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Comic Book Art

In Art, Life in Society on August 4, 2012 at 4:10 pm

By Heila Rogers

Wonder Woman was my favorite comic book hero growing up. She was my superhero of choice. I’d buy the newest Wonder Woman comic every week, when with our weekly allowance my sister and I would ride our bikes to the 7/11 store. She’d choose from a selection of more expensive candy on the top row, whereas I’d get a few single pieces from the bottom, because after 35¢ for the reading material, there wasn’t much money for candy left over. We were both happy. Sometimes on our way home, we’d settle in a circle of bushes on the adjacent college campus and spend a few minutes enjoying our purchases.

It was an easy spending choice for me, I looked forward to reading the new stories. Years later, I now wonder if it was a true choice. Wonder Woman was the only female superhero with her own adventures. Batwoman and Supergirl were around, but they didn’t appear very often and were very secondary characters.

I still enjoy and seek out different kinds of art and reading. At first glance, comic books seem to be an art-plus- reading match made in heaven. From what I understand, graphic novels are now popular at least partly for that same reason, which is the combination of art and story.

But then I researched modern comic books, after recently visiting a workshop given by a well-known comic book artist. Beforehand when checking out his work, I’d felt slapped in the face. My impression was certain drawings were sexist, women were undressed, artificially and pornographically drawn, and firmly objectified. His talent and technique were good, but I found a lot of the subject-matter appalling. When I investigated further into the current comic book world, I found even worse distortion and perversion. Wonder Woman back in 1976  definitely had elements of sexism, but the old costumes were almost like Little House on the Prairie outfits compared to now.

Woman on street of old town Quito

Photo by Roger Brown
Everyday Heroism
Quito, Ecuador

Please beware that the following examination of this subject will contain tacky and offensive content, because that’s the nature of the beast.

During subsequent online research I found this hilarious-but-important article by Luke McKinney in Cracked.com about the “Power Girl” character and her lack of a decent costume. I thought his perspective was especially provocative because a) he’s male and b) he’s not “a conservative:”

Charged with making a female Superman, Power Girl’s costume designer’s only thoughts were “breasts” and “done.” They’d already given Supergirl a miniskirt (and, as a consequence, the entire population of Metropolis got a panty shot). With Power Girl, they upped the ante and opened a tit-window. Most spandex heroes have a symbol on their chest summarizing their character, and so does Power Girl: an empty hole full of cleavage.

There is no counterargument. Fans and writers have tried to explain Power Girl’s breast-viewing port several times, and each theory is more ridiculously unsupported than the breasts they’re attempting to justify.

The most common (and ridiculous) explanation is, “I am strong and empowered and therefore love being naked and stared at.” You know, the same reason Superman flies around in a thong. One writer claims it’s to show that she’s healthy… 

http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-5-most-ridiculously-sexist-superhero-costumes/

A cursory look at today’s comic books reveals females looking like they’ve all had boob jobs and males looking inflated on steroids. Yes superheroes are supposed to be supernaturally strong, but this is different, unnatural and over-the-top. Plus, they’re often dressed like on-duty strippers. This is heroism?

People don’t want reality though, one might say. That’s what fiction is for, escapism.

Except for the truth that the best ‘creative unreality’, the best fiction, the most enduring literature has a universal, real element to it.

The human factor is paramount.

Back to Wonder Woman’s 1970’s costume. She had the American flag-inspired swimsuit and the red boots. Also the golden wrist cuffs which were impervious to bullets and a defensive weapon, and the golden lasso. She had her invisible plane which she could summon from afar. Her tiara could be thrown like a combination boomerang / ninja star. The unbreakable lasso was also a kind of polygraph device. A handy tool to use with recalcitrant villains. And a great literary tool.

Notice that all the male superheroes have full bodysuits. Their skin is covered from neck to toe. In fact, their costumes are often imbued with special powers (or they have the ubiquitous cape – Wonder Woman did occasionally wear a cape, too – but mostly for “dress-up”). I imagine the extra fabric covering their arms and legs at least offers some protection from burns, weathe,r and other dangers they encounter while saving the world.

A bit of humor from the film: The Incredibles:No Capes!

