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Monday, September 14, 2020 

Conan's muscles watered down, and Hulk still reduced to graphic gore

Here's two article from the Valdosta Daily Times sugarcoating Marvel's continuing political correctness. In the first one, they describe the following about new Conan stories as published under Marvel's banner, now that they've reacquired the license, and how veteran writer/illustrator P. Craig Russell's interpreting Robert E. Howard's adventuring creation:
Russell presents his own take of Howard's character. Ever since artist Frank Frazetta on a legendary series of paperback covers and John Buscema in his famed run on the comic books, Conan has been a massively muscled barbarian that has the build of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger (which made him the perfect choice to play Conan in the 1980s movies).

But Russell's Conan is a more tawny, lithe barbarian. No less strong but more like the character described in the Howard stories and more like what the world would produce from a character who is living a strenuous life but not one lifting weights several hours a day.

Readers aware of Russell's style and history shouldn't be surprised by a leaner, more graceful looking Conan. Russell worked on an early Marvel Conan comic with the equally legendary Barry Windsor-Smith back in the early 1970s. Smith was Marvel's first Conan artist and he also drew a far leaner barbarian than the subsequent Buscema version that has since become the model for the character.
Depending how you view this, one could argue it's an example of a male protagonist undergoing the same political correctness females have suffered of recent. And I do know this: in most of the Conan reprints I own, originally published by Dark Horse until recently, Conan may look muscular, but by no means a gigantic bodybuilder with almost balloon-like muscles, even if Arnold Schwartzenegger is famous for his portrayal of the character in the early 80s. So why does it sound like a huge exaggeration to say Conan often looked like a towering force in the past renditions? Or, why does this sound like a subtle putdown of Buscema's work? I do remember reading a history book over 2 decades ago where C.C. Beck and Bill Parker were said to have wanted to make Captain Marvel look not necessarily muscular, but more athletic, and so they went with it in the Golden Age. But if Frazetta's renditions, coming as they did at least a few years before Marvel licensed Conan, are any confirmation, he certainly began the depictions of Howard's creation with huge muscles, and leanness doesn't contradict being muscular, recalling that I once read a Dune novel by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson where the Baron Harkonnen was described as being "lean and muscular".

So, this newspaper article sure smells fishy, like another example of PC at work. You can only wonder if it's a sign of things to come with male protagonists, as the publishers must be trying to deflect criticism for how they've been dumbing down female portraits over the past decade.

In the second one, they talk about how the "Immortal" Hulk, under Al Ewing, continues to undergo PC as well, that being the gory direction he's set it on, along with subtle politics in motion:
But for this story, the world has been led to believe a white, furry creature known as Xemnu is Hulk. With corporate backing, Xemnu has hypnotized the public into connecting him with a beloved childhood show that everyone recalls though no one recalls actually watching. And Xemnu has wiped away the memory of green and gray Hulks to think of him as the Hulk.

Ewing continues writing a Hulk title that is a horror book, with plenty of gore and viscera to match the genre.

Parents, be warned. "The Immortal Hulk" is not for kids.
And the columnist doesn't sound disappointed that it's graphic, and not healthy for adults either. Ironically, corporations, if Disney's recent conduct with Star Wars is an indication, can certainly take corrupt directions with the products in their stables. But chances you'd see books like these admit to that, let alone that many corporations are run by ultra-leftists, are slim, and the logic they follow is that corporations = conservative, bizarrely enough.

So on the one hand, we have subtle putdowns of past fantasy artists' renditions, while on the other, we have sugarcoatings of gore galore in Marvel books that may have been known for darker visions in the past, but weren't known for doling out explicit horror elements the way these modern writers seem obsessed with. And it wouldn't shock me if either these new items lack a sense of humor, or make it impossible to appreciate one that does appear, due to the PC elements shoehorned in.

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Comics like the Conan titles, and a host of others, have traditionally been power fantasys for boys. Since Conan doesn't have super powers, the freakishly large muscles stand in for those powers in an exaggerated comics format. As less powerful boys and more powerful girls are a big part of the "Woke" Disney Weltanschauung, slimming Conan down in likely just part of the program.

You guys have forgotten what it is like to be a kid.

Kids don't identify with the middle aged burly tough guys. They identify with the lithe little guys who run rings around or outwit the tough burly guys. That is what it is like to be a kid in an adult world. That is why the villains tend to be more muscle bound than the heros.

The 90s were an exception. And that was a gay thing. Gay guys reacted to the wasting disease of AIDS by fetishizing muscles and the gym, and that worked its way into comic book culture, with heros who had tiny heads and muscles so big and tense that they looked as if they would tear a sinew just by moving. So kids who grew up on those images now think their kids are girly if they don't like the same imagery. But it was a real aberration in comix history, and comics have since shed that 90s homoeroticism.

Personal style enters into it. Artists meeting comic book deadlines draw from a sense of self. Buscema was a burly middle aged guy who worked out with weights. He drew Conan that way. Barry Smith was a young slender guy when he started Conan, so that is the way he drew them. Russell is a slender guy, he draws Conan that way; all his men tend to be lithe and slender. But Buscema drew with a sense of life; his men weren't freakish. He wasn't Liefeld.

Frazetta was not the first artist to draw Conan. For that, you have to go back to the old Weird Tales books.

Last I checked, the Schwartzenegger version of Conan the Barbarian was released in 1982, so this has been going on since long before the 1990s. Same goes for He-Man, who was a staple of the 1990s and from what I gather was fairly musclebound. And aside from that, I can name a few Japanese video games and anime that depicted their heroes as being very musclebound, like Goku from Dragon Ball Z, for example, not to mention Simon Belmont (who actually looked a lot like Conan in his earlier artwork).

And I wouldn't be so sure about the 1990s really embracing that element either (and for the record, my childhood was during the 1990s): Let's not forget that Beauty and the Beast had as the main villain a guy who practically was built like Schwartzenegger at his peak. And bear in mind, the same movie also was made around the time Howard Ashman was succumbing to the final stages of AIDs (heck, he even added in The Mob Song specifically as a response to perceived reaction to AIDs and gays).

Heck, Superman was pretty much a flying brick, while his nemesis barely was all that musclebound (Lex Luthor, uses wits to try and outwit Superman), so I'm not even sure about that argument either.

Correction, He-man was a staple of the 80s.

Superman up into the 1980s was drawn like a well-muscled but anatomically correct human being. In the 1990s, characters like Cable were drawn as freaks.

Yeah, I don't think so... Broly looked very similar to Cable when he went Legendary Super Saiyan back in 1992 in Japan, and Future Trunks looked similar to Cable when he went Super Saiyan Third Grade, and last I checked, Japan wasn't even remotely affected by the AIDS outbreak.

Besides, Cable was a cyborg last I checked, so it's not like he's a normal human being anyway.

It's not like not being anatomically correct was just a 1990s thing, look at Stardust for crying out loud!

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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