Sunday, 22 April 2007

Groin Strain

Alex Ross’s cover for an upcoming issue of Justice Society of America has caused a bit of a kerfuffle because of the bulge in Citizen Steel’s pants. As Dick Hyacinth says, there have been “several arguments that Ross painted [Citizen] Steel with a bulge only because his model had one.”

Piffle. Let’s start with another Ross painting, done for the animator JJ Sedelmaier, and reproduced in Comic Book Artist.

I trust that no-one doubts that that composition was designed to draw attention to the foreground figure’s package. Ross has placed us, as we look at the picture, below groin level, looking up, so that bulge is almost literally “in your face”. Now let’s look at the Citizen Steel painting.

The whole composition seems designed to draw the eye down to Steel’s dick. The raised arms make his torso a triangle pointing down to it. This is reinforced by the way the musculature has been painted, emphasising diagonals converging on the groin, by the folds in Steel’s strained pants, and by the “Y”-shaped design on the costume, which acts as a pointer. None of that is accidental, surely.

So what is Ross up to? Perhaps he’s just having a joke. Perhaps it’s a plot point, and the Citizen’s steely erection will save the day from Star Sapphire’s radioactive vagina. Perhaps it’s tit-for-tat (as it were) for all those cheesecake covers of DC superheroines – so common that DC has just put out a 200-page hardcover book of them. Perhaps, after 70 years of homoerotic superhero comics featuring scantily dressed musclemen wrestling with each other, Ross feels that it is time to move one stage closer to the money shot.

I wonder how it will sell?

I assume that, for American readers, the name Citizen Steel brings to mind Citizen Kane or Citizen Robespierre or some such.

But I’m a middle-aged Englishman, so I just think of Citizen Smith. Freedom for Tooting! (Or wherever Steel hails from.)

Ambiguously Gay Duo Comics, cover by Alex Ross, JJ Sedelmaier Productions, 2003, reprinted in Comic Book Artist volume 2 issue 2, October 2003

Justice Society of America issue 7, solicitation image by Alex Ross, DC Comics, 2007


Anonymous said...

Good Lord, my boy, the Ambiguosly Gay Duo's whole shtick ("a-ha!") is born out of ridiculously large bulge! Are you seriously telling me, young lad, that Mr. Ross could have done it without the titanic Oh-Veiny-One?

I just pray you were being ironic on that reference, my dear lad!

Heavens to Betsy! Superheroes are coded sex imprints! Every damn one of them is a phallus worship -- most of them have uniforms that pull attraction to their (Lebowski's nihilist accent:) SHONSSON! Or do you wear underpants over your tight pants, have diamonds on your chest pointing towards your groin-area, or any other clothing that makes you look like a walking phallus?

(glove slap!)


Betty said...

I see that anonymous has beaten me to the all too obvious point. As I am not familiar with your blog, I shall assume that regular readers would recognize you were being ironic.

Steve Flanagan said...

It seems I was not being clear. My argument is something like this:

1. The AGD picture was unquestionably intended to draw attention to the characters' groins.

2. So, we can see from the AGD painting that if Ross wants to draw attention to a bulge, he knows how to use the composition of his picture to do so.

3. The Steel picture also appears to be composed so as to draw attention to the bulge.

4. Therefore, it is likely that Ross intended to draw attention to Steel's bulge, rather than it being simply an accident of the model's anatomy. QED.

Daniel said...

It does seem likely, Steve.

It should be pointed out, though, that Commander/Citizen Steel's costume, fugly as it is, is pretty much unchanged from its first depiction in 1978. It's pretty much impossible to render the thing in any way that doesn't draw the eye straight to the crotch. Yet that has never mattered until now.

In that light, it seems perfectly reasonable that if you're going to make people look there, you might as well put something there worth the trouble.

Anonymous said...

Yes, quite right, youngster.

I'll concede that perhaps it exists the possibility of an intentional crafting of it's composition to pull our eyes into the SHONSSON.

But no more than that.

And no more from that!

(glove slap!)