Trouble in the City of Townsville (er, IDW)!
Recently, IDW revealed the variant cover to issue six of their new-ish Power Puff Girls series by artist Mimi Yoon. It is … interesting:
Now, what we see here is a definitely aged-up version of Bubbles, Blossom, and Buttercup. Wearing what appears to be latex. With very defined chest areas. Which a lot of people on the Internet took umbrage with. Because these characters are supposed to be in what, kindergarten?
IDW threw the blame back on Cartoon Network, saying that it was a “network-mandated cover” with an “artist of their choosing.” They went on to claim that kids wouldn’t view the cover as oversexualized, and that the publishing house viewed it as “Female Empowerment” (UGH).
Adult-ified fan art of the Powerpuff Girls isn’t anything new. I mean, a quick Tumblr search returned a number of grown up reimaginings of the girls.
In fact, if I had stumbled across this piece on my own, I would probably appreciate it as a little piece of reworked nostalgia (and this article is no slight against Mimi Yoon, who is clearly talented). The problem comes from a publisher putting this out there and then trying to slap some misguided “feminist” angle on it in when it’s critiqued, in order to be absolved of guilt.
Because, as someone who works in comics retail, I can tell you: while little girls (the target demographic) will probably not interact with this cover critically, they are most definitely not the ones buying it. No, in my experience, this is definitely being bought up by an older male crowd: either speculators or just those same dudes who buy every variant cover of Grimm Fairy Tales. That’s what makes IDW’s willful ignorance pretty insulting. If you think this cover isn’t feeding into some weird gross fantasy, intentionally or not, you’re definitely wrong.
As of today, Cartoon Network has pulled the cover, with a pretty weak apology, which featured this choice quote:
[The comic] was intended for comic shop clientele rather than the general public […]
Great! Glad that’s cleared up: this comic isn’t for the little girls it is marketed to, it’s actually for “comic shop clientele,” you know, dudes (the only people who read/care about comics)!
I was relieved to see that most of the coverage of this mild hubbub didn’t pin the blame on the artist, but instead on Cartoon Network/IDW–this isn’t a matter of censorship, it’s about publishers making the choices that will make the comics community more friendly to women, and encourage young girls to engage with it in a way that is healthy and fair.