Warning: the following op-ed contains opinions. Others and mine, but maybe yours too, or maybe not …
Recently there was a controversy, or as I refer to it: a fake controversy, over a variant cover for an upcoming issue of IDW Publishing’s Powerpuff Girls comic book.
This was that cover:
Now the fake controversy began when Dennis Barger, Jr., who owns Wonderworld Comics in Detroit, MI, saw the cover and went on Facebook saying “Are we seriously sexualizing pre-teen girls like perverted writing fan fiction writers on the internet???? is that what this shit has gotten to? DISGUSTED.”
That’s one man’s opinion. But his opinion, as opinions usually do, got a lot of attention and sadly only people who agreed with this skewed view of the cover made their opinions known – except for me, and a scant few others.
The topic then reached another lever when Dirk Wood, IDW’s Vice-President of Marketing, chimed in:
That was actually a Cartoon Network mandated cover, by an artist of their choosing. I think they were thinking of it more along the lines of “female empowerment” than the kind of thing you guys are talking about, but certainly, we’re sensitive to the issues here. We love making comics for kids, and always want them to be appropriate. For what it’s worth, CN has been a great partner in that regard… I know an 8 year old and 10 year old really well, and always look at these kinds of things through their eyes… Half of the employees have kids here, and we pride ourselves in making comics they’ll enjoy and not give them a warped view of the world (except, you know, in a good way). Anyway, I certainly see your points, and we’ll be sensitive to these things, as I think we mostly have been. But any questions or concerns on things we do, drop me a line any old time: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I include the email address hoping that people will send them messages of support. I plan to.
So, Cartoon Network wanted the cover and they hand-picked the artist. The cover showed the ‘Girls’ as young adults still fighting the good fight. But what about the artist? Mimi Yoon made a comment on her Facebook page saying simply “one opinionated dog barks (i’m fine with that)… and the rest of the pack barks “pretending” to know what they’re barking about (hate those idiots)… tsk tsk tsk.” – I tend to agree with her.
On his Facebook Barger was asked about his problem with the cover, his reasons were to the point: “Because they are wearing latex bondage wear mini dresses, which on an adult would be fine but on the effigies of children is very wrong.” But this begs the question: how can one tell the difference between ‘latex bondage wear’ and the standard issue super hero spandex in a drawing? Both are shiny and both are skin-tight.
Here is my take on this situation: As much as I enjoy and respect what Dennis does, he is also one of the brains behind the Detroit Fanfare Comic Con which I attend every year. We are also ‘friends’ on Facebook and have had quite a few conversations so it isn’t like this is a guy I have no knowledge of, but I have to disagree with his take on this cover. I don’t see it as ‘sexualizing’ the Powerpuff Girls because I am not looking at them in this picture as if they were still the bug-eyed kindergartners they are in the show. The cover obviously shows them as teenage super heroes and teenage super heroes wear different things than children heroes. Beyond that this was not the standard cover, it was the variant cover so that alone tells you it was not even aimed at children. Variants are aimed at the collector who is much older than the presumed target audience of this series. I say presumed because you know as well as I that many of the readers of this series are the people who loved the show as a kid. I, myself, plan to buy it in trade because I loved the show.
There is also the matter of censorship here. If one person is able to get something like this pulled because they, in my opinion, put way to much thought into something that wasn’t there or intended, then that opens the door for anyone to be able to get a cover or comic pulled because they feel offended by some of the content. It’s a slippery slope. In this situation, as a retailer, Dennis has every right to not offer the cover to his customers if he feels that strongly about it. But that isn’t what happened here. Because of the so-called ‘outrage’ over this cover it was recently announced that Cartoon Network caved in and has pulled the cover. So, because of the outrage of one person another person’s innocent work of art will never be able to be enjoyed be those of us who actually liked the cover and looked forward to it. If anything here should be considered offensive it’s that.
So now the question is what are the standards that we comics fans live by? On one hand we are trying to put out the perception that we are open-minded and are willing to fight for the free speech and expression of those in our medium, but does that mean anything when something like this happens?
Closing though.. the images below are from a show called Powerpuff Girls Z which aired in some countries in 2006-2007. I assume that since this wasn’t aired in America that the ‘sexualized’ outrage doesn’t apply.
But outside of the PPGs what about DC’s Supergirl? She’s often depicted as younger and drawn like this:
Doesn’t seem to be much outrage over this.
More importantly, what are the chances that we fans who enjoyed the cover will be able to get it as a cover or print?