Welcome to Cover Girls. 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, Wendy, Nola, and Kat share their thoughts on the cover of Taarna #1 by Christian Ward, out this month from Heavy Metal Magazine.
What is your initial reaction to this cover as a piece of comics art?
Wendy Browne: Beautiful colours and background imagery, utterly wasted on generic warrior woman pose no. 456.
Nola Pfau: I’m usually a fan of Ward’s work, but this just feels…I dunno, like he wasn’t trying? Like you say, Wendy, it’s a generic pose, and she feels…curiously detached. I can’t tell if she’s supposed to be standing on that rock formation or if she’s just floating nebulously in front of it.
Kat Overland: It really feels like a throwback to older Heavy Metal style covers (sorry I don’t have much reference for their current covers), and I really like it. I like the way Christian Ward gives her more muscular heft than the usual sexy bikini lady, and though I know that’s not groundbreaking, I’m into her. She’s a sexy space warrior, I’m a simple queer. And I really love the coloring and linework on her dragon.
What does cover tell you about the character?
Wendy: This is a woman who is definitely unlike any other warrior woman who kicks ass and takes names and has no time for your puny complaints about how little sense her outfit makes, I guess.
Nola: Y’know I remember Taarna from that Heavy Metal animated movie, and the chief thing I remember about her is that they managed to make an entire feature in that movie about a warrior lady in space and gave her no lines at all. She’s completely silent throughout the feature. I feel like this cover kind of echoes that; we know that she is an alien sword lady, but that’s kind of…it.
Kat: Hm, it definitely tells me more about the book than the character herself — it looks like it’s trying to be a throwback to a pulpier sci fi aesthetic that of course Heavy Metal helped popularize over here, and I’m kind of digging it. But she herself is inscrutable.
What is up with that outfit?
Wendy: Gaze into the void of uncreative straps, thigh highs, and stick ons. But seriously, I’ve seen the previous images of Taarna and, while the lines of her outfit remain the same, a lot more detail went into the design elements and textures to make her attire actually look interesting despite its minimal existence. This is as basic as her appearance in the cartoon, which has an excuse for being so for the sake of a faster animation process. A comic book — especially a comic cover — has the opportunity to take its time with the design elements and embellishments, but much like the generic pose, this outfit is phoning it in. Even her sword is boring.
Nola: It just feels…unnecessary. I mean, it’s not like there’s a lack of pseudo-bondage strappy harness numbers in comics, but Taarna is unique in that she has almost no comics presence, so there’s no like…obsessive fandom adherence to this look like there is with, say, Vampirella. There’s no reason not to do something different! They can even keep it sexy if they really feel like they have to, just like…give it a theme, at least. This is just…there.
Kat: Okay I’ve been pondering this for a while and I think the deal is they want a sexy lady pin-up comic, but not disrespectfully sexy, so her boobs can’t be the gloriously obscene and impractical globes of yore. But instead they’re just sort of trapped in a costume that requires a lot of double-sided tape, unsupported. Like Nola, I’m not sure that this outfit really needed to be recreated accurately to her origins in the film, especially since she got a pretty accurately rendered romp in like, 2018. I can’t stop thinking about She-Ra’s Scorpia as a potential influence for a cooler updated look.
Bonus Cover! by Rian Gonzales
— Rian Gonzales 🌈 (@rianbowart) November 29, 2020
Wendy: Still disappointed in the lack of creativity going into the outfit, but that background is so much fun! The pose almost lends itself well but could have used more expressiveness in the face to really sell her place in this world. I’m more interested in reading the book based on this cover than the first.
Nola: Like I said in the chat we had before starting this, I’m more interested in this story than what I suspect will be in the actual book. This whole thing reminds of that 2000 AD Summer Special from a couple of years ago; it’s a perfect opportunity to let women define a character like this, and instead, they’re still doling out piecemeal work in the margins.
Kat: I love this! I wish we got more of her shoulder armor, but the outfit definitely looks like it fits better (even if the support is still dubious). If Taarna was about a cute space babe hanging out with cute space aliens, and didn’t have Patrick Zircher attached, I’d be all about it. Alas!