Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The Walking Dead Wrong Bag!

It’s funny (but not in the “ha ha” sense) that all other media loves to massively rip-off the comic book industry’s stories, ideas and iconography, but very often refuse to acknowledge the source material, and with little recourse. This is not a new story, as it traces back to the earliest days of Pop Art with the likes of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol ripping off comic artists work as “found art”—a tradition that Jeff Koons, and many other “fine artists” keep alive today. But it extends far wider than just art. When director Sam Mendes released the excellent Road to Perdition movie he was seriously begrudging about admitting that the idea may have come from something so lowly as a comic book; and yet he still plunders the four colour funnies for new ideas (most recently looking at producing The Boys by Garth Ennis and Darrick Robertson). And, of course, rave flyers, back in the Eighties constantly stole iconography from comics whether it was The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke art or covers to 2000 AD. And it looks like the fashion industry is no different.

Take this recent example above, for instance. I was walking down the street one day, in the very merry month of February, when I looked in the window of a trendy clothes shop in the fashionable part of Brighton. What did I see? A woman’s large handbag with very familiar comic panels all over it taken from The Walking Dead. Now, the artist, Charlie Adlard, is a good friend of mine and so his art style was instantly recognisable, except that the company that had made the bag—Living Dead Souls, their website says it all—had gone and put a whole load of completely inappropriate sound effects and crap speech balloons that are completely out of keeping with The Walking Dead comic, such as “Thump” “Blam” “Zap” and the character, Michelle, saying “Dudes, follow me!” Not to mention the terrible colouring. All obviously created by someone who’d never read the comic.
Charlie Adlard's interior art from The Walking Dead. Look familiar?

Tony Moore's original artwork to The Walking Dead #19. Look familiar? Moore based his cover on Adlard's interior art.

Needless to say I smelled a rat and contacted Charlie and Robert Kirkman to confirm if they’d licensed The Walking Dead into a line of female accessories. They hadn’t. 

The most laughable aspect of all this is the Living Dead Souls tag on the bag that claims, “All characters, images, print and design work of this item are copy right (sic).” 

Yeah, but not to you! 

“Any infringement or passing off this will be dealt with severely.” I’m hoping that Kirkman’s lawyers are dealing with them severely right now.

Still, I guess it works both ways. Here’s Dave Sim ripping off a fashion magazine for his Glamorpuss comic. Plus ça change!

"Wake up" - Rage Against the Machine

Monday, 19 April 2010

Erotic Awards 2010

Well, the finalists of the 2010 Erotic Awards have finally been officially announced here and I have to say I'm in some seriously illustrious company! Striptease queen, Jo King, is down for the Lifetime Achievement Awards, as are Ian Jackson & Lesley Ann Sharrock (founders of Desire magazine). Desire gave me fab reviews of both my Erotic Comics books, so fingers crossed for them!

Other impressive nominees are Professor Stephen Guest (Academic of the Year);  John Stoddart (who's photographed everyone from Liz Hurley to Martin Scorcesse); LibDem candidate and porn film director Anna Arrowsmith, and Nick Davies (Writer of the Year). Nick is one of the best journalists in the country (if not the world) and having listened to everything he has to say—and been very fortunate to have had a pint with him down the pub—I throughly recommend everyone should read his excellent exposé on so-called modern journalism, Flat Earth News.

My Erotic Comics: A Graphic History 12 are up against some pretty stiff competition (no pun intended) for Publication of the Year, as Susan Quilliam's "re-imaging" of the classic Joy of Sex manual and Jo Phoenix's Regulating Sex for Sale: Prostitution Policy Reform in the UK are both in the running. Personally, my money's on Susan winning, but we'll find out on Friday 30 April. Good luck to all my fellow nominees!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Lydia and The Little People

Another interesting title in the Bunty Summer Special is Lydia and the Little People, which, again, re-enforces not only gender roles, but social stereotyping as well. The story is a sort of bastardisation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, with Lydia being captured by leprechauns and made to be their slave, cooking and cleaning for them. Despite being called “Little People” there’s no sign of women in this patriarchal society and Lydia is driven to be their skivvy, while constantly trying to find away to escape their world. The leprechauns all speak in a faux “Oirish” accent telling Lydia, “It never rains down here, so we always hold our parties in the street, so we do.” Before forcing here to scrub the street clean.

The Little People spend their days getting drunk and partying in the streets, while Lydia caters to their every whim. Begorrah! Now, where’s me shillelagh? That woman’s askin’ fer a beatin'. It’s not in the least bit racist or sexist, to be sure.

"Wake up" - Rage Against the Machine

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Casual Sexism

I was at my parents over Easter where my Dad had discovered an old Bunty Summer Special from 1972. For non-British readers, Bunty was a highly successful girl’s comic published by D.C. Thompson & Co. (home of the Beano and Dandy) between 1958 and 2001 (43 years and over 2,200 issues!) although they still produce a Christmas annual every now and then.

I love reading all these old comics—not only for trying to discover classic artists (Sean Philips started out drawing girls’ comics and Pat Mills cut his writing teeth working on DC Thompson’s girls’ titles) but also in the discovery of just how pernicious and prevalent the inherent sexism was, just 38 years ago.
The Summer Special is made up of mostly reprints from possibly the Sixties and the most glaringly obvious piece of sexual propaganda is the strip, Tommy the Tomboy. The premise involves an independent woman, Carol Lawson, who inherits a college, but in order to make ends meet she has to teach anybody anything. So far, so good. It all goes wrong when Mrs. Ponsonby—secretary of the “Feminine Freedom Fighters”—who declares “We are working for equality for women. And the only way is for women to be the same as men, able to take over all their jobs” and promptly drops her daughter, Thomasina, off to learn “to be a man.”

The lessons take the form of a boxing match, marching, shovelling coal into a furnace and digging a drainage ditch.

But then Thomasina’s mother returns with shocking news that she is to inherit a fortune from a dead uncle, but only on the proviso that she has been brought up in a “Feminine” manner and that a lawyer is on the way to verify this. But it’s too late! “Tommy” has been “tainted” with male ways and acts like an oaf!
Fortunately Carol remembers a previous incident where Tommy was afraid of a mouse, and she releases a rodent in front of the gathering. Tommy jumps up on a chair and screams. 

At which point the lecherous lawyer says, “I must confess I had my doubts, but that was really feminine behaviour! I like an old-fashioned girl who needs masculine protection! There will be no difficulty with the will, I promise you.” Yeesh!

The story is very obviously written by a man (as many of the girls’ comics were back then) and the disturbing message is two-fold: Don’t try and be like a man, that’s just silly; and sure, stick to your ideals of feminism, but if a big fat pile of cash comes along chuck your ideology out the window and simper and fawn to the man in the room. Finally Carol reinforces the notion that women are there merely to be servile by stating “That’s what I’m here for—to make people happy.” Really? I thought you were running a college where you taught people? Guess I was wrong.

"Wake up" - Rage Against the Machine