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Monthly Archives: December 2013

These type of lists are fundamentally flawed and short sighted, and carry a kind of pomp that obscures their subjective nature.  With that said…here’s mine.  The twist is that while a lot of these are 2013 things, some aren’t–and are just things that were important to me in 2013.  This is more of a catalog of the highlights of my year, rather than a statement about whatever weird groundhog existence you’ve been leaving your rock under.

Music:
Kanye West–Yeezus
Burial–Rival Dealer
Earl Sweatshirt–Doris
Drake–Nothing was the Same
A$AP Ferg–Trap Lord
The National–Trouble Will Find me
A$AP Rocky–Long.Live.A$AP
Burzum–Sol Austan, Mani Vestan
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds–Push the Sky Away
Chance the Rapper–Acid Rain
FKA Twigs-EP2
Angel Olsen–Half Way Home

Movies:
Drug War
Histoire(s) Du Cinema
The Counselor
Spring Breakers
Trash Humpers
Numero Deux (Godard)
Weekend
The Turin Horse
They Call Her One Eye
Marketa Lazarova
Isabelle Adjani
The Lords of Salem

Books:
House of Psychotic Women by Kier La Janisse(this was the best thing I read in any format this year, fwiw)
Knights of Sidonia by Tsutomu Nihei
Perramus by Alberto Breccia and Juan Sasturain
Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura
Velveteen and Mandala by Jiro Matsumoto
Sharaz-De by Sergio Toppi
Helter Skelter by Kyoko Okazaki
Change by Ales Kot, Morgan Jeske, Sloane Leong, Ed Brisson
The Adventures of Jodelle by Guy Peellaert
Multiple Warheads by Brandon Graham
Prophet by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Giannis Milogiannis, Joseph Bergin III, Ed Brisson etc.
Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue Deconnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire, Clayton Cowles
Black Lung by Chris Wright
Black is the Color by Julia Gfrörer
Clutch by Sloane Leong
Nosferatu by Philippe Druillet
Five Star Stories by Mamoru Nagano
So Long Silver Screen by Blutch
Anita Live and Input Anita by Guido Crepax
Lose #5 by Michael Deforge
Out of Skin by Emily Carroll
Oyasumi Punpun by Inio Asano (This was actually the best thing I read this year, forget what I said above, I was lying then)

TV Shows:
Person of Interest
American Horror Story Coven
Drunk History
Orphan Black
The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Podcasts:
I Seem Fun: The Diary of Jen Kirkman (my fave)
Men in Blazers
Travis Bickle on the Riveriera
The Dan Lebatard Show When Bomani Jones is there
Hardcore History
Dead Authors
Inkstuds
SILENCE!

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Augie De Blieck wrote this article on CBR Tuesday, in defense of specifically Marvel’s re-coloring of Miracleman, but in general a defense of the modern palette and rendered sensibility.  

He said: “The hand lettering and the limited color palette make for comics that look like something someone might photocopy, staple, and sell at a hotel ballroom type show. [..] Flat purple backgrounds should remain a thing of the distant past with today’s technologies. “

Here is the page he was addressing:

First the caveat, that I don’t think Miracleman is a strong example for the power of these coloring techniques.  On this page my immediate criticisms are that 1) Dude’s face is purple because of the planet behind him, but his costume and everything else is still the same shade of blue.  That’s dumb and makes no sense, and visually, it’s not very strong because that shade of blue is pretty wank on top of purple, to say nothing of that yellow.  Furthermore, the green grass on the left panel is wildly unimaginative.

Compare all of that to this:

That’s a page from Enric Sio, from a comic he did for Dracula magazine.  Purple looks considerably more powerful on this page, and as a whole, it is a much more dynamic piece of art.

That said, I don’t think the re-coloring effectively addresses the weaknesses of the original Miracleman page, more I think that it just replaces them with other weaknessess.  In the original colored page, there is a compositional element in the coloring where the purple buildings diagonal up to the purple planet which draws focus to Miracleman’s face.  That is completely lost in the recolor job.  The panels are now more separate visually, the only thing holding that diagonal line now is the position of Miracleman’s body in the two panels, which wasn’t that effective on it’s own because of the way his body bows backward and up in that first panel.  

