And down the rabbit hole we go…artist Mimi Yoon has defended her “grown up Powerpuff Girls” cover for the comic that was withdrawn after some complaints online. The cover—showing adult versions of the girls drawn in a very tame version of a more fetishy, girlie style that Yoon often uses—was criticized for being an inappropriate for the cover of a kids comic—Yoon posted a public piece on Facebook about the matter:

i am quite overwhelmed but will try to reply all of the supportive messages as soon as i can. and i will continue to create art embracing the beauty of women and femininity. i find all of the accusations for my Powerpuff Girls image sexualizing minors not only ridiculous but also embarrassing (for the accusers) and disturbing especially since it’s started by a person of such value as seen in the pictures below. a person argued that i’ve gained popularity from the situation, but I’VE NEVER ASKED FOR ANY OF THIS, ESPECIALLY IN THIS MANNER. and i’m curious to know why are all the arguments about trying to keep the image away from the girls? what about the boys?

The “person of such value” is retailer Dennis Barger, who is seen in some pretty well known photos hanging out with strippers after a day at the Detroit Fanfare.

While I can understand Yoon’s dismay—and as she points out the image has been seen in more places than it ever would have had the controversy not arisen—it doesn’t really change anything I said in my last post. And Yoon herself doesn’t seem to be to clear on marketing: PPG is “for girls,” not “for boys.” I mean I guess if you slapped a sexy cover on it it would be more for boys, since that is the unievrsla signal for “Boys welcome here”, but that would be…unfortunate.

I think there’s a happy ending to this—in a tweet IDW eic Chris Ryall indicated that they’ve hired Yoon for another cover, and I’m sure there are a ton of books at IDW that would be appropriate for her attractive, but more pin-up focused art.

Then there’s the matter of Dennis Barger and the strippers. I’m not a big fan of going to strip clubs after a hard day at the convention, but to be fair, just because he goes to strip clubs, doesn’t mean he can’t be concerned about off-target art on the cover of a children’s comic. The two things are actually not related. Oh these kerfuffles, they are getting more and more complicated with every passing day.


  1. It’s kind of sad that it seems like she’s gotten so used to illustrating cheesecake and erotica in her regular work that she’s become desensitized and can no longer recognize what her art actually looks like.

    Granted, the individual elements of this piece are pretty tame. If it was JUST thigh-high boots and mini-skirts, or JUST shiny latex outfits, or JUST Bratz-esque 6-year-old faces on 16-year-old bodies, it wouldn’t seem like an issue. But put all of those together, it starts to get a little weird.

  2. I don’t think there’s any fault in erotica or cheesecake, when placed in a fair setting. But the choice to recommission the piece for an all ages title was probably not the best one. The art is fine, but not when used to advertise something that’s aimed at kids? I think that’s where I stand with this one

  3. They are absolutely related.

    If Dennis B gets to complain that a brand is being “perverted”, then isn’t that exactly what he’s doing by allowing the Detroit Fanfare brand to be slapped onto the back of a stripper’s behind? Thumbs up! He’s so concerned about his kids, but he certainly doesn’t seem to mind taking a picture with a girl in a sexualized Batgirl nightie. Those pictures absolutely speak to his character. And I find it incredibly lacking and hypocritical.

  4. “The art is fine, but not when used to advertise something that’s aimed at kids? I think that’s where I stand with this one”

    So kids aren’t allowed to see grown up versions of other characters? That’s sexualization? Then what the heck is Young Indiana Jones? I guess everyone was perverted for seeing him as a kid now?

    This isn’t about the art – it’s about the perception and reaction of others to the art. Sometimes it’s not always an agenda. People should think beyond outrage and trying to speak for children. They are smarter than people give them credit for.

  5. Mikael: If you think it’s the characters being portrayed as older that people are objecting to, then you aren’t even close to understanding the discussion being had.

    Growing up, we’re all (men and women) bombarded with images of sexualized women in the media to the point where we all (men and women) end up at least a little desensitized to it — some more than others. Many girls growing up don’t even realize that these are sexualized images, and don’t start to question it until their older. Some never question it. Either way, women end up with body issues due to sexualized or unrealistic portrayals of the female body, and the subtle suggestion that women are valued most for their sex appeal.

