ZEBRA GIRL UPDATED WEEKENDS BY JOE ENGLAND

- Latest Page Posted 18th Feb 2017, 10:08 PM

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ZEBRA GIRL
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COMMENTS FROM THE AUTHOR

view Joe England's profile

18th Feb 2017, 11:21 PM

Joe England

You thought I wouldn't draw attention to it, didn't you? I can see how you thought that. Some cartoonists gradually increase the fan service in their comics and don't directly address it. It's just "art evolution." And that's fine for them. But, well, I dance to the beat of a different drum. And I say there's a reason for everything! If I'm inclined to draw my characters in a more titillating manner as time passes, it's going to have a canonical, thematically appropriate explanation!

Besides, it's never too late for another little subplot.

- EDIT, 2/19/17: If you're interested, I'd like to direct your attention to the comments below, specifically the notes left by Azi and Murmur. I want to thank them for voicing their feelings regarding this recently lampshaded development, and I hope that my responses can offer insight to anyone else who might feel similarly. It's important to me that you know that your concerns are important to me, and that I give honest thought to any criticism. I'm grateful to anyone who takes the time to help the comic by articulating an honest impression.

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COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE

18th Feb 2017, 11:27 PM

Syncronocity

Boobs are their own reason.

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18th Feb 2017, 11:37 PM

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Love Betty's expression in the second to last panel.

Ever thought about doing a completely adult version of ZG (or going back and editing all 15+ years) so as to have something for your Patrons? There's no way you can be such a good artist and not have some... "extras" hidden in an extra folder ;) Maybe even a storyline where Zandra tempts Jack, classic succubus style.

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view Joe England's profile

20th Feb 2017, 1:40 AM

Joe England

Hah, well, the commissions in my DeviantArt gallery are as adult as I get, I'm afraid. I don't think I'd know where to begin with an entirely erotic version of the comic!

Mind you, I'm not saying I don't have extra private folders in secret hidden places. They just probably don't have the kind of stuff you have in mind.

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18th Feb 2017, 11:39 PM

CG Hardy

The Massmary Effect is spreading.

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18th Feb 2017, 11:43 PM

Hangover Included

Jeez Joe, you're such a tease! How am I gonna wait a whole week for more of this?

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18th Feb 2017, 11:50 PM

Hangover Included

Some times I honestly can't tell if your characters are reaching out through the fourth wall to lampshade something, or if you're really just actually setting up a plot.

Often I'm not at all sure that you aren't doing both at once in some kind of doublethink Heisen-plan. Maybe you have a grand plan, maybe you just noticed your art style has changed subtly and are pretending that it was intentional, maybe both at the same time. I'll never know. Which totally makes it even better.

You are the captain of my dreams, carry on your noble mission!

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view Joe England's profile

18th Feb 2017, 11:57 PM

Joe England

Thank you, I aim to steer as best I'm able!

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view Umbral Reaver's profile

19th Feb 2017, 12:09 AM

Umbral Reaver

Perhaps Zandra's ability to subconsciously warp reality around her is being affected by her awakening realisation of her desires. An unreasonably sexy rabbit gives Zandra a dance. Zandra starts thinking about how much she really likes boobs. Reality slowly warps toward a boob-dominant state.

Whatever the case, I approve wholeheartedly. :3

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19th Feb 2017, 12:32 AM

Hangover Included

This is my new favorite super power

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view Umbral Reaver's profile

19th Feb 2017, 1:30 AM

Umbral Reaver

If Jack ever finds out, his new life goal may be to seek mastery of that power.

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19th Feb 2017, 5:22 AM

Morfos

How do you know it isn't Jack doing it? He's a reality manipulator. "Something sexy is happening somewhere." Bet that made him think of boobs.

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19th Feb 2017, 12:43 AM

Havenchaser

Panel three, it just made my day. The perfect manic grin of a vorpal pook with cuddle-interruptis.

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19th Feb 2017, 12:52 AM

Hangover Included

Betty is ten pounds of crazy in a five pound sack, being carried by Steven King's It. But she makes it look good. ...like, really really good.

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19th Feb 2017, 2:21 AM

John

Ah, but, Zandra, as you've just observed, the most common superpower is getting more common!

