Women Drawn in Comics: We Can Do Better

Before the 2011 Fall Semester, I used to think that, yeah, Wonder Woman is really cool and strong, but why the heck did she make the choice to wear that bathing suit as her costume 24/7? She’s liable to pop out of the thing at any moment during a fight! I was somewhat mildly aware of sexism in the comic industry, but it was more along the lines of “well, they like seeing thin women with big boobs in bathing suits and bikinis”, and little else.

Sailor Senshi Looking Realistic
Jupiter’s stomach, Jupiter’s left leg and her pose, Sailor Moon’s stomach, and the cloth around all their cleavage pop out as problematic.

But then I linked Stjepan Sejic’s drawing of the Inner Senshi from the manga/anime “Sailor Moon” on Facebook. I commented “So this is pretty neat. I always love when people make them look less cartoony. Look! Actual body proportions!”

A friend replied, “Although I could definitely do with less Escher-girls-esque proportions myself… this is still WAY cool!” When I asked her about “escher-girls”, she linked me to the eschergirls blog. (Sejic’s work is still really cool for the most part – you should check out his deviantart. He’s also a published comic book artist).

The description for the blog reads: “This is a blog to archive and showcase the prevalence of certain ways women are depicted in illustrated pop media, specifically how women are posed, drawn, distorted, and sexualized out of context, often in ridiculous, impossible, or disturbing ways that sacrifice storytelling.” The blog accepts submissions of comics, advertisements, animated shows, manga, video games, and good discussion questions. The image is presented, typically with pointers for at least one or two things (if not more) that are wrong with the image, and then discussion occurs. The site is exactly what it says: an archive, meant to compile evidence that demonstrates how poorly women are represented in media, as a case against people who say that oversexualization in comics/advertising is not a problem, or that it doesn’t happen. It’s also meant to start discussion with people and get people thinking and talking about the problem. This is not a small problem; a lot, if not most, of the artists referenced are big-name artists who cover many of the popular titles in companies like DC and Marvel.

Some common foci include: the boobs and butt pose, bizarre anatomy, boneless bodies, boobflounder (boobs moving oddly), centaur women (in the sense that human spines drawn this way don’t work, but would work for a centaur), collarboobs, clones (characters who all look the same because the artist in question does not draw characters who look different), crotchleg (where a leg comes out of the crotch), dislocated hips, insect women (a favorite of artists like Rob Liefield), missing limbs, neverending pelvis, organless torsos, pornface, ridiculous fighting stance, rubber spines, snakewomen, photoshop, swivel boobs, swivel waist, uneven limbs, WTF clothing, and vacuum sealed clothing. One way to spot some of the problems is to pose (or attempt to) in the position in question and see how it feels or if it’s possible. Just be careful – a lot of this stuff is impossible or incredibly painful. Try not to hurt yourself.

Reasons presented for the bad art include “they’re tracing from porn magazines”, “they’ve never actually met/seen a real woman”, “they don’t have practice drawing real people”, “they haven’t taken enough art classes”, “deadlines”, “they haven’t done enough research on x”, “the person who paid them asked for the pose for x, y, and z reasons”, “they have a misconception on what people want to see and what people will buy and what market they should be appealing to”, etc.

Not all the submissions are bad art. Redraws are also accepted. Redraws can involve people simply pointing out the many flaws in an image. They can also involve a “fix” of one or more aspects of the image, which can involve redrawing a portion of a character or redrawing an entire character, or redrawing the entire image.

Kara to Kara
A redraw of a cover of SUPERMAN/SUPERGIRL #1 by Less Tits N’ Ass

People often include the list of fixes they did and why. Not all of the redraws are perfect and/or beautiful (which are not the same thing – something can look aesthetically pleasing while being a poor example of art/anatomy/clothing/movement, and a drawing can be proper in every possible way, but not be aesthetically pleasing), but the blog is focused mainly on discourse on the subject – as long as people are talking about it, things are going good. And people do discuss redraws – what’s better, what they like about it, what they dislike, and so on. Multiple people also take a shot at redrawing the same image, so there’s multiple ideas for how to fix problems.

 There are also pure commentary posts that discuss certain art “techniques” commonly seen in the industry. Other posts include art references and guides, along with examples of original art done correctly. A really good tumblr for this is Less Tits N’Ass, More Kickin’ Ass. The Less Tits N’ Ass FAQ reads:

“So how do you get the point across? How do you fix that problem? By bringing suggestions and solutions. I want this tumblr to prove that women CAN be posed in ways other than T&A and still be awesome. Better yet, awesomer.” (The rest is all very good and informative, and you should read it).

The Less Tits N’ Ass, More Kickin’ Ass site is full of detailed breakdowns of panels and covers: why certain things don’t work, and why certain things work better. There’s also a big focus on storytelling and character creation (which is what I always thought non-pornographic comics are supposed to be about). If a character is supposed to be having fun, they should be grinning. If a character is supposed to be really strong, they should have muscles (e.g., Yes, she’s Kryptonian, so she already has superstrength and maybe doesn’t need musuclature equal to that of an Earthling as a result; but by that logic, why does Superman have muscles, and Supergirl/woman does not?). If a character is supposed to be swinging across rooftops on a rope in Chicago, gravity and physics should be kicking in. It’s downright sad how often comic book artists go for sex over logic or telling the story.

There’s also a big focus on the idea of style v. skill (and/or intelligence). One of the big arguments against people pointing out oversexualization in comics/drawing is “well, that’s their style!”

Well, there’s a difference between this:

Lucas Princess Leia joins the Disney Princesses - by princekido on deviantart.
Lucas Princess Leia joins the Disney Princesses – by princekido on deviantart.

Also known as style.

And this:

Pure Rob Liefield. The scary part is that someone looked at this and thought "yup, that's good. Next thing!"
Pure Rob Liefield. The scary part is that someone looked at this and thought “yup, that’s good. Next thing!”

Also known as AGGGGH MY EYES!!!!!

The Hawkeye Initiative also works “to draw attention to how deformed, hyper-sexualized, and unrealistically posed/dressed women are drawn in comics.” It comes from this: “… This leads me to  propose the Hawkeye Test.  If your female character can be replaced by Hawkeye in the same pose without looking silly or stupid, then it’s acceptable and probably non sexist.  If you can’t, then just forget about it.” Other characters used to fill out the cast on the images used are other members of the Avengers, including Black Widow, Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk, and Nick Fury.

Hawkeye Initiative
A redraw of one of DC’s New 52 covers from the Hawkeye Initiative.

There’s also the beginnings of a reversal of The Hawkeye Initiative – the Psylocke Collaboration, which puts Psylocke, one of the most notoriously over-sexualized and poorly drawn characters in comic books, in the same positions as men in strong poses.

All of the bad art techniques highlighted on these sites contribute to the objectification of women. It also hurts the art community – they have people like Rob Liefield, Michael Turner, J. Scott Campbell, Greg Land, Humberto Ramos, Ed Benes, and others adding bad art to the community and ruining the minds of future artists by giving them really bad advice and art books (also brought up on eschergirls). It’s also a self-fulfilling prophecy – one of the reasons people bring up for women being oversexualized in comics is that the target audience is heterosexual males, because that’s where comics supposedly sell more. “Women don’t buy comics”. Well, polls have been taken to show that women see stuff like this and are less likely to buy it as a result. These people are not looking for pornographic material or, as is more likely, bad art that tries to be pornographic. They are simply looking for actual comics, like the “X-Men”, “Avengers”, “Justice League”, and so on are supposed to be, but instead they see stuff that looks like pornography and get turned off.

These so-called “idealizations” of women  also contribute to the creation of non-realistic images for which women are “supposed” to strive. It contributes to pop culture hating on women over a certain weight or not fitting into a relatively specific cookie-cutter image of what a woman “should” be. Most of us cannot remove our organs to fit into what people deem is “skinny”. Most of us don’t want to eat a cube of cheese a day and nothing else to stay in the negative pants range. Some of us have bodies that are just built a certain way. This also really limits what people call “beautiful”. Beautiful is a multi-colored word with many, many different fits. If “fit” is beautiful, then some of these artists need to go look at the Olympics and see what fit people over there look like (also discussed on eschergirls), because I can assure you that those real-life superwomen didn’t all look like the screwed-up women highlighted on eschergirls and in other places. And I’m not even getting into ethnic issues here, or how women are portrayed in video games.

