Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Comic Con Curves

By Jesper Ejsing

Image © Andrew Hickinbottom 
I fell over this 3D image and it kind of settled in me. It is a personal work called "Comic Con Curves" by Andrew Hickinbottom. I am his new fan.

Well its funny and sexy and its got boobs right in your face. That is an obvious "like" in my book.  But what really impressed me was the perception and setting of the scene. I instantly remember all the time I have stood in lines waiting to talk to one of my idols at a comic con or an art show. Being from Europe and most of my idols being Americans also meant that I had travelled very far to meat them. Standing there in line with my pre prepared portfolio eager and at the same time afraid to show it to anyone is a real sore feeling. the first time I attended a convention I was blown away by all the people who had taken the opportunity to dress up. First I thought it was childish and ridiculous but when I noticed the reaction of the crowd as someone, wearing a greatly put together costume, I realized that it wasn´t stupid at all. these guys were behaving like kings of the world, staying in character acting it out, for a day or two. And I had to admit, it would take a lot of guts to dress up like that. I wouldn't dare it.

Back to the 3D. I simply love the stylized style. it looks so much like a cartoonist drawing turned real life. The super naturalistic pens lend credibility to the scene. The best thing is the card board material used for her check armour and weapon. The attention to details and setting up the scene makes this the true homage to Cos-players.

Check out Andrew's blog, to see more of his work.


  1. Andy is so OSOM :)

    Seriously, Andy is probably one of the most talented 3D artist I know.

    1. Aw, thanks matey :-D

      Thanks for the lovely words said on the article, jesper!

  2. I love it!! So well done and so funny. It really does wrap up the whole comic convention experience nicely. People who are seriously passionate about their comics and genres, hot chicks in costumes, and a few gawking creepos loving every minute. Sigh, I miss it already. Good thing I'll be at C2E2 next month...

  3. Do you think this might denigrate, insult, and alienate a large portion of your potential audience?
    Well, although it's a great modeling job, a really great job, and expresses many fun aspects of convention life... It's a sexist piece of soft porn. I thought Muddy Colors might be trying to set a slightly higher bar of content as a cool educational blog.
    I hope to see not so many pics where women are pieces of meat.

    1. David, while I appreciate your point, as a woman I disagree that this piece is offensive. I see it as a comment on the absurdity of some elements of con culture, not on women as meat. The women who dress this way do walk a line between objectifying and empowering themselves, but while it's not for me, I'm not going to judge them for choosing to seek out that attention, that they so well receive.

    2. Most effective trolling I've seen in a long time.

    3. answer david

      I do not think you are right about this picture. There is absolutly nothing degrading about it.
      As to muddy colors being a cool educational site: sure it is one part of it, but if you ask me, my job here is to be honnest and sincier about my artwork whatever that includes.

    4. I don't think it's degrading that her costume is skimpy (she can wear whatever she likes), but I do think it speaks volumes that everyone around her is either ogling her or judging and dismissing her. I see this piece as a woman who wanted to dress up as her favorite character to get an autograph because she thought it would be fun, but the expression on her face clearly shows that the situation is no longer fun and that she's growing uncomfortable, perhaps because she's become very aware that the people around her aren't seeing her as another fan, but as either a sex object or a "fake geek girl." What was a fun situation a few moments ago has suddenly become creepy and uncomfortable for her as she looks over her shoulder. It's not her fault at all, regardless of her outfit - it's the fault of the general climate at a lot of these types of events, which is very real for a lot of female cosplayers. Whether the artist intended to capture that or not, that's how I read it.

    5. "I thought Muddy Colors might be trying to set a slightly higher bar of content as a cool educational blog."

      We do set the bar high, David. If we edited our content (and the opinions of our Contributors) in order to pander to every person who couldn't get past their own personal hang ups and simply enjoy a piece of art for it's technical merits... Well then, THAT would be LOWERING the bar.

      As for the art itself, can you seriously not see that it is satire?! Of course the sexism is inappropriate, that's the whole point of the commentary.

