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June 28, 2011

Launched for one sole issue
Posted by Avram Grumer at 09:16 PM * 95 comments

Y’know that weird swayback pose that too many comics artists use for female characters, like a form of sexy scoliosis?

Kate Beaton (of Hark, a Vagrant), Meredith Gran (of Octopus Pie), and Carly Monardo have come up with the ultimate comic-book strong female characters. Meredith Gran even designed a t-shirt.

Comments on Launched for one sole issue:
#1 ::: David D. Levine ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2011, 10:02 PM:

Not scoliosis, lordosis. It's an explicitly sexualized pose.

#2 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2011, 10:25 PM:

shouldn't that be called ladyosis?

#3 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: June 28, 2011, 11:32 PM:

Wow, that comic book has been seen many a time, hasn't it? Perfect spoof.

#4 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 02:20 AM:

It's supposed to be funny, is it?

#5 ::: Jon Marcus ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 09:03 AM:

Almost Escher-esqe how that pose mananges to prominently display both breasts and buttocks. I wanna see the "Strong Female Characters" climbing an infinite staircase...

#6 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 09:22 AM:

I was surprised none of the links pointed to "Day by Day," a veritable sanitarium for morbid female swayback syndrome.

#7 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 01:19 PM:

Our own TNH and I used to have a plot in which the worst offenders of this sort of female costuming/posing would be paraded onto a stage at Comic Con, forced to wear five inch heels, posed in those butt-and-tits-out lordosis poses, and left there for an hour...just to see long they would last, and how many of them could walk afterward.

I suppose that was mean of us.

#8 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 01:21 PM:

I second "ladyosis".

#9 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 02:04 PM:

Looking at some of Liefeld's ladies, I find myself wondering how their intestines and stomach even fit inside. And it hurts my back just to look at them.

#10 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 02:18 PM:

The best part of the t-shirt is that the back of the t-shirt depicts what the women would like if you viewed them from other direction -- it is then, when you see a woman's crotch and back facing you at the same time, that you realize how utterly, completely stupid the pose truly is.

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 03:59 PM:

What Madeleine said.

I always wanted to get some of those artists into that position, then have them try to throw a punch, or make any other sudden athletic move. On reflection, though: liability issues. Way too easy to injure yourself.

#12 ::: TrashedMyCookies ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 04:55 PM:

Since when do we expect comics to be exclusively about reality? Next we'll be asking Batman to carry extra liability insurance, to cover the injuries of all those people who somehow run into his fists.

#13 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 05:02 PM:

TrashedMyCookies @12, nobody's asking comics "to be exclusively about reality". So, "since never" is your answer.

#14 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 05:20 PM:

@TrashedMyCookies #12: Here's how the Big Two do comics:

BATTLE SCENE. Male characters: Grrr! Arrrgh! Punch! Kick! Zap! Female characters: Ooh! Aaah! Crotch shot! Poledance move! Lookit my butt!

HEROIC WALK-IN-A-ROW THING. Male characters: Stride. Glower. Female characters: Saunter. Sashay. Pout.

UNCONSCIOUS ON THE GROUND. Male characters: Sprawl. Ouch. Female characters: Spread 'em. Pose. Lie about like a sex kitten except, you know, unconscious.

WEARING CLOTHES. Male characters: Well, they're clothes. Female characters: Clothes with a boob sock, even if the character is supposed to be a conservative Muslim.

JUST FRICKING STANDING UP. Male characters: Fistclench. Bigshoulders. Heroic. Powerful. Female characters: Twistback. Sexy ladyosis. Pout. Pornface.

This is why I don't buy Marvel or DC comics anymore. Because I can remember (get off my lawn) when they didn't pull this crap!

#15 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 05:31 PM:

This thread reminds me of the 'styrofoam tits' discussion held here many a moon ago.

#16 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 05:32 PM:

Since when do we expect comics to be exclusively about reality?

For me it's something like this - I see pictures like these and think "Wow! It's a bright red dinosaur with an apeman on his back!"

I look at the pictures on the first link above and think "Wow! They're some kind of alien snake women! Oh no, they're not."

Next we'll be asking Batman to carry extra liability insurance, to cover the injuries of all those people who somehow run into his fists.

Less seriously, this isn't a good example as Batman goes one better by running free clinics (in his Bruce Wayne persona)

#17 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 05:33 PM:

I have been moderated, probably for links, but possibly because Jenny Islander made a much better point.

