Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Evolution of a Character, but not a Cover


I should state at the outset that I haven’t read a single Vampirella comic. I am trying to expand the range of comics I read (I prefer DC/Vertigo title over most others), and Dynamite have a lot of titles that I think could be really good – I enjoyed the first couple of issues of The Shadow and Spider, for example, and would like to try Masks, Damsels, Pathfinder, more of The Boys, and also Green Hornet (especially since Mark Waid’s going to be handling the series re-launch in March 2013). I also really like dark and gritty vampire stories. So, I started to look in to Vampirella. And, aside from the multiple spin-off series, I noticed something that really irks me about certain comics, given their content and actual stories.

Yes, you probably guessed what this post was going to be about: the artwork. Let’s start off with the cover for the Vampirella series relaunch issue (September 2010):


That’s a pretty uncomfortable-looking… bathing suit? Unitard? Whatever it’s called, after seeing Börat wearing one, I think it should, automatically, have desexualize the look for everyone. Apparently that’s just me…

Now, there is a sense of continuity between this re-launch of the series and the original – an homage, if you will – which may explain the choice of art direction. Here’s the original Vampirella #1 cover (from September 1969):


However, what I don’t understand is why it continues to be the cover-norm for the series, 25 issues in (at the time of writing) and also with a couple of spin-off series. In fact, of the 25 issues available, only two (#8 and #11) feature the eponymous character in her actual get up (see below), and another has her also wearing the overcoat. This is Vampirella’s appearance in the actual comic:


That’s pretty badass. Quite similar to Witchblade, with a dash of The Matrix, which makes this is a pretty good urban fantasy look. Looking through various Vampirella previews on CBR, the character remains mostly-clothed like this, at least from issue #1 through #13.

I get that there’s a market for this type of over-sexualized cover art (see Zenescope and a few Witchblade covers). But given that the character had clearly moved on (if only temporarily), not to mention the evolving community mores and dissatisfaction with over-sexualizing women in comics, why not allow the character to evolve along with the wider comics readership?

A new Vampirella series, Vampirella Strikes, is coming out soon. It has four covers, but only in the less-common, variant covers is Vampirella portrayed in her in-comic outfit:


Speaking of Zenescope – perhaps the comics publisher best known for putting scantily-clad women on their covers, regardless of the issue’s actual story – they do tend to leave the most risqué covers for the limited-run variants (especially those for expos and cons). For example, Robyn Hood #3 (just a recent example):


Cover Variants A, B, and limited edition C

And, speaking of Witchblade, I thought I’d share the cover for #161 – it’s in the same vein, but I think it’s a much more interesting and effective composition, and does at least bear a relation to what’s inside the book:



  1. I think the problem is that Vampirella is one character who is almost too classic for her own good. She need a revamp but her look is so classic, doing anything (no matter how small) would give her fans fits.

    1. I think you're probably right. At the same time, they changed her look INSIDE the comic, for at least a year in this new run, so... That being said, they did also make her look a little bit like Witchblade, so maybe that's why they changed back? I'd still like to give the series a try.

  2. I've mentioned the Zenescope thing in my review of Alice in Wonderland, and I consider it *fine* for the reason that they make it all into a consistent look and Alice and other characters even in the comic dress like that. In a case like this, considering that risque IS their selling point, I can... make allowances. You are right about Vampirella though. I've only read the Can of Worms TPB and it's a bit jarring that the looks from the cover and the panels are different. In the Prophecy crossover she DOES have her classic look inside the comic.

    And don't get into Damsels! I've read the first three issues and I'm seriously considering dropping the series. Way too incoherent for my tastes.

    1. That's a pity about Damsels. :(

      I think Prophecy was meant to be a vehicle for the classic impressions and aesthetics of the characters that it featured. Never got around to reading it, which I perhaps should have.

      I guess, with regards to Vampirella, I'm a little disappointed that a decision wasn't made to update at least a little bit the look of the comic. The connection/homage to the original Vampirella comic can easily be explained, but consistently, when the character's made a change? I'll really have to try the series, though. Like I said: I do like a good vampire story.

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