Fighting the Good Fight: 2014 Comic Book Highlights


STACKEDD magazine debuts today! I sneak in a last look at some great things in comics in 2014.

Six Extra Crushable Male Comic Book Characters

I read an article recently on what women (who are into men) find sexy or un-sexy about male comic book characters. The point of the article was partly to demonstrate that muscle-bound male characters are a power fantasy for males and are not catering to the female gaze in the same way that female characters cater to men (who are into women). It made me think about how I see men in comic books.

First, I don’t find very many male comic book characters to be sexy, but I’m not reading comics in pursuit of sexiness so I don’t really care. In general, comics creators make their men with noses that are way too small and regular. Their faces aren’t drawn with enough detail. They’re just not real enough. Their hands aren’t interesting to look at. Sometimes their eyes are so round, they look guileless. They’re either too handsome or too cartoonishly homely. And big muscles really aren’t interesting to me.

Second, there is an enjoyable ambience of sexiness from the female characters. If a beautiful female character isn’t a prop and is somewhat believable, I usually think she’s sexy. It’s the inverse of the situation with men. The women just lend themselves to sexiness, and then they can kind of kick up a miasma of sexiness for the whole book, even if the men aren’t really participating. I don’t read the kind of books that make me feel extremely sad about how women are portrayed, so I’m not taking those depictions into account.

But what or who do I find sexy among comic book men? Well, there haven’t been that many but here are six in no particular order.

#1) Marko from Saga.


I haven’t been reading this book regularly, but this guy is really appealing. It’s his face that does it for me—Fiona Staples is just good at faces, I think. Even with horns and flappy ears, he looks more like a guy who could exist in real life than most men I see in comic books. I like the lines of his face, his strong nose, his jawline, his angularity, his brows, his deepset eyes, and his lips that are just a little bit full. He looks very intelligent and a little brooding, but also like he’s a good guy. He also looks tired, and looking tired is really important. I have a thing for tired-looking guys. I blame it on working in a seafood plant as a young girl and developing crushes on machinists who were too old for me and would look increasingly wrecked as the canning season wore on. Which leads right into the next guy.

#2) Earl Tubbs from Southern Bastards.


Jason Latour drew Earl so old and craggy and mad. He’s like a tree trunk with big meaty forearms. He’s so tired. He’s exhausted. He has the weight of the world on his big broad shoulders. He doesn’t suffer fools. He has giant hands. He wears plaid. I love Earl.

#3) Bruno from Ms. Marvel.


I feel a little bad that he’s in high school, but I don’t really feel bad, because the book invites me to temporarily relive the sensations of being a teenager. I like how he’s skinny and has curly hair that’s a little long. He tucks it behind his ear in an indifferent manner, and his facial hair situation is a bit haphazard. I like how he’s the all-seeing bystander. Kamala has definitely taken him for granted so far. He is always in her corner and has a delectable dry wit. He does this thing where he furrows his brows and pinches the bridge of his nose with his bony fingers. It’s very realistic! Kudos to G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona for creating an understated character that I want to make out with under the bleachers in some kind of time-travel scenario in which I am definitely not the age I am now.

#4) Tanmay Aayu from Trinadot.


He does look a little like my Uncle Barney circa 1983, but so do half the guys in Portland. Tanmay has a lot of nice features, like a full dark beard, strong eyebrows, narrow shoulders, limpid eyes, unruly hair, and smallish blunt-fingered hands. He’s sort of a monk but on the outs with the other monks. He’s in some kind of danger. The story (which is written and drawn by Melody Often) is full of mysteries and is a little surreal, so I’m not sure what’s going on yet. I do know that Tanmay has a good working relationship with his grandmother and isn’t much of a talker. He has a cute face when he laughs. He takes care of Bea when she’s injured and in her delirium she mistakes him for a small, friendly bear.

#5) Doc Rocket from Supreme Blue Rose.


Look at him! Tula Lotay gives him such warm eyes, and such sproingy hair, and a lot of lines and grooves on his face. He’s a scientist in a beat-up spacesuit. He has some sort of pink tribal-looking graffiti on his clothing and skin. He has either freckles or acne scars—either way, it looks good on him. I like his brushy mustache and how he’s looking out from under his eyebrows. He looks tired, and has great hands. One of them is holding a drink because it’s been a helluva day. We don’t really know Doc Rocket very well yet, because he just staggered out of his rocket at the end of the most recent issue—but this is a love at first sight situation. He’s on the cover of the forthcoming issue, so I’m excited.

#6) Bloody Lips from Elektra.


Michael Del Mundo’s cannibalistic villain is crazy hot. I can hardly take it. Who cares that he eats people? Who cares that you can’t even see his face? He’s steeped in this warm brown glow with little turquoise zing lines, forever associated with summer and youth and water. Writer W. Haden Blackman makes his voice sandy and colloquial, and it works. He’s good at what he does, and he knows it, and he likes it. It makes you think how birds must love flying, and seals must love swimming, and cheetahs must love running. It’s fun to be this guy. He’s not really evil, exactly, he just has goals that are really inconvenient for everybody else. His hands and forearms and veins are incredibly sensual. This is what he reminds me of: The summer I was sixteen, I had a crush on a beautiful crewman on a fishing boat. He had golden skin and wild, curly hair, and it always seemed like light was pouring out of his face. Near the end of the salmon season I was looking out the window of the cannery office and saw the boat he worked on heading out for the last time, not to return until the next year. My crush was in the seine skiff that was trailing behind the boat. As I stood there watching, he leapt like a cat from the skiff into the boat. That leap is what Bloody Lips reminds me of.

Happy Family Postscript

Yesterday I called the portrayal of the Caines in Low #1 “Happy Family Porn.” I think Remender and Tocchini did convey the ominous feeling that a very long honeymoon was about to be over. But from Remender’s own writing about the story, it seemed like he was trying to get us to care a lot about the family. And his efforts to make me care repelled me instead. Even after they weren’t happy anymore, my first impression lingered on that they were really annoying people with an unbelievable family dynamic.


Maybe there’s a general rustiness in depicting believable happy families of origin in comics. Comics, like children’s books, seem to exact a huge amount of orphaning. When families are still intact, they tend to be evil dynasties where no one can trust each other. The best family feeling comes from teams of adult misfits who have chosen to hang together. I think there are good storytelling reasons why it tends to be that way.

Being happy with a mom and a dad is just weird even in real life. A lot of us have families that DID bust up irreparably in real life, and you know what? It wasn’t all that hunky dory before the festival of estrangement and fragmentation.

So, I wanted to highlight a couple of families I really like in recent comics titles.

Laura’s family in The Wicked and the Divine:


They’re all kind of ignoring each other, but they’re also choosing to be physically near each other. The parents look kind of zoned out watching TV, plus they’re self-medicating with wine. But they’re sitting close together. They look comfy. So, this seems like a happy family.

Later they fight:


But it’s ok.

Ditto for the Khans in Ms. Marvel.


Mrs. Khan has had it with this convo. Mr. Khan’s big meaty forearm is in the air like “OK, let’s just table this guys.” But you know, everyone is fine. Mr. and Mrs. Khan are going to stay married. They’re just being strict with Kamala because they care and they’re good parents.

In both these cases, real disagreements (not cutesy snarky disagreements) are ok because these families aren’t going to fall apart. There’s no fragility…because these are, essentially, happy families. It’s not sugary sweet, but it’s real.