Let’s look at something else. Not just how female superheroes are dressed, what their costumes look like, nor even their bodies — but how they are “arranged.” How they are drawn, in relation to other characters. In the case below, we’ll compare and contrast “posing” in new and old comic books.

Posing is a term this blog author discusses:

In contrast female superheroes are generally not posed like athletes or superheroes, but as pliant submissive porn stars and preening supermodels. With alarming regularity they don’t look like athletes, heroes, conquerors, or badasses, but as nothing more than soulless beautiful objects and sexual temptresses, and so that is the assumption readers can make as well. Women as objects. Women as sexual. Women certainly not as heroes.

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2012/02/21/she-has-no-head-no-its-not-equal/

A 1970’s copy of Wonder Woman that I came across since beginning this article (above) shows a green-suited villain crouched on a rooftop, clutching a small blond girl wearing a bright pink dress. The child dangles wide-eyed over the street below. At the bad-guy’s feet is an open briefcase, full of obviously stolen, glowing jewelry. The dastardliness of it!! Wonder Women has apparently just arrived. She leaps onto the roof brandishing her shining golden lasso in a loop above her head, cowgirl-style, her other arm raised, fist-clenched.

“STAY BACK, WONDER WOMAN… OR THE KID DIES!” says the bubble above “The Bouncer’s” head.

Contrast this type of art, with the consistent and … boring … sexualization of female comic book characters I came across in 2012.

 On the left: Wonder Woman’s obviously flown up there for a rescue reason and is doing something brave and strong. Tension is heavy in the time-is-running-out scene. She’s a woman in a swimsuit, but she’s got a job to do and she’s doing it. Versus on the right: Uh … there’s a plane far below in this picture, so we know she’s … posing … in the sky now. The body looks unnatural, a floating object.


On the left, “It’s my job to Bring You In!” versus on the right, Nothing? Could the caption be, “My mammary glands are what’s most important about me,” and, “I’m frowning?” No story implied on the right at all.

Linda Carter from the Wonder Woman TV show (1974 – 1979) on the left. This shot seems to say, “I stand for truth and justice. I am strong and capable, don’t mess with me.” Also design-wise, her costume has value – the eagle on the bodice, the star-patterned fabric. The second picture seems to say, “I am … breasts?” Or maybe, “I am … about to start a high-kick routine?” Not even that. I can’t even see her moving at all, or doing anything but … posing.

Might I suggest that artists and others in the industry help themselves break out of a single, repetitive mold of falsely drawn and conceptualized female characters? There are no two women (or men!) the same and they are ALL beautiful. Base some interesting and exciting characters on that. Who would argue that people you meet who are chock-full of love for others and enjoyment of life are not brimming with beauty, and powerful in a good way? We’ve all experienced this, and are attracted to it. I’d like to suggest that reinforcement of false ways of looking at people limits the good experiences that can be had in life. It also makes for a warped society and dull, offensive comic book art.

How did we get this way? How did it get to this point?

Let’s have some real heroes and more exciting stories and drawings.

Irena Sendler

Click here to read about Irena Sendler (above at age 95 in Warsaw) and a group of young Polish women who saved the lives of thousands of Jewish children during World War II.

 

Photo Sources:

Powergirl

http://maidofmight.net/gallery/1737-2/Power_Girl_TPB__2006_.jpg http://www.weeklycrisis.com/2010/06/trade-waiting-power-girl-new-beginning.html http://www.razorfine.com/comics/powergirl-20/

Wonder Woman

http://mattandcathavebackissues.com/movie-reviews/ http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Wonder_Woman/Covers http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Freedom_Fighters/Covers

Getting It

In Art, Life in Society, Poetry on April 9, 2012 at 7:30 pm

To be content, I must create.

A work of art, of literature, of science;

Something unique, something my own.

And to be happy, truly happy,

My creation must be recognized,

Acclaimed, and enduring.

http://fugatur.wordpress.com/about/

Street Art in Oslo, Norway by Alice Pasquini

How sad, his wife replied,

That evoking a smile, teaching a lesson,

Watching a sunset, relieving a burden

Provide you with neither contentment

Nor happiness.

You don’t get it, he shouted.

