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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

That's What They Always Say...

That's What They Always Say...
Though I think it's rather charming that she got one last cheesecake shot before she went out. Found today while Googling "Phantom Lady" images for a different post, and the first time I've seen this.

I have to say that this middle panel is the single most vile, hateful illustration I've ever seen in a comic book in my entire life. Didn't Frank Miller do a similar scene concerning Elektra and Bullseye with a bit more class?

I'm all for artistic freedom -- and I know that life sometimes is ugly, nasty, and smells like an ass, okay? But let's put stuff like this in books marked for "Mature Readers." That way, we all win. Well, all of us except for Phantom Lady.

19 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. Well, despite some of its flaws, I did LIKE Infinite Crisis and I do have to minorly disagree with you. I actually didn't notice the cheesecake factor of the scene until you pointed it out to me. Every time I read that page my eye was always drawn to her face and the look of utter shock/confusion on it. I know it's horrible, but I think the fact that the blood was made to look more black/VERY dark red helped hide the fact that her breasts are rather exposed like that and the sword going through her and all. It made it blend into the inking more.

    Doesn't make it right, I suppose, just sayin' this time I really think this was naivety on the part of the artists. ^^;;

    ((Deleted and reposted to fix something))

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  3. I can see some of your points, but I'm just going off of a gut reaction to it. I guess it's that overlap between her trademark playful cheesecakeness with the barely-there costume and the frankly phallic violent imagery that's bothering me. But I think also there needs to be a decision about mainstream, non-Mature Readers comics -- as an industry, have we completely given up on children being a potential audience for these books?

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  4. You see, I'm totally torn on this one. When I read the issue, I was surprised at the intensity of the image, but I understood that the idea behind was to portray how extreme things had gotten in the DCU and to show the vile lengths that the Society would go to. They had to be protrayed as a serious threat to one and all. I do not shock easily (or offend either) and I was neither shocked nor offended by this image, however, I made up my mind right away to NOT allow my 11 year old son to read the issue (or the series). I always read the comics we get every week first and I give him what I deem ok for his viewing. I do agree that it would have been responsible of DC to put a "mature readers" tag on the cover, but we all know that would have serverly limited the sales factor then. I basically then thought the best and most tasteful thing to do would be to use the same image, but cropped so that the panel would actually start just below Phantom Lady's neckline. What had happend would still have been evident and there would be a medicom of restraint involved. I also agree with Lewis that I highly doubt there was any malicous intent or anger towards women from the artist. I'm annoyed though that these days comics are so much pushed towards the older male in his 20s or 30s that they often make the comics almost impossible for a resonsable adult to allow his younger children to read them until they are over a certain age themselves. My son Patrick, won't be reading Infinite Crisis until he's an older teen now, but since he's mostly a Spider-Man fan, I don;t think he's that disapointed :)

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  5. Infinite Crisis and Civil War are pretty much driving me away from superhero comics as a whole. There was really nothing redeeming about the forced reboot of both universes.

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  6. I believe there was a time where comic covers would sometimes feature the tagline "Not for little boys anymore," which I'd say definitely seems to predicate what you're saying, VSG. Comics, in their attempt to break away from the goofiness of the Silver Age, have taken a very wrought turn away from children being their primary audience and are definitely attempting to seal the adult male market as their primary audience.

    Still, not all things look so gloomy thanks to things like the Johnny DC titles which are aimed at a little younger audience while still maintaining good stories. The problem is getting the younger audience to read them as opposed to picking up something more violent like Infinite Crisis because dang it all a George Perez cover looks more impressive to the young, impressionable mind.

    I would tend to say, though, that with comic book stores tending to be in a larger city aspect (or, at least, operating out of strip malls), there's less of a chance of a little kid going in alone, unsupervised, and getting a violent comic. Responsible parents who are accompanying their children into the comic store should make sure to screen the material as to not allow them to view something with as much gore as that.

    I'm also in agreement with Rocketeerz that it's meant to demonstrate just how dark the universe had gotten at that point, which was one of the points of Infinite Crisis and their hopeful attempt to bring a little light back to it (when OYL first started, I was thinking that that was the truth, but as time has worn on... well, I'm an optimist, so I think it'll get better).

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  7. I completely disagree.

    Honestly, I have read comics since I was 4 (now 22), and my parents never censored our tv or our comics.

