Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Is This Gratuitous: Cover to Justice League of America #20

It has been quite awhile since my last "gratuitous" feature. There hasn't been very much to stir the pot for me, and I have had my focus elsewhere, but this week my radar alerted me to this lovely cover.

Ethan Van Sciver is the artist of the Justice League of America #20 cover. I am a fan of his highly detailed style, so this really surprised me. The whole damn cover is dripping with iinnuendo, from the honey combs to the saucy face of the Queen Bee. Granted, this isn't a big boobs free-for-all, so it took me a minute to take it all in, but there is naughtiness involved to be sure.

Yes I know that the Queen Bee is a villainous with a focus on the insect she is named for. She has been portrayed in many ways, but I don't think I have ever seen quite so much honey dripping endlessly around her captors. That really amazes me. I also didn't know that she would get the urge to lick her fingers like that- does that mean she is getting ready to feed it to her larvae and wanted to test it for purity first? Hmmm...

At any rate, here I am, asking you for your opinion. What do you think of this cover?

Is this gratuitous?


David Beard said...

I regret that I agree, and I regret that I haven't enjoyed an issue of this series in years.

I miss the Plastic Man storylines from the old series.

Unknown said...

Is it gratuitous? Abso-freakin-lutely.

Do I understand why they constantly do these kinds of covers? Yes, in the way that we all know sex sells.

Do I think they perpetuate sexism by doing this? Abso-freakin-lutely.

Monster of the Week.com said...

Well I don't find it too reckless. Reminds me of a low-level "good-girl" or cheesecake type images pose of the the Queen Bee from old Coke or retro posters. At least she's not shown showing naughty bits!

James Meeley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Meeley said...

Do I think they perpetuate sexism by doing this? Abso-freakin-lutely.

I'm sorry to read this, Loren. I thought you, of all people, would not try to absolve people of their own choices in how they behave and react towards others, but putting the blame on a comic cover.

Comic covers don't cause or perpetuate sexism. People do. People with free will and (most of them having) the ability to tell fantasy from reality.

I, too, think this cover is gratuitous, but I don't hold it responsible for the choices other people make. You shouldn't, either. I can't tell you how disappointed your comment made me. :(

David Beard said...

I'm not sure whether the above post is ironic; I'm kind of hoping that it is. In any event, the ability to differentiate media messages from reality is not a given; see Gerbner, cultivation theory and Schiappa, parasocial contact theory.

Unknown said...


First of all, hello! It's been awhile! Nice to hear from you!

Second, I'm sorry I disappointed you with my comment, but I still stand by what I said. I think it's similar to the question, "Do guns or people kill people?"

For me, the answer is BOTH.

The media is an incredibly powerful thing and the images put across through it come across so fast and furious that people often take them for granted.

Do I think people can separate fantasy from fiction? Sometimes, but not all the times.

Verge said...

I think there is a definite sexual/sensual dynamic going on here, on multiple levels. But my gut reaction when first looking at it...I really didn't feel offended. But yeah, really sexual cover.

Nick said...

First reaction is no, it's not.

Then you started describing it......now.....yeah....thats nasty.

James Meeley said...


I'd like to discuss this more with you, but i don't feel that the comment section of this post is the place for it. Please drop me an email and we can discuss thing in private and greater detail. Thanks.

Oh, and welcome back. :)

Unknown said...

I'd love to talk with you more about it, too, James, and am inclined to agree with you. I'll drop you an e-mail later!

And, thanks for the welcome back.

Heidi Meeley said...

Wow. Didn't mean to start a storm here. I appreciate all your opinions here, and am thrilled you all responded. This cover had me shocked to say the least. It is one of those things that, given time, actually gain in gratuitous glory. :-)

Thank you.

notintheface said...

This is one of those covers that's sex-y without necessarily being sex-ist.

Another thing worth mentioning is that Van Sciver's interior work on the book was literally the perfect JLA art job, except that it only featured 2 JLAers with a cameo by a third. Too bad this guy cen't be the regular artist

Unknown said...

