web stats

CSBG Archive

She Has No Head! – Absolute Awesomeness

Lumberjanes 1 Cover

Lumberjanes #1 Cover by Noelle Stevenson, Maddie Flores, Lauren Zuke

There’s been a lot of controversy going around with women and comics, driven in large part by a piece former DC Editor Janelle Asselin wrote about the new Teen Titans cover on CBR. It’s sparked a lot of good discussion and as usual, a ton of nightmarish behavior. I thought a lot about writing about it, but I gotta be honest, it’s just not in me right now. Maybe it’s not true for everyone, but for me, to take on these big pieces that you know are likely to be controversial takes not only a lot of literal time but also a ton of mental energy and I just don’t have it in me right now for either of those things. Maybe that will change in the coming weeks and I’ll have something of merit to add to the discussion, but for now, read Asselin’s piece and also this most excellent piece on Comics Alliance by Andy Khouri.

Here we’re just going to talk about the absolute awesomeness that is LUMBERJANES. The kind of comic every young girl should get the opportunity to read – and hell, young boys too. It may be designed with “hardcore lady-types” in mind, but it’s wonderful reading for anyone, in fact, perhaps it should be required reading to broaden minds and generally spread happiness and goodness to the world.

For those of you that don’t already know what this is, Lumberjanes is an 8-issue limited series from Boom! by writers Noelle Stevenson (of the brilliant Nimona) and Grace Ellis. Art by Brooke Allen, colors by Maarta Laihow, and letters by Aubrey Aiese.

Tell Me More Panel

Tell you more? Of course I will!

Lumberjanes is full of positive energy, laughs, and good fun, as well as the beginnings of a mystery worthy of any (possibly supernatural) summer camp.

Stevenson and Ellis’s story and script is full of verve and charm, brimming with energy and excitement that can barely be contained on the page. There’s a lot for young readers here, but Stevenson and Ellis manage what all the best “all-readers” books do, in that they have found that line between acceptable, appropriate, and exciting for young readers, and yet smart and charming enough for older readers. I wasn’t bored for a moment and neither would someone 30 years my junior be, and THAT is impressive. It’s one of those things that helps make a book last. That said, there is an absolute “now-ness” to Lumberjanes that suggests it might not age as well as one would hope. Some of the jokes are so of the now that they might not be timeless, but who cares. We live now and this is a great book for NOW.

Foxes That Didnt Like Cats Panel

When I first heard about Lumberjanes I was distressed to read that Stevenson wouldn’t be drawing it (the cover above is her work) but Allen’s fantastic style is a perfect fit for the tone of the book – infectious, charismatic, kinetic, and bursting at the seams with ideas. Her characters are all drastically different, something so rare in comics period, but especially when it comes to female characters, who even more frequently suffer from “same-face” and barbie doll bodies. These ladies couldn’t be more different and real and it’s wonderful.

Fight Pose PanelIn all of this goodness, perhaps best of all are Allen’s character acting – expressions and body language are simply sublime. I’d go on and on, but better to just show you:

Hi Jen Panel

 

Maarta Laihow’s colors are flat out fantastic – both bright and light when called for, but also unafraid to embrace the darkness of the woods and the darkness of what the girls encounter in said woods. It’s a deft hand that can so well skirt such a fine line. Similarly, Laihow really embraces the tonal shifts in the book based on the surrounding light and emotion of the scene – the dark, cold, evocative woods versus the warmth and brightness of the safety of their cabin. Check it out:

Lumberjanes Page 4

On top of all of this that they’re getting right (which, if you lost count, is pretty much everything) they’re also finding ways to be innovative with their storytelling above and beyond just having a funny script. Check out this hilarious “kick kick kick” fighting technique. Super effective!

Lumberjanes Fight Panels

It’s a great little book, and it’s poised to be a great little series. The kind I find myself already wishing we’ll get more of…”an ongoing and a tv show?” Is that a thing? Can it be a thing?

I leave you with…LITTLE RED FORMATION…”TO GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE WE GO!”