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19th Feb 2017, 2:22 AM

Rock

Interesting.... I wonder.

Anyhoo, I'm looking forward to seeing Zandra break out.

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19th Feb 2017, 2:53 AM

Nestor

But think of chains guy's reputation if you break free, Zandra. What about chains guy?

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19th Feb 2017, 4:45 AM

Dae

I suspect that "Zandra" is going to have some epiphany on her identity and "true name," leading up to the chains just not being accurate anymore.
His reputation isn't on the line if you hired him to imprison a cat, and then that cat turned into a dog.

As is in classic folklore, you just have to think very carefully about what you ask for.

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19th Feb 2017, 1:06 PM

Chazz

Either that, or they were never actually effective on her in the first place, and she was just playing along because she didn't feel like it was the appropriate time to just flex and bust out.

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19th Feb 2017, 6:20 AM

eoforyth

Boobs. Perhaps it has something to do with Zandra finally being able to have sex, after all that time not able to touch 'normal' guys due to acidic bodily fluids? She is certainly surprised by her own sexuality recently, but maybe it is 'busting' out all over the place! I shall look forward to having you explain this matter at some point :)

Hmmm, names. I wonder where this is leading.

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19th Feb 2017, 7:16 AM

Guest

"Try to keep collateral damage to a minimum."

Interesting that Zandra gives a damn about collateral damage. The question is, <i>why</i> does she care about that? Is it a resurgence of empathy and/or compassion, is it the <i>realpolitik</i> recognition that she's got few resources to command and every instance of unnecessary damage is a waste of energy, it is something else entirely?

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19th Feb 2017, 1:28 PM

Nestor

Did you miss the whole tail end of the subfusc arc? The whole realization in Incubus' illusion space "I was torturing people!" "what was I doing?" etc?? If anything it's the whole reign of terror thing now that needs explaining.

My take is leading and pacing, it's easier to lead a mob of monsters with a plan to make a reign of terror, and then you gently steer them into basically making Halloween a little livelier.

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19th Feb 2017, 7:20 AM

Guest

Okay, HTML tags don't work here. Let's see if BBcode tags do the job…

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19th Feb 2017, 7:22 AM

Guest

…and yes, BBCode tags work. Cool.

Any chance of getting s "preview" function for the comments, Joe? It'd cut down on typoes and crap…

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 10:43 PM

Joe England

Sorry about that, I usually just go back and edit the posts when I need to. I'm not sure you can do that as a "Guest." There's also a box that I can tick to enable HTML, though doing so disables BBCode.

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19th Feb 2017, 8:08 AM

Siansaar

Oh you rascal :D

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 10:44 PM

Joe England

Shucks! 'Tweren't nothing.

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19th Feb 2017, 8:29 AM

Azi

I'm a woman who's followed this comic for years, and I gotta say this strip makes me feel gross. :/ I guess Zebra Girl has always incorporated some fan service, and I've definitely become more sensitive to it as I got older...idk. It just undercut the gravity of the situation for me in an icky, objectifying way, not in a humorous or interesting one.

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19th Feb 2017, 8:50 AM

RedMattis

To be fair there is no way people can like every change. Personally I don't care either way. If you can ignore it, then just ignore it, if it creeps you out too much there are other comics.

I think it is easier to find enjoyable reading material if you can look past stuff you're not interested in. I for example while I don't like furries I still manage to enjoy Twokind; I just shrug and read on when the obvious fan-service targeting that audience happens.

I get you though. Sometimes something hits a nerve, and we all have our limits. Personally, as an example, I really dislike excessive gore for the sake of gore; I've dropped a few zombie comics due to getting too grossed out by gore-fetishism.

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view Umbral Reaver's profile

19th Feb 2017, 10:49 AM

Umbral Reaver

I enjoy it, but then I'm gay as hell for Zandra. :3

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19th Feb 2017, 2:16 PM

Murmur

Yeah, as a woman who started reading this at 13, I'm really glad this didn't start earlier. It's not enjoyable.

