They call it alternative/indie

When it comes to the world of Anglophone American comics, there’s a tendency to describe superheroes as mainstream even though quantitatively speaking they really aren’t and anything that doesn’t involve superheroes as alternative or indie. Maybe not always exactly the case, but the fact that outside of Archie Comics, best-selling children’s graphic novels and especially newspaper comics/cartoons so far in the Anglophone world (to my knowledge) much of comics pander to geeks.

Which means pandering a lot to what geeks are into, even if geeks aren’t always necessarily into everything geeky but it’s telling when a good number of comics published in the Anglophone world centre around what geeks like, be it manga, science fiction, fantasy, horror or superheroes with the non-manga, non-superhero, non-comic strip comics being kind of unpopular. At least up to the time webcomics showed up and even then, some of it’s based on what geeks like.

When it comes to crime and romance fiction, they used to be pretty common in comics and still are to some extent when it comes to Dick Tracy and Archie. But it is telling when the comics industry has come to pander a lot to geeks, especially so in North America when it comes to the Direct Market, that’s when they began phasing out a good number of comics that would appeal to non-geeky readers though it could’ve been complicated by censorship bodies like Comics Code.

It does get really strange when you realise that crime and romance novels regularly hit the bestsellers charts, which’s enough to make their authors rich or at least lead a comfortable life, don’t appear often in comics anymore. Either that readers’ tastes have changed, or the odd fact that outside of newspaper cartoons comics publishers have began catering a lot to a rarefied minority. That rarefied minority being geeks, so it’s easier to stick to a small but loyal audience than it is to reach out to many more.

Okay, that too may not always be the case even in prose fiction where literary fiction doesn’t always produce that much bestsellers compared to crime and romance. But it is strange that in the world of comics, outside of newspaper cartoons and Archie, romance and crime don’t seem to be very popular genres in comics compared to science fiction, horror, superheroes and fantasy.

Well at least these days, but it proves my point that much of comics publishing has come to pander to and actually stems from geeks. So much so that a good number of comics popular with those characters tends to centre around the kinds of stories they enjoy and read in prose fiction, so it’s something comics publishers have come to tap into and cater to them a lot. This may not always be the case for all comics publishers, but it’s telling.

This may not be the case for all graphic novels, as they are changing for the better when it comes to catering to a wider audience who aren’t big comics geeks. But it seems to me that many comics publishers have come to pander a lot to geeks, since they’re the more loyal readers and customers out there who’d patronise such a medium that they cater to them instead.

At least until recently and even then, it’s telling when a good number of comics published by many comics publishers tends to revolve around the sorts of stories geeks like to read that’s when you realise the (near) marginalisation of crime and romance with that audience. Even though these kinds of prose novels sell very well, they’re not the kinds of stories that attract a big geeky audience.

Even if there are geeks who’re into those kinds of things, it’s parsimonious to say that perhaps outside of certain stories (paranormal romance for instance) and some people there’s not much of a big crossover audience between those who read something like Miss Marple and those who read Starship Troopers, the latter is more likely to intersect with comics readers even if that may not always be the case either, but still.

It’s not that there aren’t any comics based on things normal people would be interested in, though the best examples are to be found in newspapers, but I think that’s what happens when you pander to geeks a lot. It may not always be the case, but when everything that isn’t about superheroes (and to an extent, anything speculative fiction) is considered alternative that’s what happens when you pander to geeks a lot.

A smoking romance

I remember writing that a good number of Olicity fans (fans who pair Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak together) are romance readers, whether if they’re aware of it or not well there’s one Olicity fan who’s a romance writer. I don’t read romance that much, being more of a nonfiction reader as time goes on. But having read a romance at some point makes me think a good number of Olicity shippers are into those kinds of things, even if that’s not true for all of them.

