Sunday, September 09, 2007

Cooke's Power Girl

Dirk Deppey originally posted this cover to the upcoming Comics Journal #285 at his ¡Journalista! blog several weeks ago, and although Darwyn Cooke's magnificent drawing has been widely disseminated 'round the web, I wanted to post and briefly comment upon it here.

Although Cooke references the Power Girl's breasts, I think it's wonderful that he does so without actually depicting her characteristic "cleavage window." In fact, her mirror pretty much obscures her chest, something which enables the artist to make her eyes a focal point of the image.

Cooke's deployment of a mirror brought to mind two paintings by Velasquez. In "Venus at her Mirror" (1649-51), the painter reveals Venus' face through its reflection in a mirror; we're not able to see the godess' features directly "from life." Similarly, in Cooke's drawing the mirror obscures one of the subject's features, rather than reflect or reveal it to the viewer.

However, I think the trick that Velasquez pulls in "Las Meninas" (1656-7) is closer to the spirit of what Cooke does in his drawing.

Like PG's hand-held, the mirror on the wall at the center of the painting reflects an image back at the viewer. In Velasquez's case, we can actually see what's in the mirror: it's the king and queen of Spain.

In a metaphorical sense, though, the mirror actually depicts whoever stands to take a look at the tableau in the painting: if we entered that room, we would be reflected in the mirror. "Las Meninas" is about lines of perspective, points of view, and our ability and desire to look.

Cooke's drawing reveals him to be interested in the same things.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Summer of Supergirl, II

The creative team of Tony Bedard and Renato Guedes have pulled off a feat nothing short of miraculous, setting Supergirl on a firm footing after a year or more of meandering, confusing, or just plain bad comics.

More to their credit, the two have done so while dealing with the restrictions imposed upon them by two lumbering company-wide crossovers, Amazon Attack! and Countdown.

In Supergirl #20, we're presented with a character who is young and flawed, but also a whole lot more: she's brave, and willing to take risks to make up for her mistakes. But more than anything, Guedes' fabulous art gets across the important fact that Supergirl is strong.

In contrast to recent depictions of her, Guedes draws a Supergirl whose best feature is not that she's a blond, or that she's a babe, or that she possesses a slim waist or impossibly spindly legs. Through care in pencilling the character, Guedes brings home the wonderful fact that what's crucial about her is that Supergirl is incredibly, self-confidently, unapologetically strong.

Supergirl #20 deals with the aftermath of the character's monumentally stupid decision to team up with Wonder Girl, capture the President on Air Force One, and deliver him to the Amazon Queen so that the two might then negotiate an end to the war.

Talk about a straightjacket of a plot element! The comic's cover says it all.

Supergirl's tears immediately brought to mind the fateful cover to Birds of Prey #42, the issue in which Power Girl, already in the midst of a spiral of physical de-powerment, was emotionally crippled as well.

As I've said, I needn't have worried. The writer takes the elements carrying over from Amazons Attack! and turns them into nice opportunities to develop the character. Supergirl #20 provides a Kara-centered narrative growing out of the aftermath of the downing of Air Force One. Bedard introduces a character, the husband of a woman who served with the President on Air Force One, to foreground the human ramifications of Kara's blunder. Rather than whine, act like the victim, or try to pass the buck, Supergirl gets it.

In Supergirl #21, Bedard continues the reclamation project, bringing home Kara's connections to the Kents as surrogate grand-parents to whom she turns for support following her bad decision.

And although I was both uninterested in and horrified by Supergirl's early appearances in the first arc of the Waid/Perez Brave and the Bold, things did improve, and by its close Kara actually makes the central contribution to the heroes' efforts to foil the evil scheme set into motion by the Lords of Luck.

With a new creative team poised to take over on Supergirl, I recognize that things could go south again pretty quickly. However, taking account of all of the recent developments, one could reasonably argue that the summer of 2007 was a good one for fans of Kara Zor-El.

Miss Fury!


This TPB (Pure Imagination Publishing, 2007) is one of my most prized possessions.

Tarpe Mills is my hero.

Thanks, Trina Robbins!


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