A Podcast with Ross and Nick #120 – Quite An Adventure

A Podcast with Ross and Nick

Kelly Thompson wants to know — what do creators owe fans?

Does Ross Campbell owe you anything? Probably not. (photo shamelessly lifted from Tom Spurgeon’s 2011 TCAF coverage)

Special guest Kelly (writer of She Has No Head, podcaster of 3 Chicks Review Comics, and blogger-er of 1979 Semi-Finalist) makes her triumphant return to lay down an ethical smackdown, discussing fan entitlement and creator responsibility.

Tell us what you think that creators owe their fans! Leave us a message by calling our automated comment line at 412-567-7606, and then we’ll play what you say on our next show.

PLUS: Boogers, podcasting talk, Paris Hilton, Ross likes Hunger Games, Neal, superheroes in thongs, Galaxy Quest ringtones, and Tim Allen.

AND AT THE END: A talent throwdown!!! Kelly and Ross believe in talent… but Nick says he sorta doesn’t. IS HE (and by he, I mean me) FULL OF SHIT???

P.S. If you dug our main topic on this show, check out Sequential Underground #30 – What Do Creators Deserve? for the flipside of today’s conversation.

48 Responses to “A Podcast with Ross and Nick #120 – Quite An Adventure”

  1. 1 Andrew Kilian

    On the subject of GRRM I totally get the idea of how a creator can get overwhelmed and can’t live up to the story. Keven Smith’s Spiderman/Black Cat story definitely didn’t deliver the goods. Stephen Kings final book (I think it’s the Gunslinger series) reputedly didn’t deliver and sometimes a bad ending is worse than no ending. That all gets into the Perfectionism and performance anxiety dilemma.

    BTW Kelly Thompson is a great guest. I really dig her litanies; they’re cogent and well thought without being a conversation hijacker.

    Idea; Ross should have a letters column for Shadoweyes called Shadow Fandom.

    I simultaneously agree and disagree with Kelly on the hypersexualization of comics characters. I feel that young men/teens should be able to have sexual escapism/fantasy. Repressing young men and expecting them not to have sexual urges is just as bad as repressing young women. I am against the hypersexualization of young people before their age or that leads to negative outcomes, but I also feel that young people should have outlets to explore their sexuality. Superhero comics as it stands is historically for men because it appeals to the male power fantasy and part of that is a ridiculously hot woman clinging wantonly to their leg looking up at their nutsack whilst he holds his saber aloft. Men never storm “bodice ripper” novels and demand that women depict men in the way they feel is best.

    An example is the tug of war with Wonder Woman. Is she a male power fantasy or a female power fantasy or a human idealism fantasy. When you look at fan art or even professional art Diana is depicted as either “tits and ass” or “I am woman hear me roar” and only rarely as “I am the best that a human being can aspire to” (ex; the Nicola Scott and Cliff Chiang runs). For the movies the same tug or war exists either casting Christina Hendricks (WW as an erotic Bombshell) or Gina Carano (as the Woman Warrior). I think hypersexuality is okay where appropriate and to say it should be erased is sort of a monoculture that comes from old people. We all at that age got off to media geared towards young person sex fantasy and now that we’re all mature we villify it. That to me is hypocritical. I’m not saying that labias and cocks should be plastered all over Highlights magazine, but that sex is a natural part of humanity and accepting it rather than erasing it is a more viable solution. Young men should have their outlets or else we have the same frustration that there is in fundamentalist middle eastern countries, but of course within reason. The manga Gantz is a great example there’s sex and violence and yet women in Japan aren’t all whores by the age of six. I think it’s all about proportion.

    I enjoyed listening to the old talent/skill debate. Mozart btw was trained by his Dad from childhood. I believe how a person is cultivated and nurtured has more to do with it and this “talent” bs. Talent is the result of being cultivated and nurtured. There are people who are more genetically predisposed, but they still have to have their skill refined. Cognitive neuroscientists have shown that the more you do something the more it becomes second nature and that is from the process of repetition. Whether you feel free to explore your art depends on whether you were crushed by parents and teachers or nurtured by them.

  2. 2 Panic

    I completely agree with what Nick and Andrew said about talent. With the exception of savant Rainman kind of people (where the brain is “defective” in one way or another), talent doesn’t really exist.

    A study by a guy named Malcom Gladwell brings some interesting ideas to this discussion.

    According to him it takes roughly 10k hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Maybe you can save 1k hours under the right genetic conditions? But regardless it’s really irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

  3. 3 Brandon!

    Great episode!!!

    The whole creator’s owing fans, fans owing creators is all relative to the situation I think. Like being a fan of Ross I THINK means you have to except that he’s going to release his books the way he wants and work on whatever project he feels like and your reward is that the story and art is awesome and well thought out and there’s a passion in it because he chose to work on that story and was inspired. ( And he’s just hammering out so much right now it’s a great time to be a fan of Ross Campbell!)
    However… if you make promises and don’t deliver yeah I’m going to be pissed and I might move on and that’s the risk you take as the creator making promises. I also think that you when you start a story you should have some idea of where it’s going to end, this may change over the corse of the creative process but I think initially you should have at least an idea of an ending which I think would help creators deliver. AGAIN it’s relative to the situation, I used to read ALOT of battle manga’s and these are designed to just go on and on and ON much to the creators dismay, Dragonball is a good example it’s all really great but fan and editor pressure forced him to keep going long after Akira Toriyama (the creator) wanted to luckily he’s talented enough to deliver a great story and art despite his not wanting to take it that far. (READ DRAGONBALL and DBZ)

    I had more to say I should have taken notes during the episode ha ha ha anyways it was a great episode and I’m loving the guests not the I didn’t love the dynamic duo of Ross & Nick. Also I’d like to say that I’m a fan who cares and invests himself BUT I don’t super fan. So yeah.

    Ross I’ll buy a shirt I didn’t know you had shirts are they the Shadoweye’s shirts? Also would like to get a copy of Mountain Girl.

    Nick I really love your NEED and your passion for comics I’m still catching up on Super Haters!

    Kelly Your a great addition to this podcast I hope you’ll come back again again! Also I’m starting to listen to 3 chicks and I’ll defiantly be listening when Ross guests.

  4. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Gello Apocalypse webcomics

  5. 4 nick marino

    @Panic: THANK YOU. I’ve never heard of the 10k hours of practice theory, but it doesn’t surprise me. I didn’t bring up my experience as a musician on the podcast, but that’s what I always think about when talent comes up. I was not musically inclined in the least as a child. In 6th grade, I was told that last chair was too good for me and I needed to go sit in the hallway. In 8th grade, I was asked to leave band and not play trumpet again in 9th grade. Why? Because I didn’t practice and I didn’t have any natural ability. But I still wanted to play music, so I would go home after school and plays bass, guitar, and drums for about an hour almost every day. After doing that for 3-4 years, I finally started to get okay. And 3-4 years later, I was finally good. It was pure work and experience, ya know? I know some people take to stuff easier, but almost all of them still earn talent through practice and repetition.