I like talking about this. It’s nice to see people talking about this and not just pretending it doesn’t exist or writing it off immediately. The amount of related material is really building up, now, too. There’s Ladies Making Comics, which relates to the issue of women in a male-dominated industry; then there’s Women-Centric Comics, which involves comics that center around female characters. Like the book and film industries, the comic industry is still dominated by male characters. There’s DC Women Kicking Ass, which deals with badass women in comics. There’s also Babes in Armor, which features women in real armor or well-drawn/designed armor, to combat the theory that strong fighting women walk around in bikinis and duct tape costumes because that’s what armor is like for women. Tor.com also hosts numerous articles about women in science fiction and fantasy, as well as specially on TV shows, comics, and movies: how they’re represented, how men write them, how women write them (and how women write men and vice versa), and how they’re under-represented.

It’s a lot of reading, but there is tons of material out there with tons of different opinions and a lot of discussion on all of it if you want to look through it. Also, be warned. These sites specifically avoid looking at pornographic material, but it’s still pretty bad. Here thar be monsters.

The comic industry is not all terrible. There are many, many bright lights in the industry. There are many different, beautiful styles and many great story tellers. There are great artists out there, and a lot of them. The webcomic industry is also a great place to look for good comics to read. I love comics. I own a lot of comics. I also love manga. I read so many webcomics that it is ridiculous. If you would like me to point out some really beautiful, well-drawn, well-written comics and/or webcomics, I would be happy to do so.

Personally, I see a lot of problems here. The start to fixing them is by talking about them. This doesn’t only hurt women, so if you are not female, this still matters because it still affects you.

None of these images belong to me. If you click them, they will take you to either the blogs where I found them, or the art galleries of the artists who made them.

  22 comments for “Women Drawn in Comics: We Can Do Better

  1. Mamoru Fuun
    January 27, 2013 at 12:07 am

    Whenever someone confronts me with the issue of oversexualization of female characters, the first person to come to mind is Erza Scarlet of Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail. For those of you not familiar with Erza she is one of the most powerful wizards in the guild Fairy Tail and utilizes a special kind of magic known as “Requip”, allowing her to quickly equip various types of magical armors and weapons. In describing this power you can probably see how Erza becomes oversexualized, undoubtedly many if not most of her armors being totally impractical battle wise in order to show off her body. However while Erza is undoubtedly oversexualized in appearance I happen to believe she can be argued as being a positive portrayal of women.

    When Erza was first introduced she was regarded as a unbeatable monster of sorts and was mutually respected and feared by her guild mates. Additionally her strict personality often comically silences anyone who might invoke her wrath. However as the series progresses you become more familiar with Erza, seeing her love, laugh and cry depicting her as an actual human girl rather than an unstoppable behemoth. As odd as it sounds I believe Erza’s sexualization was functioning as a positive tool to help develop her character. I won’t deny this is a pretty outrageous claim, I just ask that you hear me out. I once heard an argument made by a feminist convention panel about how Erza seemed to have fallen from grace, once being a ruthless monster and now a pinup girl. This remark angered me however and not in the way you would normally think. Exactly what were these people expecting Erza’s role in the series to be? To be a frightening monster who at best is regarded as being a cold and fearful person? If Erza’s character were not to develop anywhere beyond powerhouse monster than Mashima could of drawn her as more demonic or beastly in appearance, as he does not limit his characters to simply being humans.

    Personally I believe the plot points starring Erza to be some of the most emotionally powerful in the whole series and could of only of been possible if Erza was seen as a normal girl. Simply put one cannot identify with a monster, as Erza originally was. Certainly one may interpret the way Erza to be drawn as offensive to women, but I firmly believe it allowed her to become more human in a sense.

    • cmccrzy
      January 27, 2013 at 8:40 pm

      I have not read “Fairy Tale”, but I did read Mashima’s “Rave” series. I also wish I could talk about it more because whenever I bring it up, people roll their eyes and we move on to other topics.

      I have not really analyzed “Rave” (and I am sorry that this is not really a good reply to your comment; I just have no familiarity with “Fairy Tale” other than that it looks like a medieval fantasy from the cover), but I did note some things when I was reading it. For starters, it reminded me a lot of “One Piece”, which has impossibly drawn walking boobs all over the place. In “One Piece”, if you are female, either you are a hag (with a high likelihood of being a sexy-body-ugly-face hag, or else a giant-fat-hag) or a walking pair of boobs that cries a lot. Almost all the women look the same with different color palates and varying levels of uselessness. Yes, Robin and Nami are strong, but they do not typically take on the final boss fight. Also, they seem to like wearing bikinis or might-as-well-be-bikinis 90% of the time. Also, meet Sanji, Mr. Japanese Sexism crossed with Western “Chivalry” representation. There’s always one. Or five.

      “Rave” actually has something like what you seem to be saying for Ezra. There is a character (Julia) that starts out as a berserker dragon, who gets turned back into a human/dragon woman at a later stage in the manga, who is a very strong character with a lot of personality. Of course, she’s also a super model. Mashima seems to have, like Oda Eiichiro, who writes “One Piece”, only two or three real female character designs: hag, model, and child. Add color palate. Men, on the other hand, can be any of a number of things: child, weakling, grown-up, berserker, humanoid, dragon, old, shounen, etc. Another criticism I’ve heard often is that “Fairy Tale” is a rehash of “Rave”, just in a medieval fantasy setting rather than whatever the heck “Rave” is supposed to be (post-apocalyptic… steam punk… sci-fi… fantasy… drug-induced dream maybe?).

      The problem with Julia is this: she starts out as a THING (or piece of meat) that Let (another dragon-race character) and Jegan (another dragon-race character) fight over because they’re both in love with her. Or just want to possess her, depending on what translation you’re reading. She spends a good chunk of the story this way. Then there’s the problem that she’s a cookie-cutter super model, like most of the other women in the story. She does not have an original character design. Also, like Oda’s manga, the women in “Rave” love to wear showy clothing, during fights, that might just hamper their abilities during the fight.

      The good thing about her is that, once she gets her voice and sanity back, she’s one of the strongest characters in the story, and has a kickass personality. She does not turn into Let’s love slave or a meek housewife or anything. She’s smart and hilarious and just a BAMF.

      Mashima actually kinda did it twice in “Rave” – Let starts out as a humanoid/dragon mish-mash who gets turned into a shounen bishie. He’s sort of just a gaunt version of the protagonist. If it weren’t for their eyes and swords, I’d have issues telling them apart. The protagonist’s predecessor also gets the hag-to-bishie treatment at a certain point. And a few minor characters get the hag-to-bishie treatment when they explain his backstory.

      I see things this way: characterization through dialogue or action is different than physical representation. I know Wonder Woman is one of the physically strongest characters in the Justice League. She’s also a very smart and well-trained fighter. So why, of all things, is she running around in a strapless metal bathing suit (ignoring why her original creator designed her that way), and why do so many scenes depicting her feature ample shots of her butt or cleavage, rather than a strong fighting pose or natural standing/sitting position? Where exactly does a THIEF like Black Cat keep all her loot/equipment? In her cleavage? How does it not fall out of her very deep v-neck? Yes, you can make a character gorgeous – I have no problem with beautiful characters, especially if they stand out as beautiful and are not just cookie-cutter women for an entire universe. You can turn people from monsters to babes – it happens everywhere in fiction, and sometimes it miraculously happens in real life. People would love if this happened more often, and seeing it happen in escapist fiction is great. But not all of us can change from ugly people to drop-dead-gorgeous people.

      It might be more relatable for the character to stay “hideous” in some fashion, or at least not stereotypically beautiful, while gaining character development through dialogue or actions. It is certainly more creative than to say “and then wicked witch turned into a beautiful princess and her personality was all nice and pleasant!” That’s incredibly shallow and pathetic… it basically says that only pretty people can be nice and anyone who’s ugly is not nice and possibly evil (think back to the musical for “The Wizard of Oz” – “Only bad witches are ugly”).

      Turning monstrous characters/creatures into pin-ups is also a really bad fad that’s getting a lot of critique now (think “Twilight” and the current Vampire/Werewolf/Cthulu craze, or the Dalek fan craze for the “Doctor Who” fandom).

