21 July, 2008


Preceding panels are at the Notorious T.A.G. Blog. If you think of this strip as covering two-and-a-half pages in a comic book, I'd like to make the last panel HUGE--like 2/3rds of that last page. But for posting purposes, here it is.

I hope everyone is very offended.

Regardless, I love you all.


Darcie said...

Davis,Sorry for the out of place 'post'. I wasn't sure how else to get a message to you! I was the girl working in The Human Bean you drew today (7.21) and decided not seconds after you drove away that I would love to have that drawing. You must have missed me hanging out the drive through window flailing my arms! If you are willing to part with it by any means, please let me know. Darcie.Richey@gmail.com Thank you very much! P.S. I have really enjoyed looking at all of your postings!

pantagruel said...

This may come out colossally badly over text, so I'd like to catch you at SDCC and explain in person. :)

I don't know about offended, so much as confused. ;) I wasn't sure from the earlier panels if the reader was supposed to be sympathetic to the fat woman, or not, because of the way you've drawn the two women.

As the author, you've got two ways to convey tone in a comic -- the words, and the images. But the tone's all over the place, because they don't quite match.

The thin woman's cruelty is pointed out by the narrator, but she's sometimes drawn in a flattering way. So do we like her? or not like her? The fat woman's never drawn in a flattering way, but the words are sympathetic. So do we like her? or not like her? In the last panel, where the fat woman is stripping for a webcam -- so, okay, she's seen in a sexy way by at least one person, so I'd expect the drawing style to change -- your drawing doesn't reflect that. If the fat woman's the secret devotee of the Rock 'n' Roll lifestyle... why not change the view of her in that last panel to visually show the change in authorial tone?

Or maybe we're supposed to see working retail and stripping for webcams as equally sordid and pathetic? I'm not sure.

On the other hand, your daily sketches are rarely flattering, either, so that might just be your style. No idea. ;)

Are we supposed to be offended that someone would consider fat women sexy? Because if so… er, dude. I am so not the right audience for this.

Davis Chino said...

Pantagruel, thank you so much for the comment. It will be great if I get to see you at the 'Con! And we can talk more about this--I would love to hear more about what you think.

NO, we're not supposed to be offended that someone would find a fat woman sexy--I was referring more to the (benign) sexual content, and jokingly at that (trying to stir up false controversy).

The strip is deliberately ambiguous; but as I acknowledged, I don't think this ambiguity is entirely successful.

That said, I do want to question something you've written: namely that the author's sympathies are married to his characters' level of physical beauty. You say the narrator sometimes seems against the "pretty" girl, but that she's drawn flatteringly. I disagree. When I drew the more generically "beautiful" character, I think I drew in a lot of the unhappiness and ugliness, too--the ugly lip twists of panel 5 (taking the picture), the joyless surprise of panel 3 (spotting her fashion doppelganger), the conniving grimace of panel 4 (watching her pass, devising her scheme for shaming); I drew the heavier girl no less flatteringly, but more sympathetically I think (her spaced out expression until her final moment is a slightly sad and detached face that we can all identify with--whereas the expressions for the bad girl are clearly not ones we, the reader, would hope to wear). I think that is really important.

Yeah, I gave her a nice rear-end, but I'm trying to show that's nothing special, and in fact can be very unappealing given someone's behavior. Her behavior turns her beauty into ugliness.

I hope the author's grave skepticism about the value of both fashion ("being cool") and beauty ("transient comeliness") comes through loud and clear.

And the final panel is not meant to demean the big girl, or fat people, but it is meant to show an imperfect person. Her body was rendered lovingly, though very realistically. The drawing makes the case that a body-type like hers has its beauty, but such a body-type endures continual humiliation by the "transient" fashions and tastes of the day. When we see her undressed, she becomes a real person who, while not falsely flattered, can be found sexy (though I deliberately resisted going too far and making the image salacious--I wanted it more like an artist's model posing). In other words, she has a legitimate sexual persona that emerges when she leaves the world of fashion behind.

A wrinkle to this final interpretation is the slightly goofy face she makes in the last panel. I thought that helped 1) undercut the notion that either 1a) she is proclaimed the victor in the strip because she is secretly a superior being, or 1b) internet porn or pornography as commerce (I had her "running her own webcam pornsite" at one point, but that went down the wrong alley) is the cool part (e.g., she looks kinda dumb) so it 2) keeps her more real. I created a persona and context for this person that, independent of her weight, doesn't make the case she is anything other than a very ordinary, flawed human beset by all the usual forces of modern life, (i.e., boredom, overemphasis on hyper-sexualization, alienation, ignorance, etc.).

She is no more or less enlightened than her nemesis in the strip--the difference, however, is she has chosen to live the Rock N' Roll Lifestyle. And she thereby gains redemption.

And that gets us to the core flaw in this whole strip--the mistake that it's the webcam sex that makes her Rock N' Roll. It's not. It's her throwing off the shackles of fashion and ridicule and deciding to enjoy her sexuality in defiance of everything society-at-large is telling her about herself: that's what constitutes the emancipatory gesture of the Rock N' Roll Lifestyle. It's not the webcam sex thing. That's just...let's call it a red herring. As we all know, webcams are dumb.

OK, that's more than enough explanation. We're never supposed to explain. Much of this is retroactive reasoning. I didn't think it out before drawing it.

Now it sounds so tiresome.

But thank you for your comments!

pantagruel said...

I'm really glad you explained it, because it didn't always come through. :) I think it was the final 'goofy' face that threw me the most -- if she'd been smiling (which is, suppose what I meant by flattering), I would've had a mucheasier time picking up on her being subversively her own person. Then her enjoyment would've been clear, and thus the whole Rock 'n' Roll lifestyle choice as well. If you changed that one expression, I think it would all snap into focus and coalesce. :)

Also, I'm so glad you took my comment in the spirit intended.

Tom Moon said...

I think it's good that you explained your intentions as well; at least it benefitted me. As I said in the TAG blog, I hoped you would keep going with the strip because most people, (like me) need you to expand on the theme and/or on these characters' for quite a while so we get a chance to "tune in" to what you are really saying. I think that getting just the right amount of ambiguity is the trick to this kind of approach, so that you intrigue people without leaving them in the dust or over-explaining. Now that I know what you were trying to say, it's easier to think about how you might get those ideas across effectively.