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comic books and women?

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Here's an interesting little bit that I thought you all might appreciate (with apologies to those who've seen it multiple times in the past few days):

Someone's created a handy little example of the male version of how certain artists have been portraying female comic book characters on covers.

ETA: Forgot to note - those pics aren't entirely worksafe! Covered, but... well... pretty focused.

Off-topic though the pictures are, sigelphoenix pointed out that the subject itself is a fair jumping-point into a discussion of female characters in comic books/graphic novels in general. Personally, I'm juuuust starting my education in that medium, so I'd love to hear what all of you think about the characters, the portrayals... just generally what you think of the women in the graphic medium. I'll start it out by saying that I'm fascinated by the idea of the women in the X-Men 'verse, and totally intrigued by what I've heard about Mina Harker in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Any thoughts?
Current Mood:
curious curious
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On April 21st, 2006 08:28 pm (UTC), sixth_light commented:
Well, I know next to nothing about comics, but I do know from quick browsing that a) women in comics are usually depicted in a very Barbie way, even if they aren't characterised so and b)there's some joke about Supergirl having twelve extra vertebrae, because she's drawn so badly.

I think, personally, it just comes down to the fact that comics are thought of as being for guys, even though there's a large female fanbase, and so the artists cater to guys. Who want to see, let's face it, ass and tits. I don't even know if it matters that much, as long as the characterisation isn't that stereotyped, except it does, because women just aren't like that in real life.

However, I also hear that according to cover evidence, Nightwing is incapable of getting his legs closer together than a forty-five degree angle. So.
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On April 21st, 2006 10:35 pm (UTC), rivendellrose replied:
Yeah, that's pretty much what I'd noticed, too. That and the gravity-defying breasts. o_O

I definitely take issue with the reduction of women to appearances, but considering that's an issue in our society as a whole, we certainly can't just blame comic books for doing that. And some of the characterisation that people have described to me sounds really awesome. I just have a hard time, I admit, getting past the Barbie-looks, on top of general unfamiliarity with the genre and style, to get into the actual plots.

*Snickers* Ahhhh, fair-play of sorts. Poor guy. ;)
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On April 21st, 2006 09:39 pm (UTC), skadi commented:
Mina is an excellent character. But then again, she's a creation of Alan Moore. So she has to be awesome. *grin*
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On April 21st, 2006 10:32 pm (UTC), rivendellrose replied:
This is what I keep hearing, and it makes me really excited to find the graphic novel. I saw some pages in a display not long ago and was just soooo pleased to see that she's not drawn as gorgeous or wearing anything untoward for a proper Victorian lady. Hell, she's not even dressed fancy for that era, which just thrills me.

Yay for someone making of Mina exactly what she was in Dracula - an intelligent, reasonably independent woman who could handle herself pretty darned well for her time.
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On April 21st, 2006 10:56 pm (UTC), zarabithia commented:
Hmm. Well, comicbook fangirldom is my home, and as such, I worry much more about how women are portrayed in the TEXT than in the covers - after all, the men and women of comic art are both drawn ridiculously out of proportion.

Their actions and thoughts, however, are not on equal par - a fact which continues to frustrate me, despite my love of the genre.

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On May 18th, 2006 04:48 pm (UTC), rivendellrose replied:
That's true - neither sex really comes off looking anything approaching natural, do they? It kind of boggles me, in a funny sort of way.

You're right that the actions and thoughts of the characters ought to be the primary focus. The imagery is just the part that, for someone like me who's just barely getting into comic books, is so horribly obvious and disturbing. The genre does seem to be catching up, to some extent, from what people tell me... but changing cultural forms is always a slow move, especially when there seems to be a lot of baggage attached.
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On April 22nd, 2006 01:21 am (UTC), kawaiigami commented:
I know more about cartoon X-Men than comics X-Men, but I have seen some of both. From what I can tell, as far as appearance goes the girls get the typical treatment of most comic books ladies--tight clothes and proportions that no one could have. I will say that when they were in regular clothes, that got toned down a bit as far as I could tell. There was the odd character who was not totally done this way (they at least didn't draw teenagers like mature women), and not all characters were what society would generally call beautiful. In the personality area, they could run a whole spectrum. I enjoyed the character variety you could get.
The same can generally be said for most comics. The visual portrayal is often that of a very curvy, pretty lady unless the character is a child or old woman. The good thing is that they don't all have the same personality
I agree with the comment that most comments are thought of as for guys. I'll also say that I think that, while most comic publishers want to make comics geared towards girls, they don't want to lose the male audience. This is why you have things like Witchblade where the main character is female, but is drawn as being what most would consider sexy.
That said, I also agree with the point that both men and women are often drawn out of proportion. It's just that with the male characters the purpose seems to be to make them more rugged and tough, wheares with the ladies it seems to be to make them sexy. At least, in the way that society seems to imagine people those adjectives would describe.
Probably my favorite graphic novel character is Death from The Sandman. She gets points for a great characteral portrayal in both drawing and personality.
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On May 18th, 2006 05:04 pm (UTC), rivendellrose replied:
Honestly, I suppose it's really not saying that much that comics are focused on women being sexy above all else, and men being rugged and tough above all else, considering that my own favorite genre, sci-fi, has the same damned problem. It just comes off as so much more exaggerated in comics, because the artists are able to do whatever they want with the women rather than relying on an actress who will necessarily fit somewhere within the realm of physically-possible human variation.

The personality thing is definitely the most important, though - that's the most important step to make. And oooohhhhh boy do I ever need to read the Sandman books. XD
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On April 23rd, 2006 06:56 am (UTC), hoperomantic commented:
In addition to what has been said, I think that it is also important to consider who is creating the comic. For example, independent comics, or comics intended to address a real world or serious issue, are often drawn in a different style than say, Marvel comics. Also, different studios often have different styles relatively unique to themselves, for example, Image comics often look one way(they make Witchblade, Fathom, Tomb Raider..etc...and they often portray idealized individuals) whereas Green Man comics have a more "art school" feel and look. And Manga of course, is often entirely different all together(the big eyes..etc..)

As above, I agree one of the most important things, is, like literature, the story. Are the characters well developed? Is there a fully realized story with an engaging plot line? Is the dialog fully developed?

And, since there is art involved: Does the art move the story forward? Does the art further character development, theme, mood, plot line, etc?

And as a finally note, I think that comics are a lot like any other artistic medium, if have to often sift through the chaff of "bad stuff" to find the wheat of the "good stuff."

Just a few random, passing thoughts...

(oh, and btw, when I have been into comics, I'm a big fan of Image and Avalon comics, Witchblade, Aria, Darkchylde, etc...)
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On May 18th, 2006 05:06 pm (UTC), rivendellrose replied:
I think that comics are a lot like any other artistic medium, if have to often sift through the chaff of "bad stuff" to find the wheat of the "good stuff."

Oh, definitely. There's a ton of bad junk in every genre - I didn't mean to pick on comics, so much as to point out something related to our field of discussion that I thought people would be interested in. And since I don't know a lot about comics, I wanted to get peoples' opinions about this whole deal. *g*
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On May 18th, 2006 05:09 pm (UTC), rivendellrose replied:
That's interesting, how different comicbooks are in Europe than they are here - we have the more cartoon-type comics (I've read some Asterix, so at least I think I know what you mean...), but they're not as much what people think of when they talk about comic books, I don't think. That might be changing, though, with the popularity of manga and the like.

Death seems to be totally awesome - I really need to read the Sandman books so I can get a better idea of her. *g*
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