Friday, March 30, 2007

Cover Cliches

I did it again. I bought an issue based solely on the cover. It wasn't a series I was reading, or had heard about. It was actually the 3rd issue of a 6-issue miniseries. Silent War #3.

Like the last issue I bought just for the cover (the issue of New Avengers with the Scarlet Witch on the cover), it made me sad. I don't know why I'm such a big fan of Magneto's kids, but I always have been. I'm a sucker for any appearance they make. I scanned reprints of early Uncanny X-Men for them. I pick up random issues of Avengers when one of them is prominent on the cover (this is how I have the trade paperback of The Morgan Conquest). The first set of back issues I picked up when I was done with BMT and living on my own for the first time was the first two issues of the Amazing X-Men miniseries that tied into the Age of Apocalypse crossover. It was my favorite, because that was the one where Pietro was leading the X-Men. I have every issue PAD wrote of X-Factor and beyond that. Hell, I even own some of the 1997 Quicksilver series (I have the Heroes For Hire crossover).

So I've had issues with Marvel, or rather I've avoided buying issues from Marvel, since Wanda flipped out. It seems to have soured me on 98% of the Marvel universe and I dropped every Marvel book I read after Disassembled. It was such a wasteful stupid thing to do to a character.

Then I nosed around and picked up the first half of House of M, because I thought they might fix it. I dropped it when they revealed Pietro was the antagonist.

Then I picked up Son of M, just in case they fixed at least one twin. No such luck. Unlike the crossovers where Wanda was featured as insane, Son of M was a wonderful series. It was wonderful comic miniseries in the same way that The Last Sherlock Holmes Story is a wonderful book. Its skillful and engaging, and everything fits as they go through it. this somehow makes it more sickening than when the hero is completely mischaracterized, because the writer draws you into the story and its like a perfect horror picture. You empathize with the main character. That character is your hero. And you watch, helplessly, as they act completely within their nature and destroy their own sanity.

(If only Wanda's story could have been so good.)

Still, it was very depressing and I rationalized buying this because maybe, just maybe, it could get fixed.

It isn't.

But at least I still have this cover.

Isn't that beautiful? Crystal looks strong and protective and powerful here. Looking at the cover makes me forget a little bit about losing Wanda, mainly because I've never seen Wanda get to display such a presence. Not many female characters do. That's probably why I got out of my way for covers like this and like the Spirit #4. Its an image you can just look at and feel strong.

Last week, I saw a picture that looked much the same. It was on a T-Shirt in a souvenir shop and showed a classic poster of Luke and Leia for Star Wars. It was a little different from the ones I'd seen before, because rather than posing at his feet and holding a gun, Leia was wrapped around Luke's leg. It was the first time I'd seen that poster, but it didn't really make an impact on me. I thought at the time that it was the familiarity of the pose. Then I saw this cover.

I wonder if the artists understand what they convey when they do a role reversal like this. As a woman, I'm expected to empathize with the male characters as well as female characters (the whole "if boys will read it, girls will too; so make it for boys" mentality that the Entertainment industry displays) but that doesn't change the fact that when I see a man and a woman on a cover, I tend to identify with the female character.

So a picture of the traditional version, where the man is standing and radiating power while the woman is on her knees clinging to his leg can be offputting because at first glance my mind wants to identify with the female position. But the male character is the stronger in such a picture. He's the one we're meant to empathize with while the girl is the throwaway. So there's a little bit of distancing that has to happen. I have to ignore the gender difference to identify with the stronger character. Something is lost, and I see the art through a filter. I've seen tons of poses like this, with the woman wrapped around the man's leg, and they've never struck me as a good pose.

But looking at this cover the power hit me right away. There was no distance, there was no filter between me as a viewer and the stronger character. I got the full effect of the picture.

Its hard to describe, but when I saw it my heart felt a little lighter in my chest, my cheeks felt warmer and the corners of my mouth turned up in a smile. I think I may have stood a little taller in the store.

Now (because I know some poor soul who's cursed with apathy is misreading this feeling as a comment on the general state of my life) that's not to say that poses like this are as great as finding the cure for cancer, or my first taste of butter pecan ice cream, or that that's the most wonderful feeling I've ever had in my life. It was good enough to shell out the three bucks for a book that featured characters I liked. I've just lovingly detailed the experience so I can ask you all one thing:

Is that what it feels like for men when they see the typical pose?


  1. I agree, it's a lovely cover. Who drew it? (I always need to ask this since fictional characters don't have self-agency so it's not like they're real and posing.)

  2. I don't know the first thing about this series, but the cover is beautiful. I was just pondering the same notions of empowerment, in regard to prospective WW covers; though my stance was less mature – more in line with, ‘let’s just make Nemesis eye candy cover fodder’ and all future Diana-as-human style arcs. ^^

    It's funny you should mention that others might note your liking of a cover to reflect your possible 'real life' circumstances. I still regard the recent WW#2 cover as fitting for me, simply because I look at it, hanging in my office, and think--yeah, that about sums it up, doesn't it?

  3. Is that what it feels like for men when they see the typical pose?

    To answer your question: No! Because Pietro doesn't have porn face.

    But it is an awesome cover, and gave me pause at the shop.

