find it again, so salt it well before consuming.

Supposedly, an anthropologist in (IIRC) Nigeria who was working in a region where women traditionally go topless had the following conversation:

WOMEN: You study all types of human nature, right?

ANTHROPOLOGIST: Pretty much.

WOMEN: Okay, we have a question about American tourists.

ANTHROPOLOGIST: Shoot.

WOMEN: Why do they do that thing with their eyes? You know, where they stare at us for a second and then turn red and look away? Except for some of the men; they just stare.

ANTHROPOLOGIST: Well, it's probably your breasts.

WOMEN: Huh?

ANTHROPOLOGIST: Americans aren't used to seeing naked breasts. Women in the U.S. cover up all the time.

WOMEN: We noticed. We thought it was because you folks get sunburned so easily. (Sunburned breasts--ouch, ouch, ouch.) *sympathetic shudders*

ANTHROPOLOGIST: Well, that's part of it. The other reason is that most Americans think that breasts are a private thing.

WOMEN: What, as in shameful? That's weird.

ANTHROPOLOGIST: No, as in incredibly sexy.

WOMEN: BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Wait--you mean most American men think breasts are sexy?

ANTHROPOLOGIST: Yes.

WOMEN: Grown men.

ANTHROPOLOGIST: That's right.

WOMEN: Ew. Creepy. So, do their wives have to burp them after sex?

If it's true, it puts our solemn scientific attempts to explain why "the average human male" loves titties so much into a new light. I wonder what else we think is hardwired into the human brain because "everybody" does it?

#256 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2006, 04:04 AM:

Paula, would that be "palfrey"?

Knights usually rode a saddlehorse and changed over to the warhorse only when needed. This may have been because the destrier lost condition on the march unless husbanded, as well as because its ride was harsh. And, of course, it had a chest like the arch of a church, so you had to ride with your legs 'way, 'way apart.

#257 ::: Ian Myles Slater ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2006, 03:11 PM:

The report from Nigeria (or wherever) was interesting; but an anthropologist should have learned at some point that whatever part of the female body is regularly concealed can be given an erotic value by males -- the nape of the neck in traditional Japan (if I am correctly informed), and, notoriously, women's ankles in Victorian Britain.

There are counter-examples. Anyone familiar with the ancient/medieval religious art of India will have noticed that the Goddesses and Apsarases ("nymphs"), and a lot of mortal women, are portrayed as bare-breasted (which seems to have been unexceptional at certain periods) -- but often in a "typically American" style. Including some reasonable body-doubles for some versions of She-Hulk, Power Girl, etc.

Anyone wishing to use this information to redefine Power Girl's "real" origin, the next time she is retconned, or the DC Universe is re-booted, is welcome to the suggestion. She's already been a Kryptonian, an Atlantean, a Kryptonian again, and I'm not sure what else! Something along the lines of Wonder Woman and the Olympians, but based in a non-Western mythology, might be welcome change, and dodge continuity issues.

But, regardless of how well it was handled, it probably would provoke outrage among the self-style Hindu "faithful," as witness the "Xena" affair, so I'm not encouraging it.

#258 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2006, 03:33 PM:

I'm glad the link I found and passed on has caused so much gleeful and fruitful discussion, but sheesh!

Teresa starts you out with a perfectly nice collection of butt- and crotch-shots, and before I know it you're talking about Roman military tactics, medieval armor, and breeds of horses. Can't you folks keep your minds out of the gutter?

#259 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2006, 04:22 PM:

Clifton: Demonstrably not.

--Mary Aileen

#260 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2006, 04:28 PM:

Thanks, David, that's the word I was seeking and not finding....

#261 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2006, 04:45 PM:

Clifton: The gutter? No...it's an aqueduct.

#262 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2006, 05:01 PM:

Ian, since the Indians of India have their own nuclear weapons, we obviously cannot insult their religion.

(But so do the Muslims of Pakistan, Still, they play cricket, so they're obviously not the same sort of raghead.)

#263 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2006, 05:33 PM:

Dave Bell: See Syriana, in which a cricket-playing Pakistani worker becomes a suicide bomber.

#264 ::: Ian Myles Slater ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2006, 05:59 PM:

For those not familiar with the "Xena" controversy, the episode "The Way" featured the beloved Monkey-deity Hanuman, and prayers to Lord Krishna, besides being set in an ancient India which may have slightly less distorted than the "Xena"/"Hercules" version of ancient Greece (or anywhere else).

When originally broadcast, the episode was widely perceived as unusually tasteful, some care having been taken to consult Hindus while it was in production. Gabrielle's resulting adoption of satyagraha (non-violence) was a major theme (if "historically" plausible only Xena/Hercules standards). And it was a significant event in the series.

"The Way" was later denounced as disrespectful and offensive, largely, it seems, on the basis of rumors. Or with disregard for what was actually aired, or perhaps some confusion with other television shows, and movies. See, for a summary of the controversy from a Xena-phile viewpoint, http://www.poky.net/xac/xac.html

Besides the claim by opponents that the program itself was *inherently* immoral (since "everyone knows" that Xena and Gabrielle are lovers...), the campaign included the assertion that Xena was shown to beat up Hanuman. In fact, I don't think that she ever managed to land a blow when he materialized in her camp without warning. Given her remarkable success in combat with Olympians, this alone showed considerable deference to a living religion. (He eventually gets to deliver his message.)

As mentioned, a lot of media representations of Hinduism are really bad. But this one was actually fairly good, by entertainment-industry standards. I wish they had shown as much respect for Taoists when they included Lao-tzu in the series! (I really liked the idea of making his wife the brains of the operation -- but still, Taoism, too is a living religion, and Lao-tzu is not only a Sage but a God....)

Not to mention the rather weird take on the Nativity story in a Christmas episode of "Xena."

#265 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2006, 10:13 PM:

Lin Daniel says of the Miller cover art: 'That's not a human girl.' I say you can't get someone into that position without pain. And you still won't have a tit in that location.

#266 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2006, 09:28 AM:

There's a good bit of extant barding, isn't there? Couldn't someone with connections at the Met or the Tower get access to it and measure the inside dimensions and work out how big (or small) a horse would have to be to wear it (and then do a scholarly book on it)--?

And after spending many years reading all the non-fiction books on The Horse that I could get as a kid, I realized fairly early on that the amount of mythmaking and passing on of myths unquestioned going on in the horse world was right up there with the "Celtic tradition" in folklore - not sure which would be qualify best for the title of Equitation's Ossian, the myths about Arabians or the myths about destriers or the myths about mustangs, but there's a whole lot of glamourie there, and people get pretty passionate about it, in a canon-vs-fanon way, when various myths get challenged.

#267 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2006, 04:28 PM:

There's a good bit of extant barding, isn't there?

The last barding I saw was at the Fitzgerald in Cambiridge England. The fiberglass display hores seemed, well, horse sized to me.

That being said, the draft horses they keep at the Weald and Downland musuem didn't seem particularly large. Just a lot more rugged.

#268 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2006, 06:25 AM:

Over on the Baen website, in their Free Library, there's something called the Grantville Gazette, which is a group of spinoff stories for Eric Flint's 1632, about a modern West Virginia town which gets transplanted to Germany in 1632.

I think there could be quite a few criticisms of the political aspects of Flint's story, but this particular collection has three background articles, on radio, on antibiotics, and on horse breeding.

I wouldn't want to trust the article on horses without doing some checking, but there's nothing obviously wrong. And it does give a plausible explanation of why modern horses wouldn't contribute much to the time.

Bur one of the constraints on that is the breeding stock shifted through time--the fictional Grantville is based on a real town, and if the real town doesn't have something, neither does Grantville, with a few exceptions.

