Sunday, May 07, 2006

Phantom Lady Breastrospective

(Thanks to Chris Sims for coining the term Breastrospective)

Enter the Hall of Objectification, If You Dare!!!

I'm sure you all remember the Monstrosity pictured below, where we all discovered that artist Daniel Acuna had no idea what a real woman looked like. It caused quite a stink.

Freedom Fighters #1 (as previewed on Newsarama), is not quite so bad, but still -- They're very round, bouncy and shiny, aren't they?

Granted, Grant Morrison created this lastest incarnation, there may yet be a reason for her appearance. Maybe's she's a plastic person like we saw in Seven Soldiers: Mr. Miracle. That would be fun. If that's the case, I may give the series a shot despite disliking Acuna's art (as so many of his people look plastic) even though it's not actually Morrison writing.

Nevertheless, I still find them freaky. In all of my comics-reading time, I don't think I've ever seen anything so freaky. The freakiest thing, however, is that people find them necessary to the character.

For example, the inimitable Erik Larsen seems to believe that "Phantom Lady's whole claim to fame was looking like a porn star with her impossibly perky Triple-D breasts as the star attractions to her book."

Later in the same article, he asserts "The Phantom Lady's only distinguishing characteristics are her ample cans. That's pretty much all she has going for her. Ditto Power Girl. To tone them down is to strip them of their identities." (Emphasis Mine)

Wow, all the years I've been following these characters and I've before never realized that the only likeable thing about them is their breasts. I guess Power Girl's brassy attitude, unapologetic honesty and feminist aspirations were fabricated by my own sick imagination. And here I didn't realize that there were dozens of women running around with invisibility powers, a Golden Age legacy, a socialite background, in a political backdrop with a patriotic superteam and the only thing that distinguished our Phantom Lady was her humongous bazongas! Thank you, Mr Larsen, for enlightening this foolishly idealistic woman!

I'd have to say that the above quotes are what really pissed me off about Larsen's column. The assumption that neither character had a personality or a usefulness to the story, and that without hooters to ogle they would be a pointless addition to the cast.

Sadly, he was not smart enough to shut up after that stunningly idiotic statement. He continues to insist "And frankly, that's what they're supposed to look like! It's not a situation where an artist took Catwoman and distorted her to fit his fetishes -- these characters started out busty as all hell -- drawing them that way is drawing them right. If you don't want the Barbi twins to look like the Barbi twins, don't use the Barbi twins."

Really? Phantom Lady is supposed to look like that? With such massive mammaries that her head is dwarfed by them?

I beg demand to differ. I've seen this image on a number of pages, including her profile on the International Catalogue of Superheroes website. It's one of her earliest appearances in Police Comics.

And here, from her own series, the cover to Phantom Lady #2.

Her Silver Age costume, with the added window for a convenient peek at the cleavage, as seen in Justice League of America #107.

Oh course, the most incriminating picture I've found, after the Peek-A-Boo window morphed into the Dental Floss-tume, still features a woman with human proportions, albeit human proportions on display.

And finally, a peek inside Action Comics Weekly #640 for a little more perspective, see the Dog's Paw vs. the Breast in question?

Looks like Larsen's Beloved Twins are a more recent addition than previously believed.


  1. I will be using the phrase "demand to differ," so thank you.

    I think what Mr. Larsen is thinking of is the cover to Phantom Lady #17, which was reprinted in Sedution of the Innocent. THAT image, which for many is the most memorable image of Phantom Lady, features some ginourmous cans and prominant nippleage.

    So that's ONE image, originally used as an example of the WORST of objectification, and Larsen thinks that's how the character is SUPPOSED to be. The idiot.

  2. If Phantom Lady's purpose is to serve as eye-candy for the male readers, why has DC assigned her to so many artists who draw her so badly?

  3. You know what the funny part is? Chuck Austen drew that last panel.

  4. For those of you interested in the Great Larsen's response to my humble Breastrospective, check here.

    He seems to still want to avoid the fact that this issue isn't about censorship, or variety when it comes to characters, but rather its about Bad Art and Bad Artists hiding their complete lack of knowledge about the human anatomy behind Bad Cheesecake/Porn.

    If you can't draw a reasonable D-cup, you shouldn't be drawing women professionally.

  5. Re: the last panel

    I realize that fabric isn't much use against claws...(Although, can't they get some of the stuff they use in The Incredibles? And wasn't Superman's suit always supposed to made out of extra special fabric from his space capsule?)

    ..but when it gets to the point that the most your hero's top does is give claws something to grab, really, what's the point of drawing any clothes on them?

  6. surprising post - phantom lady actually seems smaller than your average comic book female character -- or is that just the way all women were drawn way back when?

  7. Man, how many times do I have to say it:

    Cheesecake is not a right, it's a privelage.

    A well-drawn woman with small breasts is going to look better then a poorly drawn woman with large breasts.

    Besides that, explicitly cheesecakey poses invite us to examine the art more closely. If art is used to tell a story, then it can be very simple; even stick figures can effectively communicate a story.

    Cheesecake, on the other hand, is a kind of art that exists to showcase the art itself. In other words, a cheesecake picture changes the focus from the story to the art, and thus makes us examine the art more closely then we otherwise would.

    The end result is that that first panel of Phantom Lady gives me sympathy pains in my lower back. I mean, seriously, can she even straighten up? Maybe she was hit by a car and it left a dent.

    As for Mr. Larsen, I have no idea who he's defending himself from. Where are these legions of fangirls demanding that Phantom Girl have a breast reduction?

    On feminist sites, I've only seen three complaints:

    1. Cheesecake is drawn by people who can't draw women to save their lives.
    2. There aren't a lot of different body types given to women in comics
    3. It's disproportionately women who are objectified.

    I mean it seems like the two of you are talking past each other, but at least you have examples to back up what you're saying.

    It seems like Mr. Larsen just pulled something completely out of his ass.

  8. Ragnell! That is just too good.

    "I guess Power Girl's brassy attitude, unapologetic honesty...were fabricated by my own sick imagination...and the only thing that distinguished our Phantom Lady was her humongous bazongas!"

    Larsen seems to have always been of that mind. He's a breast man as witnessed by Savage Dragon's two great loves Rapture and Jennifer. Both are Breastacular to the point of back surgery. Add that to the fact that he's never taken creator critiques too well. I myself got 'cussed' (in his letter columns) for musing on how nice if would be if he killed off the drab and boring Jennifer...Still, I'm disappoined that he actually let that crap escape his brain...

    So, um, you coming with me to put the Hex down on Starfox, or what?

  9. Mickle -- To simultaneously get past the censors and draw attention to the naughty bits. Didn't you read Dan's essay?

    Jenn -- Those are all pre-90s comics, before the big Image Bust-Out.

    christopher -- I think he may be more defending himself than Acuna.

    Sherin -- Thanks! And yeah, you can count me in on cursing the skeevy bastard. Never trusted those Eternals.

  10. Thanks for showing me this link. I missed it on the first go-around on Larsen's commentary. What irritated me about his response was the admission of "Her personality may be unique -- I wouldn't know -- I've never read a comic book featuring the character," but he knows her by reputation. Like she's some floozy in town everyone knows is no good, because she dresses a certain way. Sooooo... because she's well beloved as a cheesecake cover girl that's the way she should remain, regardless of her history or her background?