Pretty Girls: Barbara Canepa (and Alessandro Barbucci)

September 24th, 2010 by | Tags: , , ,

There’s boobs in this one, cap’n, so you get to see one of the rare times I ever use a cut.
(I screwed up! As Ross points out in the comments, Canepa is, at the very least, not solely responsible for the art in Sky Doll. I’m still not 100% positive on the division of labor between the two (I know they co-write, but who does the pencils/colors/letters/inks? how does that break down?), but regardless–I screwed up. My bad to all involved, and please assume that everything I credit solely to Canepa in this post should be credited to Canepa and Barbucci both. I should’ve been more thorough in my research.

No excuses for screwing up the credit on that last image, though. That was lazy of me, it’s even labeled properly on Marvel’s site.)

Barbara Canepa: blog, Lambiek, ComicBookDB
Books: Sky Doll, Sky Doll Space Ship
Why? There’s a list of things that people get wrong regarded sex or sexuality in comics. Constant o-faces, blank gazes, butts thrust directly at the reader, vaginas thrust directly at the reader, vaginas and butts simultaneously thrust directly at the reader, carnival boobs, unrealistic proportions, high heels, and so on, and so forth, forever and ever, amen. The thing is, none of that is bad in and of itself. Like anything else, an o-face is a tool in an artist’s tool box, and it’s all in how it’s used that decides whether or not it works (and is therefore appropriate).

Canepa knows how to use the tools the right way. Sky Doll is alternately the dirtiest little Disney comic you’ll ever read and a pretty solid character-driven sci-fi tale. Those two things would definitely be at odds with a lesser artist, but Canepa strikes the right balance of sexy and storytelling.

A quick flip through Sky Doll reveals a series of breasts of varying shapes and sizes bound up in a variety of tops, or just straight up naked, depending. They vary in shape and size, just like the bodies they belong to. Canepa knows how to draw well, so when she draws Noa with absurd boobs (bc-skydoll-02.jpg, for example), it’s because she knows it makes for a certain kind of visual. It provides a marked contrast to bc-skydoll-03.jpg, bc-skydoll-05.jpg, and bc-skydoll-10.jpg. Rather than just drawing large breasts out of habit or because that’s what sexy, there’s a method to her madness.

The butt in bc-skydoll-12.jpg isn’t your typical sexy comic book butt, either. It’s thick, and the lady it belongs to has thighs like Alicia Keys. There are other characters who are presented as sexy in other ways–the relatively flat-chested alien in bc-skydoll-06.jpg, the striped woman in bc-skydoll-07.jpg, and several others over the course of the series. Some are comically busty, others are rail thin, and others are more realistic. There’s a range.

The faces are what get me in Canepa’s work. She’s drawing in this explicitly sexy style–breasts and butts busting out all over–but her faces are crucial. Noa’s smile is about as genuine as it gets, and the progression from bc-skydoll-04.jpg to bc-skydoll-05.jpg is fantastic. Noa’s goofy, “please stop trying to have sex with me” smile in bc-skydoll-06.jpg and dumb, pleased grin in bc-skydoll-08.jpg are just as good as the others. There’s determination in bc-skydoll-10.jpg, and the facial expression in the afro’d Noa in bc-skydoll-top.jpg is super dope.

So, there are two things at work here. There’s the cheesecake side of things, where characters are drawn in a sexy way, with breasts that range from “reasonable” to “Huh, how’d she get them into the separate boobsocks in that metal looking thing?”, the tactical application of nudity, gratuitous or otherwise, and straight up sex scenes. This is the stuff that’s supposed to keep you from reading it on public transportation and get your hormones pumping. The other side is the smart side, where Canepa has the cheesecake well in hand and doesn’t let it bog down the story. This is the part where the facial expressions are good enough to tell stories in and of themselves, the body language is working hard, and the clothing choices are visually interesting.

Realism doesn’t matter, and Canepa knows this. Every aspect of comics art has rules to be followed up to and until the point where those rules diminish what you want to do. Canepa is down for breaking the rules, and her strong sense of design and wonderful cartooning means you can’t even really complain about it. This isn’t the thoughtless cheesecake you might see in your average issue of “Superhero Lady” or “Justice Team.” This is purposeful, and it really works. Sky Doll looks like a dirty Disney comic, and yet, you don’t feel like a creepo pervert while you read it. That’s an accomplishment.

Twelve shots instead of nine, because this one is about 12 hours late.

Similar Posts:

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

4 comments to “Pretty Girls: Barbara Canepa (and Alessandro Barbucci)”

  1. Sky Doll is drawn by Alessandro Barbucci, not Barbara Canepa, isn’t she the writer? and i think the artist of that last cover image is Pierre Mony-Chan.

  2. @ross: My understanding was that Barbucci cowrites with Canepa, Canepa does the art, and then Barbucci colors, or maybe inks, which is why they are both credited as Writer/Artist in the volume. I just spent some more time researching, though, and I clearly screwed up, but I’m not sure how. Some sites say that Barbucci does the pencils, and then Canepa colors, and they both do the story. Others say that Canepa is the artist alone.

    I think I’d assumed it was the other way around because of how we tend to do “Bendis and Maleev”/”Morrison and Quitely”/”Lee and Kirby” over here–Primarily Writer and Primarily Artist, right?

    I’ve got no excuse on that cover credit, though. I completely missed the landing on this one.

    I screwed up.

  3. the line between the two of them is definitely blurry, yeah. i guess i always assumed the linework was mostly Barbucci because all the stuff on his website/blog is in the same style used in Sky Doll, and in the Sky Doll anthology comics the writer/artist credits are listed more cut-and-dry, but maybe the two of them draw really similarly and i think Canepa does do a lot if not all of the coloring. i tried looking around for pics specifically drawn by Canepa but it’s definitely tough figuring out who does what, the stuff is almost always credited to both of them!

  4. According to Carlsen Comics, the German publisher of Sky Doll, Barbucci and Canepa co-write, Barbucci pencils and inks and Canepa does the colouring.