    6. This is just one quick link with an assortment of photos of cosplayers. A lot of excellent work on the outfits and gear. Included are a number of real-life examples of what Mr. Hickinbottom satirized in his work and what Mr. Wilson would conflate with pornography.

      A number of artists at Muddy Colors have advocated using models. Model Mayhem has been mentioned more than a few times. Consider cosplayers you meet at events for modeling opportunities as well.

    7. " I see this piece as a woman who wanted to dress up as her favorite character to get an autograph because she thought it would be fun"

      I don't buy that at all. You don't dress up like that not expecting to get looks. Girls aren't stupid. To me that seems like the whole point. To be able to dress up in a way you never would in real life, in an environment where it's considered to be ok. You're playing a different role, and you're allowed to be 'sexy' for a few days. If that wasn't the intention of the cosplayer, there would've been a lot of other female characters to dress up as.

  4. Thank you David, that's exactly what I was thinking but didn't have the energy to articulate

  5. "A sexist piece of soft porn"? Wow. Someone needs to get out more.

    I think the piece is an amusingly authentic take on a hilarious aspect of the Comic Con sub-culture. More than that, it is remarkably well done, filled with wonderful touches (the tape on the scythe, the goofy nerds in the background, R2D2).

    There is a place for all subjects in art because art is a reflection of life; and life is occasionally funny and sexy at the same time.

  6. So here's the thing;

    If the subject/message of the image was "here's a hot babe in impractical armor for no other reason than she's showing bewbs." then sure, boring demeaning schlock. Instead to me it's "fan goes to convention dressed in her favorite heroine's outfit not only not realizing exactly how impractical it is but also that if she bends this one way she gives the con nerds a bit too much of a show."

    It's meant to be funny/endearing and pulls it off. I often argue against boob-plates and chainmail bikinis but it's all about CONTEXT. Pin-up gals who are in on the joke and tongue-in-cheek images get a pass IMO.

    1. How is she in on the joke? She looks awkward and uncomfortable, and everyone else in the picture is dealing with either her tits or her ass. This makes me shudder and draw my jacket closed.

    2. You'll notice that I also wrote "tongue-in-cheek images." Also, the whole point is that the people in the image are taken aback by her outfit and she's just realizing it now. It's what humans call a funny-haha-joke, it's poking fun at conventions and outrageous female character designs.

    3. Except that it's not necessarily a funny joke for some people - it's an unpleasant reality. I know I cringed a bit when I first saw this, not because the image itself is sexist, but because the sexism depicted within the scene rang so true - I've heard many horror stories from women cosplayers (and women creators and con-goers in general). Yes, this image definitely does a good job of pointing out the absurd costume designs female characters often have, and the uncomfortable situations women sometimes find themselves in at conventions in general (we don't even need to be wearing revealing outfits to be marginalized, dismissed and/or objectified!) But while it is an excellently executed piece that points out what it's like at conventions, not everyone is going to necessarily find it funny or endearing. The fact that they don't find it funny doesn't mean that don't "get it." Trust me, we get it.

    4. While I'm sure every time you've been scantily clad and people pointing, staring, taking pictures and generally treating you like an object you found it funny, the interesting thing to me is that her expression doesn't say funny to me. When I have that expression, I'm thinking "Christ, how do I get away from these pervs???"

      And other people thinking it's ha ha funny contributes to her discomfort, not her laughter, FWIW.

      Rock on with your hilarious self, human.

  7. Its so weird how women aren't more interested in gaming and comics isn't it?

    1. On further reflection, I find the image reprehensible and deeply offensive. Fat guys aren't always sweaty, and, since camouflage is our main defense, we don't as a habit dress in pink rainbow T-shirts, so clearly Mr. Hickinbottom is singling fat men out for ridicule and creating a climate of hate directed towards the carbo-enriched.

