Monday, April 03, 2006

Posture Perfect

I was going to agree with the anonymous commenter on Katma's pose in my last post, until I found this picture.



Unfortunately, panels like this are few and far between. Usually, the poses are reversed.

The problem with female poses...

I'm actually a big fan of reasonable cheesecake in comics. So long as the art is well-done, and there's something in it for me. Unfortunately, Equal Sights will elude us as long as sexuality overtakes practicality. When learning to draw in comics, certain poses are the first you work on. Those become the default pose. The default posing for women emphasizes the hips and breasts as much as possible. It makes it easy to tell at first glance the gender of the character. This combines with the natural "Prettying up" of the art to make an appealing cheesecakey pose for the cheracter. The "Sexy Woman" pose becomes "Comics Shorthand for Girl." It's just easier to draw that way. Drawing a character to be appealing makes sense. The problem inherent in this is what kind of pose is considered appealing. More specifically, the problem is what kind of pose is considered appealing for each gender, as Male and Female characters are usually drawn with different posture as part of the "comics shorthand" for their gender.

Yes, everyone in comics gets sexualized. But the men (Once again, note Hal's pose, this time at right) get to stand tall and strong and practical and still be considered desirable, while the women look as impractical as possible. This is because of that "shorthand for girl" learning. It drives me out of my mind to see martial artists and experienced fighters in comics, standing with their backs arched, their breasts up, and their butts back, messing with their center of gravity and their final health when they should certainly know better. The better fighting position has your feet shoulder width apart and your spine straight.

To illustrate this, I was going to use the Phantom Lady S-Spine of Torment and Triple-D-Cup of Doom combination, but I didn't want to cause any physical trauma from the sheer awfulness of it. Here's a much more palatable example:



There is no reason Black firkin' Canary, one of the Top Ten Martial Artists in the DCU should be anticipating an attack with her heels together and her hip tilted suggestively upward. I don't know Judo specifically (so, please correct me if I'm wrong), but I do know that's a way to get seriously hurt.

Now, the above panel was rendered by Our Beloved Neal Adams, Wielder of Symbolism, Master of Visual Characterization, Patron Diety of Facial Expressions. As a fan of his, I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. She's at a relaxed position, and just now getting into the stance as she sees the attacker.

Except for one problem, a woman who spends as much time fighting as Canary does would not have such as vulnerable posture as her "Default stance." She would naturally use something more in keeping with her training.

I took a couple years of Karate in high school, and during this I started unconciously adapting the stance in my everyday stuff. I kept my spine was usually straight and my feet shoulder-width everywhere I stood. It had the effect of sticking my belly out, and tucking my butt underneath my spine. I'm naturally top-heavy, so my butt effectively disappeared. A year or two after I'd been to my last class, I noticed my friend Liz was constantly flirted with, by the guys I liked. I asked about it, and she advised me to stand more suggestively. Stick my butt out, angle my stomach in, and arch my back so as to emphasize my breasts. It was quite a change in posture, but I tried it and it took.

None of those men were worth the trouble, and by the time I learned that I'd adopted the posture into my natural habits and didn't feel it was worth changing back.

Until the back problems started. They are still there. My Doctor prescribed two sets of medication, which didn't work, before he gave me a sheet of annoying exercises I now have to accomplish every day. I also have a seventy-five dollar back brace that I need to use occasionally. It's only a mild problem right now, but it still keeps me awake sometimes, and it makes working difficult on the bad days. And according to my doctor, it's because of my posture combined with my chest.

Now, as as Chris kindly pointed out, this was thirty years ago and Adams was just learning to handle martial artists. Canary's posture got better as the series moved on. More than likely, he needed an at rest pose and used a picture of a woman standing like that. This would be all well and good, if it weren't for the fact that artists still do this. Models still do this. Television stars still do this. The "Sexy woman pose" is one that we all learn and internalize as little girls. This is what a pretty lady stands like.

She stands with her chest out, her back arched, her legs together, and her center of gravity compromised.

She stands in the most vulnerable position possible, the one from which it is the most difficult to prevent an attack.

She stands in the posture most likely to cause major back problems in a few years.

But hey, it's hot, right?

13 comments:

  1. Yes, it is. But it is still far more important that a woman have a grasp of the fundamentals of gravity -- and magnetism! -- than it for her to stand in a provocative pose.

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  2. You forgot to mention the oh-so-attractive way that heels augment this comfortable pose. Practical indeed. OY!

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  3. That Hal/Katma pose just proves my theory that GLs have the tightest costumes in comics.

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  4. Dang, Hal! That is ONE TIGHT BUTT!!!

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  5. I just tied to stand in that "hot babe posture" and boy does my back hurt

    ouchies, I think I sprained my lahpxea

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  6. R Greene -- I originally put in a sentence or two about heels, but I wanted to specifically address the spine. If you go through Lene Taylor's podcasts, though, you'll find a rant on high heels that matches my own feelings on the matter (10 minutes in).

    Dan -- Well, the uniform is just pure energy that's effectly painted on the bdy. I do find it interesting that this particular artist puts more detail into Hal's musculature.

    Anon -- I warned you. It's a $75 back brace to fit around the breasts and still be effective. The alternative is reduction surgery, which costs a lot but if you let your back get bad enough you might be able to swing it under insurance.

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  7. Hate to use the tired "you're reading too much into this" argument, but it's likely Neal Adams wasn't too much thinking about martial arts when he drew the panel. Instead Black Canary's pose is just artistic shorthand: she looks vulnerable and weak in comparison to her opponent, which'll make the end result more dramatic. (Upset by the underdog, etc...)

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  8. I think that's the point, though: he wasn't thinking about martial arts, and he should have been, and likely would have been if he thought of her as a character first.

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  9. re: "Phantom Lady S-Spine of Torment and Triple-D-Cup of Doom combination"

    I nearly bust a gut reading that line.

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  10. To all readers and posters,if you were hired to write a Katma Tui Comic,what plots,poses,social situations and such would you choose for Korugar's Finest?What costume&or hairstyle changes,if any,would you make for the Jade Fighter of Korugar?What is your perfect vision of a comic whose star is this red Kat woman?

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  11. Hey, Ragnell, I don't know if you remember me from DC's Wonder Woman boards. I found your luverly blog through the Carnival of Feminists.

    I thought this entry was very interesting: it's true that we see this pose as representative of women. In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud basically posits that the power of comic books is their iconography: i.e., for the most part, the "cartooniness" of comics helps the reader easily identify with certain ideas, that symbols can be read quickly and are universal.

    But did the symbol for women have to be that? Is it something that was used in the beginning of comics because that was a common pose for women on magazine covers and ads?

    I know I started standing that way because of Daphne in Scooby Doo. But Daphne really annoyed me--she was so stupid! I could never figure out why Velma wasn't the pretty one.

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  12. Sandicomm -- Yeah, I remember! You recommended Utena to me.

    Wow, it's been so long since I've been on the DCMB I don't even remember my password.

    I think it's the magazine covers and ads, or maybe even the movies of the day that did it. Golden Age superhero artwork didn't have a serious cheesecake aspect to it, so most likely this stuff was aped off of existing images of women. As the artwork got more realistic, so the poses got more and more cheesecakey and here we are at the point where even the more innocent and well-done artwork still has females standing like Playbody models instead of like a Martial artists.

    (Daphne annoyed me too, but I wanted to dress like her)

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  13. Would it be possible for you to show the whole story in which this picture appears,so that i may copy it?As i am a fellow Kat-fancier,I have collected as many issues as i can starring Kat,howverver i cannot seem to locate Green Lantern#124(silver age)which I assume this is from.

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