Lumberjanes Page 3 little red formation

16 Comments

Have you seen Winter Soldier yet? I’m desperate to hear what you thought of it!!

Haha. No. I tried to go last week but I was sick and I didn’t think people would appreciate me coughing through the movie.

I am trying to go this week but I leave town mid-week so it may have to wait until the first week in May. :(

I heard really good things though…no?

Oh, you are going to LOVE IT. Purely for the ridiculously awesome awesomeness of Widow, Agent 13 and Hill. (Widow the most, but the others get badass moments too.) Even if you don’t like Cap, you will love those three.

Not sure how to take this Zen Kelly Thompson. I find myself far more upset about the Janelle Asselin matter than I would have been.

For some reason the defense from Brett Booth is the most odious piece of this whole thing. The original cover is not the worst thing that I have ever seen, but it does expose wrong-headness at DC on a lot of levels (shocking!) The critique by Ms. Asselin is really well written and fair. The whole idea of pitching a comic franchise that appeals primarily to teens and 20-somethings of both genders to the standard demo is a recipe for failure. Cyborg and Starfire are absent. Robin and Raven are unrecognizable. The center of the image is an obscure teenage girl with weirdly terrible anatomy. There are helicopters, school buses and paper airplanes that relate to neither the characters, nor each other.

Which begs the question of ‘who is the target audience for Teen Titans #1? To me, it looks like another pitch by DC Comics to people hate DC Comics. Ms. Asselin says something similar.

How Mr. Booth found this offensive is beyond me. It is a difference of opinion over a common goal: the growth of comics as a medium. Ms. Asselin makes the utterly reasonable point that growing comics means reaching out to new (and demographically different) people than the Image loving fanboys who drove the 90s boom and bust. A property with a devoted fan-base from another medium, like Teen Titans, would appear to be a good vehicle to attempt that. Ignoring it is wasted opportunity, like ignoring Smallville in the Superman comics was a decade ago. Mr. Booth appears to find that assertion extremely threatening. That is human response.

What is not is attacking Ms. Asselin on Twitter and, thereby, summoning a troll army down upon her.

I could not agree more with Janelle Asselin and Dean Hacker. The Teen Titans #1 cover is inconceivably bad.

As Dean Hacker said, “The center of the image is an oscure teenage girl with weirdly terrible anatomy.” I’ve never heard of Wonder Girl, either! Is that a real character? And the ratios are all off. The proper ratio for waist to thigh is 25 inches/20 inches, or a 1.25 ratio. The 1:1 ratio here defies all logic! Look at the dimensions of the Lumberjanes for how real women look.

Where in the world would you find these three items in one place: a school bus, a paper airplane, and notebook paper. Never gonna happen.

And just like Janelle Asselin, I refuse to categorize Beast Boy as a character of color. Green does not cut it, honkey!

MonikerNV, the desire for fanboys to deliberately misunderstand the discussion in order to prop up a straw man is really sad. I don’t think it’s a problem just in comics per se, but the realm of the straight man, who insists everything be written with their perspective in mind and everything else either ignored or belittled or attacked. Do you really think it’s simply about thighs? Don’t you think the cartooning of a book like Lumberjanes is not comparable to Rochafort’s book, in an apples and oranges way? There was no argument that graphic realism is demanded, just a questioning that a 16 year old would have implants. Guys want the straw man though, to avoid actual discussion, so feel free to keep it, dude.

“The kind of comic every young girl should get the opportunity to read – and hell, young boys too.”
This is the heart of the matter, and the thing hardest to get past. Guys really should read books about women that aren’t based on eroticising them, but it’s socially ingrained that a book like this is ‘for girls’. I know that’s what I would have felt when I was young. There is a fear to even try it. For most guys, it requires a conscious leap to do anything that’s labelled ‘for girls’. It’s way deeper than the comics industry though, nothing that can be solved with one book.