#18 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 06:55 PM:

When you ask people in the industry why they use these sorts of poses the most honest answer is something like "because our prime audience is barely-pubescent boys, who want to see tits and ass." Having been one of the targeted demographic (though not in a long while, I have to admit), I can remember being a lot more attracted by real girls who couldn't bend themselves into a möbius strip than by those comic characters. Also, I fenced in high school and college, and looking at Boris Vallejo's (to pick one example) female warriors made me wince imagining being hit by an opponent's edge on some part of the 95% of their bodies that weren't covered by anything at all, let alone armor.

#19 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 09:21 PM:

How about the flip side -- what comics that depict everyone more reasonably do people like? (Because the men in those comics are no more me than the women are my female friends.) I've just discovered Carla Speed McNeil's Finder (being rereleased in omnibus editions by Dark Horse!), and I'm head-over-heels in love. It's science fiction, very character-focused, hard otherwise to describe. It's a constellation of stories around the main character, who's the titular Finder, but he's more than his skills, and the characters he interacts with, female and male, could be (and sometimes are) main characters in their own stories, whether or not they're on screen. It's a rich world full of many-layered stories, and the comics reward close reading like few others I've read, Gaiman's Sandman being the classic example. So -- what else is out there?

#20 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 09:40 PM:

Kevin Riggle @ 19: Whiteout, written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Steve Lieber has a tough, smart woman protagonist in U.S. Marshall Carrie Stetko. It's set at the Antarctic research stations. Gorgeous artwork, suspenseful stories. Why yes, it is in black and white, why do you ask?

Stumptown, written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Matthew Southworth is a noir detective story set in Portland, Oregon. Like Portland, it's got some color.

#22 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 10:07 PM:

Normal people look normal in the "HellBoy" comics. Even the women.

#23 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 10:30 PM:

I can see that it's supposed to be funny, but I didn't personally find it funny.

I will say that the sexualization of female characters in comics in recent years has destroyed any hope I had of making my daughter the third-generation of comics fans in my family. Both my mother and my father read comics; both gave up comics while in college but my dad picked up the habit again when I came along.

My daughter's read some of my old comics, some of which she liked, some of which she disliked as insufficiently gender-equal/unfeminist.

But though she's tried today's comics several times, nothing's worked for her. Kids' comics (Tiny Titans) worked for a while, but she outgrew them and there was nothing to appeal to her at the Golden Age (12). She was reading manga and graphic novels by then.

Now, at 15, she's mostly given up manga but is still reading graphic novels, though not as many as she was a few years ago (high school workload = insufficient free time for reading).

#24 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 10:48 PM:

Melissa Singer @ 23... the sexualization of female characters in comics in recent years has destroyed any hope I had of making my daughter the third-generation of comics fans in my family

She might like "Atomic Robo"... "B.P.R.D."... Terry Mood's "Echo"... Busiek's "AstroCity".... "Girl Genius"...

#25 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 10:50 PM:

"#5 ::: Jon Marcus

Almost Escher-esqe how that pose mananges to prominently display both breasts and buttocks. I wanna see the "Strong Female Characters" climbing an infinite staircase..."


Well...
http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/51449.html

#26 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 10:58 PM:

Melissa Singer @23 -- what's the distinction you see between manga/graphic novels and comics?

#27 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 10:58 PM:

Agatha Heterodyne [Girl Genius], and Dykes to Watch Out For--and that's just a start; there's a lot more I don't know about.
Have disliked much of comic art--and books about how to draw same--for a long time. Figures more gracile than 99% of the people I see, with heads too small; the kind of sharp indentation tween muscles that seems to indicate severe dehydration (and what sort of costume fabric could cling that tight?), unbelievably top-heavy heroes fighting in such wide-legged stances they look about to fall on their asses, and so on. It isn't just comics. I asked myself whether I wanted to go see the Disney Pocahontas, and myself's answer was, "Don't trust anyone whose waist is smaller than one of her legs."
I suppose the young-boys-who-wanna-see-T&A have a right to see some on paper, but I sometimes wonder if artists are pandering to them a little much, giving them too much importance; I wonder if this is going to irrevocably sway the whole industry, the whole culture of art and who-knows-what. How can people who have other tastes reclaim our share?
Tangential memory--some story I read somewhere about some guys remodeling a house and finding porn mags that'd been hidden inside a wall for 30 years. They were amazed that their fathers had found real women, with body hair and all, attractive, compared to the manipulated images (and bodies) popular today.

