Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sexy, Not Sexist

In reference to my previous post about the cover to Justice League #10, I'm presenting an example of a cover that features a superheroine with a big rack that I think works.

Here we have a Wonder Woman cover by Adam Hughes. Note the big rack on Wonder Woman. Chances are, however, her big rack was not the very first thing you noticed about the cover. This is because cheesecake is not the very first quality Hughes chooses to play up in this art. The real focus is on the fun, magic, and power of the icon Wonder Woman. Make no mistake, sexiness is a part of it. But it isn't all of it. However with the Justice League cover, PG's boobs are the star of the show. I mean, they are virtual guest-stars in the comic the way Don Rickles used to be in those Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsens. Now, if you have a issue of Justice league written by New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer, surely there is something of more substance to feature on this cover.

Next, note how relatively realistic Wondy's boobs are in contrast to Power Girl's. They hang more naturally. There is even a hint of a tear-drop shape. It's the real thing vs. silicone.

But lets move beyond the merely physical and look at the aesthetics. Hughes obviously put a lot of time into composing his cover. The motifs of the golden lasso, the birds. The different "sides" of Wonder Woman: 1) The standing figure: Strong; 2) The flying figure: Fun, Graceful; 3) The close-up: Sexy, Pretty. There is a lot going on in this cover. In contrast, the Power Girl cover is boring, static, and uninspired. This is not a knock on Turner's work in general. I'm just saying on this particular cover, it looks kinda like a panel or something. It's just...there.

Lastly, look at the faces of Wonder Woman & Power Girl. Wondy's face has LIFE. Her eyes are alive. This isn't even the best example of the personality Hughes can put into his Wonder Woman faces. But there is a glimmer of personality. Power Girl's eyes are expressionless. In addition, she looks not that much different from Black Canary, though Canary at least has this weird sorta pissed-off thing going on (maybe because she's jealous of PG's endowments, who knows?).

I find Adam Hughes's covers to be, for the most part, sexy but not sexist. Sexy but not sexist means that your subject has some glimmer of humanity in her and is not just a blow-up doll. Sexy but not sexist means that you can see that the artist has a genuine love and understanding for the subject. Sexy but not sexist encompasses, at least for me, not only Hughes but the work of Rags Morales, Frank Cho, Darwyn Cooke, Alex Toth, Will Eisner, and many more.

And to be fair here is an example of a Michael Turner cover I did like, for the Teen Titans. It's nicely composed & fun.


  1. Interesting piece. Good breakdown of the difference between sexy and sexist.

    Going with what you were saying; now that I look back on it the first thing I usually notice about any Adam Hughes piece is the character's eyes. Playful, sultry, dedicated, sad. All of the emotions come through. I won't sit here and lie by suggesting that Adam Hughes does not draw sensual women, but he doesn't pander to the guys that just want to see a chick with a huge freaking rack.

    My main question is how the gastro intestinal systems of the women that Michael Turner draws work? Sweet Jesus, they're midsection allow no room for functioning internal organs.

  2. this is one of my favorite Michael Turner covers


    I also personally like his Supergirl

    But yeah that is pretty sexist, I am wondering if he is half making fun of Power Girl being this is JLA and its like "fuck JSA and that big boobed bitch" with Black Canary's actual proportions and snarl.

    Maybe that was what he was trying to accomplish??

    PS. I personally REALLLLY love this Mary Marvel cover from the new Countdown (and it is actually what sold me on the series), but everyone will probably call it sexist and hate on it some more (and it is by Ed Benes, go figure)

  3. An even better comparison is arguably Adam Hughes' JSA Classified #1 Powergirl cover. Sure she has the characteristically big boobs, but also a great queen of the world facial expression and proportions to match her endowments.

    And this:

  4. To me, the line between cheesecake and exploitation in art is not a hard line to distinguish, but I've never been able to explain it to those who don't get it.

    A picture is worth 1,000 words. Great example. I'll have to remember the sexy vs sexist wording, too.

  5. The first time I saw the Turner cover featuring Power Girl, I actually thought it was a joke. I'm still having a hard time believing that's a real cover. It's ridiculous. It looks like something from National Lampoon.

    Great write-up comparing sexy and sexist.

  6. I call forearm check on Superboy.

  7. Darwyn Cooke? Really?

  8. Don't you read the Spirit, Dean? Full of babes.

  9. If people are going to complain about some of the unrealistic shapes of women in comics they should also complain about the shapes of the men too.
    have you seen some of those guys?
    When youre drawing a character you've got to try to convey whats inside on the outside. thats how comics work. Heroes are all super buff and bad guys aren't (or their eyes arent drawn or something)
    my character is bald and fat. What does that say?

  10. It says you're not attempting to titillate your reader with your male character, nor are most comic artists when they draw men. But the a great deal of poses/outfits (including Turner's stuff. Don't believe me? Check out his Wizard magazine instructions on drawing women) for women in comics are meant to titillate the male reader in some fashion by exaggerating their breasts or asses. I admit, I have no desire to see so many men look like they were chiseled from stone with Hercules in mind, but really overbuffed men is not the same as Powergirl on that cover with THAT much emphasis on her rack.

  11. Agree with your comments. Wonder Woman and many versions of She-Hulk are genuinely sexy (and being sexy when you're green and stand nearly eight feet tall is an accomplishment), whereas while Power Girl is a wonderful character, her outlandish, unrealistic proportions actually detract from her appeal somewhat. She's the superheroine equivalent of Jayne Mansfield in "The Girl Can't Help It"...although one wonders whether Power Girl would ever claim she's "not equipped for motherhood."