When good character design isn’t immediately aesthetically pleasing

When it comes to what constitutes a good character design, it can be hard to quantify and harder still if you’re not a professional artist. One good indicator of what makes a bad character design, especially if the character’s supposed to be half animal, is the anatomy. As what somebody pointed out, if the half-animal character just possesses very few animal traits then it wouldn’t be convincing. Tweak the design to be more bestial, then it’s more convincing.

(This prompted me to give some of my half-animal characters body hair and pawlike hands and feet to make them look more animal, even if I didn’t want to go furry with them.)

Oddly enough, by this logic, something like Killing Bites has better character designs well at least for some characters as it doesn’t just stop with ears and tails but also fur and limbs. Seems like the cartoonist does have a good understanding of animal anatomy enough to make convincing and interesting human animal hybrids for all its faults. But it does make one wonder if good character design isn’t just about looking good but also being convincing.

Sometimes what is anatomically convincing doesn’t always make up for what’s aesthetically pleasing, in the sense that while giving a human character body hair, animal paws, eyes and tail would make for a more convincing animal-human look it’s also more uncanny and unsettling so that’s probably why most mangaka either stick to just animal ears and tail or outright furry designs as something that’s halfway between the two’s horrifying if drawn realistically.

Maybe that’s also the reason why Pawsy Tigra didn’t last long, giving pawlike hands in addition to a tail made her look too creepy for some people even if making her look creepy’s the only way she can get away with that outfit and her being half-tiger makes sense. A realistic style would only amplify the creepiness of the design, despite how much more convincing it looks (and its practical benefits in live action).

As for sexy outfits, some of them just look good as they’re pretty much there to arouse people. They’re also outfits that even no pop star would wear while dancing because they’re so impractical, judging from the fit there’s no way they can comfortably house big breasts without slipping away. They also appear to be uncomfortable to wear, maybe that’s why they’re good examples of bad character design no matter how arousing they look to some people.

So what’s aesthetically pleasing doesn’t always mean it’s a good character design, to me what makes a good character design has to be convincing either sartorially or anatomically so or both when it comes to constructing outfits a half human would wear.

What a businessperson really is like

When it comes to businesspeople, there’s a tendency to stereotype them as rich. Yes a good number of well-known businesspeople are rich, rich enough to buy luxurious items even if not all of them do so. The surprising thing is that small and medium sized businesses/enterprises outnumber the larger ones in most national economies, so the average businessperson isn’t going to be that rich. Well, not all of them are that poor either and many more of them are practically middle class.

That’s enough to sustain and support themselves given the bare minimum needed to start a very successful business, speaking from personal experience I have sold a lot of face masks for 20 pesos. That’s enough to buy myself some magazines, so to speak and I’m planning on selling and making clothes to earn more money. It’s not that easy selling stuff, especially if it’s something that you might lose at any time (this has happened to me once). Not to mention increased competition from other businesses.

Back to the stereotype of the businessperson as rich, I think most people have no idea what it’s like to run a business since it’s not always easy to earn money from selling something. Especially when you not only have a lot of competition but also face losing your job and resources (I know this from experience), that it shouldn’t be surprising there’s a reason why most businesses are either small or medium sized in scope. Some businesses are even smaller still, hence the word micro enterprise.

I may not be rich enough, but I will make enough money from selling clothes to support myself and I think that’s true for anybody working in smaller enterprises where they do this to support themselves and their families as well. I may not speak for all people working in small and medium enterprises, but I am speaking from personal experience selling stuff nearly two years ago. It’s not easy making and selling stuff, especially if you lose those resources.

But once I get back to selling something, that’s when I’ll earn money again and I’ll give you more insight on what’s like to run a small business. Not to mention when it comes to selling stuff, as I learnt, it’s not always about deliberately selling stuff to people but rather allowing the customer their own choices to something they like. This is what I learnt from my aunt who told me this, so I decided to consider selling stuff online to allow people to decide for themselves. Again it’s not easy setting up a business, much less in ways you’re not familiar with.