#28 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 11:38 PM:

If we count manga as a subset of comics, I'm an avid reader of comics, with several titles I follow, and a few I buy. (Hurrah for a library with a large selection!)

If we only count comics produced in North America as Real Comics... well, I occasionally pick up a collection of something from Marvel or DC at the library, but the only one I liked enough to reallyfollow has been Runaways. And even that wobbles a bit from one collection to the next.

Manga certainly has its own set of unrealistic gender tropes. It just also seems a lot broader than US superhero comics--which isn't surprising, since "superhero" is a pretty narrow genre itself, compared to everything comics can involve--which means it's much, much easier for me to avoid the ones with gender tropes that get on my nerves, or art I don't like. I haven't even bothered to try for US superhero comics in years. Much as I like the concept of the genre, when the people in charge of the company are explicitly saying their audience is one that doesn't and isn't supposed to include me, well... why should I bother wading through the slush pile?

#29 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2011, 11:43 PM:

Melissa Singer @23, if she's "reading manga and graphic novels", then she's reading comics.

#30 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 12:48 AM:

This used to be a rant connected with women's figure skating - gliding backwards with leg raised so the breeze blew their skirt up and you could see their panties/crotch, and the twist over their shoulder showed off their breasts. And they moved!

Same concept.

#31 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 12:52 AM:

Serge, #24: I'm not familiar with any of the other comics you mention, but I feel obliged to point out that Girl Genius is not exactly an example of a comic with non-sexualized female characters. Yes, Agatha is smart, but she's drawn totally fanservice-style, with zero-G boobs and plenty of corsets and cleavage (both on her and on other female characters).

#32 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 03:06 AM:

I don't know if the correct term is caricature, but there's a place in comics for the same sort of artistic exaggeration, and that's where a character such as Agatha Heterodyne fits. Look at pre-WW1 fashion, and remember that she's wearing proper clothes, and her body shape doesn't seem wildly exaggerated. And all the characters stop short of trying to be real: look at how faces are drawn, it's a coherent style.

Look at the superhero comics and you have unreal bodies topped by realistic, though ultra-pretty, heads. Superman himself can look way out of proportion, not just through perspective effects, and the same head is on a different body as Clark Kent.

As for the fan service aspect, I've seen outright pornographic comic book art from Japan, and they don't resort to that sort of posing.

It's an old slur, but one that's hard to dismiss: American comic-book artists draw as though they've never seen a naked woman.

#33 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 04:16 AM:

"As though"? Don't you mean "because"?

Which is odd, given the Interweb, Rule 34, et al...

#34 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 07:51 AM:

The not-very-clear distinction is, I guess, more about superhero stuff than graphic fiction. And about format--floppies vs. books. To me, "comics" are, to a significant extent, 32-page things that you read in serial form at intervals of one or two months.

I suspect the teenager defines them similarly, with the additional limit of "things shelved in this particular part of B&N." (that would be the magazine section.)

Graphic novels/manga (the latter of which rarely venture into the capes-and-tights area) are shelved where the _books_ are. She thinks of them differently as a result.

(I agree that there are definitely visual conventions for human figures in manga as well. But though people are distorted and idealized in their own way, they retain a stronger sense of "normal/real" than most male and female main characters in US superhero stuff. And a number of the stories the teenager was following starred actual normal-looking people, since they were often about teenagers and young adults with no superpowers or supernatural/paranormal abilities.)

Her access to non-mainstream comics/floppies is very limited. There is 1 comic-book store in our neighborhood but it gives off the classic "no girls/no newbies" vibe. There's 1 near the office that is much better, environmentally-speaking, but I'm afraid that the ship of opportunity has sailed--at 15, she decides her own shopping destinations, and the comics store is never on her itinerary.

And yes, "Girl Genius" fails because of the drawing style. She just can't get past it.

#35 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 08:22 AM:

Kevin Riggle, #19: How about the flip side -- what comics that depict everyone more reasonably do people like?

Keep in mind there's more to comics than the superhero stuff, or the non-superhero stuff created within the superhero aesthetic. Carla Speed McNeil is, as you say, one good example, and her work has less in common with the superhero end of things than it does with "alternative" comics. (By which I mean "mainstream." Comics are weird. The stuff that might appeal to a broad audience is called "alternative," and the stuff aimed at the small number of people who resemble the Comic Shop Guy from The Simpsons is called "mainstream.")

