Beauty, Comics, Critique, Roundtable

Cover Girl: What’s Going On With Captain Marvel?

Recently Comicosity shared a preview of Power Man & Iron Fist #9 and the cover caught my eye because it’s… weird. The perspective seems off, the character’s body seems unusually squishy, and the gloomy colour palate makes the whole thing seem dull and bleak. The cover is by Sanford Greene, who’s done lots of incredible work in the past. So what went wrong here? I gathered together three WWAC contributors to investigate. 

sanfordgreene

First off, do you like this cover? What elements contribute to that feeling? (Colour, light, composition, etc)

Amber Love: I don’t like the art on the cover, but if I were a regular reader of this series it wouldn’t stop me from buying it. It’s hardly the sort of mistake in comic art that would unleash a big controversy. I think the foreshortening isn’t drawn well. It’s Carol’s figure that kills it for me. I can’t figure out what’s going on with her proportions; her right boot has a clearly defined top edge but the calf muscle bulges out of the entire boot somehow. She looks like she’d be about 10 feet tall. It was a bold decision to try to approach an upshot without it ending up as an “upskirt” panties shot like so often happens with the female characters. If Carol were designed pear shaped, then maybe this would be more pleasing, but it doesn’t feel like her figure at all. I think the coloring and light reflecting is great. The warmth of all that yellow softens the imagery of nearly dead people and Carol looks sad by what she sees. As for the horizon, I’m not sure why it’s not level. Are they on a hill? Falling off something? I can’t tell what’s happening there for it to be so angled.

These are the closest photos I have to that pose. Realizing, I’m not built like Captain Marvel of the comics, it’s still an example of how a curvy body looks foreshortened versus a more head-on angle.

Christie Williamson: It doesn’t look like a professional cover. It looks like fan art. By someone who’s still learning. The proportions are all off; it’s almost like a caricature style got mashed up with a more classic style. There’s a weird focus on her crotch — but it doesn’t come off as sexual to me, just odd. There’s an image of her in the article in another panel where she looks completely different, and with much more normal proportions, so clearly it isn’t how Carol is being portrayed throughout the comic. Foreshortening accident? The only thing I like is the use of light. Iron Fist and Luke Cage look okay, I guess.

[pullquote]I’m usually a fan of Sanford Greene’s work but this is one of the strangest and most unattractive renderings of a woman that I’ve seen in a comic for a long time. [/pullquote]Rosie Knight: This cover really surprised me when I first saw it, as I’m usually a fan of Sanford Greene’s work but this is one of the strangest and most unattractive renderings of a woman that I’ve seen in a comic for a long time. It immediately makes me wonder if there’s a part of this issue where Carol becomes Giant Sized, as her head is so small and feet are so large that she looks like a very caricatured version of a 50 ft woman style character. My main problem with this cover is the focus on carol’s crotch and stomach, even though she’s wearing her usual costume, it somehow still manages to seem sexualised but in a way that seems to be overtly positioned towards the grotesque with a strangely bloated and elongated torso and strangely long limbs. Though there is nothing unattractive with a hip to waist ratio like Carol is given here, there is something in the strange positioning, elongated limbs and tiny head, that makes the whole figure appear very surreal and unsettling. With the treatment of Carol in Civil War II and her new role as a fascist demigod I can’t help but feel like they’ve made a decision to make Carol less conventionally attractive, which is an incredibly problematic storytelling trope used throughout history the idea of bad women as “ugly” or “disfigured.”

What do you think the artist tried to convey with body language? Does Captain Marvel seem triumphant? Powerful? What went right and what went wong?

Amber: I think she looks sad and remorseful, not triumphant. If that’s how her character’s feelings are about the war, it would make sense. A lot of people on Twitter have been complaining that Carol isn’t acting like she did with previous writers. Maybe there’s a plan, but who really knows? If she doesn’t actually want to be on that side of the fight, she wouldn’t be excited about taking down Iron Fist and Luke Cage. She definitely doesn’t look she’s ready to give up. Her powers are still flaring and she’s ready for more.

[pullquote]I don’t particularly have many feelings here about body language as the character is so out of proportion and oddly drawn that it’s hard to discern what exactly her body is meant to portray.[/pullquote]Christie: She looks tired and unhappy. Like this isn’t where she wants to be or what she wants to be doing, but will see it through regardless. Like a soldier who will keep following orders, regardless of how she feels about those orders. It makes sense in a way — she thinks she’s trying to prevent a terrible event, and she will do what she has to to stop it.

Rosie: Carol seems confused here, though incredibly imposing. There’s something really unsettling about seeing a white woman towering above an unconscious black man, as Luke Cage lays on the floor next to Iron Fist. I don’t particularly have many feelings here about body language as the character is so out of proportion and oddly drawn that it’s hard to discern what exactly her body is meant to portray. The strange way her hips seems forced forward and her crotch is in the centre of the entire cover really draws the eye and for me takes away from any storytelling the body language is meant to put across.

Captain Marvel isn’t, well, pretty, here. Does that matter?

Amber: It doesn’t matter if she’s not cheesecake or beautiful in every shot. It’s nice to see more realism about how a heroine wouldn’t have perfect makeup and hair. Stick your head out of a moving car window and see what the power of flight would do that $200 supermodel drybar treatment. You’d look like a big ol’ mess. I’m not to oppose to alternate takes on how her figure looks, but I’m the type of reader that appreciates cover art being in the same vein of the interiors unless it’s a variant like a Amy Mebberson or Katie Cook cover for fun. Based on the interiors of that issue, though, Carol’s hip to chest ratio isn’t that extreme. So it’s not that the measurements of her figure make her unattractive, at all. It doesn’t look like her. I guess now we wait and see if people of the internet accuse any critics of the cover of hating on Sanford Greene and sucking the fun out of comics.

[pullquote]I don’t care that she’s not pretty, unless the intent was to purposely make her not pretty because she is going over to the dark side. I get really annoyed when pretty=good and ugly=bad.[/pullquote]Christie: Intent matters. I don’t care that she’s not pretty, unless the intent was to purposely make her not pretty because she is going over to the dark side. I get really annoyed when pretty=good and ugly=bad. That’s not the impression I’m getting from what I see of the rest of the comic, but I guess that will have to wait to be confirmed by the release of the issue. Just a swing and a miss by Sanford Greene, who was maybe trying something different and didn’t quite nail it (oh, the mixed metaphors).

Rosie: The representation of women in comics has been an ongoing discussion since… well the beginning of comics. I don’t in anyway think that a character has to look pretty or attractive, in fact it’s often the lack of realistic portrayal of female superheroes who are in the middle of taking down a bunch of villains and still somehow look like they’ve just walked out of a professional modelling shoot that are the most frustrating tropes in comics. Here though I think it’s another side of the problematic representation of women, which is making women who are conflicted or bad characters look different from when they are “good” and drawing them in a way which isn’t deemed to be “attractive” by society.