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Drawing Strong Women: How to Repair Heroes for Hire #13

Kudos to cartoonist Lea Hernandez for demonstrating how easily Marvel could have turned the very disappointing sexually exploitative cover of Heroes for Hire #13 into a much better piece of art, and for proving you can let your female superheroes be sexy without being victims. (Warning: Graphic links, while from a comic rated ages 12 and up, may still be considered non-safe for work.)

The cover for Heroes for Hire #13, drawn by Sana Takeda, has come under a lot of criticism since its publication. Its detractors argue that it's basically a hair's breadth away from being tentacle porn. Hernandez (creator of Near-Life Experience) has been just one of many who have been upset at the overtones of disempowerment and suggested rape of the cover, which takes three normally self-assured powerful women and displays them as submissive, victimized sex objects.

What interests me far more than debating the exploitative nature of the original cover (or its appropriateness for a teen audience) is what Hernandez was able to do to improve it with just a few simple changes. Her final remix is amazingly better, and preserves all the things Marvel undoubtedly hoped would bring in viewers. It keeps the sexiness of the characters (and Misty looks a lot sexier with hair that could actually exist). It keeps the tentacles - as has been pointed out, the Brood do have them. It even keeps the bondage aspect.

What it adds, what the original lacked, was the strong personalities of the main women. As Hernandez observes:

The expressions have all been changed. Colleen is looking directly at the tentacle, instead of away in fear and resignation. Her expression says, "God, you're a boring monster."

Misty's look is that she's got the opener to the can of whup-ass right now. She's thinking, "This is like one of those lame-ass traps from that 60s Batman TV show. Weak."

In keeping with the supposedly ha-ha aspect of the cover, Felicia is going, "Bleeeech!" at a tentacle that's getting a little too close. Her eyes are open, and she's looking at the stupid slimy thing.

That's how you do it, Marvel. Take notes.

And that's how you criticize something effectively. It's not enough to say what you hate; like Lea Hernandez, you have to help show how to make it better.

You see - this kind of stuf

You see - this kind of stuff is all in the eye of the beholder.

I'd say that - as amended by Ms Hernandez - the central figure now has the look of a sexual predator, possibly even enjoying her bondage session, while the figure on the right appears to be trying to lick her breasts.

Some people just seem to enjoy making mountains out of molehills.

Broken Voice Comics
Because comics are not just for kids

Broken Voice Comics
Because comics are not just for kids

clarification?

Linda Howard Valentine's picture

First off, the last line came off as incredibly dismissive; was that intended? Assuming that it wasn't, could you clarify - is your argument here that the cover is not salvageable in any way, or that the cover was perfectly fine as originally created? I'd be happy to elucidate my position, and why I think this matters, but I want to make sure I'm addressing the right point.

My final comment wasn't

My final comment wasn't meant to be dismissive and certainly wasn't directed at you personally. My apologies if it came across that way. It was merely meant to add emphasis to my opening comment which was my main point.

Unlike Joe Q, I do not claim to be ignorant of what tentacle porn is but - when I saw this cover - it did not make me think of that. Some people have made the connection but, just because that's what they see, it doesn't follow that this was either the artist's intention or that we should infer that everyone will make such a connection. It's in the eye of the beholder.

Of course, once one person does point out that they see it as akin to tentacle porn, there are others who will jump on the bandwagon. Especially on the feeding frenzy that is the internet. And Marvel is such a big target, it will always have plenty of people willing to add their voice to any criticism once the ball has begun rolling.

My comment about the supposedly improved version is just what it says. An honest statement that I, personally, see the characters' facial expressions there as more akin to pornography than those in the original. Eye of the beholder.

Broken Voice Comics
Because comics are not just for kids

Broken Voice Comics
Because comics are not just for kids

There should be a law...

There should be a law that requires all male comicbook artists to jerk-off BEFORE they draw female comicbook characters and not after. I think the female comicbook artists should respond by drawing male comicbook characters with huge, vein laden hard-ons. A few "what's good for the goose is good for the gander" ganders at how "super" Superman really is will stop all this. Guys sexualizing female characters in comics is lttle different from white people stereotyping non-white people in comics. If you wouldn't turn Luke Cage into Flava Flav don't turn every female character into Pam Anderson. My two cents and about all it's worth. Dee G.A.A.K: Groovy Ass Alien Kreatures It's like The Goonies meets The Invaders from Mars. Updates on Mondays.

G.A.A.K: Groovy Ass Alien Kreatures It's like The Goonies meets The Invaders from Mars. Updates on Mondays.

Actually, the original cover

Linda Howard Valentine's picture

Actually, the original cover was drawn by a female artist, Sana Takeda, and the bulk of her work isn't anything like that. I place the blame with the art director, who should and could have sent the cover back for revisions.

I place the blame further with folks at Marvel, like editor Joe Quesada, who justified the cover by saying, "HFH is a book that features two strong, lead female protagonist who kick major ass; somehow folks have forgotten to focus on that."

It doesn't matter if you say they're strong if you focus on portraying them as submissive and terrified, Joe.

The fan art community has responded brilliantly to this in a good-for-the-goose fashion, by the way.