Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Supergirl #20: Fans Divided

Supergirl 20
Originally uploaded by Heidi Meeley
For the past week I have been surfing the internet and going to the DC message board to see what the reaction is to the new style of art on Supergirl. (Special thanks to Occasional Superheroine for her amazing post as well- go check it out.) With issue #20, the girl of steel received a "sexed-down" makeover that included more realistic proportions and cheerleader tog underpants rather then tiny panties under her skirt.

To say that results have been mixed is to make a huge understatement. From the DC message boards:

Lindadanvers says

"I do not care for Chang's style. The wonky waist on Kara looks just as silly as the wasp waist and anorexic proportions of Churchill.

I like the art in #20 however I think his Kara does look a bit thick and the costume is a bit shapeless and unflattering. I can't get behind a Supergirl with cankles.

The way he drew Kara in Action Comics was much better.

A realistic Kara is great but a dumpy Kara is a bit much for me to swallow.

huntressnut101 says:

"honestly the problem is her shirt is way too baggy just so it covers more belly and I find it silly that the artist is acting as if the belly is some kind of private part that needs to be covered up. that and no store sells skirts that long and no teenage girl would pick out and wear a skirt that long at age 17.

the problem is they are changing the costume to fit what they think their teenage daughter should wear, not what an actual 17 year old girl who has no parents to force style changes would wear. "

larry07's opinion:

"I do have to agree that Renato Guedes artwork is horrible, Kara never looked worse, sloppy. uniform hanging on her like it was 2 sizes two big, boots awkward and bulky looking, she looks atrocious. No teenager would dress like that unless forced to. Come on, he could not even get the skirt right, where is the border. Please do not let this artist hang around too long, dispose of him quickly before he ruins Kara altogether. Bernard chang however, perfect artist, draws her like she should have been drawn after Churchill, left. "

Wisdom from aplayfulsoul:

"They are either desperate or don't know about fashion. Seriously. 99% of girls I know have this simple and great rule when it comes to dressing: If you're showing the legs, cover the top and viceversa.

And I'm 19 and in school. I know how girls my age dress. If Supergirl was fashionable she'd be covering her stomach and using short shorts. That's a trend right now.

I can't believe an outfit she wore 20 years ago is more up to date than her current one."

And so it goes. On and on... click here for a link.

My opinion is this: I thought her new portrayal was fine and dandy. I would have liked to see a bit more muscle tone but that is a minor quibble. Supergirl is a teenage girl and I am not. I have no clue what teenage girls wear- do they still dress like Britney Spears? Obviously if I was the artist coming on this book, I would do my research. Did DC do theirs? Or did they just think that making her a bit unattractive would make the fangirls happy? It makes me wonder. Any teenagers out there care to enlighten me?

Part of me deep down wonders if some of the hatred towards the new art is a revenge of the fanboys for all the opinions we as women have given out. Do they feel like it is their shot now? Or is the art just plain unappealing? It seemed like both men and women were dissatisfied on the DC board.

All this divisiveness is why we never get what we want, Folks. First we say that we don't like the art by Churchill and the ilk that make Supergirl too sexy. DC actually does something about it and now it is "ugly" and Supergirl is "heavy" or "dumpy". No one wins on this one. Damn DC and damn the fans. Why didn't it work this issue? Will it work better down the road with a different artist? Did DC not be careful enough with our hearts? What the hell is the deal here???? I guess when the book gets cancelled for poor sales I will have my answer: NEVER. I have to go take two ibuprofen and try desperately not to curse and swear all over my blog at everyone.


Verge said...

After all that has happened w/Supergirl, I think the editorial mandate was something like "don't make her sexy! at all!"

I mean, there are mandates like that.

The pendulum swings all the way back, the pendulum swings all the way forward.

How do you stop such extremes?

Maintain the balance in the first place.

In order to have the balance you need diversity and you need women in positions of real authority inn the creative and editorial roles.

Then the positive, realistic, powerful portrayals of female characters comes about organically.

And I think the dissonance you are feeling about the book is in part because this change did not come about organically. It came under severe duress.

But I still welcome the change.

Heidi Meeley said...

Occasional Superheroine- I appreciate what you have to say and agree with you. This was obviously a mandate, and it was done to an extreme. It wasn't a cure, and it certainly wasn't a fix, from the reader reaction I have seen so far. One thing I know for sure is that people either loved it or hated it- there was no middle ground to be had.

I would love to see more women in editorial positions and in creative roles. God knows if I could figure out how to make it happen, I would. It seems from reading about experiences that you and other women have had that it is (understatement of the year coming up) not going to happen anytime soon. Arrgggghhh. As a woman that deals in the "good old boy network" in her job, I feel a great deal of empathy, and have seen that glass ceiling way more times then I would like to admit.

