Join 3,433 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


He wouldn't have survived a Liefeld cover
January 11, 2012 10:32 AM   Subscribe

"Now I could talk about the way women are posed in cover art … or I could show you. "

Fantasy author Jim Hines has had his doubts about some of the cover art for his novels, not to mention some of the silly poses the poor heroines in urban fantasy often found themselves in. So he decided to strike a pose himself and almost did his back in. Safe for work, but does contain shots of a half-nude male fantasy writer.
posted by MartinWisse (81 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Magic to the Bone?
posted by The Whelk at 10:33 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why don't we go back to you just talking to us about the covers, Jim? Yes, let's do that.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:35 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Damn it, I was going to submit this.
posted by jscalzi at 10:36 AM on January 11, 2012


First in a new series!
posted by shakespeherian at 10:36 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The related tumblr link at the bottom - to the contortionist doing comic book poses - is a delightful combination of horrifying and fucking comedy gold.
posted by elizardbits at 10:37 AM on January 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


He has a pager. That he carries around. This amuseth me.
posted by Brockles at 10:37 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


At least this one is unlikely to turn into the war the comic book version of it did...
posted by Bovine Love at 10:38 AM on January 11, 2012


Reminds me of this...which I think has been here before? Or neatorama. Or BoingBoing. Whatever I'm too lazy to look.
posted by emjaybee at 10:39 AM on January 11, 2012


Brockles:

Actually, I believe that's an insulin pump.
posted by jscalzi at 10:40 AM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


He has a pager. That he carries around. This amuseth me.

You mean the insulin pump?
posted by grog at 10:41 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brockles: He has a pager. That he carries around. This amuseth me.

jscalzi: Actually, I believe that's an insulin pump.

Ha ha ha now you feel terrible.
posted by theodolite at 10:43 AM on January 11, 2012 [59 favorites]


He wouldn't have survived a Liefeld cover

Not with torso deflated or his feet intact, for sure.
posted by mhoye at 10:44 AM on January 11, 2012


Actually, I believe that's an insulin pump.

... and the way you feel now is the way you should always feel about engaging in that sort of nerd-toy snobbery.
posted by mhoye at 10:45 AM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


It would probably be just as funny if he posed shirtless beside the Franzetta-esque men that often bedeck Fantasy covers.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:45 AM on January 11, 2012


There are actually two problems if your paranormal romance novel has a cover with an awkwardly posed woman on it. First, your novel has a cover with an awkwardly posed woman on it. Second, you wrote a fucking paranormal romance. What's wrong with you?
posted by Justinian at 10:47 AM on January 11, 2012 [15 favorites]


He wouldn't have survived a Liefeld cover

I came here for the Rob Liefeld reference and I was not disappointed.

However, having met Jim Hines a number of times, I am going to have trouble getting this image out of my mind.

and the way you feel now is the way you should always feel about engaging in that sort of nerd-toy snobbery.

Man, I miss my pager. My systems paged me when they needed me, and nobody else bothered me. Now, every time something goes wrong, I end up playing Angry Birds or Euchre.

wait, what?
posted by eriko at 10:48 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


There are actually two problems if your paranormal romance novel has a cover with an awkwardly posed woman on it. First, your novel has a cover with an awkwardly posed woman on it. Second, you wrote a fucking paranormal romance. What's wrong with you?

I'm just worried that Borders will have to let all of it's "Teen Paranormal Romance" shelves go empty. It's a public service, really.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:49 AM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ha ha ha now you feel terrible.

Should I feel bad for pointing out one? Cos I can't seem to muster it. Insulin pumps aren't uncool, they're just something I've never seen.

the way you feel now is the way you should always feel about engaging in that sort of nerd-toy snobbery

Nope. Use of a pager is risible on so many levels that it always needs to be addressed. Sad that this was a false alarm, though. But having a pager even five years ago would be funny even if I didn't own my own mobile phone.
posted by Brockles at 10:49 AM on January 11, 2012


once he took his shirt off he was in surprisingly good shape, no?
posted by nathancaswell at 10:49 AM on January 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


Jim Hines writes women well enough that sometimes I forget I'm reading a book by a male author, which is surprisingly rare in SFF.

Plus this was funny.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:51 AM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm just worried that Borders will have to let all of it's "Teen Paranormal Romance" shelves go empty. It's a public service, really.

I think at this point we can safely say that all of Borders shelves are empty of everything.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:52 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm just worried that Borders will have to let all of it's "Teen Paranormal Romance" shelves go empty.

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED
posted by mhoye at 10:53 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nothing really new here.

