The Realistic Women of Water Baby

Water Baby
Ross Campbell
2008 (Minx/DC Comics)

A common criticism of comic art is that the women are all exactly the same person, just with different hair and clothes (and sometimes skin tone). They are like Barbie and her friends who can all trade outfits at will. The first Marvel Divas cover is a great example of this problem – four women, all with pretty much the exact same body. In real life, however, everyone is incredibly different. Even women who wear the same size clothing will often look totally different. One woman might have leaner arms and legs, one might be muscular and have a scar on her elbow, another might have short, chubby fingers. And it’s really not that common to find a group of women all the same size anyway, people come in all different sizes. People aren’t Barbie dolls.

One of the most striking things about Water Baby by Ross Campbell is that it actually understands this truth (and, yes, I realize how sad it is that this is such a big deal). Every single character in this book looks totally unique, and not just because of their hair or clothing or the lack of a limb. Each character is distinct – her body is different from every other character’s body, her hands are different, her face is different, everything is unique. Even if you could only see the torso of a character, you could identify who it is because each person is unlike every other one in the book.

Each character looks real. Chrissie is skinny, but there is room for organs in her body (unlike some versions of Supergirl). Louisa’s breasts look different depending on if she’s wearing a bikini top or a t-shirt. All three main female characters look like they could be real people, like the artist has actually seen multiple teenage girls and knows how they are built, even though the drawings aren’t photorealistic at all. This brings them to life in a way that the Barbie doll superheroines of other comics just can’t really achieve (I may not know anyone with a giant tattoo up their arm or ever lose a limb in a shark attack, but the very fact that Brody’s breasts sag a little when she wears a tank top without a bra like a real person’s do makes her feel real in a way that Wonder Woman is going to have trouble matching).

Water Baby is an interesting book and well worth the read, but make sure to stop and take some time looking at the art if you read it. The book is strong in many ways, but the art is really what made it stand out for me. I was so impressed that I actually want to check out some of the artist’s other work. The Minx imprint has been discontinued, but as far as I know this book is still readily available. It may not have gotten the press that some of the other Minx titles got, but it’s well worth the read just the same!

- Publisher’s Description

- Ross Campbell’s Website

- Buy it from Amazon

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