    @Andrew: I think you make some interesting points, and I certainly agree that young men should have an outlet for sexual escapism. However, my fundamental separation from your views starts at the conceptual level. In my mind, the primary assumption of your argument is that superhero comics and for young men/teens. I personally view superhero comics as stories for all people of all ages (obviously depending on the comic itself, but as I elaborate, I think you’ll see where I’m going). I got into superhero comics when I was 4-5. That’s the age where I started actively seeking them out, as much as a kind can, that is. I have friends who didn’t get into superhero books until their mid-20s, both male and female. Now I know Kelly was commenting specifically on the effects of female superhero sexualization on boys and girls. So in that regard, I see how your points are addressing that focus. But the reason why I’m not able to agree with your POV is because, even though superhero have had a very strong history as entertainment for teenage boys and young men, I think they should be for everyone, especially the big superhero icons. I understand that my view isn’t necessarily the reality of the system as it exists today. But since that’s both my desire and my current POV, that’s how I approach the issue of hypersexualization of women in superhero comics.

    With that said, I think there should definitely be hypersexualization of all kinds in comics when it’s accompanied by balance. For example, I think having a character like Psylocke around is good… when she’s also around a characters like Jubilee, Rogue, and Storm. In that case, they present a range of characterization. They give both boys and girls chances to see all kinds of iconic, powerful, and strong women with a range of sexuality. I’d love to dig deeper and address other points of your argument, but it’s hard for me to do that because I think we just have a fundamental split in terms of conceptual approach.

  6. 5 nick marino

    @Brandon: THX! I’ve been slowly reading through all of Dedford Tales :)

    As a fan of Ross, my expectation is that he’ll make a bunch of comics with moody, introspective characters that have a thirst to uphold social ethics by circumventing the law and/or normal social methods. Actually, I just made that up and I don’t even know what half of it means.

    I’ve never read Dragonball of DBZ, but heard lots of good things. My manga reading hasn’t been nearly as extensive as my reading of American comics :(

  7. 6 Andrew Kilian

    @ Panic & Nick; I’m familiar with Mr Gladwell’s 10K hours of practice superficially, but some weeks before this discussion FORAtv put out a youtube clip of Tim Ferris contesting that stating essentially; if we’re shown correctly from the start those 10K hours can be dramatically dropped and I agree with that. In my Martial Arts class and in public school learning Math it was highly incumbent on the teacher and their instruction methods as to whether I would excel or fall behind. Personally from my own research and personal experience having a secure attachment style determines whether you’ll excel or not. Being nurtured goes a long way to letting your natural talents blossom. Example; no one nurtures a plant by stomping on it and saying it’ll never flower or yelling at it and threatening it if it doesn’t bloom.

    Also there must be tons of examples where media were let go too long (Moonlighting) or started before they had an ending figured out (Lost). For my own story I wanted to make sure there was a satisfying ending (at least to me) before I started drawing. I understand people have to pay their bills and in that situation it’s better to take a gig and be relevant than go hungry, but better longevity is assured if you work reaching just beyond your skill level.

    @ Nick on the subject of Hypersexualization; Wow! 4 to 5? I don;t think I delved seriously into comic books until like 15-16. In Japan they have comics appropriate to differing ages and tastes in one Shonen Jump magazine and no one seems to take issue with it. In America superhero comics are primarily adolescent male power fantasies. I’m alright with them segueing into adolescent power fantasies, but I feel different comics should have differing appeals. There’s a distinct difference between the Saturday morning cartoons, comic books, comics for children, comics for teens and comics for adults. My primary position is I get the dangers of ubiquitous hypersexualization, but there’s also a backlash to expecting 13-19 year old boys to be chaste eunuchs. I’m advocating a middle ground where young men can explore their sexual fantasies without condemnation and sometimes that involves hypersexualization. The commentary I receive from a lot of my female friends is how their saddled with big ass boys who don’t know what they’re doing and they want Men who will make them feel desired and sexy. There’s almost a bipolar outlook on boys to men as there is to girls to women. Women have the whole madonna/whore concept to overcome and males have the good little boy/hairy man concept. Society insists that all boys be nonsexual and then transfigure into confident men when there’s no societal acceptable transmission and that’s what I’m taking issue with. Society expects children to mature to adults with every signpost removed and every roadblock installed. It’s ridiculous. It’s like that Sly Stallone movie where he’s surrounded by 25 year old virgins (Demolition Man). I do agree that having a variety of characters including sexy Psylocke sort of shows the proper spectrum. Especially of Jubilee doesn’t show up one day all whored out like Betsy.

    Also! Hey, just because Frank Miller is crazy now, I don’t feel that invalidates his earlier great work (Year One, Born Again, Sin City, Elektra Lives). That’d be like throwing out Michael Jackson’s work with the Jackson Five because he went crazy as an adult from his childhood abuse. Or saying OJ Simpson didn’t perform his football achievements because he later became a murderer. If we erase a persons existence good and bad just because of the bad that’s kind of, I dunno, throwing away the lesson that they told. It also creates an illusion that someone has to live up to some impossible standard before we can like their work. It’s a utopian mindset that leads to bad outcomes. In life we’re going to on occasion be in the wrong and to have a wrong invalidate any good we’ve done marks a sort of unforgiveness that is a little chilling to me.

  8. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    The Illiterate Badger webcomics

  9. 7 ross

    @Andrew: RE: sexualization: that’s a whole lot of straw men in your couple comments there. XD. nobody’s saying people shouldn’t explore their sexuality or that sexualized cheesecake stuff should go away. and a lot of the comparisons you’re making between men and women and media geared toward men and women don’t work or aren’t socially equivalent in the way you’re making them sound.

    i think the Frank Miller/separating-the-artist-from-the-art topic could be another podcast, we should do that! i think it’s just personal preference if you do or don’t want to separate the artist from the work or write off a creator if they do or say something bad or that you don’t agree with. i have different lines, myself, i’ve written off creators before and tossed out the work that i owned of theirs, but i’ve also kept things by people who do crappy stuff, too, it just depends on the individual creator(s) or the work in question. there’s no set of rules to go by, it’s a case by case basis. it’s also easy for me to write off Frank Miller because i never liked his work to begin with, but i totally understand how some people are fine with separating him from his work or separating his later work from his earlier work.

  10. 8 Andrew Kilian

    On the subject of hyper sexuality http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aJ2f46K3mo&feature=results_main&playnext=1&list=PLA748937FBB7B053C
    Also it occurred to me, if Superheroes are for 4-5 year olds why is there never an issue with hyper violence. This occurred to me when Rough Cut started firing his ak-47.

