Friday, June 29, 2012

Marvel Swimsuit Special: An In-Depth Analysis Part II

The heat wave continues as we analyze more baffling beachside scenes featuring the likes of Iron Man, She-Hulk, and the Wasp (you'll want to stick around for that one, believe me). Catch up on Part I of our analysis here, then join Uatu in I as we do our best to understand Earth's Mightiest as they enjoy their spacecation. Please enjoy more after the jump, some of these photos are too hot for the front page (and too numerous). 

If it wasn't for her Spidey pattern towel, it would be easy to mistake Mary Jane for any number of other Marvel redheaded women. In the description it is implied that Peter invited her on this cosmic vacation, yet he apparently didn't make the cut for pinup depictions.

As my husband pointed out, "Why is there a child in this?" A sexy day at the beach does seem an unlikely place to see a child. Uatu observes, "…it's no wonder (daughter) Luna is carefree!" I guess she hasn't gotten a glimpse of mom's suit yet. Even Emma Frost would blush in those duds. Oh well, she should enjoy it while it lasts. This is after father Quicksilver accepts her as his child, but before he abandons her and her mother on the moon (oh, comics!). 

Just Tony Stark exploring some ruins with his reptilian companion. No big deal.

I'm happy to see Doctor Strange getting well-deserved attention from the ladies (especially in that suit - why wouldn't hordes of alien women worship that?). But frankly, this does seem a little out of character for the stoic sorcerer. I'm going to guess editorial received two illustrations of Tony Stark and decided to change one to Stephen Strange and call it a day.

Just look at the size of that ponytail! True to the form of the Marvel Swimsuit Edition, this is a character that you think is someone else, only to find out that it is in fact a long forgotten 90's character. In this case you're looking at Thunderstrike, who is like the Ben Reilly of Thor comics.

Gambit is so close, guys… to being seriously injured by Rogue's dangerous mutant powers! Uatu, ever the word smith, notes that Gambit looks "absorbed", even without touching his unrequited lover. Sorry, but that look of absorption is more likely an indication of Gambit's moon sized blue balls, a state that I'm sure he's gotten used to over the years. This is quite a cruel liaison being depicted and not the sexy fun time that should be had on moon beaches.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Vert Con 2012: An Overview

This year Chicago has added one more convention to the mix, and this one is a little different (and no, we're not talking about Cake). Vert Con, a small venture organized and crowd funded by local high schooler and former Comic Vault employee Everett "Vert" Watford took place this weekend in the basement of the All-Saints Church in the Ravenswood neighborhood. With only one local comic shop in attendance as a vendor (First Aid Comics), the majority of tables were dedicated to local creators touting their creator-owned works. Guests of honor included Mike Norton, creator of Battlepug, and Tim Seeley, creator of Hack / Slash. Also in attendance were Batman, Inc. artist Chris Burnham and Atomika creator Sal Abbinanti. Seeing such big names in attendance at such a small gathering made the absence of other well-known local creators more noticeable. Considering the long established Heroes Con in North Carolina also took place this past weekend, it's likely that those missing such as Brian Azzarello, Jill Thompson, Jenny Frison, and Tom Kelly were attending the conflicting event. Another noticeable absence was the lack of female creators, and female attendants as well. I was only able to attend the last two hours of the convention and by the time artists were packing up to leave, there were a grand total of two women left on floor; myself and Bandthology contributor and Double Page Spread podcaster Wendi Freeman.

Batman, Inc. artist Chris Burnham talks with a documentary film crew.

Like all new conventions, there are good and bad things to build upon. The creators present were impressive in their range of experience, but a variety of content would have been beneficial for attracting a larger audience. Courting female creators, creators of different genres, and organizing a guest of honor from out of town would have created a wider appeal for Vertcon (Darick Robertson was in attendance for a short time but left before I had arrived). The creators  that I spoke with had nothing but positive things to say about their experience with most reporting soft sales, but proportionate to the size of the convention. The space itself was the perfect size for the amount of creators and attendants, but for a hot July afternoon, the non-airconditioned space was quite hot by the end of the day. A change of date might benefit this show in the future since most everyone present was local; holding Vert Con in the "off season" would provide less conflict with other conventions and also allow for more comfortable weather. The space lent itself to presentations with a stage set up at the end of the hall, but it was not utilized for any panels or booths. I was told that one signing with Wendi Freeman did take place on stage earlier in the day before I arrived. More comic shop vendors was also a desire expressed by other attendants.

