A Comic Book Entry: Tyrant-in-Chief Part 5

All previous rants as tyrant-in-chief pertained only to the writing of the comic.  The illustrating of the comic is a far more difficult problem.  It is taken for granted in every comic that every woman and every man is super-fit, super-sexy, super-attractive (even if they are not superheroes [I.e. Mary Jane Watson]), and looks no older than 25 (despite their real age) unless otherwise explicitly stated.  Apparently comics are pretty much aimed at 13 year old boys, and men who used to be 13 year old boys.  This is the only explanation for the amount of fanservice in the comics.  The term “fanservice” basically means anything in a comic (or other media for that matter) that is included to please the fans.  It seldom has anything to do with the story in any more than a superficial way.  A prime example of this is all the Marvel “Day at the Beach” spreads which was an excuse to get all your favorite X-men (for once, both women and men) into skimpy outfits.  Almost every single costume for a superheroine (again, fanservice tends to aim at men) is an example of this.  However, some are worse than others (I.e. anything Emma Frost has ever worn ever).  So as the tyrant-in-chief, no matter how ridiculous I may personally find this, I can’t get rid of all the fanservice.  But there are still rules for illustrating.

Rule 1) Comic books are not softcore pornography, unless explicitly stated.  I can’t believe I even have to state this, and yet, I can.

Here’s the test to determine if your artwork has crossed the line:
a) open up a web browser with the standard adult filter activated
b) look up images for a given character with just their name or their name and comic book company
c) on a separate tab, look up images for the same character but affix the search word “hot” or “sexy” or look on Deviantart (hey, I like the site but a lot of it is sexy fanfic drawings)
d) compare the images; if the results from the searches are fundamentally identical, you have crossed the line into drawing softcore porn

Alternative tests:
a) Compare your heroine’s outfit (or villainess’ outfit) to the Super Munchkin card “Minimum Legal Armor;” if they look the same, you’ve crossed the line
b) Compare your heroine’s outfit to a lingerie collection; if there are few to no differences or the only difference is the material (i.e., the heroine is wearing some kind of quasi-metallic material), you’ve crossed the line
c) Compare your heroine’s outfit to a swimsuit catalogue; again, if there are few to no differences or the only difference is material, you’ve crossed the line
(Is this starting to sound like the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour?”)

Exception 1) There isn’t an exception to this.  Sex is part of human relationships, but showing as much as possible within the bounds of not being porn detracts from the story.  If artists want to draw that stuff, hey, go right ahead, but if I’m in charge it’s not getting published in the comic (unless it’s that kind of comic).  Remember, the internet is for porn.

R2) I don’t expect photo-realistic drawing, but the difference between teenagers and adults should be obvious.  And no, making the adults just taller (a common technique in anime and manga) does not count.  Nor does differentiating between a teenage and an adult woman by giving the adult woman a bigger bust.  Frankly, this drove me bonkers in the period when Marvel was hiring artists to mimic the anime style of drawing.  In the “Generation X” comic, everyone, and I mean everyone, looked about 14 years old.  Also, this applies to characters who are established to be old.  Xavier should not look only five years older than Cyclops.  This also applies to characters who are established to be very young.  Right now, Valeria Richards looks to be about seven years old, not three.
E2) The only exception to this is if it has been explicitly stated an adult character looks like a teenager or an elderly character looks much younger.

R3) For love of anatomy, try to keep proportions at least possible when drawing human figures.  Men should not have chests as broad as they are tall (unless they are specifically of those proportions like perhaps Strong Guy or Beast) and women should not have breasts as large as their heads.  Also, spines are not made of rubber.  It is physically impossible for a woman to have her boobs and butt facing in the same direction.
E3) No exceptions.  I’m sorry.  There’s a difference between art and caricature.  Men with 15-pack abs and women with breasts that are literally as large as melons have crossed the line into caricature.  Men with exploding biceps and women with snake spines have also crossed into caricature.  And no, I probably would not have hired certain artists.

R4) There comes a point when fanservice renders suspension of disbelief impossible.  This line is not to be crossed.  Tip for artists – if you character appears under TvTropes “Ms. Fanservice” webpage, you’ve probably crossed that line.
E4) No, there’s no exception.  There is no reason for Psylocke to have garters or Storm to be wearing a thong.  Can’t Black Cat zip up her catsuit at least to the point it’s believable it’ll stay closed?  Or what about that ridiculous catsuit Viper wore that was cut down past the bikini line and only had what must be a very strong clip holding her breasts in place?  Isn’t she also supposed to be a melee fighter?  Shouldn’t a melee fighter cover their torso so they don’t get shot or stabbed in the vital organs?  All the other HYDRA agents have full suits, so why in the hell does their leader prance around like some 13 year-old boy’s BDSM wet dream?  Oh, right, because she is.  That’s gone too far.  However, since it’s been established Emma Frost never gets into combat if she can help it and has a long history of stripperiffic costumes, she does not cross this line.  Also, She-Hulk has the excuse that she is far tougher than any of her clothes.

R5) Limit the number of fanservice panels per comic.  So Warbird is talking to someone.  Is there really any reason every panel has to be drawn from behind Warbird?  Obviously the answer is because her leotard has a thong back (see Rule 4 above).  One panel, that’s fine.  The whole conversation is too much.  Again, check the “Ms. Fanservice” trope page for reference.  Or check out the Hawkeye Initiative.  If an outfit or pose looks ridiculous on Hawkeye, then it’s going to look ridiculous and fanservice-y on any female character.
E5) No exceptions.  I know, with some characters limiting fanservice panels per comic is impossible *cough*EmmaFrost*cough*.  Her whole goal is to show off her impossibly low neckline.  She-Hulk as well is fond of showing off her green amazonian frame.  But fans really do notice when panels are deliberately aimed for maximum exhibitionism.

Here’s the reason for these rules – if comic books want to attract and retain audiences that are not just 13 year old boys, they need to quit drawing comic books as though that’s the only audience they care about.  I’m not saying the drawing can’t be sexy or stylistic, but as a visual medium the drawings have the first impact.  The story comes second.  As a personal example, I knew from the first three pages of the New 52 “Catwoman” I was not interested in this comic.  On the other hand, here is a drawing of Dark Phoenix.  Is it sexy?  Yes.  But it’s also powerful and gorgeous (also I miss Jean but that’s another rant).  Here’s a drawing of Storm.  Is it sexy?  Hells yes!  But it’s also powerful and gorgeous.  I’m not opposed to a little cheesecake (and beefcake) here and there, but if that’s the focus of the comic, then it’s really hard to take the medium seriously.


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S. J. Drew is an aspiring writer who finally entered the blogosphere to shamelessly promote that writing (as evidenced by the title of the blog). Whether or not this works remains to be seen, but S. J. hopes you are at least entertained. And if you're actually reading this, that's probably a good sign.

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