These days, the best comics are far more likely to be sold in bookstores than in direct market comic shops. Almost none of them are sold as traditional 32-page magazine-style comic books. Outside the world of DC and Marvel, it's pretty much a dead format.

I find that most of the best SF/fantasy work in comics tends toward the magic realist end of the genre. A few "alternative" cartoonists who might appeal to SF fans--just off the top of my head, not a systematic list--include Cathy Malkasian (surreal fables with an animation sensibility), Jacques Tardi (steampunk adventure), Ben Katchor (for Cavino and Borges fans), Jim Woodring (indescribable), Jenn Manley Lee (who has a SF webcomic called Dicebox), Jason (deadpan fantasy/suspense stories starring animals), and Kevin Huizenga (mostly not SF, but it feels like it shares SF's worldview). I'd also recommend Seth's Wimbledon Green, which is not really SF but explores some of what drives people to immerse themselves in traditional comic-book worlds.

#36 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 08:55 AM:

Superman doesn't, for example, fight crime wearing only a thong, nor is he usually drawn in a sexualised way. The way he's drawn seems more closely aligned to what he does. The female superheroes we're talking about are drawn as though they're in a porn comic.

Realism/style is an issue which is mostly taste. If superhero comics were full of women with sexualised poses and costumes AND men similarily drawn then we could accept or reject it on it's merits.

#37 ::: Doug Hudson ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 09:29 AM:

Weird, I've never seen Girl Genius as exploitative. Sexualized, certainly, and sexy, depending on one's tastes, but not exploitation. I guess it's partly because the female characters are so strong (mentally and physically), and because there is an underlying sense of fun about it all.

On a related note, XXXenophile (NSFW, obviously), is a blast.

#38 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 09:36 AM:

Mother have mercy, I had no idea how bad Rob Liefeld was. I just finished looking at the "40 Worst Rob Liefeld Drawings", and not only do I need that part of my life back, I need industrial grade brain bleach. UGH.

On the other hand, Girl Genius does have sexualized bodies, but the poses are not unnatural, and it's story-driven (plot and dialogue), so the drawing style doesn't bother me.

#39 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 10:26 AM:

Hobbes: Is Amazon Girl's super power the ability to squeeze that figure into that suit?
Calvin: Nah, they can all do that.

#40 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 10:38 AM:

Serge at #15--here's the link for Styrofoam Tits. I beleive it was a Frank Miller depiction that set Our Hostess off on that one, although others do come in for a good pasting along the way.

#41 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 10:41 AM:

For me the distinction is:

A) An unrealistically high proportion of sexy, not always fully clad, and athletic people populate this world, but at least a real human being can take/hold that pose, AND there's a story. (Geroge Perez-era Womder Woman (1987, IIRC) or Girl Genius, much manga.)

I'm basically okay with this; TV and film have the same unrealistic numbers of "highly attractive" people (And frankly, TV could do with more of them who actually have hips and bust, or, in the case of super heroines like Buffy, athletic musculature).

I also don't mind some fanservicy drawings, as long as they're of human beings. (I like it better when they include some half naked male figures for those of us who appreciate the variety... Girl Genius has been a bit LESS balanced this way than some other Foglio works.)

B) Have you MET the female of the species? (Rob Liefeld etc.)

These just insult me and turn me away. I can only determine that they based their models on Barbie dolls with the old G.I. Joe twist-around waists.

The strong female characters strips in the OP... didn't do anything for me either as skewering the trope or as humour. Shrug.

#42 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 10:46 AM:

"OK, now I'm going back to graduate school. That was the agreement."

- the Bowler to her father's skull, after avenging his death . Yes, I heart Jeaneane Garofalo.

#43 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 10:52 AM:

fidelio @ 40... That's the one. Speaking of Frank... ("Do we have to?") As I was about to say... A few weeks ago, I was at my usual comics store, for my usual weekly visit, skipping the usual bust galore, when I struck a conversation with the young woman who works there. Yes, they allow girls. Anyway. She hated "300" for various reasons, one of which is that it was a director's interpretation of a comic writer's interpretation of something she's quite knowledgeable about.

#44 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 10:54 AM:

The only comics I ever read were Modesty Blaise, Elfquest, and the Dracula that was out in the early 1970s.

