WB/Target release horrible products with different art styles for each gender

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Sue at DC Women Kicking Ass has a post on the fruits of that WB/Target licensing deal that was announced last year, with emphasis on the Wonder Woman aspects of it. Some of it is typical Target fare you’d find in the $4 aisle—a Wonder Woman water bottle filled with candy because health:
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But then she finds some Valentines which are among the most horrible licensed products I’ve ever seen—basically someone has taken the mainstream male superheroes from the typical WB style guide and mixed them with the simpering Lisa Frank/Braatz style.

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Sue reminds us that this is how the Justice League was once presented, Frank McLaughlin all the way.
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201401241253 WB/Target release horrible products with different art styles for each gender

These “mixed style guide” items are just appalling…I’m stunned that someone working at a MAJOR RETAILER/MAJOR STUDIO thought this was a good approach. Either using the typical Jim Lee influenced style OR a more cartoony style would make sense but mixing the two??? BY GENDER????? Gross. And laughable. No child is going to be fooled by this.

PLUS WB YOU HAVE A GREAT CARTOONY STYLE FOR THE ENTIRE JUSTICE LEAGUE JUST SITTING AROUND.

201401241254 WB/Target release horrible products with different art styles for each gender

27700powerpuff LG WB/Target release horrible products with different art styles for each gender

That reminds me of yesterday’s kerfuffle over this proposed cover for The Powerpuff Girls. ICv2 has the best write-up — essentially the Cartoon Nework told ICW to use this cover by artist Mimi Yoon on the comic as a variant, but retailer Dennis Barger suggested that putting a more sexualized version of the characters on a comic aimed at kids was….not that great. The Cartoon Network pulled the cover and responded to ICv2:

ICv2 contacted Cartoon Network Enterprises, the licensing and merchandising arm of Cartoon Network, concerning the cover and received the following reply indicating the variant cover, which was intended for comic shop clientele rather than the general public, will not be released: “In conjunction with our licensing partners, Cartoon Network Enterprises from time to time works with the artist community to reimagine and reinterpret our brands using their talents and unique points of view.  This particular variant cover for The Powerpuff Girls #6 from IDW was done in the artist’s signature style and was intended to be released as a collectible item for comic book fans.  We recognize some fans’ reaction to the cover and, as such, will no longer be releasing it at comic book shops.”

There in a nutshell: I have no problem with showing the Powerpuff Girls in this Mark Ryden-Moé style. It’s quite popular, and as sexualizing young girls go, this example is pretty tame. There’s a whole genre of art devoted to showing women as fetishized children, and you know, whatever. Looks nice on the wall.

Taking these two examples together though, you have to wonder what is going on at WB’s licensing department. At the very least, it shows you why Disney is the #1 girls brand worldwide.

Comments

  1. thomas says:

    “No child is going to be fooled by this.” – more so, most children won’t care.

  2. Sarah says:

    That’s crazy, Thomas. The child who exchanges a valentines day card that includes a lollipop stuck to the front is known for being one of the most finicky customer groups the world over. They’ll totally be appalled by this.

  3. Simon Cooper says:

    I do find it bizarre that women who complain about the lack of female comic-book artists are now setting out to prevent a female artist getting work. Sisterhood, eh?

  4. I find the Batgirl/Supergirl/WW art waaaay more appealing… even tho I guess it wasn’t supposed to appeal to me? Confused now…

  5. Michael P says:

    The crusade against the Yoon cover was led by a man, actually, but don’t let facts stop you, Jayy.

  6. Joe S. Walker says:

    The real Powerpuff Girls are much sexier…

  7. Torsten Adair says:

    Gap Kids used the García-López designs on their kids graphic tees a few years ago. (Currently, nothing.)

    What I REALLY don’t understand…
    Warners has Boomerang, a UHF channel for cable. (No, seriously, their advertising is all house ads, like a DC Comic.) It shows lots of repeats of cartoons in their library, even Teen Titans Go! But no other superhero cartoons. If Warners can make money from Boomerang, it could easily make money from a “DC Unlimited” channel.
    Oh, you say that Batman: The Animated Adventures is too old for kids to care about?
    I watched Flintstones, MGM, and Looney Tunes after school in the 70s. Even after I got cable, I still watched them.

    Oh, and it would help if DC did a better job with their “DC Nation” programming block as well. Is the tie-in magazine still being published?

  8. Mikael says:

    Just a bunch of armchair quarterbacking on things people outside of the business will never know, understand or be able to measure.

  9. ALSO, the Yoon artwork was PREEXISTING AT CARTOON NETWORK. I’m sure they purchased it to make a poster or something. It was already pad for. It’s just that this use did not work.

