Tales from the Bargain Bin
This Week’s Episode…
Demonslayer (Volume 1 HC)
or: Sometimes I Wonder if My Love of Boobs is a Bad Thing
Artist/Writer/Creator: Marat Mychaels
Insipid Ranting by: Christopher Blieka
Let me be absolutely, unequivocally, clear as a crystal ball here. Let me say this as plainly as I can, so that I could never, ever, even POSSIBLY be misunderstood… I love boobs. I’m a breast man, a fool for fun-bags, a felon for melons (well, not LITERALLY… no means no). I’m tit titillated, cleaved to cleavage, mad for milk-mounds. I have a memory for mammaries. I’m knock-kneed for knockers and chipper for chest-pillows (I could probably do this forever). Jugs, teats, tomatoes, racks (yes, plural), milk-missiles, boobies, bongos, bazookas, over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders; a rose by any other name would still be as gorgeous. Just sacks of fat that hang from the chest? BLASPHEMY! Is a sunset just a circle of low frequency electromagnetic waves filtering through ozone? Is the moon just some sycophantic space rock in the sky? Is love just a lousy chemical reaction? Where’s your sense of magic, man? I don’t know what happened to yours, but you’re not getting mine! Sure, mock all you want, but when I was down and out and had all but given up hope on finding any meaning in my life, you know what gave meaning to my life? You know what brightened up my day? Boobs brightened up my day. Dare I say… boobs. Saved. MY. LIFE! They are my very reason for living!
All drooling aside, one has to stop and wonder what effect this kind of fanaticism might be having on the world around us. Why are sexualized female bodies seemingly everywhere while sexualized male bodies are rarely seen outside of a strip club or a gay pride parade? What happens when what started out as a symbol grows (sometimes quite literally) larger than the people it’s supposed to represent? Not a whole lot of good, it would seem. Which brings us, finally, to our topic: the comic series Demonslayer. Some would say it’s a simple Tn’A rag with fantasy elements and a busty, scantily clad female protagonist who fights demons. I would say… maybe. Or maybe there’s something else going on here. Something… weirder. Something malevolent lurking just beneath the surface, and if only the blood would start flowing in the right direction for a moment we would see the darker implications of what we’re reading. *Cracks knuckles* Well, enough introduction; it’s time to expose ourselves. This is Demonslayer.
First, let’s look at the art – seeing as no one picks up this sort of story for the story. The artwork is done in grayscale, with dark shadows emphasizing curves and contours (for obvious reasons). The characters models are highly detailed for maximum ogling, and the grays with white highlights lend everything a cover-girl photo smoothness, almost like frosted glass, which is perfect for what they’re doing. Or it would be if it was done well. This is one of those comics that really suffers from women-with-broken-spine syndrome. Sometimes our protagonist Jaclyn’s butt actually looks like it’s been pasted onto her torso, which is moving in a completely different direction. The anatomical issues extend beyond the spine, though. Joints frequently look broken. Boobs, legs, shoulders and heads are often just a little off from where they should be on a human person; sometimes more than just little (in one particularly bad image Jaclyn’s legs were noticeably different sizes). Add to that strange perspectives, dopey facial expressions and invisible nipples, there are many, many shake-my-head moments in this book. Also the whole “frosted glass” thing often goes too far and it looks like panel got fogged up.
As for the story, it sucks. I’m not even going to go into it. I’m just going to quote one blurb from the book, which was offered up as a “justification” for her skimpy outfit. This is an EXACT transcription of what I read:
“I guess I shouldn’t have be too surprised by Sanford’s reaction to my “suit”… But I told Sanford that I had done a little reading of mythology myself and in almost every instant were demons and otherworldly creatures came into contact with human women it was always in a sexually fashion… I felt I could use this to my advantage… I was going to need everything at my disposal.”
