Saturday, May 29, 2010

Wait -- Comic Characters Have Weight?

So I've been reading the new webcomic Dynagirl by Cary Kelley and Harold Edge. (The comic has no relation to the old Krofft TV show featuring "Electra Woman and Dyna Girl" in case you're wondering.) It's early enough in the story that I don't know if I'll ultimately like it or not, but I wanted to call attention to Edge's art. Here's a sample page...
The story actually starts with several women walking around a diner, but for some reason I was really struck here with how these two women are drawn. Both women have large breasts, asses and hips -- which is fairly typical for superhero comics -- but they also have a noticeable amount of weight to them as well. Their breasts decidedly are NOT perky and gravity-defying, as is so often seen. They could both easily be called zaftig.

I was curious if that was some kind of commentary or social statement or something on the part of the creators. The character design of Waypoint (not yet seen in the comic itself, but shown in the Characters portion of the site) is decidedly of the thinner variety, so it's not that it's just how Edge draws women. I popped over to Edge's blog to see if he provided any notes on his character development. Like many artists, he mostly just posts sketches and whatnot with little in the way of extended commentary. But I did find this...
... with the now almost self-evident, but simple, caption: "I love thick curvy woman...." Many of his character drawings -- even classic characters who have an established "look" -- are drawn with some real body fat on them.
I've always preferred Velma over Daphne, but that's the hottest Velma drawing I've ever seen. She's got chunky thighs and wide hips. She's got some meat on her. She has some weight.

So what we're seeing in Dynagirl, apparently, is just what Edge happens to think is attractive-looking and NOT what is generally presented as what men should find attractive.

It actually threw me for a bit. Here's a comic that's purportedly one in a long-line of superhero comics. A genre in which women (at least the superheroines) are portrayed in precisely one way with variations being almost exclusively limited to hair color and/or style. But what I'm presented with is something which, for me, is not only unexpected but more appealing. And after decades of seeing what I've been repeatedly told is "ideal" and after decades of having to mentally reject that in favor of my actual preferences, this took a bit of mental readjustment.

Do you remember that first time you read manga from right to left? How it felt kind of strange after years of reading left to right? How it took a little while to get into the groove of reading "backwards"? That's kind of how I feel with Dynagirl. I've been so conditioned to outright reject the presented "ideal" that I find myself having to consciously NOT reject what's presented here.

And I wonder if we, collectively as comicdom, just need more of that to combat the misogyny that's almost endemic to the industry. What would comics look like as a whole if people drew what they actually thought was attractive, and not just what marketing has been telling us is attractive for the past 100 years?

Keep up the good work, Mr. Edge!

2 comments:

Cary said...

Sean,

Thank you very much for checking out Dynagirl and the honest write up you gave us! One of the things that first drew me to Harold's work was the fact that the people he draws are more realistic in terms of proportions and that they aren't all just Barbie dolls. We spent a lot of time designing the characters in the Dynagirl series, as well as those of the preceding series Fallen Justice, to reflect not only how we see these characters in our heads but also how we'd like to see comics evolve in general. Harold deserves the lion's share of the credit here for his incredible sense of design no doubt about it. It's just really cool to see folks starting to realize how visionary he truly is. We hope you stick with us as the story progresses and I'd love to hear your thoughts as we move along.

Thanks again!

Cary Kelley

JimShelley said...

Very cool series - thank you for bringing this to my attention!