    They told us that we knew it was fictional and we were allowed to view things as "mature" because we knew it was not real.

    Parents have the right to censor their children, but they will see it somewhere else, it is better to enlighten them while they are with you, so you can explain any questions they may have, vs sheltering them so they see/hear things on the bus to school or on tv.

    TV is far worse than this panel, and I personally felt the raw emotion and power behind it as the look of utter disbelief shocks her face.

    "Sorry darlin, it's just business..."

    God what an amazing scene (in my opinion).

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  8. I hear what you're sayin Sammy, and I'm not saying you are wrong, but I don't think my sons is quite ready for that image just yet. Yes, you are right , often they can and will see it somewhere, and if he did I'd deal with it head on, but at 12 years old and no out on his own hanging with friends, I can pretty much control a lot of what he's exposed to. We've had many "you know it's all fiction and not real" conversations and I'm sire he can tell the difference easily, but I also believe that as his father it's my responsability to hold particular things from him until he's more mature and prepared to deal with said things. I'm not native enough to beleive I';m sheltering him, in fact I have no desire to do so, however, I dothink there's a time and place for him to be exposed to something like that and at 12... it's neither the time nor place. I'm as anti censorship as it gets, but I'm not looking to surpress such an image, I'm just looking to keep it from my son until I feel he's prepared to understand and deal with it more.

    Just my opinion. I'd never expect anyone to follow my lead in raising their own children. Each person needs to do what they feel is right.

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  9. The Johnny DC stuff is all well and good, but artwise, that's not the stuff I got hooked on when I was a kid. Sometimes I can't help but think of fans who are currently 8-11 and think "Where is THEIR Neal Adams,where is THEIR Jim Aparo, THEIR Jim Starlin, hell, even THEIR Curt Swan?" Harry Potter books can give young fans sophisticated fare without being too "adult". Comics should be able to strike that same balance.

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  10. To be honest I think it's unfair to single out this one image in Infinite Crisis. Sure it's gratuitous and nasty, but so is the panel where Superboy Prime (I think. I have no interest in going and checking) splatters the inside of Psycho Pirate's head across a page in loving detail.

    IC is full of unnecessarily graphic images of dismemberment and destruction to males and females. The only thing that singles out this one is that it references Frank Miller's killing of Electra.

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  11. The level of sheer gore and hatefulness in some of the DC books lately scares me. Not just for what they are, but for the fact that there are fans who say that they WANT to see it. The number of On Panel bloody deaths is as bad as a slasher film, but with characters who are meant for PG or PG-13 style adventures.

    The on-panel sexualized death of Phantom Girl is pure exploitation, as bad as anything from Hershall Gordon Lewis.

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  12. I just kinda think there's nothing wrong with just putting a "mature readers" label on the cover of a comic with this level of gore. We've got ratings for TV shows, movies, and videogames. I don't think that the goverment or any other entity should mandate a rating system. But I think each company should use common sense. Right now, with the exception of some token "kids line" titles, Comics Are Not For Kids Anymore. If we are all ok with that, then screw it, let's not worry about the sex & gore. But then there are aggressive licensing programs using the same characters featured in such gory comics as children's icons. I don't know, it bugs me. Wonder Woman snaps a guy's neck but she's also on children's t-shirts and baby socks.

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  13. I'm not defending that scene; I agree with you that the scene was too gory for what is supposed to be an all-ages book, but I've got to agree with Lewis that I'm not seeing the sexualizing or "cheesecake" in that scene, so I have to play devil's advocate just for the sake of fairness: If the hero getting stabbed in that scene had instead been the shirtless Black Condor and the layout of those panels had otherwise been the same, would you have said he got one last "beefcake" shot? How would you have felt about it? (I do not intend this as a troll attack question, but as a good faith one for serious introspection.)

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  14. Is the objection here the violence, or a Milleresque sexual subtext?

    The latter isn't there, but I could see how the interpretation could be made, even by accident.

    These are three panels in a thirty-six(?) page book?
    It's a tough one, but for my mind, I don't think it hurts to slip these things in without a mature readers tag.

    Violence is the threat in superhero comics, and I don't think it's a bad thing to occasionally illustrate that.

    I don't think the consistency of her costume, which is cheesecake in other contexts, at all impacts on this impersonal scene.
    To call this sexualized violence is a stretch, I think.

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  15. And in some comics, characters can get shot 4 or more times and be up and healthy by the following month. Trying to justify this kind of imagery by citing the "threat of violence in superhero comics" is ludicrous, because it's pretty much arbitrary.

    Superman punches people all the time, but he's got super-muscular control so he doesn't explode anybody's head. But as soon as we need to shock someone or prove comics are "mature," the creators take off the gloves and produce imagery like this.

    A month or so later, and it's back to big stupid looking clown-suited demigods tossing buses at each other with impunity.

    I'm not saying stories shouldn't have violence in them, but there really should be an accountability for it.

    This is why DC lately has especially turned me off. Nothing but shock value.

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  17. Most of the rest of the Freedom Fighters got cracked off in that scene; let's look at the differences.

    (1) Black Condor: nice clean sucker-punch ray-blast through the heart, instant death.

    (2) Uncle Sam: beaten (nearly) to death...off-camera.

    (3) Human Bomb: enraged by the other deaths, HB gets a couple of macho rage-kills in before being beaten to death (just off-camera) by Bizarro.

    (4) Phantom Lady: clawed up by Cheetah, screaming her head off, before being sloppily impaled through the cleavage (no issues there, heavens no) by Deathstroke, dying relatively slowly and miserably and front n'center for your viewing entertainment.

    Hmm. One of these is not like the others.

    As other posters have noted, "shock value" is the route DC has chosen to take, and that's why I don't read DC anymore. My misgivings began long before this scene, but they just got worse when Superboy-Prime spent an issue cleaning out the B-list, and really hit the fan when Icemaiden was graphically skinned alive and awake in JSA Classified. DC finally drove me away completely with World War III.

    Since then, fanboy-bloggers have openly masturbated to "bad-ass" scenes of disembowelment, cannibalism, rape, and so on in subsequent DC books, making me glad I dropped the trash when I did.

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  18. Just like the comics by Frank Miller, this comic builds up lots of sexual tension, but when you expect the sex scene to come up the story makes a u-turn and you'll get a violent scene instead. i think the artists use violence as a way of metaphorically portraying sex. This scene is quite obvious a metaphor for sex (you don't have to be overly Freudian to understand what the pole and the hole in the ladies face are representing). It's a well known, and very disturbing fact, that sex is more taboo than violence in American pop culture. So when wanting to portray sex, the artists turn to extreme violence instead. Something that kind of corresponds to the taste of their sexually insecure but sexually obsessed teen boy audience.

    I don't personally like this kind of violent comics, nor their weird attitude towards women, but I find it a bit strange to call for censorship based on the fact that comics once was a medium meant for children. For more than 20 years, there have been comics that clearly are meant for an adult audience.
    As a parent I wouldn't let my kids read any book meant for adults, and in the same way a parent doesn't have to let their kids read all kinds of comics. It's true that they might read these comics when parents are not watching, but in the same way they might secretly find a copy of De Sade's novels in their parents bookshelf or check out porn magazines in the gas station.. To avoid this, we wouldn't be able to allow adult literature at all.

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  19. Just like the comics by Frank Miller, this comic builds up lots of sexual tension, but when you expect the sex scene to come up the story makes a u-turn and you'll get a violent scene instead. i think the artists use violence as a way of metaphorically portraying sex. This scene is quite obvious a metaphor for sex (you don't have to be overly Freudian to understand what the pole and the hole in the ladies face are representing). It's a well known, and very disturbing fact, that sex is more taboo than violence in American pop culture. So when wanting to portray sex, the artists turn to extreme violence instead. Something that kind of corresponds to the taste of their sexually insecure but sexually obsessed teen boy audience.

    I don't personally like this kind of violent comics, nor their weird attitude towards women, but I find it a bit strange to call for censorship based on the fact that comics once was a medium meant for children. For more than 20 years, there have been comics that clearly are meant for an adult audience.
    As a parent I wouldn't let my kids read any book meant for adults, and in the same way a parent doesn't have to let their kids read all kinds of comics. It's true that they might read these comics when parents are not watching, but in the same way they might secretly find a copy of De Sade's novels in their parents bookshelf or check out porn magazines in the gas station.. To avoid this, we wouldn't be able to allow adult literature at all.

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