  10. Steve Eidson says:

    I just got my daughter some pajamas in the clearance section of Target featuring only Supergirl, WW and Batgirl in the above style. The poses on it were a bit more intersting and she was happy. $5 well spent.

    It is odd to see the two styles juxtaposed though.

  11. So it them them admitting the general public is no longer their audience – “comic shop clientele rather than the general public”

  12. This site is a bit outrageous these days. I feel like every time I visit, as part of a rotation of news sites, I only find these strange faux-outrage articles that ask me to care about something that probably shouldn’t matter to anyone.

    Why is the use of different art styles offensive? I don’t see how this leads to some double standard in any meaningful way. Did you complete the market research that led to this decision by DC? No? No kidding…

    I understand that faux-outrage is meant to show how politically correct someone is in this day and age, but at a certain point it just seems to indicate a serious lack of critical thinking skills. The prevalence of these types of articles on this site has become overwhelming. I think this will be my last visit, or at least the start of a long break from reading articles in this site. I do not remember feeling this way in the past about this website.

    This trend of articles is not producing the discussion I think you are expecting, and I don’t think you can expect anything else.

  13. As it look back on how many articles I have missed, I realize that my use of “overwhelming” may be an exaggeration. I felt the need to apologize about that, but I do stand by the rest of my statement.

  14. Charles Knight says:

    I knew it! On krypton like Shelbyville, it’s totally ok to marry your cousin!

  15. @torstenadair – if you click through to my post you’ll see that Target was using García-López versions of the female Trinity for girl’s t-shirts just last year. Target still uses the his versions for all women’s clothing items.

    @Steve – if you click through to my post you’ll see I mention and show those pajamas. As I point out in my post I have a daughter and understand that girls are attracted to that design (thankfully my daughter has grown out of it). It is the combination of the two designs split by gender which is the issue.
    @Sarah – my grade school kid weighed in on them and said “they are stupid” but did admit the lollipop would be help.
    @zach “faux-outrage” I assume = “someone bothered by something that doesn’t bother me, @zach” If you read Heidi’s post, and perhaps clicked through to my post and perhaps spent a minute or two reading about the representations of women in media maybe you would seelearn why this is something that bothered, us – who both happen to be women. I would add that as I would was writing my post I received notes from other women who were equally bothered by them when they came across them in the store.

  16. Al B 52 says:

    It looks to me like someone at Target couldn’t find consistently-styled art for all of the DC characters — more a corporate brain-fart on the part of either DC or Target, rather than some heinous gender conspiracy.

  17. All outta bubble gum says:

    Mikael is right. The marketing department probably tested art styles with kids and found girls liked the cool one and boys like the literal one.

    Disney is number one with girls because they sell pink princesses. No gender stereotyping there, huh?

  18. Steve Eidson says:

    @Sue (DCWKA) My apologies. I am guilty of not taking the time to click to read the full post. The pajamas you posted and the ones we purchased have the same pants but with a different top. Hers is all purple with WW and BG looking very similar but no weird, spiky hair for SG and no floating logos, just “Girl Power” silkscreened at the bottom. Very similar but still a slight step up from the design posted. It borought to mind the favorite shirt she outgrew that did have the García-López designs that said something to the effect of “It’s a girls world, boys just live here”. I think we picked it up at Old Navy though.Thus ends my lengthy post about my daughters clothing.

    Would have never guessed in a million years I’d be writing that line.

  19. “Just a bunch of armchair quarterbacking on things people outside of the business will never know, understand or be able to measure.”

    Just another knee-jerk reaction, hand-waving on the gross assumtion that only expert product marketing people work for WB and Target, when they mostly DON’T.

  20. Mikael says:

    Really KET? So you’ve been to their offices and personally interviewed every single WB/Target employee?

    And you say my comment is knee-jerk? Wow.

  21. Dan Ahn says:

    You have to be pretty crazy to get more than mildly annoyed by this.

    The fact that this “outrages” people says more about those people being unrealistically politically charged than it says about anything else.

    It looks odd to see the different art styles juxtaposed. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suspect that more boys would tend to like the more Jim Lee-esque drawings AND the male characters, whereas more girls would tend to like the more cartoony/stylized drawings AND the female characters. I mean, that’s just kind of obvious.

    I’d love to see a pie chart showing how many of the middle-aged women outraged by this ever had kids.

  22. All outta bubble gum says:

    Dan’s right. There’s a lot of this on The Beat.