Felicity Smoak, from what I remember watching, seemed like a rather contrived character. She has a habit of saying innuendos, which are supposed to make her awkward. She was a Goth hacker, which makes her even more contrived. Not that there aren’t any hackers who’re into Goth stuff like The Cure, but it reeks of the Goth girl meme so fetishised and objectified by /co/ posters and some geek men in general if you go to the website Fireden and search for those threads.

The only thing that doesn’t seem contrived is her romance with Oliver, though I think judging from the comments in this blog post, there seems to be a lot of women who identify a lot with her. Not so much that they’re always at the computer, but I think if they are romance readers they wouldn’t identify much with Laurel Lance. There was somebody who couldn’t identify with her because she was too perfect. That’s until she admitted to doing drugs and stuff.

Pardon if it makes me sound like a sexist, but I personally don’t know any woman who’s into tech, hacking and programming. I personally don’t know any Felicity Smoak and the closest to her is actually a man, my own father. But I do know two Laurels, their real names are Marianne Faithfull and the late Gia Carangi. Even if Laurel did become more fallible, there are others who can’t relate to her at all in any way. But it could also be a matter of jealousy in that if they identify so much with Felicity, they see Laurel as competition.

Especially when they lust after Oliver, that any other woman who goes near him is their enemy in some way or another. They may not always be aware of it, though it’s not always a matter of geek girl versus popular girl dichotomy. When it comes to writing romance and the like, the heroine has to be someone the readers will identify with. Not to mention she has to be a character who is enamoured by the hero, despite being rather plain.

Or in Felicity’s case, awkward (though in a contrived way) and most likely a little horny. Maybe that’s the real reason why they don’t identify much with Laurel Lance, who in addition to being competition isn’t somebody they identify with. From what I know and recall, Laurel never seemed to be that horny for Oliver the way Felicity is (or anybody else). I could be wrong, but when Felicity has a habit of staring at a shirtless Oliver and so do some fans that’s telling.

While it could be said that Felicity Smoak is a blank slate for some viewers/fans to project onto, personally speaking she’s an odd (or unique, if I’m generous) combination of every geeky guy’s fantasy girl and every romance novel heroine/fan fiction reader insert. Either that she went from one direction to the other, or that in my opinion she’s a weird combination of fantasy girl and reader surrogate in a way Laurel Lance isn’t.

While I think the former might be truer than the latter, I still think Arrow’s Felicity Smoak is a rather weird combination of two different ideals for women. Laurel was never like this, though that’s because I never watched a lot of Arrow to be honest. Whatever became of Felicity Smoak, she always struck me as a strange combination of geek fantasy girl and audience surrogate. Well, she might not be the only one who’s like that.

Her most immediate predecessor, within DC media, would be Smallville’s Chloe Sullivan. Like Felicity, she also pined over the protagonist though she ended up marrying somebody else. Coincidentally that man is Green Arrow and there’s a Black Canary who dressed a lot like her comics counterpart. It seemed even if Smallville writers did come close to pandering to Chloe’s fans, such a relationship never came to being the way it did for Arrow.

In the realm of comics, we have Gen13’s Caitlin Fairchild and X-Men’s Kitty Pryde. The latter started out as a kind of reader surrogate, albeit one who became more of a geek fantasy girl as time went by. Somebody like Kalinara said that Kitty panders a lot to a narrow audience, which I could say some of the same things about Felicity. If it’s true, that might be Olicity’s real undoing. Fairchild, as I recall reading, is a refinement of the character Kitty ended up as.

Fairchild even got undressed often and she’s a geek girl, a serious case of a geek fantasy girl if there ever was one. Felicity is pretty much Kitty Pryde in reverse, she started out as a geek fantasy girl and ended up becoming the audience surrogate for some people. Maybe not exactly the case as I make it out to be, but she did resonate a lot with a certain female audience in a way Kitty Pryde didn’t. Maybe not to the same extent, but it’s telling.

While Felicity did fall for other men, the man she fell in love with the hardest is Oliver and it’s clear that she has a habit of looking at him exercising while shirtless. Kitty falls for other men too, but she doesn’t have a habit of staring at men shirtless as far as I recall. This makes Kitty more of a geek fantasy girl than Felicity will ever be, which explains why some people hate Felicity. None of it’s to say I like Felicity.