Is there sexism in book covers? Yes, of course. Both the men and the women. Sex sells. No doubt there is sexism in his books as well.

Are the images often cliched or unrealistic? Yes, again this has been happening from men started drawing on caves. And again, his stories also have their cliche and unrealistic momements.
posted by 2manyusernames at 10:56 AM on January 11, 2012


Well, shit I totally forgot that Borders went bankrupt. The fact that I could forget that they went bankrupt is, of course, a huge part of the reason they went bankrupt.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:59 AM on January 11, 2012 [14 favorites]


I just wish the covers where better done. It's sometimes hard to recommend a book to someone when the cover is all digitally painted ass bent foward against an explosion of guns and meaningless leather straps.

(Friend of mine grew up on a cheap paperback copy of Auntie Mame that had like, a half naked woman sprawled in bed eating strawberries looking lustfully at the door with "YOU'LL NEVER BELIEVE WHAT MAME GETS UP TO" printed on the front so clearly this has been a problem for a while.)
posted by The Whelk at 10:59 AM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


jscalzi: "Damn it, I was going to submit this."

Welcome to my world. So many millisecond timing issues.
posted by Samizdata at 11:00 AM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is there sexism in book covers? Yes, of course. [...] Sex sells.

Sex is not the same thing as sexism.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:01 AM on January 11, 2012 [15 favorites]


Friend of mine grew up on a cheap paperback copy of Auntie Mame

My parents were restrictive, but at least they didn't restrict me to the cover of a book.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:02 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not to mention what that would do to pithy aphorisms.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:04 AM on January 11, 2012


It's sometimes hard to recommend a book to someone when the cover is all digitally painted ass bent foward against an explosion of guns and meaningless leather straps.

Oh hi! Have you seen the cover of the actually-excellent Saturn's Children by metafilter's own Charles Stross? Because. . . yeah. That cover is a reason to get the e-book if ever I saw one.
posted by KathrynT at 11:04 AM on January 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sex is not the same thing as sexism

That explains why my "professional sexist" business cards weren't getting me laid.

I'm sure my abhorrent personality had some play in it too...
posted by Dark Messiah at 11:05 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


It wasn't the pronunciation that bothered me.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:06 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


2manyusernames, the point is that the cliches used for women...such as the "boobs and butt pointed in same direction" pose...are not the same as those used for men. And most covers don't show men "sexy" but "powerful."

Here's a superhero example of what happens when you reverse it (except for Hulk, don't really see that pose much).
posted by emjaybee at 11:07 AM on January 11, 2012 [14 favorites]


Oops, forgot to add the original image being parodied.
posted by emjaybee at 11:08 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sex is not the same thing as sexism.

Well, so what? What's wrong with bein' sexy?

/TufnelFilter
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:09 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


These kind of covers really put me off buying said book. Maybe if they just went with Sigourney Weaver in the exo-suit with body armor, I'd be more inclined to read about the thorough alien ass kicking.

I guess I'll just have to fall back on my Horus Heresy and generic Warhammer 40k fluff...
posted by Slackermagee at 11:09 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank goodness male poses in fantasy art aren't similarly ridiculous.
posted by Decani at 11:12 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


No Jim, you're not as sexy as a illustration. I'm sorry, that's just the way it is.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:14 AM on January 11, 2012


Use of a pager is risible on so many levels that it always needs to be addressed.

Lots of people still use pagers - doctors, medics, police, remote utility workers. This is because they can function where cell coverage is non-existent or spotty. It's not just drug dealers from 1992.
posted by anti social order at 11:14 AM on January 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


the point is that the cliches used for women...such as the "boobs and butt pointed in same direction" pose...are not the same as those used for men.

Men and women are different. That doesn't mean why is better than the other, obviously, just yes, there are differences.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:15 AM on January 11, 2012


Thank goodness male poses in fantasy art aren't similarly ridiculous.

I agree!
posted by shakespeherian at 11:15 AM on January 11, 2012


Been there, done that.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:16 AM on January 11, 2012


Have you seen the cover of the actually-excellent Saturn's Children

Obviously it was cheaper to just nick a Second Life avatar.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:19 AM on January 11, 2012


Decani, I hope you're kidding there. You do realize that that image is exactly the problem, right? He gets a relatively strong, fairly sensible, heroic pose. She is thrusting her hips and caressing her thighs. Also: one could stand like he is standing. If I tried to... crouch? the way she is, I'd topple ass-over-end.