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 4:15 PM

Joe England

Murmur, I was at a convention not too long ago. I had the recent comics on display at my table, printed in a portfolio. And a young girl, maybe thirteen or younger, happened by and started turning the pages. I was initially quite happy that she was interested, but then she got to the part where Zandra's in her bathrobe talking to Gregore.

She wandered off, and I remember being concerned over the impression I'd sent. I questioned whether it was the sort of impression I WANTED to send. I still don't feel too good about it. Sometimes I feel almost like I hurt her somehow.

Unfortunately, artists can't always fully control the direction that their muse nudges them towards. And I know how that sounds, like I'm trying to shrug off responsibility for what I create, but it's true. It's HARD to resist an inclination. Making art is indulgent, a series of impulsive acts, an artist humoring his or her passions.

I don't know why this developed. It wasn't a deliberate choice to start drawing the women with more voluptuous figures. But somewhere along the line it began, my pencil swerving to accentuate those lines, to allow the bodies to form more provocatively. Maybe Jack gained greater power in the land of my imagination. Maybe it was the Pook in my Black Warren waking from their sleep. Or perhaps it was tied to Sandra's own corruption, when she initially freed herself from her conscience to live as a demon, a subconscious signal to my own psyche to loosen certain constraints.

Whatever the case, I can't deny that it brought me pleasure as well as concern. Zebra Girl isn't easy to make. Every week, every page is an effort. It was hard to resist something that made the work a little more fun for me.

I can't make excuses, because at the end of the day no one draws this comic but me. But I also write it, and that part is more directly governed by conscious action. So I decided that if I was doing this then it would have a reason, that there would be a cause to this effect within the comic itself. Zandra's journey revolves around a changing body, so it seems only right to acknowledge it as another change that she's enduring, and that she's actually aware of it. And if that doesn't justify it, I hope that it can at least mitigate it, and that you can enjoy the work in spite of it.

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19th Feb 2017, 8:44 PM

Guest

I'm not quite bothered, but that's mostly because I'd actually find the increasing curves being ignored more objectifying--seeing the characters notice it is actually nice, because it shifts it from "We're being drawn sexier to titillate you!" to "Actually going on."

That said, it's something I'd definitely want a callback to later--even if it's as simple as a mention of a thing with wings getting attacked by a mob of busty or rather flat people.

Because the Bust Size Fairy is an ass.

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 10:29 PM

Joe England

You can blame the Ass Fairy for that, I hear those two have been feuding for years.

But yes! This is indeed going to come around to something later on.

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 3:41 PM

Joe England

Thank you for saying so, Azi, and I mean that sincerely. Really, I do. The fact of the matter is, part of me feels the same way. And I'm aware of how hypocritical that sounds, since I'm the one DOING it.

But over time I found myself indulging in this sort of thing, and sometimes it's harder to tell when you're doing it than when you look back and realize you've done it. I did start drawing women in a curvier, more voluptuous fashion (and the men with a more idealized physique). This began back in the Outlands arc. I don't really know why, maybe it started when Sandra had to change her outfit from that old belly shirt. Perhaps I should have resisted the trend more when I saw it, but I didn't, because I did enjoy it and it's easier to create the comic when it's fun.

But the comic is a story first and foremost. That's why I wanted for there to be a reason for it. I didn't want it to be an arbitrary stylistic trait. And, given that a recurring theme in Zebra Girl is physical transformation, it seemed natural to frame it as such.

Of course, if you see it as a negative then this doesn't excuse it, and if you disapprove I'm not going to try to convince you otherwise. I hope you believe me when I say that I'm concerned about the impression I send to readers. I can only beg patience and hope that, in your view, the good can outweigh the bad.

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19th Feb 2017, 4:23 PM

Christopher

@Joe England:
The author of Exiern recently had similar concerns. http://www.exiern.com/2017/01/01/nudity-and-exiern/

This was my answer to his concerns:
"I think as a webcomic (a partially new medium), you might be suffering from something similar to what games suffered. So the extra credits episode on that mater should be helpfull. I do not think you are doing anything wrong here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP6gXZPVgD4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1qndga6SNU

(Just avoid looking at the other videos, unless you want to loose a few days)."