#269 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2006, 04:51 PM:

Hugh Jackman can kick eye-high, just like a Rockette. (The first time he hosted the Tony Awards--I had to tape the show and watched that bit about 6 times . . ..)

I saw paperback hero on video, many years ago, before Hugh Jackman was Hugh Jackman.

And there's that Australian Oklahoma, where he plays Curly . . . (shows up on PBS once in a while).

*sigh*

#270 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2006, 07:14 PM:

Melissa, you might be interested in knowing that Hugh Jackman is in Superman Returns, in a flash-back where he plays Jonathan Kent. They originally denied that it was true, but eventually it came out. By the way, did you ever see him on Saturday Night Live? There was a skit where he played Superman having a chat with the holographic Jor-el, who was played by Will Ferrell.

#271 ::: Sebastien Bailard ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 03:18 AM:

I wonder how freaky Agatha Heterodyne would look in the real world?

Well, she'd probably have small breasts and short hair. What's so freaky about that?

#272 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 09:53 AM:

Serge:

Thanks. I remain undecided about the Superman movie, though my 10-yo wants to see it . . . which means we will probably go unless the reviews convince me otherwise.

I didn't see that SNL (not really a Will Farrell fan, I hardly watched those years) but it sounds like a good sketch.

Jackman is not my largest crush, but he's certainly one of the prettiest.

#273 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 09:59 AM:

Why are you uncertain about the Superman movie, Melissa? It sounds like someone is finally going to do justice to the character thru the whole movie, not just in parts of it as happened with the 1978 version.

One other movie I'd like to see made, and done right, is Captain America. There IS such a project in the works, but they say they can't get it out before 2009. Interesting timing. Right AFTER the Elections. It's like they don't want to antagonize the GOP because, if it came out in 2008, it'd have to bring up that a Democrat was the President during the War, that Cap also is a Democrat, and that Cap would not approve of what is being done in the name of America. (And yes, the comic-book definitely deals with that.)

#274 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 10:18 AM:

Sebastian --

The model for Agatha is Kaja Foglio, as she looked when she and Phil met.

#275 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 02:12 PM:

Serge:

Burned too many times in the past, I guess, by bad superhero movies. Also, my kid is really starting to get interested in superheroes and comics, and I want to make her experiences positive things. It's practically impossible to find stuff for her to read in the superhero genre; much of today's comics are too dark and violent for her (as a person, not because of her gender). So we have to read the Cartoon Network version of comics, which is better than nothing but means that she doesn't yet have a big comic book/superhero vocabulary.

By the time I was 10, I'd been reading comics for 4 years; she just started last year. I know the comics of the 60s were silly in many (many) ways, but they were good for children and good for people who had never read comics before. Nowadays so many comics seem to assume prior knowledge . . . .

So she's reading manga, where you can start with #1 pretty easily, but again, most of the action/heroic stuff is too nasty for her and most of the "girl" stuff isn't superheroes.

So I'm worried that the new Superman movie will be too intense/dark for my kid. And I'm worried that it will be too effects-driven for me. And I'm worried that it will be unintentionally funny.

#276 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 02:21 PM:

Melissa... I wouldn't worry too much. Sure, there'll be plenty of special-effects. That comes with the territory when the story is about a man who can fly and who catches planes that are falling from the sky. But the movie's director is Bryan Singer, who knows how to do comics-based movies. Yes, there will be humor, but not at the expense of the character, from what I've seen.

#277 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 02:21 PM:

Melissa Singer, check out the Tom Strong compilations. They're good stories but not dark and grisly.

They're kinda expensive, though. I borrowed them from the library.

#278 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 02:25 PM:

I don't know who they've cast for the new Clark Kent/Superman...

But I'll be missing Christopher Reeve.

#279 ::: Sebastien Bailard ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 02:27 PM:

I didn't know that. Girl Genius is one of my favorites, along with
Gnoph.

Phil Foglio's style is interesting; his female characters are easy on the eyes, but since it's not superhero comic style realism, it doesn't seem egregious. Or it may just be that I'm a fan?

I think someone should take young cartoonists and say "Yes you can draw bishonen men/super heros/supermodels. Let's see some variety now. Draw a child. An old man. A skinny woman. A fat man."

One of my favorite characters is Buck Godot, and if he was a traditional buff superhero, I think there would be something missing from the comic.

#280 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 02:53 PM:

Melissa,

I've been reading "Runaways" (Brian K Vaughan) and that shouldn't be unacceptable for kids.

There's death (off screen I *think*, but in the third book there are some pretty big and upsetting deaths) and kissing, but nothing that struck me as too awful. You might want to glance through that to see if you think it's acceptable for your daughter, but I thought "Runaways" was fun.

#281 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 03:13 PM:

If I may recommend a comic-book that'd be appropriate for a kid... Marvel has a one-shot out called Everybody Loves Franklin.

It's a bunch of short comics about the adventures of the son of the leader of the Fantastic Four, but very influenced by Calvin and Hobbes, and not just in the way it's drawn. He's always getting into trouble, wandering into parts of Dad's lab that are off-limits, accidentally activates moth-balled doombots that then try to annihilate him. Luckily, Dad had some explosive soap bubbles lying around.

#282 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 03:48 PM:

And there's that Australian Oklahoma, where he plays Curly . . . (shows up on PBS once in a while).

You sure that's not the UK one from the National in 1998? I actually saw that one live and was completely flabbergasted some five years later when I finally made the connection -- not the brightest marble in the deck, am I -- between the fresh-faced young ingenu (?) singing Curly and the leather-clad hellion of the X-Men films.

#283 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 03:59 PM:

Yes, Anarch, that was a British production of Oklahoma!, directed by Trevor Nun, who also did the movie version of Twelfth Night. The musical is now available on DVD for those so interested.

(And yes, 'ingenu' it is. 'Ingenue' applies only to women.)

#284 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 04:57 PM:

Thanks to everyone for the recs, which I will check out (more please). Cost is definitely a factor, and our library doesn't carry graphic stuff (not to mention that it's barely open at hours we can use it). Death offscreen sometimes a problem but not always. Death onscreen almost always a problem, even with warning. She's just a sensitive person. Kissing okay.

Anarch is right, that Oklahoma is British; I think I thought it must have been Aussie because of Jackman. Lucky Anarch to have seen it live! The last time I saw Oklahoma live was with a tourist friend and it had some former TV actor in it (and not one of the good ones). It was awful. Awful awful awful. I believe it was a touring production that had been brought to NY in the hopes of making a bunch of money. I don't remember how long it lasted.

#285 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 04:59 PM:

(And yes, 'ingenu' it is. 'Ingenue' applies only to women.)

Actually, it kind of isn't; not even the OED recognizes "ingenu" as a word, with or without the accent, even though simple logic/the rules of French dictate it ought to.

Which is an interesting topic in its own right: what other words should exist in English according to similar grammatical rules that apparently don't?

#286 ::: Ian Myles Slater ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 05:03 PM:

Melissa:

It is possible to sample the versions of Superman from the past -- complete stories, including some full issues, minus editorial filler -- at http://superman.ws/superman-comics/. I would think that a fast connnection would be helpful, but not necessary. And that would be a built-in expense.

Your daughter may enjoy some of them, assuming that "remember these are the OLD versions" isn't too confusing for a novice. Now I don't remember kids having had all that much trouble keeping the book, the movie, and the television show of something straight; but this "problem" is sometimes offered as a real concern.