That’s why setting up a business will not come easy, whether if it’s something you will lose or if it’s a new way of selling things it will not be easy.

The problem with Comicsgate

When it comes to wanting comic books free from politics, what they actually want is comics free from liberal politics as they seem to accidentally or rather deliberately shove in their conservative politics. What they want is somebody who doesn’t offend their political preferences, even if some of these writers and cartoonists they patronise aren’t even that good themselves. I even think they have equally bad or perhaps much worse taste than SJWs do, which’s saying if they really can’t tell the difference between a good writer from a hack.

They think that pandering to people who don’t read comics is pandering to a minority when in reality that would be the majority, statistically speaking which’s saying when it comes to what most people are into. These people have got to be sleeping under a rock, especially when it comes to what most people do and support. If most people don’t read comics that much, you might as well forgive them for thinking that Valkyrie and Nick Fury are black if because they’re portrayed by black people in the far more popular Marvel films.

Even if some of their concerns are legitimate, some of it’s something not many people are into. That’s if most of them aren’t big comics fans to begin with, that’s when you realise how out of touch many Comicsgaters are when it comes to what the majority of people are into. It’s like they’re right-wing authoritarians who reject and attack anybody who isn’t like them, don’t have much contact with normal people and they think they’re normal when they’re not.

That’s one of the other problems with the Comicsgate movement, they think they’re normal when in reality they’re outliers. Especially when it comes to the fact that most people don’t read comics on a daily basis, that’s when their idea that pandering to people who don’t read comics is pandering to a minority falls apart real badly. That’s how out of touch they are with reality.

Obscured inspirations and topics

It’s been said that when it comes to the X-Men, for all its anti-prejudice message, has a history of fumbling a lot when it comes to nonwhite characters. Characters like John Proudstar and Dust are stereotypical, Elizabeth Braddock being bodyswapped with a Japanese woman to get ninja skills (until recently when it got undone) and that Dazzler was going to be black as she was based on Grace Jones. Grace Jones was certainly a big name celebrity in her time, but Dazzler got racially whitewashed half-way.

Comes to think of it, this kind of tampering might not be unique to superhero stories as this also affects other kinds of stories. In the case with romance novels, there could’ve been romance stories that tackled abortion, getting one’s tubes tied, miscarriage, STDs and the like with a likely number of romance novel heroes being based off of somebody else. Somebody who doesn’t fit the romance hero mold, so there’s a good (and weird) chance that one romance hero may’ve been based off of somebody like Nick Rhodes. He may not have a great body, but he and his band Duran Duran were pretty popular in the 1980s with girls having crushes on them.

So it’s likely some romance novelists and readers grew up with Duran Duran, though it could be said that one’s preferences change over time. But for others, there’s bound to be those whose preferences aren’t beholden to the stereotypical norm. There are even romance readers and possibly romance novelists who’re turned off by muscles, that their own romance heroes were at some point not the typical romance novel hero. They could’ve been thin or chubby, they could even be middle class or working class.

Romance novels might be changing for the better, but the fact that muscular rich men are very popular stereotypes remain. Same goes for bad boys, while not all romance novels have them as heroes, it’s likely some novelists are pressured to keep writing these kinds of characters even if they’re not really interested in or attracted to them as they would in real life. I also think there are romance novelists who likely have less stereotypical Latin or Arab heroes, less stereotypical in the sense that they’re not rich sheikhs or Latin Lovers.

Even if these characters may have at some point more closely resembled what other Latin or Arab men are actually like, they got changed halfway to meet editorial and sales expectations. This could’ve been to the chagrin of novelists who either go against the grain or create characters based on the people they know so well that we never get an opportunity to read them as they actually were. Or rather were going to be, since other than any possible surviving draft we don’t get to see them as what their authors intended them to be.