That is quite possibly the lamest excuse I have ever heard in my life, and they don’t even stick to the concept. At no point does her nudity aid her in the battle against demons, who show absolutely NO INTEREST how attractive she is. The excuse is quickly given, quickly forgotten; so why even bother? And the whole story is like this, buried in misspellings and terrible grammar and lazy writing. I know what you’re thinking: what did you expect? The truth is I expect better. Foolish optimism, I know, but I believe that sexual content is no excuse for poor story telling. I know this may sound ridiculous, but it’s simply TOO sexualized. Yes, I KNOW the series is basically soft-core porn, but if it’s going to tell a story it needs to know when to STOP. A comedy with a story needs scenes that aren’t funny. Likewise, a porno with a story needs scenes that aren’t sexy. All stories, no matter the genre, benefit from good drama and strong characters because they build audience attachment. I can’t appreciate what a character is going through emotionally if you’re shoving a woman’s ass in my face. If a character just won a difficult battle, don’t cheapen it with a close-up of her butt. Treat the story like it matters and it will ENHANCE the sex, not detract from it. Of course if you don’t actually WANT to tell a good story, then DON’T TELL A STORY. It’s that simple. Porn is not an excuse for laziness.
Now normally that would be more than enough said, and this would be the apart where I wrapped it all up. But the more I read, the more I noticed a kind of pattern emerging. The moment she becomes “the Demonslayer,” Jaclyn becomes incapable of facing a threat alone. She starts out pretty tough: surviving a fall from a Himalayan ice-cliff, fighting off a pair of wolves (How did wolves get into an ice cave on a Himalayan peak?… don’t ask), limping halfway across a frozen wasteland in a blizzard with a broken leg (Aren’t the Himalayas very green except for the tallest peaks? Why does this place look like the Antarctic?… don’t ask about that either), discovering an ancient Himalayan temple filled with mystical warrior monks (How did nobody spot this gigantic structure on the mountaintop before?… dammit, stop asking questions!), training under them in the ways of combat, becoming their star pupil, and finally proving herself by using her new skills to kill a Yeti in one-on-one combat. Not bad for an archaeologist (who’s not Indiana Jones). She started out a scrappy underdog, but now she’s a bona-fide badass; a well-oiled fighting machine built on intense training and raw talent. So she goes back out into the world, armed with new powers and new purpose, and she… loses every single fight, constantly needs to be rescued (usually by a man), and survives mainly by plot contrivances, all while managing to fall into every suggestive pose imaginable. This is false strength. Why bother making her tough in the first place? Why introduce all the surviving, all the training, all the determination, just to result in a character who’s always barely hanging on? It’s almost as if they created her with the express purpose being a more convincing loser. This may seem like a common complaint, and porn isn’t typically a bastion of feminism, but as I continued I was reminded of another common pornographic trope.
The “hesitant whore” is a character that shows up a lot in porn, particularly in rape-fantasies. At first she fights or claims to hate what the man is doing to her, only to later admit that she actually loves it the more the man imposes his will and acts with no regard to her wishes. She is tough on the outside, weak on the inside (insert double-entendre here, followed by an insertion joke). Her character, designed to justify the domination of women, is part of story crafted is cater to male urges. Her resistance gives the man a challenge to overcome, the sex offers a reward for his successful aggression, and her eventual succumbing to his “charms” makes everything he does morally right in the end. Though the woman is the center of attention, the protagonist of the piece is clearly the man. He is the one taking decisive action and in the end he is the one, by the story’s own twisted logic, who is proven correct. Some even go so far as to say he is doing the woman “a favor.” In the mind of the story, the rapist is actually the hero. Why? More specifically, why choose these particular story elements? You don’t need a story to create a sex scene, even a sexually violent one; and if you REALLY are the type who gets off on rape, why not depict it as the completely un-mutual, de-humanizing violence it actually is? Why disguise it by turning the rapist into a hero? I think it’s because this particular rape story originates from the desire to be heroic.