I would single out some Silver Age classics, with exciting action but not much obvious violence; including the very first appearance of a charmingly naive (in our jaded eyes) Kara Zor-El. (Superman's immediate attempt to turn her into a sort of feminine Clark Kent now looks to me like either an odd -- or editorial -- failure of imagination or Otto Binder's very subtle comment on how Kal-El (or his Editor) sees the world.)

Included are a nice selection of the compact science-fiction epics, masquerading as Superman adventures, which were scripted by the great Edmond Hamilton.

However, while the stories from the 1930s-1960s are mostly "kinder and gentler," by the early 1960s the full-to-overflowing Superman Universe was ALREADY much in evidence; and itself may present an obstacle, although not nearly as great as the accumulation of back-story, retcons, and reboots that clog recent storylines, even for dedicated fans.

There are things like a single panel of "Lori the Mermaid" (otherwise Lori Lemaris) offering Superman help against angry Kandorians. Just about everything else in the way of back-story in that issue had been explained, usually to a wide-eyed Jimmy Olsen (always a useful surrogate for new readers), but this was a throwaway reference to an otherwise unrelated element of Superman's life.

This was in "Superman in Kandor," or, if you prefer the cover title, "Invasion of the Super-People" (Superman 158, January 1963), one of Hamilton's scripts. Although the whole Kandorian story (Kryptonian-city-shrunk-by-Brainiac, etc.) was later erased from continuity, the roles of Nightwing and Flamebird, which were created as a plot device just for this issue, ARE STILL INFLUENTIAL in the DC Universe. Their contexts and backstory have been radically changed, and different characters entirely wear the new costumes, but it seems that little is really thrown away forever.

#287 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 05:13 PM:

I think I had a pedantic moment, Anarch.

#288 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 05:25 PM:

Did I imagine this? About 10 years ago, I caught the end of an episode of the George Reeves Superman: some mobster and his girlfriend had figured his secret identity so he took them to the top of a mountain then flew away. The last scene was them trying to get down, slipping off a cliff and that was it.

Maybe that was NOT the final scene. Maybe it was one of those what-a-dream stories.

#289 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 05:46 PM:

directed by Trevor Nun,

Trevor Nunn. He changed it immediately on his departure from the convent. (Musicalizing John Whiting's The Devils seemed like such a splendid idea, too.)

#290 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 06:06 PM:

Right. Nunn. Meanwhile yesterday on the Discovery Channel, one show had an anthropologist named Martyr.

#291 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 06:23 PM:

Death onscreen almost always a problem, even with warning.

Hmm. Maybe Tom Strong is not the best choice, then.

#292 ::: Ian Myles Slater ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 06:34 PM:

Serge:

That was the story line.

Superman assured them that they were perfectly safe, but only if they stayed where they were, and that he would be back with everything they needed to live comfortably.

The logic of the conclusion was that, being criminals, they assumed that he was lying, and decided that their best course was to escape immediately.

I still find it unsettling, since Superman has clearly anticipated exactly that reaction; and is actually watching from afar.

I suspect that who ever wrote the script had read "Tros of Samothrace." Talbot Mundy's hero won't directly kill helpless prisoners, but he doesn't consider cutting their bonds and dropping them over the side to be murder. The men are sure to drown, but, "The Gods know that I didn't prevent any of them from learning to swim."

#293 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 06:50 PM:

Ian... I'm very amazed that the story made it past the censors. Superman being instrumental in getting someone killed?

#294 ::: Sebastien Bailard ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 06:51 PM:

That's something that started to annoy me about the DC and Marvel universes, and that Frank Miller and Alan Moore have brought up. Someone escapes from an asylum again and eats a kid, you don't send them back, you break their neck or you kill them. That's what you do with monsters. I don't think that's a bad message for kids either. c.f. Terry Pratchet, Hogfather .

That's why I prefer manga to most of the superhero stuff. The stories actually end, the villain gets what's coming to them.

#295 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 06:59 PM:

Actually, Sebastien, that is exactly what Superman did in Kingdom Come after the Joker killed Lois Lane.

#296 ::: Ian Myles Slater ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 07:29 PM:

Well, I suppose that by 1950s censors' logic, it wasn't even suicide -- just a terrible accident. And they brought it on themselves, anyway. So let that be a lesson to you!

Yes, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, either.

Mind you, someone with access to an uncut version of the episode (those I've seen broadcast have been in anything but pristine condition) might have a better interpretation of the action.

#297 ::: Ian Myles Slater ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 09:02 PM:

Sebastien, your point is well taken, and a good answer would be a specialized history of American comic books. Even the very short summary I originally attempted would be too long for a comment here. I will give a very few examples of what happened, from just one company. (I could provide counter-examples, and explain them.)

It may help to note that the very early Superman was given to terrorizing people into confessing. (Being dropped from a height and caught just before going "splat!" is a great loosener of tongues, it seems.) All in the interest of justice, of course. Being even then well-nigh invulnerable (they soon dropped the qualification), he had few excuses for actually killing criminals instead of subduing them.

Batman once not only packed a gun, and sometimes used it, he would pick up a convenient machine gun, and use it freely, too, if he thought his immediate opponents at the moment were all really, really bad people. (As you could tell from the thought balloon, he was sorry about having to do it.)

As these characters became established, it was realized that they were costumed vigilantes who acted like criminals in every way except profiting from their actions. (Not that official lawmen in the same books, like Slam Bradley, seem to have been all that scrupulous either; but they had badges.)

It could have become hard to distinguish the heroes from the more colorful villains. If this trend had continued, The Joker, introduced as a casual killer of the wealthy, might have been used as a Robin Hood-style avenger of the oppressed, only slightly more ruthless than some of the other heroes. Instead, being Batman's opponent, he was just a bizarre blackmailer, who liked to poison people.

And he was saved from one-story oblivion by a thrifty editorial decision that he was genuinely crazy, and so not subject to execution, despite being a multiple-murderer, setting a much-copied precedent.

The Comics Code seems to have made the matter of lethal force by heroes unfit for serious discussion for many years. But, even after its influence had waned, the recurring rationale still seems to be, that is the easy way to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys.

The most apparent big exception to the "don't kill" principle was DC's The Vigilante (always with the definite article) in the 1980s, who made killing the criminals his signature -- and in the end, even he couldn't tell which he was himself (see http://www.toonopedia.com/vig-2.htm).

#298 ::: Sebastien Bailard ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 10:18 PM:

I have a decent understanding of the Comics Code Authority
I just don't like the consequences. It means we have a bunch of developmentally stunted underwear perverts running around, and not as much interesting mature characters. The CCA meant instead of Sherlock Holmes, we get Superman. Instead of Hamlet, we get Aquaman. Instead of Hercules, we get Captain America.

For thirty+years, comics were written for children, and it gelded and infantalized the medium. You've seen what the French were up to then. Give me bande dessinée or manga any time over that stuff.

Yes I concede, there's been some wonderful deconstructive gritty what-have-you recently,but it's got 30 years of adolescent power fantasies to make up for it, and you know what? It shouldn't be necessary. It shouldn't be remarkable. A universe with a bunch of superheroes and unkillable supervillains running around in it is always going to end up a adolescent power fantasy. (Excluding parodies.)

Their other big problem is they're too big, like a stew with everything in it. Compare the Girl Genius or Sherlock Holmes universes with the DC/Marvel universes.

#299 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 10:46 PM:

Ian Myles Slater: It's easy to point to comics changing, thanks to the noise generated by Wertham. But it's just as reasonable to argue that there was a \general/ change in policies and/or tastes. Some time ago I read some of the original Saint (back when he had a permanent girl and a collection of sidekicks, sort of like an urban{,e} Doc Savage). One of the things this version did was catch up to a thief whose jilted girlfriend had committed suicide, beat the thief to death with a steel-tipped cat, and check the body at Left Luggage. There's a clear devolution from him to the pretty boy Roger Moore played in the 60's TV series. (As I see it, film devolved similarly, with noir disappearing (or at least turning grey) in the 50's, but that may be too great a generalization.)