What I’m saying’s that even if there are people who ship Kitty with other characters like Piotr Rasputin for instance, it didn’t become canon the way Olicity did. So much so that Kitty’s well within the geek fantasy girl territory, that’s a character who panders a lot to geeks and is actively sexualised and objectified for it. Kitty may have dated other men, but she never came close to objectifying another character the way Felicity did.

Which’s why Felicity worked too well as an audience surrogate. She was a character who pined after Oliver a lot and so do some people, so much so they paired her with Oliver and showrunners came to pander to them so badly it even turned off others. I think Patty Spivot never worked well as an audience surrogate, but because she’s too much of a geek fantasy girl for others to identify with. Maybe it’s not true for others, but it’s telling in some regards.

Felicity did, which might be Olicity’s own undoing.

Ethnic stereotypes and powers

While there’s a study that enlists the kinds of powers more commonly given to women, it doesn’t take ethnicity into account especially which ethnicity’s more likely to have these abilities and skills at all. It’s even goes without saying that while there are well-intentioned attempts at introducing multiethnic and multicultural superhero teams, for some characters they’re beholden to stereotypes. Characters like Siryn and Shamrock play into stereotypes about Irish people being red-haired and in the case of the former, drunk.

I’m not saying that there aren’t any red-haired Irish people, but the Irish people I personally know (online to be certain) aren’t big on drinking and I can’t name any red-haired Irish celebrity. Blond maybe, especially if you’re Ronan Keating and Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh. But I can’t name a single red-haired Irish celebrity, which again tells you how these characters play into stereotypes about Irish people made worse by that they’re not written by Irish people.

In the case with two Norwegian superheroes in DC Comics, both Glacier and Ice have ice powers and the latter was created to replace the former (in a way, by mistake). Even not all Scandinavian heroes in DC Comics necessarily have ice powers, it does play into stereotypes about Scandinavians being frigid. Not that there aren’t any glaciers in Norway at all and part of it is in the Arctic Circle. But for some reason, there’s not a single Argentinian character with ice powers.

Argentina’s very close to Antarctica so it gets really cold down south and it’s a missed opportunity when it comes to creating an Argentinian superhero with ice powers, likewise since Iceland has a lot of volcanoes it should make sense to create an Icelandic superhero with volcanic powers. It’s these quirks of geography that can and should inspire writers to create characters based on those, but due to ethnic stereotypes this may never come to be.

The biggest risk of say a Norwegian superhero as written by a non-Norwegian is that there’s a chance of playing into stereotypes, even if it happens accidentally, but it does tell you about how they see a certain ethnicity as. If you want to know what a Norwegian superhero would be like, if they were conceived by a Norwegian here are two examples. The other one’s even black, which’s something neither DC and Marvel have done outside of the latter’s version of Thor.

Likewise, a Brazilian superhero by a Brazilian writer would more accurately depict Brazilian culture. I think no matter how well-intentioned the writer this, if the writer doesn’t share the character’s ethnicity and nationality there’s a chance of playing into stereotypes even if it happens accidentally but still.

Aquaman and conservation

Somebody said that Aquaman, if he ever existed in the real world, would actually be an aspirational figure in that he can not only rescue people whenever they drown but also undo environmental damages such as oil spills in the sea. Here’s what he has to say about him:

DC needs to own Aquaman. He is a tough bastard. He rules 80% of the freaking planet. If there’s an oil spill somewhere or trouble on an oil rig, who are you calling? When that oil drill burst off the coast of Louisiana, leaking millions of barrels of oil, wouldn’t you have liked to see a goddam Aquaman swim down there and plug it up in about five minutes?