      It’s actually something of a writing flaw, too, to take a berserker and turn them into a puppy with angst that you relate to immediately… Everyone has a story, and most of us have some sort of sob story. But characters should not be random berserkers just cause. That behavior has to come from somewhere and have a reason, whether it’s a curse or you’re angry at something or it’s an order or you’re being manipulated or what – there is a reason. Often enough though, in manga and elsewhere, the author wrote in a character as a last-minute thought, did not expect people to like them so much or ran out of material, and decided “well, I think you need a backstory”, insert-cookier-cutter-angst-story. Authors should be able to explain a character’s flaws rather than create insta-sob stories they knew from elsewhere and create a character that “kills people because they just need the right love”. Look at “Twelve Kingdoms” (the best character development anime I have ever seen) or “Rurouni Kenshin” or “The Sentry”.

      You do not have to be a babe or even appear humanoid to be relatable – humans can relate to a surprising number of things, and can see ourselves in a surprising number of ways in things that appear almost entirely non-humanoid. Just look at last class, where we looked at that giant squid footage and someone said that the “eye” made it a bit too human. We can see ourselves in rocks and clouds (“Adventure Time”) and robots (“Wall-e”) and cars (“Cars”/”Planes”).

      It’s good that Mashima seems to be working on his character development, but be careful around “no sexism here”, when there are multiple problems in the situation.

      • Mamoru Fuun
        January 27, 2013 at 9:43 pm

        Actually I started out watching Mashima’s Rave before Fairy Tail ever came out, I don’t know if I would go as far as saying its a rehashed Rave, rather it makes references to his former work. For instance one character in Fairy Tail, Jellal Fernandez, is identical to the character Sieghart from Rave; there also being additional references to other characters such as Musica and Haru. I actually enjoy the references and am usually elated when I discover them. As for Fairy Tail its not really medieval era per se, more like if the world had to branch from either magic or science than Fairy Tail chose magic. They have actual technology like cars, trains, tons of media equipment its all just run and powered by magic. If you like Rave I do highly suggest checking out Fairy Tail as well.

        Additionally I would like to say good point on relatability to nonhuman things, but it was only after personifying those things like we did with squid that you were able to relate human emotions to it. Lets look at something that is almost pure animal instinct and try to think the same, for instance like a lion who challenges the leader of the pride, wins and then systematically eliminates each and every offspring of the former pride leader. Is there any relatability here? See I don’t think the issue is so simple.

        I would also like to mention, yes I realize that someone doesn’t need to be a pinup model to relate to viewers but it doesn’t mean she can’t be drawn beautifully. Since this is art I think what we try to do is encompass beauty in its pure form. Having said this I want make it clear that I am referring to realistic beauty not barbie lacking body mass “beauty”. I believe Erza is not unrealistic in her design, just her wardrobe.

        By no means would I ignore sexism just because it’s in a work I enjoy. I’m also happy to hear from a Mashima fan even if Fairy Tail isn’t your thing.

  2. January 27, 2013 at 12:14 am

    I am so pleased that sexism in comics is one of the first things to be blogged about because I find it incredibly important (just like any form of sexism) especially since it seems to often go unnoticed or unchallenged. People seem to discredit cries of “sexism” in comics (as well as video games) by saying people are being overly sensitive about how women are portrayed, yet men don’t ever seem to complain about how guys are being portrayed as unrealistically strong or buff in comics. I think the main flaw with this argument is that men in comics are still being portrayed in places of strength and leadership without being needlessly distorted for eye candy or absurd outfits that completely restrict their abilities to perform. Men are also constantly put in positions of power both in the stances they are drawn in as well as the things men do in comics.

    With the mention of Hawkeye Initiative, I have to point out it can be somewhat problematic. In one it is mentioned that “some people seem to solely enjoy drawing Hawkeye in sexy poses for kicks, which may make it even harder for people to understand that it goes deeper than humor.” The people who submit Hawkeye in submissive poses aren’t pointing out the ridiculous sexism, but instead actually laughing at women and submissive poses that are not inherently bad. also provides further reading about problematic aspects of the Hawkeye Initiative.

    • cmccrzy
      January 27, 2013 at 7:28 pm

      The person who “owns” The Hawkeye Initiative blog is trying to find a way to deal with this in a way that offends as few people as possible. The blog isn’t meant to make fun of women or men posed/dressed in a certain way. It’s more to say “If it looks like a physically uncomfortable (or impossible) pose for a man, why would it be a physically comfortable position for a woman? And if it doesn’t look like a strong or intelligent fighting pose for a guy, why would the same be true for a woman?” There’s also the problem that the Initiative could be taken as ways to laugh at homosexuals, since many of the poses which are possible, if not exactly comfortable, are associated with the homosexual male stereotype. Again, the Initiative isn’t meant to say the pose is wrong because it makes Hawkeye look like a stereotypical homosexual. It’s meant to focus on the physical wrongness (as in, why is my butt in my enemy’s face, why do I have a giant wedgie all the time, why did I choose to wear a thong into a battle and nothing else resembling actually protective clothing, why am I aiming a kick this way because I’m not hitting anyone, and why am I contorting this way etc.). They’re also trying to explain this without stepping on too many people’s toes. Here’s one way to look at it: if you’re seeing the site as a direct insult against homosexuality, maybe you should think about why your brain jumps to that conclusion. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t consider that or that it isn’t a problem, but maybe you should investigate some of the baggage for that thought.

      I also feel like part of the reason people seem to be getting kicks out of the drawing is the way they comment. “I did this for fun” or “this looks so ridiculous” are common things I see. Or the odd Internet babble sounds like people are enjoying themselves. The problem is that many of the people who contribute to these blogs are not full-time/professional artists of any sort and so literally contribute “for fun”, or they have schedules for art they have to do, and what they do for the blog is “for fun”. The poses are also amusing because the Initiative is mostly accomplishing what it set out to do – setting a male up in the position of the ridiculous female pose, and removing the “blinders” that make people think the pose is not ridiculous. So people laugh or they admit that it’s funny.

      But, well… things can be taken many ways.

  3. January 27, 2013 at 12:18 am

    (NoteI messed up some formatting in my previous comment, but I couldn’t figure out how to edit or delete it. Here is the fixed comment.)

    I am so pleased that sexism in comics is one of the first things to be blogged about because I find it incredibly important (just like any form of sexism) especially since it seems to often go unnoticed or unchallenged. Often people discredit cries of “sexism” in comics (as well as video games) by saying people are being overly sensitive about how women are portrayed, yet men don’t ever seem to complain about guys being unrealistically strong or buff in comics. I think the main flaw with this argument is that men in comics are still being portrayed in a place of strength and – for the most part – their outfits would not completely restrict their abilities to perform. Men are also constantly put in positions of power both in the way the physical stances they are drawn in as well as the things men do in comics.

    With the mention of Hawkeye Initiative, I also how it can be somewhat problematic. In one article it is mentioned that “some people seem to solely enjoy drawing Hawkeye in sexy poses for kicks, which may make it even harder for people to understand that it goes deeper than humor.” People who submit Hawkeye in submissive poses aren’t pointing out the ridiculous sexism, but instead actually laughing at women and submissive poses that are not inherently bad. This article also provides further reading about problematic aspects of the Hawkeye Initiative.

  4. jrandal2
    January 27, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Well, way to take my topic. “Hawkeye Initiative” is probably the most entertaining thing to have stumbled on during finals week last semester, and I was really excited to share it (and the procrastination it brings), but I’m glad that it’s already out there. I have to agree with Tyler. The Hawkeye Initiative is kind of just for kicks to see what sort of ridiculous poses you can fit Hawkeye in; but I think that’s kind of the point. It’s just reverse sexism, and while it’s backwards to put men in ridiculous poses instead of just cutting to the chase and stopping it altogether for women, it highlights the poses that we would mostly deem normalized for female characters. I don’t think the artist needs to point out the ridiculous nature of the poses, and I don’t think anyone is laughing at women – they are laughing at the drawing because they realize how disproportional or revealing the clothes are, and how society thinks that’s okay. And some of the poses are bad – women drawn from the bottom up to increase the attention to their crotch is disgusting, and it normalizes that so that people think it’s okay to subjugate women to being a crotch first and a person after. I mean, I look at the “before” pictures with female characters, and while I realize it may be absurd, you can come to the conclusion that it’s just wrong and needs to change when you put Hawkeye in the same position.