This may relate to the Saint becoming more popular in the U.S., and in turn to a general infantilization (or at least juvenilization) of the popular arts here (starting in the 1950's or late 40's, but carrying on for a long time). cf the subthreads here of "why are tits so important?" (e.g., Janet Jackson), and the rumor I've heard about Europeans concluding from U.S. films that every woman who sits up in bed takes the sheet with her, and wondering why. It certainly wasn't the last case of hysterical over-reaction in the U.S....

#300 ::: Ian Myles Slater ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 10:59 PM:

My point was that the trend toward non-lethal force was established at DC earlier than the Code, and for valid story-telling reasons -- although undoubtedly soon used to excess. (If only because killing off possibly useful villains before getting a response from the readers was so wasteful, and unsuccessful ones weren't worth bringing back in order to kill them off anyway.)

That it later became an enforced policy was important because it delayed reconsideration of the narrative logic of the idea for a long, long time.

While Siegel's Superman was soon toned down, his Slam Bradley continued to "slam" suspects for a long time. Actually killing people in an off-hand manner didn't seem to go with his police persona; he was supposed to be a good guy, and was theoretically answerable to someone. On the other hand, another Siegel creation of the early years, The Spectre, who also operated, when in human form as a police detective, sometimes didn't bother with frightening people into merely confessing. He frightened them to death (and apparently directly into Hell, proving that his action was morally justified).

Of course, being, as originally conceived, already dead himself, and often on speaking terms with the (never very clearly defined) Almighty, he could get away it more easily than Slam.

In one of his later revivals, with the Code a fading memory, The Spectre bypassed the spooky stuff in favor of just ripping the baddies apart, melting their limbs, or otherwise dealing out instant justice; which struck me as awfully petty for a character who a few years before had been seen fighting master-demons, and saving entire parallel universes. (Story-lines which had soon out-lasted their welcome; even "Buffy" could stand only so many Apocalypses in a season!)

The situation was a little different over at Marvel (Atlas, Timely, etc.). Even assuming that the early Human Torch just singed all those criminals, instead of incinerating them, he spent a good deal of World War II fighting the Axis as living napalm (not a violation of the Geneva Conventions, as it happens). Prince Namor switched from trying to wipe out Americans to actually killing Germans; the Sub-Mariner never did settle down into the hero-or-villain category. But he also never fit in as a costumed vigilante, either. (These days he would probably be presented as an eco-terrorist.)

And Captain America was a combat soldier, so not killing wasn't going to be a big thing with him anyway -- but, following the Joker Principle, the Red Skull was carefully saved for yet another appearance.

#301 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 11:31 PM:

The CCA meant instead of Sherlock Holmes, we get Superman. Instead of Hamlet, we get Aquaman. Instead of Hercules, we get Captain America.

All those characters antedate the Code. And it really doesn't have anything to do with the shape American comics took. And even once it was in place, it didn't prevent Hamlet or Sherlock Holmes -- Classic Comics, though it's perceived something of a joke now, did some excellent adaptations; their Frankenstein is definitely the book and not any of the movies.

It is also worth noting that Hamlet and Hercules are public-domain characters. You can certainly use them, and you can hold rights to particular representations of them, but you can't own the names. But that's another thread.

We're talking about a format that, in the United States at the time, was produced by publishers of modest means and sold through the extremely wasteful system of newsstand distribution. Indeed, both DC and Martin Goodman's publishing Escher diagram (which was about to be Marvel) nearly went under at the end of the Fifties. DC was saved mainly by Julie Schwartz putting together the Justice League, and Goodman's outfit largely by his playing golf with boss of DC, who mentioned that their new "team" book was doing pretty well. Goodman went to one of his writers, who was on the brink of quitting the comics business entirely, and that guy, one Stan Lee, created -- oh, heck, you already know that.

If you want a direct comparison, America doesn't lack bandes dessinées because we had the Comics Code. We lack them because we didn't have Hergé, to create something that everybody, kids and grownups, would read, and could enter the culture at all levels.

And y'know, it doesn't flipping matter anyway, because those walls are down. They are probably more down in independent work than Lexcorp Comics, but that is not a terribly significant issue, and Lexcorp Comics itself has divisions doing nonstandard work, which when it's good is very good indeed. (And bad work we have always with us.) You are surely not going to suggest that every last comic that comes out of Europe or Japan or South America is great art; surely not, because I've seen total brainless crap from all those places, along with brilliant work.

It is undeniable that mass-market businesses, like the one I work in, create certain pressures on the creative people. It is also beyond any question that excellent work gets done despite those pressures -- sometimes by leaving the system for the open country, but quite often by finding new avenues in the old neighborhood. Marv Wolfman and George Pérez's run on Teen Titans was superpeople -- heck, some of them weren't even new superpeople -- and you know what? It was good stuff -- sometimes it was heartbreakingly good -- and it was entirely grownup in its concerns while still being readable by kids. And that was twenty-five years ago, and no, it wasn't a one-off.

Yeah, I'm mildly ticked off. I've had three decades of being told that forms I work in can't possibly do anything that isn't cliched and juvenile by their nature, and it got old three decades less five minutes ago. Judging an art by its bad examples isn't criticism; it's tossing a grenade into the barrel and then complaining that the fish are dead.

#302 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2006, 11:39 PM:

The überbreasts would have to be composed of some rather esoteric polymer -- something like
poly(2-cavoricenyl-3-thiotimolylbutadiene). The structure is fairly straightforward but the manufacturing process would be a well-kept secret. Transforming cavorite into a chemical form which could be linked to a molecule is simple in principle but would present some unique laboratory challenges, ditto the thiotimoline. Combining both chemical groups would be an order of magnitude more difficult as half the reagents would be levitating while the other half tend to travel backwards in time, and that's not even getting into the problems involved in polymerizing the stuff. But how else would one get a material with that special combination of gravitational and non-aging properties?

#303 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 12:21 AM:

You are surely not going to suggest that every last comic that comes out of Europe or Japan or South America is great art; surely not, because I've seen total brainless crap from all those places...

I certainly wouldn't, Mike. Having grown up in Quebec City, I had a very easy access to European comics and they had some major crap. Should people assume that all British TV is great based on what does make it across the Atlantic?

#304 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 12:24 AM:

If I may go back to the last son of Krypton, can anybody quote the first thing said to Superman in the 1978 movie?

(...)

"Dude, that's a bad outfit."

#305 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 01:23 AM:

OK...

Trevor Nunn.

Twelfth Night

Oklahoma

I think you could make Twelfth Night work as a western.

#306 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 01:25 AM:

Serge: Should people assume that all British TV is great based on what does make it across the Atlantic?

Hmmm. Based on what's made it across the pond recently, I'd say that British TV has gone way downhill since I, Claudius, the first series of Connections and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.

#307 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 01:31 AM:

I must say I missed on The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin, Larry.

As for turning Shakespeare into a western, Dave, why not? Remember the 2001 TV movie King of Texas? And it wasn't too shabby either.

#308 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 02:02 AM:

Serge, it turns out that the BBC has a reasonable synopsis of the show. Quite a few fansites out there, but it doesn't seem to have been released on a Zone 1 DVD and the NTSC videos seem to be expensive rarities. There does seem to be a British DVD release, at a fairly reasonable £19.97.