As a normally very glass-half-full person, I welcome change as well. It is just getting everyone else on the same page that is the problem.

As I have calmed down, I have come to the conclusion that ranting and raving isn't going to do me any good. You had an excellent post about getting feedback to comic book publishers that I am going to utilize in contacting them with my opinion. It may not yield results, but I at least want to have my voice be heard.

Thank you for your insightful comment here. It made my day.

Siskoid said...

I'm also wondering who the nay-sayers are.

Think of it this way: The old (sexy) direction was turning a lot of people off, but no doubt had its readership as well.

Change of direction: The current readership, who was obviously fine with sexpot Supergirl, is outraged.

Complimentary comments may be coming from that slice of fandom that wasn't buying Supergirl in the first place. And possibly, still isn't for whatever reason (crossover-itis, stretched dollars, no faith in such a midhandled character, etc.).

So you're left with a lot of negative comments, and few positive ones.

Anonymous said...

What spooks me is how the supporters of the "skanky scarecrow" phase really do seem to think that look was attractive. It really demonstrates how warped the "norm" has become for so many young males (I challenge anyone to find a female supporter of the previous look).

These guys either don't know any real girls (always a possibility with comic book fans), or the ones they do know are Bratz-bred proto-whores, so anything that doesn't resemble that is "fat and ugly".

Very disappointing.

Personally, I love the new look for Supergirl. For the first time since the character's much-ballyhooed return, I can actually see her as a person and not some caricatured Maxim fantasy girl.

Britt Schramm said...

Obviously, Supergirl is not dressing like Britney Spears or you would not be talking about her "cheerleader tog underpants".

Tacky, I know but it doesn't underscore the fact that the norm for idolized beauty for women in America is getting younger and younger as well as thinner and thinner. And it is killing how teenage girls and young women look at themselves. I mean, take the Olsen twins. If they were getting those looks from older pervs at 14, where will it end? And the end result - they're both emmaciated and one had to get help with her eating problem.

So, I have no problem with the new look of Supergirl.

BIG MIKE said...


I respect what you're saying, but I think I have to disagree with your assertion that if the fans can't find a unified voice on Supergirl then the book will be canceled. The sales numbers for Supergirl weren't bad, and were in fact increasing a bit towards the end of Kelly's run. And contrary to popular belief, I think that the powers-that-be at DC only care about sales and probably don't read most of our blogs.

But let's be honest... as the architect of comic blog positivity day, you know darn well that people are going to complain and be negative no matter what. It's why, in my opinion, the publishers simply shouldn't listen to the fans at all because they'll never satisfy all of them and who's to say that the most vocal among them speak for the majority? It's why sales is really all that matters to them, and I can't say I disagree with that metric. My guess is that Supergirl's sales spike at issue 20 but that they plateau again in a bit because the readership won't change and isn't hugely impacted by internet pontificating. If blogs were the primary driver of comic sales, Manhunter would outsell everything, but it consistently hangs on by a thread. This medium isn't there to satisfy our desires or help us grind our social and political axes. It's there to tell stories, and in the Kelly run, I was interested in the story being told, though it didn't always fill me with warm and fuzzies. If Bedard continues to tell good stories, I can overlook whether or not Kara is stubby or lanky or whatever. Personally, I wasn't a fan of the new art, but I wasn't a fan of the old art either. I don't appreciate the insinuation that in order to enjoy the Kelly run, you had to be a fanboy perv who's never seen a real girl. I've seen plenty of girls. 16 year old girls, on the whole, don't look like the old kara (lanky) or the new kara (stubby). Adult women don't look like Power Girl or Black Canary, but I love both characters and don't get called names because of it. With Supergirl, I just like the character and enjoy stories about young heroes finding redemption and coming into their own. That being said, if it takes every female character in comics being drawn like a garden gnome to finally get bloggers to say something nice about the titles I love, then I guess I could live with that.

Scott said...

Personally, I loved Renato Guedes's art throughout the issue, and not only for his portrayal of Kara, which I thought made her look like a real girl. I'd also disagree that she was not sexy at all; she was very attractive, and could only be considered dumpy if you're into the seriously anorexic. I really liked what he did with the Cyclops, though - it seemed like a blend of Harryhausen movie monster and realism, you really got a sense of mass and weight there.

That said, I don't think it's realistic to say that fandom must speak with one voice, or we'll never get what we want. The problem with that thesis is that we simply *don't all want the same things*. Some people love Michael Turner's art, as unrealistic as his female figures are; others don't. I'm just hoping that the new creative team will find its audience before the book gets turned over to a new team again.

