12 November 2009

Brokeback Times

There's an amusing post over at Heidi's Beat billed as a tribute to 'the Brokeback Pose'. The what? Well, remember a few weeks ago I talked about the astonishing phenomenon that was -- and, sadly, still is -- Rob Liefeld? Liefeld was one of the most successful comic creators in the world in the early and mid-1990s, and he managed this without any discernible drawing ability whatsoever. In particular, he understanding of human anatomy was astonishingly poor, and as these fellas have pointed out, 'the most important thing you need to know before reading about all the terrible things Rob Liefeld has drawn is that he has never seen or talked to a woman in his life and has no idea what they look like or how their bodies operate.'

Now, in the world of comics illustration, Liefeld is hardly the only offender in this regard. There is, after all, a tendency in comic art towards idealised female physiques, just as there is towards idealised male ones, and sometimes people have some pretty peculiar ideals, and with most superhero comics being read by adolescent males, they tend to be strewn with scantily clad athletic girls whose breasts are larger than their heads. To be fair, this happens: I've known one or two girls in my life who are indeed so endowed, and I've tended to frown on looking at them, and wonder how their backs take the strain.

Which brings me to the Brokeback Pose. The first of these pictures I've taken from Heidi's post, and it's a relatively inoffensive variant on the pose. It shows Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat, proudly displaying both buttocks and a profiled breast. This, it must be said, is quite difficult to do; as Heidi says, 'unless you are a member of Cirque Du Soleil it’s actually impossible to turn your ass and your tits in the same direction'.

I'd be curious to know when the pose first began to appear in comics, but the second picture here may give a clue. It's a Liefeld, and I neither known nor care who it's meant to be. You can look at it in colour on the 40 Worst Rob Liefeld Drawings site, where it is noted that this shot 'is a catch-all for "any time Rob Liefeld has ever drawn a woman."' Such a typical catch-all is necessary, as otherwise 'the entire list would be broken spines and colossal hooters'. It's not immediately obvious, as the rendering's so poor, but if you squint you'll can just about make out both breasts and both buttocks!

Ben Towle, leaving a comment on Heidi's post, actually points to this very picture, and says credit needs to be given the the great 90s masters who originally broke this pose's eponymous back. 'This,' he says, 'is where the real artistic innovation began. Once the spine was broken (aesthetically speaking), adding the "boob twist" was really just icing on the cake.'

The bizarre thing, though, is that this pose is possible! As another commenter points out, in classical figure drawing, 'This sort of pose is not unusual at all (as far as showing the upper body in profile, and the rear to reveal both cheeks). The spine is capable of enough rotation to capture that pose. In fact, as an artist, it is, in general, it is your duty to twist the spine whenever possible to bring life to your figures, and imply movement. Stiff symmetrical figures are the hallmark of amateur artists. I think what make it in such bad taste is the over arching of the back which serves to lift the buttocks and heave out the bossom.'

And indeed, he illustrates his point by linking to a drawing by none other than Michelangelo, which I've flipped vertically below just so that all my brokebacks can face the same way. If this weren't enough to convinced you, though, the very first comment on the post, from one Steve Flack, was a claim to have witnessed this pose: 'I was shocked when I saw the video for Keri Hilson’s R&B hit, "Love Knocks You Down", and she actually manages to pull off this pose. Of, course, she has to lay down on a bed to accomplish it, but it still happened.'

He's right, too. You can watch the video if you want -- she contorts her callipygous form into this Fortean pose a minute and twenty-seven seconds in -- but to save you time, I've saved the key moment here:

It's amazing the things you can find out with the internet. Who would have thought that such a pathetic comicbook convention could have had such an artistic pedigree? Um.

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