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Events Mon Jun 08 2009
I met comic book artist Gene Ha through his brother Donn, not longer after I'd connected "my brother Gene" to the name I'd seen on some of my favorite titles. When he e-mailed asking if another friend and I wanted to be photo models for the upcoming DC title JSA vs. Kobra: Engines of Faith, I tried not to reply too eagerly. As I wrote him back, I started to think: while it's become increasingly apparent that comic books aren't just for white guys in basements, I feel that as a female loving cape and cowl set -- as Michael Chabon put it in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, "fictional characters of unprecedented powers dedicated to acts of derring-do in the public interest," -- I'm still in somewhat of a minority. I gravitate towards Batman and Superman (or Prince Namor or Kitty Pride) as easily as (though differently than) Heraclio and Carmen, Chunky Rice, or Jimmy Corrigan. There is much speculation regarding why traditional superheroes don't appeal to a largely female demographic, or anyone who takes issue with the following tropes: they tend to be action-, not plot- and emotion-oriented, concerned more with punches and epithets than feelings and nuance. Morality is more black and white than shades of gray. Female characters in superhero tales tend to be passive or she-devils, serving as eye candy or villain but not much in between. And there's the obligatory gravity-defying boobs. There are some excellent exceptions to these rules, but they're still that- exceptions.
Basketball-sized breasts are kind of ridiculous, Mary Jane doesn't get too many great lines, and there's the Women in Refrigerators Syndrome (it seems that every female or female superheroine has been killed, raped, depowered, crippled, turned evil, maimed, tortured, contracted a disease or had other life-derailing tragedies befall her). In spite of this, I love the genre, flawed and sexist as it can (but doesn't have to) be. I want good guys and bad guys, the glorification of power and vengeance, the satisfaction of seeing evil beat down in a fantastical scenario. All these reasons, coupled with Gene Ha's exceptional artistic talent, made the choice to be drawn as Power Girl an easy one.
Here are a few of the cover sketches Gene drew prior to the photos:
He set up makeshift studio lighting in Rubani's (née Mr. Terrific's) apartment and my kitchen, posing us in different heroic stances.
Following the photos, he created a penciled cover:
Which was then inked....
Seeing my face in ink and lines, and an exaggerated version of myself in red, white and blue spandex, I was reminded of the first comics I read, paging through panels of punches and declarations at truck stops on the way from California to Minnesota. They were powerful, decisive, with no emotional drama standing in the way of their strength. A decade and some later, I still love these stories, but can see where they fall short. As I gripped my kitchen counter, giving my best Kara Zor-L, I knew that writing and drawing women with the power to be something between victim and brazen berserker would only make them better.