Cover Girl: Smooth Criminals #1

Smooth Criminals cover by Leisha Riddel (BOOM! Studios, 2018)

Welcome to Cover Girl. Each month, we gather a team of WWAC contributors to analyze a new and notable comic book cover featuring one or more women. This month, Nola, Claire, and Annie discuss Leisha Riddel’s cover for Smooth Criminals #1 from BOOM! Studios.

Smooth Criminals cover by Leisha Riddel featuring a 1960's thief and a hacker from modern times, from BOOM! Studios, 2018

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

Nola Pfau: …mixed. I love the mod/pop vibe of it and the juxtaposition of the two characters on the front. I like the color riot of the background too, but it also reminds me of Steranko art, and then I think about Steranko as a person. That’s kind of an unpleasant association, and not the least because it has me no longer thinking about the comic in question.

Claire Napier: It’s good, I like it. It’s got a lot of visual noise, which could be a negative, but it’s contrary to a lot of current cover conventions which both keeps it interesting rather than overwhelming and will probably let it stand out on a shelf. The red/yellow/black/white scheme is pretty “man comics,” if you follow me? Serial stuff with two girl leads is often more BOOM!-palette, that warm, eat-the-rainbow zeitgeist, so in the context of the day this is breaking some boundaries in a way that gets it noticed. There’s an “art history-ness” to this that’s sort of ideologically reminiscent of a Katie Skelly book, as well as the more obvo groovy-’60s aesthetic buzz you’ll find with her stuff.

Annie Blitzen: It’s eye-catching, for sure. Once it’s caught my eye, I find that it isn’t really to my taste. But wait, it’s just the background that’s not working for me, which brings my focus to the characters. They seem cool.

What do you think the artist is trying to achieve?

Nola: Exactly as I stated before! I think it’s evocative of old ‘60s spy tropes and Steranko covers in particular. The character on the left is extremely Emma Peel, and to pair her with someone who is both eminently modern and not a cis white man already has my interest.

Claire: The ’60s spy implication, as Nola says, is strong. And according to the synopsis the girl in grey tones is a spy (or… thief? A thief is just a spy without a government contract) from the ‘60s, so that’s well done. Clarity achieved. But more specifically it does feel, based on the shapes of that greyscale outfit, very much like a 1960s, Austen Powers baby yeah, etc. I’m down for that, that’s a moment I was “there for” and will be again; that reemergence of carnaby street styles as, specifically “retro-chic” in my pre-adolescence informed and firmed up a lot of my own aesthetic profile. The blurb does also mention some ’90s nostalgia (moving on a decade from the ‘80s Goonies-etc references of Smith & Lustgarten’s Misfit City, with Naomi Franquiz at BOOM!), so once again: very well served. The straight leg jeans cause me a lil pause, but maybe people were wearing those and I just wasn’t looking at them.

Annie: The title is Smooth Criminals, which is weird because that’s an ’80s song (about someone named Annie), and the background is very ’60s, maybe ‘70s, and the characters are yet another set of eras. The iMac laptop is very 2000s, and the outfit of the gal holding it reads as ’90s grunge to me. The standing gal, aside from looking oddly like Kate Bishop to me, has a sort of modernized Emma Peel thing going on, which is back to the ‘60s. I suppose it must be a book about time-traveling fashionable thieves. I’m into that.

Do you relate to either of these characters in any way? If so, how?

Nola: As a critic, I have never related to anything more than looking vaguely irritated with a keyboard in arm’s reach.

Claire: I mean… Nola does not speak falsely. Looking at this cover is like looking at my own two faces, and honestly it makes me almost nervous to read the story it’s fronting. What if it’s not as good as I’m imagining? It’s a good cover… but maybe it’s too good.

Annie: I don’t relate to them as directly as Claire, perhaps, but I wish I looked as good in a peek-a-boo catsuit as the gal on the left, and I kinda want to date Doc Martens-wearing ‘90s gal who has a flannel shirt around her waist that’s pointedly not plaid, because then she’d be signaling that she’s queer in too cliché a fashion. (Or because plaid is hard to draw, maybe.) Anyway, I hope they smooch.

Smooth Criminals #1 will be available in November as a new, ongoing original series from BOOM! Studios. It is written by screenwriter Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith (Legally Blonde, 10 Things I Hate About You), with art by Leisha Riddel (Project Solace). Find out more about the story and check out character sketches here.

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Annie Blitzen

Annie Blitzen

Columnist. Trans mom. Got married in a Captain Marvel dress to a lady in a Wonder Woman dress.