Title: The Dragon Warrior
Date Started: Jan 2011
Date Finished: Jan 2011
Let me be honest.
I am a massive comic book nerd.
I can’t help it. From the first moment I could pull out and partly comprehend the first colourful pages of my cousins New Teen Titans issues, I’ve been addicted. I don’t think I’ve lived in a single house with a bathroom that wasn’t stacked to cistern hight with issues upon issues of old archie comics, issues of X-men and the odd (and cleverly hidden) Sin City. I love Batman in all his incarnations, Superman in the hands of Grant Morrison, the dreadful cartoonishness of Maus and the playful childishness of Shazaam! There are very few comic series I actively dislike, and over the years I’ve felt proud to witness the slow rise of the ‘Graphic Novel’ as a viable medium of Art and Literature.
But while the validity of the comic book is rising progressively into the future, there is at least one element of the comic medium that still seems mired in the past.
That is the portrayal of female characters in the Comic Workplace (Let me right now note that this actually seems common right across the gaming/geek/movie board, but that I am merely zeroing in on the comic format in particular for the purpose of this piece).
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the lack of likeable, strong (no, sporting sexy heels and a battlethong does not make you strong) female characters taking lead roles bothers me. Oh sure, there’s Wonder Woman and Batgirl and….Wonder Woman, but tell me: when exactly is the latest Wonder Woman movie coming out again? Not that I’m particularly fond of Wonder Woman in the first place (in terms of characterisation, no single writer seems to be able to agree exactly what type of character she is). And sure, the Industry has begun to move towards a sort of self-awareness of their own prejudices with the introduction of characters like Power-Girl.
But alot of this attepted goodwill tends to get quashed fairly quickly by the actions of others.
Which is why I decided to draw the Dragon Warrior. Following a stint at Women in refrigerators followed by a steady diet of Escher girls, I decided to attempt a design concept of my very own after seeing this poor poor woman put up with terrible artists.
Superficially, I tried to make her look strong but compassionate, with a semi-samurai inspired costume mingled with the more traditional elements of Chinese clothing. I liked the idea of slightly andgogynous features, and ninja cuffs on her arm. In terms of design, I think I was reacting to, more then creating in response to – the amount of skin most super-heroine costumes seem to clash.
I’ve put up this design to illustrate how seriously I take trying to shift the visual vocabulary of popular geek culture away from the Strong Woman = Heels + Battle-Thong formula by only ever demonstrating strong female characters in (gasp) clothes and body attitudes that reflect that. Of course, this won’t stop me from drawing the occasional damsel in distress, but only if she’s an actual damsel in distress.
In short, I don’t believe this is one of my best works – it certainly looks scratchy and unfinished (which I’m fearful to tamper with since it seems to suit her so well) – but I’m quite happy with how powerful and solid my dragon warrior looks compared to some of the wispier ‘super-woman’ we’re expected to swallow today.