ShellyS said...

There's a reason I stopped visiting the DC Comics MBs. So few people posting there ever like anything.

I thought Kara looked, well, super.

Lisa said...

I saw sketches before the comic came out and a lot of people really liked them. But once they were colored it seemed like Supergirl lost her muscle tone and the art just wasn't as good. I don't blame the artist, I blame the coloring. As soon as I opened it up I said out loud, "What happened? This coloring is horrible! They ruined that great art."

I'm going to go back now and look to see how Supergirls proportions are compared to the other characters. I don't remember thinking that she looked larger than she should have, but I'm going to check again. I think that overall I thought that her new look, aside from the coloring, was great.

Keep in mind that there are many, many "haters" on the 'net. I was reading a forum about the new Apple iMac's and you wouldn't believe how many people were just ripping on the new system, for some of the dumbest little things. And those are the same people that were probably first to make their purchase of the new system. Same thing with comics.

I have read the blogs of comic fans that I respect, and many of them have actually liked the new version. There were also several folks who bought this issue to check out and support the new version of Supergirl.

Lisa said...

OK, upon further examination, there ARE panels where she seems a bit chunky. Sometimes in the waste, sometimes in the legs. But other times when she seems in perfect proportion compared to others in the panel. The art looks a bit inconsistent. Overall I think she looks good, but there were a few panels where she just wasn't proportioned well at all. (3rd to last page, last panel on the page for example) Oh, and I do think she should have more defined muscles. The few panels where we see Amazons - they were defined a little better. Still not as much as maybe I'd have liked, but more than Supergirl. I still say it's a step in the right direction and with just a bit of tweaking I think Supergirl could be spot-on awesome.

Siskoid said...

Lisa: I'm afraid Guedes is also his own colorist (but not inker), so if you find flaw with the coloring, then you find flaw with the penciller too.

I kinda like it myself, how sharp the light is, but the shadowed parts are a bit too dark, yes. He should probably lighten up on them.

Heidi Meeley said...

Siskoid, I like your reasoning on this. The people who are unhappy were perfectly fine with the way Supergirl was portrayed before. The people who are pleased are the ones that didn't like the barbie doll look.

Makes sense. :-)

Heidi Meeley said...

Mark, you are truly a good guy. You see the big picture and have a realistic view of life in general. I think that every time you post, and I am not just blowing smoke.

There is a fanbase for the unnaturally thin Supergirl evidently. I didn't realize the extent of said fans until this last week. As someone who was a bit putoff by the sexiness of a teenage girl in her own book, I was happy to see DC trying a new angle. It is like Occasional Superheroine said though, the pendulum swung too far the other way.

Can we find a happy medium? I hope so, but I am not holding my breath at this point.

Heidi Meeley said...

Britt- everyone in America should read your post. You nailed it. There is so much pressure to be perfect in society today that I don't know how teenage girls handle it all. I am 41 so I have a pretty good sense of self, but I remember at that age thinking it was bad enough. Now these poor girls feel compelled to show skin to fit in. Yikes.

The Olsen twins is a good example of this. That is why I have posted that I would like to see a more "fit" look on heroines. I know that some folks are putoff by muscles, but I can't help but imagine that some of these characters would be pretty buff. I like when Power Girl's boobs are balanced by big biceps and powerful thighs. It looks more credible to me. It is like when I look at the Flash- I expect him to be lean and lanky since he is a runner, while I would expect Batman to be all heavy roped muscles from his intense physical training. I like to see a dose of reality in my fantasy as I think it makes it easier to relate to.


Heidi Meeley said...

Big Mike, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts. It really made me think.

I would like to propose that if the companies are NOT going to listen to the fans, maybe they can take a piece out of Val's playbook and suggest some females in editorial. I am watching Jann Jones at DC carefully at this point, which might seem odd, but as Dan Didio's foil, I think she wields quite a bit of power. It will be interesting for me to see how the Black Canary/Green Arrow wedding turns out as I believe she took the editorial reigns on at least one of the titles associated.

The last thing I want to do is completely alienate the men I interact while waving the feminist banner. That is why I try so hard to look at positives AND negatives and try and come up with solutions. While I don't agree with some of what I see on other blogs written by other men and women, I do respect their opinions... unless they call me nasty names, and then all bets are off!! :-)

At any rate, I almost choked on my soda when I read your sentence about female characters looking like gnomes. God knows I hope it doesn't come to that, but it could be some funny stuff. Heh heh.