    Hunger Games 2’s success is spun as a lesson for clueless male movie execs. A woman cartoonist tops Amazon’s sales chart, you guys better wake up! A moron repeatedly insults a woman on a convention panel, Heidi reports all men are part of the problem.

    Other articles include: booth babes generate poor leads at a non- comics trade show, sexy cosplayers attract unwanted attention at cons, someone drew a woman in a comicbook and the pose lets you see a breast and a butt cheek at the same time, and now Target has different superhero art styles for different genders.

    The industry reporting here that isn’t agenda driven is great. But sometimes I wonder if this is really just the news blog of comics culture or is it actually something else too.

  23. @dan Thanks for telling everyone how they should feel! And what girls want vs. what boys want.
    And on your last comment, WTF is THAT? “Middle-aged women?” “Who have kids?” are you implying that issues about how women are represented vs. men are somehow only important or relevant to a certain set of people?
    Maybe we need a piechart of people who understand it.

  24. James T says:

    Asked my 10 year old daughter and she prefers the cute, softer female heroes.

  25. Dasbender says:

    Heidi, it seems you’ve struck a nerve. I don’t recall usually reading this sort of comments thread on the Beat. Hope this isn’t a trend.

  26. HikaruGo says:

    Anyone that has sensibilities of what makes good art, aesthetics, etc. would look at these designs and would cringe with a stomach full of lysol and tums. It’s pathetic.

    If people want to haphazardly defend marketing executives making earnest decisions aligned to the interests children…just wow…and to criticize the ones outside of this vulnerable demographic by “not being in the room” is some of the most obtuse bullshit I could ever come across.

    Sensible art styles in the vein Darwyn Cooke can easily appeal to both male and female without being reduced to a ridiculous 7th grade photoshop monstrosity. To say this is a non-story as many commenters have put it is to ignore a completely legitimate argument that sadly continues over and again.

  27. >>>It looks to me like someone at Target couldn’t find consistently-styled art for all of the DC characters — more a corporate brain-fart on the part of either DC or Target, rather than some heinous gender conspiracy.<<<

    Actually more of a WB Consumer Products brain-fart. Stuff like this is all them and wouldn't pass through DC for approval.

  28. yupsolo says:

    Yup I like how people are calling out this site for its gender baiting antics because its true

  29. Guess what trolls, I was “gender baiting” before most of you were born, except then it was called “examining gender/social roles.” The rise of the internet and social media means everyone is allowed to call out shit when they see it (good) but it also means gangs of trollish thread derailers who obfuscate the points being discussed with thinly-veiled paternalism and mansplaining.

    If you don’t like it, go somewhere else. PLEASE. I will continue to examine this question and if you’re not interested, tough titty. MY website, MY rules.

    If anything I’m surprised this didn’t get MORE play on the internet since it’s such an extreme example of gender roles socialization. On the other hand it’s more complex (and to me more disturbing) than the overt missteps (like the PPG cover) that get the outrage energy.

    James T. I’m not surprised your daughter preferred the “girly” version since she’s been socialized to accept this from birth. What interests me is how many things we accept as “girly” and “boyish” ARE only socialized norms and not innate human behavior.

  30. Also to Dan and All Outta BubbLe Gum, what you are saying is “Hey it’s the status quo! Let’s never question it and if you do it’s an agenda!” I’ve been told my whole like that things I knew to be true weren’t, and it wasn’t until money walked into the room that other people *suddenly realized* what I was saying was right all along. Of course I never got credit for it, but I’d rather be right than rich.

    It is true that gender issues interest me more than many others (because they are so pervasive) but you will find many other references to surprising research on many topics here.

    I’m sorry that so many of my readers are threatened by any investigation that questions their core beliefs, but it’s a scary old world out there.

  31. revelshade says:

    What might have saved those valentines is a framing device to separate the two art styles. If the image of action Green Lantern was, for instance, a poster on cartoon Wonder Woman’s wall. It still wouldn’t look good, exactly, but it would give the different styles some context. But then you would definitely need to mix in cards where cartoon boy heroes are watching action girl heroes kick ass on TV or whatever.

  32. george says:

    Give ‘em hell, Heidi!

    Posters on this site could argue all day whether people are “socialized from birth” or “hard-wired from birth based on gender” to accept or reject certain things. But the fact remains, if you tell people you’ve bought a new car, it’s usually guys who will ask about horsepower. Women will ask what color it is, and if you’ve give it a name.

    Why? It’s debatable. But that’s the way it is.

  33. george says:

    Heidi said: “Also to Dan and All Outta BubbLe Gum, what you are saying is “Hey it’s the status quo! Let’s never question it and if you do it’s an agenda!”

