Strange Attractions
Friday Ephemera

Superhero Pornface

Porn_face_superheroes_5Here’s a question. What happens when you cross the Fantastic Four with the Victoria’s Secret lingerie catalogue? Well, whatever the outcome, there’s a good chance Greg Land would be involved. Land is a popular and capable comic book artist, famed for his digitally ‘airbrushed’ figures and use of photo-referencing, often of celebrities. He’s also attracted controversy for a tendency to give his characters poses and expressions that are oddly suggestive and somewhat dubious in origin. 

Karen Healey from Girls Read Comics has taken exception to the generic appearance of Land’s female characters, along with a more grievous sin against comic book aesthetics: “Greg Land commits three monumental misogynistic crimes in the portrayal of women: (1) All his female characters are facially indistinguishable; and yet (2) The same character is often inconsistently portrayed in consecutive panels; and (3) Pornface.”

For readers unfamiliar with the concept of superhero pornface, the following examples may clarify the issue. Click to, um, enlarge:

Porn_face_superheroes_2  Pornface001_1  Porn_face_superheroes_3

Healey argues: “Greg Land doesn't draw women. He draws That Woman - the glossy, airbrushed vacant-eyed, wide-mouthed focal point of patriarchal desire.” Over at Comics Nexus, Paul Sebert has expressed similar discomfort: “Greg Land is apparently either tracing porn, using it as a reference source, or just seems inclined to draw beautiful women in positions that are generally only found in porn magazines. Whatever the case is, the end result is painfully awkward and out of place in a superhero comic.”

Pornface003In fairness to Land, his male characters have been known to display pornface on a fairly regular basis, and strenuous battle scenes can at times take on curiously homoerotic overtones. But then, surely t’was ever thus? And isn't the use of stroke books for anatomical referencing an inevitable development for a genre in which improbably chiselled and pneumatic people hurl themselves about while wearing vacuum-tight costumes made from some impossibly thin material? Answers on a postcard, please.

An indecently re-captioned parody using Land's artwork can be found here. Further rumblings can be found at the Greg Land Deconstruction Project.

See also: Secret Identities.

Gratuities welcome.