If that was a joke that totally went over my head, I apologize.
posted by AmandaA at 11:21 AM on January 11, 2012


Have you seen the cover of the actually-excellent Saturn's Children

The American version? That actually was intended to be so over the top and ludricous and indeed matches what the heroine looks like in the book itself (she can't help it, she's a sexbot designed to look that way be her now extinct human creators).
posted by MartinWisse at 11:23 AM on January 11, 2012


The best thing about that Frazetta picture is that JC looks like he's so well-endowed that he's bowlegged. The worst thing is ... everything else.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:28 AM on January 11, 2012


as it would happen, i recently saved an image to my mlkshk that deals with the whole, "oh yeah, the men are objectified as well!" argument.
posted by nadawi at 11:36 AM on January 11, 2012 [25 favorites]


In defense contracting we use pagers because many times they can be brought into sensitive areas that other devices (i.e. cell phones, smart phones) cannot. A couple of my colleagues just carry their pager all the time because it's easier to get a hold of them that way (rather than calling their office number, then calling their cell, then texting their pager).

Men and women are different. That doesn't mean why is better than the other, obviously, just yes, there are differences.

Yes, clearly women have swaybacks and men have a 5:1 shoulder to hip ratio. There's no need to examine why they are depicted this way. It's nature!
posted by muddgirl at 11:57 AM on January 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


When your muscles are as big as mine, the best way to relax is to lean shirtless against tigers. Any other pose needlessly constrains my rippling muscles. Also, the lounging, bikini clad women that I spend all of my time complain if their faces aren't at the same level as my crotch.

Nothing to analyze here. Nope.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:02 PM on January 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


Nadawi is entirely correct. Comics art tends to be exaggerated and hyper-sexualized, but while both men and women are depicted in equally unrealistic ways, they're depicted by/for a "male gaze."

It doesn't mean that there's anything inherently WRONG with sexualized images designed to appeal to men, but it's a very, very over-represented perspective.

I don't think that showing a man posing as a woman is necessarily the best way to demonstrate that, I actually think the comic did it much better, but showing how off-putting any other pespective might seem to those of us that have become so damned accustomed to our sweet, sweet homogeneity.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:10 PM on January 11, 2012


Is there sexism in book covers? Yes, of course. Both the men and the women. Sex sells. No doubt there is sexism in his books as well.

It's cute that you seem to confuse "sexuality" and "sexual images" with "sexism".
posted by Frowner at 12:12 PM on January 11, 2012


as it would happen, i recently saved an image to my mlkshk that deals with the whole, "oh yeah, the men are objectified as well!" argument.

Uh, deals with in what way? That comic is composed of a lie ("no women even LIKE big muscled men, that stuff is obviously just for guys!"), a thing approaching a lie ("being an impossibly muscled hulk is a male power fantasy!"), and an absurd strawman ("big eyes and lips on Batman would make a male viewer uncomfortable!"). I guess that comic could be used to (falsely) imply that counterarguments to "men are objectified as well" are all ridiculous, but it definitely doesn't make the opposite point.

Don't get me wrong, Dave Willis hits it right on the head sometimes, but sometimes... well, sometimes he does things like this.
posted by IAmUnaware at 12:19 PM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Entertainingly, I took a class a long time ago in which we were asked how we felt about John Wayne, and only the men in the room found him attractive.

I decided to roll with it. He is the duke after all.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:22 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


IAmUnaware - do you think that Tan Hadron is depicted like this (as opposed to being depicted like this) to attract female readers?
posted by muddgirl at 12:25 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Random points:

1. Having to walk by the 2exist ads on the Manhattan Bus Stops for a couple of months really made me rethink how women might feel when they see Miller Lite commercials or what not. God, not that guy's fucking dick again!!! Walk faster!

2. Jesus Christ, it's fantasy cover art, and women are fucking HOT. Jump all over me for this, but I don't think women feel the same way (on average, exception =/= falsification of generalization, etc) when they see picture of Bradley Cooper on GQ as men do when the see Scarlett on Vogue. It can be a bit rapturous. I don't think I've ever caught a girl talking to my dick.

3. I need to get a life. I'm commenting on this post.
posted by gagglezoomer at 1:02 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I honestly truly can't believe we're still having the "there's no such thing as a sexist approach to posing women in art that is different from the way men are treated!!1!" argument.

Please, spend some time at Sociological Images. Here's an excellent article about Rolling Stone's covers featuring men v. women.

Oh and here's a comics one; male heroes posed like Wonder Woman was recently.