I thought Modesty looked realistic, as did Dracula...now Elfquest, well, not so bad as some of the above examples, but that may be damning with faint praise.

#45 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 10:57 AM:

Dr. Jean Grey: I think you'll be comfortable here.
Wolverine: Where's your room?
Dr. Jean Grey: With Scott, down the hall.
Wolverine: Is that your gift? Putting up with that guy?

#46 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 10:59 AM:

Melissa @23: Strongly second the recommendations for Finder and Atomic Robo.

I find it funny that fanboys like TrashedMyCookies scream about "realism" whenever anybody asks why female comic characters appear to be not much more than an expression of the artists' sexual fantasies. It's not "realistic" to show male superheroes wearing Tom of Finland chaps and codpieces, either, but funny, outside of The Authority or The Desert Peach it's only the girls, never the boys, who get the "hey reader, is this hot or what, amirite?" treatment.

#47 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 11:23 AM:

If superhero comics were full of women with sexualised poses and costumes AND men similarily drawn

Has anyone tried this? It sounds like it would be a hoot.

#48 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 11:35 AM:

When Joss Whedon was writing "X-men", women and teenage girls were drawn realistically, in realistic poses, wearing realistic clothes. Except for Emma Frost.

#49 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 11:40 AM:

mythago @46, did you see the "fanboy" link Patrick put up recently?

Anyway, the difference between how male and female superheroes are portrayed is this: The males are drawn as the ideal that a hetero adolescent boy is supposed to want to be, while the females are drawn as what those boys are supposed to want to have.

Leaving aside the questions of whether we should be presenting those ideals, or how idealized we should be making them, what many women in the superhero-comics fan community are asking for is to have the characters they identify with presented as be-ideals (figures of agency) instead of have-ideals (objects of lust). Also, not to have them stuffed in fridges.

#50 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 11:45 AM:

Female superheroes who wear sensible clothing... There's Jean Grey - when she's back from the dead... There's Sue Storm... There's... (long silence)

#51 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 12:10 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz #47
Something along the lines of this gender-swapped sketch of a recent female character's costume redesign?

#52 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 12:18 PM:

Lori Coulson @ #44:

I'm still reading Modesty Blaise: our local paper was one of the ones that ran the strip right up until the end - at which point it immediately started running the whole thing again from the beginning. So I'm getting to catch up on all the stories I missed first time around on account of not having been born yet. (Except "Willie the Djinn", which got skipped for some reason.)

Anyway, what I wanted to say is that we're currently up to the 1970s, when Romero was doing the artwork, and Romero is a bit more keen on drawing scantily-clad females than is perhaps entirely good for the story - but it has to be said that he clearly does know what a female body looks like, and what shapes it can't be twisted into.

#53 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 12:21 PM:

Serge @43--Truly, the Spartans were much badder and far stranger than I think Frank Miller is prepared to deal with, either in this life or any other.

I don't blame Miller et al. for getting things about that battle at Thermopylae wrong. I blame them (especially Miller) for acting as if anyone who points out the errors present in the depiction they chose to present is some sort of degenerate kill-joy monster who does not appreciate Great Deeds and Heroic Heroes Being Desperately Heroic.

#54 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 12:24 PM:

fidelio @ 53... Heroic Heroes Being Desperately Heroic

...by gritting their teeth and trying to spit words out.

#55 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 12:24 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ #47:

I recall an earlier go-around on this topic, somewhere other than here, that inspired a set of images attempting to depict male superheroes (Superman, Green Lantern, etc.) in a comparable manner. Some of those images are burned into my memory, but I'm afraid their location has not been so persistent.

#56 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 12:31 PM:

I never watched "Wonder Woman" much, but I remember bits of an episode where the bads guys, led by evil Jessica Walter, are watching a film of Wonder Woman in action. Jessica Walter shakes her head and makes a disgusted comment about the costume.

#57 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 12:33 PM:

Paul, #55: Would this be what you're remembering? It was linked from the "Styrofoam Tits" post, and is an excellent illustration of "if male superheroes were drawn the way female ones are".

#58 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 12:54 PM:

Lori Coulson @ 44: OTOH, Elfquest WAS a case of equal opportunism semi-nudity and exaggerated body structure. Cutter's low-rise leather pants and teeny loincloth were at least as revealing. When it bothered me art-wise, it bothered me on an equal footing.

And actually, it drew *humans* fairly proportionally.