Overall Vert Con was successful for what it was: an intimate, small gathering of comic professionals meeting with local dedicated fans. It should not go without saying that Vert Con is quite an accomplishment for any new organizer, but especially one as young as Everett Watford. I can imagine there have been few conventions, if any at all that have been successfully organized by someone so young or passionate. With time and experience, should Vert Con continue, it is certain to only get better.

Comic colorist and Box Ninja extraordinaire Wallace A. Lowe, Jr. was selling kits for his fun papercraft projects.


Just a few of the many mini sketches and paintings of Hamster Rage creator Brian J. Crowley.
Handy signs pointing towards Vert Con were scattered in every direction surrounding the convention. Easier to get to than McCormick Place!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Do Big Boobs A Better Cosplayer Make?

Molly is a cosplayer. Molly needs your help buying herself new, bigger breasts. I think I'd like to help Molly another way by offering an alternate solution: quit cosplaying.

This may seem like an extreme solution, but it is as logical as buying a new pair of boobs. When looking at Molly's plea for donations to cover the cost of the procedure, several contradictions present themselves. "...I feel more secure and certain of my place in the world than I ever have before. That’s why I am able to finally come out and say this publicly: I want fake boobs." Acceptance of one's body is not usually followed by feelings of inadequacy, unless one is inclined to accept feeling dissatisfied. It is probably painfully obvious to everyone but Molly that this is most definitely a matter of self esteem. Accepting one's body is a lifelong battle for most women, one that rarely ends in total happiness with one's physique. There is no greater voice or opinion more frequently heard than the one in our own head. I believe her when she says she isn't doing this for anyone else; besides an encounter with a fairly biased casting director, I doubt many people have told her how she needs bigger breasts. And I'm certain no one has told her she needs bigger breasts to feel better about herself. That strongly held belief belongs solely to the person convincing themselves of the unnecessary procedure.

You don't need big tits to be bad-ass.
Everything from the depiction of women in comics to coveting her own mother's figure are named as contributing factors to her dissatisfaction. Strangely missing from her history with her body is cosplay. Where is the passage discussing the positive influence of cosplaying? The feeling of confidence when one embodies their fictional heroes, the sense of accomplishment when creating an accurate and admired creation? My theory is that these sentiments are missing because they aren't felt, or may be overshadowed by feelings of inadequacy. The very essence of cosplay is in creating illusion, bringing to life something that only exists in fantasy. But no one can create the grotesquely disproportionate drawings of Humberto Ramos. Powergirl's breasts are physically impossible. The broke back pose cannot be reproduced in real life. Is failing to live up to the unrealistic standard of these depictions effecting Molly's decision? I'd guess the answer would be yes. But this conundrum is not one shared by all cosplayers. I cannot speak for others, but in my experience, cosplaying can be a deeply rewarding ritual that is a unique way to share one's passion for a character or creation. It can boost one's confidence as well, in a way that only dressing as a warrior goddess can. When cosplay has the opposite effect it may be in the participant's best interests to not do it, and in Molly's case, I think she may be doing more damage to her self-esteem than good. At least that is the impression one gets by her lack of positive association. 