And while replacing the green grass was a smart move, replacing it with the same exact color as the nearby building destroys what little depth that image originally had.  At least before you had these sort of expressive blocks of color orientating themselves.  Now it’s just cold grey blah.  It is a good example of how making something more realistic looking doesn’t make it a more compelling piece of art.  Sometimes a panel’s strength is entirely that it is this color element on top of this other color element–and the new coloring job just completely removes that idea from the equation.

Moving onto the planets–there wasn’t anything wrong with the purple planet earth.  It was all spacey and weird–I do think the orange moon was a problem in the original page, because it bled his boots into the background too much.  But by going with a “realistic” palette here, the page has become less dynamic. And I mean that objectively in the sense that 1) movement on the page via the colors has been completely stripped and 2) the impressionistic qualities have been completely removed.

Compare that to this:

This is a Dean White page from X-force.  It is also rendered, like the Miracleman re-color–but notice that it didn’t do so AND abandon an expressive and dynamic palette.  That orange and the way Archangel explodes through the blue glass into the more mud colored room–you get movement there tracking archagangel’s gleaming teal wings bounce across that backdrop.  And then because you’re tracking his wings, you bounce over naturally to the left on the last panel, and it’s this stunning image of two suns, that orange haze, the blue delicate gradiations of blue and white reacting to that light source, and playing off it in an impactful way.  That’s the case for rendering a comic.  But to say that the miracleman shares a similar strength over older techniques is I think a poor case, even if the original Miracleman colors weren’t the strongest.

In fact, I’d conclude that if you can’t improve on the original Miracelman colors–it is a sneering indictment of all re-coloring jobs, because those Miracleman colors are at times just flat out dumb–and yet they still have objectively more weight than the modern technique.

Also what’s the point of re-coloring something so dramatically, that people haven’t had the chance to own in it’s original form yet?  Also, someone is going to have to explain to me how the modern lettering is an improvement on the old hand-lettering.  Looks basically the same to me.

One of the things I complain way too much about is that the contemporary style of comics coloring where the colorist is doing a lot of the rendering of line art–is robbing us of some of the brilliant and beautiful textural things that you can get from line art, and in doing so it is robbing some of the personality from the page.  From Alberto Breccia through to Seinkeiwicz there’s a personality that comes through in many artists, beyond their figure work, or the movement of their line–the way they render light and shadow is at times an idiosyncratic identifier and a space for artistic expression–taking that away from the page robs comic artists of yet another tool of expression.  And the tradeoff for pages which can be filled in more cleanly with heavily rendered gradient plasticness is one that lessens the personality of comics overall, and creates a more impenetrable sameness–and in an era where the comic artist is as invisible as ever, it seems foolish to cede that ground.

 

This is why I lean so heavily on the Spanish and Argentine masters of the 60s and 70s, at this point in time, their work and techniques are almost becoming alien.  Alberto Breccia, Fernando Fernandez, Jose Gonzalez, Victor De Lafuente, Esteban Maroto, Gonzalo Mayo and many more.  To see their work is a breath of fresh air given how out of place their styles have become against modern comic art.  Which isn’t to say that there aren’t artists freaking it out.  But the preponderance is not nearly as adventurous.  And no where is this stark fatal shift more apparent than with the book Vampirella, which today looks like this:

It used to look like this:

Something has been lost here.

This is from the Vampirella Archives #6, from the Magazine issue number #42, and as it says is a horror story by Gerry Boudreau and Luis Garcia.  Luis Garcia is a fascinating artist for me, I have only seen the few shreds of stories he’s done for Vampirella, and while I think Around the Corner is the best one, his scratched up photorealistic style presages dudes like Sienkiewicz and Maleev by a long shot.  A lot of the Spanish artist in Vampirella have elements of this scratchy-ness, but Garcia’s is the heaviest.  And in around the corner the effect is at it’s most expressive.  

I think this style was always really effective for telling gothic horror tales.  It allows the shadows to have a weight on the page, and the way light is scratched and clawed for by the artist, gives the images a really great intensity.  In the above panel, the two lovers are really just a fading band of violent marks and scratches, and that effect creates a kind of ghostly distancing, particularly against how concrete the foregrounded image is by contrast.  Also cheekbones.