Submarine disasters. Sinking ships. Sea embargoes. For crying out loud, Aquaman has the trademark on sea rescue. It’s not his fault if he’s been saddled with creators who can’t think of anything to do with him (he actually has had, on occasion, some decent writers working on him)

If Aquaman were a real, actual, living being, he would be regarded as one of the most amazing people on the planet. I bet you that he would be one of the most — if not the most — popular superheroes, if for no other reason than our ever-present worries about climate change. Aquaman would be a fetish figure all over the world.

In light of dogs preying on sea turtles and dogs being something of an invasive species themselves, how much more important it is to have a superhero actually stand up for endangered species and animals like them for instance. That’s not to say dogs are entirely bad for conservation, but like fire dogs are capable of both good and bad. With fire is when everything’s left unattended and unless if other factors like rain were taken into consideration, it will be very destructive.

To put it this way, fire has beneficial uses like keeping buildings warm, cook food and light one’s way in the dark. But it’s also bad if left to its own devices like burning somebody real badly, even killing them if given the chance and opportunity. The same can be said with dogs and their interactions with other animals, they can help conserve endangered species but only with human intervention, technology and training.

If left on their own, they’ll surely kill them through predation and pathogenesis. Fire has been humanity’s oldest and earliest source of light and heat, but it’s also very destructive and unlike water where some wet things can be salvaged and dried fire can and will destroy what’s left of it. Especially if it’s not caught in time or beforehand. Since Aquaman lives underwater and water puts out fire, it’s a befitting analogy.

It doesn’t help that from my experience, whenever somebody thinks of an invasive mammalian predator attacking animals it’s going to be a cat (at least in the WEIRD* world) so stories about Aquaman saving sea animals from being eaten by dogs, though it does have a basis in reality when it comes to news reports and studies like these, is a path never taken.

Even if it’s taken seriously or considered in other places, it seems whatever damages dogs do to the environment through predation is hardly ever thought of much by other people. Even when there’s growing evidence that they do, it’s not taken into consideration. Let alone publicised and dramatised in a way that’s accessible to outsiders, which could’ve been done with Aquaman when one thinks about it.

Aquaman could easily be DC’s biggest environmentalist champion, after Poison Ivy, but one who would hit where it hurts especially if you’re a dog owner when it comes to dog predation and that might be partly why we won’t be seeing stories about Aquaman rescuing seals from dogs anytime soon.

Even if Aquaman might be a better fit, because unlike Poison Ivy, he’s a hero longer stories about him saving endangered wildlife from dogs is something that may never come to fruition because most people either don’t take dog predation on wildlife seriously or sadly ignore it. That’s why it’s a path never taken by Aquaman writers.

*Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic; it’s a case where a disproportionate amount of studies in some cases come from the Western world. Not that academic studies are nonexistent in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries and anywhere outside of the West, but it can be problematic if anything taking place in the Western world is more easily found than its African counterpart for instance.

A Kink of One’s Own?

When it comes to things like guro yaoi, violent macabre erotica and the like in light of that some women do have a fetish for sexual sadism if such stories are used to explore their sexuality one might wonder if they may use it to understand what really turns them on? There are cases where women do get arrested for sexually abusing somebody when they are sexually sadistic, though it may not be that as rare as others make it out to be.

It could be complicated by socialisation in which some men may act out their sexual desires, though I think the case for something like guro yaoi may make one wonder if there are more female sexual sadists than one realises. Even if not every person who reads gory or violent erotica are necessarily sexually sadistic, there’s a good possibility that some of them are. But this is a tricky can of worms where if it were applied to women writing erotic fanfiction involving younger characters, could there be more women sexualising minors than one realises?

Okay, not all of them writing those stories are legal age themselves and there are kids who actually watch South Park. But when it comes to older people sexualising such characters, whether by ageing them up or keeping them as they are it can be a slippery slope. According to writer Stitch, there were older people in the Voltron fandom who did this and the teenaged fans who identified with the characters were disgusted with this.