Thank goodness, she sighed.

 

By Robert Deluty

[Motherhood: Journey Into Love, An Anthology of Poetry, edited by Edwina Peterson Cross, published by Mothers At Home, Inc. (c) 1997]

The Lesson

In Poetry on April 9, 2012 at 2:48 pm

 

An angel hovered near the earth

To listen, should I call.

God had sent the angel here

To catch me, should I fall.

 

No summons did I make above

For I felt that I knew best.

The angel could just take God’s love

And care for all the rest.

 

No need had I for any help –

My problems few & small.

I had the answers I would need

Were my back against a wall.

 

Photo by Kent Bartlett

The smallest problem began to grow.

I could not make it stop.

Trouble, trouble everywhere –

Soon there was a crop.

 

As I pondered what to do,

I raised my hands above;

Then, I felt the angel’s grasp

And God’s continued love.

 

In my despair, I found the peace

That I’d been searching for.

It was there all along

When I opened up the door.

 

More grateful now, I could not be

When I look up towards the sky

And ask my Master for His help;

For He always hears my cry.

 

He sends an angel to calm my fears

And meets my every need.

I’ll listen now and talk to Him.

I’m glad to let Him Lead.

 

Georganne Conway

Copyright © November 3, 2008

 

Parietal Art

In Art, Nature on April 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm
Gua Tewet cave painting

Borneo, Indonesia - tree of life

By Heila Rogers

Parietal? What is that again? “Parietal lobes” sound familiar? As in: the parts of the brain on the sides or walls of the skull.

Parietal art is therefore … on the sides of caves or walls. This kind of prehistoric cave painting – at least in a particular cave in France [Lascaux Caves] – means renditions of animals on the walls of deep tunnels stretching back underneath mountains. Inside exist amazing sketches and imprints made by blowing paint over a person’s hand placed against a wall. These works have survived for an incredibly long time. In these caves, unlike some other cave art throughout the world, there aren’t representations of people.

Research shows paleolithic man used scaffolding and artificial light to construct this art. Unlike some cave drawings in other parts of the world, none of these appear to be narrative … as in, no stories.

Why were these created?

Probably the purpose was religious. Many of them are not easily accessible, especially for a nomadic people. The works were probably completed by shamans only. Ancient people evidently practiced animal worship, and likely experienced spirits in the form of lions, buffalo or horses. The drawings might’ve been a kind of prayer. Requests for successful hunts. Or a part of vision rituals. The handprints include those of children, making some researchers think that the sick were taken into caves hoping perhaps to make a connection with the gods for healing.

A cave painting in Indonesia (shown above, thanks Wikipedia), entitled “Tree of Life,” pictures hands with a vine twining among them.

Without prior knowledge of the Dead Sea Scrolls or any Hebrew or Greek – way before the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus – this painting appears as if it could be a pictorial representation of the Bible verse:  “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (NASB John 15:5)

Many years before those words were written, this cave painting was established. The possible understanding(s) of such a concept by mankind waay B.C. or BCE is fascinating.

Or maybe it was the reverse. The concept and truth were there from the Beginning – at least a bit of it expressed in this very, very old painting and then in the words much later.

What is that truth?

What about, as expressed in these cave paintings, humankind’s desire to capture (have power over) or control … life, a situation, or a … creature?

Other questions:

Artists used bulges in the rock face to provide definition. How were these artists selected by the tribes? How did they display their talent? These so-called “survival societies” were pre-literate (but I imagine lots of verbal storytelling – they were still people after all) — and worked hard to get food and keep alive, so says the prevailing wisdom. There were issues of disease and accident. Where did God fit in? Is it true that they had less “leisure” time? Is art – the pursuit of creating or inventing visual things – a leisure-time, luxury pursuit? Or is it central to human nature and survival?

What about our disposition to go beyond ourselves for help?

It’s interesting to note that many of the caves were facing a certain way so as to be lit by the setting sun during the winter solstice.

What drives the human desire to worship? To go outside of ourselves to do so?

Where does the urge to create come from? No animals have it. They just live.

