Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New adventures in spandex

Broken Mystic has an interesting and lengthy post on the role of women in the comics put out by two fairly new companies: Kuwait's Teshkeel Comics and the Egyptian AK Comics. From a Western perspective, this is an unusual combo platter. If you go to your local comic book store--assuming you still have one--and ask for something Muslim and feminist, you'll likely get a blank look. On the other hand, academics on the Middle East... In some cases they may be interested in action comics, but I wouldn't count on it.

Teshkeel's The 99 seems like a very ambitious project. In part this is because it delves into the mystical side of Islam, and does so very boldly. And then there's the fact that it's projected to actually have 99 superpowered characters. Chris Claremont could have a nervous breakdown!

I understand Broken Mystic's criticism of AK's approach, but I have some cavils with it.

Pictured above is “Jalila: Protector of The City of All Faiths” who appears in AK Comics, founded by Dr. Ayman Kandeel. Not to sound too negative in my introduction of Jalila and the other female super-heroine, “Aya: Princess of Darkness,” but the images and roles of women in Kandeel’s comics are not an improvement from what we typically see in mainstream American comic books. Unlike “The 99,” the writers and artists for AK Comics seem to be more concerned with drawing voluptuous women rather than focusing on character development and original storylines. In fact, the image you see posted above is rare to find since censors in Egypt have now colored Jalila’s exposed stomach with a lighter shade of blue. You can still see the details on her stomach, but I guess the added colors from the censors make her look like she’s wearing an undershirt, therefore less “exposed.” Yeah, like that changes the way she’s being depicted.

Thing is, when I see this image:

I don't think "voluptuous female," I think "cool hood ornament." This kind of body is just too obviously fake to do much for me. And that's a tradeoff artists and editors are fully aware of. For one thing, the target market of teenage boys is not really so choosy. For another, accurate anatomy of women or of men takes a backseat to drawing kickass fight scenes.

Which is not to say that all the habits AK is picking up from American comics are good ones. A lot of American comics kinds suck. But it's good that the Arab world has some competition in this field. Hopefully this means these two companies will be trying to outsmart each other.


susan said...

The '99' does look pretty neat. Do you think they're referring to the 99 Names of God?.. must be but I don't quite get where the superhero belongs . Maybe I'll check it out again.

err.. it's Friday
ahem.. random 10?

Ben said...

It's a comin'. There were a couple of minor but annoying holdups tonight.

And The 99 does seem to refer to the 99 names of God. I still think it's pretty audacious to even attempt that huge a number of characters.

susan said...

It's mind boggling.. and audacious too. In games I've seen the potential for having many characters but after 5 or 6 the possibilities for development in a limited environment diminish.