Once you start paying attention (rather than angrily denying that sexism exists in this arena) you notice this stuff is everywhere.
posted by emjaybee at 1:03 PM on January 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


it's fantasy cover art, and women are fucking HOT

So I, a straight female fantasy book reader, am not the market for fantasy cover art? Why not? Or am I secretly attracted to "fucking HOT" women and I just don't realize it?
posted by muddgirl at 1:05 PM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Weird thing is, isn't urban fantasy/paranormal romance mostly bought by women in the first place? Where are the half-naked boys posing seductively, swiveled so their butt crack and ball sack * are visible to the reader?


*ObOuch: ouch.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:15 PM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


"I don't think that showing a man posing as a woman is necessarily the best way to demonstrate that, I actually think the comic did it much better, but showing how off-putting any other pespective might seem to those of us that have become so damned accustomed to our sweet, sweet homogeneity.
How about showing how bad it can get... Escher Girls.
posted by Auz at 1:22 PM on January 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


well, bradley cooper is safe, not hot. he's sold as the kind of guy that'd bring you chicken soup, not the guy that'll tongue you for two hours (in that same vein, colin farrell became way hotter to a lot of women when his sex tape leaked - rihanna even thanked him for filming it on graham norton).

as to women not being openly lecherous - we're conditioned not to be. we're automatically sluts if we are sexually attracted to anything other than personality and check book. but, if you hang out in straight/bi sex positive circles online, women are filthy when they talk about what they like physically in men. take a gander at reddit's lady boners.
posted by nadawi at 1:35 PM on January 11, 2012


I want more comic book covers like this! Heck, fiction book covers too. (Note that it is a normal human man, not a super-ripped over-buff dude. With water guns. Goofing off. *fans self*)
posted by fraula at 2:11 PM on January 11, 2012


sorry, those are Nerf guns. And don't mean to imply he's not ripped, he's just not SUPER-ripped.
posted by fraula at 2:12 PM on January 11, 2012


Or am I secretly attracted to "fucking HOT" women and I just don't realize it?

Well, why else would you be into mudd wrestling?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 2:20 PM on January 11, 2012


Puddle of Mudd Wrestling.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:21 PM on January 11, 2012


Note that it is a normal human man, not a super-ripped over-buff dude.

You must not hang out with the same normal human men that I hang out with.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:23 PM on January 11, 2012


So I, a straight female fantasy book reader, am not the market for fantasy cover art?

The publishers believe, with lots of research and experience to back it up, that the covers will gain then more sales than it will lose. They're probably correct in that belief. Does that mean the ubiquitous nature of these covers isn't problematic? No. But "it costs them sales" isn't why they are problematic.
posted by Justinian at 3:38 PM on January 11, 2012


The publishers believe, with lots of research and experience to back it up, that the covers will gain then more sales than it will lose. They're probably correct in that belief.

You know, I've worked in publishing, and aside from a few high-profile titles, "market research" mostly consists of "what did we do with our other stuff that looks like this" and "what will our current artist come up with in our timeframe/pricerange". We're talking low-budget genre titles here, not multimillion dollar ad campaign megatitles. (and honestly, even those tend to look horrible, because the only really important thing about them is Famous Author Name in Giant Letters).

People who like fantasy generally like it enough to buy it despite the horrible artwork it usually comes in. Even while they know it's horrible. Because they like fantasy. And lots and lots of those readers are women, possibly even a majority.

It's not that the publishers don't think non-sexbot-women covers won't sell; it's that they're used to a certain type of fantasy art that hasn't come far from the golden van-mural age of Nekkid Chicks and Wizards. I don't know if the artists aren't trying new things at all, or if they are but are being shot down, or they are so beaten down by the job that they are just phoning it in. Possibly all three.

See, whenever a discussion of sexist ads comes up, someone always responds "It has to be this way, because that's what people want!!" as though no non-sexist ad had ever been successful. This also includes the assumption that every ad-designer is some kind of freaking mindreader genius who is tapping into our collective ids. They're not. Most of them are just copying what everyone else does, because that's safe because the client is comfortable with it.

At one time, it was ok to sell coffee with ads showing men shaming their wives for their shitty coffee. Ads don't do that anymore, but we still drink a lot of coffee. It just gets sold in a different way.
posted by emjaybee at 5:45 PM on January 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


See, whenever a discussion of sexist ads comes up, someone always responds "It has to be this way, because that's what people want!!"

This is pretty much the opposite of what I said. I said it shouldn't be that way, but the sales argument is not the winning one.
posted by Justinian at 6:03 PM on January 11, 2012


The related tumblr link at the bottom - to the contortionist doing comic book poses - is a delightful combination of horrifying and fucking comedy gold.

