Saturday, August 23, 2014

I am back! & Comics and Over-Sexualization . . .




For the past week the topic among my friends, and a small community of on-liners has been the release of a comic book. According to the media sites and a lot of people i have encountered, its being ruled as over-sexualized and offensive. I personally don't understand, i have yet to find a middle ground. It has been very frustrating for me when discussing this topic and i haven't really known why, until this morning. What my goal is here it to show you where i am coming from and where i think a lot of people and mostly marvel are coming from, even though it seems to be the unpopular opinion in this discussion as we know it.

I started reading comics and collecting comic cards at about the age of 10, which puts me at about 20 years of being in the throws of the comic world. I want to take you through the journey i have gone through over the years, and hopefully provide an understanding that we can and should live in a country where sexualized art is okay.

This is THE comic book cover that started it all for me. My bread and butter.

Jim Lee 1991






















Jim Lee rebooted the X-Men in this second volume of the franchise. The way he drew this characters and re-imagined these characters ignited a fire in me as a child that i cant even completely understand. If this image never existed i dont know how my life would be right now. The thick black lines and use of heavy shadow around every corner of every muscles really makes the characters pop. Through Narrative, Magneto (dude on the right) should be the main focal point. The glowing of his powers and the intensities of red and purple. It then it takes your eye to the left through cyclops' optic blast, then wolverine, Psylocke,  and so on and so forth until this mirroring glow of jean grey on the far right bringing you full circle. Every time i look at this i get that same story. What i think is happening in today's times is people are ignoring narrative and look straight at psylocke's bare ass. Which you will see is my entire concern.


Around the same time of my life i was also collecting comic cards. It was a natural progression from seeing my older brothers with baseball cards and me not loving sports (granted, my brothers also collected comic cards). I wanted to have these things to hold and cherish in my hands. The most important thing to me in a comic is the artist. I personally identify as an artist, not because i make art (which i have been slacking on) but because i think like one. In my everyday actions i evaluate everything from certain mindset that i dont think can always be taught. it is innate. i am this way, much like others who flock to this lifestyle. So when i discovered that comic cards existed and i could have 13 pieces of original "cover art" for the price of one comic, it was like a drug. I loved seeing so many views of the same characters. How does this person view captain america and how does it differ from another. Naturally i chose favorites and cared less for others. Fleer Ultra the same company that produced baseball and basketball cards also made the marvel cards. I was introduced to these first and mainly stayed my course.

Fleer Ultra 1991


These cards did a great job of showcasing a familiar style set in place with coexisting comics of its time. The were very innocent, playful and inspiring, everything a comic should be in my opinion.

The first time i experienced a feeling of what today's times would call discussing or offensive was with comic cards. I was at a summertime neighborhood sanctioned garage sale. it was int the parking lot  of the neighborhood recreational enter and one would rent their space, their tent for which to clean out their closets. There were concessions; hot dogs, popcorn, coke, cake walk etc. I would have been about 10 or 11 and i come across some cards. My first thought is "baseball cards? boring." but i noticed this card,

Marvel Masterpieces 1993


I have never seen this in my life, 'it looked like all those paintings in museums of old men and ladies holding fruit'. Needless to say i began my rummaging. i was literally (or figuratively, not sure how we are using it these days. #jifgif) a kid in a candy store. I found and collected a stack of 20 or so and it felt like the glow of Christmas. I begged my dad for five dollars and i returned to the booth and purchased them all. i wish i still had those original ones, good times. It was such a new experience to me to see these characters i have seen a hundred times before shown in a new light. But then something happened, if my memory serve me correctly, i saw this card.


Marvel Masterpieces 1993

As you can see i was shocked. This looked like one of those magazines i am not allowed to look at. Clearly the figure in this piece is drawn to show the human form. This is no longer Psylocke, that pretty ninja mutant i saw as a 10 year old. this was now a woman. It took me past the context i was used to, i no longer saw comics as only playful super heroes. This Set of cards, released by SkyBox, took what fleer had been doing and flipped it. These characters are now human in my mind, the personification this image shattered everything i knew about comics and i was never the same.


This is where my frustration is rooted. I see this image and i was shocked, it is still shocking today, but the difference is that i dont find it offensive. I look at it and i see an artist and his voice. I may not agree with the necessity of his narrative but i understand it. i respect it. he made me look at things i held truest at that time in my life in a different light. My parents taught me to be the man i am today. When i experience new things in life, the way i react to it is a reflection of them and the way i have reacted in the past. I have standards i hold within myself and morals that i follow on a daily basis. With those i am confident in saying that I know right from wrong, just from unjust. I know what i like and dislike, and i also know that others would oppose my opinions, yet that doesn't change mine. I dont think that a person can change from the outside in. it is up to the person to decide to change his mind set. I came across this quote yesterday, not sure of its source, but it is a full thought so it can be shared either way.

