A peek behind the curtain:
I read a bunch of those new Dark Horse Conans while waiting for an airplane. Becky Cloonan and James Harren drew them, and they look great. My first thought, after I decided to write about them, was that Cloonan brings the sex and Harren brings the violence, so I should call it “Sex & Violence Comix: Conan the Barbarian.” Or something like that.
The rub is figuring out how to talk about both. I’ve talked about violence a lot and James Harren a little, so that half of the equation I can probably knock out in my sleep. Something something Harren shows us the moment of impact at its grisliest, something something harsh hand-lettered sfx, something speedlines first person pov something. Whatever.
The sex half of the equation is harder. (Ooh, is this a metaphor?) Sexiness is so unbelievably subjective to begin with that trying to not just quantify it, but point out the specific aspects of what makes an image and person sexy is a little crazy. It requires a certain level of specificity of language there that I’m not quite confident in just yet, since I’ve rarely tackled the subject in any detail or outside of jokes.
My first thought, in trying to describe Cloonan’s Bêlit, was that “she’s the type of woman you can’t help but objectify at first sight.” Like, you see her, and she is probably a pretty nice lady with great mind and several college degrees, but something about her just flips that animal switch in your brain from “Let’s have a conversation and get to know each other” to “I now know a girl named Nikki, and boy I hope she’s a sex fiend!”
But that’s not quite right, and also kind of stupid, despite being more or less accurate. It doesn’t work for me, it’s not crystal enough. So I’ve let myself think about this off and on over the past week, coming up with new angles of attack. Bêlit is the type of girl you obsess over, she’s nude but the nudity is more of a danger than a tease, she’s the girl your mama warned you about, she’s wicked, she’s scheming, she’s passion, she forces passion out of you, she’s fiery… she’s smoldering.
Smoldering works. A low burn, something that implies pleasure and pain all at the same time, or at least in quick succession. So men are like moths to the flame. There’s the promise of sex in her hips and poison on her lips, but something about her makes you want her anyway. Which is exactly what the story is about, in a way, so it’s perfect.
When I finally sit down to really write this, that’s probably where I’m going to take it.
Becky Cloonan knocked out Bêlit’s design and portrayal. Just thinking about her a little gives you everything you need to know.
To be continued.