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19th Feb 2017, 7:32 PM

Azi

Thanks for responding, Joe. The only reason I felt comfortable airing my feelings was that I'd seen you respond to criticisms before, and you never lashed out. It's really a big deal--especially when it comes to comics--when a female fan knows that she can invoke the dreaded specter of objectification and not be immediately written off or harassed.

I suppose I HAD considered this development a stylistic trait. I didn't have the same reaction to Zandra in her bathrobe with Gregore, or Zandra suddenly exulting in her demonic appearance. (I thought those moments were empowering!) I also thought that the sex scene with Mike was beautifully done, and I loved how she realized his intentions and confronted him afterwards. I think it's hard to convey a heroine who can be realistically vulnerable AND badass, and Zandra nails it.

So, the good certainly outweighs the bad, as you say. I didn't think the boobs needed attention called to them anymore than they were already calling attention to themselves, I suppose. Honestly I hadn't noticed that big of a stylistic change, so this was jarring to me. It felt like we were just supposed to look at the boobs for a sec, out of the blue, and that smacks of objectification--especially when it's all three of these characters, who are VASTLY different, suddenly calling attention to their boobs in the same way. Breaking the fourth wall for boobs feels like shouting "OGLING BREAK!", and when the story is as suspenseful as it is now, that break feels especially unneeded and skeevy. I hope this makes sense.

(Of course, Bloo's breasts are hard to miss. But her conversation with Mike about inspiring lust, plus her general character, made me think that this was more of a character choice than a stylistic one for your own gratification.)

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 9:43 PM

Joe England

Thanks for responding in kind, Azi. I assure you, I don't want to draw much attention to it, and I might not have mentioned it at this point, except that... well, I'll just say that the fourth wall isn't actually being breached. Actually, it's kind of being reinforced by making room within the story to explain a noticeable trend. There's a planned resolution to this plot thread that really will make sense in context, though it's not going to be a focal point compared to the many more pressing issues surrounding the characters. I just saw a chance to not only acknowledge it, but to have it serve a purpose, which is something I hope can be said for all the little trails running through this comic.

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19th Feb 2017, 7:57 PM

Hangover Included

I'm glad you said something, Azi. It sucks that you're not enjoying where the comic is going. As somebody who has also been following for years, I would be really sad to be turned off by an artistic choice.

Obviously I don't have any creative authority here, and frankly I don't have the same reaction that you do, mostly because my tastes like up pretty well with Joe's, but I hear what you're saying and I think it's a pretty reasonable statement.

I guess I don't know what else to say, except maybe this:
Joe, I love your comic and your art, you've always been at the very top of my favorites list, and I don't intend to tell you what you should do. But, if it happened that you decided to scale back on the fan service, I would still love your comic and follow it religiously.

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view Joe England's profile

20th Feb 2017, 12:27 AM

Joe England

Thanks Hangover, it's good to know!

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19th Feb 2017, 1:56 PM

jonathan wint

Explanation? There a Perv Wizard in town and this is his Background Magic radiation.

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19th Feb 2017, 2:22 PM

Voidbane

I blame Jack...
His sexy magic is corrupting the weave of reality.

I mean; just look at Tomie!

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19th Feb 2017, 8:27 PM

Zacolyn

Honestly I wouldn't have noticed the general boob inflation if you hadn't drawn attention to it. I certainly noticed Bloo's, but Bloo WANTS them to be noticed, so that just goes along par for the course.
There's another comic I follow that has a lot of busty girls, and that one's bustiness annoys me to a far greater degree than what's going on here. Considering it's doubled by bad storytelling and every female having inconsistent and ultimately the same personality I'm not sure why I even read it...but anyway.
As a woman, I have no problem with what's going on. Your women don't all have gigantiboob, their personalities are different and your storytelling is excellent. You'll hear nothing but praise from me!

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 10:33 PM

Joe England

Thanks very much, Zacolyn. Out of curiosity (no, really, just perfectly innocent curiosity), what comic is this that you mentioned? I'm always interested in comparing when my work is contrasted with something else.

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19th Feb 2017, 8:31 PM

K

I do echo pretty much everything Azzie said in her original comment and reply to you. I adore your work, Joe, but this panel did leave me with a bit of an unpleasant feeling. I do feel bad saying that, but it's true.