Thus these characters get rewritten in the interim to meet romance expectations, that’s to fulfill a stereotype. While the Duran Duran example is only hypothetical, it does make you wonder why there isn’t more room for romance heroes who’re openly based on what some romance novelists are actually into or inspired by. Likewise for Arab and Mediterranean men, there could’ve been stories where these characters differed greatly from the stereotypical depiction but were made into stereotypes halfway.

There could’ve been romance novels that tackled the topic of infertility and to some extent, they already have but when it comes to meeting market and editorial expectations authorial desires are compromised or altered to meet such demands.

Enter katsa clothing

Katsa, or feedsack fabric as it’s known in North America, is commonly used to hold flour together. Especially a lot of it, it was a replacement for barrels and still is to some extent today. Some Philippine fashion designers use katsa bags as raw materials for making clothes, so the practise of turning cloth bags into clothing is still around today. Maybe nowhere near the heights it had in North America since the early to mid 20th century, but still around in some form or another.

At some point, it was such a common practice for rural women to turn cloth bags into clothing that flour companies got wind of it and began offering cloth bags that were available in various colours and patterns as well as vegetable ink that can be easily washed away. A few more bags were needed to make one adult woman’s dress, one bag is needed to make into a girl’s dress and to make these work women had to find bags with similar or matching patterns.

I still think that’s the case with contemporary fashion brands using katsa, especially if they’re going to make clothing requiring more metres to make. Clothing brands using katsa are proof that clothes made from cloth feed sacks are being made today, maybe not always in the form older generations remember it as but prominent enough to make it to news headlines. So much so it even inspired me to consider making clothes out of katsa.

You need to go to a bakery or some other shopping outlet to get katsa in order to turn it into clothing whether if you intend on keeping it yourself or selling it to somebody else, but at least that’s not being wasteful in that it’s being used for something else. That’s being made into clothing, which has good implications for the environment when it comes to recycling waste products like these.

Superhero comics and accessibility

When it comes to superhero comics and accessibility, they do reach out to new readers to some extent but some of the biggest drawbacks to having such a vast, extensive shared universe (though this may not be true for all shared universes) is that it can be hard to track down a character. Especially if it’s one’s favourite character, speaking from experience when it comes to finding good comics about Tigra. While other story franchises have their own problems and drawbacks, things like DC and Marvel have accidentally made it harder for somebody to find what they want to see.

Not just due to racism and sexism but also because it can be really hard to track down one’s favourite character if they don’t have a long-lasting self-contained magazine series of their own and that they can be seen in multiple magazines. While this may not be unique to Marvel and DC as this can be found in other shared universes to a similar or some extent, that’s the pitfall of having an extensive shared universe. If a character appears in multiple books or magazines, it can be really hard finding them at all as I know from experience especially if you want to find good stories about them.

Self-contained stories and universes might not be much better either when it comes to finding a character one is interested in, but if they stay in one storytelling universe and just one storytelling universe that makes it easier to find them. Much easier if they appear in a certain story arc. Not much better, but still better than appearing in an extensive shared universe the way you do with Marvel and DC. Maybe that might be one of the reasons why Image, Dark Horse and other publishers abandoned the shared universe model as it makes it harder to find one’s favourite character.

Maybe not necessarily the primary reason, but that self-contained universes and stories are significantly easier to get into than if it were an extensive, shared universe even if that’s not true for all shared universes. But the problem remains if it were an extensive shared universe.

One of the girls

When it comes to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and Cool Girl stereotypes, both centre on not being one of the girls despite adhering to male ideals of what women should be like or rather because of it to some extent for as long as she doesn’t outmale them either in appearance or in role. She’s into things most women aren’t yet be as conventionally attractive to men as she can be, she has to be approachable to men whilst not alienating them in her androgyny. She’s a near-impossible standard.

