Saturday, July 15, 2006

Why Reginald Hudlin Should Never Be Allowed Near the DC Universe

He proves in this interview that he has no understanding of the major personalities in that universe:

"Why did you choose T'Challa's [Black Panther's] first love over his ex-fiancee, Monica Lynne?

RH: Because Superman should be with Wonder Woman, not Lois Lane..."

(Hat-Tip to West)

This Again

I had this post on top for two days and figured I wouldn't revisit it, but the Feminist Community on Livejournal doesn't allow non-members to post and I had to respond to this comment.
But comics *art* different from "regular" art.

To compare comics to "regular art", you might look at the difference between Ingres and PP Rubens.

Ingres painted all of his "odalisque" paintings so that, if the woman existed in real life, she would have to have up to three extra vertebre. In the "Grand Odalisque", this is most true. The sitter is portrayed as disproportionate in order to convey the artist's personal aesthetic.

Rubens does much the same. His female sitters aren't technically real. They portray an aesthetic of beauty for the time and portion of the world in which he lived. Most of Rubens sitters are heavy hipped with a slightly rotund belly. However, Rubens portrays a slightly more realistic woman. She has wide hips, a belly, a more realistic bosom perhaps. But she's still just an image, a style of beauty.

I'm not sure which artist you're referring to when you envision a non sexualized or aestheic or realistic view of the natural form. Art does not depict life. Art depicts a vision of the artist. Picasso painted multitudes of women, but they were in his vision. He painted the parts he wished to portray in a way that he found aesthetically pleasing. Degas and Manet painted figures of an irreputable position, but in a aesthetically pleasing light, where they would not be under the usual circumstances.

Comic art is much the same. The artist isn't looking to recreate life. He's looking to present an aesthically pleasing subject. Whether that subject has breasts that are too large or legs that are too long, or a chest that is far too rectangular and a waist that is strangely small in comparison. It isn't life they are expected to depict, but a cartoon image of pleasure.

How many cartoons do you see that are real? Anime babes with huge eyes and strangely colored hair. A tomcat that stands on two legs. A sponge in clothing. Pink and purple ponies with glitter hair that talk.

Comics are just cartoons. They're images that reveal a certain brand of entertainment.
I'm not sure what the point of Rubens-Ingres art tangent she started off with was, but comics art is meant to present the best picture to support the story. Bottom line.

There are different styles, yes. But we're not talking about Looney Tunes or Manga here. We are talking superhero comics, specifically Marvel Comics. There's a certain style to that. Stylistic art is acceptable, wonderful even -- look at the Daredevil story by David Mack that Echo first appeared in, it was beautiful. But those stylistic elements are there because they fit with stylistic stories -- dreams and abstract concept pieces. There's a certain style that goes with it. Traditional superhero stories have their own atmosphere and artistic requirements. Some stories have soft, playful cheesecake like Terry Dodson's for a soft playful atmosphere. Some stories are sweeping epics that require a good cosmic background artist. Martial arts stories require an artist who can show the human body as a weapon. Art is necessary, in superhero books, for characterization and plot. Daughters of the Dragon is a Kung Fu/Action story. It's a martial arts book. Emphasis should be on the fighting and the skills of the characters.

If the artist wanted a more dynamic pose, that makes initial sense, she was very still in the first rough sketch. However, it was easy to tell she'd just landed solidly and skillfully and was planning to move again. She is peering into the window, reacting, even in the rough outlines to what she's viewing. There's room for the defined musculature of a well-trained martial artist. Her proportions roughly follow the ones traditionally used. The artist is clearly capable of skilled, balanced work.

The second picture, however, the landing is clumsy. I wouldn't describe it as dynamic at all. Her feet are skidding outwards beyond her control (her right foot even appears to be shaving wood from the porch -- was it changed so she would make noise on landing? Some martial artist!). Her back is bent in a painful and dangerous manner, you can see very little musculature. Her wrist is angled in a painful manner that adds no support to her upper body. This is not the landing of a skilled martial artist. This is an untrained girl who's gotten in over her head! Even her grip on the sword is loose!

The characterization is completely different for the two panels.

Which one do you think fits Colleen Wing, experienced martial artist?

Giving the benefit of the doubt, I'd call this sort of thing a bad artist covering his lack of skill with cheesecake, but here I'm going to judge by the potential of the first panel and say I see something much worse -- a good artist sacrificing characterization for sexualization. And that's the biggest problem. Breasts, skin, even flat out plastering She-Hulk's butt over half the panel doesn't really annoy me as long as it fits with the story (and they throw in a couple equivalent shots of the men). It's when the story and the character are put secondary to fanservice.