This is the page though.  The top right panel is one of those images that has always stuck with me.  I actually quoted it in one of my short stories from Hecate Snake Diaries.  For me, when I think of dark and dangerous and witch in comics, that’s the image that is my starting point.  Something I also dig about that panel is that the face itself is very different from the kind of faces you see now in comics and media.  It’s not yet another image of some white girl from Victoria’s secret–her fuller lips and round face–are themselves a stark relief from…the current set of three white girl faces that dominate mainstream comics.  

The bottom left panel is another highlight as her dress sort of violently forms down, and her hair starts out of the panel moving into the forest background below.  And then the last panel on the page you get these barbwire water ringlets layered on top of each other.  They evoke the famous paintings of Ophelia, but with their own razored sensibilities.

 

This is a panel from an early Auraleon Pantha comic, and as you can see…he’s using the same model as Luis Garcia, maybe even the same photo.  But check out that of ink behind her head, and then the cutout inky wires of the background dude to the left is standing in front of.  And then the characters are filled in with that ropey almost thatched kind of cross hatching that was in vogue with a lot of these artists.  I’d like to see that hatching style return because I think that ropeyness allows for an elongation of characters, which can add dynamism and tension to images within comics. See Also: Estaban Maroto drawing circles around everyone ever.

 

We see more of this style of hatching in this image, as well as more background depth.  Instead of a standard gradient filled background that is more orderly, this chaotic brushed in background creates some of the awkward imbalances that really charge this kind of image.  The way Auraleon has hatched this, with the ropey hatching in all but the girls face, brings extra focus to her blacked out face.  Which is a good example of how these kind of textural elements allow for greater compositional control and emphasis.  What’s more is this kind of thing lessens how much a colorist can screw up in terms of how a page is supposed to read.

Here we get more of these beautiful lines on the far right door.  There’s a sense of the room opening up to Pantha as she walks into it because all of the white space of the panel is positioned in the middle of the room–that couch couldn’t look more inviting.

This sequence where Pantha and Kimble knock boots is kind of amazing(if you block out all of the “yo Pantha, I think you just want to fuck me because I look like your dad”-ness) And again, a lot of this beauty is wholly textural.  If you dropped the textures out of these two sequences the images wouldn’t be nearly so special.  I like on the second page the first panel all of that heavy angular hatching in the bottom left of the panel, lessening as it gets closer to their faces, and the speech bubble.  Again, there’s an added emphasis to the compositional elements here because of the texture.  And then the last panel on these two pages, that eye opening in the background is incredible.  As well as the swirl of inky lines for the bed sheet.

The great delusion in comics currently is the notion that a colorist with a few filters can at all equal that level of artistic image making.  Great coloring has it’s own power–but when it comes to this particular game, unless you’re painting on the lineart–you’re not even coming close to this.  Fake plastic bullshit, you all need to be gripping that grain.



This is a guide to the writing that I did for my website, 73 this year.  It was important to me to go back and look at everything that I’ve written this year, and sort of appreciate it in all of its strange quirks.  I think it’s healthy to appreciate a body of work as you move through it.  Plus, I know a lot of people just sort of randomly hit some of these, and there was a lot that probably fell through the cracks.  I have decided to organize it first by the artists and books I wrote most about in terms of number of articles, this year.  And then below that is all of the one-shot articles.  As you can see, the stuff I spent the most amount of time writing about this year was Guido Crepax, Alberto Breccia, Hiroaki Samura, Sergio Toppi, Rob Liefeld, and the comic Pretty Deadly.  I didn’t include a lot of the micro articles I wrote this year, that were just kind of quick snap shots on an image.  I also didn’t include random bullshit that I thought was dumb five minutes after I wrote it.    Literally re-writing history here I suppose.  But if I did include the micro articles, you could include Emma Rios and Tsutomu Nihei to the above list.  Which is worth mentioning.

GUIDO CREPAX:
Collected Thoughts on Guido Crepax’s Anita Live Vol. 1

Severin, Severin(On Guido Crepax)

Crepax and noises with my mouth

Collected Thoughts on Guido Crepax’s Hello, Anita!

