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Latest Topics

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Representations of the female form

Much discussion has occurred widely, and here on The Artifice, concerning the representation of women. From their characteristics, values, roles, costuming and purposes within film, TV, literature and comics, there is a rising concern about the way women are represented in popular culture.

However, one area that has not received too much discussion yet is the concept of the representation of the female form. By this I am referring to the actual body type and shape of female characters. Although there is much written about the over sexualisation of the form – an emphasis on unrealistically sized breasts for example – there is little that discusses what constitutes a positive portrayal of the female form. For instance, if we go to the polar opposite and position women physically with almost a masculine form are we undermining the concept of femininity? Does that even matter? Or if we present them as pseudo-teenage boys does this then privilege the male form over that of the female form? As quite frankly, outside of supermodels most women will have pronounced breasts. Should this physical feature be depicted or ignored? What is the better choice? How can we continue to represent women in a positive manner without removing their gender altogether? I recognise that some would argue for this, an androgynous form, but would that form actually resonate with women or would it isolate them further?

How can we today present a positive version of the female form?

  • I actually added to this, but seem to have lost the update so I will add it here: A jumping off suggestion for dealing with this topic is to examine the representations of the female body currently popularised in visual means, look at the exact form and physical features and develop an overview of common stereotypes. Alongside this should be the discussion of the purpose of the different portrayals. This should then be compared to what fringe art is doing in the construction of the female form and explore how they are portraying gendered bodies in a modern manner that could be adapted into mainstream presentations. A discussion of the issue of the male-gaze and the stereotyping of body to gender expectations could also be interesting to explore. There are a number of interesting new representations of the female in comics and general art that are presenting more "realistic" views of the female body. – SaraiMW 4 years ago
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In Comics, Are There Real Life Topics That Are Off Limits?

At San Diego Comic Con 2018, Tom King unveiled his upcoming Heroes in Crisis event for D.C. Comics. The event will focus on a super hero rehabilitation center that is the target of a mass shooting. Tom King has been up front about his belief that comics should confront real issue that society is dealing with, but will this subject matter be too serious and rooted in reality to be successful (both commercially and artistically)? this article could examine other situations that explore real world issues (the struggle of Pakistani-Americans in Ms. Marvel or Drug Use in Batman:Venom) and if and how these more grounded stories are successful. You could also include the comic book industry’s use of rape and domestic abuse as a plot devices, which have largely been criticized by critics and fans alike as often being insensitive or used in inappropriate ways.

  • I suppose the answer is largely no and the focus of the article would become about how these topics have been used in different dicotomies - realistic/unrealistic, objective/subjective, respectfully/insensitively, constructive/destructive. A great topic to discuss indeed! – SaraiMW 4 years ago
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Classics Illustrated: All Comics are not Created Equal

Classics Illustrated were comics that were produced from 1941 to 1971 and 169 issues were made. Hamlet, Moby Dick, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers were among the novels they made. Students going through high school in the 1950s and 1960s probably were able to make their way through many English classes and exams by using Classics Illustrated instead of reading the real novels. Forget Cliff Notes, these were on a standard well above them. Should we consider Classics Illustrated on a higher level than comics such as Detective Comics or Superman or consider them to be graphic novels.

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    Webcomics: Quantity vs. Quality

    The internet provides a platform for indie artists and writers with limited resources to get their work out into the world. Webcomics were born of this freedom. Many popular webcomics choose to deliver their stories in a micro-serialized manner, often releasing only a single page of panels at a time. Additionally, many webcomics have no clear end in sight, but rather are stories that run indefinitely. Explore the strengths and weaknesses of webcomics as we see them today: the common formats and delivery approaches, the trends, how it relates to the quality of the stories being told, and what the future holds for creators and fans alike.

    • This sounds like it would be an examination that can be deeply investing. I would examine the webcomics Marvel & DC have been putting out as an example. – BMartin43 6 years ago
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    • Some of the positives: Webcomic authors and artists alike being able to work at their own pace. Atomic Robo is a series that began as a published comic book, but made the switch to the webcomic format, now releasing pages in the way you described. Some of the negatives: Familiar setups/situations. For webcomics that focused on video games, it was common to have 2 males who would get into wild antics compared along with 1 female friend they have who was often stuck with the "straight man" and/or "voice of reason" role. – Christopher 6 years ago
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    • I feel there are also a few webcomics out there that make a unique usage of their own digital medium, like Romantically Apocalyptic and some of the Emily Carroll horror comics. On the other hand, there are comics that literally post a page per update, roughly standard sized, and then run a kickstarter to print the collected volumes. Not that I don't love both, but I think it's exciting to see people using the fact that they're publishing digitally a bit more creatively. – sk8knight 6 years ago
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    In what ways do Marvel's depictions of females affect society and real women?

    When considering how women are viewed in film, I like to think of the Bechdel test. This test (and I am paraphrasing here) says that if a movie does not have two female characters in it that talk about something other than a man, then it fails. Unfortunately, not all of Marvel’s movies pass. How do these depictions of women (ie, their lack of roles that include interactions with other women, the way that only men are discussed when interactions do occur, etc) affect real live ladies? How does it affect society? How does it support the systematic oppression of women and perpetrate the patriarchy?