Honestly, I don’t know much about Voltron but the possibility of women sexualising minors should not be underestimated and overlooked. While not all South Park characters are this young, many of the better-known and more popular ones are. Supposing if Tim Drake’s aged 17, he might be legal age in other countries like Ireland and past legal age in Britain and Canada. But Kyle and gang are only preteens, which makes it worse.

While not all fans who age these characters up in their works necessarily sexualise them, it can be a slippery slope especially to those who may even identify with them at all. Then we get to other kinds of paraphilia, where it doesn’t just end with sexual sadism but also something like diaper fetishes (there’s a case study of a woman who has a thing for men in diapers) and I’ve read one essay by a woman with a self-proclaimed fat man fetish.

If I were to peruse something like Archive of Our Own, you have tags for things like anal sex and fingering. If fanfiction, erotica and the like are used to explore one’s sexuality, one would wonder if they may use it to explore their real sexual desires in a way they wouldn’t in real life. But this is a can of worms when it comes to the possibility of things like sexual sadism among women.

Maybe it’s not that glamourous

Augie De Blieck said somewhere in his blog that comic book artists, especially those who work for comic book publishers, don’t earn much. Especially if their creations and stories are owned by publishing houses that it can be hard to earn royalties from them if it goes to the publishers. This is also the case with American comic strips, only a few are truly creator-owned as far as I know.

Thankfully this isn’t the case with Philippine comic strips where the cartoonist does own them and can freely take them to other publishers, whilst receiving a lot of royalties. Well, I know one cartoonist who’s like this and his name is Pol Medina Jr. Okay, not all Philippine cartoonists are rich but if their comics are really popular it would enough to alleviate their economic and financial situation. (Then again, some work two jobs.)

A number of American comic book artists are essentially no different, they even work two jobs to make ends meet. It might be possible for American comic book artists to earn enough to live comfortable off of their creations, especially when it comes to the really popular or young adult comics. It’s always possible, but that involves realising one could earn more from earning royalties from owning their creations.

Even if not all novelists and writers in general are rich, if those books sell well it can make them live comfortably. It gets complicated by that in other cases, especially if creator-owned stories as published outside of DC and Marvel, authors and cartoonists don’t earn much working on those that they end up earning relatively more from working for DC and Marvel.

I think if the Philippines are any indication, it’s possible for a newspaper cartoonist to earn a lot from their own creations and freely move them to other publications. But not all countries are created equally, so it would be this hard for cartoonists to do the same if they lived in the States. Not to mention, not all can earn a lot from their creations comic strip or otherwise. Pol Medina had to take up advertising when his cartooning gig didn’t pay much.

Frank Cho had to switch to doing art for Marvel Comics as it paid more than if he focused on his own creation, Liberty Meadows. While it’s possible to earn generously from one’s own creations, not everybody will become this successful and in America it might not even be enough to support themselves and their families so either they switch careers or work two jobs to make ends meet.

This may not be unique to Americans themselves, if a good number of Philippine cartoonists are any indication, but I think while it’s possible to earn a lot from a best-selling comic book or cartoon strip not everybody can. Others are at least moderately successful enough to live nicely, there are those who aren’t so lucky so they switch to other industries to earn more.

Then again in some cases, a comic book career’s not that glamourous. Not just because it doesn’t always earn much, especially if that story’s not that successful and financially viable enough to live comfortably but also because that involves working long hours. Especially in Japan, where some cartoonists don’t even sleep that long when they and their assistants are made to work on that series for a long time.

This makes me wonder if working in newspaper cartoons might be relatively better, especially if it doesn’t involve working on so many panels that it gives authors enough time to do anything else. Surely it’s done daily, but since it doesn’t involve many panels so there’s enough time to do other things. While working on a 20 page story involves a lot more to depict, it consumes more time this way.

Trust me, I actually spent almost a week working on a six page comic. I spent less than an hour and just one day working on a three panel cartoon, which says a lot about how much time is spent on making a comic book story with more pages. If working as a comic book artist isn’t a bed of roses, it’s not just that you wouldn’t be paid much but you’d work longer hours if you do more pages.