#309 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 02:20 AM:

While tangential at best to the discussion at hand, ISTR the sometime anime/manga "Crest/Banner of the Stars" (Seikai no Senki/Monshou) series being mentioned on an ancient thread, in which case I thought others might be interested to know that the original Japanese novels are now being translated into English. (When I saw that news snippet, my squee was loud enough to startle the cats.) It'll be interesting to see what they're like, considering the occasional description as a cross between Dune and Tolkien: sprawling space opera, detailed conlang, etc.

(Somewhere in TokyoPop's discussion forum, the translator for the project has been hashing out some of the minutiae with longtime Seikai otaku. I don't envy her any part of the job.)

#310 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 02:59 AM:

There was actually an attempt to pound "Reginald Perrin" into the drainpipe of an American sitcom ("Reggie," with Richard Mulligan as "Reggie Potter"). It is universally agreed that it arrived with its shark pre-jumped.

#311 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 09:08 AM:

Melissa - I don't have my copy handy, so I'm not certain of it, but I think Astro City might fit your criteria. (The first volume, anyway; I can't speak for subsequent ones.) It's probably more fun if you have some previous comics knowledge (and can spot just what got its serial numbers filed off to go into the world), but the stories stand on their own as straightforward superhero stuff pretty well.

Judging an art by its bad examples isn't criticism; it's tossing a grenade into the barrel and then complaining that the fish are dead.

Just thought that deserved repeating. (Indeed, it probably deserves framing.)

#312 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 09:46 AM:

AstroCity... Actually, Dan, I see it more as taking comic-bookdom's archetypes (or stereotypes if you're in a grumpy mood) and turning them on their heads.

One obvious example is the character of Samaritan, who is basically AstroCity's Superman and who never has a moment of real rest because he has to save everyone he can save.

Another example is the story of a middle-aged woman who reminisces about her youth, when she was in the same position as Lois Lane trying to prove that Clark Kent is Superman, except that the outcome was very messy when she did succeeed.

#313 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 11:11 AM:

Well, yeah, it does that too. That's one of the things that makes it so good.

#314 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 11:13 AM:

Joel Polowin: ROFL!

#315 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 11:28 AM:

What I really need to do but never seem to have time for is to go to my storage unit and spend several hours excavating the stuff I read when I was dd's age . . . the problems being that I'm not sure what condition any of it is in, despite being relatively properly bagged and boxed, and that dd reads comics (quite properly, as she is 10) as a reader, and will be hard on their rapidly-getting-ancient pages therefore. OTOH, there are things in those boxes which will likely never be worth anything, monetarily, so why not let her read them . . . (and then I have a low-level angst attack at the thought of anyone touching my precious comics . . . . )

Mike: I loved that Teen Titans stuff.

#316 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 11:32 AM:

"Lexcorp Comics"

Oh, I want, I need, yea, verily I faunch to see that used as a story spark in the actual Superman comics.

(Lex: "I've diversified into WHAT? Dammit, I'm the boss, I'm supposed to know about these things! Guards, take Smedley to the roof and throw him off.")

#317 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 11:34 AM:

Serge:

"...Why should I be saving the city,
When I'd rather be painting the town?"

"I'm faster than a speeding bullet,
I'm tougher than a moving train,
But I'd throw it all away in a minute if I
could just once get the jump on Lane..."

Tom Smith, _Superman's Sex Life Boogie_

#318 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 11:37 AM:

Indeed, Dan... Meanwhile, have you been reading Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's Superman comic? It too plays with comic-book conventions. It's one of those 'alternate' things that combines elements from Superman's pre-1986 and post-1986 incarnations. Thus, the source of his power is our Sun, but he is back to having a Fortress of Solitude inside a mountain. (No, no giant key to open the door, but a normal-sized one that weighs a few million tons.)

Anyway, in the most recent issue, he has cooked up something so that, on her birthday, Lois'll have the same powers he has. As they fly back to Metropolis, the following exchange occurs...

"This shouldn't take long, Lois. I'm sorry... The last thing I wanted on your birthday was a reptile invasion from the Earth's core."

"Are you kidding? I'd have felt cheated if there hadn't been monsters."

Later, fellow strong guys Samson and Atlas show up trying to woo Lois away.

Samson: "Did you see the way she spied my belt buckle?"

Atlas: "Hahaha... But mine is bigger."

#319 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 11:54 AM:

I've read the first issue of Morrison's Superman and haven't been following since. Obviously, I need to correct that.

(I almost always like what Morrison does with the tropes of superheroism; his run of Doom Patrol was what got me hooked on the possibilities of comics in the first place.)

#320 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 01:06 PM:

John M. Ford: It can't have been worse than the Americanisation of Cracker.

#321 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 01:27 PM:

Melissa:

You may want to check your local library. Back in the late 70s/early 80s there were several big anthology collections of assorted DC heroes that were titled 'hero': From the 30s to the 70s,. I know that at the very least there were editions for Superman, Batman and Captain Marvel (tho that one was titled 'Shazam'. These could fill in the back-story easily, and most -- probably all -- of the stories will be suitable.

Or, if you've gat a spare fortune, you can buy (or see if a library has) any of the reprint volumes by Marvel (Legends) or DC (Archives) which reprint all the issues for a time period (I think one year). But these are pricey ...

Re: comics code and "weak heroes",

Yes, there are times this is pathetic, but I still prefer four-color "I don't kill" heroes (at least when set in modern times) to the rabid vigilantes approach. They are supposed to be people we (or children) can look up to and emulate. Are we really saying that good grown ups ignore the system, kill and take revenge personally, and it is naive adolescent power-fantasies to leave the villain alive and trust that the justice system will take the appropraite action?

On at least some level, the idea that the hero is the one with more self-control, that he can fight but does so for the right reason as a considered response is a valuable one. Mind you, I think (as sort of stated earlier) there should be more reflection of an at least an occasionally working justice system, where people put in jail (mostly) stay there, and the occasional mass-murdering super-lunatic receives final justice. But (also as intimated earlier) you can't really expect the company to kill off their cash cows ...
Heck, Joker was anti-hero of his own title for a while in the 60s!)

That said, intelligence and good art is always preferable, and kudos and thanks to John M. Ford for the barrel metaphor. I, too, am sick of the "those are for kids" judgement.

#322 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 01:35 PM:

If you're pathetic, pedantic peasant, then so am I, and for the same reasons.

#323 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 01:58 PM:

pedantic peasant: I have a couple of those from the 30s to the 70s books, pretty beaten up from multiple readings, also in boxes. Our library doesn't.

Actually, our library seems to be rapidly reducing the number of "nonfiction" books on its shelves, at least in the children's section, the thinking being, I'm sure, that most people do their research on the web these days anyway. Perhaps, but a book is still a mighty useful thing--dd did almost all the research for her award-winning science fair project this year in actual books, even an encyclopedia. There was 1 thing we had to look up on the web. Everything else was hardcopy. And, I dunno, a library ought to have some real books in it . . . especially if there are only 2 computers in the children's room.

#324 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 02:17 PM:

As for turning Shakespeare into a western, Dave, why not? Remember the 2001 TV movie King of Texas? And it wasn't too shabby either.

I don't remember the movie at all, but Shakespeare-as-western has certainly been done. The one time I tried to do it (with a western Taming of the Shrew), we got as far as design and script work before the Shakespeare-in-Central-Park people got the jump on us with a very similar production. (They also did a very visually similar Twelfth Night soon after ours; we were starting to wonder if we had a psychic connection!)

It's getting harder to think of haven't-been-done-yet ways to do Shakespeare.

#325 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 02:27 PM:

Macbeth in West Africa? It's about the only modern setting where you could have the warfare and witchcraft and not have it seem out of place. Witches in modern Europe are figures of fun. Obeah women in Sierra Leone? Brrr.

