Wednesday 26th November 2014,
Comic Booked

Powerpuff Controversy Continues: Updates and Censorship

Skott Jimenez 01/28/2014 News

My opinion and it goes a little something like this:

The City of Townsville has stood against its fair share of monsters and baddies over the years but it seems that the city’s defenders, the Powerpuff Girls simply could not defeat the self-appointed morality police officer Dennis Barger, Jr. –

To recap: IDW’s popular comic based on the animated series The Powerpuff Girls recently came under fire when one man finally saw the variant cover for next months’ sixth issue. He raised a stink on his Facebook page, and somehow, was able to get Cartoon Network to pull the cover and deny the fans a chance to see some creative cover art. Of course, it must be said that this is how the events unfolded from my personal perspective and I talked about them previously.

Regardless, there are many points here that have been ignored that should be brought to light in order for this issue to be fully resolved in a fair way. First I want to again share the ‘offending’ cover:

Powerpuff Girls

The cover was done by artist Mimi Yoon. She was hand-picked by Cartoon Network and they approved the cover she did for them. At that time, no one was offended. The cover would have then have to go to IDW where, again, no one found it offensive. Now, I’m no expert on how these things work but I don’t think these sort of things happen over night and I’m willing to concede that there may not have been that many people who actually saw the piece. However in November 2013 IDW released its solicitations for books coming out in February 2014 and the supposedly offensive cover was featured in those solicits.

November 15, 2013 is the date I’ve seen on some sites that list full solicits. Now, in his ‘open letter’ to, I assume, comics fans and retailers he admits the following:

I am a huge supporter of IDW and especially their all-ages line of comics. It wasn’t until they released My Little Pony comic books, that I decided to dedicate almost 10% of my store to a kids’ section. Now when I say kids, I mean kids the age of my children, 6-12 years old. This is the pure age that if you get them into a habit of reading, they will read for a life time. I have been a huge supporter of IDW’s cartoon network licenses with Samurai Jack and Powerpuff Girls.

He continues:

It was submitted through Diamond Previews to retailers, ordered by retailers and finally on Final Order Cut Off date seen by me for the first time. It was clearly missed by several people, because some didn’t find it offensive and other just simply didn’t look hard enough. When I finally saw it, I was floored, angry and dismayed.

Again between the release of the solicits in November and the Final Order Cut Off date he didn’t actually look at the comics he says make up almost 10% of his shelf space. But beyond that, he even says if anyone else saw the cover they didn’t find it offensive. By the way, the cut off date for that month was December 18th.

I’ll give him that maybe he didn’t think a cover like this would ever exist but even so there is little chance that no one came into his store and raised some concern about it after the cover image was released. All this tells me is no one but him had a problem with it. My question is why did it take this long for him to actually say anything about it?

Moving on, let’s take a look at what he claims is wrong with this cover:

Are we seriously sexualizing pre-teen girls like perverted writing fan fiction writers on the internet???? is that what this shit has gotten to? DISGUSTED.

His issue is the supposed ‘sexualizing’ of the Powerpuff Girls. He has a problem with what he thinks is sexualizing children because, in the cartoon the Girls are in kindergarten and he simply cannot divorce that version from the older version featured on the cover. He later took issue with the ‘ latex bondage wear’ the Girls are wearing which begs the question of what makes it bondage wear? It’s nothing more than latex versions of their original costumes. Compare the skirts to the younger versions and you see they aren’t any shorter either.

The latex bondage comment got a response from the artist, Mimi Yoon:

DO KNOW THAT I AM DAMM PROUD OF THIS WORK OF MINE.

my objective was to illustrate modern, pop cultured, SASSY (not sexy), and humanized Powerpuff Girls who have just beaten the crime lord and have him on the ground. yes, the girls are wearing latex costumes… SO?!?!?! don’t all superpowered heroes wear latex?

unfortunately, the comic book will never make it to the stores… yes, i’m truely disappointed… because a perverted mind decided to see in this image what his dirty mind has conjured up, and barked loud enough. worse, he brought up kids and used protecting kids and kids’ perspective in his reasoning/excuse. does he think kids are dumber than him?

I have to agree with her on this. It seems like any time someone wants to ban or censor something they use ‘the children’ as their shield against any criticism. Barger himself referred to the criticism he’s received as being a ‘witch hunt’, but honestly, Yoon had no intentions of this cover being sexual. It seemed more likely that she was simply showing us that the Girls would still be kicking villain butt when they are teenagers. Even the poses they are in aren’t sexual, unless you really think teen girls sitting and standing is always sexual.

In his open letter Barger claims he’s no longer going to talk about this issue, a stance he reiterated on my Facebook page, and why should he? He managed to deny an artist exposure and fans a chance to own a great cover simply because he found it offensive. But I think both Cartoon Network and IDW Publishing need to revisit this issue and look at the full picture. The cover was approved and it was made public for months before Barger suddenly had an issue with it. No one else seemed to have a problem with it. It was a variant cover, which traditionally is not aimed at children and not always aimed at the book’s regular readership. I’ve picked up a lot of book only because of the variant cover and most of those are from series I have no interest in reading. Others became books I’ve added to my pull list.

But what does this say about an industry that claims to want more women involved and stronger female characters? Mimi Yoon had a chance to something major, was hand-picked and her art approved, but had it smashed to bits because one man, a man who himself has treats women in a questionable manner, complained about it. So much for supporting women in the industry, right?

Finally *phew* let’s look at Barger himself. Now, certain things were brought to light about his, shall we say, questionable business dealings and certain situations at conventions but all that was a long time ago and I feel not relevant to this situation, same with certain items he once had in his basement, but let’s look at what this champion of female empowerment does at his own show, Detroit Fanfare:

Dennis Barger Dennis Barger

Also, those panties in the pictures above? Yeah, they sell those at his show. They are on the same table as Detroit Fanfare t-shirts, variant comics, prints and other items. Not hidden away from the eyes of children or people who may not be interested in seeing panties at a comic book convention. It’s also interesting how he’s opposed to older versions of cartoon characters being drawn in a certain way, but when an actual sexually charged character gets a book that is specifically aimed at kids he has no issue with it.

Vampirella Vampirella

So, what’s the point of all this? Simple: if we let one person think their feelings are more important than everyone else’s, and this stands – then what’s to say someone else, or even Dennis himself, wouldn’t begin to complain about other covers and books and demand they get pulled? It’s admirable to want to make things ‘child friendly’ but there is a point where it becomes too much. This cover was not sexual in any way but because his mind, for some reason, was already there he pitched a fit and it got pulled. During all this people like me, who liked the cover, became ‘perverts’ because we saw it as it was, not what he wanted us to see it as. We have to understand that if something offends you that you just need to learn to deal with it. There are no laws that protect your feelings and there shouldn’t be. The best way this situation could have been handled was for Barger to refuse to offer the book to his customers and return the book to IDW in hopes of getting a refund or credit.

I guess this is a long-winded way of saying Dennis Barger, Jr. may have seen the cover as being sexual but considering that he was apparently the only one for months who thought it… well, I’ve seen others ask what kind of person looks at such a cover and instantly thinks sex? I call on Cartoon Network and IDW Publishing to reinstate the cover or, at least, offer it as a limited edition print and maybe send some of the proceeds to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a group that fights censorship in comics. Follow those highlighted links to join me.

Moral values, censorship? What is really at the heart of this Powerpuff debate?

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About The Author

I've been collecting comic books for over 20 years, over that time I've learned a lot about the history of the industry and that fascinates me so I'm always looking for new sources of information. If it's about comic books then I'm interested.

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