Friday, October 06, 2006

Having it both ways

You may or may not be aware of the term Editorial Swimwear. This is where some time after the art for a comic is created someone decides that the cheesecake they ordered is a bit rich and they have some hack come in and scribble bikinis on women in the shower scenes, airbrush very opaque wisps of smoke over the wisps of smoke that were already present, or just generally scribble over the completed artwork until the only people it would offend were those who don't like seeing artwork disfigured.

The question I've always wanted to ask those responsible is why the hell they agreed to a scene that involved nudity if they were not prepared to have any in the comic? Rarely is a shower scene integral to the plot, so why not have it changed at the scripting stage? Or when the pencils are delivered, if the art has come out a little more racy than the script indicated? Why wait until the inks are completed and it's too late to have the original artist alter it tastefully?

Why? Because they want the cheesecake shots. They are happy to have scenes in which giant naked women are running around the landscape. Just so long as you can't see any of the nudity.

There's a similar thing happening with the extremes of violence lately. This took me by surprise after the excessive graphic violence on show in Infinite Crisis, but maybe the reaction to that was what caused the change in policy. So when Blockbuster rips the head off a heroine in 52, instead of graphic images of it bouncing away down the street the art is composed in such a way as to leave it unclear what has actually happened to her, and with no text to explain it, the only place you'll find mention of decapitation is on the official website.

There is evidence to speculate that this too was down to late editorial interference, though the extra shadowing applied to obscure what was going on is more subtlely applied. Unfortunately it leaves the sequence of pictures reading so ambiguously that without any text to explain it, you're not sure what's going on at all. When you know she's being decapitated it does read better, but dead is dead, so why have her head removed at all if you aren't going to show it or mention it in the story? I thought he'd broken her neck and the panel structure was just a bit clumsy and random until I read about it on the net.

It seems like they want it both ways. nude scenes that don't show any skin, and extreme violence without the gore.

Okay, I never liked the gore, but I'd rather have nastiness depicted as being nasty and with actual lasting consequences than have it sanitised away. How about just having less violence? Nudity I have no problem with, I just can't get my head around the whole "nudity good, nipples bad" thing anymore than I can make sense of putting flying characters in tiny skirts that barely cover their ass but absolutely never show a flash of panties. Make up your damn minds, you can't have it both ways. Either dress them more sensibly or accept that panties are part of the uniform and since everyone behind her when she's flying is going to get to see them, it's no big deal if the reader does too. She'll still be more modestly dressed than Emma Frost.


Anonymous said...

Darn you, Marionette, for beating me to the EXACT post I was going to write.

Without criticizing or blaming DC editorial, because they have a right to set their own standards and practices and because it's a standard held by television and film boards as well, why is okay to show people HAVING sex, grunting, sweating, heaving, moaning, but actually showing a nipple, even in a nonsexual context (breastfeeding, e.g.), verbotten? Why can we show fucking but not say "fuck"?

It suggests the futility of editing out material that might be perceived as offensive, because what different people find offensive is so subjective and varied. Some are offended by racial slurs and have no problem with taking the name of the Lord in vain (and vice versa). Some can't stand graphic violence. Some can't stand depictions of drug use, in any context. Some can't stand frank discussions of sexuality.

And setting hard and fast rules doesn't always work because people will write around the rules, getting the same message across without breaking the specific taboos.

I don't know if there's an answer, or if there is something inherently offensive about displaying a nipple. I just think it's kind of odd.

Anonymous said...

I think the constant near-nudity may actually stem from the fact that they can't have full nudity- artists and writers still feel like they're being naughty and subversive when they do it, so we keep getting this sort of Benny Hill-level titilation. Which isn't bad in itself, but it's gotten old.

Anonymous said...

"There is evidence to speculate that this too was down to late editorial interference"

You're spot on, the head was erased on the third panel, look at the sketchbook.