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Fan Service in Comics

HippieVan at 12:00AM, June 26, 2015
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This post was inspired ozoneocean's forum thread about sexism, as well as a recent update by JustNoPoint. (Quick note: none of my comments about fan service are directed at JNP's work! It was just his joking about fan service that had me thinking about it.)

“Fan service” can mean a few different things, but what I'm talking about today are the gratuitously busty, half-naked ladies that comics are notorious for.

Personally I can't say that fan service bothers me all that much, but it certainly causes a bit of eyerolling when it's excessive. I think I generally do assume that comics with an abundance of ridiculously curvaceous women are not to be taken seriously. I don't go into those comics expecting deep philosophical meaning - not that that's a bad thing! Goofy, campy superhero comics have been one of my great loves since I was a preteen.

Admittedly, though, I would appreciate it if the average comic included as many sexy male characters as they do female characters. Excessive fan service (when it exclusively features women) does sometimes give me a niggling feeling that I'm not the target audience, and that female readers have been forgotten.


What are your feelings on fan service? Do you find it sexist, or titillating, or maybe both? Neither? Do arbitrary half-naked ladies affect how you view a comic?

For those of you who like to include said half-naked ladies in your comics, what are your thoughts? Are you trying to please your audience, or maybe you just enjoy drawing the female form? Do you feel as though fan service means your comic is taken less seriously, and do you care?

Comment below!



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anonymous?

usedbooks at 12:03PM, June 28, 2015

Bravo, have you seen Into the Woods? The princes' duet where they bare their chests and spend the whole number posturing is the best part of the film.

bravo1102 at 5:01AM, June 28, 2015

If you look back at the 1930s-40's you'd see comics imitating the movies like Flash Gordon with its skimpy outfits or Terry and the Pirates with the almost there gowns. And then there was Betty Boop. 1920-30's. How about the various "wolf" cartoons like Red Hot Riding Hood? By the time you got to the obvious use of the character in Roger Rabbit and the later tribute Tiny Toons with Hello Nurse it was old hat. Yeah good old fan service has a long history in film. Yeah let me go back and see the Maria dance sequence from Metropolis again, I hear they found some new footage and even then it's not quite the whole sequence. It's been censored numerous times since the 1920's. Or D.W. Griffith's Intolerance or that the director of the unmade Charles Laughton I Claudious insisted the vestal virgins be naked under diaphanous gowns just because he wanted to tease the censors... eye candy to fan service long has it lived and thrived.

bravo1102 at 4:52AM, June 28, 2015

And you just wonder why? Some male actors had to have a bare-chested scene in every movie almost as if it was in their contract! Which it might have been knowing old time Hollywood. Clark Gable in It Happened one Night? Claudette Colbert in that movie and her not there costumes in her version of Cleopatra? Torn clothing in girl fights barely covering the bits were getting so bad in the 1930's before the Hayes code. And then still they were there just with more ample lingerie. This was long before anime and manga. Can you say McClintock! with Mauren O'Hara in her underwear for the climax of the movie? Or Jamaica Inn, with Hitchcock's notorious sneaking in of an underwear scene to push the Hayes Code. It reached an extreme after the Hayes code went away in the 1960s-1970s exploitation film with the notorious bare breasted fight scenes a famous one being the Wicked Lady with Faye Dunaway. The movie industry has been doing this for a long time. Comics only imitated the movies.

bravo1102 at 4:43AM, June 28, 2015

As meemjar mentions Fan Service has a long history. It was once called "eye candy" You could say it goes back to Gil-gamesh with all those bathing scenes allowing for ribald thoughts and titillation. More recently narrative film has had extraneous scenes of shirtless men and women in lingerie or otherwise skimpily clad often for no apparent reason other than to show characters in such a state of undress. All those backstage show-business stories always had the scenes in the ladies' dressing room. The original King Kong (1933) had the infamous stripping and sniffing scene where King Kong tears the clothes off of Fay Wray. The original pre-production drawings were far more graphic than what ended up on film. The Hayes code was just beginning. Around the same time was Maureen O'Sullivan's nude bathing scene in Tarzan. Otherwise normal Westerns often had scenes with the heroine stripping, being stripped or bathing. There's one movie with Maureen O'Hara with two such scenes.

meemjar at 4:47PM, June 27, 2015

Continuing from below I've always been a fan of BENNY HILL and his ribald sense of humor but he was the first to point out that while he may have done a lot of naughty things to the women on his show he always created a balance that the women kept their dignity while the male characters came across as buffoons. This sort of comedy harkens all the way back to the silent screen era of Buster Keaton and Harold Loyde. The comedy in those days was 'Chivalrous' in that the men took the brunt of the violent comedy like being hit on the head with a hammer, kicked by a mule, fall down the stairs, etc. While the women were treated more gently and suffered less painful but more 'embarrassing' comedy such as being pinched or slapped on the bum, getting her skirt blown up or getting her clothes torn off all together leaving her in her underwear and stockings. This sort of comedy still exists to this day in one form or another.

meemjar at 4:37PM, June 27, 2015

I frequently use fan service in my comic but only where it motivates the story. My girl detectives will infiltrate a socialites dinner party dressed in French Maid outfits to nail the culprit in the story for example. It makes for cute & sexy moments in the story but doesn't detract from the main story drive.