    Young girls deserve to have at least a few safe spaces where they’re not being told that women always need to be sexy. The sexualization in this PPG image might be pretty tame to what appears on others comics, but it’s still a sexy variation on the characters (even if the artist would prefer to call it “sassy”).

  6. I liked the cover and I thought it was fine. It was a *limited* and separate order code. It was commissioned by Cartoon Network and approved. The idea that this is only for very young kids is denying the very obvious demographic seen by Cartoon Network with teens, college students and adults — just as we see with Adventure Time, Puppycat, Spongebob, and all the bronies for My Little Pony.

    I feel some folks are projecting too much into the cover — which that’s all it is (it is not the content of the book and it’s not like comic covers are always faithful to their interiors). A retailer should know the traffic in their store and order appropriately. It’s no different than ordering Punisher versus ordering Punisher Max. Nobody is forcing anyone to buy that cover version.

  7. “PPG is ‘for girls,’ not ‘for boys.'”

    I’m legitimately curious as to how you came to that conclusion, since The Powerpuff Girls has always been a property with wide demographic appeal. I’m pretty sure that Craig McCracken, Cartoon Network, and the creators working on the comics (obviously including Mimi Yoon) would all say that The Powerpuff Girls is “for” everybody.

  8. @Jimmie, I hope you can understand why “it’s a subscription variant aimed at collectors, not the show’s target audience” mainly translates to some of us as “it’s aimed at grown dudes,” which makes me uneasy in a different way.

    And while there are certainly perfectly sane and normal Bronies, I’ve heard too many stories of preteen girls cosplaying as their favorite ponies getting sexually harassed (and I mean literally being surrounded by dudes in their 20s and told “I want to fuck you”) at cons to be all that eager to encourage the development of a male-oriented PPG fandom.

    Adventure Time comics, on the other hand, encourage artists to keep their own style when doing covers and back-ups, and they appeal to AT’s vast adult audience without having Marceline show a bit of thigh.

  9. Sometimes artists intend one thing and execute something else. It doesn’t make them terrible people or their art terrible, but it does mean it can be inappropriate for a particular audience or not come across the way they think. There are visual cues in the piece that make it fetish-y and sexualized. Part of it is the style of art, part of it is the way they’re posed, what they’re wearing, and a whole bunch of other things. And for another book, it would be completely fine. But this one is for children. I recognize this cover was meant to be a collector variant, but I think that says something pretty disturbing…since that is clearly supposed to be older men that the characters are aimed at. Implying that, apparently, they need to age up and sexify children characters. As a fan item, for Tumblr or Deviantart? Sure. As an official cover, however rare, for a mass market product whose interiors and entire story are still for children?

    The argument that the problem is the older characters is ludicrous and blatantly ignores the context people are talking about. You can age up characters without sexualizing them at all. Of course you can draw child characters older. You can even sexualize them if that’s your thing. Go check out MLP fan art if you really want to get creeped out by that kind of thing. But I really doubt any of that stuff is going to make it onto an official cover any time soon.

    I think people are also getting stuck on the idea of “extreme”. It doesn’t need to be. In fact, more subtle portrayals are worse because they are less blatant, insidious, and likely to be internalized. Check out all the “sexy” Halloween costumes for girls, to the point where parents are often unable to find anything age appropriate for pre-pubescent girls. Check out the Bratz dolls, or the weird attire for girls, or “high heels” for babies. People are getting their 5 year old’s waxed. Media for girls is heavily saturated with the message that how they look matters more than who they are. So, you know, it doesn’t all exist in a vacuum. And as grown ups, it really is our responsibility to critique that kind of thing and wonder what exactly we’re saying to kids, what we’re passively condoning.

    Look, I think kids are really smart and I don’t even think they’re a-sexual. But they are inexperienced, they are less savvy about these things unless they’ve been taught to be, and it’s not an 8 year old’s responsibility to address the sexualization of young girls. That’s on us. Just because this isn’t the most outlandish example doesn’t mean it isn’t still an example. I’ve worked with kids, they soak up these messages like sponges. And they don’t know, because they haven’t learned yet, about the ways the media is working on them.

