In Defense of Cheesecake

Not everything in popular culture is meant for you.


There’s been a lot of pushback over the last few years about misogyny and the objectification of women in comics — and rightly so.

Hell, I’ve been part of that push myself. I’ve taught courses about gender roles in comics and how they reflect society. And just last week, I wrote about the shameful treatment of Mockingbird writer Chelsea Cain, who was forced off Twitter because of ugly attacks.

Christy outside her shop.

Outside my shop, in support of Chelsea Cain.

But there is another perspective that warrants discussion — even a defense: Just because something is cheesecake doesn’t automatically make it wrong.

Take the recent controversy over J. Scott Campbell’s Midtown Comics since-pulled variant cover of Riri Williams for Invincible Iron Man #1, which is due out this week (11/9). Do I understand why people were upset? Kind of. Riri is a young lady, but as a mother of a young lady who has dressed similar to how Campbell drew her, I wasn’t offended. And I know people will disagree with me over this point, and that’s OK. However, that’s my opinion.


A lot of critics saw this as a sexualized 15-year-old girl with her hip cocked. Me? I saw her as cocky, like Tony Stark. In fact, if I were a cute, genius girl that age? I would probably be that way, too. And besides, the focus shouldn’t be on what she is wearing or how she is standing. Girls shouldn’t be shamed because of what they wear or how they stand — it’s expression.

Here’s the thing. If you think an artist draws “too sexy,” then don’t get their books — but please don’t make it a huge issue thinking no one should draw that way or that no one should enjoy it. Creativity and expression don’t need to be stifled — they need to be celebrated. How boring would life be if everything was the same?! There are bigger travesties happening in the world that could use our attention.

Amanda Conner is one of the great modern cheesecake artists.

Amanda Conner is one of the great modern cheesecake artists.

A good friend of mine has been getting a lot of heat for drawing sexy women. And they do draw sexy women, not cheesecake, but they are sexy. In fact, they draw very sexy characters (not just women) and I think they are amazing. They are sexy — not sexualized. I look at them and see beauty — something we need more of in the world right now. If someone else looks at them and sees something else, that’s simply another opinion.

Two people can look at a cloud. I could see a horse and the other person could see a penis. That’s not on me — it’s on them. I’m not saying they are wrong, I’m just saying that there is always another side. And there is enough of popular culture for everyone to have something they love.

Frank Cho also gets a ton of heat ...

Frank Cho also gets a ton of heat.

I’m actually not a big fan of “cheesecake” art, but I don’t complain when I see it because it’s not there for me — it’s there for someone else who loves it. This may seem like a strange analogy, but not everyone loves The Man from U.N.C.L.E., but I do. I don’t expect everyone to love it like I do but I don’t shame them for not liking it. I won’t send threatening tweets. I simply keep loving what I love.

As I said last week, specifically about comics, popular culture is for everyone. Not everyone will like everything, but that’s what makes it so great and so able to attract such a diverse audience. Not every comic is for me and that is fine! I couldn’t read everything out there anyway. There are books that I have zero interest in that people worship. I think that’s great. There is something for everyone.

So please, instead of ruining things for others and hurting people, enjoy what you enjoy. Let there be beauty in the world. We could all use it right now.

Adam Hughes also comes under fire, unfairly.

Adam Hughes also comes under fire, unfairly.

Christy Blanch is an educator, writer and comics-shop retailer, operating Aw Yeah Comics in Muncie, Ind. She’s a regular columnist at 13th Dimension. You can find her LAST WEEK’S COMICS TODAY columns here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. My goodness…a level-headed article about this “controversy”. Now I’ve seen everything!

    But I digress. Thank you for saying this, and I agree. I don’t like horror books. Never liked the blood and the gore. But I won’t stop people from thinking comics like Crossed or The Walking Dead is god’s gift to comics, nor would I take away their right to enjoy it. Cheesecake is just one flavor in this amazing mix called comic books.

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  2. Guys like boobs. We can’t help it. Boobs = happy. It doesn’t mean we’re less evolved.

    Hell, dogs have been on the planet 20 million years longer than men, but nobody gets pissed that dogs still can’t talk.

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  3. I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here. Different facets of pop culture are going to appeal to different audiences and there is a large comic audience that like sexy women. There is nothing wrong with that.

    But I think what the Riri situation starts to bring out is that J. Scott Campbell, Jim Lee and other artists who are famous for this type of art draw all their female characters VERY similarly (same waist, same bust, very similar facial structures, same sex appeal). It is objectifying, but this is a sin we’re willing overlook because they look so good UNTIL it’s about a 15 year old girl. Then that objectification starts staring us in the face. And that, for me, is hard to deal with.

    That said, JSC follow up variant was really nice and should have been the piece he did in the first place.

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  4. There may be an argument for cheesecake, but this sure as hell isn’t it. There’s not even one being made. It’s just a lot of “Well, I like it and it doesn’t bother me.” Well good for you, but that’s not an argument. That female characters are dressed and posed in a manner that would never even be considered for their male counterparts isn’t an “opinion” like how one sees a cloud. It’s a simple fact that can easily be proven with your average half-naked, hip thrusting cover. Whether or not it bothers you is an opinion but that it exists is not. And that the writer can’t see the difference between how a teenage girl chooses to dress herself and how a grown ass man chooses to dress (and pose) a teenage girl is just sad. Finally, you know what one of the bigger problems in the world is? Sexism. You’ve seen a nice dose of it in this election and covers like these are also examples of it. Drawing female heroes like heroes and not swimsuit models is hardly taking beauty of out of the world. It’s adding to it.

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  5. Good article. Frankly, I don’t see how the cover is even a problem. She is just standing there with her hand raised. Her very first cover appearance had her in the exact same clothes and (arguably) proportions. Where were the complaints then? This is about as exciting to look at as a dripping faucet.

    As far as I can tell, this only became a problem because some are uncomfortable with any sexuality in comics and this was just an easy target because of the artist’s reputation and the subject’s age.

    Meanwhile, the comic gets far more attention than it would have if Marvel didn’t pull the cover. I doubt that is a coincidence.

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  6. My principal criticism of the Iron Man cover is that it’s not well drawn. I like the girl’s attitude though. I find it amazing that when a particular movement starts there seems to be this fervent need to “stamp out” what they disagree with. Must be totally removed, yuck, icky, nasty, I disagree with it so it must be destroyed. Also, anyone who likes what I despise must be demonized and marginalized. Because, you know……well I have an agenda. Instead, if what you offer is so superior, offer it and people will flock to it. Get in my face about it and I’ll go out of my way to avoid what you have to offer. Cho and Hughes are some of the best at what they draw. Going out of my way to insult Richard, I’ll remind him that Women are many, many things. Mothers, Daughters, Scientists, Athletes, and whatever they hell they want to be. Add to that Beautiful and Sexual. Hughes is superb at drawing exceptionally beautiful women who are at once Strong, confident, Feminine and Sexy. Cho’s women are idealized to suit Cho and I don’t have a problem with them. They are a lot “healthier” than the usual Super hero girls we see drawn. Amanda Conner’s work is a little cartoony for my tastes but I think she does a great job. “Richard” needs to calm down.

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  7. Cheesecake and beefcake are fine and good by me. I just think it probably is not a good idea to sexualize 15 year old girls and boys, y’know?

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