Banes at 9:33AM, June 27, 2015

Yeah - If there's a cynicism to it, and it's being done as a "trick" to attract an audience, it sucks. That's when it's offensive. Agreed! Another fascinating topic, Hip!

Neilsama at 8:28AM, June 27, 2015

Fan service was built into Dasien from the very start, although I guess I could call it "self-service" since it's entirely built around what I think is sexy, and the people who also like it will follow along with me. That said, there are definitely little kinks that I have that don't seem to register with the readers, and I'm a little afraid to point them out. There are also things that I WON'T do, but I admit that my boundaries are completely subjective. I think that fan service has to be a product of your own sexuality. It's not something you can just fake. I firmly believe that sexuality is part of the character's personality, and so that character has to come alive in your imagination before she (or he) starts jiggling butt cheeks at the audience. There's an inherent sweetness to the Dasien characters, and I make it so that you have to actually love them and respect their personalities before I start serving out the cheesecake.

ozoneocean at 7:59AM, June 27, 2015

I will have my own characters in sexy poses or showing bits of their bodies, but I never thought of that as "fan service", just that it was things that I liked to draw. Years later now I can see it sort of that way. I think it becomes "fan service" when the creator dissociates themselves from it somewhat and it's something that is only there for titillation of fans, not for the joy of the creator and not something that fits with the rest of the work... That's probably a really shit definition that makes no sense.

ozoneocean at 7:37AM, June 27, 2015

That said, the first time the term came to my attention was in the voiceovers at the end of Neo Genesis Evangelion back in the '90s by the character Asuka. I had NO idea what it was and why she kept promising "more" of it. When I DID find out what it was I was totally weirded out because those characters are supposed to be 14 year olds or something. Then I realised that all those glimpses of bits of bodies and stuff were there intentionally for "fan service" and hat disgusted me. So the whole concept revolted me for years afterwards. Buuuut, that was when I took anime more literally, which isn't the right way to view it. The characters are symbolic and the things they do just conform to the standard styles of the form, like the syllables in a haiku. Character and story exists around that rigid framework.

ozoneocean at 7:31AM, June 27, 2015

Fan service is a bit of an anime/manga convention. hey sort of codified it into a standard part of their creative work, so it's not really gratuitous there, rather it's another of the building blocks of which those products are made. The pantyshots, hot springs bathing scenes, showers, and beach episodes are as standard and expected as they come. They're not even titillating, it's just THAT expected and basic.

PaulEberhardt at 2:58AM, June 27, 2015

Interestingly, I was surprised how many of my female real-life acquaintances kept asking me if they were among those that inspired Gundula (the human main character of my comic and one that may well get me accused of fan-service depending on how you define it) in the clear hope I'd say yes (actually not at all, mostly, but I didn't say so). It's not just because of her character either, one even took to dressing a bit like her, getting herself a black tank top whose company logo she altered to say "Gundi" and matching monster paw houseshoes. It may be hard to believe, but I swear it's really true. It sort of stopped me worrying about this whole fan-service business overly much.

PaulEberhardt at 2:39AM, June 27, 2015

Good question, actually: exactly which fans, what kind of fan does it serve? Nothing's wrong with a bit of fan service if it happens to fit in well. We're all naked under our clothes and there'll always be someone to object about everything. So what? If it's about the example you set by what you draw, the thing to be really concerned of would be violence. Anyways. If tending to draw beautiful women and funny-looking men qualifies as fan-service already, I plead guilty as charged. I tried to interrupt that tendency on occasion, partly just because I wanted to show I can, and partly because I thought of it as sort of a nod to my female readers (who are in the majority, I think, and anyway come for the critters, so nothing much could go wrong) - "fan service" taken literally, in a way?