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 10:07 PM

Joe England

It's alright K, I'm glad that you said so. I was uncertain about acknowledging this, and it kept me nervous right to the last minute. But this trend was something that existed, something that other people noticed, sometimes when I didn't even see it myself or mean to make it happen. I wanted to give it some kind of weight within the comic. After all, physical changes are a staple of this story, and it seems wrong to let something obvious rest under the radar.

Some cartoonists do change their characters similarly over time. Just look at One Piece! But I didn't want it to be nothing but eye candy, something invisible to the cast but obvious to us. So I brought it up, and now it'll have to serve a purpose. I hope that you find the eventual resolution satisfying. Or at least worth the awkwardness.

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20th Feb 2017, 3:50 AM

Dae

I gotta say, you've done nothing to obscufate the fact that you, as a person, have a lively sex drive and an interest in women. I figured that out when I first started reading... Wow, better part of a decade now? I accepted that from the start as just a thing I'd have to just deal with, as I so often do as a woman nerd, but you've left me pleasantly surpised.

I think your... diligent heterosexuality puts you in a pretty awkward place sometimes, as the sexuality of women is so easily strung along into the realms of objectification and domination. Combine your tastes in aesthetics with the themes of your story, and you really can't avoid some implications. And with also having strong female protagonists, a good portion of your audience interested foremost in the characters could get put off whenever this comes to bear.

In some regards, I could potentially feel put off, too, and know where other folks are coming from. It can totally be disruptive to go from <engaging plot> <dramatic themes> to <oh yeah, there's tits>, especially when you're scouring the panels for clues and easter eggs. I mean, I own a pair myself, and honestly they're irritating for me IRL, too. :p

But at the same time, I have faith in you, as an author and a writer of good women characters. (And they really are well-done) Women do get to have kinks an explore their sexuality, too, and if you're spendig enough time with them, it probably will come up eventually.
As for you actually going there, there's no reason a man can't look beyond the content of his pants to explain a female character's feelings. And then there's the factor of the Occult and its relationship to feminine power in the realm of the sexual. Again, you can't *not* go there if you're involved long enough, but I think what is throwing people off is the fact that people associate a love of tits with the "male gaze."

Which is totally untrue in its essence: an interest in breasts is a pretty universal thing that can be found in any person, just with different flavors to suit different circumstances, cultures and individuals. The "big breasts" thing I generally do find to be a more masculine interest, probably in part because fellows don't have to get distracted by the realities of large breasts that most women could at least easily imagine or even empathise with.

The big catch for me- and something you already seem to be taking care of -is making sure that it has purpose to the world. If its a plot device- fine. If its to let Sandra or any other character explore or express their sexuality, that's fine too, especially if the implications of effecting other peoples' physiology in this way is addressed. Just as you actually addressed Zandra's tormenting the people, and made it not just emotional torture porn.

I do have to ask you to stop calling this "Fanservice." A random risque angle or sideboob? Sure. But you've made clear intent on making this a part of your story, and a part of your world. Have confidence in your work, and don't fear sexuality being a part of it. If nothing else, you're a rather creative and skilled fellow. You always have the option to develop a new muse that can make the "right impression" on that young girl at your booth.

And, worst come to worst, you can always retcon.

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view Joe England's profile

20th Feb 2017, 4:15 AM

Joe England

Thanks very much for your input Dae, it's food for thought. It's always nice when someone takes the time to write out a comment into commentary! I appreciate your thoughtful observations, and your faith. I'll try and live up to it!

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19th Feb 2017, 9:16 PM

Hidden Elephant

Yeah, the two you've named are hitting the nail on the head, Joe. This page is so unbelievably awkward. It's a moment of breaking the fourth wall that has caused us, the viewer, to specifically question fan-service. It's not funny, it's not even feeling like it's meant to be funny. It's meant to be a funny that reads as a moment of critique of fan-service and artistic development disguised as a funny that trips and falls right onto its wee little face.
...
If that's foncusing, then good, that's how it feels.