      As I consider the image, I am additionally outraged because it is clear the man only came to the Con out of sincere innocence (that shirt! Dear Lord, the shirt!) and is now made uncomfortable because some curvy tart choose to point her sticky-buns in his direction, thereby reminding him of the incredible breakfast bar that he had to skip in order to make it to the Convention Center in time for the Farscape/Stargate Throwdown. So overcome with regret at missing that meal is he, that he must record the moment with his cell phone for… um… posterity.

      So, Mr. Hickinbottom, I think you go too far in creating an image that only serves to reinforce a cultural bias towards the fit and well groomed! The only question I have for you is "Why do you hate fat people?"

  8. I declare my fauxtrage as well.

    Perhaps over the depiction of male devotees of comics and science fiction in this picture as stereotypical? Awkward and slovenly, gawkish and stalkerish, unwholesome and unfit. Goodness! Andrew Hickinbottom cuts me to my soul! He paints with a broad brush—defining us all in the same strokes! Why?! Why God!?! Why would any artist with a bit of humor who's ever been to a convention and seen the people who attend them depict them as they are?!??!?! And do so obviously satirically?!!!?!?!?!?!?!?

    When will we start depicting all male convention goers as hale, competent, courteous, masculine—and sensitive? (But not too sensitive; just the right sensitive). When will we remove the pornographic depictions of yellow underwear outside purple tights?!?!? (Or jeans. Are they jeans? That's funnier than tights) When will sweaty, overweight men in pink Rainbow Bright t-shirts with cameras be allowed on our children's playgrounds again?!?!?!

    I have gazed into the face of the Abyss. I have seen the Darkness that dwells there. That Darkness has a name: It is "Andrew Hickinbottom"

    1. I didn´t know I was´t allowed in playgrounds with my rainbow tshirt?

    2. Gee, thanks. Responding to someone's concerns with dismissive mockery always helps the situation!

    3. Julie; Thomas is being ironic. So am I.

    4. Ms. Dillon, Mr. Ejsing is correct. I was being ironic. But, to your concern, I believe that dismissive mockery is exactly the right response to Mr. Wilson's initial post.

      His willful ignorance of the artist's intent and presentation mixed with dismissing the work as sexism and pornography, and imputing that to the character of the artist and contributors on this site is not conducive to a reasonable discussion. His statements were to the exclusion of discussion, as evidenced by his lack of response since his original post.

      Mr. Wilson dropped his post and strolled away, in what my original reply at 12:11PM called " Most effective trolling I've seen in a long time." He made absurd statements that touched on legitimate issues but were beyond the scope of the work that he attacked. He ignored the context of the work.

      Others have since taken up the gauntlet, but follow the narrative of his post. A post, which I again will attest is flawed and unsupportable and is willful in it's disregard of context.

      You yourself are a talented artist. You have a well developed visual style and attention to detail, light and color. I admire your work. You would be the first to defend your body of art against charges of sexism. But a commenter such as Mr. Wilson might look at your "lol" post ( and declare "It's soft core. It's sexist and demeaning. The artist perpetuates dated and unwelcome stereotypes. I'd have expected better". He'd be wrong, but the comment would be without merit.

      A number of years ago, I worked in house at a large electronics/technology company. I was charged with creating an illustration in the pop-art style of Lichtenstein to promote new home theater tech. The illo featured a view from the back of a couch and a couple seated on it watching a movie and all the newly developed products placed. The male was obliviously glued to an explodey movie on the TV. The female turned back toward him (and the viewer). She had the classic, soap-opera anxiety on her face and right hand to mouth in angst, as the thought balloons showed her thoughts' "I must know! Is it me he loves, or is it my home theater from -----".

      Writer liked it. Editor liked it. Staff liked it. Internal 'client' liked it. My sister thought it was funny. I liked it that it nailed everything I was asked for in the brief. My very nice and well meaning but "overly HR" managing editor took it around to other people and asked them to try to imagine what someone from outside might think if they saw it. Then he came to me with..

      "This is perfect! Just what we wanted. We only need to make three little changes!" Uh huh.

