The Good, The Bad, & This Kid: “Breathe and Release”

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Take a walk down the racks of new comics at any comic shop, and one thing stands out: lots of half-naked overly developed women. The industry believes that producing comics that have women with giant breasts and no waist is the only way to go. It’s an immoral stamp on our already morally decrepit society. Sadly, I understand why publishers and artists resort to these cheap tactics: it sells. We all know the cliché, “Sex Sells,” it’s sad but true. Most males are more inclined to watch or purchase something that has a half-naked woman, preferably with large breasts, as its spokesman. This holds up in the comics medium as well.

The vast majority of comic book readers are male, we all know this, and so do the comic book publishers. I have this vision of the bigwigs at main publisher X sitting around trying to figure out which sexy and impossible pose they haven’t used on the front of everyone of their comics yet. Five hours, and four six foot subs later, they determine they’ve used them all, but who really gives a damn, just start over. The front covers of comics have gotten so bad that they just stick anything on there, most covers have nothing at all to do with what happens inside the actual book. And, no one cares because half the people who bought the book bought it for the busty lady that’s on the cover. Which annoys me because it makes it hard to complain about; they just helped the comic industry’s sales numbers, even if it was for the wrong reasons. This is also the reason I’m torn with the publishers, because they know by putting out books that have sexy, under-dressed women, they’re going to be getting a good deal of money, but at the same time they are ruining comics’ respectability.

I’m sitting here trying to figure out if I can think of any other good and valid reasons why 90 percent of comics being put out need to exploit the female population, and all I’m coming up with is dollar signs. How terribly sad it is when we freely and willingly depict women in such a way solely for the gain of the almighty dollar. So, instead of trying to rationalize the market’s fetish for money from teen boys who’ve never been laid and like to say “boobies,” I’m going to bitch and moan about everything that’s wrong and corrupt with the system.

Anyone out there who has watched “Countdown to Wednesday” got a first hand glimpse into the comic biz, more notably Top Cow. I’ve always felt that Top Cow is the worst of the worst when it comes to producing comics that whore their female characters, which is all their characters for the most part. As you can imagine I was laughing my ass off (not literally, that probably would hurt) while watching “Countdown to Wednesday”’s art section. A good majority of the artists were trying to talk about how comics are a serious business and how they respect the art of comics etc, while at the same time they were showing stills of their female renderings. The artist who just cracked me up the most was Steve Firchow, a colorist who has done work for Top Cow. Steve Firchow did the coloring for a book called “EVO” and he was giving “insight” on how he went about coloring the front cover of said comic. He mentioned that every good colorist needs a focal point, something that catches the eye, and to make that the brightest spot of the page. Care to guess where Mr. Firchows’s focal point was? That’s correct, his focal point was the immense cleavage that took up most of the front cover. He even pointed it out with no shame. Anyway, this is a stellar example of why comics are still frowned upon and looked at as dirty little books that only lonely boys read.

The industry as a whole has been begging and pleading with the public for the past several years to take them seriously, to start looking at comics as literature. I too have been pushing that comics have come a long way, especially in the past 10-15 years. However, the sweet irony of the matter is, that the publishers want their comics to be looked at as literature, but they continue to publish softcore porn with a story, sometimes not even a story. Comics are right beneath Harlequin romance novels in the eyes of most literary people, and each Wednesday I find it harder and harder to disagree with them. The main big comic publisher to “put their money where their mouth is” with regards to furthering the movement of comics as literature has been DC with their Vertigo line, with Dark Horse coming in a close second (which sort of goes against their name, but not really). Also, I blame Sandman for my “comics as literature” craze.

Many people would contest that women are exploited in every entertainment medium we have, movies, television, books, magazines, video games, commercials and ads (but do they really classify as entertainment?). This is where I draw the line, and disagree. I don’t feel that women are exploited in any other medium besides comics for one simple reason: all the other mediums use real women. Sure some of these women have more plastic in them then a Mattel factory, but they’re still alive and can make their own decisions. No one is forcing these women to get half naked and pour beer all over themselves, no one is forcing them to do a 20 minute striptease that has no purpose in the movie, no one forces them to take these degrading jobs. In comics, creators rape their characters of any sense of decency. It’s ultimately the creator’s decision whether or not their female character is going to be so over the top that she just looks screwed up. As a creator (not a paid creator, but a creator nonetheless) it really gets under my skin when I see other creators, paid creators, selling out their creations just for a quick buck. They show no more pride and no more respect than your stereotypical fan boy. Artists defile their integrity when they draw a busty, half naked woman that does nothing for the actual story, they only drew her because they were either horny or bored, or both as the case may be. Creators are all too eager to mess their story in order to have a big breasted, blue haired chick kicking someone in the head. Now, if she was kicking some jerk in the head because she’s tired of all the lame pick up lines she hears because of how big her breasts are then that’s one thing, but for the most part she’s just doing it for the pure hell of it. I mean, every chick in the book has big breasts, so hers might actually be small in their world. Okay that was sort of off the point, what I’m getting at is there are only a handful of talented comic book creators who can tell, and sell, a good story without resorting to cheap “booby” tricks, and those handful of creators aren’t enough to save comics and get people to start taking us seriously. Maybe handful was a poor choice of words.

The Good

A few days ago, a friend of mine leant me a comic that her friend had done called Styx Taxi. She didn’t tell me anything about the book, so I didn’t know if I was going to be reading about the members of Styx joining a taxi service or if it was something about dead people and taxis. As it turns out, it is about dead people and taxis; Styx Taxi is a story about a group of souls who are giving taxi rides to people who have just died, the cabby with the most passengers by a certain time gets to stay on earth, the others go home. It’s written by Steven Goldman and illustrated by Jeremy Arambulo and published by FWD Books.

Here’s an excerpt from the FWD Books press release:

STYX TAXI: Pastrami for the Dead is the first release from writer Steven Goldman and artist Jeremy Arambulo. Combining scripting heavily influenced by Goldman’s stage and screenwriting and artwork inspired by the clean lines of Paul Grist and Steve Rolston, STYX TAXI’s beating human heart is the perfect intro to FWDbooks’ stretching of the imaginative potential of American comics.
The brainchild of the Brothers Goldman, FWDbooks begins here. Provide your own hyperbole; FWDbooks represents graphic literacy…smart, fresh, ballsy comics.

Anyone interested in obtaining a copy of Styx should check out FWD Books. Or, if you’re a big fan of stamps and have been itching to lick a little square with glue on the back, you can send your order in via the postal system at the following address:

Steven Goldman
1771 E. 14th St., 2nd Fl.
Brooklyn, NY 11229
$2.50 + 1.50 for shipping

If you don’t feel like ordering it now, you can wait until it hits the comic shops on December 3rd of this year. So, if you’re doing that go ahead and mark your calendar.

If you have a book that you’d like to see promoted right here on The Good, then drop me an e-mail by clicking on my name at the top of this column.

Another week down folks (I can’t remember the last time I’ve said that word). Be sure to check back in next Saturday for all your pointless comic rambling needs. So, ‘til next time…

-J Sto

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