  11. 9 Paul

    Shadow Fans: I’ve taken to calling fans like that “hate fans” because they seem to be energized by hating people. (I also like “psychic vampires”, people who feed off negative emotions.) Sometimes people confuse anger with passion. You can hear those fans who say ridiculous stuff like “George Lucas raped my childhood.” That’s absurd, and hateful and ugly when you take it at face value, but when a fan thinks that huge exaggeration and irrational enthusiasm is the mark of a True Fan, they’ll say crazy things like that or “I wish I’d never read those books I love so much.” There’s something really tragic-Romantic about it. It’s like those poems or songs that say “I wish I’d never met you” because a lover broke the author’s heart, but they still love them deeply. Put that stuff in the echo chamber of the internet, where people engage in oneupsmanship with thousands of other showoffs, and it’s only a matter of time before a beloved artist gets death threats for even the slightest mistake.

    When Nick is saying “creators should do what they say they will” I feel like he’s talking in general terms, and he’s thinking about it from the perspective of a creator’s personal work ethic. While Ross and Kelly are specifically criticizing the unhinged fans who have unrealistic ideas of entitlement.

  12. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Nik Furious instrumental music

  13. 10 Paul

    The Talent argument seems to hinge on whether you’re talking about some kind of natural or genetic advantage or society’s attitude that only people with natural talent ought to do anything. Nick protests the idea of talent because he doesn’t want anybody to feel like they shouldn’t or can’t be creative just because they don’t have a natural advantage. (Like on the last Nick & Neal show, where he protested the idea of objective standards of beauty because he doesn’t want anyone to feel bad about themselves b/c they don’t meet society’s standards.) Talent exists, but it ain’t the most important thing, and nobody should be discouraged from beig creative if they don’t have a particular talent for their chosen art. If you have bad eyesight (like I do), that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use your eyes just because they aren’t very talented at seeing. Ditto singing, writing, drawing, whatever.

    I also started reading comics when I was very young. I remember getting comics for my 5th birthday b/c friends already knew I was into them.

  14. 11 ross

    @Paul: well said on all counts!

    i like your insights on the talent topic. i can’t speak for Kelly but i was personally talking about just the basic idea of talent as being people are born with various inclinations or aptitudes, and definitely not that it’s the most important thing or the be-all-end-all or anything like that. i was just debating the existence of people having different aptitudes. i agree with Nick that regardless of what your talents are how good or bad society says you are at something, that you should be able to and feel okay to do anything. and there’s definitely something to be said for individual standards and not judging stuff using society’s typical good-bad scale.

    i had a really influential art teacher once when i was a kid who said that drawing is a skill, not a talent, and i agree but i still also think there’s something innate that plays a part, however big or small, in someone’s ability to build or apply a skill. i realize that’s totally non-quantifiable and i’m not going to point to somebody and go, even if i believed it, “s/he does not have talent,” that’s no good. can i say that EVERYONE has talent rather than nobody does, or is that the same thing? XD

    for me personally, chalking everything up to nurture makes out people’s genetics to be too much of a blank slate or that people’s make-ups are all somehow homogeneous upon birth, and i’m no expert but i just can’t see how that could be true because even as babies people are so different from each other. Panic bringing up Rainman is good but it’s not as clear cut as s/he’s is making it out to be, life isn’t as compartmentalized as that, it’s not “people have no special inherent skills, but wait, except this person because of this condition.” there’s a huge spectrum. that brings up another thing, leaving everything to nurture kind of ignores people who are born with disabilities, heightened cognition or savantism like Panic brought up, or something like myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy. it also ignores people who find themselves good at something but who don’t enjoy doing it, or someone like Nick who was told by authority figures he had no talent but maybe they just didn’t recognize it, or someone who was crushed by parents/teachers but who later in life finds themselves really creative at something. in any case i think it all has to be some kind of unknowable combination of nature and nurture.

    it’s all super tricky, though, i don’t know if it’s something anyone can quantify. and i do think talent/talented have become sort of buzz words, like “that artist is so talented” doesn’t really mean anything or it means the same as “i like that artist’s work.” maybe if you knew more about the person, like if you knew the artist was drawing masterpieces at 3 years old, then you could say talent was involved, but i don’t know. i think maybe talent is something that seems to me must exist because how could it not because everyone is so different, but at the same time it’s not something you can definitively point to and something that somebody couldn’t argue with you about.

  15. 12 ross

    oh, found this today, kind of related to the sexualization topic, from a guy’s perspective: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2012/01/19/superhero-beefcake-sexy-comics

  16. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Gello Apocalypse webcomics

  17. 13 Panic

    When I say “talent doesn’t exist”, I don’t mean that I don’t acknowledge people’s various starting points. Im saying that the word “talent” as it is used to describe people that are skilled in a certain field is borderline useless. It’s impossible to differentiate whether a person was born with the right genetic disposition, or if they just trained really hard, since you regardless of genetics have to practice if you want to get really good at something. In other words, you can’t really call anyone talented unless you just mean to call them “good at something”.

    Birth defects and other various handicaps obviously don’t apply here, but that goes without saying.

    Speaking of talent…
    I remember visiting a guys website a while back (wish I could remember what it was called). He’d started drawing late in life. Going from pretty much useless to talented enough to get a job as an illustrator. His message to people was to forget about talent and just draw allot. “If I can do it, anyone can!”, I believe he said.

    I’ll get back to you if I can remember his name or site. Anyone know who Im talking about?

  18. 14 Paul

    @Ross: I think we essentially agree on the talent thing. I was trying to say that I could see both/all of the sides discussed in the episode, just that I perceived that the three of you were coming at it from different perspectives, or with different concerns.

    I think that “talent” as a sort of natural aptitude exists, but that alone doesn’t determine how that aptitude will be developed. A person who’s naturally tall has an advantage in basketball, but they still have to learn the game, practice, stay in shape, etc. if they want to be good at it. But we don’t call being tall a talent. I suspect that whatever parts of our brain process creative activity vary from person to person like height does. Maybe if those factors were as obvious as being tall, we might say “that person has a natural advantage in music because their whatchamacallit sector of the brain is 20% more efficient than average”, but since that stuff is hidden, we say they have a talent.


  19. 15 ross

    @Panic: yeah, i agree, that’s basically what i said in my last paragraph, “talent” is mostly an issue of semantics since somebody born with some nebulous aptitude is functionally the same as somebody who practiced a lot or whatever. i think since we started off with this talking about drawing and music, though, that it’s tricky, because drawing itself is obviously a skill that can be learned by anyone, but when you take into account people who are great at singing without any lessons, where does that fall? people can learn to sing great, so on some level it’s a skill, but there’s also an aptitude level there for some people, and if that’s true then i think “birth defects” and disabilities have to be taken into account. Rainman is awesome at math, say, can you reasonably dismiss that or go “that doesn’t count” because he’s autistic?

    i think we’re basically in agreement here, though. i’m not trying to discount people who practice a lot to get good or whatever. i’m STILL practicing.

  20. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Dinogeddon webcomics

  21. 16 ross

    @Paul: you’re so smart! i love the way you put these things, way better than i did. total agreement. :D i guess i probably came off like i was downplaying learning and skill development, which i wasn’t trying to do. nobody gets a free pass, everybody has to do the work.

  22. 17 Brandon!