      Just three small changes. First, make the movie something that isn't violent or sci-fi (right, because HD surround sound systems really demo best with "Howard's End"). Also, she looks sad or worried, maybe afraid. Someone might think she's weak and submissive. Make her happy! Last, change "Is it me he loves" to "Is it me he LIKES". 'Love' implies they're having sex, and we can't see her left hand, so we don't know if they're married or not.

      My point here (long in coming) is that art cannot be crafted to appeal to, be understood by, or satisfy everyone who will ever view it. Well meaning but uniformed people simply might not get it. Trolls will look at it and think what they will based upon their limited imaginations and experience, predilections, misconceptions or outright malice. Some grow out of it. Others make a career from it.

      The only entity the artist must accommodate is the client when they're paying, and the artist alone when it's personal work. And it's nice when mom likes it too.

  9. You don't have to be offended by the image yourself, but please understand why some might find it sexist. You don't have to get angry, just try being empathetic.

    1. Nimrose, one aspect of the image is satire of sexism. If the image is, in part, about sexism, then decrying it as sexist both belabors the obvious AND misses the point. It wouldn't depict sexism if it showed a plainly dressed woman being treated courteously by pleasant fellows.

      Mr. Hickinbottom depicts a female cosplayer dressed as the ridiculously attired comic character the artist is signing pics of at his table. Presumably a character she enjoys portraying. There is no condemnation of her apparent in the illo.

      I do understand why some find it sexist. It IS! It's a pointed lampoon of sexism seen at conventions, therefore it depicts sexism. In a whimsical style, but it still addresses that matter. I believe that was its intent, and so it succeeds. This is a humorous look at and pointed depiction of the male con attendees as "awkward and slovenly, gawkish and stalkerish, unwholesome and unfit". The males aren't dominating, outwardly intimidating, or making overt advances, but they are pretty clearly being "kinda idiots" (phrased politely).

      The artist illustrates his view of a particular moment most who have attended large cons recognize. People dress like this at conventions. People act like this at conventions. People react like this at conventions. But the persons quick to dismiss this as "sexist" or "pornography" are ignoring that the work stands as a commentary about the things they decry.

      I've seen first hand what idiocy flows from "---ists". I attended NAB a few years ago with colleagues. One of them was a petite, adorable, extremely talented young woman. She was a video editor, motion graphics artist and colorist, and her task at NAB was speccing new gear and chatting with the tech types about codecs for streaming and compression. First day she went dressed in business wear. Skirt, jacket... very banker/lawyerly. Everyone assumed she was broadcasting "talent". She was ignored. She was rudely dismissed or treated with condescension. The next day, she went dressed like a grip. Ball cap, old jeans, tee-shirt. The same people from the day before who actually told her stuff was too complicated to explain to her, now thought she could understand them. Any number of idiotic "---ists" involved.

      Empathy for people who experienced what she did or anyone else so treated? Definitely. But for persons posting misinformed, trollish statement's like Mr. Wilson's?

      I have no empathy for them.

  10. As a lady who has been in that sort of situation before, I found this quite amusing and a fantastic representation of how that experience goes. I can understand why some would find it offensive, but if you're scoffing at the obvious, front-and-center displays of T&A and calling "attention whore", then you're looking at it wrong. The focus isn't on her body, but the feeling of discomfort you're supposed to experience - just like she is feeling.

    It's unfair that men call female cosplayers sluts ("softcore porn?" really?) when we're dressing up in overwhelmingly male-made designs in a very male-dominated industry. We like them. Why is that wrong? Slut-shaming is a HUGE issue in the cosplay community right now, and it's always interesting to hear the other side's rationalizations. Yes, there is sexism, but the issue is deeper than a girl in a chainmail bikini. The exposure of it here is what's making you uncomfortable, and I believe that's on purpose.

    As offensive as a representation of this situation can be and as much as we don't want it to, IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME. It's a reality. Satire stems from reality, and that's why it's funny - you can relate to it somehow. Stereotypes exist because the same things happen over and over. I think anyone who gone to a fan convention before has either seen or been involved in a situation like this.

