Marc Alan Fishman: The Powerpuff Pituitary Problem
What’s one more pundit’s perspective on the recent Powerpuff hullabaloo, right?
For those not in-the-know, let me catch you up mighty quick. The Cartoon Network and IDW publish a Powerpuff Girls comic book each month. Recently, artist Mimi Yoon’s variant cover to issue #6 hit the Internet, and soon thereafter, everyone went crazypants. Or maybe it’s more apropos to say crazyintheirpants. If you look at the art for today’s article (above) you’ll see Yoon’s piece.
Are you lighting your bra on fire yet?
It depicts Blossom, Buttercup and Bubbles as pin-up inspired… shall we say… more mature versions of themselves, feeling victorious after defeating an oddly gigantic Mojo Jojo. All three look at us, the viewer, with kewpie-doll-meets-smoky-playboy-cartoon eyes. Their outfits true to cartoon scale, but their proportions now in an uncanny valley inches shy of legal jailbait. They exist as true ‘toons; impossibly impossible in every way.
For many a’ person, this is ludicrous, angering, and a smite upon the very Earth. But much like last week’s Wonder Woman crisis, I’m not lighting the torches, nor and I leading the mob towards Castle IDW.
I’m not sharpening the blade to thrust at the fire-starters either. As I read it, said blaze was started by a friend of mine, Dennis Barger, who owns and operates a great store in Taylor, MI. His point is valid: a book clearly aimed at children has little to gain over what might be construed as a less-than-wholesome depiction of the titular (‘natch) characters. He, as a parent and a store-owner, felt that it was a poor choice for a cover – even if it was only a variant cover – and as such sought to spread the word amongst the socially interconnected in order to create discussion. He succeeded. And, it would seem it also vilified him to those looking to stand up for the artist, and the artistic choices made therein. Debate is debate though… and for creating one? I tip my hat to Dennis. He got us talking, as we are all prone to do, about feminism on one hand, and the over-sexualization of children’s properties on the other.
When I saw the cover in question, I giggled. Then I paused. Then I thought “Huh, that really is a bit much, right?” Then I moved on. Arguments abound circle the choices of the artist here. Why age the kiddie property in this manner? What does an image of a Powerpuff Girl, nay, Powerpuff Young Woman do for a li’l lass (or lad) who reads the book? More to the point: How does this art in particular seek to become a commodity, had it not been canceled, and released to the public without any more fanfare than an ad in Previews?
To answer my own questions: The artist was working in the faux-pin-up style that is clearly rendered beautifully, and that style wouldn’t allow the Puffs to be pre-pubescent in order to fit the style. For a little guy or gal, the cover is fantasy: what might Blossom, Buttercup, and Bubbles look like a bit down the road? Oh, they’re taller.
I’m not much for overly sexualized underclassmen in mini-skirts and mascara. If IDW saw the work and thought that there would be a subset of customers out there who would pursue the book because of the cover, I guess they are entitled to an opinion, and I wouldn’t shake the hand of any man buying the book because of it.
It’s simply an evil that exists for reasons that should shame all of us within the industry. Certainly we can debate the merit of Wonder Woman donning doomed pantaloons, or the need for Power Girl to have a boob-window versus the current feminista costume designs of the newerish Captain Marvel and Smasher. But when that debate turns towards an innocent property like the Powerpuff girls or the oddly matured My Little Pony Equestria license? Well, that’s where gentlemen like Mr. Barger make themselves loud and clear.
Children are the future and we shouldn’t make them feel like they need to grow up faster than they already are. Seeing blossoming buttercups bubble out from a skin-tight spandex suit is simply a dart hurled at a target that misses by a country mile. Had it come out, would it have created a generation of young girls praying for their own set of mosquito bites? Would it have let loose a cadre of boys with ill-fitting trousers chasing those aforementioned lasses skirts? Hardly.
The cover was a wink and a nod towards the adult purchasers of a children’s title. It was a variant cover that any responsible parent – or parent simply not looking to answer several questions they’d rather not deal with – would have purchased the normal cover. The debate is out there, and where controversy is birthed, so too will new bullets be fired into the fray. Common sense dictates to us the truth behind the yelling.
Next time, keep the kids as kids. Let the ‘shippers keep their fanfic fantasies to themselves… or you know… their Tumblr accounts.
SUNDAY: John Ostrander
MONDAY: Mindy Newell
TUESDAY MORNING: Jen Krueger