    @Ross and Paul: I think you guys really nailed the talent issue. I think there is a LOT of opinion and objection in “talent” tho. In the cast singing is what brought up talent if I remember correctly, and singing is extremely biological. Strength of the muscle to hit the frequencies or notes can be practiced and developed. However phonation, the shape of the larynx, and thickness of of the tussles of a persons vocal chords with dramatically change the sound that’s produced. So yes you can hit the notes scientifically, but if it will sound good becomes a objective and opinionated issue. Practice makes perfect but opinion makes “talent” maybe?

    @Nick Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think when you’re through it please! I need feedback. The world of manga is very different and can be vary rewarding. I think I’ve very balanced in my western vs manga reading I lack most in my superhero reading but I’m going to rant on it in a second anyways.

    HYPER-SEX!!!! 1st the biggest problem is that the superhero genera takes up to much space and people need to learn that there are so many non-superhero comics that are AMAZING!!! Ok superhero comics… they SHOULD have a range of titles that seek out reads of different age groups and sex… howEVER young boys and men who held on to their boyhood fantasies have been the bread and butter of the superhero industry so they have been aimed at the audience that’s supported them most. Now a female audience is showing up to the party and going WTF why aren’t these book for me? There’s a bit of a catch 22 because they weren’t really aimed at girls in the first place so why would they read, but boys had been keeping superhero comics alive and thriving so why make books aimed at girls. Okay back to my point now female readers are starting to speak up and they want change which is good and there should be, but I think there might be hesitation that will come from these companies.
    I imagine they are asking themselves well how many women are really going to read superhero comics? Do we risk losing the faithful to pursue this new market? Can we make everyone happy? I like sexy girls do we have to get ride of sexy girls?
    That’s why I think superhero comics are still kinda missing the boat as far as female readers in the large scale but hopefully as women speak up they will learn that it’s worth creating more books that cater to women and more books cater to humans (everyone).

    Read Adam Warren’s Empowered, it’s defiantly for mature audiences and has lots of sex and violence but it’s also very human and I could talk forever about this book but I won’t just read it.

  23. 18 nick marino

    @Andrew: I don’t like dislike all of Frank Miller’s stuff just because he’s totally fallen off of the deep end recently. My dislike for a lot of his work is nothing new — I have a problem with the sheer amount of sexism in it. Retconning Selina Kyle into a prostitute, depicting Karen Page in Born Again as a drug-addled porn actress just looking for a fix, etc. Not that I don’t think there’s room for those kinds of depictions in comics, becuse I do. But I go back to what I was saying before about hypersexualization — I’m looking for some balance. If he had strong, confident, and capable women of in those stories too, I’d be down with that. But it’s like the only women he really bothers to portray are exploited in some way, and that’s certainly not the case with the male characters in his stories.

    As for that Catwoman short… hahahahahaha like 1/3 of it was spent in the strip club! I didn’t expect that. I dunno if I have much of an opinion on it right now. The fight scenes were well animated. And in terms of content, I don’t think it’s really problematic or anything… it’s just, I dunno, very cheesecake cheesy, if you catch my drift. Superheroes for the Maxim demographic.

    @Paul: I agree with your summation of my argument regarding creator responsibility. I’m not saying I approve of rabid fans. I mostly find them funny and stupid. But, yeah, I’m talking about professional work ethic — and not just that — but creator accountability for the language they use to promote their works in the marketplace and entice new readers.

    As for your talent/beauty comments, I wouldn’t say you’re wrong about where I’m coming from… but neither of those perspectives are my primary motivation in saying what I said. In terms of talent, I’d almost flip the perspective around entirely and say that I protest the idea of talent because people often use it as an excuse for not working hard or practicing a craft. “Oh, I just didn’t have the talent for that…” Well, maybe so. But talent is only a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to artistic fulfillment and success. Hard work isn’t everything, but I think it’s often a bigger piece of the puzzle than talent. As for beauty, I didn’t say what I said so people wouldn’t feel bad about themselves… I said it because I believe that society pushes a hive mind view of beauty and I often feel forced to ascribe to beauty that I don’t actually find beautiful. Follow me?

  24. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    The Illiterate Badger webcomics

  25. 19 nick marino

    @Ross: Great beefcake article!!!

    As for your thoughts on talent… I really can’t disagree with anything that you said. I totally see where you’re coming from and I think you make great points. I’m not someone that believes 100% in nurture… I just believe that desire, practice, and dedication are almost always more potent than any predisposed abilities or anything like that. I’m open to a whole range of possibilities on this topic, and by no means am I debating the existence of natural inclination for some people. Like I said to Paul, my beef is mostly about how talent is used as an excuse by people who should probably be saying “I didn’t enjoy the practice” or “I didn’t want it as much as I thought I did!”

    @Panic: Yeah, what you said. I couldn’t agree more. I have no idea who that guy is, though.

    @Brandon: Great points about singing. Myself, for example… I have a LOT of trouble singing in key. I’ve sung in bands, been actively making music for over 15 years, etc. And it’s still tough for me. I’ve even had some vocal training for musical theater but notes are still hard to hit. However, I know for a fact that I could be really good if I put a lot of practice into it (for example, take a guy like Anthony Kiedis… listen to an old RHCP live performance and a new one). But the thing is… I don’t like to practice singing! It just isn’t what I want to pursue because I don’t enjoy the hard work that would get me to a place where people would call me “talented.”

    I’ve heard great things about Empowered. I’ll look it up!

    I like your thoughts on the superhero industry and sexualization of characters. I think you sum up the predicament really well.

  26. 20 Smars

    (i’m reposting my comment from ross’ dA blog)

    this was good.
    fan entitlement is a serious epidemic that has a real amplification via the internet.
    it’s a topic that could be talked about for days i think.
    people just seem reeeeeally over passionate about things nowadays
    maybe there is something to it.
    i don’t know.

    btw, this ep made me fall in love with this podcast

    also i want to chime in, in agreeance over when you offer something to your fans on a blog
    and they all seem like they want it, then hardly anybody buys it when it comes out.
    that just happened to me.
    i was devastated and confused.
    it’s so weird.

  27. 21 Kelly

    Wow. Comment thread explosion!

    Great discussion/comments everyone.

    I’ll try to be brief…[update: I failed]

    Thank you everyone for proving that talent DOES exist ;) …because even those of you that are coming most hard against it aren’t saying it does exist because you’re all making allowances for the fact that we don’t all start at the exact same zero point baseline.

    I’m absolutely up for having a conversation about how much of success (etc.) is talent based and how much are SO many other factors – education, opportunity, circumstances, hard word, perseverance, cultivation, luck, etc. It all plays a part and I would absolutely agree that talent is in general over-rated, or at least over-credited.

    But I still have seen no evidence that it doesn’t exist. And that’s why the discussion started the way it started…because Nick started us with a baseline of “I don’t believe in talent”. When the truth (even for Nick) seems to be more nuanced than that.

    Bottomline, I don’t believe we all start at the same zero point baseline and that’s in large part because talent exists. What you do with it (or don’t) is the thing that ultimately makes the difference. I really have seen no evidence in these arguments that it doesn’t exist…just that we all perhaps quantify it or value it differently.