Except that brings us to a bigger question, or rather, questioning fan-service itself. It's funny, but it feels like more and more I'm targeting and locking on to moments of fanservice and questioning "Why?" I don't think I particularly like it, mainly because it becomes all-consuming with very little reason. Today, I saw a miniature model of a supernatural being that looks like a sleeping woman hovering in the air, her dress billowing around her like bed curtains. Very much a fan-service moment, make your own pun. And I wonder; is that strictly necessary? A similar moment happened when I noticed that the armored jump-pack suit that Pharah, of Overwatch, wears has silver metal underwear on the outside. I can never not notice the outer-underwear now. Of course, most of the women in that game wear skin-tight shiny latex-like clothing, but that means a bigger kettle of fish.

All this stuff concerns me, because I am toying with starting a web-comic and I like designing characters. I don't want to fan-service, but the sexy both distracts and attracts. So far, I think I'm good. While one female character wears a loincloth and a wrap, she is an 8-foot tall shark-ogre-monster from a far simpler culture who may or may not have interesting and unfortunate-for-others dietary habits.

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 9:52 PM

Joe England

I guess that's why I brought it up, Hidden Elephant. It's not just meant to be funny, and it's not meant to break the fourth wall (this comic left that kind of humor behind long ago). If fan service is in my comic then I do want it to serve a purpose, or at least have an explanation, and I worked one out that I hope should ultimately make sense and have a satisfying resolution.

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19th Feb 2017, 9:52 PM

Typeminer

I'm just going to observe that ZG is a long-form graphic story that we see at the rate of a page per week (more or less). In any story like that, one page that seems out of character may have a very good purpose in the overall continuity.

I've been reading ZG a long time, and it's come a long way. Joe puts it up here for anyone to read at their pleasure. Good artists have to stay interested in the work, or everything devolves into Garfield. Joe obviously puts a lot of thought and work into the art. I was glad to see the addition of comments, and the caliber of the commenters.

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 10:12 PM

Joe England

Thanks Typeminer, I do have something in mind regarding the overall continuity. This is now an established story element, and as such it will indeed have a purpose. I'll have to leave it up to the judgement of the audience about whether or not it's very good!

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19th Feb 2017, 10:25 PM

Finale

With no bias one way or the other, all I have to say on the matter of this page is to ask if the multiple jokes at Wally's expense when Crystal shoved him into the no-shirt spiked collar combo are any different.

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 10:36 PM

Joe England

I was hoping someone would notice Wally's share of the syndrome. Come to think of it, Mike's been looking fairly swole lately....

Anyway, I won't deny that there's a double standard regarding the stigma surrounding the objectification of men versus women. Perhaps I'm less sensitive to Wally since I'm a man myself. Or perhaps it's more that Wally's more of a well of comic relief, so it's easier to stomach laughing at his expense. Or maybe it's that he's used to having Crystal model likewise, and it's a touch of karma. Or it might be that he's a werewolf, and being half naked is to be expected. All of the above?

It seems like something softens the blow. But I'm glad someone noticed that it's still a case of objectification, and I'll offer my assurance that I'm aware of it too.

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20th Feb 2017, 6:41 AM

Peter Piers

And now that you've been made aware of it, you can even add it into the plotline, and suddenly men AND women alike are suffering the same syndrome. Double standard goes away. :)

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view Joe England's profile

20th Feb 2017, 11:25 AM

Joe England

I was always aware of it, it's just easy to pick on Wally without drawing attention.

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20th Feb 2017, 6:37 AM

Peter Piers

Art above all else, that's always my motto. It's gotten me in a few icky situations, defending folkloric stories for being folkloric (folklore is pretty much often synonimous with all sorts of unwanted behaviour nowadays, especially racism and sexism). But it's still my rule of thumb.

This probably won't help you much, Joe; as an artist, you can't afford to ignore the effect you're having on your audience, and will feel hurt when you unintentionally hurt *them*. Thing is... Things change, and they change so quickly. What wasn't offensive a decade ago is horribly offensive now, and maybe won't be again in the future.

You must have read the first strip of the Peanuts, right? By today's standards, it's flatter than a pancake which has been run over by a steamroller. At the time, though, children were not exepcted to say things like that, and it was a riot.