Guido Crepax is one of the most influential artists on my own work in comics, and there is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new from his work.  He is one of those artists who whenever I am stuck I go hit him up, like the devout hit up the bible or something.  A lot of my work on Crepax this year was situated around his Anita series in the 80s.  I have written about some of his other work on other sites in the past years.  So that is all findable.  I plan to at some point write a comprehensive article on Emmanuelle, which is one of my favorite works of his.  So that’s something to look forward to for next year.  One of the coolest things about all of this was seeing how I managed to turn heads of some of my artist friends, and it was funny to see random bits of Crepax pop up in some of their work this year.  I pretend I have everything to do with everything, it’s why I’m both paranoid and arrogant.  I would like to shout out Matt Seneca though.  Seneca doesn’t really write as much criticism anymore, but I think it was one of his maybe greatest panel articles on Crepax that got me to really look at Crepax’s work.  Seneca is an important critic for me in that he made me feel more comfortable with attempting to write about the visual side of comics.  To try and explain in words the things which can only be explained by images.  I also think the world of his comics is really interesting, and his visuals are extremely powerful.  He says and does a lot of goofy things I don’t really understand, but it is impossible for me to say I don’t find the work he did as a critic important, and the work he does as an artist interesting.  While we’re talking about these things, my favorite critics in comics are Joe McCullough, David Brothers, Darryl Ayo, and Sloane Leong.  It is embarrassing to name names.  And then there is all of the people I’ve forgotten, who I’ll have hurt in doing so.  The praise game is a sucker’s gambit.

ALBERTO BRECCIA
Alberto Breccia is The Greatest and Other Things I say in Mixed Company

Complete Thoughts on Alberto Breccia’s Dracula comics

Alberto Breccia and The Power of Suggestion in Horror Comic’s Imagery

A lot of my writing on Breccia is hampered by the language barrier.  There is not very much of his work that is available in english, and my spanish is high school level.  But even with that, his work is another that has been life-changing.  Getting to read Perramus in English this year was one of the big highlights in comics.  Breccia is beautiful, and the comics he works on, they just feel more important than other comics.  Comics that fight and stand up.  And can never be forgotten.  The power of his work transcends language, history, and culture.  He is without a doubt one of the true Kings of the medium.

HIROAKI SAMURA

HIroaki Samura and Action

Your Comics Fight Lame Like Disco: Hiroaki Samura and the Realness

Cutting: The Female Body in Pretty Deadly and Blade of the Immortal

Sometimes I feel lame writing about Blade of the Immortal comics, because they are mostly just sort of base sword fighting actiony books, like I feel like they aren’t the cool manga that everyone else wants to talk about, nor are they like the popular stuff like Naruto or One Piece.  They are almost relic.  Maybe they are like Laser Discs.  Or something.  But it is undeniable that Samura’s work is important to me, and for me there is no one better–NO ONE–at depicting the movement of the body through sequential images, within the comics medium.  Hands and feet too.  Talking about Samura is like going to school for me.  The principles of Samura can be applied to any kind of comic, and work just as well in a dramatic setting with no action.  [Other hyperbolic superlatives here].

SERGIO TOPPI

2000 Words for Sergio Toppi

Sergio Toppi Eats His Own Space off

Sergio Toppi died this year.  At the time I was sad that he wouldn’t get to see his work Sharaz-De finally make it to North American audiences–and get to see a new audience discover his work for the first time.  Then I realized that everyone was just ignoring his work like usual and very few people even gave enough of a crap to write about the book.  I think I originally intended for this Toppi piece to run in CA but CA closed down before it ran(it later re-opened, but I had already posted this).   I thought Archaia was going to also bring out his Collector series, I even had it pre-ordered on Amazon for the longest time–but I guess Sharaz-De did so poorly that they decided not to.  The business side of comics sucks, because it relies on the shitty tastes of a niche demographic of predominantly assholes, who don’t like the same things that I like.  Like everything else.  I basically just need to learn a second language and then just start picking these books up from european countries that actually can support the comics that I love.

Rob Liefeld:
My Love for Rob Liefeld X-Force Comics Part I of III: Color in X-Force #4

Rob Liefeld X-Force Love-In Part II of III: Page Layouts

Rob Liefeld/X-Force Comics Love-In Part III of III: Decoration in Comics

I wrote about Rob Liefeld comics
I wrote about Rob Liefeld comics
I did it three times, I did it three times.