So if working as a comic book artist isn’t cut out to be (for some people), would comic book adjacent stuff be any better to some extent? That’s what he pointed out, though to add my take on it if you really want to do comics but still want to own them and earn as much as you can whilst working for something big you better move elsewhere to do this. You wouldn’t become rich overnight.

But at least you earn enough to live comfortably, though living in a poorer country and working for a big international company by proxy would make you earn more. That’s if certain currencies are converted into the next nation’s equivalent, though that hasn’t stopped the likes of Gerry Alanguilan from working in architecture at some point. Though in light of this, whether if working in comic books is even a good thing depends on the circumstances one is in.

Perhaps a surprising one if you are say Filipino and work for Marvel and DC, if monetary conversions were taken into consideration.

One big advantage

I’ve just read The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp and they got hired by DC Comics to provide authentic disability representation (they’re disabled themselves) in addition to being a talented writer, on one hand they don’t seem to be a big DC fan and admitted that writing for comics is a struggle at first. On the other hand, as she doesn’t seem to be big into DC Comics they’re not too beholden to decades of prior lore and knowledge which makes it easier to tell a simple Barbara Gordon story.

By simple, they got the basics and essentials of the character right. That’s missing from what’s generally regarded as DC canon, which involves a lot of recalling prior lore but amidst a new continuity which makes it really convoluted. It seems like with what became of DC and Marvel, until recently, is that there’s a big obsession with continuity and lore among writers (especially if they were DC/Marvel fans beforehand). You get multiple in-jokes about Dick Grayson being a sex symbol due to his butt.

Stuff that only makes sense if you’re romantically attracted to him in any way, which’s why this kind of fan pandering is off-putting to anybody else who aren’t into that even if it’s not always the case. If you pander real hard to a certain audience, you could risk losing everybody else which’s what happened to Arrow when the showrunners began pandering a lot to a certain community. There goes the problem with these in-jokes.

They’re things only fans will get, only certain people will care about. Anybody who’s not beholden to these kinds of things will not get it, though it could be a matter of personal preference but still. Anybody who’s not into this kind of lore or pandering will get left out, which’s how I feel about Arrow or Dick Grayson. But that’s also because I actually don’t read comics that often, the most I’ve read were in 2011-2012 and 2020. So it’s something that’s appealing to frequent, diehard audiences.

For instance, what Marvel has been doing is to tease the Stucky relationship (that’s Captain America and Bucky). While it’s not committing to making such a relationship official, it does reek of fan in-joke pandering if you’re into pairing Captain America with Bucky. Some even make it into a statement about LGBT rights, but I can’t tell whether if they want to stand up for LGBT rights or want their pairing validated to be honest and blunt. Sorry, if I came off this way.

(To be fair, there are some who write M/M romances saying that they want pure female pleasure plain and simple.)

I still think somebody like Marieke Nijkamp, they have the combination of being an outsider to DC lore (though I’m wrong about this) and an insider’s look at being physically disabled that makes their take on Barbara Gordon all the more believable. All the better for DC for choosing them to write such a story at all, though I still think hiring people who aren’t big comics fans but are good at other things (or are other people themselves) has a bigger advantage.

Not just in providing an outsider’s take on things, but also how and what a certain person’s life’s actually like. Not that intersectionality doesn’t exist in fandom, but I think being an outsider with interesting and desirable traits can colour the story in a way an insider wouldn’t. That’s just my two cents.

Can we separate the art from the artist?

At times it’s not easy to separate the art from the artist, especially if they reveal parts of themselves in the stories they tell. If a cartoonist has serious depression, if you have characters who’re very irritable, depressed or suicidal then these share the author’s experiences and innermost feelings in a way the former’s not always aware of. It’s a red flag if some of the characters are depressed and some have powers that induce suicidal thoughts.

(I could be referring to somebody as heard in a sermon but I won’t reveal them for now.)

