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Where is the line? When is an image empowering, and when is it too risque? While the case of the contested variant cover of The Powerpuff Girls #6 has a lot of silly aspects, its core speaks to larger issues the comic book industry has been wrestling with of late, and may find itself wrestling with even more. The questions it raises aren’t always easy to answer — as is so often the case, the devil is in the details.
All-ages comics have a larger presence now than they have in decades. Every month, tie-ins to popular kids’ shows and original books suitable for readers are released in high enough numbers that you could open a comic book store that’s just for kids. Many stores have increased their kids sections, and with events like Free Comic Book Day, it’s easier for those shops to prove themselves to parents as a safe place. Meanwhile, awareness of the industry’s female readership has never been higher; in October, digital comics platform comiXology released some startlingly specific data: Its average female reader is “17-26 years old, college-educated, lives in the suburbs, and is new to comics. She prefers Tumblr to Reddit. She may have never even picked up a print comic.” In six years, female readership on comiXology increased from less than 5 percent to 20 percent.
Artist Mimi Yoon, whose withdrawn Powerpuff Girls variant cover has been the subject of much discussion over the past several days, has revealed one of her next projects for: a cover for BOOM! Studios’ Adventure Time, also licensed by Cartoon Network.
As she pointed out in the comments on her Facebook page, it was painted last year for the miniseries Adventure Time: Candy Capers, which concluded in December, but the publisher now has decided to use it for the main series. Yoon also teased that another, as-yet-unrevealed cover she created will appear before this one.
Artist Mimi Yoon has responded to the controversy surrounding her variant cover for IDW Publishing’s The Powerpuff Girls #6, which was withdrawn last week by Cartoon Network following complaints that the illustration “sexualized” the pre-teen animated characters.
The chain of events began early last week when retailer Dennis Barger Jr. singled out the cover (at right) on his own Facebook page, asking, “Are we seriously sexualizing pre-teen girls like perverted writing fan fiction writers on the internet?”
IDW Publishing’s Dirk Wood explained that the cover was “mandated” by Cartoon Network, which selected Yoon and approved the artwork. When contacted by ICv2.com, the network’s licensing division noted that the cover was intended as direct-market collectible item; however, “We recognize some fans’ reaction to the cover and, as such, will no longer be releasing it at comic book shops.”
After making vague references to the dust-up on Thursday, Yoon took to her Facebook page Friday afternoon to address the matter directly:
ICv2.com reports that Dennis Barger Jr., owner Wonderworld Comics in Detroit, singled out the cover on Monday, writing on his Facebook page, “Are we seriously sexualizing pre-teen girls like perverted writing fan fiction writers on the internet???? is that what this shit has gotten to? DISGUSTED.”
The illustration, by Mimi Yoon, depicts Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup as teenagers dressed in short, skintight dresses and thigh-high stockings. When asked by a commenter why their outfits are shiny, Barger replied, “Because they are wearing latex bondage wear mini dresses, which on an adult would be fine but on the effigies of children is very wrong.”
Dirk Wood, IDW’s vice president of marketing, explained the cover was actually “mandated” by Cartoon Network, using an artist of its choosing. “I think they were thinking of it more along the lines of ‘female empowerment’ than the kind of thing you guys are talking about,” he wrote in the lengthy comments thread, “but certainly, we’re sensitive to the issues here.”