What about the desire to create pictures, a visual record? Why do we like to tell stories? Why do we want to, or feel a desire to attempt to control or manipulate the future?  With “mystical rituals” we desire to capture the essence, or copy the creation of beings. What’s going on with that?

Prehistoric man looked around at the stars, the sun, experienced emotions, felt the love she or he had for others … and drew conclusions.

Another issue with this parietal art is that underground itself was perceived to be supernatural (apparently non-spirit-seeking spelunkers experience visions in deep caves – something biological about this). Caves alone, even without decoration, were seen as gates to the Beyond … indicating an awareness, a sense of eternity?

Dr. Jean Clottes has much of interest to say on the subject at:  http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/clottes/page7.php

“Finally, hand stencils enabled them to go further still. When somebody put his or her hand on to the wall and paint was blown all over it, the hand would blend with the wall and take its new colour, be it red or black. Under the power of the sacred paint, the hand would metaphorically vanish into the wall. It would thus, concretely, link its owner to the world of the spirits. This might enable the ‘lay people’, maybe the sick, to benefit directly from the forces of the world beyond. Seen in that light, the presence of hands belonging to very young children, such as those in Gargas, stops being extraordinary (Clottes & Lewis-Williams 1998, 2001).
”

“The animals, individualised by means of precise details, seem to float on the walls; they are disconnected from reality, without any ground line, often without respect of the laws of gravity, in the absence of any framework or surroundings.”

This all reminds me of the following, about “eternity in the hearts of men:”

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (NIV Ecclesiastes 3.11)

Real Love

In Nature, Poetry on March 17, 2012 at 2:12 am

Love is the color of the world’s tallest peaks

nothing stands taller.

 

Loves sounds like water,

like churning rivers or trickling streams.

 

Love tastes sweet

like soothing herbal tea

that fills you with warmth.

 

Love smells like the clean air of Alaska,

without any flaws.

 

Love is the shape of the never ending stars

always shining bright

 

Love is love

nothing else

 

By Daniel Rogers

Photo by Blake Strasser

… the earth is full of the unfailing love of God. (Psalm 33.5)

“Man is the only animal who causes pain to others with no other object than wanting to do so.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

Seeing Real Art

In Art on February 16, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Photo by Kent Bartlett

By Marianne Wood

When I first saw what would become my favorite Caravaggio, St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy, it drew me in, and I paused a minute or two, knowing it was special. Then as I drew away, I felt gripped by a clawing and growing emotion.  So I returned, to try and make sense of this feeling and this painting.  Further scrutiny helped me realize that the artist’s passion for his subject – a cloaked friar held tenderly by an angel in a mysterious setting – stirred my own passions and nearly left me weeping in a public space.

I have looked at art since I was a young girl visiting museums with my mother and grandmother, and have seen many of the great works – celebrated ones in celebrated spaces over decades of travel and touring – but this was my first experience with this kind of burst of emotion. I wished I could shoo away a dozen or so other fans, and sit alone with the piece.

Then there are the works that are like old friends. We have a relationship of sorts, and I visit them in permanent collections whenever I’ve a chance.

Recently while on a museum field trip escorting some high school students, I discovered a new “friend” in the Amon Carter Museum. I felt surprise and rewarded for patient investigation, as I rounded a corner and encountered a small bronze statue – a study actually, by John Storrs for a monument to Walt Whitman.  This machine-age work exhibited the glory and energy of American art coming of age in the 1920s.  I was still wallowing in the joy of this find when a text came from a fellow teacher:

“[Avery] says her mind is blown and she has questions for you. We are in the Kimbell perm collection if you don’t mind.”

I replied quickly, “I’ll b right there.”

tree branch fireworks

Photo by Samantha Brock

The student’s brain was on fire… she was almost literally bouncing up and down; between quick walks through the works that looked familiar to her after only one semester of art history.  Michelangelo’s first painting, created when he was only 13, was fresh on her mind.  There were many other works, both at the Kimbell and later at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, which gave her the experience of what might be described as “art endorphins”.

I thank the artists who give us this art. A thank you too, to the architects, for making the experiences of the spaces wonderful. Also, a thank you to museum patrons, and our local foundation for funds to experience real art in person.