    RE: Hyper-sexualization.

    Yes, I have go with Nick on this one, because I fundamentally disagree with the idea that “superhero comics are for boys because they are male power fantasies”. There are a lot of ways to disprove this, beginning with the fact that even though comics have been DESIGNED for boys and to a lesser degree for male power fantasies for an unfortunately long time now by many men, many girls and women still respond to them and seek them out (yours truly included). Girls have just as many power fantasies as boys do and just because social conditioning has tried to drive us into different activities (etc.) doesn’t make those statements true (or right quite frankly). So I fundamentally disagree with who comics are (and should be) for.

    All that said, even if I did accept the “comics are for boys” and “boys need safe fantasy/escapism outlets” I’d still disagree with hypersexualization as being okay. First and foremost because while that might be nice for boys on the surface, when it starts seriously negatively impacting another group (in this case – up to 50% of the population) then I think the luxury of that needs to be examined. When you’re not hurting anyone else…sure maybe it’s fine. When you’re hurting others, perhaps it’s time to re-examine.

    More importantly however, I’d say that it’s the damage to BOYS in this scenario that I think is being overlooked and is a bit dangerous. You’re talking about young impressionable boys being exposed to intense hyperobjectification of women on a regular basis…and that has to influence how they view women, both now and later. And as everyone knows, what you absorb and learn at an early age is very hard to unlearn. So by doing this, we’re basically conditioning entire generations of boys to think about women in a way that is a bit damaged. It’s a problem. And it helps them to view women as sex objects instead of as sexy people/characters.

    Because I’m not saying you strip all the sexuality out of these things…I’m saying it needs to be more balanced. And in a more balanced comics world you still have beautiful women built like brickhouses running around in skintight leather…which seems like more than enough for a young boys imagination to run on most of the time. There’s nothing wrong with sex. It’s a great and awesome thing and I’m not in any way puritanical, but I think there’s a way to present sexy things that allow young people to have fantasy and escapism and there’s a way to present it that is a bit damaged. I think the overt and relentless hyper-sexualization of female characters that we’re seeing in comics these days (and as we saw in the 90’s) is a bit damaged and hurtful to everyone.

    This and this for example are still damn sexy:


    But they’re more balanced and less disrespectful than this and this:


    But as I said, I also advocate that the goal is not even to strip the hyperobjectification out of female characters entirely. Nick is right that Psylocke in her thong swimsuit is not so offensive (though still makes no sense practically) when paired with Storm, Rogue, etc….but these days Storm wears a swimsuit costume cut down to her stomach and Rogue is regularly unzipped to her stomach…so the system is not working. There should always be White Queen/Emma Frost characters, and many more besides…but when they ALL unzip their costumes, regardless of character consideration…then you have a serious problem. And that is sadly where we are in comics today.




    As for bodice rippers, which I find to be completely ridiculous, I would say the big difference is that young kids aren’t reading them on the same level that they read (or hopefully) read comics. I suppose there are teenage girls (and boys?) that delve into bodice rippers…but having never read one, I guess I don’t know for sure. Additionally, we can certainly agree that one image on the cover of a book is not the same as a comic which is filled with images…right? All that said, if a bunch of men that loved bodice rippers but felt offended by the hyper-sexualized covers, banded together try to “move the needle” on bodice ripper covers, I wouldn’t fight them on it. They would have a reasonable point. It’s one of the reasons I brought up women’s magazines. I never buy them and actively oppose them…they do huge harm to young women for some of the same reasons that comics do.

    ps – Ross – awesome link to the CA piece, loved it!

  28. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    The Illiterate Badger webcomics

  29. 22 nick marino

    @Smars: HOLY SHIT I JUST READ THE FIRST ISSUE OF GOBLYN… IT’S FUCKING AWESOME!!! Also, I have a couple of tech questions about your site. Do you mind if I email you at the address you used here on the blog? (I can see your email addy in my blog admin section, but I won’t email you there unless you say it’s okay.)

    So glad that you enjoyed this podcast. Thx for listening!!

    @Kelly: Yeah, I’d say we pretty much agree about the hypersexualization thing. When I saw your first two Adam Hughes links I was like “WTF? Why is she using Hughes as an example?” but then you calmed my complaints by showing his trashier work.

    I actually think he’s one of the worst, and it might not be for the reason that you expect — I think, in general, he over-beautifies his characters. Almost every face he draws has a similar aesthetic, a hyper-beauty to it, if you will. I think this is a problem because it not only homogenizes his characters and makes most of them look like the same “bombshell” cosplayer… but it also becomes a sort of beauty porn, if you will. Totally excessive and totally infatuated.

    I think it becomes especially problematic when he darts back and forth on the line between sexy and sexist. So you’ve got these idealized drawings of women — sometimes sexy in a tasteful way and sometimes completely sexually exploitational. And like the other point I brought up in my earlier post, completely lacking balance. To me, his art says “you can be modest or you can be promiscuous… but to be idealized, you MUST meet this beauty standard.” And the thing is — that beauty standard is totally culturally loaded. Whether or not it’s conscious thing, that beauty standard is depicting a certain type of person over and over again, predominantly European features and tending to have super light skin. So what happens is that this cultural combination becomes fetishistic.

    Now I know that he’s doing the work that the companies and fans are paying him to do. I’m not placing all of this on him. I think the institution is more at fault than anything else. And I have a problem with it.

    Frankly, I get sick of all of these superhero women being stereotypically beautiful all of the time. Why can’t there be more facial proportions and shapes out there? How is it that Black Widow, Wasp, Sue Storm, Storm, Rogue, and all of these other women look like models and all just happen to be superheroes too? I think it’s insulting to the readership, regardless of gender and sexual preference, because we’re constantly being shown magazine cover models inside the pages of almost every comic book we read. I want all kinds of people — especially women — in my superhero comics. I want some that fit the ideals of stereotypical beauty and some that don’t. Because that’s how my world is. It has that balance. And for me to be connected to these superhero stories, I would like to see more of that balance reflected in the art.

    Sorry, I kind of ranted there. That’s something that’s bothered me and confused me ever since I was a little kid reading X-Men.

    As for talent, I’d love to do a talentcast, and debate our positions more. I agree that there’s nuance to my position, nuance that wasn’t well reflected in my initial statement on the topic, and I think it’d be fun to discuss it more. Last I checked, our next episode is the Princecast (I emailed Ross and Kaylie to see if it’s still on), but after that we’re open.

    Kelly, would you be down to talk about that in a month or so?

    Ross, is that a topic you’d like to discuss further?

  30. 23 zach

    Not to dis any of the other regular guests but Ross, Nick, and Kelly is a magical combination.

    I really wanted to have a solid comment on this episode because I think it truly deserves all of the thoughtful commentary that it has received, but I think it was all really well said already.

