The artist behind “What if male superheroes dressed like Wonder Woman?”

A couple days ago, I posted about the brilliant art if male superheroes posed like Wonder Woman that I saw on Jezebel and Bleeding Cool.

I’ve discovered a little more about the artist. Her name is Kelly Turnbull. The internet knows her as coelasquid. She’s a professional animator. This fascinates me because as far as I know, there are few women in animation.

Her hilarious and brilliant site/ comic is called Manly Guys Doing Manly Things.

On Turnbull’s site she writes:

I like drawing comics about unapologetically macho things because I’m not on board with this modern trend of telling men that they should act less like men. I dream of a world where the beer is cheap and plentiful, violence can still be an acceptable solution to life’s problems, and no one ever has to talk about their feelings.

Sometime this is a comic about macho action heroes. Sometimes this is a slice of life comic about a time traveling Navy SEAL single dad from the nonspecific spacefuture. Really, it just depends on how things were going that day.

Apparently, a frequently asked question is whether or not she’s really female. Her coy reply is: Does it matter?

I suppose her rendition of males posing like Wonder Woman could be interpreted as affirming culturally accepted masculinity rather than making fun of enforced femininity. Can you exaggerate one end of the polarized gender spectrum without revealing the ridiculousness of the other? Whether Turnbull is male or female, for real or tongue in cheek with her words and images, however your choose to interpret her art, its undeniably creative and provocative. She makes you think about gender and culture in a new way, whomever you are and whatever your beliefs may be about men and women. That’s just what great art should do.

Though Turnbull’s subject is men, ReelGirl is curious what her creative mind would come up with as far as alternative images of Wonder Woman. There have got to be more choices than either WW showing her legs or not showing legs. I sent her an email asking her about this. I’ll let you know what she says.
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Update! Here is my email back from Kelly Turnbull. She writes she is not picking on ‘sexy’ women; she is saying women (and men) superheroes bodies should reflect much more diversity. I totally agree. I wouldn’t even have a problem the anorexic supermodel image if it was just ONE of many possible representations of women out there in the media. It’s the dominance and limitations of the same old recycled icons that limit creativity (and reality.) Hollywood, are you listening???????
Also, Turnbull makes a great point below: it’s not the clothes, it’s the pose! Even titling this post, I mixed the two up. If you look at how imaginary females are posed from the Smurfette to Ariel to Wonder Woman, they look weak or submissive or sexualized, no matter what they’re wearing.
Here’s Turnbull’s email:

Hello!

Hey, checked out your site, thanks for the article! It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside!

If you’vee got any specific questions I’d be glad to answer them, as far as the Wonder Woman thing, though… well, pants or no pants first, I really don’t think pants necessarily matter, I wish she looked more Mediterranean first and foremost (artists who draw every character like they came from a base stock of White Anglo Saxon Protestants are a big pet peeve of mine) I think one of my favourite reimaginings of her is from Jill Thompson (Granted, when people say lady heroes in pants don’t make sense because pants limit movement, all I can think is “Wow, imagine how much better the military and police-force would be able to do their jobs if we just had an all-out pants ban!”)

I think the pose is the big thing that needs to be examined on the DC cover. Diana is royalty and she’s a warrior. She’s a feminist of the “don’t hold the door for me” variety judging by the solo animated movie she got. It seems out of character for someone like Diana to hear “POSE AS A TEAM!” and default to a Victoria Secret kind of stance. Now if we were talking about Poison Ivy, Catwoman, someone like that whose who schtick is being seductive, it would make perfect sense. Hey, they’d probably even take it further! But Diana is not Catwoman and Diana is not Poison Ivy and Diana is not any number of other DC ladies.

Any time any person brings up “hey, maybe every single woman in this piece shouldn’t look and act like an underwear model” so many people listening automatically assume that person wants NO MORE SEXY WOMEN. No, folks, I don’t want to take away your sexy things. Saying it’s out of character for Diana to pose like she’s selling underwear doesn’t mean I want Selina Kyle to show up next time in full military body armour or that I want artists to start drawing Powergirl with a b-cup or Black Canary with stretch marks or anything like that. It just means I don’t want every woman in the comic to be there for the sole purpose of being sexy and I want the artists to draw characters in a way that reflects their personality. If it makes people feel any better, I also wish they would give Flash a sprinter’s build, Aquaman a swimmer’s build, Batman an MMA build, and Superman a weightlifter figure compared to that unilateral “this is that one body every superhero artist knows how to draw” look they all have now.