(Story-wise, it did need some work on gender politics, but not nearly as much as many of its contemporaries.)

fidelio @ 53: That defensive "you criticized X, why must you destroy everything heroically manlybeautiful!" attitude is prevalent all over, and it usually misascribes the motives of the critique completely. They assume complaining or pointing out flaws means being like the reviewer who covered Game of Thrones who obviously didn't like epic fantasy, didn't want to watch the series, and seemed to take more joy in mocking the style of story than the flaws in the actual work in hand.

Whereas, it seems to me that most of the people who complain about things complain because it *is* something they wanted to like, they wanted to be enthusiastic, but the painfully bad historical innaccuracy/racism/sexism/art, etc. was getting in the way. It's critique by enthusiasm, or at worst by enthusiasm narrowly thwarted.

(Remember the thread on ML after Return of the King, which was FULL of people who loved the movie and the filmed trilogy and were celebrating that love -- but also so full of nitpicks and critiques of its flaws that people outside the fandom would have good reason to assume we didn't like it at all.)

#59 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 01:30 PM:

I was thinking it would be nice to have a story line and fight scenes.

#60 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 01:32 PM:

Paul @ 55, Lee @ 57: Kate Beaton also did a comic in that vein: The Adventures of Sexy Batman.

#61 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 01:53 PM:

I think that, visually, Modesty Blaise has similarities with the sort of jet-set hero adventure, typified on TV by The Saint. London might have been Swinging, but as far as the characters were concerned it wasn't their scene. It's the parallel London of the Kray Twins and Esmeralda's Barn. And, while the Saint isn't the original crook of the books, at least you know where Modestry Blaise has come from.

Looking at the strips, I can see what you mean about Romero's work, but his has to get on with telling the story. It's a strip from a daily newspaper, three frames per day. The reader can't be assumed to be able to look back at the previous day. So, while there's a degree of fan service, both Modesty and Willie, there's not space to waste.

Over in the USA, comic-book artists could work with the page as the visual unit, much larger, and able to support different ways of sequencing the frames and focusing attention. They could afford to dwell on a female figure.

I'm looking at the opening strips of La Machine, the first story, and it starts very low-key, with Sir Gerald Tarrant and Fraser looking at a block of modern flats by Hyde Park. But look at what goes on. They know something about Modesty. And the second strip tells you a huge amount in three frames. Tarrant doesn't give his full name. but Modesty knows who he is. And when she asks what he wants to talk about, he says "Murder."

Three frames, four speech balloons. We know from the first strip, by the hats they wear, which figure is Fraser and which Sir Gerald, but this is what blows the door open on all those years of adventure.

And many of the commuters reading that strip, in the London Evening Standard on the way home from work, would be dressed very like Jack Fraser, even in 1963. For a brief moment they would imagine themselves having a part in that strange and exciting world.

That's nothing like the comics coming out of DC and Marvel.

#62 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 02:00 PM:

Anybody remembers the movie and TV series "Black Scorpion"? Me too, unfortunately.

#63 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 02:03 PM:

Mary Rosalarian Gedris did a nice piece, on this, Dressed to kill

#64 ::: CZEdwards (aka the Other Constance) ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 02:18 PM:

Melissa Singer @ 23:

I am late to the party, and did have to check to make sure my memory wasn't being too forgiving, but the comics associated with the Buffyverse tend to skip the unnecessary and unrealistic sexualization of female characters. (Best in BtVS season 8, less so in AAtF and the Spike spinoffs.) There's some sexualization, but it's more of the aspirational idealization variety than objectification sort, and it is generally germane to the plot line. (Yes, teenage girls are going to sexy themselves up to go dancing. Not so much for the slayage or having conversations or research.)

I stopped following Season 8 about a year in* so Current Mileage May Vary, Void Where Prohibited, et cetera. Georges Jeanty's work seems to trend towards realistic, so that may be a jumping off point. Obviously, picking up the BtVS comics requires an interest in that 'verse.

*not due to content or image issues, but because my brain refuses the comic font. It's all caps, so comics yell at me, and emphasis is always on the wrong words. This is a problem I have with all comics, web comics and graphic novels.

#65 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 04:42 PM:

CZEdwards (aka the Other Constance) @ 64:
You may enjoy European comics, which usually avoid the shouting. There are also just a handful of non-European comics artists who use mixed case: Jason Shiga usually does, and Gene Yang sometimes does. No one else is coming to mind, though I know there are others.

#66 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 07:59 PM:

do styrofoam tits go spung?

#67 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 08:42 PM:

Melissa Singer @ 34: "I agree that there are definitely visual conventions for human figures in manga as well. But though people are distorted and idealized in their own way, they retain a stronger sense of "normal/real" than most male and female main characters in US superhero stuff."

The difference I see between manga and US comics is that in manga, male and female characters tend to be idealized in similar ways--hyperthin, large eyes, etc. And while there's no shortage of fanservice, it's pretty equal opportunity whether the hyper-sexualized character half-undressed striking a sexy pose while throwing a come-hither glance at the viewer is male or female. What gets to me about US comics is the gender dismorphism, both in body type and in presentation. It is, as Avram says, painfully clear which one you're supposed to want to be and which one you're supposed to want to do.

#68 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 08:54 PM:

Erik Nelson @ 66... I thought styrofoam tits went squeaksqueak, especially if the bra brings them too close together.

#69 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 10:33 PM:

I feel compelled to give recommendations for non-superhero comics:

In addition to Carla Speed McNeil (Finder) and Brian Clevenger (Atomic Robo), I would also recommend Evan Dahm (Rice Boy), Dylan Meconis (Bite Me), Ursula Vernon (Digger), Tom Siddell (Gunnerkrigg Court), and Ted Naifeh (Polly and the Pirates).
I also like Warren Ellis (Freakangels) and Aaron Diaz (Dresden Codak), but they veer back into boobalicious territory.

Most of the above are available online, and I'm pretty sure all are available in paperback collections. I am way too lazy to find all the links, though.

#70 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2011, 11:23 PM:

I recommend Garth Ennis's "Dan Dare". The women are quite smart, and they remain clothed the whole time.

#71 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2011, 02:09 AM:

Lee @ #57:

Yes, that's it.

#72 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2011, 10:27 AM:

I'll have to go back to my Amar Chitra Katha comics -- the stuff of my childhood -- and check how realistic the bodies (of the humans) are. Never really noticed as a kid.

#73 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2011, 11:26 AM:

Oh man, the ACK comics. They rock. I only have one lying around at the moment, but it didn't seem to have the Styrofoam Tits problem.

Avram @49: I don't think we really disagree.

#74 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2011, 01:11 PM:

72-3: Are Indian comics as awesome as Indian movies? Can I get English-language ones in the US? What should I start with?

#75 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2011, 05:12 PM:

Great comic with good action sequences, strong women, and no ridiculous costume choices or poses: Y: The Last Man.

#76 ::: Douglas Henke ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2011, 05:30 PM:

Kevin Riggie @#19: Ursula Vernon's _Digger_ fits the bill (both in terms of anatomically-reasonable and decently-dressed characters, and by having a sophisticated, character-driven story with lots of layers).

It even has a tribal society based on spotted hyenas that plays with some interesting inversions of the gender-role-stereotypes complained about upthread.

Finally, _Digger_ has the overwhelming advantages of being completed and being available in its entirety online. (Also can be had in dead-tree format.)

Disclosure: No relationship other than that I'm a huge fanboy.

#77 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2011, 02:11 AM:

So, coming from a different angle altogether, can someone explain to me why the immature male is such a coveted demographic, anyway?

#78 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2011, 02:14 AM:

Neil W @51: Something along the lines of this gender-swapped sketch

Hah. Reminds me of the first time I encountered a male belly-dancer. It was at Denvention 2, back in '81.

If you'd have asked me about whether a man doing belly-dancing moves would work or not, I would have guessed no.

But, turns out, works just fine. ::sighs dreamily::

#79 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2011, 09:39 AM:

Jacque @ #77:

My first guess would be that market research has identified them as the population segment most willing to throw money away.

#80 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2011, 12:06 PM:

Speaking of stereotypes, there's the whole issue of armour, as Jenny Islander upthread also pointed out.

#81 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2011, 12:43 PM:

200's "The last Legion" was a ho-hum movie, but Aishwarya Rai's armor actually looked like it could protect her.

#82 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2011, 03:06 PM:

Paul A. @79: Yeah, that's my guess, too.

I'm encouraged to see that Netflix picks up little indie films, but I'd love to see something which is to movie studios as PBS is to television; e.g., viewer-driven production rather than market-driven. Subscription MGM, or something of the sort. No clue if/how the monetization would work out, but I really love to find someone committed to producing movies/TV pitched at me.