    Here’s my perhaps less than solid comment, which is that I think there’s one axis that the hypersexualization hasn’t been examined on, and that’s an “artistic” axis. Obviously what is or isn’t artistic is a subjective thing, but it reminds me of an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry is complaining to a priest about someone making an anti-Semitic joke, and the priest says: “and this offends you as a Jew?” Jerry: “No, it offends me as a comedian!”

    I think there’s a level on which crappy art is given a pass (viz) because it happens to contain conventionally attractive women. And when you consider the mainstream comics “style,” to me it feels very stagnant, which maybe is similar to what Nick was saying about the homogeneous nature of the hyperbeautified women. I think on some level the look of comics has been as consistent as it has been because there’s a perception that women drawn in other styles aren’t as hot. Or am I nuts?

  31. 24 kaylie

    wow, i feel really bad…whenever Kelly’s a guest there’s always some awesome, thoughtful topic and it’s always so discussed so well and in-depth…and whenever i’m a guest i just talk about dumb movies and whatever XD seem so clumsy and ineffectual by comparison, haha!

    anyway…i had some pretty strong ideas and opinions about these topics, but they’re pretty well all covered by various people above. i like the discussion about talent; i had never really thought about it in those terms before. the more i think about it, the more it seems like talent is mostly a word people use when someone else is able to do something that seems mystifying to them.

  32. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Gello Apocalypse webcomics

  33. 25 nick marino

    @Kaylie: Don’t feel bad!!!! I love talking about dumb movies! I mean, I like talking about the serious stuff in this episode too… but I LOVE talking about dumb movies, cartoons, and comics. Remember when you made us watch The Video Dead? That was great!!! And the Garbage Pail Kids episode? One of my favorites!

    I like your view on the word talent. I definitely agree.

    @Zach: That Psylocke Tumblr post is so hilarious.

    I agree that there’s this weird misconception about what’s hot and what’s not in superhero comic art. I think it’s been around for a long time. If you watch or read interviews with Stan Lee, Romita, Sr., or other old school Marvel pros, sometimes they’ll tell stories about how they had to train young artists to always make sure that their panel borders didn’t cut out a woman’s cleavage and shit like that. They laugh it off like a funny story, but I don’t think they realize the implications of 1. constantly sexing-up female characters, and 2. telling that story to people in interviews, which doesn’t reflect too favorably on craft. If it were a one-issue type of deal, then it’d be funny, like some random all-cleavage issue on Spider-Man. But they’re talking about training artists — teaching them right from wrong — and telling them that wrong is omitting boobs from the lower part of the panel.

    In the mid-to-late 80s, when I was first getting into comic books, there was this trend to draw noseless women… or to just mark the area where their nostrils would appear. Then they’d have skinny faces with almost gaunt-looking cheeks. WTF? It was a thing in superhero comics… but I couldn’t fucking understand it!

    And I think the brokeback pose has become the modern equivalent of that scary “supermodel” face trend.

  34. 26 Kelly


    Yeah, I don’t really disagree with anything you’ve said about Hughes. I just picked it because he’s a big artist that draws a lot of beautiful women.

    I think the Beauty issue is related to hyper-sexualization, but really deserves its own discussion…especially as a “western beauty standards” issue.

    I’d love to come back for a continued talent discussion, if Ross is interested in talking more about it of course. That said…if you’re recording on 2/14…that’s not gonna work for me as I have plans. :)

  35. 27 nick marino

    hahahahaha whoops! i didn’t realize i said valentine’s day :) if we did end up doing that, maybe 2/13 would be better.

  36. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    The Illiterate Badger webcomics

  37. 28 Kelly

    @Nick: Well, I don’t think you actually said, but if it’s a month out and you guys record on Tuesdays that’s when it would land. I could totally do 2/13 though. :)

  38. 29 Andrew Kilian

    WOW! Lots o’ reading. Obviously great topics deserving insightful exploration.


    @ Nick
    Good point on the homogenized bombshell. It seems all women are bombshells now following whatever is fashionable for strippers and streetwalkers to wear. It’s sort of like how the men in the Legion of Superheroes comics from the ’50s were all interchangeable. Same body types and personalities, the only distinction being costumes and powers. Back in the day the male & female comic leads were sexy and powerful and then there were all these supporting characters who looked like the rest of humanity. Nowadays all women are slutacular. Now is that because these are predominantly purchased by men, created by men or the tradition of male power fantasy still has momentum?

    @ Kelly
    I think Kelly and I agree we’re just wording things differently. Though I have to say if superhero comics aren’t about the male power fantasy why are we having a discussion about the hyper-sexualization of women depicted in comics at all?

    @ Brandon
    I think his analysis of the issue is spot on. The industry is doing what it more or less already had been doing only has become more concentrated in the past 30 years and now women are shocked to find this to be the case.

    I think a solution is similar to what they have in Japan and before the ascension of superhero comics. Different genres with accompanying different age demographics. Look at the market and gear products towards those markets, seek out creators who want to tell those stories. These demands are presently being met in other media and in Japan we know that it works. Everything from Seinen to Bishoujo and beyond. I can imagine those working well in a Barnes & Nobles, but comic shops that I’m familiar with are primarily run by greasy old men that service the tastes of nerds who women won’t talk to. I’m not sure how you could socially engineer that to change.

    Also, are we really worried about nerds beating on their wives? That’s what we’re talking about with the hyper-objectification of women isn’t it? That’s the end result. Every nerd I know is so grateful just to touch a boob the bigger problem is getting them Not to put their girl on a pedestal and actually have a balanced healthy relationship. That’s why they have to have their fantasy women, because they don’t know how to talk to girls. I do agree that we can have our cake and eat it too; comics that explore sexuality in a heathly way where everyone gets to play that set healthy examples/show good lessons, but what’s wrong with a little fantasy? Or am I conflating Frank Cho’s Shanna the She-Devil with something from Heavy Metal?

    Although I will concede that some people are genetically predisposed to be artists, (ex; an eye for beauty) that doesn’t mean anything to me. That predisposition is meaningless unless the skill is cultivated. If the skill isn’t cultivated it’s just a raw latent thing like how we all have the potential to be competition gymnasts, but aren’t because we weren’t plucked at age 7 or started pursuing it as a passion at 8. Without cultivation and proper instruction all raw potential is meaningless.

  39. 30 nick marino

    @Andrew: I really like your thoughts on talent. But you lost me with everything else! I’m not sure if you’re joking or serious about the nerds beating on their wives thing…

    But to address that point as best I can, I think the results of sexually exploitative images in mainstream superhero comics are varied and have very subjective results. I guess wife beating could be an extreme result… but more so, I think the perpetuation of institutional prejudice and sexism is the most common outcome.

    The problem as I subjectively see it is that the more female characters are unequally exploited in superhero comics, the less women in general feel welcome as readers. And then the superhero comics business risks losing half of its readership, half of its creator pool, and half of its executive management.

    In turn, that creates an unhealthy environment in comics culture in which the vast majority of lucrative North American comic books are printing sexually exploitative images month after month, perpetuating the unfriendlier side of the genre with a nasty cycle of unbalanced, unfair, and unanswered depictions of women.

