Friday, September 16, 2011

Taboos of Body Fat in Comics.

Here's something you don't see everyday, at least in comics.

Body fat. I wanna talk about tummies. Even though TONS of Americans are overweight, it's weird how in fiction, a fat person, usually only makes their way into comics/movies/tv if they're a comical foil. I have always had an affection for chubby woman's bodies in comics...  little spots, pouches.. things most male comic artists have seen a million times in their wives, sisters and daughters, (or woman artists notice in others, or their own bodies to varying degrees.)... are still Taboo to draw in comics.

Now guys get fat too. My 'pot belly' character from My Inner Bimbo falls under the 'gross-monster' category. This is somewhat of a dodge, trying to poke fun at myself.  Many 'fat guys' learn to laugh at themselves out of habit, just like women do to beat others to the punch.

But for a main comic character, it's weird how you catch yourself 'self-editing' a figure... without even thinking. When you draw idealized male and female figures in comics, your always trimming off fat, or inflating muscles as if their water balloons. I got away with a few pot belly shots when i drew Julie in the Maxx, but that was partly tolerated because she was (for the most part) thin-ish, cute and blonde.

It wasn't until I started drawing Dana, that it sunk in that a LOT of fans, guys (and yeah, even some girls) may be turned off by ANY body fat in a heroine.

Yeah, I get why, but now that I have a spare tire myself, I want to draw some characters who look like, well... real people do. I know most comics and sci-fi are fantasies,  someone with an idealized body too. And I like drawing these impossibly skinny characters sometimes too.

But i don't care, If wanna have a chubby heroine like Dana, screw it - I will.  Jamie and Gilbert opened this can of worms years ago. Terry Moore's woman have some curvy figures too.

As for my motivations, it's It's not so much  to glorify (or fetishize) fat or chubby women in general. It's... more.. just reflects what a ton of people are struggling with, everywhere. Comics can idealize, but also ... reflect too.

It almost seems a weird thing to keep editing quirky or pudgy things out of a creator owned comic, almost weird NOT to add flab or flaws. It's almost a denial of what makes us human.

This also came up because I'm talking to a mysterious individual... and am in talks to do a possible Dana Toy Figure. So the question comes up, does anyone want to SEE, (let alone even BUY) ..a 'sam kieth chubby chick'?  (which, given the way i'm drawing these days.. might mean even chubbier than Julie, and might have (yikes) tats, or even worse (brace yourself) - body hair! I can see fans jumping ship in droves.

But on the other hand, I think I'm seriously seriously underestimate my fans. Sure, the amount into Dana may be less. But anybody who made it through the Maxx (or my art books) KNOWS to expect the weird, or possibly unusual or strange.

Hell, even if only a handful of fans were out there digging a chubby chick toy, how cool would that be? Just the fact there are so few comic characters with tummies out there with fat and flaws, it makes me all the more proud the folks to DO get it, totally get it!

I don't mean to preach or lecture.. more just work it out in my own mind. I also don't mean to come off as one of those 'sensitive guy' types sucking up to women, (who I usually really hate, even if i am sorta one myself sometimes).

Yeah, The female approval crap is always lurking, but many these rules apply to chubby guys too.


Megan Rose said...

I would so buy a chubby figurine!

Sam, you have always been a huge inspiration to me, and now you're even more of one. Very few artists want to draw or even talk about fat characters. Which I never understood because, as you said, they exist. But also, they're SO MUCH FUN to draw! All of these curves and folds and details. So much variety! Who would want to pass that up?

Kai said...

Not gonna lie, I just saved your list of chub taboos specifically so I can remember to use all of them.

Squeaky said...

When I first picked up The Maxx in high school, it was incredibly emotional for me to see women and girls who looked like I did. I've always loved that your women fall all over the spectrum for body type, but look distinctively like your work.

Phonosexual said...