It’s about some people thinking they are the arbiter of artistic license, and that they can revoke it when it fits their political bent. Asselin made up the assertion that Wonder Girl had implants, then got upset about her own assertion. Worst of all, she made derogatory comments about the quality of artwork based on her own politics. THAT’S apples and oranges.

She objects to the eroticization of a teenager. This is a group of misfit teenagers, a la The Breakfast Club, and Wonder Girl is the cheerleader. It’s a tired trope, but it fits the theme of the book, irregardless of her feminist objections.

She objects to the lack of people of color while there’s a damn green guy front and center, which says more about her own personal view of ethnic diversity than the quality of the cover.

At least you understand that it’s not a matter of thigh size.

I think you are still simplifying the argument. As has been noted elsewhere, there are many worse covers on the stands. There is lots of room for comics aimed at straight white men. The objection was more of the eroticism (using terribly drawn breasts, that is a fact, regardless of Rochafort’s strengths as an artist) on a book that really is one of DCs few lifelines to younger, outside readers. I can’t speak for Asselin’s opinions on the rest of DCs output, but it seems that she specifically chose that book because of the popularity of the TV show and its potential.

The outrage of fans over her opinion piece is far worse than anything you could attribute to her. The fact that you think a green person is a fair example of a minority says more about your own view than about hers. The more these debates go on, and the straight white guys continue to get outraged over the littlest disagreement, the worse it is for the comics industry. If they want the market to grow and thrive, the straight white guys are going to have to learn to share their toys.

@Fury: I’m keeping my expectations “medium” because I’m hearing A LOT of good stuff and don’t want to get my hopes too high. ;)

@Dean: I don’t know if it’s zen so much as busy and tired.

The Brett Booth part of this whole thing was a nightmare. But I tried to stay out of it in part because I’m in no way unbiased as it’s well documented that I’ve NEVER been a fan of that dude. His art or his social media interactions.

MonikerNV:

I’m so confused by your comments…is the first one entirely sarcastic? I’m so confused…or just out of practice in the comments section I guess.

To the second comment:

Asselin’s arguments were well articulated and were much more about media and audience and missing the boat on finding that audience than anything else. But those that want to criticize her seem unable to look to the actual scope of the piece, instead focusing on a couple “controversial” details that they happen to disagree with. Writing this column I am WELL familiar with this disease, it’s rampant on the internet and especially prevalent among angry fanboys. Man is it tiresome.

As for the boobs, it’s not completely unreasonable that a teenage girl would have giant boobs, even on such a tiny frame, it does happen from time to time, though certainly not as likely as everyone (including myself) would like to believe. However, it’s unlikely that a teenage girl would have giant IMPLANTS, and even less likely that WONDER GIRL would have giant implants, which is clearly what Rocafort drew. That’s not very debatable. If you’re in doubt, spend more time looking at boobs on the internet. The difference is pretty obvious.

You’re being incredibly myopic on the color thing, I have to say. Color represents actual races of people, you understand that, yes? What race is green supposed to represent? How is a person of color (that’s not white which is clearly represented repeatedly) supposed to see themselves in comics through a green character? Yeah, they’re not. This is the point that you are deliberately missing. Nobody is bothered by Beast Boy, or green characters, what they’re saying is it’s not the same as having actual races and diversity represented in your comic.

But as Dean said above (and NV) the much larger problem is not problems that may or may not exist in Asselin’s argument but rather the response to the argument, which was absolutely untenable.

The suggestion that Beast Boy somehow represents diversity is laughably disingenuous. He’s a white kid who turned green in an experimental treatment for a rare illness. He’s a “person of color” in exactly the same sense that the Hulk is.

” What race is green supposed to represent?”

At DC green would be Martian, but then Beast Boy is not actually from Mars, so that doesn’t count either :p

I’m going to do what a lot of people do with Kelly’s columns and comments and take one sentence out of context for my own purposes.

“spend more time looking at boobs on the internet”

Yes ma’am!

On Captain America: Winter Soldier, it baited two traps and really only totally avoided one.