    As a reader, that makes me uncomfortable and it leaves me unsatisfied. I gravitate towards works that feature all kinds of strong and weak characters, especially stories that do so with balance. I have no interest in communally discussing and promoting comics that tear groups of people down or constantly show certain people in a culturally submissive manner.

    I want to engage with stories that find ways to not only uplift me but symbolically represent the potential I see in all kinds of people, not just young white males.

    I think superhero stories are undeniably connected to themes of triumph and hope. But I think that sexually exploitational images of women over and over and over in superhero comics undermine those themes of triumph and hope that I seek from my comics.

    Now that’s just my personal view on it. By no way am I claiming that Ross or Kelly want the same thing from their superhero stories. I’m sure they’d have different ways of describing why they feel the way that they feel. But that’s why I want more balanced representations of men and women in superhero comics.

    I don’t think there’s anything innate about the genre regarding male power fantasies. Just become some superhero comics have been produced that way over the years doesn’t mean that the entire genre is built upon a bedrock of male power fantasy. Shanna the She-Devil is way different from X-Men which is way different from Batgirl which is way different from Dynamo 5 which is way different from TMNT.

  40. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Wet Moon comics

  41. 31 ross

    @Andrew: what??? are you sure you and Kelly are basically in agreement? because pretty much everything you’ve said here is in direct opposition to what she’s been saying!

  42. 32 Paul

    I have a hard time finding a way to look at the hyper-sexualized topic that feels, to me, to be consistent and reasonable, and respectful to all the creators and all the fans. There are so many shades of context, and like anything dealing with art, there’s subjectivity. And sexuality, like politics and religion, is one of those key areas of personal identity that most of us are very defensive about. It’s really hard to critique it without people feeling like they are being called bad people. I’ve thought about it a lot, and I’ve read/listened to a lot of stuff about it, but I’ve never been able to find a position on it that feels entirely comfortable to me. And it’s not a topic that feels “okay” to question, or disagree about. But the hypersexuality issue is clearly very important to a lot of smart people who love comics, so I want to understand it, and I try, but I don’t feel confident making any strong statements about it.

  43. 33 Andrew Kilian

    “I think superhero stories are undeniably connected to themes of triumph and hope. But I think that sexually exploitational images of women over and over and over in superhero comics undermine those themes of triumph and hope that I seek from my comics.”

    I think this is probably the best comment in the whole thread.

  44. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Wet Moon comics

  45. 34 Andrew Kilian

    @ Ross

    “Because I’m not saying you strip all the sexuality out of these things…I’m saying it needs to be more balanced. … There’s nothing wrong with sex. It’s a great and awesome thing and I’m not in any way puritanical, but I think there’s a way to present sexy things that allow young people to have fantasy and escapism and there’s a way to present it that is a bit damaged. I think the overt and relentless hyper-sexualization of female characters that we’re seeing … is a bit damaged and hurtful to everyone.

    But as I said, I also advocate that the goal is not even to strip the hyperobjectification out of female characters entirely. Nick is right that Psylocke in her thong swimsuit is not so offensive …

    There should always be White Queen/Emma Frost characters, and many more besides…but when they ALL unzip their costumes, regardless of character consideration…then you have a serious problem.”

    I agree completely with this. I think we’re essentially saying the same things, but in different ways. The point is the same though. :)

  46. 35 nick marino

    @Andrew: THX!!!!

    @Paul: I’ve been stewing over what I could say in reply to you… and I agree that it’s not an easy issue to simplify. But at the same time, I feel like it’s definitely something that’s okay to disagree with. Hell, I think just about anything is okay to disagree with. So if you feel like disagreeing, go for it!!!! :)

  47. 36 Brian John Mitchell

    I always see people who clearly have more talent than me at things (music, writing, drawing, whatever) & somehow manage to do less with it. So talent is nothing to me….

  48. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Gello Apocalypse webcomics

  49. 37 Kelly

    @Brian John Mitchell

    But that’s not the argument. What it’s worth or what people do with it is a separate issue (and I tend to agree with you). The question is does it exist. And I say YES. And so far the comments (and the original discussion) have done nothing to show me otherwise.


    I second Nick…I have been trying very hard to think of a way to make my argument about hyper-sexualization more clear or compelling…but so far I’ve come up with a whole lot of nothing. :( I think Ross’ link to the CA piece was VERY good…so if even that doesn’t convince you…I don’t know. That said, everyone feels differently about these things, and I agree with you completely that context is everything…so if you just can’t see it or can’t agree…I can’t fault you there.

  50. 38 Brian John Mitchell

    @Kelly – Oh, I believe in “raw” talent & “cultivated” talent. But my thing is talent without content is kinda like having a recipe without making dinner. I’d rather have my crappy burritos than hang out with someone who makes the best burritos but only talks about them & I go hungry.

    Also, on the woman thing you might want to read this thing from Dave Sim. I won’t even get into all the controversy about him, but you may find this interesting…. http://alexaanddave.blogspot.com/2011/10/ok-now-ill-ask-you-one.html

  51. 39 Kelly

    @Brian John Mitchell:

    On “the woman thing”? Yeesh. We’re not off to a great start there.

    Re: Sim. I know all about Sim and the controversy surrounding him and I’ll be honest and say upfront that any Sim link is unlikely to move me much given what I’ve already read.

    That said, I have no idea what the link you posted has to do with our discussion? Feminism is to blame for the 60% divorce rate? I see no reasonable way in which that relates to the discussion (also, cue a massive eye roll from me).

  52. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Shadoweyes webcomics

  53. 40 nick marino

    @Brian: Personally, I think referring to the hypersexualization of female superheroes as “the woman thing” is pretty obtuse. In my opinion, the topic affects everybody, not just women… and the same time, we’re talking specifically about female superheroes being oversexed in comic books, not about some far ranging topic regarding everything ever about women. So no matter how you cut it, I don’t understand how calling it “the woman thing” makes any sense.

    Also, I’m really confused by your link. What should I be getting out of that?

  54. 41 ross

    @Brian: knock it off, man. at this point you’re just trolling with that Sim bullshit, either that or you’re completely missing the point of this topic.

    here’s a link that does have something to do with the sexualization-in-superhero-comics topic: http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2008/04/feminism-101-sexism-is-matter-of.html be sure to read the last couple comments in the comment thread, too. this write-up is more broad than what we’re talking about but i think it applies on some level.

    @Paul: it seems like you’re either mostly concerned about hurting people’s feelings or feeling bad yourself, which is cool and fine. i agree with Kelly up-thread that this sort of material is problematic in the broad scheme of things, but at the same time, and i can’t speak for anyone else here, i don’t think we’re saying “you can’t draw what you want/you’re a bad person for drawing or liking this.” and nobody is saying that nothing should be sexy or that sexy = sexist, or “you’re a misogynist if you like this,” that’s not it at all. i think an artist/fan can still draw how they want and like whatever artwork (or movies, etc.) that they like and still be aware of what this stuff means or what its effects may be or the place it stems from in society or whatever. nobody’s saying you have to care about that, either, it’s fine if you just want to say “i don’t care,” haha. you don’t have to draw a line in the sand, but also don’t be surprised when somebody does make criticisms.

    i think it’s almost more respectful to the fans and creators TO critique and acknowledge, whether positively or negatively. people critique and analyze and talk about these things in other mediums, why should comics be different? why should comics be so stunted? and in terms of criticism, if the artist or fan feels guilty about it afterward then they probably already felt bad about it on some level to begin with, heh.

