Thursday, June 28, 2007

4 Pointers for Pin-Ups in Comics

It's sexist, scandalous, and it's time-honored as hell; the 'great american pin-up' spans a lot of different categories and descriptions, but it's a skill worth learning. They make great merchandise graphics, require very little backstory, give you incentive to have women in your plots, and on top of everything else, allow you to give your characters extra depth in otherwise overlooked places, as long as you're not going for out-and-out pornographic material.

Note: No, it's not a feminist-friendly topic or genre, but that's mostly depending on how you do it; Pin-ups, like most artforms surrounding the portrayal of women, have only become 'feminist friendly' (or even started to get in that range) once you started using female protagonists and heroes, and even THEN there's a fair disconnect between a strong woman and what she often gets turned into by the less-than-scrupulous fanboys. The pointers here are designed to balance the pin-up with potency, so that you avoid straying into the fanservice or pornographic labels too easily. Following all these tips won't keep the criticism off your back, but that'll depend on your own psyche:
  1. Give her SOMETHING to wear!
    Nudity is the obvious route, especially when we're talking about pinups, and quite frankly, the majority of your market will be jaded to nipples by now. A lot of what you'll be able to say with the piece is dependant on your character's attire, so make sure she's wearing some, and then go gonzo on the details. We're talking jewelry, lace, ruffles, anything to help draw further attention to the parts of the character's figure you got right.

    Also, on attire: Don't try to show all the goods in a single piece. Really, it just screams poor taste, and besides that, the selective revelation of certain parts of skin makes an outfit sexier. Think about those 'keyhole' tops for a moment and you'll get where I'm going with this.
  2. The Pose says Everything.
    Remember all that noise surrounding a certain Mary Jane Statue with her all bent over a bucket of laundry and cleavage poking out as she discovers Spidey's suit? . . . yeah. Exactly. Don't do that.

    A strong female heroine should be given some sort of poised/predatory stance, and every part of her body should repeat this. Whatever her body language says, it better say something that doesn't translate (at least automatically) into 'Bukakke'. (speaking of which, you should probably color your portraits in to make sure they don't get turned into as much, either).
  3. Power is Sexy.
    There's a good reason why the dominatrix is a porn staple. Believe it or not, both men and women can appreciate a character in control, and having such content can keep your pinup from being seen as blatant fanservice. Zero in on the sort of power you want to use in there; whether it's physical dominance, sexual seduction, a battle of wits, or simply a "I know something you don't" look, it'll add to your character's personality.

    Likewise, avoid having your characters look beaten-up, overpowered, tentacle-raped, or shocked in your pin-ups; it indicates a loss of power (even temporarily), and it just highlights the social stigma involved in whatever sexy pose you're attempting to use. Restraint can be pulled off with a certain amount of charm, but it's pushing things.
  4. Focus on the Face.
    It's a scientific fact now; Men look at the face of a naked woman before noticing the details, so you'll need to make it a GOOD face to get them to see the rest. Keep the emotion in line with the rest of her body, but make sure to give her face the star treatment. She should either be focused on her target (see the notes on power), or she should be sending messages to the viewer; do NOT make her look vapid, clueless, blank, or otherwise not-all-there. Let her have some emotion, and make sure to get the proportions right there, if nothing else.
Hopefully, my latest experiment in this will see if I've at least gotten myself on the right track . . . fortunately, people seem more willing to forgive a bad pinup versus other types of artwork.

Gee, I wonder why.


At June 30, 2007 at 2:00 PM , Anonymous Vail said...

Very good points. I don't know why people can't get that strong=sexy if they are male or female. I myself would love to see more male cheesecake, though I tend to like the wiry and less muscle bound types (long hair is totally sexy on guys). Which is why I like manga so much I guess.

At June 30, 2007 at 11:45 PM , Blogger Jigsaw Forte said...

Unfortunately, a lot of sexualized content tends to focus on the power dynamic at either extreme. While having a perennial comic relief as the bottom makes for a good source of humor, it's another matter entirely to torture your supposed protagonist.


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