    The image by itself is fantastic. It's extremely well-crafted, and, as mentioned in the comments above, the little details really make it. I think people are taking it much too seriously. Thank you for posting this, Jesper. :) Andrew, you kick all sorts of ass! Did you expect these sorts of reactions to this piece when you made it?

  11. Julie Dillon -- I deeply sympathize with you and appreciate your speaking up. RankTyro -- Your comment, "This makes me shudder and draw my jacket closed", is very poignant. As a very heterosexual male, to some degree I feel your pain and more than a bit of guilt. Thank you both for defending that viewpoint. Jesper -- Thanks for posting. Besides pointing out a great artist, I think we all might be learning something here. Andrew -- Exceptional talent; exceptional skill; exceptional social satire. Very well done. Given the responses here, I think I understand your desire to keep this work personal. I get the humor; I think I get the point. Now, if I can just go home and bleach my eyes a bit... :-)

  12. Reading over the subsequent comments since yesterday morning, it would be inconsiderate to stay out of a discussion segue I initiated. Thomas, it was not my intent to drop and dash with my comment, it was a long day at the studio. I am open to discussion and have learned a ton from the contributors to this blog. I acknowledge that the language I chose was inflammatory; the hyperbole was intentional as were those of Steve, Thomas, and others.

    The comments from Lynell, Jason, Thomas and Lester point out that this pic is not soley "soft porn" (yes, there's that hyperbole) as I stated earlier, but it's a fantastic commentary on the convention atmosphere. This scenario is played out at every con; in that this piece holds great merit for it's observation, wit and amazing craftsmanship. These things have always been celebrated on this blog since it's beginning- yes I've been a follower ever since it's first few posts and have great respect for its contributors.

    However, this image is more than a Cosplay commentary. It's also a pinup- an image with the intent of sexually objectifying the subject for the viewer. While the pinup concept is part of the convention satire, the composition and camera the artist chooses makes an oogler of the viewer. It sets up the viewer to objectify her as a pinup - you guys can't seriously tell me you believe otherwise. C'mon! THAT is the reason I feel that it ought not to be a part of Muddy Colors posts(that's my opinion). That is why I wrote, "Do you think this might denigrate, insult, and alienate a large portion of your potential audience?" I feel bad for everyone looking at the post and thinks "This makes me shudder and draw my jacket closed".

    Lester's words, wonderfully tempered, "Given the responses here, I think I understand your desire to keep this work personal. I get the humor; I think I get the point. Now, if I can just go home and bleach my eyes a bit... :-)"

    Jesper, Andrew, and Don- It was not my intent to derail the conversation of the blog post - normally there is a maelstrom of comments that swallows up any of my comments. I really appreciate Don's comments on running the blog and kudos for holding to it. It was my hope that the blog authors might see the comment and consider whether future images ought to be shared with the entirety of your audience and kept in a personal blog. I may be considered a prude, but there are hundreds of thousands who can appreciate the bizarre world of Comic Con without needing to stare down a cleavage barrel pointed at my eyes.

    1. Mr. Wilson, this is a better articulated argument than your initial post, which you implicitly note for its trollishness (inflammatory, hyperbole). I still disagree with your initial post on the illustration and find it offensive in willful disregard of the context, and belittling in its dismissiveness of the artist, contributors and site. Your new post (third paragraph), while I disagree with you strongly, I respect.

      But this part I do not: "It was my hope that the blog authors might see the comment and consider whether future images ought to be shared with the entirety of your audience and kept in a personal blog." This is the crux of the issue. Implied in the original post, now openly stated: you want to limit what others may or may not choose to share in their personal work and space, under guise of decency and sensitivity to possible offense.

      Being offended by the picture isn't a crime. It isn't "wrong" anymore than being pleased by it is "right". You're not wrong for disliking the illustration. You're not wrong for saying "meh, cheesecake. No thanks."

      Even when a "piece holds great merit for it's observation, wit and amazing craftsmanship" and "it's a great modeling job, a really great job, and expresses many fun aspects of convention life"... and even when the context of the illo is accepted and understood... and when it apparently evokes multiple perspectives and dialog — you determine the work is indecent and should be kept away from the viewing public?