Pretty Deadly:

Cutting: The Female Body in Pretty Deadly and Blade of the Immortal

The Cages of Pretty Deadly

My writing on Pretty Deadly, has been a part of an attempt to follow a monthly serialized book with actual new critical content with each book that isn’t simply a plot synopsis.  An experiment in proving you wrong.  More than that, this was the most anticipated book for me this year, and it surpassed that hype.  My interest in this book was initally just that Emma Rios was drawing it, and I consider her to be some sort of distant art-cousin who works through a lot of the problems I encounter in my own work in terms of composition, movement, and layout–but the main difference is she’s really really good at it.  And while I knew that, the first time I turned the page in Pretty deadly to those thick black boxes paired across the page–it was a “wow,  I didn’t know Emma had it like THAT” kind of moment.  I knew I was always going to have something to say about the visuals of Pretty Deadly, but I was suprised how much I ended up having to say about the other elements of the work, particularly Kelly Sue Deconnick’s writing, particularly considering how awful I feel about most writing in comics, particularly at this level.  But she’s really good, and more than that, the relationship her and Emma have on the page really works.  I’ll be writing more about Pretty Deadly obviously as the new issues come out.  I think the third one is on it’s way to me in the mail if my email is to be believed–so I might get an article on that out as my last thing for 2013.

MiSC:

Beauty, the Counselor, and Fuck You

This is an article on the Ridley Scott/Cormac McCarthy movie that you all refused to see, or hated when you saw it.  Basically I judged you all as you chased this movie out of theaters.  Found you lacking.  2014 will be a lot of me hurling insults at you.  You suck.

Respect the Elements: Thoughts on Cosplay, Fandom, and Art

My first interaction with art subcultures was with hiphop, and so one of the things that was beaten into me on message boards all through the late 90s and early 00s was that hiphop was more than just the music–it was the overriding culture, and one should have respect for all of the sides of it.  So I approached comics with that same sort of rubric here.  This is me calling you out on lame cosplay hating, fake geek girl, bullshittery.

The Labyrinthian Colors of Brendan McCarthy in Freakwave, Rogan Josh, and Paradax

An article where the title says it all, and I could have nothing to add.  Beyond that my dog ruined some of my freakwave pages by drooling on them.

The Blood of Being in Kyoko Okazaki’s Helter Skelter

This was an amazing experience, and I will also be writing about Pink at some point, either on my blog or elsewhere, in 2014.  Okazaki is pretty amazing.

The Poisonous Bile of Nostalgia and How You Never Really Loved Anything

I still am getting weird comments on this.  Basically, I compared the experience of reading modern day X-men comics to collecting Alf Lunchboxes, and for some reason this offended some people.  The comments section of this is actually pretty good.  But yeah, this and the Liefeld article where my most commented on articles because fanboys talk a lot but they ain’t sayin’ nothin’.  Basically.

Some Thoughts About Werewolves and Gender Identity

I’m a snake wolf dragon monster.

Burn Hollywood to the Ground and Other Things Moebius Never Said

If you ignore the part where I attack writers in comics, this is actually probably an interesting read.  If you don’t ignore that part, you’ll probably either want to hug me or hit me depending on if you are a writer or an artist.

Kvlt And a Bunch of Other Words You Wouldn’t Use to Describe Red Sonja #1

I kind of didn’t want to include this one, because I don’t really care that much about negative criticism, and it’s not like this book has a huge audience anyways–and I like that Gail Simone uses her spot in comics to create safe spaces for LGBT peoples.  But I think the stuff I say here about coloring gradients working in opposition to line art textures was kind of an important moment this year in terms of how I explained my overall criticisms of modern coloring techniques.

Collected Uncollected Thoughts on Blutch’s So Long, Silver Screen and Other Things We Agreed Not To Talk About: Before the Fire

With Picturebox leaving, this is probably the only Blutch book which will be in English.  Which is dumb because he’s amazing, this book was amazing, and Blutch is why I started using so much dirty grimy dry brushes in my artwork.

Jiro Matsumoto, Cocaine, and the Lightness of Being

This might be my favorite article I wrote this year.  Or favorite title.  I wrote about an obscure Jiro Matsumoto comic which will most likely never be brought over here.  Rather than the Jiro Matsumoto comic I own which is in English–just because y’know…why not choose the more ethically dubious route of writing about scanulations.

Touch, I Remember Touch: PRISM Slashfic

Remember Edward Snowden?  lol
Poor bastard.  I hope Tom Hanks hologram plays him in the movie 20 years from now.
Can you imagine this generation’s woodward and bernstein digging through these reports like they thought we might give a damn?  I can’t remember if this was Pre-Yeezus or Post-Yeezus.  Everything is post Yeezus now.

