Saturday, January 15, 2011

This can't be said enough.

Brian Clevinger (emphasis mine):
Power Girl, Emma Frost, Psylocke, Wonder Woman's bikini, every softcore porno cover, these are all messages saying, "This is not for you GO AWAY." They're active barriers keep women out of the club house.

Meanwhile the print industry tries to attract lady readers with all the grace of a seal solving a Rubik's Cube.

And when these half-hearted, ill-conceived projects invariably fail -- because they manage to say, "This is not for you GO AWAY," to both men ("too girly") and women ("what the gently caress is this bullshit?") -- publishers get to shrug and say, "BIFF! POW! Comics just aren't for girls I guess!" and they have an excuse to keep producing "mature" content instead of actually being mature about their content.

With Atomic Robo, we've made, quite literally, the barest minimal effort, i.e. "Hey, if there's no reason to draw this lady sexy, then how about we don't," and it's paying off like wild. Judging by our email, convention appearances, and Twitter, women make up about 20% of our readers. In this industry 5% would be pretty high, especially for a comic all about punching.

That's what's so sad about it. You don't have to try to get women readers. All you have to do is let your lady characters have some goddamn dignity. Cheesecake-y poses and panels designed to focus on them don't draw themselves. Someone makes the conscious decision to produce that specific image. Hours are spent on it. Lines are erased and re-drawn to get it "just right." You have to go out of your way to overly sexualize a character.

Or you could just, y'know, not.

Some publishers, editors, and artists will tell you they have to draw sexy ladies. Sex sells! It's what the fans want! No, it's what a sub-section of man-children the industry has spent decades culling from the mainstream has been trained to expect.

Here's the crazy thing: they can be trained to expect different things.

But no, "Boo hoo some creepy shut-ins might not buy Spider-Man" is the go-to defense of the industry. Yeah, that'd be a real shame.

Sorry if I posted a bunch of words that don't really add new ideas, I'm just continually astounded by the American mainstream print comic industry's Herculean resistance to increasing their sales.


  1. No need to apologize, sometimes you just gotta vent. I enjoyed the first two Power Girl trades but decided to quit when Judd Winnick started writing it. I am just not into Judd's writing. So yeah, while I admit part of the appeal of reading PG was the cheesecake, I also found the writing to be more important. If it wasn't I would own every issue of Tarot. :)

    Sex sells, there is no denying it. But yeah, it can get out of hand.

  2. Honestly, in many ways I find Power Girl the least offensive cheesecake in mainstream comics. At least it is openly acknowledged cheesecake. Hell, even the character seems aware she is cheesecake.

    It's the hundred other female characters that are presented as normal done up as cheesecake that are truly offensive.

  3. There's some real trashing of Power Girl later in that thread, but really I don't see it as too important. See, by what he advises, if Power Girl is drawn without an emphasis on sexualization or even just very mild and fun cheesecake such as Connor and Lee used, she stands on her own fine. If she IS overly sexualized, the window in her costume is lengthened to absurdity, the briefs high cut to the point of disgust such as with some of the more horrible examples we've seen, covers by otherwise perfectly good artists like Turner, Van Sciver, and Perez, it's really very sickening.

  4. This article is like the truth, written down in word form. It's not just women being excluded, it's children, too, even early teenagers. Take:

    This is nothing. I'm not offended by this cover or anything. I'm picking this out because it's NOT a particularly bad example. The women are posed in ways that emphasize their legs, boobs and crotches (and note that the only man on there isn't)

    Meanwhile, if the idea is that men will pick it up because it's sexy ... well, it doesn't exactly function as softcore, either. If you want to target the Maxim readership, then have the courage to do it properly.

    A parent is not going to pick this up for a child. A, say, twelve year old boy would have trouble reading this in front of a parent or if a teacher caught him with it.

    And the joke: it's a comic by a woman about powerful women. The comic *isn't* like this. It's like reverse false advertizing - excluding exactly the people who'd like it.

    The creepy manchild thing is comics' biggest problem right now. The problem is this: comics are only about comics, now. They are commissioned and written by people who know comics and basically only comics, so all their points of references are comics or a few inches away from comics. They can explain every variation in Wonder Woman's costume, but they just don't *see it*.

    They write about what they know ... which is comics. They read Alan Moore a lot when they were fifteen, but they don't remember the complex, awkward characters of Evey and Abby and Laurie and Liz, they just remember the bits where they got their tits and bums out and all the rape scenes.

  5. Thank you for posting this. I was just in a lengthy and unfortunate argument with someone on this very topic, only we were mostly talking about RPG art, and it didn't end well.

  6. Hell yes. And the thing that really bothers me, is the assumption that comics have ALWAYS been drawn this way. Well It didn't get really sexualized until the '90's. But in the '90's practically ANYthing would sell...including horrible horrible artwork.

  7. There were sexy women (and some men) characters in the olden days from guys like Adams, Starlin, or Grell, but even then the storytelling came first. When the publishers began narrowing their focus to direct market seems to be when all hell broke loose.

    Sure, maybe sex sells, but if I just wanted wank material, I could simply get a goddamn Maxim (I'm talking to YOU, Greg Land and Greg Horn). I'll take a Kubert or a Cardy over that any day.


    This female comics fan since 1972 thanks you from the bottom of my heart for your words.