Somebody on Tiktok jokingly said that the preference for women who aren’t like other women goes deeper than that, perhaps because they secretly wanted a boyfriend or something. Not that they’re actually gay, but that their ideal woman seems awfully close to what most men want and are into. Not that women can’t be into sports, hunting and other butch stuff, but it seems their ideal woman is devoid of the experiences women get into when entering something masculine like say she’s into butch stuff but without encountering the sexism that comes along with such a field.

A woman without the femininity and womanhood women experience, a woman whose femininity is mostly unrelatable and artificial at that. Their idea of a girl next door, if honest, would be a woman whose interests are very much like a man but without being threatening to their masculinity and considered more approachable than women whose interests are more conventionally feminine. Imagine if these characters like Patty Spivot have more conventionally or stereotypically feminine interests and behaviours. Instead of being bubbly and into science a lot, she’s moody and into romance novels and horses.

You might say it makes her stupid if she reads romance novels but one of my own relatives loved both the National Geographic magazines and romance novels and she was big into reading in general, Patty Spivot could easily be her when you think about it. There’s another woman who’s big into critical thinking and romance novels as well as romantic fanfiction, to put it politely. Patty Spivot would also easily be her too. This Patty Spivot comes off as one of the girls in some regards, too unapproachable for some men even though her interests are closer to the everywoman than the woman of their dreams does.

It’s not that she has entirely abandoned science, but rather if she’s ever outed being big into romance novels and horses she would lose her cool girl status. She’s no longer one of the lads, instead she’s one of the lasses. Now let’s try Caitlin Snow, let’s say she’s not a scientist but rather an aspiring erotica writer who specialises in male homoerotica. You might say it makes her less intelligent now that she’s no longer a scientist, even though ironically it’s not uncommon for geek women to read or write slash fiction.

Some have even made a career out of writing professional male homoerotica, Caitlin Snow would easily do that. Instead of being an idealised geek girl, she’s more like what a substantial number of geek girls are like. By substantial, she indulges in male on male fiction like many geek girls have done before her. She might actually be relatable to other people this way, though that’s something some fans will not and never admit or realise. Even if other women have done something similar before, it’s not something fans would expect from her.

It seems like when it comes to creating these idealised women, it seems like cishet male writers want a woman who’s approachable but also not like other women which’s where their misogyny kicks in full. This stereotype is a standard women cannot fulfill for a long time, not to mention women who enter male fields encounter sexism and added racism if they’re not the majority ethnicity. Cool girls are also not made to outshine the male character in those fields, so such characters and stereotypes remain unrelatable and out of reach for many women.

Out of reach in that it’s always possible and has been possible for a woman to outshine a man in some fields, she could be better at playing football than he does. She might outearn a man, she might outrun a man or outlift a man. Men don’t like losing to women, so they find ways of bringing them down when they surpass them. The cool girl stereotype is something that walks on a tightrope, she can get into boy things but not outboy the boys and not complain or be concerned about sexism either.

Thus she can’t be like other women, she remains an elusive ideal. You can see this character in various forms and shapes, she’s the Goth girl who appears often in animation. She’s the adorkable ‘girl next door’, she’s the manic pixie dream girl. One thing’s for certain, she’s a character women will not relate to easily and a character straight men wish women were. She might as well be a man after all.

It already panders to a narrow audience

When it comes to Comicsgaters complaining about comics pandering to people who don’t read comics, statistically speaking most people don’t read comics that regularly and the sort of comics they’d read (if they ever did at all) would most likely be newspaper cartoons. I actually think some superhero comics readers are pretty spoilt in that there’s already an industry that caters to their every whim since the 1960s up to now. If it’s true, then it’s like a spoilt child complaining about somebody giving something to other people who also want it.

As I said before, a good number of superhero readers (and superhero fans in general) are pretty spoilt as the industry has already catered to them for several decades now. It’s only now that superhero publishers like DC and Marvel are taking a more active role in attracting people who aren’t big comic book readers, perhaps due to the popularity of superhero films. Especially with Marvel, given the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But I still think what I said bears a lot in that many superhero fans are pretty spoilt, superhero comics have nods to prior continuity in every way and that the characters they think are relatable tend to be fellow superhero fans themselves.