      Every artist should cringe at that thought.

      You're not wrong for disliking it, thinking it's sexist, thinking it's bad. You are wrong when you act to censor others' work.

  13. I may be a little late, but I've been disappointed by this comment thread. Not because of the opinions expressed, but because of the way they've been presented.

    I've been as guilty as anyone of being careless in print, but it's not all THAT difficult to phrase things respectfully. And I do think the overall tone here has been to shout down those who didn't like the image–responses that range from "Your opinions are bad and you should feel bad," to "I DO understand and sympathize with your opinions, I understand them maybe even better than you do, now here's where they're not thoughtful or sophisticated enough."

    I'm relatively new around here, so I'm hoping this was something of an aberration. Just because the rest of the internet runs on cat pictures and people telling each other they're wrong doesn't mean it's a good business model.

    1. Yeah, maybe we all pounced a little too quickly... but it's likely because we JUST had this exact same conversation a week ago:

      Personally, I blame Jesper.
      In fact, I think most of the problems with our industry can be blamed on Jesper.

    2. Or we can agree to disagree. I just wanted to type that line because in all my years of typing I don't believe that I have ever typed that idiotic line.

    3. I thought it was already SOP to blame Jesper for everything. Have I jumped the gun?

  14. I think the image is very successful. Thanks for showing it. It displays technical excellence and depicts a nuanced real-world scenario powerfully. The image leaves room for interpretation and has generated plenty of emotional discussion without directly embarrassing/harming any particular individuals. I wish every image I produced could claim those things.

    More personally, as a comic geek, the Comic Con context appeals to me as well.


  15. Crikey - i just came back to see what comments have been left, and there's certainly a lot of controversy here - far more than anywhere else this image has appeared.

    I tried everything i could to avoid sexist overtones in this image. I am happy that my style of pinup art is less derogatory than most, and have been complimented many times by female viewers that it makes them feel good about themselves and that my work usually features empowered, confident women.
    Her pose - the straight arm and open hand shows dominance, confidence and assertivness, the viewing angle with the men behind her and positioned below her eyeline makes them less imposing and more under her power. The artist in the foreground may seem to be pointing to her cleavage in 2D space (its a compositional tool), but in 3D space and in the story, he is casually informing her of the guy with the beard taking photos of her bum, and thus 'saving' her. He's seen this scenario several times before, as have i, who frequent conventions as an exhibitor.

    I have several friends who cosplay - some of them women who dress in revealing outfits like this, and i know how they feel. They put lots of effort into dressing as their favourite character, which in the case of anime or american superhero comics, often tends to be designed to appeal to males, thus having revealing outfits. In the image, the protagonist has meticulously made a costume as she is a fan of the character on the artwork she is getting signed. Sometimes when women cosplay in revealing outfits (particularly shy ones), they are aware of how revealing their outfits are, but try to hide the areas they are insecure about. In this case, her cape usually shields her bum, but it has slipped to the side and is giving the guys behind an eyeful. Its a cheeky pinup, giving commentary on what its like for a girl in revealing cosplay at a convention. As i said in my original description "a tribute to those brave attendees who cosplay in skimpy outfits!"

    The male characters behind her are extreme stereotypes and are just poking fun, not deriding them, much like how a 'nerd' would be portrayed in a cartoon like Dexter's Laboratory.

    Steve - for your information, i am overweight with a beard, and i sweat. I dont wear pink tshirts though - that is a pastiche of the brony / furry convention type. I have seen it before - middle aged men being obsessed about childrens cartoons aimed at girls. Its not an attack on anyone - merely an observation.

    Thanks for the positive comments though. There's always an element of controversy in pinup art where men are ogling a girl, but i tried my hardest from the earliest conceptual stage to make it less creepy and more fun, factual and understanding towards the female point of view.

    1. Andrew,
      Thank you so much for chiming in, and giving us some insight into your piece. I'll consider your comments to be the 'last word' on this subject.


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