Art is vital to the medium, people. Artists need to get it right. There is room for cheesecake, room for beefcake but the character has to come first.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Green Lantern #12

I was going to blog about Wonder Woman tonight, but I was too blown away by the Utter Awesomeness of Green Lantern #12. I was expecting a mild peace offering with this story, but Geoff Johns managed to completely knock the base of my greatest annoyance at the franchise out from under me. It was wonderful. I didn't even realize I'd be this happy with it.

I mean short of resurrecting Katma and making it a mandatory artist mandate that 1/2 of all humanoid background GLs be female I don't see how he could make me happier.

I can even forgive the POW--Wait, I'm holding off on that one. But still, it was a Truly Beautiful Issue.

And it was drawn by Ivan Reis.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Older, but still relevant

This is from an old Newsarama feature on Daughters of the Dragon #1 back in January, but I've been meaning to point it out for a while.

The layout sketch:

Artist Kari Evans' judgement:
As you can see, there are slight changes from the layouts… panel three totally changed, and went for a more dynamic landing in the last from the layout version.

Completed page:

Allow me to repeat that with emphasis:
[...] went for a more dynamic landing in the last [...]

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Another Necessary Point Omitted

An article on Leia's metal bikini from Return of the Jedi.
"I saw the movie when I was seven and I was absolutely thrilled by Leia -- what a wonderful character," says Amira Sa'id, a dancer who has used a Leia bikini in her performances. "Jabba put her into the outfit to humiliate her, but Leia was such a strong character, her will made the costume empowering."
I wouldn't say it was sheer force of will so much as her actually using the chain attached to the metal outfit to strangle the amorphous bastard who put her in the ridiculous thing to death.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Monday Misogyny: He Wasn't Even Trying This Time

The Immortal Words of Erik Larsen:
Oh, and if a creator brings his wife to a show, don't hit on her. If he ends up slugging you and busting his hand, he'll produce fewer comic books and everybody loses in that deal. And don't offer to let him ball your sister -- especially if his wife is in earshot. That can cause all kinds of problems.
Thank you, Erik, valuable advice indeed.

The Things I Do...

Okay, I've assembled all of my regular searchplaces for WFA into a single Bloglines Account, and added a few of my daily non-comics reads. There's 255 feeds there right now, and I've lost count of what goes where. (This is not counting livejournals, by the way, as I have most of them on my friendslist anyway)

Anyway, I did this over the weekend in the hopes of simplifying my linkfarming between the blogs. I will still look at my Technorati watchlist, of course, and search engines.

Should I lose my mind and not post anywhere over the next day or two, the methodology change may be why.

Should this be successful, I may just wipe out the entire blogroll and leave a link to my public Bloglines folder instead.

Or not, we'll see.

Anyway, Today's Monday, and it'll be the first night I get back from work to all of your at-work ramblings. Wish me luck.


So I just got into the pile from last Wednesday and guess what I find...

A comic book with a naked man in it.

A naked man, established to be very good looking by the dialogue.

Sadly, though, it was difficult to tell from the art, because this naked man was not drawn by Ivan Reis or Ed Benes.

No, this naked man was drawn by John Byrne.

Damn you, Simone, you did that on purpose.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Benefit of the Doubt

I received a link to this in the email (along with this livejournal post), and realized that a terrible error may have occurred. See, I've seen posts like that, and there is usually a very important element that separates the good ones from the bad ones. This article was missing that element. So I emailed the article's authors to inform them of it.
Ms. Hilary Goldstein & Mr. Richard George,

I read your "Ten Books for Your Girlfriend" article, and I regret to inform you of a terrible error that was missed.

The end of the article was cut. I read through the whole thing and didn't see the punchline where you let everyone know you were kidding, that they're supposed to talk to their significant other and find out what kinds of stories they like before making recommendations. It's an awful thing to omit, because without it, people might think that you're serious.

It seems obvious to me, but apparently no one else has brought it up because here we are nearly a month later and the last paragraph is still not there. You may want to discuss this with your editor.

Thank you,
-- Lisa Fortuner
I'll be sure to inform you of any reply.

Because A Thousand Words Wasn't Nearly Enough

My writing skills need work. I'm apparently able to entertain well enough, but when it comes to the true purpose of writing -- getting the message across, I've been falling short.

Case in point, yesterday's link to my cover analysis yielded this response. Kalinara's answer (originally found here) well-summed up my intention, but I can't help but wonder if this could have been avoided.

Take the tail-end of the comment, for example:

When you embrace this cover, you're not embracing a noble view of womanhood. You're embracing the view that a woman can only be noble if she rejects and battles against the sexuality that a male-dominated culture finds threatening.