Which can make all the difference.

frosty alaska

Photo by Jill Molloy
Alaska

Editor’s Note:

Have you had this happen? Times when you saw a painting, a sculpture or perhaps a vista and felt like crying, you were so moved? I wonder what is going on when that happens? What is it? Interesting to share and explore this issue. Not necessary though ~ enjoying it can be quite enough.  ~HR

Click “Comments” for an excerpt from “Anne of Green Gables.”

Mind Trap

In Poetry on January 4, 2012 at 11:25 am

Photo by Hannah Amodeo

In the midst of the dark room

In the corners of my mind,

I resurrect doom and gloom

Fear the light will leave me blind.

 

 

 

 

But when I step into the shine

Bare my heart and soul and thought,

I find the healing I had missed

Wish this feeling could be bought.

 

Oh, to store away such needs

A cancer simply feeds,

Instead to share yourself

May put cancer on the shelf.

 

Lift the veil!  Seek the sun!

Forward into life, let’s run!

Don’t get trapped into your mind,

Love is there for all to find.




Photo by Hannah Amodeo

by

Georganne Conway

(c) 2003

… God is light; in God there is no darkness at all.

(1 John 1.5 – NIV)

… God is love, and whoever abides in love in abides in God, and God abides in him.

(1 John 4.16 – ESV)


Power Lines

In Art on December 31, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Boston

Photo taken in Boston by Denis Tangney Jr

The imperfect.

Is it art?

Many artists would emphasize the fact that all art is imperfect. It’s well-known “the greats” would’ve gone back and made changes to their masterpieces if they could, or if they didn’t stop themselves.

But what about for instance, photo-shopping out power lines?

In our arts discussion group this question came up when the topic of the month was Nature Photography.

I was struck with Denis Tangney’s wonderful photographer’s website, finding the above beautiful shot of … power lines.

He also has some wonderful ones of alleys with dumpsters. Yes, they look beautiful somehow. There are evocative ones of quiet side streets and then there are some great ones of the more traditional postcard variety, of city skylines with lovely water reflections.

The thing is, when I travel I have longed to remember along with the main landmarks, those very side streets and alleys that you experience and see when you visit a city, but of course there are never any good photos of those in souvenir shops.

Check out Denis Tangney’s photographs and see what you think:

www.baystatephotos.com

Photo taken in New York City by Denis Tangney Jr

~ HR

Landscape Sculptor

In Art, Nature on December 1, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Still Photo of Rivers & Tides documentary taken by Margot Harrington (www.pitchdesignunion.com)

Andy Goldsworthy loves to play outside.  The landscape sculptor can be found tossing armfuls of snow or dust into the air for the wind to take away.  Or flinging iron-rich mud balls into a river and watching the resulting red, underwater explosion.  He uses sticks to create spider-web-type structures.  He builds with rocks and leaves.  Always keeping an eye on the surroundings encircling his creations.  Aware of what’s underneath.  He also works with clay, sand, ice and snow.  Almost always out of doors.

~ HR

Performance Art & Flash Mobs

In Art, Life in Society, Music on December 1, 2011 at 12:38 pm

The Hallelujah Chorus in the Food Court one.  The “Doe, a Deer” one, dancing in the train station.  What is it about these flash mobs that moves us?

I think part of it is a breaking through of the disconnect that we experience in large public spaces, or maybe in life.

Also, it’s a gift.  From the participants to the watchers.  A raw, pure form of art in that way.  Free, meant to give pleasure.  The participants (artists) practice and refine their creation.

The other thing that I can figure out , is that it invites involvement.  Formal boundaries between “artist” and “audience” are blurred if not obliterated.  There’s an implicit invitation to participate.

The watchers are a part of it.

People are free to smile, videotape, cover their mouths in shock, or dance.

Some people run away, too, I think.  Or are confused and leave.

What do you think?

What about the sneaky, surprise element?

The second one of these was a kind of publicity stunt.

Food Court Hallelujah Chorus

Train Station Do Re Mi

Plus there’s the element of the unexpected — both location and activity.

Or are these “smart mobs?”  Which are “mobs” and which are performance art?

What about the disruption of business or normal public activity?

Evidently Germany has outlawed them.

~ HR

By Spike Dolomite