In the case with Nate Stevenson, he was brought up as a lass in a strict Christian community and admitted in an interview that he left the church at age 19 and had struggled with Christianity. This gets reflected a lot in the one programme he worked on for a long time, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. He even projects this onto the stories he writes so much not only do fans reveal things he doesn’t realise but also relate to it on some level.

In the case with Carl Barks, he worked as a farmer for some time so it gets reflected in some of the stories he writes. Having actual experience in something gives a stronger air of authenticity in a way that being interested in something doesn’t, so much so it works for other stories to their advantage. But this also makes it harder to separate the art from the artist, especially if it reflects their experiences and thoughts.

To return to the case of the depressed cartoonist, if a good number of characters have symptoms of depression and the author turns out to be depressed one would have to look at the red flags to know what they’re suffering from. Having depression can get reflected in the way the characters are written, but as I said before it makes it harder to separate the art from the artist once the latter’s outed as depressed.

That would surprise fans, even though the red flags are there in the stories for us to see. But that goes to show you how difficult it is to separate the art from the artist, especially if the art reflects what the artist experiences or feels.

Kind of empty

While Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox churches might also have a degree of Philo-Semitism, it’s more deeply expressed among Protestants (especially if they’re Evangelical or Pentecostal). Not just because it’s about fulfilling biblical prophecy, but also because Protestantism’s short on some things. Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholicism are rich in lore about saints as well as having a good tradition of monasticism, I feel speaking as a Protestant, has a depth Protestantism lacks.

Protestantism, by contrast, has a habit of excising nearly every Catholic element as a way to protest against the Catholic Church but to the point of becoming rather empty for some churches. So empty that they often co-opt from Jews a lot, even if it’s something Jews dislike. Whether if it’s appropriating Jewish practices or reading Jewish literature, it’s pretty much filling in the gap left by years of ingrained anti-Catholicism. While I didn’t convert to Catholicism the way my sister did, Catholicism does seem deeper.

Deeper when it comes to lore regarding saints as well as the lives of monastics which appeal to me a lot more than Israel, so I think some of the problems with Protestantism and especially some churches is that they tend to be rather empty and shallow. Well, it seems some Protestants co-opt Jewish beliefs and practices in an effort to be closer to God, though Catholics and Orthodox believers have done the same with saints and monasticism (if they take the extra mile).

I still think in excising a lot of the things Roman Catholicism created in Western Christianity, it resulted in a much emptier and shallower Western Christianity. So empty and shallow, some Protestants appropriate from Judaism a lot to the detriment of actual Jews. If I were honest, I’m not that big into Israel. I actually find Turkey more interesting than Israel, it was even a Christian country at some point and Christian influence still lingers among some Muslim communities.

But Israel gets a pass due to its biblical association, though for some reason this doesn’t extent to Greece and Italy even though they too contribute a lot to Christianity’s evolution and get mentioned in the Bible as well. It’s a strange double standard that can be explained by how Greece and Rome as seen as bastions of idolatry, even though not all Greeks and Italians are like this. Israel, for all its faults, gets high priority among Pentecostals and Evangelicals.

In lieu of saint lore and monasticism, Protestants have prioritised Israel, Judaism and created their own subculture by ironically copying secular culture. While it’s true not everybody’s called to be celibate and Margery Kempe was not a nun despite being a mystic, even then it does come off as rather empty and shallow in a way Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy aren’t.

It gets weirder still that many Christians don’t bother learning or looking up on what Aramaic is, since it’s also spoken by Jesus and some portions of the Bible were written in that language. Likewise Christians don’t seem that interested in say Judeo-Spanish and Yiddish, which are also Jewish languages. Now I get why some Jews have an issue with Evangelical philo-Semitism, in the sense that Evangelicals are only into the more superficial aspects of Judaism.

The trappings, rather than the lived realities, along with how empty Protestantism is which drives the appropriation of Jewish practices but not learning the other Jewish languages like Aramaic and Yiddish for instance. It seems Protestant philo-Semitism is well-intentioned, but also empty when it comes to not looking hard enough for expressions of Christian mysticism prior to Protestantism (not just Hussites and Waldnesians but also Catholic mystics).