#326 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 02:30 PM:

Susan...

King of Texas had Patrick Stewart as Lear, Marcia Gay Harden as his daughter who loves him but will NOT be forced to say so, and Liv Tyler as the daughter most willing to do so. Roy Scheider was there too.

There was also Peter Fonda in a Civil-War adaptation of The Tempest, set on an island of the Mississippi Delta.

Going much further back, there was Jubal, a very loose adaptation of Othello, starring Glen Ford, and, in the Iago role, believe it or not, Rod Steiger.

I'm sure there are others I forget.

#327 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 02:43 PM:

Non-western adaptations of Shakespeare include Kurosawa's Throne of Blood, from MacBeth, and the Outer Limits's The Bellero Shield, also from the Scottish Play. And there is of course Forbidden Planet.

#328 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 02:53 PM:

ajay -- no, they did that or something similar at Boulder a few years ago. I didn't go, but reports were it didn't work too well. But perhaps it's still viable...

#329 ::: Ian Myles Slater ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 03:01 PM:

Someone at DC seems to have noticed the odd way super-villains seemed to get early release, and otherwise dodge the prison system. As rational an explanation as any was offered in the "Task Force X" version of the Suicide Squad; a combination of work-release and Time Off for (covertly sanctioned) BAD behavior.

Real-world Military Intelligence links to organized crime go back at least to World War II (see, e.g., Lucky Luciano), so in a world filled with superheroes who like to keep their hands clean, the government considering handing off some of the nasty jobs to imprisoned supervillains is an all-too-plausible development. (The difficulty of establishing deniability might be a practical obstacle -- some of those characters had rather obvious "signatures.")

There is what looks to me like a reasonable summary at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_Squad. I don't vouch for it in detail -- I can't actually recall more than a couple of early appearances. (I had to look it up when the concept was used on "Justice League Unlimited;" for instance, I had completely forgotten the official name, used as the episode title, and Amanda Waller's involvement.)

#330 ::: Sebastien Bailard ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 03:32 PM:

I'm not saying that comic books are a juvenile medium, or that everything from parts unknown is gold and everything over here is offal. But for a very long time, american comic books were written for children, and the medium _was_ used in a very unsophisticated manner. I mean on average and in general; we can cherry-pick counter-examples like the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.

Secondly, I think having 90%+ of the stories set in the Marvel/DC universes with unkillable villains and cameos-with-backstory is a bad thing and constrains the writer. It means you have to work with someone else's tools and you can't go and dream up your own universe. It means you can't do historicals, fantasies, or space operas. From the rest of the world, we get secret agent bandes desinees, or fishing manga. Say you have a 400 page epic sniper fight set in the Battle of Leningrad. If all that's being published is supermen in tights, is it going to see the light of day?

Regarding the superheroic code of not killing; I don't want rabid vigilanteeism - I want Rorschach, or Miller's Batman. I want occasional killing in hot blood or cold blood, with reflection or joy or remorse or devolution into insanity. Also, if you were a hero, and ran accross the Joker out on day-release, walking away from his latest killing spree, what would you do? What would the ethical thing be to do? What would the smart thing be to do? "Oh you poor thing, you wandered out again! Here's some hot tea, these nice men in the blue coats are going to take you home now, ok?"

#331 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 03:52 PM:

Serge:

Well, thanks. That means I am in very good company.

One related thought I meant to add to that post:

I do not ascribe 100% (Hell I don't even subscribe 40%) to the theory that violence in video games, comics, cartoons, movies and et cetera are responsible for making people do stuff. It's just not that easy to get brainwashed, and there is the eternal question of whether it is life imitating art, or art imitating life --

[Okay, everyone run to your local art museum, and shout "STOP COPYING ME!" as loud as you can! : ) ]
--Sorry, my inner child keeps escaping...

or art imitating life imitating art. But I do believe that the prevalence of such images and society's general acceptance of them and occasional honoring of the vigilante mentality contibutes to a lack of self control and social restraint.

I think Heinlein had a line in one of his books to the effect that manners and civility are the glue that hold society together and keep us from (having to) kill one another.

Well, I believe that a lot of the gay bashing and minority bashing and so forth (physical, not verbal) could, in some small part be attributed to a lack of restraint encouraged by the glorification of gratuitous violence in the popular media, and a growing lack of responsible characters who represent the benefits of simple self-control. Yeah, there is a visceral part of all of us (OK, almost all of us) that loves the idea of pounding the snot out of those miserable someones who clearly deserve it, but that's nature's instinct, not those of civilised humans. As Hepburn's Rose Sayer says in African Queen, "Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put on this earth to rise above."


Ian Myles Slater:

Yeah, I followed Suicide Squad for a while. It was scarily believable in a lot of ways.

In a plot twist strangely apropos of the current administration, there was an episode where Lois Lane went undercover and discovered their secret. Task Force X holds her incommunicado for about three days due to "National Security", then flies in her lawyer and forces her to sign an official document to get released. She is immediately remanded -- with contract -- to the custody of her lawyer who reads it and says something to the effect that "This is an amazing piece of legal work. They've sewn up every hole. You can't talk to anyone about what went on here, Ms. Lane, ever. You can't even tell me, and I'm your lawyer."

[If that's not appropriate to the sister thread on "You thought they weren't gonna use that", I don't know what is ...]

Re: Alternate Shakespeare, his stuff is adaptable to any genre ... look at The Lion King.

As far as a West African Othello, would that have an all-black cast and a white Othello?

And how apout Merchant of Venice done in a space opera mercant marine? (Or has that been done? I'm suddenly plagued by the vision of a cover titled "Merchant of Venus" but don't know the story ...)

#332 ::: neotoma ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 04:00 PM:

As far as a West African Othello, would that have an all-black cast and a white Othello?

The Shakespeare Theater in Washington DC already did that.

Well, almost. They did a 'photo-negative' run of Othello, with Patrick Stewart in the lead role and the rest of the cast made up of African-American actors, back in 1997.

#333 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 04:04 PM:

I remember seeing on TV a version of Hamlet set in Africa. All black, of course. Worked quite well.

#334 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 04:21 PM:

Sebastien:

I think having 90%+ of the stories set in the Marvel/DC universes with unkillable villains and cameos-with-backstory is a bad thing and constrains the writer.

In some ways true, but part of this is the same problem you get with TV and movies. People and corporations make what people want, based on what sells. One of the things people like is familiarity, complete with continuity fights and (sometimes way-too-deep) analysis of what stuff means or if it fits past history. These titles sell, so no one is going to drop tham based on an unknown. There have been, and still are occasionally, anthology comics with rotating charcters, or all new stories. Even when they sell well, they don't sell consistently.

It means you have to work with someone else's tools and you can't go and dream up your own universe. It means you can't do historicals, fantasies, or space operas. From the rest of the world, we get secret agent bandes desinees, or fishing manga. Say you have a 400 page epic sniper fight set in the Battle of Leningrad. If all that's being published is supermen in tights, is it going to see the light of day?

Maybe, especially more likely since the mid-80s than before. And, while I am not as versed in manga and other things as I might like, don't some of your arguments apply in reverse? "If 90% of your titles are all funny shool relationship stories or space operas (my general impression of manga, not that it isn't very good), who's going to publish The Spandex League or a 400 page hardboiled detective epic set in Georgian England?

Regarding the superheroic code of not killing; I don't want rabid vigilanteeism - I want Rorschach, or Miller's Batman. I want occasional killing in hot blood or cold blood, with reflection or joy or remorse or devolution into insanity.

