It’s not hard to find tits in mainstream comics. Lots and lots of big, round, almost nude tits. On the covers, in the pages, everywhere.
Seldom being used in their primary biological function – feeding babies – but mostly and exploitatively, in their secondary sexual context as eye-grabbers. Attention-getters. Fun bags! Bursting out, all over the place, barely covered at all.
Be it kid-oriented or not, making the most of scantily clad superheroes is just something comics do. It’s enough to make even a straight man puke sometimes.
So, it’s kind of funny – though not surprising to me really – that anyone working in the fandom world would be up in arms over someone “exploiting” Breastfeeding of all things, as depicted in this piece on the left by Calgary artist Fiona Staples for her collaboration with Brian K. Vaughan, “Saga“. I’ve seen bras that cover less than that baby does.
To be fair Dave Dorman is by far one of the more modest and tasteful artists out there. So I won’t push the hypocrisy angle, much. And it seems maybe he agrees or at least has backed away from this complaint because he seems to have taken down the post where he railed about this. But all the same this came from the very same person who enjoyed I’m sure, rendering this [sic].
In his post he was put off it seems by the juxtaposition in the context of some PR material in USA today, of the image on the left against quotes from Brian K. Vaughan saying…
“I just miss the days when I was a kid where you could pick up a No. 1 comic and it’s not a reboot or a relaunch or something.”
But this assumes
-Brian K. Vaughan put together the promo package, creating the juxtaposition in the first place.
-Vaughan meant for this specific title to be for the very young – rather than as I read it, a new book and not a reboot of something.
-Or that it’s somehow distasteful for young readers to see a woman breast feed!
Context is all, so it’s worth pointing out the quote was followed with…
It’s also a universe that he has been imagining since he was a kid. But it wasn’t until he had his own children that the story of Saga came to life.
“There are a lot of stories about having children, but they’re always comedies,” says Vaughan, 35, father to 1-year-old Alec and 8-month-old Wilhelmina. “It’s like the birth of a child is the end of drama. But I don’t think that’s true.”
If it’s ok for them to fall out of their costumes for charity or be consumed by monsters for thrills, why can’t they feed a child to promote a story about the birth of a child?
There was some joking about a bit of feminist overreach [the woman who can do everything], and swipes at her modesty. Please, part of the reason there are few wallflowers in the superhero world is that we know instinctively modesty does not plausibly go along with being a super heroine most of the time. Modesty and realistic goals are only part of comics as ironic counterpoints to the commonplace outlandish, over the top, and unrealistic expectations. So, sure, let’s have some interesting modest characters. But these are very weak complaints.
By his now-deleted response, clearly he’s amongst those who tend to equate breast feeding with the taboo – to be hidden rather than viewing it in the contemporary context of a symbol of feminine power. He’s probably not alone. Being born in the 70s I have to admit I feel a bit uncomfortable when a woman breast feeds in public around me, even as the child of hippies, I don’t really know what to do with my eyes!
So I avert them by default and admire their liberty and the whole giving life thing without staring. That’s real life and I think the respectful default when in doubt. But not because it’s shameful, because it’s intimate. I don’t ogle couples kissing in public either. But we’re past the point I think where PDAs are widely thought to be immodest. This image challenging the taboo on public acts of motherhood is only exploitative
because if we’re not quite over that irrational double standard yet, and if there is no substance to it in BKV’s pending comic…
This is a book by Brian K. Vaughan? You know, the guy who gave us Y the last man?
Do we really think it’s just a cheap shock value comic cover? Or is it a statement about how he’s going to tell this story?
This is a piece of art – yes a promotional image – meant to establish a fictional mythical character as much as to sell books. So we’re clearly invited to look. Social modesty is forgiven. Grabbing our attention and telling us as much as it can without telling anything at all is the whole goal. So pragmatically why should this image be more taboo than boobs being exploited in all the other ways they are in comics? By even Dave?
This is meant to set the tone for what Brian wants to be seen as an unconventional notion of what it is to be heroic. It’s really quite powerful and if this helps sell the books it will also introduce a more rounded notion of the feminine power myth to comics readers – young and old alike. If we’re going to have sex in comics – and I think we’re long past the point of that being the conversation – then how about let’s have some nurturing in there along with all the wank-fest matter?