Comics, Gender, Roundtable

Cover Girls: Baby Teeth

Each month, we gather a team of WWAC contributors to analyze a new and notable comic book cover featuring a woman. This month Rosie, Veronique, Kayleigh, and Melissa discuss Babyteeth, a new devil baby comic from Aftershock.

Babyteeth #1

Donny Cates (w), Garry Brown (p), Mark Englert (c), Taylor Esposito (l), Garry Brown (regular cover artist)
Aftershock
Cover #1 – Garry Brown, Cover #2 – Elizabeth Torque

What is your initial reaction to this as a piece of comic art?

Rosie Knight: My initial reaction is kind of meh to both of these covers; there is something a little punk and cool about the design and coloring of the pregnancy test one, but only for a second before you really delve into the connotations of the picture. The woman holding the test is carrying a devil baby, is she evil? Did she have sex with the devil? Did the writers not have a more original plot that hasn’t been done by a thousand cheap horror films on every streaming service? The whole thing smacks as being outdated and likely misogynistic. Plus, it plays into all the worst ways that we talk about teen pregnancy. Also, pregnancy tests don’t have a handy pentagram that appears when you’re holding a devil baby inside you sadly. Unrealistic.

Véronique Emma Houxbois: Yeah, I get a sort of Rosemary’s Baby vibe from the main cover. From a strictly artistic perspective I like the pentagram overlayed over the hand holding the test, but it feels goofy and overkill to have both that giant overlay and the one on the test itself. Pick one. But the idea of a pregnancy test that actually does pop up with a pentagram if you’re carrying a devil baby is hilarious; I would love to see that in a more comedic book, but the overall darkness and line quality seem to be going for something a lot more earnestly spooky. The second one, I dunno man, a woman and a baby surrounded by blood, that just screams no to me given the long and current history of misogynist violence in the medium.

Kayleigh Hearn: My initial reaction was that these covers look like they’re selling two different books. The first cover tells us what the comic is about, but not who it’s about. Is that even the mother’s hand? It looked male to me at first glance, which doesn’t dispel the unease over whose perspective this teen-pregnancy-from-hell story from two male creators is coming from. Granted, I tend to prefer covers that feature faces and characters over objects, as that gives me a better sense of the comic’s art style. So, I definitely prefer the second cover with our lead character Sadie. And it’s a pretty image. But the second cover feels like it belongs in a different horror genre, something more wistful and Gothic than the contemporary, more Satanic main cover.

Melissa Brinks: I think my interpretation of these covers, particularly the second, would be quite different if I hadn’t read the synopsis. I’m a sucker for a good occult story, but other than Rosemary’s Baby, I find most magical pregnancy stories completely unbearable. The first cover, as Véronique mentioned, is nice, but a bit overkill. I love the pentagram on the pregnancy test, but to have a second pentagram overlaying that feels very “hey, didja know this comic is occult?” I get it. She’s got a demon baby. That said, it has a lot of nice texture and contrast, and I like the art style quite a bit. As for the second cover, I think the effect is ruined by knowing that she’s supposed to be a teen girl. The art itself is nice; I like the color contrast and the smoothness in comparison to all the texture of the first cover, and both the mother and child look very peaceful despite the blood, but the mother doesn’t read as a teenager at all. That doesn’t necessarily diminish the horror of a demon baby, but it does make me question why she’s drawn with full breasts, a slim waist, and so much thigh showing. Who is this cover for, and why is it trying to sell me her body rather than the horror?

What do you think the artists are trying to achieve?

Rosie Knight: I think they’re trying to give us a horror vibe, which they achieved. The pregnancy test cover’s black and red colour scheme smacks of teenage punk rebellion, whilst the second cover smacks of men wanting some sexy white lady legs surrounded by blood. There’s something weird and unsettling about men using pregnancy and women’s bodies for what looks to be a body horror book, or at least a book where a woman’s body has violence enacted upon it. If they’re trying to let us know a teen girl is about to go through a really traumatic experience for the reader’s pleasure they achieve that. Though it doesn’t make me want to be a reader.

Véronique Emma Houxbois: I think the first one is going for grit, but it just gets sabotaged by the overall cheesiness of both the St. Peter’s Cross in the title and the double pentagram on the cover. The second one, I guess is going for a melancholy, innocence lost sort of vibe. Neither one really interests me.

Kayleigh Hearn: The first cover looks like it’s going for that big, iconic image that will define the series, like the Watchmen smiley face button or the gods’ sigils in The Wicked + The Divine. And it’s okay. It definitely sells itself as supernatural horror and would blend in with the box art for any of those Showtime Masters of Horror DVDs. The second cover is trying to stir a more emotional reaction by contrasting the peaceful mother and child with the enormous pool of blood. I appreciate the softness and prettiness of the cover, though if Sadie is meant to be only sixteen, should the cover show off so much leg and thigh?

Melissa Brinks: The first cover is screaming “edgy” at me in a way that I’m actually kind of into. Despite the fact that I hate magical pregnancy stories with every fiber of my being (Rosemary’s Baby being the odd exception), there’s this really neat sense of surprise to it that I like. If it wasn’t for that second pentagram overlaying the image, this cover would be a definite hit for me. As it is, it feels like it’s trying a bit too hard. I’d give it a look if I didn’t hate teenage magical pregnancy stories even more than I hate adult magical pregnancy stories. The second cover seems to be suggesting gentleness and nurturing through its soft colors and very smooth artwork, as well as a sense of vulnerability from the mother being in the fetal position. However, nothing about it makes me want to pick it up other than that the art itself is nice. There’s no hook here unless you’re already familiar with the premise.