Yeah, that post was great; in it and the followup she makes a solid argument that relatively realistic poses are much sexier than the idiotic poses we usually see female comic book characters in.

IAmUnaware: That comic is composed of a lie ("no women even LIKE big muscled men, that stuff is obviously just for guys!"), a thing approaching a lie ("being an impossibly muscled hulk is a male power fantasy!"), and an absurd strawman ("big eyes and lips on Batman would make a male viewer uncomfortable!")

What? The female character isn't saying "no women even LIKE big muscled men;" she's implying "being a big-muscled man" is much more satisfying wish-fulfillment for most men than "being an impossibly contortionist Barbie doll" is for most women. And if you're seriously suggesting that much of the appeal of classic superhero comic books for young males *isn't* the power fantasy of being an impossibly muscled hulk - that suggesting as much is "a thing approaching a lie" - then I surrender; you've rendered me speechless.

Finally, it is itself absurd to call absurd the suggestion that Batman-as-feminized-romantic-object might make many male comic book readers somewhat uncomfortable. Seriously, you're calling *that* a strawman? What planet are you on? Turning the tables is clever, very fair play - no more, no less.
posted by mediareport at 7:18 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


mediareport - thanks for the source! i'll add it to my mlkshk.
posted by nadawi at 7:22 PM on January 11, 2012


uh, nevermind, i guess it was already there from the person i saved it from, carry on!
posted by nadawi at 7:23 PM on January 11, 2012


Genre book covers mostly signal the contents of the book. The babe on the cover tells you 'this is fantasy, but not the kind where Gregor Samsa awakes from troubled dreams'
At least, not usually.
posted by hexatron at 7:25 PM on January 11, 2012


The publishers believe, with lots of research and experience to back it up, that the covers will gain then more sales than it will lose. They're probably correct in that belief.

Just like how universities wouldn't use student evaluations to measure faculty teaching effectiveness if there weren't lots of research and experience demonstrating the validity and reliability of this method.
posted by straight at 9:22 PM on January 11, 2012


I understand where you are coming from the "being a big-muscled man is satisfying [male] wish-fulfillment", but that implies that the complaint about the portrayal of women would be that women aren't drawn in a way that satisfies female wish-fulfillment. I can dig that. But, and you can correct if I'm wrong, but I always thought that the complaint about the portrayal of women was that it created unfair and unrealistic expectations, which is where everyone is coming from with the "men are portrayed the same way" complaint/defense.

(and re: that mlkshk comic. The sketched batman made the male character uncomfortable because batman was drawn attractive to males (big eyes, rosy cheeks kissable lips). Implying that the female character's objection is that female characters are drawn to be attractive to females.)
posted by BurnChao at 11:26 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Have you seen the cover of the actually-excellent Saturn's Children by metafilter's own Charles Stross?

Stross wrote about this on his blog, noting that the book cover is usually the publisher's choice with little-to-no involvement of the author: Why did you pick such an awful cover for your new book?
I have occasionally thrown my toys out of the pram over cover art. The worst three:

[...]

2) The US cover of "Saturn's Children". I'd already played my "author objects to cover" card the previous year, and was overruled. I'm still conflicted about this cover. On the plus side, it's undeniably striking (and highly likely to get men of a certain age to pick it up). On the minus side, I've had mail from readers who bought a British copy, imported at great expense, because they were afraid of their partner's likely response.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:49 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Queen of Wands cover pose is familiar.
It's the Prince's blocking stance in Sands of Time (and probably other things, but I just know this one).
posted by Winnemac at 12:23 AM on January 13, 2012


I do not disagree in the least with Mr. Hines's point, but it strikes me that if he's feeling immediate pain from sticking out one hip or doing a minor knee bend, that is some pretty severe inflexibility.
posted by psoas at 5:29 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Was I the only one excited to see that Ringo has a sequel to Princess of Wands coming out?
posted by jefftang at 2:50 PM on January 13, 2012


Auz: "How about showing how bad it can get... Escher Girls."

It looks like maybe the woman who draws curvy has been reading that blog. Her take on the Boobs'n'Butt pose.
posted by idiopath at 9:11 PM on January 14, 2012


Also this genderswapping (via BoingBoing): Dressed To Kill
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:17 PM on January 16, 2012


Psylocke Feels Like Chicken Tonight, Like Chicken Tonight
posted by homunculus at 12:25 PM on January 22, 2012


« Older Buildings being torn, literally, down[wards]....  |  In a first-person tale of woe,... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments