Hello, gals and pals, and welcome to another Comic Book Wednesday! Now, we all know that there are plenty of awesome ladies in comic books. According to Comic Vine, there are 16,985 female characters in their database (note: this database includes almost every character in comics, no matter how minor their roles are.) However, often it seems that despite the prevalence of female characters that there aren't a lot of female creators. This is true, but also it seems that every year we've got more and more kick-ass women making comics, and we should honor them. Some of you know these ladies, and others are totally new to this game.
So, today, I'd like to take a break from the recommendations and talk about a bad-ass female creator: Amanda Conner.
Amanda Conner, in my personal opinion, is not only one of the most talented women working in comics, she's also one of the most talented artists in the whole game. Conner has been involved with the industry since the late 80's. She graduated from the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, and immediately set out to make her way into mainstream comics. Her first major break into Marvel Comics was a backup story in Solo Avengers #12.
What has she done?
She's done a couple of creator owned series, including Gatecrashers (with Mark Waid and husband Jimmy Palmiotti) and The Pro (with Garth Ennis and again Jimmy Palmiotti), which I'll talk about a bit later. She's also done work on Birds of Prey, Lois Lane, Codename: Knockout, Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre, Supergirl, Green Arrow/Black Canary, and Terra. She does covers for pretty much everyone, most recently the covers for Green Team and the variant cover for X-Men #2. She's best known for her work on Power Girl.
Here's some of her art:
Why Should I love her?
I love Amanda Conner for a lot of reasons. The first is that she has an incredible talent for conveying who a character is with just a few pencil strokes. She is a master of facial expressions. In the introduction to DC Comics: The Sequential Art of Amanda Conner, artist Darwyn Cooke (and Conner's collaborator on Silk Spectre), writes about how Conner has always described Chuck Jones as one of her big influences. Chuck Jones, for those who aren't quite up on their pop culture knowledge, is the mastermind behind the best Looney Tunes cartoons, as well as other staples of your childhood like How the Grinch Stole Christmas. When I read this, it made perfect sense. Like Jones, Amanda Conner lets her art speak for itself and portray all of the elements of character that simple dialogue just can't capture. Everything from posture to expression is thought out and meaningful, and the result is that Conner is so talented that she can tell you pretty much who a character is in one panel or sketch. Check out this Black Canary sketch she did for me at New York Comic Con 2010:
That took Conner not even five minutes, but it's such an amazing piece of art that I have it framed. For me, it sums up so much of who Dinah (Black Canary) is. She's flirty and funny, but also super confident in who she is and what she stands for. She'll smile at you, but if you give her a good reason, she'll also kick your ass.
The second reason to love Conner is that she's funny. She loves to poke fun at what she does, in the way that only someone who really loves comics can. For example: Power Girl, probably the character she is most well-known for drawing, has a crazy costume. Lots of people are dismissive of it, especially when they know very little about the character. But Conner (and others like myself) love it, despite the cheesiness and sexiness. Conner always makes jokes about it in a way that acknowledges the ridiculousness of sex in comics but also shows that there's part of her that loves it too.
Another example of this is her work on The Pro, which I mentioned earlier. The Pro is about a prostitute who is given super powers by an alien, and then is expected to join a clear satire of the Justice League. This is the book that involves The Saint (what? Superman? Who's that?) taking out a plane accidentally with cum and The Pro using her powers to exact revenge for herself and a bunch of other ladies on a scummy john.
I still lose it whenever I see that panel. The Pro is one of those books that is so over-the-top ridiculous, that it can't be anything other than a satire. Conner is unafraid of gross humor, especially when it serves as a way to point out how silly something is (like oversexualization in comic books). She can make a poop joke with the best of them, and she'll still manage to draw it beautifully.
The third reason to love Amanda Conner is that she very much takes into consideration who she is drawing. She can do the buxom bombshell (Power Girl!) but she can also do the teenage girl, the awkward girl, the heavier guy, the skinny kid.
Lots of artists, some of whom I really love, draw everyone with the same body type and often draw them in a similar style. Conner does not. She takes into account who she's drawing, where they are, and how they're feeling. Are they in their street clothes? Well, then they aren't standing the same way they would if they're posed for battle. Are they depressed? Then their shoulders are probably slumped. Are they frustrated? Then they might not have the prettiest face going on. Conner puts character first and other factors like sex appeal and attractiveness second. If it's not appropriate to the situation, she's not going to sex-up her characters, and on the flip side if she feels appropriate then she's not going to shy away with it.
For example, she designed the version of Black Canary's costume where she went back to the leotard with the fishnets (adding in a new motorcycle jacket and combat boots). When asked about why she designed the costume she did, Conner replied:
I wanted to sort of bring Black Canary back to her origins (fishnets and all), costume-wise. Most of the time I try to think of super-hero costumes as something you could actually fight in. Also, I try to imagine what the character's personality is, as if they were a real person. Dinah seems to be a woman who is very comfortable in her own skin, and, like many women in real life, likes to wear sexy clothes.
Conner's careful consideration of her characters is a major reason why she's such a stellar artist.
If you like Conner's work then there are a few books I'd recommend picking up like The Sequential Art of Amanda Conner, Gatecrashers vol. 1, Terra, Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre, and The Pro. If you're just interested in Conner's art, there is also a great art book out there (simply called The Art of Amanda Conner) which has is a complete overview of her career.
So, thank you Amanda for making kick-ass comics and being an incredible artist (as well as being a super-sweetheart at conventions!), your spot on K.A.P.OW. is well deserved.
My apologies for the lateness of this Comic Book Wednesday (now more like Comic Book Thursday), it's been a bit of a hectic week for me. I hope you can forgive me!