Think of it this way. A lot of men fantasize about saving women from danger. We see this in countless stories from books to movies to television shows and anything else you can think of. We believe, on some level, that this is how we’re supposed to find love and prove that we’re MEN. We all have this shared fantasy, but how many of us actually have the opportunity to fulfill it? How many times have you stumbled upon a woman in immediate need of rescue? I never have, and I’m not sure I could pull off a rescue if I did. So imagine a man has been carrying around this dream for his entire life, never able to achieve it. His “failure” mixes with loneliness, sexual frustration and his own sheer ordinariness, and eventually he hits a point so low he feels he would do ANYTHING to make his dream a reality. Now imagine one night this man is walking home, stewing in his frustration, and he sees a pretty, young woman walking by herself. In that instant, all his longings well up inside him and he’s seized by an idea. He quickly leaps on the lone woman and pins her down. She struggles and screams and fights, but eventually he knocks her out. He ties her up with her shoelaces, and drags her down to the railroad tracks. He leaves her lying on the rails and he hides. A faint rumble in the tracks wakes the injured woman. It takes a moment for her to realize where she is, and that there’s a train headed straight toward her. She struggles to get away, but she’s trapped. Panicked, she screams out for help. That’s his cue – the man leaps out from the shadows and pulls her out of the way just in time. The train flies by, and the woman is “saved.” He looks down on the temporarily relieved woman on the ground and feels relief himself for the first time in a long time. He finally saved the girl. But the thrill doesn’t last very long; eventually he just goes back to feeling ordinary again. So in order to keep his perverse happiness alive he has to repeat the process over, and over, and over.
Now you may be thinking, “Wow, that got unnecessarily dark;” and if the creator of this comic series were reading this, he might be thinking, “That’s an unfairly harsh comparison and completely untrue. There’s nothing in anything I’ve created that is pro-rape or pro-whatever-the-*#^&-that-last-story-was. Seriously. How’d you even think of that? What’s wrong with you? You’re the one who’s sick!” That may be true, and I’d have to cede the point that in the hands of most men this is pretty harmless stuff. Humans are suggestible, sure, but they’re not THAT suggestible. Decent people generally go on being decent, even after reading Demonslayer. But if you think about it, there’s something destructive about needing to be heroes so badly that we constantly write women who SEEM strong so they’ll be more tempting as bait, especially when the story is supposed to be THEIR STORY. We give them the lead role only to usurp it by making them unfit for the challenge and in need of rescue, and thus the story is about us again. That is the most selfish behavior I can imagine. Granted the people who write these stories probably didn’t conceive them with that purpose in mind; the idea probably come the way all ideas do: “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” But harm doesn’t always come from dastardly men with master plans and weird mustaches; it often comes from people who are simply too careless to watch out for common mistakes. Either way we always manage to make sure our women are hobbled at the knees and perpetuate the idea that they cannot stand without men. This isn’t a natural phenomenon, some immutable force of nature, or just “the way things are.” It’s a cage, and it’s a cage of our own construction. Whether our motivations are out of love of lust, we remind women with the bullhorn of mass media that they’re nothing without us.
I’ll be the first to admit I love to ogle women, and I have a number of “guilty pleasures” that I enjoy without thinking too hard about their fundamental mechanics because if I did I would probably horrify myself. But this isn’t just something that happens on the kinky fringes of society or in small entertainment niches. It’s quite sadly common, and although things are getting better it still seems embedded in the main chorus of our media culture. Yes I love boobs, but I love women too, and they deserve better than this. Hell, I deserve better than this. Demonslayer is crap, and so are all stories like it. We’ve always known this stuff was crap, but unfortunately there was once a time where it was the best we could get. Hopefully we’re coming to a close on that chapter of human history and opening up a new one; a new world where men and women are equals, and porn doesn’t make me ashamed to have a dick. The time is coming my friends.
Until then… be strong, be brave, and keep reading the weird stuff.