    Agreed, Heidi. I’ve seen that attitude on too many comics sites — particularly the ones dominated by middle-aged men who grew up thinking of comics as a boys club. They don’t understand why women (and some guys) are posting complaints about the way comics depict women. They don’t care that these depictions may discourage women from entering a comic shop and buying anything from the Big Two.

    I was told I was unwelcome on one site because I griped too much about the other posters’ defense of the status quo.

    In the minds of those guys, so what if women don’t read Marvel or DC’s superhero comics? They’re not SUPPOSED to. They can read Archie or, as your podcast co-host Kate Fitzsimmons put it, “go back to their indie ghetto.”

    I like Heidi’s posts about gender, because they give me something to think about. It’s more stimulating than chatting about Peter Parker’s inevitable return as Spider-Man.

  34. This is why high concept animated shows like Adventure Time are becoming more popular that any comic book show made for kids.

  35. Mikael says:

    >>Anyone that has sensibilities of what makes good art, aesthetics, etc. would look at these designs and would cringe with a stomach full of lysol and tums. It’s pathetic.>>

    It’s called advertising. Anyone looking for high art in these kind of things is more the fool.

    >>If people want to haphazardly defend marketing executives making earnest decisions aligned to the interests children…just wow…and to criticize the ones outside of this vulnerable demographic by “not being in the room” is some of the most obtuse bullshit I could ever come across.

    Generalizations should be more of concern for such language. I find it more troubling that it’s okay to grossly overstate methods that you aren’t privy to. People should learn how to argue their cause better.

    >>Sensible art styles in the vein Darwyn Cooke can easily appeal to both male and female without being reduced to a ridiculous 7th grade photoshop monstrosity.

    Where’s your evidence?

    >>To say this is a non-story as many commenters have put it is to ignore a completely legitimate argument that sadly continues over and again.

    Interesting. So by your own admission it happens over and over again – suggesting that the argument isn’t getting anywhere. So maybe next time try a different tactic then ranting in a comments section. Go be a little more proactive. And no – that doesn’t mean “stop buying their products”. Cause clearly that ain’t working.

  36. Serhend Sirkecioglu says:

    This story really boils down to Econ 101: Value is ultimately subjective. you do vote with your wallet, but you have no say in the other peoples economic choices, you have to respect the outcomes of the market. I hate Crossed, its pseudo-intellectual gorn for the sake of gorn. I’ve spoken by not spending a dime on it, but I know people ho are avid readers and enjoy it for many different reasons. I can be irritated, I can make my point on why its total crap, but I have no right to coerce through force or shame anyone not to buy it. their money, their choice. i may hate it, but i’m not going to ruin it for the few thousand people who enjoy it and neither should anyone else.

    One the point of the Bruce Timm art, yeah Bruce Timm is awesome but it’s pretty dated. I mean the cancellation of Young Justice is the voice of the majority of kids lack of interest in it. this highlights a personal problem I see in the comics industry, the Curated Star System. only the vets/elites are offered great opportunities while the rookies have to climb over one another to get a single chance. There are a lot of talent men and women across Tumblr and Deviant Art who could produce a great youthful and modern re-imagining of the Marvel and DC heroes, but they seldom get the opportunity to do so. The CMYK anthology is a hopeful shot for some, but time will tell. let a new generation take over and show their stuff.

    I’ll end with this Fredric Hayek quote, it really is a sobering message about this story:
    “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men/women how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”

  37. “Just a bunch of armchair quarterbacking on things people outside of the business will never know, understand or be able to measure.”

    Yep. We’s too dumb to question the smarty-smart de-cisions of our corporate marketing overlords. Best leave them to know bestest on how to do stuff that sells. Like… oh, I dunno… for example, taking a perfectly good character like Wally West and morphing him into a black teenager, (hopefully angry and gay) just because you can. Nevermind that we saw the original Wally grow from a jerkbutt womanizer into a decent human being. Characters that change don’t make for good comics. Unless that change is abrupt & senseless.

    And don’t y’all dare speak out against that, either, because bigotry. It really helps to have a built-in knee-jerk rebuttal at hand.

  38. Robert Kramer says:

    If “Abs Dino” had never dumped Heidi, this blog would have a totally different tenor

  39. Stefsla says:

    So the part where they are sitting on a phallic head…

    I can’t unsee.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Beat – WB/Target release horrible products with different art styles for each gender – Quality control in the produced product is needed as […]

  2. […] Mimi Yoon has defended her “grown up Powerpuff Girls” cover for the comic that was withdrawn after some complaints online. The cover—showing adult versions of the girls drawn in a very tame version of a more fetishy, […]

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