The first is what I call IMDB rating disease. Apparently, you can speed up your binge watching of a TV Show by only watching the episodes with a high star rating on IMDB. That is because the episodes in which a bunch key plot stuff happens for the season tend to get the highest star ratings and vice versa. CA:WS is five star episode for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A bunch of STUFF happens, but it is the sort of thing that is easy to over-rate in the moment. Still, I would say that they mostly avoided that trap. There was some nice character stuff with Cap. The action was good, which helps re-watchability. The relationships between Cap, Black Widow and Falcon were nicely fleshed out.

That raises the second trap that they didn’t avoid. I call it the ‘Canon Trap’. When doing a long-form adaptation of something, the chemistry between the actors and/or how earlier episodes are written often lead the story away from the way it went in the original (or ‘canon’). This can happen in countless ways: a secondary character gives too good of a performance, a ‘hero’ comes off as loathsome, or two characters spark off one another romantically who are NOT together in the original. That is what happens in CA:WS. The on-going subplot of the whole thing is that this version of Cap and this version of Black Widow are perfect for one another. More to the point, there is really no reason for them to not get together other than the lack of a relationship in the comics. There is even a decent set-up for the ‘punchline’ of them hooking up.

Anyway, none of that spoils the fun of the main plot, which twists and turns just enough. All the major characters get a nice moment, or two. All protagonists are properly motivated, despite the bad guys being somewhat stock. It is just that failing to pay off the B-story holds it back just a bit.

Britticus Maximus

April 24, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Thanks for the ringing endorsement of Lumberjanes. I had seen a few bits about it on CBR and Comics Alliance but this sealed the deal. This book looks so fun!

Lumberjanes is awesome.

I read that Asselin article. Marketing-wise her analysis seems incredibly naive to me and it only underscores how unfit she is to ever be part of another comics editorial team in the future. I think anyone who critically analyses the cartoonified stylisation of a character’s anatomy is unfit to belong to any industry like comics, animation, etc. whether its a superhero being too fit and sexy looking or a Tim Burton puppet being too anorexic or a google anniversary illustration being a ‘racist cartoon’. People like that might as well be book-burning nazis if they can’t put up with stylisation.

That artist is extremely talented (and, fine, likes large breasts too much) and the team seem to know exactly what specific audience they’re creating this product for (not me, cuz I don’t like DC’s stuff at the moment). Asselin’s criticism of it is like reading some idiot dude’s critical analyzation of how the producers of the Twilight series are incompetent for having narrowed down their audience to women 14-35 by having hunky buff TEENAGE boys with massive muscles going shirtless with rain dripping down their naked chiseled digitally airbrushed torsos. And that they should consider NOT having any of that in the films and campaigns so that more men go to see them which will “help them double their audience”. Riiiiiiiiiiiiight yeah that’s so not how marketing works.

@George Caltsoudas:

Couple problems with your analysis.

#1. Equating someone who writes op-eds, criticism, editorials, etc. about anything does not make them book burners or nazis. This is a common if ridiculous thing that happens where people who criticize something get lobbed with “But FREEDOM.” Guess what? Critics (etc.) almost never suggest something be burned, banned, or creators strung up, they’re just offering analysis. Analysis you can choose to agree with, disagree with, debate amongst yourselves, or in your case, dismiss by throwing around the word Nazi.

You suggesting opinions and analysis should be silenced however ARE doing a pretty good nazi impression. We’re all welcome to talk about all this stuff, critical or not, and including comments (horrible though they often are) thanks to…WOO! FREEDOM. So let’s stop with all the nazi/book-burning nonsense.

#2. Don’t you question the fact that the new Teen Titans looks pretty much exactly like the old Teen Titans, which was cancelled and is now being rebooted? That suggests that indeed something IS wrong with their approach/marketing/content.

#3. While I’m not a Twilight fan, it seems a bit pointless to criticize how Twilight is constructed and marketed to when it’s a MASSIVE success and a financial juggernaut (as books, films, and comics) while our superhero industry really struggles with readership numbers.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives