Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Random Musings: Power Girl and Body Image

You know what's funny? The majority of people that I've seen complaining about Power Girl's admittedly gratuitous breast size tend to be male. I'm not saying that all women are Power Girl fans, but I've never actually seen a woman who dislikes the character bring up her...unlikely proportions as a reason why. (Her costume, yes, her breast size, no.)

I think that's interesting, really. I won't try to conjecture why this is. But I can talk about why *I* don't mind Power Girl's improbable bust size. And this is simply because I don't find it terribly improbable.

There are many women out there with sizeable assets. And not all of them have had artificial enhancement to do it. A woman with Power Girl's exact proportions would be...quite unlikely, but large chests happen. Frequently. I know. My mother is so gifted actually. (Which was irritating when I was growing up, as I am...well...not.)

The thing about Power Girl is that she feels natural, in a weird way. She is very well-endowed, yes, which isn't a shock among comic women. But she seems to treat them with the same mild irritation as I've seen my mother treat hers.

When she jokes about how she doesn't need a mask because no man looks at her head, I'm reminded of my mother's ironic comment about how in high school none of the boys seemed to realize she even had a neck. Power Girl dresses to accentuate her chest, but honestly, I've seen my mother do that too. What *is* nice is that in every panel I've seen Power Girl in she seemed to be...supported.

There is nothing more irritating than seeing very well endowed women run around braless on television. I know it's nice to look at, straight guys, but you have no idea what that feels like for even someone with modest proportions. A woman built like most of these actresses? Or Power Girl? That would start to get really uncomfortable, real fast. Whereas in Power Girl's case, even the famous boob-window seems to be designed to provide some support.

And the really nice thing about Power Girl is that her chest really isn't her defining aspect. I like her personality. I like her feminism. (And yes, it is possible to be both feminist and well endowed at the same time. It is even possible to be both feminist and proud/happy with your endowments at the same time). I like that she'll call the guys on when their eyes spend too much time slanted downward. I like that sometimes she's even a little over-defensive about it. I like that she doesn't tend to take crap from anyone. I like that she hits things.

And I really like that she ended up surviving getting shot by the Crimson Avenger because her *chest* slowed the bullet(s) down.

Hey, can't argue with functionality. Heh.


  • At April 18, 2006 4:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So,do you have any favs in the indie comics field?And how do you think the whole body image/attitude aspect stacks up there? to speak...

  • At April 18, 2006 4:46 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    From what I've seen though it depends a lot more on the individual authors/artists/creators, though.

    The big two, because of the nature of their giant shared universes, with characters that tend to be older than the people writing them make it a lot easier to analyze trends in a broader capacity. Power Girl's been pretty recognizably drawn like Power Girl since before I was born. Same with Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl, and so on. While different artists have their takes and costumes change over time, it's still pretty easy to get enough idea to make a reasonable judgment.

    It's harder with indie comics as well as with manga I think, because there's much less editorial interference. (Well, at least in the case of manga, I don't really know anything about the backdrop of the indie comic field). Manga's a little easier to analyze because of its particular stylized conventions...which honestly tend to be a bit dissatisfying body image wise. The number of evil/antagonist/rival big-breasted women compared to the small breasted protagonist in many manga/anime series is interesting enough to someday promote its own blog entry, I reckon. But outside of jokes, the stature of the characters don't seem to have as much emphasis.

    Indie comics is even harder, I think, because you don't have the 40-60 year old company looming over your head making sure you get the legends right NOR do you have a very stylized expected art style. So there's a lot more variety. Some of which are fantastic. Others not so much. But I'm not really equipped to generalize in this case.

    Hmm, I should read more indie comics. :-)

  • At April 18, 2006 9:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    1. And I Say this purely as an artist, your brest size is fine. 2 you are entirery beautiful( in body & soul) 3. Power Girls wit and personality are what make her awesome. I personaly LOVED her watchtower enterance & Kyles reaction ;) in Circle of Fire. Last I Swear this to be complete truth (though less Serano than I wish ( sue me, I'm an artist I can't help it.)

  • At April 18, 2006 9:17 AM, Blogger Daniel said…

    Heh heh. Heh heh. You said "big two."

  • At April 18, 2006 9:49 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    green: Aww. Thanks. Shucks. :-)

    And that entrance *was* great.

    daniel: Heh heh, yep. And anonymous said "stacks up". Heh heh.

  • At April 18, 2006 10:22 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Yeah, but to be fair, she's always been endowed, it's not like they took *Supergirl* and did it. :-P

    And yeah, I was hoping she'd have more of a role in IC considering. Well, maybe she'll have one in 7

  • At April 18, 2006 11:47 AM, Blogger Elayne said…

    I dunno, maybe you need to talk to more women. :) The thing I dislike was that Wally Wood (I think it was him) deliberately drew her breasts bigger in each succeeding issue just to see if anyone would notice. He was basically taunting editors (and of course completely ignoring even the possibility of female readers). PG's breasts started out as an ARTIST IN-JOKE. I dunno about you but I find that kind of offensive on its face.

  • At April 18, 2006 11:48 AM, Blogger CalvinPitt said…

    I wonder if the guys who complain about secretly think it's really cool, but do not want to be accused of being the "slobbering fanboy" stereotype, so they pretend to be seriously offended by it.

  • At April 18, 2006 1:46 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Elayne: Yeah, the injoke aspect is a little irritating but I don't think I mind it when I think about it.

    The injoke aspect's actually something I prefer to ignore. For all I know, every single one of my favorite characters is the result of some racist, sexist or homophobic joke on the readers. If that's the case, it's disappointing, but there isn't really anything I could do about that. And in the end, it really doesn't change the reasons I like the characters. A lot of artists who aren't Wood draw Power Girl, a lot of different writers write her. And the in-joke became incorporated with the character in a way that only *strengthened* her feminist appeal to me, thanks to the natural way in which she treats having them.

    I don't mind sacrificing a little dignity for a portrayal of a female character, an against the norm body type (really her breasts aren't *that* big for comic characters, but I love that she's built sturdy enough to support them, which *is* rare, I think in comics), and a natural believable attitude about her body. And a part of me thinks that if more in-jokes would turn out so well, maybe they're not such a bad thing.

    Besides, the injoke kind of made her more like my mom. And that's never a bad thing from where I'm sitting. :-)

    calvin: I don't want to attribute motives to anyone. That might be the case for some. Or it might be a genuine sense of irritation. I don't know. I do think it's a little funny.

    jamawalk: Of *course* we like to talk about boobies, silly. We're *feminists* and breasts are part of being female. :-) It'd be sillier if we never talked about them.

  • At April 18, 2006 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The tradition of writer/artist in-jokes/messages goes all the way back to Wonder Woman, maybe futher. Hell that's MAD's whole reason d'etre:) And I thought the brest size thing actually happened

    Anybody else find abrieviating Power Girl "PG" hilarious!)!

  • At April 18, 2006 1:54 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    green: I'm pretty sure it did happen, I'm just not sure that in retrospect I think it was a bad thing. I mean, sure the initial intent was pretty sexist. But the results were actually pretty good, from where I'm sitting.

    Ridiculous acronyms are fun. :-)

  • At April 18, 2006 2:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Anybody read ANY Miller lately. ROTFL
    seriouslu could PG (love that) also serve as a balance for Sanndy"s (lack of) physiche?

  • At April 18, 2006 2:14 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    :-) I'd say the contrast in their builds is part of what makes this image so striking.

    She's very clearly bigger than he is there. Very statuesque and no less feminine or beautiful for it.

    Aww, don't bring up Miller. He's like a class in and of himself when it comes to this sort of thing. One that's definitely not to my taste...though I've suddenly got this slight trainwreck-watching since of fascination at the thought of PG showing up in All-Star Batman ad Robin...

  • At April 18, 2006 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My thoughts exactly:)

  • At April 18, 2006 3:34 PM, Blogger Richard said…

    My view of Power Girl was formed many years ago -- at the time, Joe Staton was drawing her in a three-issue story for Showcase, which puts this anecdote all the way back in 1978! -- when I spoke to a couple of comics-reading girls who liked her a lot. Both of them were what we might call zaftig gals, and one of them opined that "Power Girl is the one superhero a chunky girl can really relate to." Since then, that's the way I've always thought of her: not as the standard sex object character with spindly limbs and emaciated waist who nonetheless manages to support watermelon-sized boobs, a la Red Sonja...but as a more realistically proportioned woman with, yes, a large bust, but also wide hips and a plausible waist. If some later artists have failed to convey this, that's only a reflection on them, and doesn't contradict that this is what the character really is.