This proves my point about how empty Evangelical and Pentecostal faith can get when it comes to the actual depth and breadth of Christian history prior to Protestantism and after Judaism.

Body Fat and Female Characters

When it comes to the subject of body fat in comics, it’s not just a matter of being fat but also having flabby arms and legs in an otherwise normal weight body. I even half-suspected that why some cartoonists don’t give their characters and especially female characters flabby legs and arms is that either they’re so used to drawing muscular/skinny characters they can’t draw actual flab or that they’re afraid of making their female characters fat.

Even though ironically women tend to have more body fat than men do and if some women are predisposed to carry more fat in either their bellies or their legs, then the goal of having a toned stomach or toned legs would be this hard for them to achieve. In the case with big butts, it can go with muscular thighs but for some people it can also go with flabby thighs.

The latter, however, doesn’t show up that often in comics even though it’s one of those cases where if there’s a generous amount of fat in the lower body this should give way to a fattier, bigger bum. A proper pear shape if there’s ever one at all, though it’s something you don’t see that often in comics. Mostly due to a fear of making women look fat, which explains why they keep on giving them broken spines.

Or for another matter, giving them really narrow waists that can only be achieved due to a long time from wearing corsets. Maybe there are already cartoonists who give their female characters flabby arms and thighs, though it’s either not as well-known or possibly nowhere as popular as giving them toned arms and legs but really big butts and breasts. The latter I think you’ll encounter in cheesecake art a lot.

So much for claims about celebrating the female form, yet ignoring or glossing over the bodies of other women in favour of a nearly impossible ideal. It doesn’t help that the bodies of other women are often ignored or sometimes compared to the idealised physique unfavourably (especially in Frank Cho’s drawings). If it’s true, then there might be another reason why you don’t see flabby arms and thighs that often in comics.

But the thing here’s that for other women, losing body fat in other body parts is going to be hard. They can lift as much as they can, walk a lot as they can but still have flabby arms and thighs. They do get muscled, but they still have an amount of body fat. It seems in the world of superhero comics, the ideal woman has very muscled arms and thighs but also a big bum and bust. Not that there aren’t any muscular busty women.

But the only one I could name who isn’t fat is Rasa von Werder (also known as Kellie Everts when she was younger), she’s the only one that I can think of who’s built like a superheroine. It’s not that superhero cartoonists necessarily draw really muscular, almost flat-chested women (when they do, they get flack from misogynistic readers). But there’s a fear of making a woman look both fat and less feminine, as if these traits are mutually exclusive.

Maybe they are to an extent, but both because women tend to have more body fat than men do and that breasts contain a lot of fatty tissue so some women would find it hard to get rid of fat in their highs and some women wound up getting flat-chested if they lift a lot, diet a lot or are genetically predisposed to be thin. So it seems the slim but muscled and busty female character’s an impossible ideal for many others.

Maybe not entirely impossible, however it’s almost always impossible for women who’re predisposed towards certain body types. If you tend towards flabby thighs, then getting really muscular thighs would be really difficult. If you tend to be skinny, you’ll risk being really flat-chested if you lose more body fat. It doesn’t help that there are cartoonists who don’t diversify much in drawing different body shapes, that they’ll tend towards idealised shapes.

It’s like how Frank Cho’s got a habit of giving his female characters toned figures but big breasts and buttocks yet no flabby arms and thighs in sight, or why J Scott Campbell can’t give his otherwise normal weight women actual stomachs. Either it’s a fear of making them look fat, or that they idealise a certain body shape that they go so far to distort the anatomy to go after it. (It’s also telling that a Campbell male still has room for internal organs and a stomach.)

I do think it’s telling whenever cartoonists barely give some female characters actually flabby arms or thighs that they do adhere to an ideal, or if one woman gets unfavourably compared to another (as you see in Frank Cho’s cartoons) that says a lot about how they see women as.