Cosplay only we smaller gals could do.
Molly takes a lighthearted approach to the subject of breast augmentation; she refers to it as her "Betterment Fund", adding a "boobs" category to her blog subjects, referring to herself as being part of the "itty bitty titty committee".  This tells me she may not be taking the subject as seriously as it deserves. Where is the research? Has she picked a doctor? Looked into the risks? Read countless testimonials from those that have gone under the knife? An afternoon spent reading through may better inform Molly's decision. Hearing feedback from readers and other cosplayers encouraging her to accept her body may also effect her final decision. Being reminded that she is contributing to the greater societal problem all women face concerning body image by making this very public plea may make her think twice about taking donations. By rewarding contributers with the ability to choose her cosplay costumes post surgery, she's essentially giving up control of her own body. In so many words, "give me money so you can dress me up." There are a lot of girls out there like you, Molly. Some of them are still young, still anticipating the day when they will grow up to look like that ridiculous anime character they've drawn. Do you want to go to conventions with your newly augmented body showing her one more unrealistic depiction? Why not continue to cosplay as you are now, showing that girl what real confidence looks like? Showing others that no, you may not have breasts that look inflatable, but you still look and feel good anyway? I can promise Molly she'll be better for it and she'll have nothing to regret if she does. If you are reading this, I hope you will tell her, too. 

Molly is uncomfortable wearing padded bras. So is cancer survivor Jodi Jaecks.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Marvel Swimsuit Special: An In-Depth Analysis Part I

When it comes to comic books, eccentricity has never been in short order. The silver age of comics is considered the heyday for the weird and wacky, followed by the gritty reactionary tales of Frank Miller and Alan Moore in the 80's. Like a pendulum, the industry swung back to the zany in the 90's. Clones! Robot Superman! Spawn! One of the more ridiculous books of this time period is the Marvel Swimsuit Special. Released annually between 1992 and 1995, these collections of pinups did not hesitate to embrace their shallow purpose. Not quite poster books and lacking any semblance of a storyline, these infamous tomes embody their place and time in an industry that has since strayed from such blatant fan service. The cheesecake stuck around, but it made its home in every brokeback pose (mostly executed by female characters), while the men left behind their speedos and went back to their stoic ways. By no means do I miss properties like the Marvel Swimsuit Special; but it is nice to see a comic where the men are almost equally objectified. It is easy to overlook these collections as unworthy of further analysis, but I think not. Each and every page is teaming with as much intrigue as sensuality. Join us as we delve deeply into the zeitgeist of 90's comics. And there is no shame in just coming to ogle either. (There are quite a few images, so follow the continued analysis after the jump. And please do click on the images to see them larger to read the text!)

The most interesting aspect of this fake ad for "Handyman Tools" appears to be the placement of Thor's, ahem, decorations. Glad to see this version of his costume didn't last.

The roster of talent involved is surprising. Adam Hughes has quite a few pieces, as well as other familiar names such as Darick Robertson (The Boys), Steve Epting (Marvel cover artist), and Salvador Larroca (X-Men, Iron-Man). Since this book is nearly twenty years old, it is interesting to see how the artists still active today have grown since they created these works.

This is sadly not the first Marvel Swimsuit Special; I would have preferred to start my analysis from the beginning. However, we do get the benefit of enjoying the letters column since this is the third publication. Jomo Powell seems to have had his wish fulfilled since this issue takes place on the moon as he suggested, and the Caroline's will be pleased to see the inclusion of Gambit in this issue. Jean-Francois, however, spends quite a bit of time lamenting the fact that the previous special featured a somewhat inaccurate portrayal of Rogue and her powers. Sir, if you want Rogue to become a giant scaly dinosaur, you are reading the wrong book.

Uatu of the Watchers answers the question you will keep asking yourself throughout reading: why are these Marvel characters on the moon? In short, the Inhumans have invited Earth's Mightest to partake in the Water Festival. Meanwhile, all of the third string characters that are not being depicted here are the only thing that stands between Doctor Doom and world domination. Also, Uatu is a creeper that wants to watch everyone in their swimsuits.

Our first splash page features the Inhumans and everyone is…..fully clothed and looking relatively normal. What a disappointment. It is worth mentioning that this is not the only piece featuring Lockjaw the Pet Avenger.

With hair only Janet Jackson could rival, Typhoid Mary is our first solo pinup. Yes, the villainess of Daredevil. Guess they're keeping the big guns for later in the book. Is it just me or does her leg appear to have the reflection of her face?

