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, Tia, Wendy, Heather, and Annie discuss Lenka Šimečková’s cover for Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince #2 from Titan Comics.
What is your initial reaction to this as a piece of comics art?
Wendy Browne: I am instantly mesmerized by her stare and am quite certain that she is going to impale me with her rapier—very slowly—and I am going to enjoy every moment until my existence comes to an end.
Heather Wells: I’m really taken aback by the amount of detail in her design. I didn’t even notice the tattoo over her left eye on first glance and was very impressed when I noticed it on my second look. That, the beads in her hair, and the pattern on her corset/tunic are very lovely.
Annie Blitzen: To be honest, it wasn’t until I saw Wendy’s compelling… narrative… that I realized it wasn’t a fella. My brain just said, “Oh, it’s a Drizzt” and moved on. My second reaction is much the same as Wendy’s; I would like her to hurt me good.
Tia Kalla: Shades of Lila Bard, pun intended. I think part of the reason she reads as masculine initially is that she’s not in any of the usual “girl” poses. I like the hand bones in the background!
What do you think the artist is trying to achieve?
Wendy: I think the artist is definitely trying to establish that this is a dangerous person who is not to be trifled with. The focal point of her eyes is, as I said, mesmerizing, but the more I stare at the image, I find my own eyes tracing each line, from the markings on her face, to the folds and textures of her outfit, to the lean of her body, to the beads that look like flecks of blood in her hair, to the angles of her blade, to the flutter of the fabrics surrounding her. She is still, like a viper very much about to strike, yet there’s a sense of sensuous flow and hypnotic movement in the angles. Um. I really like this image.
Heather: Wow, that’s a great description, Wendy. I love it! To add to it, I think the artist is trying to match the tone and style of the Shades of Magic series—something I think they’ve accomplished quite well. That series has a really great visual style to it, with each alternate London being very distinct in the way its people dress and behave, and I think the artist is trying to put that on display. She very much looks like someone from Red London, I think.
Tia: I think it’s playing to the female power fantasy: badass, but also not pandering to the male gaze. She’s dressed in something I’d want to wear. Playing to the lesbian gaze, I guess.
Annie: You see, while you were being heterosexual, she studied the blade.
Give this character a backstory. How do you think she’s become the woman we see before us.
Wendy: She’s a debutante who stowed away on a ship to get away from the boring lifestyle of court. When she was discovered, she begged to be allowed to earn her place on the ship, and eventually became a respected member of the crew. But when the captain was framed and hanged for a crime she did not commit, this woman took up the mantle and swore bloody revenge…
Heather: I think perhaps she’s a pirate, or an ex-pirate maybe turned palace guard. She’s the Red London equivalent of Shade of Magic’s Lila Bard—sometimes ruthless, always determined, and definitely willing to stab someone if they threaten her or the people she wants to protect.
Annie: She was the fourth son of a twice-widowed farrier, but she quickly realized that life wasn’t meant to be. Her nimble fingers secured her a place in a gang of cutpurses and ruffians. Skill with legerdemain led to skill with knives. Her fierce beauty, unwillingness to take shit from anyone, and willingness to leave a wake of blood in pursuit of wealth, fame, and freedom from an intolerant society led to her becoming the greatest duelist in [wherever this comic is set]. Her wake of destruction was, of course, matched by the wake of broken-hearted maidens. Until she was finally caught unawares… by true love.
Tia: Someone once told her no. They didn’t have a chance to tell her no a second time. I think she was born into a normal life, possibly even a privileged one, but found her ambitions stymied by the rule of law. Thus, she turned to a life outside it. What is it she couldn’t find in her regular life? Riches? Fame? Or perhaps the most elusive prize of all, freedom.