I think you and I would both like to see more unity- tell me if I am wrong there. I just have absolutely no idea how to get there, and know that the fanbase will always be divided by SOME POINt. That is how we got the label "fanboy/fangirl mentality" and I don't think that will ever go away.

But I digress....

Heidi Meeley said...

Scott, I have to say that I liked how Supergirl was portrayed. She reminded me a bit of the "innocent" bubblegum pop singer girls back in the day rather then the "ripping off our clothes" pop tarts we have today. Hehehehe.

As you and others have expressed, there will probably always be differing opinions. I let it get to me last night after visiting the DC boards a couple of days in a row and I shouldn't have.

Heidi Meeley said...

Shelly, that is why I quit going as well. Ten years ago I loved to go to the AOL DC message boards. Now I usually stay away. This is a lesson to me to remember in the future not to let my emotions turn on a dime visiting there!!

Heidi Meeley said...

Lisa, you are wonderful. I love the fact that you really LOOKED at the book. I did as well, and I liked the change quite a bit. My only quibble, which I stated in my original post was that I was surprised she didn't have a bit more muscle tone.I wasn't sure if that was because I am a weight lifter and therefore biased or not!!

It is quite a change, so it has been incredible to see the reactions. I agree that wherever a person goes on the 'net there is going to be dissention, so I should have realized that. Yikes.

How did the issue go over at your shop? It sounds like it went well.

Carl said...

I dropped interest in Supergirl after they pretty much had like DC seemingly 10 Supergirls. The last one I liked was Peter David's version. The weird anorexic "good" and "bad" Supergirls were just kind of creepy.
If the new one actually looks like a real girl, holy cow, that obviously must be a bad thing...

Eaglewing said...

A lot of interesting comments here. As someone who doesn't read a lot of DC (exception, Batman), I did manage to read this issue, but without knowing a thing about this controversy. I think I had read on here something about "a new direction", but that was it. So I read it wondering what the new story direction was - the art barely crossed my mind. I wondered if this was the new direction, what was the old? The story was interesting enough, although I was more interested in the Greg character storyline than anything Supergirl did or said. As for the art, I thought it was alright. A couple spots had me wondering how an alien, superstrong, near invincible superhero was looking like she hadn't touched a barbell in years but was able to hold a plane. But I figured that was the "alien" part, and kept reading the story. Then super ripped Superman shows up at the end, and you gotta wonder how these two are related.

But to me, the bottom line is that the art has to service the story, and the story has to be good above all. If the story isn't good, my interest will disappear. Sexy, ugly, thin, chubby - it doesn't matter as long as it fits the character truly and it isn't '90s XMen anime or Bachalo. :) In this case, I thought the art was good and so was the portrayal of Supergirl, although I expected a bit more muscle being she's related to Superman and takes down airplanes and monsters. However, the story, while moderately interesting, didn't really make me want to sign up for a subscription. I think that should be more of a concern than Supergirl's midriff.

As for the web dissension, I don't think that will ever go away unfortunately. There seems to be a vocal minority that likes to do nothing but complain and rip things apart just because they can - valid points or not. Funny that Lisa would mention the iMac's above too. I've been thinking of buying a Mac, and reading a lot on the web the last couple days. It never fails to amaze me how people can rip something apart, and other's opinions, without so much as a second thought. Whether it's comics, movies, or PC vs Mac, there will always be those that hate without thinking. It'd be nice if we could all get along, but I guess "the world's more complicated than that." :)

Ami Angelwings said...

Or did they just think that making her a bit unattractive would make the fangirls happy?

But she's not more unattractive! :\

If they specifically got an artist and told him to make her ugly, they failed XD

Also.. I'm not a teenage girl.. but I sorta am. XD I definitely DRESS and ACT like one cuz I lost my childhood and I think I'm making up for it. :(

But, teenagers wear ALL SORTS OF THINGS!

It's a stereotype to assume we only have 1 outfit and we're always going to be prancing around in a short skirt XD

I think a lot of the commentary are from ppl who only notice and remember the "hot" teenage girls they see. :\

Honestly, WITH parental pressure, teenage girls are more likely to rebel and wear stuff their parents HATE. But without it, they'd prolly wear whatever they want, and it wouldn't ALWAYS be short skirts and belly ts. >:|

Grant said...

Yeah let's make Supergirl look as realistic as possible, it is important that teenage girls can relate to someone from a distant galaxy who was sent to Earth to kill her cousin and possesses super strength/speed/hear/eyesight etc. Damn to hell anyone who draws Supergirl with a firm toned body because that is not realistic and that is what comic books are all about!!!

Sarcasm aside, I like Al Garza's cuter look, I think DC should wait till she's over 18 to sexify Kara again.