Another common point of contention that comes with debates like this is people who assume women who speak out against this kind of thing are jealous or shaming other women for showing off their bodies or what have you. Again, I just don’t think “being sexy” is something anyone should feel bad about, I just think it’s kind of a time-and-a-place matter. Imagine a board of military leaders gathered around to discuss a new strategy. One person out of ten wanders into the room in their underwear. Then that person, say, sits on the table and strikes a provocative pose. Now imagine they want you to take this character exactly as seriously as the other nine. That’s how I feel every time they show Emma Frost in her corset and panties trying to be passed off as some sort of authority figure. That is not the sort of outfit a cool-headed serious person wears while they negotiate important business transactions.

I suppose what it comes down to is, I would appreciate if more mainstream comics presented alternative ways of looking at female characters. I’m not saying they need to be unattractive, just that if they aren’t a cheesecake-pinup kinda character don’t present them as one unless it’s in the context of something silly like those old marvel swimsuit pinups.

Think of it like this, Lobo’s the kind of guy who hams it up enough that you could picture him in goofy beefcake pinups. Lobo got a two-page spread in one issue where he’s sprawled out poolside in a spikey chainlink codpiece. Imagine they did the same with Superman or Batman. Like, out of the blue All-Star Batman #3 has a two-page playgirl-esque spread of Bruce in a speedo, grinning at the camera. That would seem weird. I’m sure a number of fans would love it, but others would hate it for being out of character so they probably wouldn’t do it. I’m just saying either give the girls the same kind of consideration or draw more Playgirl Batman.

Thanks!

Kelly

12 thoughts on “The artist behind “What if male superheroes dressed like Wonder Woman?”

  1. You said “This fascinates me because as far as I know, there are few women in animation.”

    I work for DreamWorks Animation, in the Redwood City office. You should visit us sometime, we have loads of female artists here!

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  3. “I also wish they would give Flash a sprinter’s build, Aquaman a swimmer’s build, Batman an MMA build, and Superman a weightlifter figure compared to that unilateral “this is that one body every superhero artist knows how to draw” look they all have now.”

    AMEN. Preach on, sister.

  4. Hey Margot,

    In the spirit of “It’s the pose and not the clothes” I have an observation to make: I’m having a lot of trouble finding any underwear models in this. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough. Did you manage to find any?

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  6. …I’m not on board with this modern trend of telling men that they should act less like men. I dream of a world where the beer is cheap and plentiful, violence can still be an acceptable solution to life’s problems, and no one ever has to talk about their feelings.

    I like her. ++burp++. I intend to follow her. I knew you and I had something in common.

    There have got to be more choices than either WW showing her legs or not showing legs. I sent her an email asking her about this. I’ll let you know what she says.

    I’m not sure what I’d say. Yes there are a lot more choices, but only if you ask different questions. Legs/No-Legs is kind of an either-or, isn’t it?

    I really think it’s the people making an issue out of the legs who are over-complicating it. If you want to make Wonder Woman so she can be taken more seriously, settle some things. Is her identity a secret. Is she bullet-proof. Can she fly without the jet. Could she whip Superman’s butt. Because the creative forces have gone back and forth on this so many times, the public really doesn’t know anything about her. She’s strong, female, has a magic lasso, and if you see her in long pants it means someone has an agenda and it isn’t to entertain you, so there’s no point spending the cash.

    Oh on the other hand — you want to make a crusade about putting a band around her neck to make that stupid “bustier” into a halter so she doesn’t pop out of it…then, you and I can achieve some common ground. Because the way that is now, it’s just dumb.

      • I really like the way she thinks. She starts with a determination and drive to add depth to the character(s) and proceeds from that point.

        I agree with every word top to bottom. Pretty much. Almost, anyway. When she launches into this…

        Any time any person brings up “hey, maybe every single woman in this piece shouldn’t look and act like an underwear model” so many people listening automatically assume that person wants NO MORE SEXY WOMEN.

        …I’m one of the people she’s talking about. I figure, yeah it’s about NO MORE SEXY WOMEN because if it was about something else, they’d pick on someone besides Wonder Woman. Latest opening I saw for the “Justice League” cartoon which they’re still making, if I’m not very much mistaken…it shows the entire cast racing down a staircase in serial fashion, and then they save the Big Three for the very last. Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman…so that she ends up being dead center. She has always taken a leadership position in SF and JL, always always always.

        I do agree with you there is an issue with women being taken seriously in the comic industry. People who cite Wonder Woman as an example of this, in my view, demonstrate that they don’t read the material very much. It would be interesting to see what a scientific review of all 70-or-whatever years would say. She doesn’t get kidnapped a lot (well not anymore) like Daphne from Scooby-Doo…doesn’t spend a lot of time in the background. She negotiates with hostages, reaches accords with the United Nations, charges into burning buildings to rescue people and fights evil killer robots. There’s some embarrassing “underwear models” in comic books, but she isn’t one of ’em.

        And when she wears long pants in something I have to pay money to see, I know I’m about to get ripped off. Not going. That’s my point…

        “Not the clothes it’s the pose.” Great line. Like it.

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