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Rob Liefeld Responds To Robbi Rodriguez Over Frank Cho And J Scott Campbell

Of late a number of comic book artists have received criticism – and support – for drawings they have made that concern themselves with the portrayal of women in comics. For instance, J Scott Campbell's suggested Wonder Woman redesign in light of the new shoulder padded armour version, and Frank Cho for his one-off sketch portrayal of Spider-Gwen in the pose made famous by Milo Manara for Spider-Woman #1.

The latter point, made by Spider-Gwen co-creator Robbi Rodriguez, prompted him to respond in greater detail after his earlier criticism was also criticised.

Let me start by saying, for one, that wasn't a physical treat. It would have been an earful similar to this post, just with more cursing. Trust me – a good ton of the pros in the business would want to do the same.

Two, I don't take back what I said. It's my opinion and feeling on the matter, and you can take it or leave it. I didn't put it out there for discussion. I'm a prick that way. Also, it isn't something I haven't expressed before. You can find a few tweets on fan art, and I'm well aware I can't control what fans do. I know it doesn't hurt the ground swell that the industry has made so far, but it does hurt what ground has been made regarding the influx of new readers when a pro does work in that manner.

That tone has its place and its audience, and it doesn't make you wrong for liking it. Shit, I like most of Milo Manara's main work. I think they're fantastic works within their subject and context. But out of context it can come off as tasteless since this country is still not mature about sexuality and sexual expression. More importantly, it becomes trashy when we are in the midst of the biggest new reader boom in years. At ECCC I never heard so many "this is my daughter/son's first comic" or "my wife has never picked up a comic till this book" or sister/brother, or other non-reader. It's f—ing fantastic that the industry broke that wall. But every time I see those 10 gratuitous variant covers I cringe as I sign while said new readers watches.

Shit son, this isn't about censorship because most of the people bringing up that argument don't even know what that word means exactly. If you, as pro, want this medium and industry to be taken seriously, like we have a chance to now, then start f—ing acting like it and change with the times. The definition of body image has changed in of all entertainment in the last decade. And it's not a matter of changing the style of your work – it's a matter of thinking about your work outside of your bubble.

Really, it just took me getting over telling non-readers that that I work in comics, because it was embarrassing to have the only image associated with the medium be "big tits, big guns." We are making some great headway now. You don't know how many time I've seen Saga at the bars I draw in, and it's f—ing amazing. It's f—ing amazing because these are not old readers, these are fresh young minds just getting into the medium. But once they see works like the Cho sketch cover or the J.Scott covers, it puts the medium back in the basement-troll stereotype zone. Trust, you may not see it, but it's there.

So guys, (and this is the guys here) we have a chance to make this industry more legitimate than it has been in decades. Don't f— it up by sticking to your old ways. With the new influx of fantastic female creators, you need to do your part to build the business. This may be our last great chance to do so. Growing the f— up will help us all out in the long run.

This is just my opinion and not a discussion I have no time for. I have f—ing work to do.

Well, Image Comics founder and creator of characters such as Glory, Rob Liefeld, decided to share his take, believed to be in response to Robbi's post saying,

Allow me for a minute to direct this diatribe specifically at my comic book brethren… In recent times I haven't joined in the fray but this time I have to stand up. I just finished reading a disturbing rant by a fellow who took, in my humble opinion, uncalled for shots at two stellar talents in my industry, in our industry, Frank Cho and J J Scott Campbell.

Let's establish here at the outset that these two are a pair of comic book wizards, visual stylists that have been at the top of the comic book mountain top, and have entertained the masses for nearly two decades. Both men are famous for their renderings of the female physique, an art form once referred to as "cheesecake" by possibly the best illustrator comic books ever saw, Dave Stevens. Campbell and Cho have entertained myself and most of you with their outstanding work on Gen 13, Avengers, Star Wars, Danger Girl and X-Men over the years. Again, both are Titans in comics and illustration, having spent entire weekends with both gentlemen on the convention circuit, I can tell you that both men are outstanding human beings. From my experiences with both they are generous, warm and have a great sense of humor. It has been publicly suggested recently that each stop drawing in their respective styles, equating them with being "dirty" and "perverted"…. Say what???? What's going on here? Is Jessica Rabbit a shameful cartoon to today's audience? Betty Boop?

This rhetoric has been increasing of late and I find it completely distasteful that we are now calling out talents such as Frank Cho, J Scott Campbell, Milo Minara for their svelte female figures. Hey, pal, whoever you are, this is fantasy, it's not real you know. We draw warrior men and warrior women. You know who also puts a little sway in their female figures? How about Jim Lee, Marc Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen,Todd McFarlane, Adam Hughes, the list could go on forever but now each of my comic book brethren are being crucified and I would suggest that the wide majority of us who support their work get really loud and stand up and say this isn't okay.

Don't suggest your fellow artist is somehow below you because he draws a voluptuous figure. These aren't pornographic images, it's just healthy female heroins, sometimes illustrated in a dynamic manner or an occasionally cheeky way. So I'll end here by asking us all to stand up for two of our own, each who deserves better than threats or suggestions that they change their trademark and very successful styles! I'll tell you what, we could all use MORE comics from Campbell and Cho, two time tested commercial powerhouses, not less.

Rob Liefeld has, of course, come under his own share of flak for his portrayal of some women in some of his comics with this being an… extreme example.
It's arguable however that we are at a stage when the invisible hand of the free market will do what it always does. As more women enter the comic book market, so the industry is changing to address that. Because what the industry likes to do best is make money. And when Saga, Sex Criminals, Ms Marvel, Thor, Harley Quinn, Batgirl and more do that, then the rest will follow. And in the long run I'll also end up with some superhero comics I'm a lot happier to show to my daughters.
However, as those who attend comic book conventions will attest, those flocking around the Zenescope table, are as likely to be female as male as well.
And it's also worth looking at the work of Gail Simone, seen by some as a figurehead of the increasing female focus within comics, and her work for Dynamite with female creators on the Sword Of Sorrows series using Red Sonja to produce a series of sexy female characters and stories.
What if adventure pulps had also been written with female readers in mind, and awesome female characters in the spotlight? That's the scenario we are imagining, and it's just been a blast.
Creating work that is aware of gender issues, and work that is sexual does not have to be at odds. It just tends to be better thought through. Comics is in a very interesting time right now, and it's probably right that publishers should be considering how covers make their line of comics look, in the light of attracting an emerging audience. One very senior comic book executive expressed his fears to me after a junior editor stated in meetings that maybe they shouldn't hire the likes of Manara because of such social media backlash. This is echoed In comments by J Scott Campbell who states,
The industry is watching all of these interactions and the policies of the big companies are changing as they're reacting to this garbage. We're starting to feel the conservative safeness in their choices more and more. Some of the artists you love are actually getting less and less work because their styles are deemed as "too sexy" now according to these loud voices of the minority.
That, J Scott, is capitalism. People will buy what people will buy. But tastes change and either you change with them or you appeal to a market increasingly reducing in prominence.
But either way, for comic creators posting their own personal sketches, satirical or otherwise, the backlash seems… disproportionate.
This by the way is J Scott Campbell's cover to Spider-Gwen #1… one of a number he's done for the character.
I don't think anyone could have a problem with that.

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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