I've re-read and re-watched plenty of films, books and movies which made me cringe more today than they did at the time, as I became aware of a number of things. But, was it gratuitous? Was it done out of ignorance? Was it done out of malice? Was it done to perpetuate a hurtful stereotype? Was it done to use a stereotype in a humorous fashion? (so much our lives depends on stereotypes or shallow impressions in one way or another, it's humanly impossible to be absolutely correct all the time. That realisation is liberating - you don't stop caring, but you do stop over-worrying)

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20th Feb 2017, 6:38 AM

Peter Piers

(1000chrs limit)

Context is everything. And this is a comic which won me over very early on, partly because of the wall-breaking moments (which have no place in this new style, that's fine). A comic which has dealt with a lot of Jack's pervy moments, no less. Yes, I did find it odd that I was suddenly supposed to stare at boobs. It wasn't any odder than a number of other things I've been asked to acknowledge in this comic.

FWIW. You're getting tons of feedback over this, and I'm actually sorry. I understand where people are coming from when they tell you they feel bad about it. My overall point is, you can - and probably should - worry about your audience's reaction, but as long as you are doing *what you feel is the right thing for the comic*, you'll always be fine.

There will always be some people who won't like something. You can't account for them all. What you can - and what it seems to me you have done - is this: you consider your actions, you think about your reasons, and you are satisfied that this is the right course of action, so you follow it through. THAT makes it a Joe England comic. Because Joe England is writing it. And people who trust Joe England will trust the comic. And if they ever want to stop reading the comic, it'll be because they didn't like Joe England, and there was NOTHING Joe England could have done to stop that, except to change himself to the point where he - and the comic - became something else, maybe better, probably not.

I tend to get verbose. :) Just keep rockin'! You won't please everyone all the time, so don't worry TOO much about it. You obviously care, though, and that only makes you a better artist - heck, that much is obvious just by the evolution of this comic strip over the years!

(sidenote: in a "one-page-a-week" format it's easer to get hung over smaller details. I can't help but wonder how much it would have affected some people if they had been able to move over to the next page, where we got back to the main plot. There's a world of difference between what appears to be a punchline for the week and a few bizarre panels in the middle of a greater story. And this is something else you don't really have that much control over)

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20th Feb 2017, 6:39 AM

Peter Piers

I hope this is not too muddled. I tend to think four of five leaps ahead of what I'm actually writing, and that makes for unsightly gaps of reasoning. I apologise in advance about that.

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20th Feb 2017, 2:23 PM

Joe England

No need to apologize Peter, I love it when people put work into their comments and critiques! It makes my production feel all the more worth the effort. I appreciate your time. And honestly, I don't think we're so different, you and I! I tend to think leaps ahead as well!

It often leads to stumbling.

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20th Feb 2017, 10:20 AM

Nimrod

Not to get into all of the history, but Joe is in good company when it comes to subtle adjustments to the endowments of his female characters. To keep this brief I will mention that way back in one of my college art classes I read that the artist of Family Circus, Mr. Bil Keane, has mentioned in an interview that over a span of several years he had slowly increased the frontage on the mother character.
In short, he was doing this for artistic and expression of the character’s role and not really any fan service, even though this was years before that concept was expressed. As time went on he realized that nobody had noticed and he admitted to trying to see how far he could go.
He eventually reached a size that made him feel “artistically uncomfortable” and nobody had commented. So, he pulled it back and kept the whole exercise to himself. It was only years later that he mentioned it in the interview, almost as an afterthought.
When I first heard this I was skeptical. So, I went back and reviewed the Mom over time and actually that did happen! Not only did the dates match but the extent of “growth” matched up. It was very subtle and the change was over years, but it did happen.
I do like Joe’s first comment above as it parallels what Bil Keane said in many ways. The fact that today one can actually break the 4th wall and have the characters actually react to it just points to changes in the audience. Just wanted to share that this sort of thing happens a lot more than people thing in comics.
I would mention that now that Bil’s son draws the comic the Mom is back up to her maximum size, which happens to be where she was in the strip when it started way back in 1960 and briefly during Bil’s experiment years.