Yeah, that sounds great in theory, but the problem is "hot blood or cold blood", life is more complicated than comics. For all I enjoyed Watchman, V for Vendetta or the assorted Miller Dark Knight stories -- and forget Rorschach, he's small potatoes. I like Ozymandias: kill 1/2 (4/5 ? oh hell, a lot) of the world's population in a good cause! -- I strenuously object to vigilante heroes. reflection or joy or remorse or devolution into insanity are all very well, but unless it's grand tragedy of the "Yes, I killed . He's killed people and they let him out again, someone had to do something. I am willing to be tried for first-degree murder with the death penalty," variety, it still sends the wrong message.

It's the "everyone is hero of their own story" routine. Most people who do violence, especially big violence, do reflect, have joy and/or remorse, etc. That doesn't make it right, and having an alleged hero who kills and doesn't have to answer for it sends the wrong message.

If you were a hero, and ran accross the Joker out on day-release, walking away from his latest killing spree, what would you do? What would the ethical thing be to do? What would the smart thing be to do? "Oh you poor thing, you wandered out again! Here's some hot tea, these nice men in the blue coats are going to take you home now, ok?"

Umm I don't recall anyone ever offering the Joker (or any other super-villain) tea.

But, yes, I'd expect them to take action to bring him back to jail and a new trial for escape. And, if there was a new killing spree, for that as well. I wouldn't want a "hero" who sees a "bad guy" on the street to just decide that since a villain is on the street and has escaped he must be shot/killed.

And I'd also see about fixing the @*&#^%@ revolving door on Arkham Asylum. Honestly!


Oh yeah, and for pseudo-realism, another of those great little asides someone was talking about earlier was a comic back a while ago that featured a page of a super-villain's trial, with the hero testifying against him. The defense attorney complains about the mask and "how can we know who this is, right to see accusers," and etc. and the Prosecutor responds with
"Objection, according to State of New York vs Joker, the court upheld that Nightwing had the right to maintain his identity because ..."

Another of those little details that flesh out a world ...

#335 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 04:22 PM:

Secondly, I think having 90%+ of the stories set in the Marvel/DC universes with unkillable villains and cameos-with-backstory is a bad thing and constrains the writer. It means you have to work with someone else's tools and you can't go and dream up your own universe. It means you can't do historicals, fantasies, or space operas. [...] Say you have a 400 page epic sniper fight set in the Battle of Leningrad. If all that's being published is supermen in tights, is it going to see the light of day?

If all that was being published was supermen in tights, you'd have a case; but it ain't so, and you don't.

Vertigo, Oni Press, and Dark Horse - to pick the three most visible imprints - are all doing robust work outside the cape-and-tights "mainstream." Historicals, fantasies, and space operas are easy to find, not to mention alt-history, cyberpunk, horror (of all kinds), and whatever the comics equivalent of lit-fic is. (And I've seen all of those at the local Borders, so it's not like you have to go to some obscure hole-in-the-wall indy shop to seek them out.) Not to mention that comics is the one medium where being self-published is seen as a respectable publication model, so the freedom to do whatever you want is at least as present there as in any other form. Take a walk around the tables at the Small Press Expo or MoCCA sometime, and then tell me how there isn't enough diversity, flexibility, or creativity in the world of comics.

#336 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 05:33 PM:

yes! take a walkaround at mocca!

i'm not sure what table i'll be, but i'm real gone girl studios (miriam libicki).

um, neither action nor crime comics, but indie as all get-out. if any making light/comics aficionados are in new york that weekend (june 10th-11th), i would be psyched to meet you. i've never done a non-west coast con before.

(um. i've been trying not to say that for a week now. but once you so far as mentioned mocca, i couldn't stop myself.)

#337 ::: Ian Myles Slater ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 06:55 PM:

There is an actual novel (a mystery) by Ellen Hart with the title "The Merchant of Venus." Amazon carries the paperback -- I don't recall ever seeing a copy.

However, it could have been an alternative (plot give-away) title for "The Space Merchants," a.k.a. "Gravy Planet."

#338 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 10:12 PM:

Sebastien: One word. Sandman. (Notice particularly how it works with established elements of the DC universe.)

Ian: IIRC, "The Merchants of Venus" was a sequel to The Space Merchants.

ajay: Welles and Houseman did the "voodoo Macbeth" 70 years ago for the Harlem branch of the WPA theater; it was set in Haiti, but used an African dance troupe including an authentic shaman. (In Runthrough (the first volume of his autobiography), Houseman says they sacrificed five black goats on stage to make the drums used in performance.)

#339 ::: Ian Myles Slater ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 10:43 PM:

CHip: maybe.

Although my memory, my personal library checklist, a Wikipedia article, and Amazon all agree that the long-delayed sequel to "Space Merchants" was published as "The Merchants War," the Wikipedia entry on Poyhl mentions "The Merchants of Venus" as an actual alternate title for "The Space Merchants."

Amazon has listed a volume under the unfamiliar title of "Venus, Inc." credited to Pohl and Kornbluth, which might be what was meant. It could be an omnibus edition, I suppose: anyone actually familiar with it?

But Amazon also shows Pohl and Julius Schwartz as the author and editor of a DC comic book with the title "The Merchants of Venus." So it looks like it was used somewhere.

#340 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 10:45 PM:

Re: Alternate Shakespeare, his stuff is adaptable to any genre ... look at The Lion King.

Indeedy. I had an interesting discussion with a friend who was appalled by this. I saw it as the earmark of the truly classic that people constantly reimagine it in different settings. (Jane Austen is the only other author who comes rapidly to mind as getting this sort of treatment regularly.) He saw it as a Deep Perversion of History. We did not manage a meeting of minds.

ObSF: A Midsummer Night's Tempest

#341 ::: Sebastien Bailard ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2006, 11:00 PM:

I just wish the whole damn comic shop was independent comics, and that the whole comics code era had never happened.

I'm glad things are getting better, but for a long time, it was all adolescent male power fantasies and "I can talk to fish". There's a reason girls weren't reading the things. Anecdotal and present company excepted.

I do rather like the new webcomics out there.

There's a lot of Japanese superheros - things like Read or Die or Ultraman.

#342 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2006, 01:09 AM:

Ian Myles Slater: [..] the Wikipedia entry on Pohl mentions "The Merchants of Venus"
as an actual alternate title for "The Space Merchants."

I think "The Merchants of Venus" had been the title used
when the story was first serialized ( in Galaxy? ).


#343 ::: Ian Myles Slater ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2006, 02:07 AM:

According to everything I've seen, the "Galaxy" serialization was under the title "Gravy Planet."

#344 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2006, 02:58 AM:

There seems to be this idea that women don't read superhero comics, but my wife did (*), and one of my co-workers knows more about some X-men villains than I do.

(*) Not so much anymore because she's very particular about the art. Alex Ross she'll take any day.

#345 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2006, 03:02 AM:

As for indie comics... I recently discovered The Stardust Kid, a fantasy by DeMatteis & Ploog. Since Ploog did th art, of course I had to grab the 3 issues that have already been published. It's been a long time though since the 3rd issue came out. Did the whole thing go belly up?

#346 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2006, 03:13 AM:

My understanding is that there was a novelette by Pohl called "The Merchants of Venus" to which Gateway was a sequel. So, Heechee universe, and unrelated in any way to "Gravy Planet", The Space Merchants or The Merchants' War. (I'm 90% certain, btw, that the Venus, Inc. mentioned upthread is an omnibus of the latter two.)

In terms of ways to do Shakespeare, I sometimes think that nowadays the really bold staging would be to do the play costumed according to the period in which it's meant to be set.

