As with many of these posts, this one stems from a time I went to the comic bookstore and saw something that annoyed me. This particular time I wasn’t even looking for comic books. Instead I’d been scouring used bookstores for the sequel to a trashy novel (that I hadn’t known was so trashy when the first book was loaned to me, but now I was hooked). I hadn’t even intended to look at the rack, except the clerk who helped me navigate the unfamiliar paranormal romance territory turned out to be the biggest Teen Titans fan I had ever met. She steered me into the comic book section to point something out when my eyes fell upon the reason I just can’t get back into Marvel comics.
I didn’t know Wolfman-era Titans, so I held it up to change the subject.
“I love this character, but it took a lot of people a long time to get me to read this book.”
“The cover artist. He doesn’t even do good cheesecake. See, this one isn’t so bad because its a take on the famous painting–” At this point I realized that the particular cover was worse that I thought. “Wait, why is the dress so formfitting? Her shoulders are back and her back is arched. But the wolfman is posed exactly like the man in the painting. He felt a need to sexy up She-Hulk for an homage cover? Its supposed to be funny, not cheesecakey.”
“Well, a lot of the She-Hulk covers are cheesecakey–”
“I know, and the Elektra covers, and the old Emma Frost covers and the Ms. Marvel covers. Have you ever read Ms. Marvel? It is an awesome book. I picked up the first two trades. It is exactly what I love in a superhero book. Female hero with aviation interest and military background! A premise where the hero decides that she is going to make the most of her life! Humor! Alternate universes and timelines! An entire issue spent inside a science fiction novel! But whenever I see it in the store I can’t bring myself to pick up an issue. I wait for the trade because I don’t want to look at this guy’s covers.”
“It sounds like a good book, though.”
“They put this guy on every female book at Marvel, why do they do that? I mean, look at this. Its like a giant flashing sign that says ‘Men’s Wank Material!’. They could put them in a fertility clinic as collection aids. The writers on Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk handle female characters wonderfully, and that is so damned rare anymore but there’s nothing on the cover to entice a woman to pick up the book! And even for attracting a buyer who wants to read about the sexy green giantess, the cover artist isn’t even close to interior art style or the mood of the book!”
“Well, posters are big these days.”
“Why does a poster have to be of a cover of a book? They could just do hardcover pinup collections and sell them for $50 and then make posters of the pinups, and court the proper audience for the book.”
“Its a way to keep artists under contract when they don’t have a regular book.”
“Why would they want to keep this guy under contract? All of his women look alike. They’re all posed in generic centerfold poses to the point he can’t even do a simple American Gothic homage without sexing it up! It looks like he’s photoshopping the costumes and coloring to make as many different Marvel women as he can from a lingerie model’s portfolio.”
“Actually, I think he just uses his girlfriend as a model.”
“Okay, accusing him of photoshopping is a bit far on my part. But his art is a cross between my least favorite trends: photorealistic art and sexual pandering. Static women with seductive poses and expressions. The most expressive stuff is when he directly references something well-known like a movie poster or a painting. I’ve never seen anything to indicate he can tell a story with his pictures.”
She laughed at the thought of comic book companies hiring actual storytellers over pinup artists, and steered the conversation to Jim Lee’s considerably less offensive art as an example of someone who can tell a story and draw decent cheesecake.
Later, when I was googling the original painting (I discovered that where the farmer’s wife is looking at her husband She-Hulk is gazing seductively at the potential buyer) I realized I hadn’t actually asked her opinion on Greg Horn’s art. She may have liked him, but not enough to get into an argument with me.
Come to think of it, that may be why I’ve never met any Greg Horn fans in person.