Well taking the question as asked, and hewing to the strictest definition of the word I have to say no. It's certainly not without reason. The cover is meant to demonstrate the threat the Queen Bee poses by showing both Wonder Woman and The Flash equally under her thrall. It also by putting her in the center of the frame demonstrates that she is the one in control. Further with her sucking the honey from her finger she is showing that the very same substance which is harmful to our heroes is pleasurable or inert to her.

Now as to the unspoken questions brought up by peoples posts...

Is the cover sexual?

Yes I can see how it could be taken in that way. And while I do think that such an interpetation is valid in this case I'd like to offer a reminder that almost anything can be taken in a sexual way with a little looking. I personally though do not find the sexuality gross or in poor taste at all.

Is the cover sexist?

Personally my answer is a very forceful, No! First of all the gender balance skews in favor of female. One female character is shown in a superior position to both the male and other female characters. The secondary (and by that I mean not central) male and female characters are shown to be in equal states of jeopardy due to the actions of the villian. The male and females heroes are in unequal states of dress but that has more to do with who the characters are. The Flashes costume is what is always has been, like wise Wonder Woman's. The Queen Bee's costume is actually as such things go in this day and age almost quaint in how little skin it shows. Also I would ask that you note the breast size of the two female characters. They are not abnormally huge by any stretch of the imagination.

Ultimately if one wishes to view this cover as sexist it is certainly their right. One could also choose to view the cover as racist since The Queen Bee seems to have a slight asian appearance to her facial features. However neither is a conclusion that I personally share.

I for one think this is a fine cover on its own merits alone and certainly a damn site better than some of the tentacle military porn covers that the marvelous crew has been turning out lately.



Unknown said...

Heidi, did you miss the February cover of Justice League? Once again, there was Diana drawn in a damn thong... *Groan* And of course the all too typical response from a lot of fan boy types to my own complaints about the penchant of Ed Benes and other 'artists' for drawing Diana in a thong has been "Get over it". *Groan again*

Yes, #20's cover is indeed gratuitious, too. I wish DC editors and artists would smarten up...

Ethan VS said...

It's absolutely gratuitous. Honey becomes a stand in for blood, like one of those endless and awful vampire-chick comics from the 90's. There's a whole new avenue to explore with this character, Queen Bee, if anyone cared to. I thought it was humorous.

I'm not sure that it's sexist though. It wasn't my intention to degrade ANY of the characters, male or female, here. Queen Bee scares me more than seduces me on this cover, and that's what I was hoping for.

It's not the best drawing I've ever done, but I still like the idea behind it. I really hope it didn't offend anyone.

Ethan Van Sciver

Heidi Meeley said...

Thank you all for the comments!

Diedre, I didn't see the cover to #20- I will have to take a gander. I too am not a fan of the Wonder thong! :-)

Thank you to Ethan for stopping by and giving his artist's perspective. I really appreciate it, Kind Sir. It sounds like you definitely had a vampiric approach that I can now see. Interesting!

Unknown said...

Not to belabor the conversation even more, but I wrote a post over at my blog clarifying my comment:


Admittedly, I was cranky the day I posted it, but I hope my post sheds some light that I wasn't saying the cover, in and of itself, was sexist. But, I do think the constant barrage of similar images perpetuates it.

And, for the record, I am a fan of Mr. Van Sciver's and I actually thought the cover was well drawn. :)

David Beard said...

I enjoyed this issue -- the first one I've enjoyed in years. Part of that is because of the done-in-one, and part of that is because it dealt with CHARACTER.

I appreciate the artist post -- and while I think that an homage to sexist material is likely also sexist (those '90s comics were, weren't they?), I appreciate the reasoning -- clearly, this isn't Vampirella-level sexism, but a playful reference to that, just the same!

James Meeley said...


Thanks for stopping by to give the artist's intent (which, by far, is the most important thing, IMO).

My opinion remains unchanged, as the cover is gratuitous, but not sexist (or perpetuating sexism).