Superhero comics have already humoured these characters a lot, something the more mainstream newspaper cartoons have barely ever done (well not to the same degree). I wouldn’t say that white fanboy characters necessarily overrun superhero comics and superhero media in general, they’re better represented than say Asian hunters, farmers and pet owners, African pet owners, hunters and farmers, and black veterinarians. The latter three exist in the real world, but from my reading experience they’re not that widely represented.

Especially when compared to their white counterparts and perhaps nearly nonexistent compared to the preponderance of white superhero fanboys, actually I also think Asian athletes (despite being a thing in the real world) are also pretty underrepresented in superhero comics. Especially given unfavourable stereotypes of Asian people being unathletic, even if Takumi Minamino plays for Liverpool and Son Heung-min plays for Tottenham Spur. There’s even a Philippine football team called Azkals and our very own Kai Sotto’s aiming for NBA membership.

That’s why representation matters, if there’s a character a reader’s interested in finding but can’t find that character anywhere and everywhere then they get left out. Take India for instance, outside of Indian comics (yes they do exist) there’s not a single Indian character who plays sports like cricket in either DC or Marvel despite its popularity in that country. While it would be expecting too much, it does matter when it comes to looking for characters some readers would be interested in.

If white superhero fans are rather spoilt in terms of representation in that they got what they wanted, those seeking characters they want to see are often out on a limb. When I mean by that, it could be black characters, Asian characters, indigenous characters or Latinx characters who aren’t massive stereotypes. I for one would be interested in an Indian Felicity Smoak who’s a seamstress, that’s my preference but that’s one example of somebody seeking representation of characters they want to see in superhero media.

I do know one woman who’s interested in a Native American Poison Ivy, that’s another example of somebody seeking representation in superhero media and it shouldn’t be dismissed. Surely, an Indian Felicity Smoak wouldn’t be to everybody’s tastes but I’m interested in a Felicity Smoak who isn’t involved in IT and is Anglo-Indian. Being Indian and IT are mutually exclusive for other people, just as being Jewish and IT are mutually exclusive (Donna Karan is a Jewish-American fashion designer).

But that’s my preference that I want a Felicity Smoak who’s Indian and involved in the garment industry, you really don’t get much of these characters in Western pop culture the way you do probably with Indian pop culture. It’s like this stereotype of South Asian people in the West where they’re expected to work in information technology, it leaves little room for South Asians who are involved in other things be it sports (the existence of Indian cricketers should attest to it), cinema (Bollywood especially) or fashion in Felicity Smoak’s case.

Not many people consider the idea of Felicity Smoak as Anglo-Indian, even if people like Ben Kingsley exist. As I said before, superhero comics and to an extent superhero media already panders to a narrow audience. A narrow audience that’s very spoilt at the expense of others, not just ethnic minorities but also anybody who don’t read comics or enjoy superheroes that often. That is pandering, which superhero media has done for a long time and have come to perfect this method.

Many white superhero fans are pretty spoilt, they got an entire industry to bend on its knees. They got an industry to pander to them, sometimes at the expense of not only ethnic minorities but also anybody who aren’t big superhero fans. Okay, this isn’t always true but it still rings true most of the time.

Making something

To be honest, I do want money. I need to sell something to support myself and I have plans of selling something expensive to give myself a lot of money, so I do have thoughts of having a lot of money myself. Nonetheless, I feel the poor also want something special themselves. So it would be nice if I were to give them something, be it a nice gown or a nice blouse. If the rich can have nice things, so do the poor. I might have to sacrifice my desire to have a lot of money for myself to give them something, I have to realise since I want something for free it’s only fair to give them something for free as well.