Suehiro Maruo’s The Laughing Vampire and the Aesthetics of Horror in Comics

Vampires with that lean.

The Horrific Mechanations of Junji Ito’s Uzumaki

The best thing about Uzumaki is the funny comics at the back, though.

Guy Peellaert’s Usage of Green and White in The Adventures of Jodelle

I BELIEVE this was the last book Kim Thompson worked on.  You want to talk about a death that sets comics back–that’s the one.  We’re fucked now, people.  Anyways.  This was beautiful, and any end of year list that didn’t mention it is fucking stupid and not worth your time(psst: none of them are worth your time anyways)

My Massive Review of Tsutomu Nihei’s Knights of Sidonia

I thought a lot about Nihei this year.  I didn’t write that much though, weirdly.  My big thing critically in the back of my head for next year or the year after is to write a big ebook on Tsutomu Nihei’s Blame!  The audience for that is like…basically one person.  But clearly I don’t care about that, I wrote about the Counselor for petesakes, and no one cares about that.

Sometimes I Write About Movies in Excited Tones and Alienate Everybody(Spring Breakers Reaction)

This was easily the best experience I’ve had in a theater for like a decade.

Atrocity Exhibition: Brandon Graham’s Multiple Warheads

Did you write about Multiple Warheads?  I wrote about Multiple Warheads.  I have artwork on the cover of the re-release of the old Multiple Warheads book.  The subtitle to this thing was this was the year I became good pals with Brandon Graham.  Probably because he googles his own name a lot.

Blaise Larmee Horrorcore

Blaise Larmee

Richard Corben: Ragemoor Review

I think this originally going to be a CA piece, but didn’t.  And instead started my blog.  This is where it all started.  I think the size of the review was one of those things where I was just like “uh, I need to not lose this down the tumblr void”

As good as 2013 was for me critically, I am ten thousand percent better at this right now than I was to start the year, so 2014 will make this all look like pale imitation.

Pretty Deadly is a supernatural western comic by Emma Rios, Kelly Sue Deconnick, Jordie Bellaire, and Clayton Cowles.  Two issues have been released so far by Image Comics.

Blade of the Immortal is a samurai comic by Hiroaki Samura.  It is published by Dark Horse.

The above two pages are from a sequence within Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal involving his peerless swordswoman Makie.  Make is an untouchable force of war within Blade of the Immortal.  So much so that most of the marks that come to be on her body, end up there because of her own self-destructive impulses, not as a result of the way she fights, or as a need to achieve tactical space.  Whatever space she needs in a fight, she uses her speed and agility to get there before her opponent.  Unlike someone like Manji, who usually has to go through his opponent to get to that space.  What is more, Makie’s fights, because of their weight on movement, and grace–they become dances–they become performative in nature.  And what’s more because of this, they take on a sexualized gaze as there is almost always an exterior male eye on the fight, orgasming as she “dances for them”.  And as you see below this way of depicting women fighting is not solely the domain of Makie–below is Hyukarin dispatching a guy who has just tortured and raped her for a few days.  Her rape and torture wasn’t some tactical thing where she allowed herself to be brutalized for some kind of strategic gain.  She was raped and tortured ostensibly because her style of fighting was SO distanced and performative that she was ineffective at finishing off her enemies.  Even here in her revenge it is being viewed by the fatherly view of Giichi, who has titled the fight in her advantage by cutting off that guy’s arm.

This is not an atypical depiction when it comes to highly capable female warriors within adventure comics.  But this is the extreme logical endpoint of the untouchable female warrior archetype within adventure comics.  Female warriors in comics who are depicted as fast, shifty, untouchable are inherently at a deficit in their depiction to analogous male characters–because they create two spaces within their existence: one is the space that, if only they could be caught, then they could be conquered sexually(as in the case of Hyukarin–Samura is overt in this way, because almost all of his fights have a section where one fighter tries to mount the other fighter), and the other is that their movement itself is meant to create the image of the beautiful untouchable woman on a pedestal that is the problematic way some men are taught to view women outside of these action packed scenarios.

It is because of these problems that when a fight comes along, particularly in western comics, like the fight in Pretty Deadly by Ginny Deathface and Big Alice–you tend to sit up and take notice.