  4. That image makes me think of all the times I've rp-ed a powerful woman being in charge in a crisis and the very, very, few occasions it was okay with the other people involved that someone male wasn't stepping in to take over.

  5. Not really, but then again I can hardly be called a man.

  6. Stupid, stupid man creature here---

    Whenever I see a woman wrapped around a man's leg, I see it as sexual subservience. That is why it is just sooo wrong for Leia to be wrapped around Luke's leg.

    Alan Coil

  7. No, not personally. I just don't "get off" on women in subservient positions. I think I actually react best to scenes where the man and woman are both in strong poses.

  8. For me personally it depends on the context. The reason I really like that cover, aside from being just really beautiful in general, is due to my understanding of their relationship. Now, I'm not currently reading the series and am not totally up to speed on Quicksilver and Crystal, but I think they are still ostensibly a couple right? Now Quicksilver is not really in the best emotional state right now, and he is prolly being hunted by the Inhumans. So when I saw this cover I thought "That's so beautiful and poignant! She's protecting him from the other Inhumans because he's pretty much helpless and she still loves him, even though he screwed up pretty stupidly." She's really strong and heroic and Pietro know she's like the last plank of wood in an open sea and is totally grateful and filled with love.

    Sorry, I'm rambling, but even if it is cheesy or overdramatic I just get a lot out of scenes like these if they are in the context like the one above. Even though I am a man, if the characters care for each other and I care about them, the reaction is the same whether it's a woman protecting a man, man/woman, man/man, or woman/woman.

    Now I admit, if it's a man with a woman on his leg I usually roll my eyes and hate it because it's often just done to titillate or to reinforce gender roles, not in the service of a well-done storyline. However, if everything I gushed about above was the same and the only difference was Pietro's and Crystal's sexes were changed I would still gush. :)

  9. Given the way you phrase your question I'm taking it that your asking about the more common male ascendant, female dependent pose, rather than it's gender swapped counterpart pictured in your article. To be perfectly honest I generally don't have any reaction at all to such poses because they are so horribly cliched. Repetition has stripped them of all emotional impact and I tend to see design elements instead.

    Now here's the funny inconsistency. What I do find moving almost without fail (so long as it's not meant as clear parody)is what I call the "Carrying the fallen" pose, such as the cover of The Spirit. Whether it's that cover, or the well known classics of Superman holding Kara, or Batman carrying Jason Todd, I tend to get a lump every time. Hell I even misted up when they used that pose in JLU with Superman carrying Captain Atom.

    Now as to the specific cover in question, well I have to admit that I've never been a huge Quicksilver fan and reading Son of M didn't help. Crystal comes off really great to me, strong and noble. Pietro however looks craven and pathetic. Which is not strictly speaking bad, maybe that is how the artist is intending it. I just had a thought of a fun turn play on this cliche, it would have been great to have seen Jamie Madrox, and one of his dupes in those poses.



  10. Thanks everyone. :)

    Toriach -- the carrying pose gets me too every time.

    Elayne -- Actually, there's no cover credits and this style is quite different from Irving's internals.

    They may have indeed posed themselves in this case. :)

  11. The cover artist is John Watson.

    I really need to pick up Son of M, but I'm a lover of Pietro and don't know if I'll be able to handle it, even if it is done well. How much can these characters go through in their lives before they're allowed some peace?

    But hey, I'm also a big fan of Jean Grey. We all know how much she has to go through on a regular basis. Doesn't make it any easier to get used to, though.

  12. "Is that what it feels like for men when they see the typical pose?"

    Actually, it just makes me think of the promo for "National Lampoon's Vacation."

  13. I have always thought of this pose as the dog-and-his-master one

    I don't think the pose is meant to titiliate anyone, more like represent a wish to put someone under your heel
    Is not an image in wich you picture yourself and someone you desire, but yourself and someone you want to humiliate

  14. My question to you, Ragnell, and your readers, is: would it be possible to have a picture with this pose (one person grabbing the other's leg/ waist) with both of the people involved looking strong?

    I didn't have the same reaction to this cover as many of you did--mostly because I'm not a Marvel fan and don't know the context. But I also thought, "Oh, Pietro is asking that girl for forgiveness and she has cool powers." I never once thought about the gender role aspect. I guess the only way I can account for this is that I'm probably younger than most of the other people who read this blog, and I have grown up in a slightly more enlightened society. Of course, there are many images that are ingrained in us by society. I don't think that Darwyn Cooke's majestic cover is strange on face value, but really thinking about it, it does seem a little strange to me. I can only hope that our children and grandchildren will truly accept such images as "normal".

  15. I don't get that feeling looking at the "usual" version, but you can't discount the power of numbness. If my ego is being frequently stroked in this fashion because I'm male would I register each individual stroke?

  16. Kate -- Thanks!

    Davidm -- Umm, if you're normally numb around there you might want to get checked out.

    Dumma -- I think you may have hit on it.

    Do you think the relationship mitigates the humiliation factor? Quicksilver doesn't give the audience a beckoning look. He's giving Crystal a "Take me back, please" look that is so common in their interaction.

    Sandi -- I believe so. If one person is on the ground aiming a rifle as they hug the other's leg, I'd say both look strong and active.