Gunwallace at 7:43PM, June 26, 2015

Unlike Bravo, the toys I use can't take their clothes off, so no fan service for those comics. I have done sex scenes, however, with Playmobil in Utterly Rucked. As for the stuff I draw, my wife may allow risque conversations to be used in All Unicorns to Battle Stations, but she would string me up by my dangly bits if I did anything resembling fan service. As for fan service in general, it exists because the majority of fans to be serviced are those wanting it. Like many aspects of the comics industry it may have the negative side of closing off the audience from those it does offend, but that just increases the percentage of fans wanting service. The whole 'comics are for teenage boys' mentality can become a self-serving rationale.

usedbooks at 5:13PM, June 26, 2015

Then I *might* be guilty of that... -_- Although I'm usually the fan I'm drawing it for, and I usually start with a shallow concept but develop it into significant canon in the story. Like, I made a 50 page story arc once because I wanted to draw characters in costumes. (I had all these costume doodles and spent eight months trying to figure out a story for them.)

HippieVan at 5:04PM, June 26, 2015

@usedbooks: Fan service can definitely mean violence/drama/whatever else as well! I think generally it's anything that's done seemingly to please readers/viewers, without actually contributing to the story.

usedbooks at 3:30PM, June 26, 2015

"Gratuitous = uncalled for; lacking good reason; unwarranted." Seems like a fairly subjective definition. I mean, the author has a good reason if that reason is "I want to draw naked people." The readers might be literally calling for it on every page. Also, if one is reading hardcore porn, then the nudity/sex is always warranted and called for whether or not it had good reason. The reason is porn. -- Btw, can fan service involve a wider definition than nudity? I think my readers get bloodthirsty, and sometimes I oblige. I spitball plot ideas with a few people. One is always telling me to make cute love stories, and one tells me to murder everyone.

fallopiancrusader at 2:03PM, June 26, 2015

Fan service as defined by HippieVan above, with "gratuitous" being the operative word, will make me stop reading a comic instantly. I consider it misogynist, an insult to my intelligence, and it makes me ashamed to be male. Thus says the hard-core porn author...

JustNoPoint at 8:59AM, June 26, 2015

One extra thing to note concerning my page linked in the thread. This is blatant but at the same time contextual fan service. And there are SEVERAL ways I could have pushed the sexual tone of it. But I didn't push any because in reality it was simply a natural progression of the script and events. I feel that's important to note and Vickie mentioned it as well. When a work has to go out of it's way to add it is when I start rolling my eyes. It's always a balance. And they way I balance it may not be enough to some and still way too much for others.

JustNoPoint at 6:06AM, June 26, 2015

I think I've dealt with it fairly well in m comics. So far many people still confuse me for a female writer and I have a pretty large female audience so I don't think my works have been in detriment towards women. I do like the form of course. And luckily statistically the female form is also more pleasing to females as well. That being said I finally added a male lead to my series recently and fully intend to give equal opportunity fan service. And yeah, Bravo my newest page has magic modesty steam too :P It's weird. I can have fairly graphic violence, an "F" bomb every now and then. And people are fine with it. Throw in a female nipple and people lose their minds lol Our social protective priorities are strange!

JustNoPoint at 5:59AM, June 26, 2015

I hate it and would never use it!!! Oh wait. Unless it becomes some sort of satire like Kill La Kill or High School of the Dead it can be a big turn off in excess. In more serious story lines it can become way too obvious and take away from them if too much attention is being made toward fan service at the wrong times. I feel more like it should have it's own piece/scene. Similar to chibis or super comedic things happening at the wrong times. It can break the pacing and feel of the scene for me if mixed in wrong.

usedbooks at 5:17AM, June 26, 2015

My work is PG-13, so my apologies to bravo for strategic camera angles and conveniently-placed tree branches. (Same tricks I use for scenes I can't draw. Actually, it's a fun art challenge simply figuring out how to avoid art. And creative camera angles can have a great impact on mood.)

HippieVan at 5:06AM, June 26, 2015

@MOrgan: I think adult comics are exempt from the idea of fan service! :P

usedbooks at 4:51AM, June 26, 2015

In my own comic, when clothing malfunctions, it usually ends up illustrating that the characters drop social/modesty considerations in times of crisis -- or it shows vulnerability I guess (accidentally, because I don't usually put that much thought into it). I think it keeps my story "real" too. If I had thought ahead "oh, she'll be needing an extra layer to stop someone's copious bleeding," the character would be acting out of character, on knowledge she didn't have. So my lack of forethought keeps it real. ;)

usedbooks at 4:50AM, June 26, 2015

When my own characters have ended up topless or partially nude, it was never something I thought of as fan service. I seldom consider wardrobe when I draft scripts, so when I do the art, I draw what makes sense. One of my characters had to give up a shirt as bandages because someone was bleeding to death. Another time, a couple characters were caught in a rainstorm in pajamas, so those got wet. I also have two opposite-gender characters talk in locker rooms or when getting dressed often because they are comfortable with each other. Frankly, I don't draw well enough to consider anything I do fan service. But I also make it a point not to force any element either outside of character or unnecessary to plot. I have such seething hatred for bad writing. I never want to become what I hate.


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