He’s suggesting that I’m a coward. I’m not.
But, Anita, your posture says you are.
I know that part of this was directed. Several times in Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures the title character states that you never look a vampire in the eyes. It’s the sort of advice you see in a hardboiled detective story. It’s something the writer drops to show that the character is skilled, cautious, and wise. Especially in a horror novel, where you’ve not only entered a world of intrigue and danger, but of terrors and nightmares beyond mortal ken. You’ve entered her world and that is how you know she’s the one to keep you safe. Stick with me, this advice says, I know the rules.
All of Anita’s narration and dialogue is phrased carefully. It’s tailored to the cliches associated with film noir detectives. In a prose book this plays on our expectations. We form a mental picture in our heads based on that stereotype. There is a tone of voice that goes with this. There’s a posture that goes with this. There’s a set of mannerisms attached to this stereotype that everyone in American culture know. This is how so many people can do impressions without ever actually seeing a Bogart movie.
When this gets translated to a comic book, the artist has the responsibility to support this characterization. The writing and the art must complement each other for a cohesive story and characterization.
Which brings me back to Anita herself, and her posture. It’s very closed and protective. It’s also very submissive. Her head is bowed, to avert her gaze. Her shoulders are hunched forward. Most tellingly, her right hand crosses (covers) her stomach and lightly grasps her left forearm. Her left hand is hanging in front of her crotch, fingers unfurled. This isn’t a fortified posture, this is a hiding posture.
“It’s hard to be tough when you’re staring at someone’s chest,” Anita remarks later. It’s hard, but it’s still worth an effort. She’s not even trying to be tough in that scene. She’s trying to be invisible.
That’s not an angry person reminding herself not to make eye contact. Her fists should be clenched, her shoulders should be back, she should look proud and irritated. That posture isn’t proud, or irritated. That posture is how a little child stands when Mommy is asking where that stray puppy came from. That is not how a steel-nerved private investigator stands in front of a known enemy.
I spoke with a friend who read the novels, and she said Anita’s uncomfortable with sexuality, which would explain why Jean-Claude freaks her out so much. But, there is little in the narrative that supports this. (The writing, on the whole, is much too light on exposition for a first issue. The script never explains exactly what an “animator” does.)
This isn’t the only scene where I had trouble reconciling the art with the writing. Its like this throughout the issue. The narration and dialogue says one thing, while the art says another.
In an earlier scene, she deals with another vampire, Willie McCoy, and shows less fear in the art. The narrative makes it a point to explain how nervous that other character makes her, because of a previous association. It states directly that Willie is unique because she knew him before and after death.
There’s very little to tell us why Jean-Claude would have the same effect. She points out that he’s powerful, but also that she considers every prior confrontation a victory in her favor. The art doesn’t support that. Either Anita is very unperceptive in how she relates to the other characters, or there is a problem ith the creative team.
I have never seen anybody in this team before. From what I see, I can’t tell if this is a good artistic storyteller dealing with a bad narrative, or an artist who can’t even support the most basic and formulaic plot/character combination. Either way, it makes for a disappointing read.