    I blame the initial lack of understanding on how women are drawn on brainwashing from a very young age. Women without human proportions are something that most girls have seen in one form or another (TV, magazines, other media sources). Most of us have seen “Human Barbie” (if not, I suggest looking it up, as I can’t link on a comment page). Females have been taught to normalize and aspire to have absurd proportions from a very young age. But back to comics.

    In my opinion, the best drawn females for women to appreciate are from Studio Ghibli. True, one or two of his early films contain women that are a bit off proportion (cough Nausicaa’s boobs cough), but they remained fully clothed and are all strong female leads with values and something important to fight for. They also have equally strong female foils, who likewise have strong values and a wardrobe that makes sense. Similar to Erza, who “Mamoru Fuun” has described, characters are more powerful and memorable if the audience can relate to them, and I think that’s what makes Miyazaki’s villain’s so wonderful – most have human reasoning behind their actions. But unlike Erza, they don’t need to be objectified to be made more human and allow us to understand them. Now, if we can just get Miyazaki to write comics along with making movies…

    • cmccrzy
      January 27, 2013 at 7:47 pm

      Miyazaki has actually written comics. In fact, the “Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind” graphic novel series is seven volumes long and rather severely differs from the movie. The art is beautiful and the story (if rather complicated at times) is quite good. I actually do not know which I prefer, since I feel like Nausicaa gets a happier ending in the graphic novel, along with some other characters, while the movie is still just enjoyable.

      Unfortunately, I feel that Miyazaki is getting to the point where he doesn’t really have much time to keep doing graphic stuff. He’s apparently going to stop doing movies soon because his eyesight is failing and he wants to see the art that is put in so that it’s right. People should just go by his example. Write comics with strong female protagonists, make clothing that works right, remember the details, and environmentalism! Also blue (and blue hair, if at all possible).

      • jrandal2
        January 27, 2013 at 7:59 pm

        I read the Nausicaa comic before seeing the movie, but that was years ago and I just watched the movie this weekend, but I didn’t know they had separate endings! And that’s sad that he’s going to stop making movies, but I really liked Arrietty, which his son did. Also different from the novel, The Borrowers, which was a childhood favorite, but I can always appreciate a strong female lead.

        I saw this TED talk about movies shaping how children grow up, and it talked about few female characters their are in many movies, either made for children or adults. Anyway, the talk brought in the other part of the spectrum, which said, “what are movies teaching boys?” I think the same things apply to this thread and can be brought into this class. How many times in comics and manga nowadays does the male character overcomes some struggle with violence, and ends up getting the girl as his “reward”? That’s most plots of movies, books, and comics. Anyway, I’m just going to leave a URL address at the bottom of this, I think it’s well worth checking out.


      • cmccrzy
        January 28, 2013 at 1:03 am

        Yeah, a friend linked that to me last semester. I really liked it!

        That is very, very true.

        You know, related to the Pixar thing, most of the Disney movies barely pass the Bechdel test. The conversations involved are typically incredibly short, and there are typically only two women in the story. “Brave” and “Tangled” pass (isn’t it interesting how the only two films that strictly involve a woman and her mother pass?), “Snow White” just BARELY passes because she briefly talks with the Queen when the Queen is selling her apples, “Cinderella” scrapes by because of at least one conversation I can recall between CindyxStepmother and the Stepsisters with each other, “Mulan” (if you count it) scrapes by because of the scenes during “Honor to Us All” , “Pocahontas” passes, “Sleeping Beauty” passes, “The Frog Princess” scrapes by because of Tiana’s talk with the swamp lady (although it’s kind of talking about love so…), and “Beauty and the Beast” MIGHT pass if Belle and Mrs. Potts have a conversation that doesn’t involve “the Master”. None of the big movies in 2012 pass. Almost none of the live-action superhero movies in our lifetimes pass (in the most recent round of movies, only the second “Iron Man” film barely scrape by because of one ever-so-brief conversation between PepperxBlack Widow). LOTR doesn’t pass. “The Hobbit” doesn’t pass. None of the “Star Wars” movies pass.

        You know… I’m actually a little saddened to crunch some numbers and realize that not only do less than half of Miyazaki’s movies pass the Bechdel test, but most of the ones that pass only scrape by. The best is “Spirited Away”. The worst is, surprisingly, “Princess Mononoke” (where the title refers to a female character), where we only briefly see San exchanging a few sentences with Moro and a conversation between Eboshi and her women that quickly turns into a conversation about “the men”. I’m seeing a curious trend in movies relating to Bechdel tests: when the main protagonist and the main antagonist are female, it has a high chance of passing/scraping by (e.g., “Wizard of Oz”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Snow White”, “Brave”). When the main protagonist is female and the main antagonist is male, it has a slightly less than 50/50 chance of passing (“Mulan”, “The Princess and the Frog”). Lastly, when the main protagonist and main antagonist are male, it has an incredibly low chance of passing.

        But Goro didn’t do Arrietty… he did “Tales From Earthsea” and “Poppy Hill”… What aspect of the film did he work on?

  5. jrandal2
    January 27, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Also, just wanted to add that your links are pretty amazing. I’ve never seen Escher Girls or Less T&A before! Thanks.

    • cmccrzy
      January 27, 2013 at 7:48 pm

      Yay! More have joined us! SOON WE SHALL CONQUER THE WORLD!!!!

  6. OneMoreDaySK
    January 29, 2013 at 12:22 am

    First off, I’d like to thank you for posting those links. It’s always entertaining to try and do the stupid poses the characters are put in. And now for a running commentary on your post.

    Well, wearing the costume makes it the standard recognizable costume or item, such as Captain America’s shield and Sherlock Holmes’ deerstalker cap. It also makes it easier to draw instead of coming up with different costumes for the same character, all the while drawing other characters. They want such characters to stand out, and sighs also to show off fanservice.

    Interesting that you chose Sailor Moon to start off with, especially since that show is one of the “Gateway” anime for the U.S. The girls themselves have both varying degrees of feminimity, and yet were still able to defeat the monster of the week in combat.

    Yes, there are a whole lot of misrepresentation of females in art that make you wonder if they ever looked at a woman before. It’s a similar phenomena that appears in video games as well.

    Hilariously enough, what you deem boobflounder is also known in Japanese animation as gainaxing, from a certain Gainax studio, known for doing such with their animation.

    Rob Liefeld. Yeah I’ll talk on him later.

    Yes, I have done that game, and it’s ridiculously funny with friends.

    The reasons for the bad art might want to have some citation. I know those are common, but for well known artists, not enough practice shouldn’t hold any water. And yes, discussion of redraws are always most interesting to observe.

    For LTNAMKA website, I guess I’ll check it out later. Some of these links you provided are fairly lengthy, so it will take some time to go through it all.

    I have heard of the Hawkeye Initiative and the Psylocke Collaboration, and it seems like more of just amusement to put Hawkeye and Psylocke in that scenario instead of pointing ouot the blatant sexism in comics.

    And yeah, common phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

    Couple of things I wanted to talk about though. First off, it’s interesting to note that you try to bring in manga and eastern comics. One thing to note though, and the reason Whalen doesn’t have any in the curriculum, is that manga and manhwa have different cultural standards. They are more tolerable of fanservice, but are a little more squeamish on blatant violence, pretty much flipping the cultural standards the “average” american holds. Yeah, we can watch people beat, stab, gut eachother all day, but as soon as they show some skin, it becomes uncomfortable. So while manga does do the oversexualization thing, keep the culture in mind.

    Second, Liefield is just all in all a horrible example of art in general. Yes, you’ve shown an example of how his women are bad, but just take a look at his guys. Overbulky hulks with an insane amount of guns strapped to them doesn’t make them any less demeaning than the women, just in a different way. And then comes the equal opportunity overabundance of pouches. Sheesh, the only good thing to come from him are characters that were taken away from him and developed, like Cable and Deadpool.

    And that just leads me to another discussion question: are men also drawn just as badly, and our cultural standards focus the view on the women, or are the men good the way they are?

    For some unique body shapes for a modern female superhero, I’d recommend the mini-series Super Best Friends Forever. Sure it’s stylized, but the effort is put into smooth animation and strong characterization right off the bat. And I’m totally not recommending it just because Lauren Faust worked on it. /sarcasm

    Re: Mashima’s work To be honest, a lot of the characterizations seem grafted from Rave to Fairy Tail. I’ve read the first, and am loosely following the second, and see a lot of parallels between certain characters, such as the lead male and especially the lead female.

    Re: One Piece It seems to be the standard for Oda’s characters. Either the women are skinny sticks with breasts, or some odd mishmash of shapes. The guys on the other hand have a few more ‘normal’ characters with Standard Luffy, Sanji, and Zorro. But the rest of the males are drawn in such a bizarre way that they are recognizable after several chapters and possible arcs.

    Re: Characterization Yeah it seems to be a standard in manga, especially shounen series not to foreshadow a villain’s possible motives or backstory so that the main character can focus on how evil a villain is, and how great it would be to beat them up. Then when a villain is down or dying, reveal their teary backstory for all the world to hear. It’s one that is incredibly frustrating at times to read, and I’ve dropped many a series that do this way too often.

    Re: Other films I love Studio Ghibli films, but only have been able to watch Totoro, Kiki, Spirited Away, and Ponyo. So I don’t know how others hold out. You do know Pixar directors have been known to say that they are guys and don’t know how to write a women’s POV correctly enough, right? Now for an attempt to defend other Disney films. “Snow White” is based off the fairy tale, and that didn’t have too many interactions at all between females, what with the only ones there being the titular character and the queen. Same thing with “Cinderella”, as we were supposed to see the Stepfamily as a evil, and “Sleeping Beauty”. “Mulan” is set in a male-dominant culture where she joins the all-male army, so no girls there. Yeah I’m gonna stop here.

    Re: Post meta You might want to work on the positioning of the pictures. There is a lot of wasted whitespace, but the fact that you do break up your post makes it intersting to read.

    Good job on your first post by the way, and keep up the good work.

    • cmccrzy
      January 29, 2013 at 12:39 pm

      There’s an old “rule” in comics: you should be able to recognize a character, especially a superhero, by their outline/silhouette. Interestingly, if you look at Eisner’s work, this holds true, and none of them are wearing superhero outfits.

      For women, this rule is seldom held up in comics. You can typically tell the guys apart (you’re not going to confuse the Hulk, most of the time, with Captain America or Wolverine, unless of course Liefield is drawing).

      I’m not supporting coming up with different costumes for the same character, and nowhere in the post did I say that. Comic creators have already done this, anyway. They’ve been doing it for decades. Just look at the number of costumes the X-Men have had. The number of wardrobe changes Superman and Supergirl/Woman has had. The number of different Robin costumes. The number of different Green Lantern costumes. The number of costumes Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-man, Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel, the Flash, Aquaman, and so on have had. In the “Civil War” story alone, we see Captain America in two-three costumes. Spidey gets into three costumes by the end of dealing with the Marvel Civil War and its run-off: he has his “original” blue-red-black costume, his Stark mechanical suit, and his black Spidey costume (which he puts on right after the last “Amazing Spider-Man” issue entirely associated with Civil War, because of what he has to deal with in that issue). Heck, Tony uses his old Iron Man suits together frequently in the “Iron Man” comics. Plus, “iconic” does not mean “sexy” (which is what I believe you were saying). Many people have been tweaking, for example, Power Girl and Wonder Woman’s outfits. They’ve put Diana in jeans. They’ve shrunken and enlarged Power Girl’s boob window. If you keep the symbols, the hair, the fighting style, and the regular “Hey, WONDER WOMAN here to save the day” speech bubble, people aren’t going to get all THAT confused about who’s who. What I notice in perusing forums on getting characters confused more often than not is the sheer number of supers and villains out there. Not many people know them all, and there’s only so many colors and costume designs and attacks and powers in the spectrum of human creativity, so people confuse one for the other (e.g., how many fire-powered supers are there?). Plus, back in the day, comic companies would mimic each other (e.g., “You have a cat thief? WE’LL get a cat thief” – Black Cat/Catwoman and so on), so both companies have a pretty equal and similar complement of characters, just in different costumes and with slightly different powers. For people who like creations from both companies, especially in recent years with all the story crossing, this can be monumentally confusing.

      You can create characters that stand out without doing fanservice. The male characters do it all the time. One of the commonly quoted problems I see is that men are often fully garbed, while women are not (e.g., walking around in duct tape). Compare Superman and Supergirl. Why exactly is Superman wearing pants, while Supergirl wears a skirt? Why does he get long sleeves, while she gets short ones (especially if she was literally introduced as a “female” version of him)? Why does Batman wear boots, while Batwoman wears heels (and often really high ones)? Here’s a different example. If you were to stick a woman in a green lantern costume, with the normal colors, would you forget what the character was? No (“Green Lantern: First Flight” is an interesting exploration of GL costume designs). What’s unique about the Lantern Corps is typically their skin color, number of appendages, hair color and length, eye color, size, and occasionally slight deviations in their costumes, depending on who’s heading the art department (although it’s easier, faster, and cheaper to just make all their costumes the same, which kind of makes sense, since they’re something of a police force and refer to their outfits as “uniforms”, like the police and military do). You could tell Superman and Batman apart from their outlines (depending on who’s drawing them, I suppose). You can tell Superman apart from the Martian Manhunter. And if you look at them fully, you can tell all the male members of the Justice League apart from each other, and almost all of them are almost fully covered. Even the Martian Manhunter has an alternate full-body costume that covers his chest. My point with the links was that you can have a female character who is dressed sensibly for fighting while also appearing badass and standing out.

      Being “feminine” (depending on your definition, because they’re rather variable) does not stop you from killing the monster of the week. Also, I happen to be a woman, and I live with two cosplayers. If Sailor Moon were real, she would not be wearing high-heeled boots to run around in every night. She’d keel over after a few hours because heels HURT. You don’t have to dress or act “like a guy”, and nowhere in the blog post did I say that. The point is that IF YOU’RE GOING TO FIGHT CRIME, especially on a daily/nightly basis, you should be doing it with some basic common sense. Why do we typically wear clothes, anyway? You dress for the occasion. If the purpose is to attract someone, romantically, then you might want to dress in a short, tight dress and heels. If the weather’s nice and that’s what you’re comfortable wearing and you have nothing strenuous to do other than sit and talk to people and possibly walk around for a very short amount of time, maybe you also decide to dress that way.

      If you go into a karate studio, do you see the female students walking around in duct tape costumes? Do female police officers or military personnel wear high heels on patrol? Sure, they might wear lipstick or eye shadow (I have no idea what rules are involved – certain job positions do not allow women to wear make-up; that does not mean that certain high-risk jobs do not involve putting on “make-up” like materials). Even ballerinas don’t wear high heels, and they don’t always wear tutus.

      My mom wears make-up and can spend an hour or more getting ready for work, and she works in a “male sphere” position – an engineer. On the other hand, I was not allowed to wear “too much” jewelry when I worked at a grocery store because a) it was a safety hazard, and b) it detracted from the company uniform. I could wear small, non-dangling earrings and a watch, if I so desired. I was also not allowed to wear high heels because a) it was a safety hazard, and b) it detracted from the company uniform.

      – This is a good place to go to look at the problems with comic costumes.

      I am aware of what anime does. The fact that gainaxing is an official term in Japan or on the Internet does not make it better. The fact that Gainax keeps doing it is rather depressing, and it does things for sexism that I just do not want to go into at the moment. A significant portion of Eschergirls is devoted to boobflounder in manga and anime. There’s one gif on there where a woman pulls a bazooka out of her cleavage. There’s another (which is an intro, I believe), where a woman’s boobs seem to physically depart from her body while she’s sitting, smiling at the audience.

      The culture is important, but you can’t just brush the problem aside because of the cultural barrier. That’s like saying you can’t talk about sexism in Judaism because it’s a religion, with centuries of tradition behind it. Since I argue with my very religious Conservative Jewish father about it frequently without lighting on fire or getting kicked out of the house, I can assure you that the cultural barrier, while annoying, is not a “DO NOT PASS” sign. Yes, the problems are not the same in all cultures. Note that I didn’t go into art in Japan all that much, and when I mention the problems in the Sailor Moon fanart, it’s because of their body structures and poses, not their outfits, which is another post entirely concerning the magical girl genre and fighting costumes in manga.

      I’m focusing more on western comics. Here’s the thing. If I HADN’T mentioned it, especially because Sailor Moon was what got me into all of this, someone would have. Heck, someone already brought up Japanese animation with Miyazaki in an earlier response. His art is not exactly the best example since, contrary to most of manga and anime, he actually tries to make his characters’ movements and clothing abide by the laws of physics most of the time. But that’s still Japanese animation (and manga, if you count the comics he’s written). Someone else brought up “Fairy Tale”, which is a manga. If I had not brought this up, I imagine seeing comments like “so this is a graphic novel class; have you ever read ANY manga other than Sailor Moon? They’d blow your mind”. I’m not ignoring Japanese culture, I’m just not going into it in great depth (note that none of the example images were from manga/anime).

      You’re also ignoring the reverse problem: not everyone in the US (or the “West” in general) has the same opinion for what is “comfortable” viewing and what isn’t. Some people don’t like skin. Some people don’t like gore. We don’t have many nudist beaches in America. They do in Japan and Europe. Our views on sexuality and violence are different. Not opposite ends of a spectrum.

      I’m planning to talk about guys next post. But, to be short, I guess… Guys are hulks, women are idealized, oversexualized fantasies (completely ignoring how a lot of men are characterized in Western comics and in manga). Firstly, I chose Liefield because he’s a familiar name in comics from the list I was looking at. Furthermore, if Liefield is a horrible example of art in general and not worth being mentioned as part of the problem, THEN WHY THE HECK DOES HE KEEP GETTING HIRED TO DRAW COMICS? I mentioned this in my post: because he knows people, has a name in the industry, knows how the industry works, and because people are like me and they like the story and just deal with the bad art. You cannot ignore the problem exists simply because “oh, he’s a bad example.” If he were just a bad example who never drew anything, I could care less than I already don’t about the idiot. If J. Scott Campbell was just a bad example who never drew anything, then the same for him, and for Greg Land, Art Adams, Jim Balent, Joe Benitez, Ed Benes, Ian Churchill, Scott Clark, Randy Green, Christopher Hart, Greg Horn, Adam Hughes, Jim Lee, Billy Tucci, Marc Silvestri, and so on.

      The problem is that these “popular artists” (popular here meaning “I’ve made lots of money off of this industry and TONS of people know my name”) have been making art books. Based on their own styles. Art books that I mentioned are featured on blogs like Eschergirls and Less Tits N’ Ass. Art books meant to teach young/new artists how to draw, because that’s what art books do. People also put them out for anime and manga. And people, who want to be as famous or wealthy as these artists, have a chance of picking up their “How-to” guides and following along, or simply emulating the art they find in the actual comic issues/merchandise art they own. Even if you ignore the art problem, the selling precedent is there. People genuinely think, judging by a large portion of popular comics, that boobs and butts sell. So they put them in, even if it ruins the art. They want to make money. They want to stay in a job. I can’t say that I despise them for it – I’m a poor college student, I’ll take any job at this point. But it is a real trend.

      I think you might want to rephrase your definition of well-known artists. An artist doesn’t have to be “good” to sell or be popular. People just have to want to buy – selling makes you popular. If “Prometheus”, “Twilight”, Burger King, and cars are good examples, then we have plenty of evidence that people are happy to buy shit. There are people who completely ignore abstract artists because they don’t think it’s art. Almost every art form took a while to become popular because it “wasn’t good” or wasn’t CONSIDERED good at one time (often enough because it didn’t fit the “art norm” of the period).

      For well-known artists, not enough of the right practice might be the problem. They have a thing that works, so they keep doing it, or they receive no encouragement/criticism to change. If they don’t work hard enough, they can keep putting out the same crap every year. If you do not work on your style or work to improve, it might not happen. Especially if you have no idea how to make yourself improve. If you’re going by “I think this leg should work this way because I think it looks nicer” and not “you know, I’m looking at this human body example here, and legs actually work like this”, then you are not going to “improve” in the manner most art people agree with.

      “Lack of practice” changes for everyone. Lack of practice for one person might mean that they’ve been skipping out on their daily sketching. It might mean that they didn’t create a sellable drawing this week. It might mean that they didn’t go out this month and sketch a real-life scene. It might mean that they didn’t stop on their lunch break and take a moment to sketch the office and everything in it for still-life practice. It might mean they didn’t take a day off this month to walk around a park, pick a view, and sketch it. It might mean they didn’t go to an art class this semester. It might mean they didn’t take a short vacation to just go to an art seminar, talk to some other artists, and see how they can improve. One of my art teachers would often stop his car on the side of the road or pause while walking his dog so he could draw a REALLY nice landscape he happened to see. It helped him practice sketching. Here’s the thing: if you practice something WRONG, you’re only going to learn how to do it WRONG. There are many, many ways to play a violin correctly. There are certain, specific ways to do it wrong, and if you practice with bad habits, you will learn how to play with bad habits. This is true for things like sports, cooking, writing, and just about every subject under the sun, from mathematics to education. These people are still doing terrible art after years of drawing. Yeah, they’ve got practice. They just probably don’t have the right kind.

      I’ve heard the ‘unable to write from a woman’s POV excuse’. Tons of people, from novelists and screenwriters of every genre spout this excuse. Which is funny, because women have demonstrated this capacity for men. There’s a lot of discussion on the sites I linked and elsewhere (I can post em up, if you REALLY want) about why this excuse is given, and why exactly men find it so hard to do this. Another thing I’ve heard is that men like reading about men because they “cannot relate as well to a female character”. Which is funny because saying “he” has been the norm in “genderless” writing for so long, and women have been relating to male characters for quite some time because that was the only thing to read. These are both ridiculous excuses. You can’t write a woman’s POV? Which woman’s POV? We’re not all the same. Contrary to pop culture, we don’t all dream about unicorns and fairies, spend our weekends at the mall, and gossip about boyfriends (just a thought – do lesbians supposedly gossip about boyfriends, too? Oh right, according to pop culture, lesbians hate men). You can’t write a woman, then do what other writers do when they want to write something or believe they should write something that they don’t know enough about to write comfortably: RESEARCH IT. Talk to a woman. Listen to a woman. Read articles about women. Read books about them. Explain your problem to them and see the response. It’s not hard. Most of us have moms. Many of us work or study with women. Many of us have friends who are girls, or other family relations who are female. This excuse is so ridiculous, especially for a company with enough money and demonstrated freedom that they should be easily able to let their employees do this, and it does not excuse writing strictly about males. The fact that about half the world’s population consists of women also does not excuse the lack of practice at real-life sketching or looking at real-life examples of women for practice or ideas in drawing.

      I wasn’t talking about the original fairy tales. I was talking about the Disney versions. Yeah, the original fairy tales are pretty ridiculous, and most of them I can recall would not pass the Bechdel test. Big whoop. Most of the guys (and characters in general) are also never given names or real personalities. Most of the women are given away as prizes. Most of the protagonists get married at 14-16 years old, as well as defeat armies or giant monsters. Interestingly, Disney added a female character to the “Cinderella” fairy tale – the fairy godmother. In the original Grimm story, Cinderella receives dresses from little birds that answer her prayers to her mother. They then peck out her stepsisters’ eyes during Cindy’s wedding parade. Of course, Disney also added the Prince’s father and the second-in-command guy, and the mice and the cat. I could go on for hours about “what doesn’t pass the bechdel test” and gender issues in old fairy tales. But I have better things to do with my life than list every fictional thing in creation that doesn’t pass and why on this blog, and the post is not about old fairy tales.

      “Mulan” the Disney film actually had numerous female characters in it, unless I’m confused about Mulan’s mother and grandmother, and the female spirits. Just because it was a “male-dominated” culture does not mean that women were completely absent from existence. If you read the poem the movie was based on, it actually involves Mulan as a character who lives with cultural female responsibilities, picks up her sword and goes to war when she’s needed, and then returns to those female responsibilities when the war is done. That female presence is never gone, and there are other women in the work. What’s interesting about these films is not that they’re trying to be “historically accurate” (I know that ancient China had talking lizards, and France has magical talking furniture, in the history books), whatever they think that means, but that for films known as princess movies, they lack female characters for the most part outside the protagonist, and actually do not give good messages to young women. I know I certainly want to fall in love with a guy through Stockholm Syndrome (“Beauty and the Beast”), and the way to get a guy is to trade significant portions of my body for plastic surgery (“The Little Mermaid”).

      A male-dominated culture does not mean that women vanish from the face of the earth. They still exist. They work in farms, homes, inns, factories, forests, the middle of nowhere, slums… You find them all over the place. Since guys can’t really get pregnant (excepting rather rare cases), things wouldn’t really work out well if women vanished from the face of the earth until the passing of women’s suffrage, or whichever point in history you feel is a significant turn for equality. If Disney really wanted to write a story about empowering women, they should write stories featuring women, and lots of women.

      I’m glad you brought up “Super Best Friends Forever”. I’ve only seen it referenced on Less Tits N’ Ass, More Kickin’ Ass and I don’t know much about it. I need to try checking it out. DC is typically pretty solid when it comes to animation.

      • ChocobunnySK
        January 30, 2013 at 4:09 pm

        Yay, a response! Anyways… When you talk of Eisner’s work, all I’ve read was “Contract with God”. Anyways it’s interesting to note that the characters that share similar shapes, such as the main character and the kid in the epilogue, also share similar characteristics. Another example pulled up in class was the street singer and the rapist in the final story.

        Yes, I do agree that there need to be more female variety other than the hourglass figure we’re pretty much getting. No, I’m not equating iconic to sexy. Not sure what I said that implied that, but sorry for it anyways. Wait. If you have copycat characters, how do you follow the old saying about the silhouette? Actually one pair of supers come to mind for me, Take Superman and Captain Marvel. How do you tell them appart using only the silhouette?

        For the skirt thing, I’m not so sure if it was standard for females to wear in the late 50’s early 60’s when Supergirl was created. I’ve got nothing for the sleeves though but want to ask why they gave him long sleeves instead of short ones. Now for the heels on Batwoman, I concede, because it goes against utility and pragmatism. I haven’t read much on Lantern Corp. lore, so I can’t say anything on that. And for being females being dressed to fight and appear badass, yes, there are better ways than to stick them with the common female super costumes. And yes, I agree that femininity and pragmatism are not mutualy exclusive. Sailor Moon is a bit of a oddity, as you would have to define how much realism you would want to try to apply to the show before everything falls apart, especially since there is a magical aspect in the show. If Sailor Moon was real, the villains would kill them mid-transformation-sequence.

        Yeah, already discussed what anime does with women. Also agree with you on the artists. Well yeah, having a differing culture does not give them a free pass to do whatever, and yes, not everyone of a culture can be generalized as liking skin. But there are general social standards that each cultures has.

        Yes, I’m pretty sure it’s established that Liefield sucks at art, but has the connections to stay in business. And I do see why if it sells, and you need the cash, then you’ll have to be doing it. And yes, I agree that doing the wrong thing a hundred times still makes it wrong. That’s why stuff like that should be critiqued by a community. A lot of times I see artists go completely orwellian in their willingness to only have positive comments. They would then ignore any form of criticism. Yah got me on the Women’s POV. It’s just that whenever an artist or writer tries to write it with a “female” perspective in mind, it gets paid more attention to. Look at “Brave” and how much discussion went into the fact that the protagonist is the first female lead. It just seems to me that whenever the spotlight is on a female character, it tends to get more attention and criticism then a guy.

        Yeah, I’ll drop out of discussing most of the Disney-fied fairy tales. But for Mulan, the plot centers on Mulan being in the army with the rest of the guys. The majority of the female cast seem to me as part of the exposition. We see some interaction between Mulan and the others, but it is not explored in the least sense. And yes, they don’t give any positive messages to anyone in general. I mean, the message given for guys in “Beauty and the Beast” is if even if you are a jerk, if you have a soft side, then you can still get the girl. Not sure what the second is referencing to. No, women do not dissapear, but neither are they put into the spotlight.

        And SBFF is again an awesome show.

      • cmccrzy
        January 31, 2013 at 11:52 pm

        I believe that the Eisner thing is a mix of the use of archetypes and implying repetition. The kid in the epilogue is destined to follow something resembling Fremme’s path – history repeating itself. And I would kind of disagree on the singer and the rapist. The rapist has this weird pointy face while the singer has a more squarish face and body. But again, it is probably meant to imply a connection between two characters who have taken sexual advantage of others in their lives.

        Well, Superman has a full cape. DC’s Captain Marvel has a side cape (often with lots o’ ribbons), a fancy sash, and arm guards (or giant wrist bands). Their boots are also different shapes. Also, their hair is different. Marvel has flat hair (for lack of a better description. Sup has a big curly cue.

        What you’re saying with “you would have to define how much realism you would want to apply to the show before everything falls apart, especially since there’s a magical girl aspect in the show” is that one instance of un-realism excuses others, no matter what they are.

        Do you forgive Superman for being able to sneeze a solar system away or being able to fly into the sun just because he has eye lasers?

        Having one “unrealistic” aspect does not excuse other unrealistic aspects. Yes, the heroes (and some of the villains) in “Sailor Moon”, the manga/anime, are magical girls. They have powers. They can fly, with magic, in space. They save humanity from the Ice Age. They reset the universe. Fine. Just because you throw one rule or ten out the window does not mean you can throw them all out and no one cares. Often enough, if you make something too ridiculous (like Superman), people complain. You have to have SOMETHING for people to relate to. For all intents and purposes, the “Sailor Moon” verse is the real world with magical girl interplanetary protector aliens. They used real computers, floppies (or CDs, depending on the copy you’re looking at), laptops, arcade games, real cars, ordinary mailboxes, Japanese schools, and others. Lots of stories start out with “well, it’s the ordinary world, but I’m gonna throw in x, just to see how it messes things up.” Unrealistic works of fiction possess realistic aspects all the time. Even Superman lived on a farm and worked for a newspaper.

        Thank you for informing me that cultures have social standards. I never would have figured that out on my own, let alone without the assistance of public schooling, social media, parents, friends, an older sibling, and a pair of functioning eyes. In my post, and all of my responses, I never once stated or implied that different cultures do not possess some sort of standard(s).

        “Mulan” also teaches women that a) they have to be like the boys to fit in with the boys, and b) the only saving graces of “feminine” women are their seductive capabilities (and that you can fight in a dress under duress). The movie is actually rather curious when it deals with social commentary. There’s the scene where Mushu instructs Mulan on how to “walk like a man”, and there’s the “Be a Man” song (which doesn’t really make any sense – what the heck does “mysterious as the dark side of the moon” mean, anyway?). I would love to read more about the creepy lessons Disney teaches us. I think it was College Humor that did some skits on “lessons from Disney Princesses” or something. It was pretty funny (and sad).

        Did you actually read the whole post? Because you keep repeating me and it’s very disconcerting and I honestly have no idea why you wrote most of this response. I really don’t feel like repeating myself.


        p>I’m guessing that I was confused by this bit in your earlier reply: “Well, wearing the costume makes it the standard recognizable costume or item, such as Captain America’s shield and Sherlock Holmes’ deerstalker cap. It also makes it easier to draw instead of coming up with different costumes for the same character, all the while drawing other characters. They want such characters to stand out, and sighs also to show off fanservice.” I did not fully understand what you were talking about, and it sounded like you were saying that wearing any costume, even one that looks like a lot of duct tape, will make the character recognizable. Or you seem to be implying that I’m against characters wearing easily recognizable costumes. This isn’t true, and I did not say that anywhere. I support characters using common sense when they dress. Batman has a utility belt so he can carry around gadgets easily. The Punisher has his van full of guns and monitoring equipment, and wears a black t-shirt with a big white skull on it. The Fantastic Four have costumes designed to accommodate their different body types. For instance, Johnny Storm has something to wear if he has to “Flame on” and his normal clothes burn off. I believe I was trying to connect a bit too much to the silliness of costume designs overall, rather than simply the silliness of female costume designs, which might have confused people.

        Interestingly, you can recognize different real-life military by their uniforms, and they don’t need flashy tights to do it.

        Also: please read your responses at least once before you post them. I’m having issues understanding what you’re typing because of all the grammatical and mechanical typos.

  7. Sanctum
    January 29, 2013 at 2:44 am

    I too strongly believe that women should be recognized based on their merits and not their physical ‘beauties’, but I also believe that humans are sexually inclined, and seemingly irrational creatures.

    Teenagers, adults, and all humankind lust and look for meaning in life, much of which they find throughout the flood of media in our society. They identify with the material, bond with it, and create a relationship with it. Many young girls idolize their Barbie dolls and Disney princesses, regardless of whether or not the movies pass a silly dialog test. Many young boys love playing with their action figures and videogames, regardless of whether or not society deems those two appropriate. I suspect, too, that many of you scholars grew up with a passion for comics and art, and had an expectation to have an influence someday in creating and refining it, hoping to showcase true human excellence. I support your initiative.

    But there are men and women, boys and girls, who float in different directions, with different rationals, and with different expectations out of life. Who are we to deny others their love and their journey? By limiting artistic output, we are essentially choosing a set path (which goes against liberal philosophy). People can lose a sense of belonging, a sense of themselves, a sense that might have existed before censorship.

    I truly do understand your guys’ claims that sexually intended content should not be exploited. I just wanted to make the point that it might be of greater use to express our beliefs in a progressive way without infringing on the rights of present and past generations of artists. Art is competitive, and in the end, there will be no set path. Art will continue to and forever be: an evolution.

    • cmccrzy
      January 29, 2013 at 11:59 am

      Okay, it’s a silly dialogue test, because you’re ignoring the fact that what it is asking is RATHER simple. All it asks for is a) at LEAST two women in the movie (it doesn’t say as PRINCIPLE cast members, either, so you could even feature minor characters), who b) talk to each other at LEAST once, and c) talk about something OTHER than men. The reason something this simple is so phenomenal is the fact that it is SIMPLE (unless you consider two characters of the same gender speaking to each as very complicated) and yet SELDOM HAPPENS. “The Avengers” does not pass. All of Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” movies do not pass. Almost every popular movie every year does not pass. I’m not even certain if “Twilight” passes because I don’t know how much Bella talks to any of the female characters about anything other than Edward, Jacob, and her father.

      Look at it this way: in most movies, you have MORE than two guys, who talk to each other, about something other than women (take a look at every recent comic book adaptation between Marvel and DC – almost every one features a male central protagonist and a male villain; if they didn’t talk to each other at least once, the plot doesn’t really move forward). Why exactly should women not fit this in reverse? It’s not hard for the guys. Why should it be hard for girls?

      I’m curious if you’re asking whether I’m supporting the burning of pornography. Because I’m not. If they want to buy pornography, all to em. I haven’t exactly disowned my father because he reads Playboy or plays “Tomb Raider”. My point is that pornography has a time and a place. The graphic novels we’re looking at are not supposed to be pornography. So I believe (and a number of others believe) that people should stop treating them that way.

      I’m also curious if you’re asking if what I’m supporting is the limiting of artistic output. Because I’m not. You can be physically accurate AND creative. You can have your own style, and still be physically accurate within those boundaries. You can be physically accurate and expand your medium. People have been doing it for centuries. At no point in my post did I put up a “How to draw” post and say “THIS IS HOW EVERYONE SHOULD DRAW”. I’ve actually been a deviantart user for several years now. I’m not a good artist – I just go there to look at cool art. I’ve been sharing my favorites with my roommate. We share a lot of the same preferences, but we also have differences. There are things I love that she doesn’t. There are things she loves that I don’t. Not all the art I like is by one artist or in one style or one medium. My favorite artist is Vincent Van Gogh. My favorite manga artist is Watsuki Nobuhiro. My favorite anime artist is Miyazaki Hayao. My favorite comic artist is Pasqual Ferry. My favorite comic superhero is Spider-man, and my favorite manga superhero is Sailor Cosmos. These people all have different art styles, and all demonstrate different art styles and preferences. I don’t like all of Dali’s work, but I like some of it, even though I’m not a big fan of surrealism. I will say that one of my friends is an amazing surreal artist and I love her work. I think you’re really misreading what I wrote here. I’m supporting the improvement of comic art through practice and real-life learning. Like I said in the post, there’s a difference between “style” and bad art.

  8. Sanctum
    January 29, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Very well written responses and such a sweeping knowledge base! If I owned a printing press, I’d so hire you :-). The last one you wrote in 40 minutes! Now that’s a mind at work.

    I guess my remaining argument/question then is, why should art have to be realistic? (which I’m rather sure you’re not implying)

    For the oversexualized women argument, is it because the artists draw 90% of the female to scale, while 10% is completely outlandish?

    Is the false image of reality they are creating really detrimental to the well being of society?

    Once again, very well written article. I just had to chime in and give an opposing point of view. I wish you the best of luck in your academic pursuit and thereafter. Keep up the good work!

    • cmccrzy
      January 29, 2013 at 8:09 pm

      You’re correct. I’m not implying that art should have to be “realistic” in entirety. I completely support cartoony art. Someone on Less Tits N’ Ass, More Kickin’ Ass brought up the cartoon “Super Best Friends Forever”, because the characters all have “varying body types and representations”. They don’t look like real people, but they are each unique and stylistic. They also featured another artist’s interpretation of the trio, adding a bit of “realism” to the animation. I like both versions. A problem I see in a lot of responses to “try drawing real women” is that “they already have impossible superpowers; why are you getting so high-strung about their BODY shapes?”

      Art shouldn’t have to be realistic, in the sense that everyone need draw like they’re sketching real life. But again, there’s a difference between style and bad art. When you see a Picasso, you know he’s exaggerating things purposefully to make a point about colors and the way bodies work and the way we define ‘art’. When you see a Van Gogh, you know he’s exaggerating lines and blending colors to create a beautiful nightscape. When you look at a drawing by J. Scott Campbell, all you see is ‘teh sexy’, and if something is in the way of ‘teh sexy’, it’s pushed aside. We’re supposed to be reading stories about extraordinary women (in the case of superheroines), and all we see are boy toys and sexual fantasies.

      What I would like to see is men and women being held to the same artistic standard. Women can be beautiful, but so can men. Men can be badass, but so can women. What we have right now is that people screw them up in different ways. Women are idealized and oversexualized. Men are hulked out.

      I would not say that 90% of the female is to scale, or that scale (I’m guessing you mean height) is the focus problem. The problem changes. There are women who have boobs literally flying all over the place, as if they have a life of their own. A common problem is that the skeletal structure of a lot of these women are completely screwed up – they have no room for their ribs or they’re missing space for the organs in their lower bodies or their shoulders are in the wrong place, etc. There’s one where the legs just. Keep. Going. Like an octopus. Or they move like an octopus. Where ankles are so teeny that the giant of a woman has a 95% chance of breaking her legs by trying to walk (J. Scott Campbell loves this). Posing is also a big problem. The tentacle problem is always there. If you look at a lot of covers that feature women, they’re often wrapped up by a dragon or a rope or a man’s arms or some snakey thing. And often, even though they’re supposed to be trapped or trying to break out or fighting back, they look like they’re having an orgasm. There are covers featuring women supposedly fighting each other, where it looks more like they’re trying to have epic sex with each other. Many women are drawn literally lacking a butt. It’s actually a trend for artists to draw them posing in such a manner that they are given butts. The problem is that the position is a sort of odd crouch-like position, and once the woman stands naturally, she has no butt at all. Everyone has a butt. Even negative-size women have butts. But people don’t like drawing them. Sometimes, they’re even smoothed away or photoshopped off of real-life models. Then there’s the never-ending crotch, where the base of leotards or bathing suits just keeps on going, vanishing into some other dimension between the woman’s legs. There are examples that feature many of these. There are examples that feature one or two of these. There are examples that feature others not listed here.

      It objectifies women and it’s very cruel to helping young people build self-confidence and it’s a big part of pop culture. These heroes are people little boys and girls strive to be. It also cuts off access to this medium to a lot people turned off by something that looks almost like pornography. It’s normalizes bad art, stereotypes, and objectification. What exactly is NOT “really detrimental to the well-being of society” in that? What society, anyway? The society of the world or the society of comic fans or the society of the East Coast or what?

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