That penultimate paragraph made me chuckle :). The Maxx was the first comic I really got into about 6 years, and that was after seeing the MTV Oddities series. I've not managed to track down much of your other stuff (over here in the UK...) but I'm about 4 issues away from having all issues of the Maxx. (Partly because I love it, mostly because I'm ocd like that...). I even found the two issues of i before e on ebay which are pretty inspiring to a wannabe draw-ist.

Some days I think I'm a comic book fan, but you know, other days I realise there's nothing else out there that really makes me tingle like The Maxx and I'm just a Maxx-head. I just love the duality of the real world and the dreamworld, the exploration of perception, truth and perspective as well as character depth, particularly in the case of Mr. Gone. (My background is in Mathematics and I'm fascinated my psychology/psychoanalysis).

One of my favourite moments was the final scene of the MTV series just the tender depiction of the end of a relationship and Dave just going back to being himself. . I'm not one that's usually moved by much, but that got.

The thing I love most is that you're not a "comic book artist" or a "writer" or any other pigeonhole, you're just Sam "i before e" Kieth. I love that you're exploring other forms of art and aren't hampered by any conventions and you have a complete freedom in your ambition.

I also love that you're a Zappa fan :p.

Anyway, I know how much you hate hearing good things about yourself so I'll wrap up now. I don't really know what it achieves writing these little comments and things. I guess in some ways they're really for us, so we can feel satisfied that we've made you aware of us out here. Yeah, I'm one for introspection and self deprecation too.


Hazard said...

I would buy the shit out of that figurine.

This article is fabulous.

Also, anywhere I can read about Dana? Is the comic out anywhere? Amazon or something?

Phonosexual said...

*6 years ago

cody said...

I think people wouldn't buy it if it was perfect. I love the legs statue

VeganMike said...

Well, as a doctor, I've got the little nagging "obesity causes huge health problems and is becoming more and more common and I'm supposed to fight this" voice in my head. But as my wife and I have talked about over and over, the assumption that anyone, male or female, should have absolutely no fat on their body is even more unhealthy. I'll never understand why someone feels the need to be one extreme or another... or why anyone finds it off-putting that someone has any fat on their body at all. I could rant about the unhealthy relationship that we all have with food, but I'll spare you ;-)

I've met several women who won't walk into a comic shop because of the way that women are portrayed in comics. It's often worse than in action movies, and I think it's contributed to comic fandom being so gender-polarized. I've always used your work as an example to the contrary; showing the beauty of more than one body type is worthy of a good deal of praise, Sam!

And I'll totally buy the figure to but next to my old McFarlane Toys Maxx figure!

Andy said...

I think the Julie "sucking her gut in" art you posted were the frames that originally sold me on The Maxx back in the day, as a 12 year old gay boy. Something about seeing someone wrestle with body image but not necessarily that being the focal point of their life, it was something I hadn't seen before then, and I totally related to it. And still do.

Additionally, I've found some of the "realistic" men you draw to be incredibly hot - these being the guys who might have a bunch of muscle but still have a little flab... nobody else draws this!!! Realism all the way!!!

Lissa said...

I would buy this as a figure in a heartbeat :)
Non-idealized design and details in comics almost makes them more interesting than the flights of fantasy you usually see. When you see real characters doing fantastic things then it's like "Hey, that could be me!"

Anonymous said...

Hey Sam, I actually prefer women that are a little bit more "realistic" - both in real life and in art - and seeing Julie, human and real and the Jungle Queen - idealized and sexual - with a belly was actually a real thrill to myself as a younger man. Please never stop drawing women like this, you and Jamie H are the only cartoonists I can think of who have spent their careers drawing these types of honest, sexy, interesting women. I'd happily buy the figure.

Evil Lincoln said...

I would totally buy one of them and, since I'm 32 now, give it to a young female relative. She was a major hero of mine growing up, in part because of her appearance :P How can I be alerted when one is available?

B's Mom said...

I know I'm way past when you posted it, but I adore your female characters. I would very much purchase a chubby action figure. It is so easy to identify with your characters. Thank you for doing your work.

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