  • At April 18, 2006 4:01 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    green: :-)

    anthony: My thoughts exactly! She should do both at *that* would be a shampoo commercial. :-)

    rab: *nod* That's a lot of the appeal for me too. No comic book character can really claim to be built particularly realistically. But Power Girl's size makes her breasts look reasonably natural. Contrasted to the new Phantom Lady. Ack. She better be a damn good character to make up for that hideous design, 'sall I'm saying.

  • At April 19, 2006 3:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    . Contrasted to the new Phantom Lady. Ack. She better be a damn good character to make up for that hideous design, 'sall I'm saying.

    I wouldn't get my hopes up

    personally, I always have seen Power Girl as a really atractive female body-builder (damn you Kingdom Come!)
    never noticed she was a D-cup until somebody pointed it out to me

  • At April 19, 2006 4:36 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    anon: Yeah I know. But in general I like DC characters. So maybe they'll manage to surprise me.

    And if not, well, at least she'd make a good floatation device for a drowning victim. *shrug*

  • At April 19, 2006 3:32 PM, Blogger Ferrous Buller said…

    Dolly Parton is a popular country singer. Dolly Parton also has huge gazoombas. And while Dolly Parton's gazoombas may have practical consequences on her singing - e.g., her lung capacity, her personal acoustics - they are certainly not the source of her talents. Dolly Parton has never been bashful or embarrassed by her gazoombas: she's able to both flaunt and make jokes about them, often at the same time. Thus, while everyone notices Dolly Parton's huge gazoombas, nobody treats them as her sole defining characteristic. They're a part of who she is, but that's all they are.

    Likewise, Power Girl is a popular superheroine. Power Girl also has huge gazoombas. And while Power Girl's gazoombas may have practical consequences on her superheroing - e.g., their ability to stop bullets - they are certainly not the source of her talents. Power Girl has never been bashful or embarrassed by her gazoombas: she's able to both flaunt and make jokes about them, often at the same time. Thus, while everyone notices Power Girl's huge gazoombas, nobody treats them as her sole defining characteristic. They're a part of who she is, but that's all they are.

  • At April 19, 2006 5:59 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Ferrous: I'm not sure anyone's actually successfully linked silicon implants to lung capacity.

    But basically, yep! That's what I enjoy about them.

    ...and they stopped a bullet. :-P

  • At April 20, 2006 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Do y'all realize how painful it is to get shot in the bust(see for example Kill Bill Vol.2,and that was rock salt)? Just sayin' Also Dolly's "gazoombas" actual would deminish lung capasity due to the great weight and associated presure put on them.

  • At April 20, 2006 8:25 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I'd imagine it'd hurt like anything to get shot there.

    But she *lived*! So yay!

  • At May 24, 2006 3:49 PM, Blogger STUDIODYNAMO said…

    Guys never complain about the "idealized" vision of men created in comics that they can't live up to. Often women complain about the way female characters are portrayed. There is a difference between male self image and female self image.
    The reality is, that there is just this view that
    heroes and heroines are supposed to be beyond whatever the ideal is. taller prettier faster more muscular thinner bigger smarter more handsome... whatever it is plus more. Then... you take one character and make he/she stand out even more so than the others and then you get a huge outrageously muscular Hulk and tall leggy amazonian Wonder Woman or a busty Power Girl. They are characters.

  • At May 24, 2006 5:42 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Actually I hear guys complain about it all the time, but only in counter to women complaining. As though that somehow makes it better.

    The fact is that while both sexes are idealized, they're not idealized in the same way. Men are idealized in ways that make them look strong. Women in ways that make them weak. Power Girl is loved because she's an exception.

    Besides, your argument has a flaw in that a male dominated industry, using the viewpoint of male creators and fans created these characters.

    Thus the burden of living up to an idealized man is silly, it's an image men themselves created. Women do not have an equal level of creative impact when it comes to Power Girl or Wonder Woman, both of whom were, surprise! created by men!

    Men tend not to complain because they created these images. Women (even female creators, who have to play by the standards of the male-oriented company) have the images thrust upon them.

  • At September 19, 2006 2:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    ... that was just my point. There is a big difference with male self image that allows us to go ahead and make images that we can't live up to but want to live through. Female comic artists (that create their own characters) tend to make the frumpiest looking "strangers in Paradise" type girls you'd ever care to see because they are "real" and "safe". Look at how a woman, that doesn't know who Power Girl is, reacts to her image with disgust and finds her offensive... note the insecurity behind it. But no real anger towards Captain America as being a disgusting male ideal.


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