Good Girl Art is a particular category (not quite genre) of comics, characterized by an emphasis on depictions of attractive women. Good Girl Art is usually associated with certain artists who are well-known for their attractive, sexualized renderings of the female form. The examples included here:
— Matt Baker, Phantom Lady
— Frank Cho, Liberty Meadows
— Bruce Timm, Big Barda
— Adam Hughes, Catwoman
are typical of the form. Many more examples of Good Girl Art can be found in Ron Goulart’s book, appropriately titled Good Girl Art.
On the one hand, all of the instances of Good Girl Art included here (and most instances of Good Girl Art more generally) are clearly impressive drawings, judged in terms of skill, draftsmanship, layout, linework, et cetera. In addition, they are (to some of us, at least) immensely enjoyable, immensely beautiful, immensely, uh, immensely, umm… oops, sorry about that! I lost my train of thought staring at Big Barda. Anyway, the point is this: Good Girl Art, in a certain sense and to a certain portion of the population, is just darn nice! In fact, I chose the artists above specifically because I own ‘pin-up’ art books by two of these three artists (Cho and Timm), and my wife has a signed print of Hughes’ Catwoman hanging in her office.
One the other hand, however, it can be easily, and rather compellingly, argued that these overly sexualized images of women – more often than not involving little, no, or malfunctioning clothing, as in some of the examples here – are demeaning. Good Girl Art typically involves provocative poses, and it involves the objectification of the female body almost by definition. It is no accident that Good Girl Art is also known in some circles as ‘headlight comics’. In short, there is an obvious argument to be made that Good Girl Art is sexist, and likewise that an uncritical approval of this kind of art based solely on its aesthetic appeal (its appeal to a large percentage of the population, at least) is equally sexist.
Of course, there are standard responses, some of which contain at least a kernel of truth. Depictions of women in comics are typically more positive than depictions of women in other popular culture media (women in refrigerators notwithstanding). Whatever else might be going on, these characters are usually depicted as powerful, independent, and enjoying a healthy body image. And Good Girl Art is certainly far less offensive than the excesses found in the so-called ‘Bad Girl Art’ of the 1990s (epitomized by Rob Liefeld, click the small image below for the spine-shattering ‘Bad’ness). Nevertheless, it is not clear how far this sort of argument can be taken.
The story may also be even more complicated in the case of Matt Baker. While he is one of the paradigm instances of Good Girl Art artist, he is also one of the first African-American artists working in comic books (possibly the very first!). If we condemn Good Girl Art as sexist, then how are we to reconcile Baker’s immensely important role in the history of the comic art form with the content of his comics?
So, how should we feel about Good Girl Art?