  55. 42 Paul

    On the question of a greater variety of characters, I absolutely agree that there should be more characters of all sorts. I think it can make comics more attractive to a wider variety of readers, and it makes comics more interesting. There are only advantages to more variety, and no downsides.

    As to when depictions of female superheroes are offensive or disrespectful…I don’t know. Some of what critics of hypersexuality object to, I also think goes too far, but others I don’t. Can I explain the difference? No. When I do think something goes too far, is that anything more than my personal taste? I don’t know.

  56. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Nik Furious instrumental music

  57. 43 Paul

    I don’t feel bad about anything I read. Hypersexualized superheroes could go away and I wouldn’t miss them, b/c that was never my thing. Truth told, for too many years I held on to the rather prudish values I inherited, to my detriment. So I’m not one of these guys who’s like “don’t take away my Lady Death!” But that experience does make me extremely wary of any kind of criticism that says “this is harmful because it’s too sexual.” I know they’re not the same, but when I hear one, I can’t help remembering the other.

    Maybe I just don’t care as much. I see stuff all the time that looks to me like it’s portraying unhealthy ideas about sex, or violence, or whatever. When I recognize something like that, I avoid it. But I don’t get angry about it. I also don’t feel comfortable saying that the art itself hurts people.

    But I also don’t care much about realism in superhero comics. If I did, I think I’d care more about the practicality of costumes, and about correct anatomy.

    Maybe I also just don’t buy some of the arguments. I definitely recognize that sexism, racism, and many other types of discrimination infect our society, and that stuff gets expressed in all parts of society because it’s in the people, in the culture, that’s producing everything. I think we need to adopt better attitudes and let that old stuff go. And I respect artists who consciously try to reflect better values in their art. But I can’t go as far as saying that any time certain images or elements appear, they can only be read legitimately as X, and they are always harmful.

  58. 44 nick marino

    @Paul: You’re so hard to reply to!!! I’ve been stewing on what to say to you this time, and here’s goes my best shot…

    I don’t personally think that an individual drawing of a hypersexualized female character is a bad thing, objectively speaking. But I do think that the trend of constant, unbalanced hypersexualization is destructive. Because if the trend continues for a long enough time, it becomes accepted as a tradition. And that’s exactly what’s happened in superhero comics.

    I think Andrew’s initial statements are a great example of that — he sees superhero comics as being built on a tradition of male power fantasy and sometimes that includes hypersexualization.

    And like I said before, I don’t see the pure appearance of Psylocke (for example) as something that’s negative. But I do think it’s negative when the appearance isn’t countered with other kinds of representations. I’m not picking on a single artist, but I have beef with the superhero comics culture that allows this kind of hypersexuality to survive and thrive week after week with little balance or contrast.

  59. 45 Paul

    Yeah…I felt really compelled to comment on this, but I’m not sure I knew what I wanted to say. I think I’ll let it be for now. I’ll do some more reading and thinking on it, and maybe sometime later I’ll have something better to say about it, or some good questions, or something. Or maybe not. We’ll see. :)

  60. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Nik Furious instrumental music

  61. 46 Kelly Thompson

    Hey Paul

    I don’t know if this will help or explain anything, but I did a big post related to this topic for my column She Has No Head last week…it might not move you one way or the other, but I thought I was at least more clear there than I was here.


  62. 47 Paul

    I agree that the portrayals of male and female superheroes are not equal. That can’t be rationally denied. I’m not convinced that every inequality, or every difference, is in some way negative towards women, but a lot of them are. I agree that a lot of this sexualization is simply inappropriate for what are supposed to be mass-audience products. And most of these characters are meant to be heroic, which means that, at least to some degree, they’re meant to represent what people *ought* to be.

    Body type – Yeah, those are different. The only point I’d make, which is not necessarily a disagreement, just maybe a finer or pickier point, is that for men generally, the “sexy” and “athletic” body type are the same. Brad Pitt has the same kind of body that male models and atheletes have. There are variations, atheletes who are bulkier (linebackers, some wrestlers) and there are sexy dudes who aren’t muscled up (David Tennant, yaoi fantasies), but in general, there’s the same. The “sexy” and “athletic” female body types are certainly more divergent, but there again there are variations. Kim Kardashian, Brooke Burke, and Keira Knightley all have different body types, but are all considered sexy; although the athelethes you show in that article *generally* don’t represent a “sexy” body type. And you’re far more likely to see a superheroine who looks like Kardashian or Brooke than Knightley, so in that way the superhero-comics idea of “sexy” is narrower than the general media’s (which of course is far narrower than real people’s).

    Clothing – Very obvious. In general, skin = sexy. The women’s costumes play up the sexiness. This is an area where the male characters divert from the athletic image. With the exception of football and baseball, male atheletes usually are less covered up than male superheroes. Female athelethes also wear clothes that cover less than most clothes, but they’re not like swimsuits, lingerie or club wear like superhero costumes tend to be. Even swimmers’ swimwear is not the same as casual or fashion swimwear.

    Beauty – I don’t interpret this difference the same way you do, but it’s there. My assumption is that male characters are allowed to be monsters because the common conception of men more easily allows the monstrous: men are violent, are more prone to anger, are more destructive, etc. (While I find that idea offensive, I bet it can be backed up with imperical data.) Personally I read this one as having *less* to do with requiring women to be beautiful, and more to do with believing that men are more capable of being monsters. That’s how I see the Hulk and Doctor Doom, anyway. They’re destructive and horrific. Fun, cool “monsters” like the Turtles are different. The Turtles don’t need to look attractive (although they are cute, and dress like cool ninjas; they aren’t especially ugly) because they are funny and cool, but April O’Neal is a regular, pretty human. It’s hard to think of female “monsters” of that type. Maybe Lumpy Princess on Adventure Time? She looks weird, and she’s hilarious. It’s definitely much more rare.

    Posing – There’s no way to dispute this point. It’s very different, and different in a way makes the women less heroic. Sadly, it’s not hard at all to not only find examples of this, but extreme, ridiculous examples. I’m sure that fantasizing and using porn as reference material makes those long, dull hours at the drawing board go by more quickly, but professionalism ought to prevent this stuff from actually being turned in and published.

  63. 48 Paul

    Shit, I hit “submit” without fixing typos and bad spelling. :(

  64. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Shadoweyes webcomics

  1. 1 The Comics Podcast Network » A Podcast with Ross and Nick #120
  2. 2 Audioshocker Guest Hosting! «
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