 "An entire sea of water cant sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship. Similarly, the negativity of the world can`t put you down unless you allow it to get inside you"


I take this with a grain of salt due to the vast possibility that everyone is the same and reacts to everything the same way. So when someone says something is offensive they are putting it into a negative context.  The very nature of what makes an apple and apple, is the its genetic make up. except its only an "apple" because we called it that. that is the evolutionary noise our mouth makes in the English tongue to identify that thing. So when we look at a piece of art, someones visual voice, we have to take into account the very nature of that piece of art. Who made it, where, what, how, when, and why? Simply blurting out the first thought, before you give it a name shouldn't happen. It starts with you, on the inside. As soon as it leaves your mouth, your voice becomes another work of art for another person to evaluate, and if we loose track of the ins and outs, i feel we lose all of its meaning, and purpose.

When i started reading comics outside of marvel i began to see a consistency with the marvel masterpieces. I started reading Image Comics, which was co founded by some of my personal favorites Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Marc Silvestri, and I started to see stories and images appealing to myself as a teenager. Image's target audience was  16+, so the nature of its contents was ahead of the comic world, and partially shunned for it. Shortly after image was formed Marc Silvestri created his own studio known as Top Cow. In Top Cow is where i would find myself thrown back into love with comics all over again. My favorite comic book artist of all time is Michael Turner. What i think he did so beautifully was take what i experienced from Fleer trading cards to skybox trading cards, a childlike playfulness wrapped up into what i thought at  the time to maturity. His quick, harsh lines set his story in motion, yet they all converge into an ethereal flow that soothes the eyes and calm me.Looking back i can safely say i will agree at a present day first time looker of this piece,  my #2 nostalgic memory of comic book cover. (The first being x-men #1 shown above).
Fathom #1 Top Cow
Yes this is sexualized. Yes it is not completely necessary. but it also is. This character Aspen is an excellent swimmer and through a turn of events comes to realize she is part or a subterranean race. At a climax of the story she can completely turn herself in water. And realistically speaking it would makes sense that she cant turn her clothes into water as well, therefore nude female form would be present. Its this technicality that can be applied to why i find it to be less offensive compared to an average viewer. That is why Image comics and Top Cow comics were founded. It was an outlet for people who needed MORE, more depth, more contrast, more realism. Realism is very important to me. It solidifies my fantasy, that this could be real. which i what i enjoy thinking about when i read comics. It is what i think the Marvel Cinematic Universe is doing a great job at. How would the world react to the comic world? Personifying these fantasies is what appeals to audiences.

So this brings us to present day, the big NO NO that marvel did this week in comics.

Spider-Woman #1 Milo Manara 2014



My first thought was a bit defensive i must admit, and later i felt it was a justification of my logic behind my opinion on this piece. This is a cover for a new Spider-Woman series reboot. The reason Marvel is publishing this series is because they are listening to the people.(my opinion) Women don't have the same presence in comics as men. It is a Man dominated industry. That is not to say that there are not female artists and writers, but i can honestly say im not familiar with any prominent ones. Which is the source of this discussion, i understand that. However, That doesn't mean that when images like this are created they are malicious intended to keep women away because they might find it gross or disgusting.  The most important thing to know is that this is a variant cover. When a series is put into print, a writer, inker (TRACER!), colorist, and cover artist is chosen. usually its a project headed but the writer and main artist, in which the artist becomes the cover artist. however, in recent years in comparison of the comics across history, variants have become a big deal. I myself collect Michael Turner Variants. He like many other notable artists act(ed) as a freelance artists or probably sign a contract with said comic company and do variant covers for their new series. Michael turner has drawn for DC comics, Marvel, Image, and Top Cow. I try to find all of these to complete my collection of his works, like those who collect famous paintings or sketches of certain well know artists throughout time. So when you start talking about variants you have to understand their context. This cover by Manara is not the title cover. Only so many of these will be printed. and unless you are a Milo Manara fan and a marvel fan, you would be part of a small audience that would see this. the one that will sit on the shelves and seen by all looking for Spider-Woman #1 will see this.

