King City! It’s a thick collection of Brandon Graham’s comic series that came out at various points in the Nothings, it’s packed with extras (James Stokoe!) and has a handsome cover with fold-out bits. It also has lots of fun with cats, so if you like cats (which you might do, as you are on the internet), you’ll like the bits of this with cats in?
But what about the rest of the comic? Well, for every excellent, evocative piece of world-building, there’s
For every impressively-detailed-yet-spacious layout that evokes Moebius or Otomo while still definitely being its own thing, there’s
For every piece of thrillingly imaginative action, there’s
For every authentic-feeling depiction of relationship small-talk, there’s
(the blurry man in the bad scan is thinking “ooo… sex pig…nice…”)
Nargh! There’s a kind-of self-critique eventually, which is cooool and all
but, y’know, it doesn’t really work as a valid response to the ass-out curvy-spined posing throughout the book, as it’s not just this one character who looks like this., and it is, after all Graham himself choosing to draw the characters like this. He could have drawn them differently. If he’s making a point about sexist portrayals of female characters in comics, he’s still kind of having his cake and eating it.
And for all Brandon Graham seems like an intelligent guy who really thinks about the portrayal of women in comics he’s still made a book that’s male gazey as hell. An important quote from the interview:
“Yeah I think that’s the big problem. It’s like, ok dudes, we’ve tended to your boners since the dawn of time. Can someone else have a turn?”
And it’s ace that he’s noticed things shouldn’t mainly be aimed at straight males. It makes me feel a bit bad for being all “ooh look at the objectification” as he comes across as a definite Force For Good in interviews but, well, the women in this comic still are totally aimed at that straight, male audience, aren’t they?
It’s an extension of that whole aspect of illustration that you see constantly on yr Tumblrs and Deviantarts and in grafitti and on music posters and such: young, straight men like drawing ‘badass’ idealised women in the kind of clothing they find attractive on a person. It’s for the male gaze and it’s not really subversive or new. Yeah, the line between ‘sexy’ and ‘sexist’ is a fine one, but I think this comic steps over the line?
I’m hoping it’s mainly just the actions of a young artist, as the depictions of women do improve as the comic goes on and Graham matures (and watching the art and writing improve on-page is a pleasure), and his work on the excellent ‘Prophet‘ comic from more recent times shows no signs ofthese problems.
I guess I’m picking on this comic I otherwise really, really enjoyed, as it’s always extra annoying to see something like this in something that’s great, that is SO CLOSE to being great-plus. It’s like a more successful sort of poppy Sharknife/Joy Buzzards/Street Angel thing, and it really makes sense in its mid-2000s context. Younger Me would have grasped this comic and not let go. Older Me, though? Older Me is tired and cranky.
My reaction to this comic can basically be summed up with this paragraph, written by someone else, at the Destroy All Comics blog:
“King City is pretty awesome, except that it’s pretty sexist. I don’t mean sexist in the “rapes and boobs galore” kind of way, I mean sexist in the “there are two female characters in the whole book and they never speak to each other and the protagonist has had sex with both of them” kind of way. Sexist in the, “dayum, chicks in this comic gots bootay” kind of way. Sexist in the “one lady is a femme fatale and the other is the ex-girlfriend with a heart of gold” kind of way. I mention this up front because that bugged me, but I really loved the comic otherwise.”
Pretty much, yeah.
I’ll leave you with the worst panel from the comic, how about that?
(because women like soaps, do you see? Don’t worry, though, it’s ironic)