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20th Feb 2017, 11:27 AM

O.B. Juan

For those of you who want to compare to the 'original' Betty design, it is on page 512. http://www.zebragirl.thecomicseries.com/comics/512

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20th Feb 2017, 11:44 AM

CyberSkull

I blame this entirely on Jack the Plaid.

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20th Feb 2017, 12:56 PM

Guest

I have no issue with erotic bodies in my media, male or female.

Honestly, to call this "gross" or whatever just strikes me insecurity, or at least a disgust with a sexuality you don't share.

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20th Feb 2017, 4:09 PM

Hangover Included

I feel like a lot of the commentary in this thread since the first 24 hours is kind of missing the point.

What Azi, Murmur, K, et. al. said (if I may paraphrase) is that calling out the fanservice makes them uncomfortable and they don't enjoy it. It's a pretty simple statement.
I don't think anything needs to be said in response, because they're not opening a discussion on morality or artistic license, they're sharing their experience so that Joe understands where his readers are at with this week's comic. There's totally nothing wrong with that, and nobody needs to feel attacked, or defend themselves.

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20th Feb 2017, 4:22 PM

Newt

I really appreciate how open you are to critique and open discussion of your art.

I'm an artist myself, and I'm queer and very much like women and women's bodies, so I feel like maybe I get to comment from all 3 sides of the equation a wee bit? Is Woman. Likes both men's and women's butts. Draws Stuff.

I think I'm automatically more forgiving of the odd bit of cheesecake in your art, because your track record shows that you are an artist who *does* recognise that women come in all manner of shapes, and you do represent that. Viv and Mabel being two particular characters that come to mind, not to mention Rebecca who - growing breasts or not - doesn't exactly fit the traditional cheesecake mold.

That said, I can see where it might still make people uncomfortable, if only because this sort of thing is *so* common in other art that it's not *this one instance* that brings up the discomfort so much as the pattern. I know in the past I've had times when I've encountered something jarring in art I loved and got frustrated that I couldn't have *just one thing* that didn't have the jarring thing in it.

But you're aware of the changes in your art. And you're mindful of them. And you're working to put meaning in them. And that counts for a hell of a lot.

Only critique I'd suggest, if I was going to, as someone who has uncomfortably large breasts herself. Big boobs are painful. Especially unsupported or badly supported big boobs. I was 25 before I found out not every woman gets migraines if she goes without a bra. If this effect is going to be occurring on any non-supernatural characters you've got, I hope those poor ladies get some sturdy underwear! (Seriously I have had raw skin and blood under mine before from friction and poor-fitting bras, to say nothing of the time an underwire snapped and stabbed a puncture wound in my armpit! Shit is not fun.). Just so long as I don't see any anime-style flapping tits I'm pretty sure my suspension of disbelief won't be ruined!

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view Umbral Reaver's profile

20th Feb 2017, 4:22 PM

Umbral Reaver

I have read the above comments and I understand and concur with a lot of what's said!

That I liked this page without really questioning it makes me feel bad. :I

It might be a combination of attraction to buxom women and my own projection. I would very much like mine to be bigger. Is that bad?

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20th Feb 2017, 7:21 PM

Pelinkovac

I take issue with your referring to this as "fan service" seeing as this doesn't really serve me anything I can't already find on the internet, Joe. The internet is generous in supplying me with copious amounts of just about any body-part I'm particularly attracted too, in all shapes and sizes. True fan service would be concentrating on essential story-telling elements and unless every female character in your webcomic is on the verge of lactation, I don't see any other point of drawing attention to it other than that you want to embrace some kind of pornographic element that I had not otherwise perceived. If you're going to focus on sexuality and pornography, Joe, I'm afraid I might just lose interest.

Like I said, the internet already supplies a generous amount of pornography. What's in short supply is well-thought-out creativity and storytelling.

This is nothing I have against you, Joe. I don't know you personally, although I feel like I've gotten to know a little more about you through your videos and journals. But what you seem to be inferring here is that everyone who reads your webcomic either wants or expects larger breasts on your female characters. Granted, I'm sure some people do, some do not, and others do not care. But for you to draw attention to it this matter paints a broad stroke that doesn't involve me and might actually turn me off.

That's all I have to say. Do what you will--it's your webcomic, after all.

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