#83 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2011, 03:15 PM:

Jacque @77 and Paul A @79, I've got a hard time believing that teen girls and young women are dramatically more frugal than teen boys and young men.

Most likely, it's just that's the market demographic the superhero comics industry has, and they're afraid of trying anything new. And they're stuck in a self-reinforcing loop: They've been appealing to the immature male demographic for long enough that most of their editorial staff come from that demographic, so they choose artists and writers from that demographic to make comics to appeal to that demographic....

#84 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2011, 03:24 PM:

Okay, now that's what I'm talkin' about! (Thanks, TNH!)

Which suggests that there's some serious money to be made out there, should some enterprising soul ever decide to tap that market.

Unfortunately, most of the stuff I see pitched for the fem side of that age range just makes me want to hurl.

#85 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2011, 06:35 PM:

Avram @ 83: "They've been appealing to the immature male demographic for long enough that most of their editorial staff come from that demographic, so they choose artists and writers from that demographic to make comics to appeal to that demographic...."

I don't think it's quite so calculated as all that--I think they make the comics they make because those are the books they themselves want to read. I suspect market pressure is more of a rationale than a driver.

(And I'd be very surprised if the majority of comic book buyers are teenagers. This study (done via facebook data, so grain of salt and all that) says that 18-30 is about 2/3s of the market. It also puts female readers at about 25%. [Unless by "immature" you didn't mean calendar years alone.])

#86 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2011, 06:46 AM:

#85 ::: heresiarch :

That seems very plausible to me. People in businesses don't automatically flow into different personalities just because there's money to be made doing something different.

The other problem for organizations that have been around for awhile is that they've got sunk costs and ongoing projects which make it harder to change what they're doing.

On the less dramatic scale, I've read that electric razors weren't developed by steel blade razor companies.

None of this means that big and/or old organizations can't change, but it's harder than it looks from the outside.

#87 ::: little pink beast ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2011, 04:31 PM:

They're hard to get ahold of in the States - I believe only three were ever even published in English translation - but I'm rather fond of Mézières's and Christin's "Valérian & Laureline" comics.

#88 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2011, 06:25 PM:

little pink beast @87

I recall "Heroes of the Equinox". Definitely worth a look.

Of course, there's always Asterix.

We were exposed to the French originals at school, but I didn't get some of the jokes until I read the English versions. They're not always the same jokes, but the translations have been brilliant.

And life is not easy for the Roman legionaries who garrison the fortified camps of Totorum, Aquarium, Laudanum and Compendium...

#89 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2011, 09:11 PM:

comic books are kid's stuff on steroids

#90 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2011, 10:07 AM:

Of course, there's always Asterix.

... on the subject of unrealistic body shapes...

#91 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2011, 08:07 PM:

I don't think it's quite so calculated as all that--I think they make the comics they make because those are the books they themselves want to read. I suspect market pressure is more of a rationale than a driver.

For some reason, it seems relevant that at least one major manga studio was created, and is still run, by women, who do all the writing, character design, etc. I don't know of any equivalent in the US comics industry (although I admit my knowledge of that industry is far from exhaustive).

#92 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2011, 08:22 AM:

There's a place you can see the last 50 pictures posted on Livejournal. I saw this there. The post is in russian (I think) and all I can say is I sure HOPE it has something to do with unrealistic depictions of superheroes.

#93 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2011, 12:34 AM:

Back at #20, I recommended Greg Rucka's graphic novels Whiteout and Stumptown and books with exciting plots, a strong female protagonist, and no creepily exaggerated artwork.

Should you be inspired to try Rucka's Queen and Country series, I'd warn you off the 3rd one.

I just read Queen & Country: The Definitive Edition, Vol. 1. It includes 3 Queen & Country books, all written by Rucka but with different illustrators. I liked the first two, but the third, Operation: Crystal Ball, is illustrated by Leandro Fernandez, and I hated his work. Tara Chace is supposed to be strong and fit, but he draws her in the grotesque style, with a waist smaller than her head, huge breasts, etc, and posed in ridiculous postures. I looked up the following books in the series, and see that Fernandez didn't illustrate any of them.

#94 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2011, 11:59 AM:

Random return to this: I was trying to explain the pose to my wife and she went "The Tyra Banks pose?" Apparently so.

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