#347 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2006, 07:26 AM:

I'm way behind on this, but Scraps said:

It's always perplexed me that the comic book world seems never to have noticed that Nastassja Kinski (for example) was a sex symbol.

Conveying the beauty of Nastassja Kinski requires being able to actually draw. Slapping giant boobs on a mannequin doesn't. The most egregious proliferation of the latter occured during the years of rapid expansion of the Image studios, when people who couldn't draw feet or hands were training hundreds of apprentices; it's unsurprising that the emphasis on shortcuts brought the world an astonishing array of things that looked vaguely like breasts.

Paul Smith--an artist who doesn't work nearly enough in comics--is a great example of a man who loves to draw beautiful woman but, to my eye, cares about what they actually look like and draws people in a reasonable cross-section of shapes.

#348 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2006, 07:42 AM:

In terms of ways to do Shakespeare, I sometimes think that nowadays the really bold staging would be to do the play costumed according to the period in which it's meant to be set.

There's plenty of that, but it's essentially a modern concept; as I understand it, the Elizabethan concept of costuming leaned more towards costuming everything in "modern" [Elizabethan] clothing, regardless of when it was set.

Lately there are more attempts to costume the plays in the period in which they were written, which is rather more interesting to me. The Rylance Measure for Measure which came through Brooklyn last winter used not only very well-designed Elizabethan costume but an all-male cast (too old for the female parts, though), and at least one theater in England has experimented with speaking Elizabethan English.

#349 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2006, 08:58 AM:

I just wish the whole damn comic shop was independent comics, and that the whole comics code era had never happened.

I have some sympathy for this viewpoint, but it's like wishing the local CD store only stocked the bands you like. I'm not convinced it's especially useful to dismiss the tastes of the "mainstream," and I'm wary of the notion that the existence of mediocre work - even vast swathes of it - really diminishes the work that's very good. (That's assuming that mainstream superhero title=mediocre, which I don't really believe either.)

And when the world we're stuck with has Artesia, Finder, The Marquis, Moonshadow, Lucifer, Courtney Crumrin, Baker Street, Transmetropolitan, Girl Genius... I find it hard to feel too terribly deprived of quality reading.

#350 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2006, 09:17 AM:

Robert: I think "The Merchants of Venus" had been the title used
when the story was first serialized

Ian Myles Slater: According to everything I've seen,
the "Galaxy" serialization was under the title "Gravy Planet."

David Goldfarb: My understanding is that there was a novelette by Pohl
called "The Merchants of Venus" to which Gateway was a sequel.

Both these sound right to me.

My 'sci fi fu' is failing me... :)

#351 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2006, 09:25 AM:

I just wish the whole damn comic shop was independent comics, and that the whole comics code era had never happened.

I have some sympathy for this viewpoint, but it's like wishing the local CD store only stocked the bands you like. I'm not convinced it's especially useful to dismiss the tastes of the "mainstream," and I'm wary of the notion that the existence of mediocre work - even vast swathes of it - really diminishes the work that's very good. (That's assuming that mainstream superhero title=mediocre, which I don't really believe either.)

Thank you, Dan! Extremely well said. Of course, is it wrong of me to wish that those who produce mediocre work stay away from the titles I like? :)

#352 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2006, 10:04 AM:

"The Merchants of Venus" is the first Heechee story; it was reprinted in "Gold and the Starbow's End" and "The Gateway Trip".

A decent series, even though the protagonist was only a copy of himself in the later books.

#353 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2006, 12:45 PM:

even though the protagonist was only a copy of himself in the later books.

Subjunctive Tension is Everywhere!

If I did this as a shirt, with various choice examples on the back --
"She turned on her left side. She had been running her game console off the battery."
"His world crumbled. Bits of it piled up on his shoes."
"His heart melted at the sight of her. She grinned and took out a spoon."

-- would anybody, like, buy it? (Being typographic, it wouldn't take very long to prepare and put up.)

#354 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2006, 01:29 PM:

"His world crumbled. Bits of it piled up on his shoes."

I wear extra-large, Mike.

#355 ::: Wristle ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2006, 05:38 PM:

Ian Miles Slater:
An Abebooks search confirms that Venus, Inc. is a 1984 SFBC omnibus edition comprising The Space Merchants and The Merchant's War.

#356 ::: Ian Myles Slater ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2006, 06:37 PM:

Wristle:

Thanks for the confirmation. (I tried running a search on ABE late last night, but got nowhere -- I suspect that I spelled something wrong that I was too tired to recognize.)

#357 ::: Kate ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2006, 09:55 PM:

Chiming in here late, but I honestly now think that comic book breasts are related to engorged ones due to breast feeding.

#358 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2006, 02:36 AM:

Well, well, well... This should be interesting. Starting in June, Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr. will be reviving Jack Kirby's Eternals.

#359 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2006, 12:36 PM:

Well, I believe that a lot of the gay bashing and minority bashing and so forth (physical, not verbal) could, in some small part be attributed to a lack of restraint encouraged by the glorification of gratuitous violence in the popular media, and a growing lack of responsible characters who represent the benefits of simple self-control.

So you're saying things used to be better, pedantic peasant?

I've probably repeated this story: I read a week of the 1907 New York Times once. July 1-7, picked at random. (Or possibly 1909. I've got the notes somewhere.)

One race riot featuring "Over A Thousand Negroes", three strikes, two streetfights that, today, we'd probably call riots [only about a fifty or a hundred people in each...] and a 4th of July celebration where something like 18 people died from gun and firework wounds, and dozens were injured.

( Although, on investigation, it appeared that two of the gun deaths were intentional murders. )

Maybe that was a bad week for riots. I don't know, I only read the one week.

There's a nice book called [i]Hooligan:A History of Respectable Fears[/i] which discusses the good old days in London, a generation at a time.

#360 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2006, 01:14 PM:

Ack. We had a fire alarm.

Post in haste, repent in leisure.

#361 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2006, 03:00 PM:

Anarch: Which is an interesting topic in its own right: what other words should exist in English according to similar grammatical rules that apparently don't?

The Washington Post writes "employe" for "employee". By the law of French loan-words I think "employe" should exist, and dictionaries list it as a legitimate alternative spelling, but everytime I see it I wonder, "Who the hell let people like that be the Washington Post?" They look like they're selling their literacy for a ha'pworth of ink.

#362 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2006, 04:24 PM:

James Thurber had a nice rant on the word "escapee." Surely it should be "escaper," as it refers to the one doing the escaping? Which would make the prison guards the escapees, right? He goes from there in nicely Thurberesque style.

#363 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2006, 09:50 PM:

I just e-mailed this to Melissa Singer but thought I should post it here for anyone mislead into thinking that Marvel and DC superhero comics reprints were only available for The Big Bucks:

If you're interested in giving dd the comics you had as kid but are afraid of them surviving the experience, there are *really* cheap reprints of most of the Marvel Silver Age and some of the DC Silver Age available now. Marvel's "Essentials" line and DC's copycat "Showcase" line are extensive series of 500-page black-and-white reprint volumes with ~25 issues each of major titles for ~$16.00. DC has about 10 volumes out, Marvel over 100. There's even a volume of the Bob Haney/Nick Cardy Teen Titans. Any good comics shop should have them, and they're available online.

If color is important, Marvel has published four collections of scanned PDFs of long runs--the first ~500 issues each of Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers, Fantastic Four, and X-Men. The sets run $50 each. (These also contain the advertisements and letter columns, which made them worth buying even when I already had other reprints of the issues I cared about.)

Mike Ford: I posted a comment about your comments above over on the group comics blog to which I contribute, Howling Curmudgeons.

And finally, my compliments to everyone for an outstanding comments thread.

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