You see, I agree with the base of Hippokrene's argument. The Femme Fatale is dangerous to men, she's a representation of male fear of female sexuality and the seeming control it has over them. She's an attempt to place responsibility for male actions on the female object of the actions.

However, there's a flipside to it, and that's the path of least resistance. I had a coworker once who tried to use feminine wiles to get mostly male coworkers to make things move a little faster for her. I hated watching it then, and I hate watching it now. Before she went overseas, she trained me to take over her additional duties (Hazardous Waste Disposal -- yuck) and advised me to do the same. I expressed my disgust and told her I'd be doing things my way (which involved scowling, growling and intimidation). But, I admit, it seemed to easy to do. So easy to play the game, play into their hands and expectations. All it took was an upward thrust of the chest, a suggestive tilt of the face, and you had that attention. You had what looked like power. It was a false sense of power, though, based entirely on the attention you got from the man you were speaking to. After you left, he'd not be considering you a coworker he did a favor for. You were an object of desire he got to look at a little while. He got to see your breasts and your smile and your eyes in return for a little attention. He got a little fantasy time, and when you came back, he'd expect the same.

Now, add a few years of doing that, and you sew on a stripe or two. Suddenly, you're Sgt Fatale. You go back to that guy, and he's still Amn Supply. You need something from him, and, according to military hierarchy, you are supposed to be the one in power here, not him. However, he's expecting that smile, that fantasy. Is it right to give that fantasy to him? It may seem harmless, but in order to do so you're sacrificing your own personal earned power of position over the situation for the illusionary power of your sexuality. Come crunch time, and he's breaking a safety rule or a security rule and you need to stop him -- How much authority will you have?

There's an internal struggle in that cover to me, the struggle between two parts of yourself -- the part that has valuable skills and dignity, and the part that wants to get something done the easy way. As I looked at that cover, I saw Osira, a supervillain. Supervillains always take the easy way. She used her sexuality to get ahead. Diana doesn't do that. She's clearly a sexual being, look at her outfit, but in the picture she emphasizes power and strength and rage, not sexuality.

The comment particularly got to me, though, because I suspect it could have been prevented. I wrote that analysis early Friday morning, and briefly played with a point. A point about the usual Good Girl-Bad Girl fight and how this doesn't conform to that dynamic. Normally, in such a cover, we see an emphasis on the Good-Girl's, well, "Goodness" and purity and "Niceness." Diana does not look nice. She looks like she's about to tear those snakes to pieces and then start on Osira. "Good girls" typically resemble pre-Hades Persephone. An innocent, good natural girl who is fighting to avoid being taken advantage of. She is defending her virtue. In such images, the "Good, Pure Woman" is always just as exploited as the "Bad Girl." If anything, with the "Good Girl" it's worse because there's an element of victimization. She's being swept away by unrestrained sexuality and must fight against it.

It makes me sick too. But this cover doesn't have that victimization. Diana shows some control here. She's not the victimized "Good Girl" defending virtue against the "Hussy." She does not represent an extreme. She's a normal, moderate woman who is fighting a twisted extreme of sexuality. Like all supervillains, Osira represents an unhealthy extreme, while our hero represents the healthy middle-ground. The image shows a perverted representation of femininity, of sexuality attempting to sweep Diana away, but she's not going gently or frightened or scrambling to get away. No, she's enraged, and exerting force, and ready to demonstrate not six kinds of violence on her enemy. As her creator himself points out, Diana always breaks free and overpowers her captor.

I was bothered by the comment, a bit discouraged, and genuinely annoyed because I figured that leaving in what I'd discarded would have cleared it up, even if it had disturbed the flow of the writing. I talked it over with some friends. Tekanji, who I remember when she first saw the picture mentioned her eye was drawn to the large snake around Diana's thigh, mentioned there was some Virgin/Whore dichotomy in the picture, Kalinara brought up the awful emphasis on Diana's "virginity", and Soyo perceptively pointed out the extreme polarization of sexuality in our society (which she'd already covered in this essay a few weeks ago). We managed, between the four of us, to pinpoint the difficult position of the artist. You couldn't avoid polarizing the subjects, Diana would not be seen as a moderate persona and it would bring up the Virgin/Whore dynamic if there was no sexualization on Diana's part. But, truly, in a cover with bondage and tentacles is it possible to de-sexualize a woman in a bathing suit? Not a chance. If any more sexualization was added, the Dodsons ran the risk of crossing the line to objectification and truly brining in the Good Girl-Bad Girl imagery as Diana would clearly be exploited. Kalinara and Soyo argued that the complaint of Diana being the pure and chaste woman up against the evil temptress would be less likely in that case, but it would have killed any appreciation I had for the cover. The best possible situation was the one there, with Diana powerful and ready to attack and Osira exploited, but by herself.