Yes, I have my hesitations as I want to make a lot of money for myself. But to compromise, I would make something for free once I’m financially stable enough to support myself that I can afford to give special presents to people. I’m not there yet, but I will have to get there once I have enough money to support myself and then others. For the time being, I have to learn to make a dress before I can make a dress as well as a blouse to sell them to other people. I may not be good enough at something yet, but I do have some prior sewing experience to know how to make one myself.

I do have experience in selling something before, mostly with facemasks as I sold them for 20 pesos each. One of my relatives suggested I should’ve sold them for 50 pesos, given the effort I make in creating them. I actually have plans of making and selling blouses for 260 pesos, since that would give me more money than with facemasks, which I sold for 20 pesos. I could and actually want to sell dresses for 460 pesos, which would give me even more money but if I earned 1000 pesos I would have to spend it on more fabrics to sell and a handful to keep. Perhaps some as gifts to give away.

There are probably going to be things where I’d keep for myself and/or somebody else, so I have my priorities where I’d sell some outfits, ones to keep myself and some to give away to others. I may not be there yet, but I will do anything to work and support myself when I can. I’ve just made a pattern for a dress, but I need chalk to fulfill my vision. This is just the beginning for me making a dress, but I could hit big with selling and making dresses in the future. This is wish fulfillment at best, but that’s the best I can do for my situation.

Fandom to professionalism and pandering

To be fair, this isn’t unique to geek fandoms and industries as the more ‘normie’ ones like football, fashion and pop music have this to some extent, though the main difference is that these three attract a bigger audience perhaps far bigger than the one for say superhero comic books. That’s because they also attract more casual fans to boot and that most people don’t read comics, let alone superhero comics that regularly. So it feels less inbred than the one for superhero comics, where it seems at this point almost every superhero writer or artist was and still is a diehard fan of something.

As with many things, the pioneers of anything like superheroes or football weren’t fans of something but rather the originators who help create the rules and conventions of what is to come. The only real difference is that football has far more casual fans than superhero comics do, which means a lot of people are into football without being big fans of the sport (and certain athletes). This can be applied to any popular sport, whereas the vast majority of superhero media (comics and increasingly television) caters to a cult audience.

With that cult audience comes a degree of narrative inbreeding, that’s if those fans ever start working on something that wasn’t so hugely popular to begin with. One good recent example of a superhero fan turned professional would be Jay Edidin, who’s behind one such X-Men fansite called Xplain the X-Men or something and since then have been portrayed in one of the X-Men comics and has written a story about Cyclops (one of the X-Men). The earliest superhero comics fan turned professional would be Roy Thomas, who has written superhero comics since then.

While the advantage is that they’d feel a lot of enthusiasm for the stories and characters they like, there’s also the risk of feeling too fannish when it comes to understanding fannish in-jokes and fanfiction stereotypes and conventions. This has happened to Arrow before where the writers and producers began pandering to a subset of fans who wanted a pairing between one character and Oliver Queen, one person compared this to prioritising an obscure Harry Potter over the main ones except that Harry Potter’s far better known than Green Arrow and has sold far more copies.

So it’s safe to say that even to those who haven’t read the books and watched the films (like myself) are familiar with Harry Potter on some level, so much so that those adapting the stories will do their hardest not to tamper with the source material as it’s so well-known to many people. That’s something the Green Arrow comics will never get, being rather semi-obscure and not much of a bestseller even when compared to other kinds of comics.

For most of the part this makes the fandom relationship between Arrow and Oliciters far more intimate than the one for Harry Potter when it comes to fan pairings, the closest Harry Potter got is to have a black woman play Hermione (who’s sometimes portrayed as black by some fans) in one play. Perhaps significantly more intimate in that Arrow doesn’t have that much viewers as Harry Potter does, so it doesn’t have as many casual watchers and readers as HP does too.

It may not always be the case, but it does speak volumes about things fans know very well. Especially if it’s something that’s not regularly consumed by a lot more people, that makes the relationship between fans and their objects of fandom all the more intimate.