The fight starts with Big Alice using Ginny’s sword to carve up her own face.  She says to Ginny “you think this is the first time I’ve been on the wrong end of a sword, little girl?”  Big Alice is a warrior.  She has dealt paint, she has felt pain.  What’s more pain is not a fear of hers.  Her vanity is not based in her face, which she disregards.  Her self-worth comes from the pain she can endure and the pain she can inflict upon others.  This is juxtoposed against Makie’s self-harm in Blade of the Immortal, which is driven by her desolation at being the untouchable death doll.  Her self-harm comes from the depression of the role she serves both for the reader, and the male viewers within the comic.

What is interesting in Pretty Deadly is that Ginny is positioned in a similar role as Makie.  She is set up in the first issue as this untouchable spirit of death.  She is Queen Badass.  But the Porcelain doll of death archetype is immedietely subverted in her very first fight in the second issue.  She is most certainly Queen Badass–but she is not untouchable.  She gets cut by Big Alice in the very first attacking exchange between the two.  But she takes it and just keeps coming.  Ginny continually sacrifices flesh and blood for tactical ground.  And what’s more the perspective of the fight, and the character design employed for both characters doesn’t allow for any sexualization of this pain.  This fight is never anything about two warriors brutally going at each other, doing whatever it takes to land the killing blow.  There’s no perspectives, or contortions causing the characters to vogue for the camera.  No orgasmic facial contortions.  These are two animals at their most basest expression.

It is analogous to a fight in Blade of the Immortal–but not one that involves any women.

This fight is from an exchange between Shira and Manji in the Blizzard chapter of Blade of the Immortal.  As Magatsu explains, “this is so brutal  […] you can’t even call it fighting.  It’s just an endless war of attrition.”  This is flesh as weapon, blood as strategy.  It is brutal to read, and that brutality gives this comic an extra weight.  If your comic is about people trying to kill one another–and you want to come hard with it–this is how it’s done.  And the sad thing is that this is a brutality that is often by design denied women in adventure comics.  But it is incredibly effective when actually used.  Thinking of that fight where Wonder Woman gouges her own eyes out so she can fight Medusa.  Heroism gains its weight in these kind of mutaliations.  The hero in giving up their flesh, allows for stakes to be built in the readers mind.  So often the tension with female warriors isn’t the stakes of win vs. loss, it’s will their beauty be damaged, will their perfection as a potential mate be lessened by this fight.  That’s why Big Alice opening the fight in PR by cutting up her own face is so freaking cool(critical term).  You want to know why so many female characters are supporting characters at best in adventure comics–it’s because of this notion of the primacy of their beauty over the brutality of the fight.  It is the built in vanity of these characters as viewed objects rather than brutal fleshed out fighters who fully accept the stakes of their choices.

On the final page of Elektra Lives Again, Matt Murdock’s face is a beaten chunk of meat.  Elektra still looks perfect.  And SHE’S the one who dies.
Elektra_Lives_Again_70

But here’s the thing.  Flesh is flesh.  Blood is blood.  Whether it comes out of a woman or a man, it is still blood.  Pain is equal, fighting for your life is an animalistic experience that is not in any way tied to gender.

The notion being that sacrifice of blood for a final victory would be the domain solely of men is atrocious.

In the end of this fight Manji has his plan that he took all of this horrific abuse to carry out.  He is drenched in blood, missing parts of limbs, partially frozen–but it was all part of a plan to get Shira to move into the space he wanted him to so he could deliver this winning blow(sans legs, missing an arm, frozen, bleeding).

This is the blood and guts of making a fight have weight in comics.  It is a narrative thing, but it is also a visual thing.  You create the space to draw these brutal images, and you get that gut punch.  To deny this from a comic simply because the protagonist of the comic is female is weak, and misses a trick.  Show me your cuts and bruises, dammit.

And that’s what makes Pretty Deadly cool.  Part of it.  That it is willing to scrap and claw for this kind of real estate in a comic of this stature is important, and more than anything–cool as hell.  Ginny, blood spurting off her, Big Alice the lower half of her face covered in blood–all to fight for an inch there or an inch there which decides the battle.  And there’s not an inch of this that is anything but fight.  Even though Ginny straddles Big Alice, the perspective chosen presents that strategically not sexually.  In this whole fight there is not a single panel designed for anything but presenting a brutal fight–and it really makes things like this look silly(and depressing).


You drawing a fight, or giving the reader a blowjob?