This depiction of the Thing and Human Torch is a little confusing, even after reading Uatu's description. Where are Sue and Reed? Who are these women with similar powers? Their fawning companion to the left gives a whole new meaning to the term "fire crotch". 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Superhero Word Vomit

This article is not what you might have immediately envisioned. It isn't about Batman uncontrollably spewing his every thought, but rather fandoms' inability to quit talking about the problematic genre of superhero comics (even mainstream media outlets suffer from this ailment). Even when criticism is well deserved, the amount of time spent shaming the missteps of large publishers is rarely equal to time spent showing examples of comics that actually get it right. Men, women, old fans, new fans, we all have a super-god given right to complain when superheroes let us down, and keep relatively quiet when they succeed in entertaining us.

This superhero word vomit that makes fans fixate on the shortcomings of comics, particularly of the tights variety, is the same impulse that applies to any customer service relationship. Think about how much more likely you are to tell a friend about a bad experience you have with a business than when excellent service is rendered. Perhaps this disparity of shared opinions is heightened by our relationship with comics. Imagine going to the same family diner, once a month, for years, perhaps even since childhood. It is comforting, familiar, and good enough to keep coming back despite other ample possibilities. Then one month your food is lackluster, the service is terrible, and they've raised prices, too. But you love the place so much that you decided to give it another chance a month later. You have the same disappointing experience. The urge to vent may be greater than a mediocre dining experience at the new place down the street since your expectations weren't as high. The long established superhero books we continue to read, despite the disappointment they may deliver month after month, are a lot like the once beloved restaurant. We may have told friends and loved ones about the delicious meals of past, but boy will they be sure to hear about the turd they tried to serve me this week. So what keeps us coming back for more? For starters, a certain amount of loyalty can go a long way in making one ignore common sense. Supporting bad art while complaining about it will have as much effect on quality as continuing to eat at the once great diner down the street. Every business responds to the bottom line, and as long as money keeps coming in, its going to be business as usual.

Tough love doesn't always get results, and it may not even stop you from complaining about being disappointed in a book. But continuing to contribute to something that may have once been great isn't just a waste of one's own time and resources, but it also continues to contribute to the shortcomings of the comic book medium. Take a good hard look at your purchases next time you are at your local comic shop. Think about which ones you've talked about in the last week, which ones you've tweeted about, blogged about, read about. How many of those sentiments were positive? How many were rave reviews and how many opinions were more akin to keeping up with the Joneses? One habit readers can all benefit from is to talk about the books we enjoy more than the ones we don't. Instead of lamenting about the very existence of a series like Before Watchmen, or the mind numbing dullness of Avengers vs. X-Men, we can re-read the classics that inspired the modern incarnations. Better yet, one can pick up a newer title like Unwritten or Dark Horse Presents or Scalped or Locke & Key or any number of critically acclaimed series that have been enthusiastically recommended by their fans. Write a blog post about picking up a new series that rocked your socks, not an old one that misses the mark again. Tweet your recommended readings as soon as you finish them. And above all, put your money where your mouth is. If a book is truly disappointing, express your discontent as a deterrent to purchase said title, and stop buying it yourself. We as fans are past due for a change of conversation, and it will take a conscious effort to change the focus of the medium.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

GCC Presents Ladies' Craft Night

Graham Crackers Comics' very own Ladies' Night will again be hosted this first Wednesday of the month, June 6th from 6-8 pm at the Chicago loop location. Organizers decided to give in to popular demand by hosting a craft theme for the night with participants encouraged to bring their own projects such as knitting or sketching, but all will have the opportunity to work with supplies provided by the store. These project include making Infinity Gauntlets Goblets, as well as headband decorating. For more information on this event and upcoming GCC Ladies' Nights, please stop by the official Ladies' Night at GCC Facebook page and Graham Crackers Comics events page. As an employee, I serve as moderator during discussions but will also be taking photos for the upcoming event. We hope to see some new faces this month as the craft event will be a great way for new and old comic book and craft loving ladies to meet and talk comics face to face.