Avatar Art: Why Women Aren’t Men with Breasts

A few days ago the art director from Wizards of the Coast, Jon Schindehette, wrote a post on his blog about halflings. He posted some concept images of this core race from Dungeons and Dragons as well as information about their physiology, typical outlook and environment. This is always cool to see because it gives us, as players, some insight into what the designers are thinking about our game and it gives us bullet-pointed background information, which can be useful.

I was a little taken aback, however, by the art itself. I don’t know who the artist was (there is no signature and Schindehette does not credit it). The first thing I thought when I saw the piece above (the first one in his post) was “it’s a guy with breasts”.

You see, men and women are built very differently, and the difference is bigger than ‘women have breasts’. To start with, everyone has a center of balance. For men, it’s up in their shoulders. For women, it’s down in their hips. This dictates in large part the way we stand and the way we move (particularly the way we walk). The woman in that image does not look like her center of balance is in her hips, she looks like it’s in her shoulders.

Beyond that, she’s going to have other problems from having such tiny hips. A very athletic woman’s hips are usually around the same size around as her upper torso (where her breasts are). This is important because she has organs that need to fit there, she needs to be able to menstruate and she possibly needs to use those hips to give birth (narrow hips make that harder). I assume halflings have all of those needs as well (we’re told that they’re built like small humans, so presumably they reproduce like small humans). This woman is going to have serious problems. Oh, and she lives in a place without modern medicine.

Don’t get me wrong here, I really like seeing this art and I think a lot of it is very good (I was thrilled to see two women in great armor lower down). And I don’t want to see that muscular guy next to a waif of a girl who has no business being an adventurer, because that’s what these characters are, not just regular people. But I do want her to be female, not just a guy with breasts. Women are not just men with breasts. There can be a whole range of heroic women who look nothing like Marvel’s stick figure pin-up girls, but who are also female. Yeah, armor is going to hide a lot of that female figure, but she’s stripped down to a loin cloth. That shouldn’t be the problem here!

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I’m generally thrilled with a lot of the art coming out of WOTC right now, this shows me that there’s still something to be desired. Honestly, though, I’d rather this problem than the opposite (see nearly any cover from Marvel or almost any screenshot from Age of Conan).

The Curious Case of One Book that Thought it was Three

The ElseWhere Chronicles
- The Shadow Door
- The Shadow Spies
- The Master of Shadows
illustrated by Bannister and Jaffre
2009 (Graphic Universe/Lerner)

The ElseWhere Chronicles is a new graphic novel series that has started off with three initial books: The Shadow Door, The Shadow Spies and The Master of Shadows. The end of the third book makes it fairly clear, however, that this is intended to be taken as just the beginning of the series.

These books are very odd. They are extremely short (less than fifty pages each, which isn’t much to begin with, but feels like even less when it’s all sequential art storytelling) and not a one of them stands alone. You absolutely couldn’t read just one of these three books and not be confused. I felt the whole time I was reading this trilogy that I was, in fact, reading one book that for some inexplicable reason had been cut into three pieces.

The worst part of this artificial division, is that it seriously hurt my enjoyment of the story and I can’t help but feel that it’s going to be even more detrimental for someone who is actually buying the books (I was sent advanced review copies from the publisher). And that’s really kind of sad, because the story and the art are fantastic and well worth enjoying!

When I stopped being annoyed about the fact that the story was in three separate places and reflected on what I’d just read, I realized I was really intrigued by it and really wanted to know more about this world and the shadows and what’s going on. But I had to stop and do that. If I were an eight or nine year old reading this, I doubt I would have done that. I’d just be annoyed that I had to go spend more of the little money I had or go back to the library hoping they had the next book, only to eventually find out that these three books really only make up the first book in the series, I doubt I’d stop and realize how good the story was, I’d just be frustrated.

The Master of ShadowsI really hope that Graphic Universe publishes more of this series in the future, but I hope that they publish the books is more reasonable chunks – don’t give us three books that should have been one again. It may seem like it will be more money for them, but my guess is that it’s going to drive away more readers to their series than it’s going to bring in. When it comes to graphic novels, even the most reluctant readers tend not to be afraid of a little length (and really, this wouldn’t have been that long even as one book).

The story and the art are great and they deserve a beautiful, solid package that will attract a lot of readers and keep them focused on the story, not on the fact that they need to go find the next book almost as soon as they pick it up!

- The Shadow Door: Publisher’s Description
- The Shadow Spies: Publisher’s Description
- The Master of Shadows: Publisher’s Description

- The Official ElseWhere Chronicles Website

- Bannister’s Website
- Jaffre’s Website

- Buy The Shadow Door from Amazon
- Buy The Shadow Spies from Amazon
- Buy The Master of Shadows from Amazon