Spider-Woman #1 Greg Land 2014

I personally like Lands better because it makes me want to find out who that other woman is. she is an iteration of spider-woman i have never seen. i know about Jessica drake, but the other character? I'm intrigued. Manara's does draw all its attention to her buttocks, and yes its makes no sense that her body suit is thinner than body paint. Do i find it Disgusting? Its it Gross? Is it highly offensive? NO. No. NO.  I am very capable of buying this comic and reading it cover to cover and then taking it from there. When the media released Manaras image on the Behalf of Marvel, they made a statement to start a conversation. The conversation is very important, but things of this nature shouldn't be a crutch for you point of view to stand on. These images should be used as shaping tools. Is your goal is to get a lot of traffic on your webpages and go viral on something you brought up(money)? If so then your best plan of attack is chastise Marvel for allowing an artist, who is respected among his peers, to draw his view of spider-woman. If your Goal is to pull the female audience into a world of comics than you are going about it the wrong way. Its all point of view. When you go to a restaurant that say "foodies" will flock too and you are confused by the portion sizes and use of certain ingredients, its because you aren't part of that world. you don't hold the same appreciation for food as said foodie, same with comics. If you don't read comics then you cant, in my opinion, look at comics and think of them on an objective level. Someone who hasn't read comics prior to seeing this image can only react with their gut, from which they have been taught. they can only rely on there current level of standards. If all you hear is that women don't have a place in comics then what else is there for you to believe. We need to start saying saying that the human body is okay in comic world.  What I think comics should be about is escaping, adapting, learning, growing, coping, all while enjoying yourself. Artists do what they do because they love it. It brings joy to themselves first and foremost, and then to the world. Art in my eyes is a gift of expression. Expression of an artists current feeling. So When Milo Manara Paints or draws his works of art he is showing you a world that he likes to escape to. His Primary focus leans towards the eroticism of art. I'm personally not interested in this art form, but it does have a following and appreciation. So in a way Manara is trying to find his own way into this wonderful world that marvel has created, not entirely unlike the present day Woman. Had this particular cover not been put on a website saying its offensive in nature then the "public" would not have seen it. It is a problem because we are making it one. The only reason I even heard of Milo Manara was because of this article. Had you no idea this cover existed you could go buy the Land cover, read the comic and fall in love with it for the right reasons. You would be justified(in my eyes) in forming an opinion of the work of art in which this cover is advertising. I don't believe anyone has the right to impose an opinion on anyone else, because that's what it is, an opinion. The Media has been and always will be spinning stories in a direction they want the masses to follow. They want to make money, and who knows maybe marvel is actually behind the curtain on all this. i highly doubt they did this for that reason, they don't need a reason for people to follow them more, but bad publicity is also good publicity so . . who knows?

If and when i have kids, i will bestow upon them the same guidelines i was taught as a kid. Thats my job as the creator of that child, as the parent. im not going to take something that is uninformed and release him into the wild. I will teach them to learn and understand then create an opinion or belief system. Some other examples of comics i have read over the years and enjoyed.








They all show women with unrealistic endowment, and some find that offensive. As a teenager i was drawn to it, i wont lie, but its the way they are drawn, not what. Its also who. They are all strong female characters. Anyone of them are far superior to what i could achieve in life. Witchblade is a NYC Detective who aquires an ancient symbiotic living armor, which at the time would be considered a step forward for the cause. Battle Chasers enlists a large breasted Ginger pirate. She is a lady pirate who could over power, out smart any man she crosses. Danger Girl is a comic about a group of female spies all specializing in certain types of combat and warfare. These are all examples of concept that i feel support the cause of creating prominent strong female super heroes in today's world. they were all created almost 20 years ago. So when i read these as a teenager, yeah i saw big boobs, but i also saw how important and capable these women were. Being Sexy is powerful, its not the only ingredient, but i think that it has its place. My view of Women has not been affected in anyway by these comics. Much like video games don't go on mass killing sprees. By definition, i believe in the feminists movement. I treat every human the same. That is a humane right that everyone deserves, women and men alike. 


The retort i hear the most when i say this isnt offensive, is "what if that was a man?!"  im glad you asked . . .







Highly seuxualized male superheroes. 

hopefully i gave you some insight. like i said im not trying to tell you how to think or act, i just want to provide you with the information and experiences i have as an avid comic reader so you could get an understanding of where i am coming from. and maybe next time you see something you don't like you will juts move on and leave it to the fans of the latter. There is something for everyone out there, and if you want to find it all you have to do it look. Don't make other feel bad for their views, get in formed and form a true opinion. Happy hunting and keep these conversations alive.




EDIT: Just found this article. directly for the artist mouth.

http://www.bleedingcool.com/2014/08/22/milo-manara-blames-god-for-spider-woman-1-cover/






No comments: