Saturday, August 9, 2014

Wonder Woman's not cheesecake

Art: Cliff Chiang
Am I the only comic book fan who's a bit concerned over David Finch taking over as artist for Wonder Woman? I don't actively dislike him as an artist. He can do some great stuff, even though I think he might be a bit overrated. However, when it comes to Wonder Woman, I think that there's something a little bit sacred there, and I'm not sure that he's the right guy for it.

Wonder Woman might not technically have been the first female superhero, she's the one who's lasted the longest. Also, it should be noted that her creator, William Moulton Marston, had a definite agenda when he created her. He was a feminist, and he wanted to create a heroine for little girls to admire. She has frequently been used as a symbol for female empowerment, even appearing on the first issue of Ms. Magazine. Her origin story is rooted in Greek Mythology, and the current continuity has elevated her to goddess status, taking over for the former God of War, Ares.

She's kind of a big deal, and there's a long list of great artists who have drawn her adventures. The current artist, Cliff Chiang, has drawn her as tall and athletic. She looks like she can kick some serious butt. 

When it comes to comics and the depiction of women, there are some genuine points of criticism that people make. Personally, I don't think that it's necessarily so horrible that the female heroes are often depicted as "perfect" women with slender bodies and large breasts. Sure, you can argue that it sets an unrealistic expectation, but superheroes aren't realistic in the first place, and the male heroes don't exactly represent how the average male can hope to look like either. Still, there are artists who draw idealized women, and then there are those who draw pretty much all of them looking exactly the same, the only things differentiating them are their hair and outfits.

Come on.
I'm not sure that David Finch falls in the latter category, but he has been known to do one thing that I think crosses the line and goes into some egregious territory. It's an unfortunate trend with a lot of artists, and it seems to be a leftover of the "bad girl" comics from the 1990s. What I'm talking about is posing the female characters like they're posing for porn.

Check out the picture on the left. Seriously - who the hell runs like that? I'm not a prude, and I have comics that have images that are far more graphic than this, but this is just so ridiculously gratuitous and juvenile. It adds absolutely nothing to the story, and it's simply bad art. I actually read the comic on the left, and that character is The White Rabbit, a villain from Batman: The Dark Knight, a series that Finch was drawing. I was collecting that series and dropped it - part of the reason being this kind of deliberately titillating art. (I might have forgiven it if the story was at least interesting, but it wasn't.) Part of me wishes that I still had those comics, because I seem to recall some examples that made this one seem tame in comparison.
Can anybody stand like this?

Is this what we're to expect from his run on Wonder Woman? His initial promotional piece isn't too egregious, but she doesn't have the same sort of gravitas that Cliff Chiang gave her (an example of his work is at the top of this post). Her chest is strategically thrusted out, and I'm not sure that's exactly the sort of stand one would expect from a skilled warrior like Diana.

There have been some previews of the interiors that fill me with a little bit more hope. Below you'll see the pencils of an action scene with Wonder Woman giving a big old kick in the face to Swamp Thing. That one seems to be the right idea. She looks like a capable warrior, and there's enough motion and power conveyed in the image that you can practically feel it. There's no question that a kick from her would probably take off the head of an average guy.

I'm hoping that's more of a sign of what's to come, as I've really enjoyed the current creative team, and I'll probably at least pick up the first issue of Finch's run. The thing is with Wonder Woman is that there's no reason she can't be beautiful while she's busting heads. She's not a piece of cheesecake though, and she needs to be treated with a bit of dignity.

That's more like it.

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