Monday, March 25, 2013

What's HER Problem?

Saturday we went on a comic book run, partially because I needed more Wonder Woman (older) books to finish a project. In the process of browsing old and new books, I found Alpha Flight Special #1 from July '91, a 4-part series.

Cover art by Jackson "Butch" Guice

In my opinion, this is just an ugly cover. There's too much white, which is a little confusing to the eye. The red uniforms of the Alpha Flight members are badly muddled with black in a way that is supposed to suggest muscles, but it's overdone and they just look fragmented, like someone had run a PS crystallize effect over it. The composition is poor, with no clear delineation between the fore- and backgrounds. And then there's the poses themselves... so many things wrong there, so I'll try to break it down one at a time

Working left to right, starting with Guardian (II), Heather McNeil Hudson:

First of all, why is she sticking her butt out like that? I'm pretty sure I've never been startled or frightened into assuming that position... Her head looks slightly disconnected because of the position of her right shoulder. Or maybe she has a really long neck; either way, it's awkward. It's not clear where her weight is, either. The Guardian suit allows flight, but it looks like she is supposed to be standing in this illustration. Her feet aren't visible, but if you follow the leg lines, her left is probably not on the ground, so she's standing on her right. Her center of gravity is not over that foot, so it looks like she's about to fall over. (And if she's the leader of Alpha Flight, why is she hiding behind her husband?)

Vindicator (James MacDonald Hudson) is standing in a ridiculously wide stance, even for a hero. His left foot is off the ground, so his right (behind the barcode) must be weight-bearing. Except his center of gravity is somewhere over his right thigh. The odd position of his left hand (hard to see in that mess of red and black of his chest) looks like he's about to grab Her's ass. He appears to be standing behind Box, but the left leg is in front of Box's right. A friend also pointed out that the leg looked like an afterthought because of the absence of hard shadows, and I agree.

This is pretty much the exact opposite of the butt/boobs pose. Instead of glutes and pecs pointing at the viewer in some impossibly flexible stance, Her (aka J'Ridia Starduster) is pointing her butt at Guardian and her boobs at Box. Her right foot is twisted inward, causing a bizarre spiral up her leg and into her hip, back and shoulders. The spiral is broken by her neck and head as she looks over her right shoulder. Her left foot appears to be crossed forward in front of the right one, and she's on the balls of her feet. Weight looks like it's on the twisted right leg, which sounds painful. I've seen worse poses, but this one is pretty bad... (Additionally, I recognize that "Her" is what she's called, but the arrow pointing with "What's HER Problem?" sounds like a segue for the frat crowd to the question, "Are you on the rag or what?")

The only one of the four not in some weird pose is Box (II), Roger Bochs. The human-powered robot suit is standing in a ready pose, weight almost evenly distributed, but a bit more on the left. He could be preparing to push off with that foot to attack whatever they're all looking at.

Cover art, whether it's for comic books or novels, is created to sell. Since mostly men are buying comic books, they often depict women in insanely ridiculous poses that are questionably not even anatomically possible. I get that men like women's butts and boobs, I really do! But do they also like broken spines?

I'm about to go on a quickie vacation -- spring break in Ontario, Canada, y'all! -- but when I get back, I'm going to try to replicate those poses and have my husband photograph the attempt.

Looking for more critical commentary about impossible anatomy? Visit Escher Girls (really, a must-read -- snarky and awesome, with excellent commentary and redraws), and The Hawkeye Initiative (which shows how ridiculous those poses really are by showing Hawkeye attempting to do the same thing).

Also, scifi writers Jim Hines (two different blog posts, both are hysterical) and John Scalzi's pose-off is a total riot, and Ocelot's post comparing and replicating poses, show that the problem is not limited to comic book covers. Novels suffer from the same issues. Go see. You'll never look at some of those covers the same way.

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