    • I agree that Marvel fails it's female characters, and women, as a whole with it's representation of women. It rarely treats women badly, and ocasionally has some really good female characters (see; Black Panther). But it's just in sheer numbers and representation that it fails its women. For every 4-5 men there is one notable female character. (See Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy). It fails to show women do much of anything as a whole, as even the supporting female characters, are delegated to just being "the girlfriends." And even the superhero women eventually become someone's girlfriend. Women cannot exist long in the marvel universe without being attached to a boyfriend or love interest. That si where Marvel fails most. There are hardly any women in the movies as headliners, and even when they are they are put into usually forced relationships. It's a shame. – Dimitri 5 years ago
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    • I have found majority of films that aren't targeted specifically to the female demographic fail the Bechdel test. I think it would be interesting to focus on how a lot of people criticise the test, without realising that if it is normal and common for men to have discussions not around the opposite sex, then it should be normal for women as well. – Zohal99 4 years ago
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    • You could contrast this with how the DC has tried to target more towards women (and POC but that's not the main focus here) especially with a movie like Wonder Women that featured a largely all female cast and a female director. Her character also eventually exists without the male hero and can exist without him. – Pamela Maria 4 years ago
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    Utilizing graphic novel as a tool to cross language barrier

    Discuss how the use of graphic novel may be appropriate to assist in crossing language or cultural barriers either online or in a classroom setting.

    • I would add what specifically graphic novels contribute to your topic. – BMartin43 5 years ago
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    • Following the previous note, Japanese graphic novels that use Kanji could also inhibit the ability of the graphic novel to cross language barriers, so it's important to be specific about which graphic novels, and which languages, you mean. This, I think, would be important to consider in a topic like this one; Kanji oftentimes resists translation, and is not as readily translated accurately like other forms of language might be. – ees 5 years ago
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    • There is most certainly an element within this topic that should explore multimodality and the ways in which text/language are only ONE mode inherent within comics. I would also question why “graphic novels” are the only focus of this topic? All comics should be included in this discussion as to use only graphic novels is rather limiting. – zrondinelli 5 years ago
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    • I think this topic is similar to the argument that emojis can be used to cross language barriers as well, and perhaps its a larger scope that images are (generally) universal. Something like a graphic novel or even a comic book that contain detailed images I think are every efficient in conveying a story without narration being present. That being said, narration only helps to better clarify what the images mean. Still though, I believe most people can grasp concepts without the words. – NaliniDeonarine 5 years ago
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    Nerd Culture is Mainstream Culture

    Ed Brubaker said, "If you look at the generation now in power in the entertainment industry, they grew up with comics as serious stuff. The Geeks have won." Discuss how elements of nerd culture have become part of every day life. Technology, media, the vanishing stigma of coding. Comic books and the rise of alternative fiction. Have the Geeks won?

    • I think this would be a fun discussion to have. I think unfortunately it is never this cut and dry, those leading the entertainment industry (when looking at financial power) are not the geeks. However, with concepts such as BitCoin becoming viable, the financial viability of the gaming industry, and the franchising of Marvel, all do suggest that perhaps an argument could be made. However, part of this needs to also be, as your heading suggests, a definition of geek and nerd culture that was previously alternative culture and if these are still viable subcultures or merely part of mainstream culture. So perhaps the double edged sword of the rise and fall of geek culture? – SaraiMW 5 years ago
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    • great topic! – Amitis 5 years ago
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    • In tandem with the first comment, I think the 'why' of this topic needs to be explored carefully. Beyond the fact that people who have grown up reading comics are now in charge, what other conditions have made Nerd Culture possible? – jallegro 5 years ago
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    The Depiction Of Myth In Comics

    From Mt. Olympus to the Daevas the subjects of myths and the focuses of spirituality have appeared in comics over the past few decades and now there are a wide variety of mythical beings throughout our comics. An article on this topic would talk about how myths and mythical beings have appeared in comic books and possibly even speculate about how they’ll be depicted in the future.

    • Is there any way you could make this topic slightly more specific? There are so many different types of mythology and spirituality, and it would be easier for the writer of this topic if you chose one specific type of mythology (say Greek mythology) and maybe even put out a couple of examples. I'm a big fan of this topic, I just think it could be specified a little bit more. – LilyaRider 5 years ago
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    • I think a more specific way of approaching this might be to examine what are the prevalent preferred mythologies at the moment? All the classic mythologies tend to be cycled through popular culture at different times and in different places depending on the particular socio-cultural subtext currently in vogue. A very broad example of this is the rise of the undead in their various forms, a not unusual form of original mythos, plus the rise of the superhero and their deeds is reminiscent of Jason's trials. However, you could narrow down into particular aspects, for instance the increasing presence of transformational mythologies, or the reoccurring themes of the "great beneath beings" - the titans - that has been popping up. I do really like the idea of then having a discussion about what will come next. – SaraiMW 5 years ago
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    • I recommend looking at Brian Azzarello's Wonder Woman New 52 Run. You could write this whole article about because there was so much greek mythology in it. – Sean Gadus 5 years ago
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