    I don’t think Yoon needs to be shamed for her art or her image. She did what was asked of her. The choice was CN’s and they, as people who have made a LOT of children’s shows, should not have thought this was a good idea. But given what some folks (like Paul Dini) have said about the overall attitude towards the girl audience in animation…it’s not exactly shocking.

  10. I would have an easier time taking this seriously if all-ages comics weren’t treated as an afterthought. One of the most popular children’s characters in the world, Batman, is frequently depicted doing all sorts of stuff like having sex with Catwoman or breaking dude’s faces in and that’s ok with everyone. But when it’s a comic no one would give a thought to otherwise, it suddenly becomes, “Won’t someone think of the children???”

    Either have the same standards for everyone or don’t. But this way of saying, “These children’s characters get to be adult, but these don’t!” is foolish.

  11. If kids were actually buying the comics in a way that made up a marketing percentage then I’d agree. But currently it is the parents who buy the majority of comics for themselves and their kids. Comics are very expensive nowadays – the kind of money that is no longer pocket change. So I still see this as *target marketing* in comic book stores, not in grocery stores and general book stores. Thus, looking at this from a business perspective, Cartoon Network’s actions appear to be right on target. Will it make everyone happy? Nope. But that is why it was a special order — meaning someone would have to go out of their way to get it. In short, I understand why folks are concerned, I’m not dense, but I’m also concerned that this is not an option for those who do want it. I don’t want to get into anecdotal evidence because that is problematic (I’m sure we can google a metric ton of cosplayers in sexy kid-friendly characters), but I’d rather focus on the available diversity for readers who actually purchase what they want.

  12. Having had a table next to Mr. Barger at a Mid_ohio-Con several years ago, and having watched him ask every attractive and scantily clad female cosplayer to pose for a picture in front of his table, and having also had the displeasure to hear his commentary on those same cosplayers afterward, I can pretty safely say that the first impression you get of the man after looking at the picture above (of him posing with those strippers) is exactly the right one.

    All of that isn’t to say that he can’t be genuinely concerned about “the kids, oh god, what about the kids,” just that he’s not exactly a champion of feminism, either.

  13. It seems that the comics / retailer / pop culture audience at large has drawn a line in the sand. They don’t want the Powerpuff Girls sexualized, aged-up, whatever-you-want-to-call-it… period.

    It was a mistake in judgement. They are made occasionally. The fault lies with Cartoon Network who commissioned the cover in the first place, not the artist who designed and drew the cover she was hired to do. Given the recent kerfuffle over how CN wants to position itself – as a boys network – I am not surprised at the commission.

  14. Where’s the outrage about taking overly sexualized characters (Vampirella, Red Sonja) and showing us their “L’il” versions?

  15. “City firefighters investigated Dennis Barger basement for dangerous gas levels and discovered amateur nude photographs along with a bar and stripper pole. Barger caught city police officers on videotape improperly searching his basement and discussing their intent to seize materials without a warrant. He filed a lawsuit against the city claiming officers violated his civil rights. Ypsilanti officials agreed to pay Barger a $100,000 settlement. (Apr-23-05)”

  16. It’s just pretty weird to see a sexualized version of children’s characters being used in any official capacity. I don’t see how the “it’s for girls” or “it’s for boys, too” thing even matters. (Though for what it’s worth, when I was younger I had a passing interest in the show. It seemed like it was targeted more towards girls but not in a strict way.)

    I guess the only way I can see that this cover would be okay is if the people behind Powerpuff Girls wanted to grow the characters up in some way, or tell more mature stories with them. I mean if they were going to attempt a line of stories with more complex plots that were intended for an older audience anyway, then I can see where that would open the art and subject matter enough that it would sensibly accommodate some fairly tame sexiness like this cover showed. But isn’t Powerpuff Girls generally marketed towards really young kids still? If that’s the case, then there’s no way this is appropriate. It isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but it’s obviously ill-considered.

    I don’t really see how the picture of that Dennis guy is relevant, though. So anyone who poses with strippers isn’t allowed to say that anything might be too sexy for kids? I have a friend who took pictures of herself with Chippendales dancers once. Does that mean she’s being a hypocrite if she doesn’t let her 2-year-old daughter watch adult movies? . . . It is a funny picture of that dude, though. So I guess it’s worth posting. lol

  17. My wife summed it up perfectly when we were at a small local con checking out artist alley. “Does everything need a sexy version?”

    She was pretty offended by all of these comic and cartoon characters getting turned into sexy art as the normal thing. I’m not a fan of “sexy time” becoming a design genre in comics, but I seem to be in the minority.

    I guess my big question is what’s the harm in keeping kids characters innocent and just for kids?

  18. “So anyone who poses with strippers isn’t allowed to say that anything might be too sexy for kids? I have a friend who took pictures of herself with Chippendales dancers once.”

    Evidently the moral colour of an action depends entirely on the gender of who does it.

  19. “If you think it’s the characters being portrayed as older that people are objecting to, then you aren’t even close to understanding the discussion being had.”

    Bzzzt. Thanks for playing. I’m objecting to the point that people CAN’T or WON’T see that these are older portrayals of the characters. Not sexualized. Do a google search of Powerpuff Cosplayers. Many many many photos of OLDER girls cosplaying as OLDER versions of the characters in tinier clothes than the one on the cover.

    Let’s not get it twisted. People are projecting what they want to see based on a man who was once caught with a stripper dungeon in his basement. You know – from his “wilder days” – even though he had a wife and kid at that point. Yea. He’s the cheerleader of being sensitive.

  20. I don’t think someone has to be a champion of feminism (there should be tee shirts for that) for them to be concerned about characters that are supposed to be kindergartners being portrayed as PVC-wearin’ teens.

    I don’t think the Batman/Catwoman outright havin’ sex, bit, in new 52 was “OK with everyone”, either – it wasn’t, there was a lotta talk about that. Saying that because Bats-n-Cats happened, so what’s the big deal about PVC Powerpuffs is disingenuous. DC Comics editors have acknowledged that the target demographic for their comics are middle-aged men, with very few comics made for children. The audience for PowerPuff Girls is kids, & there’s enough subtle adult humor in there to entertain adults, too.

    Since I used to color some art that I’ve since come to see differently, some of which was objectifying of women, obviously my opinions will be taken w/ the same grain of salt as Mr. Berger’s, right? But the thing is, you can have adult appreciation of other adults/sexuality/etc, and still have thoughts about that kind of confusion or disconnect: child characters being portrayed as sexy, shiny teenaged women on the cover.

    I happen to like Ms. Yoon’s art, it’s pretty. I understand how variant covers work & all. ;) But, this image would have been more appropriate for Powerpuff Girls Z, the Japanese spin-off in which the Powerpuffs are teens.

    Ms. Yoon did the job asked of her by the holders of the license: Cartoon Network & IDW. This is a case of brand confusion on their part.

  21. Holy Batman, someone should drag out some pictures of Red Sonja, Vampirella or almost any female super hero. That powerpuff girls cover is like 1/10 on “sexualized females” scale, and thats being generous. They don’t have visible boobs nor are they bigger than their heads. They don’t show much skin nor are they bending over for ass shots. One of them is showing her leg a bit and I guess their clothes are shiny? “Super sexy”. As a person who dislikes how females are portrayed in most comics I would love if all of them were sexualized like those girls.

    But think about the children! Are they even buying this? As far as I know series ended like 7 years ago. I’m sure that there are reruns and some specials here and there, but I have hard time believing that some young girl is actually going to comics shop to buy this.

    Moreover its a variant cover. Concerned parent (who is more likely to buy this for his kids than kids themselves) can always buy a regular cover. And as far as I’m aware with subscriptions you don’t get variants, so it wouldn’t happen by accident either.

    This is really perfect example of first worlds problems. I guess since DC stopped (for now) kicking artists and writers from their books there is nothing else to write about.

  22. Reading that facebook page I found interesting comment that I think is worth quoting:

    “Little Red Riding Hood:Traditionally a minor, Alice in Wonderland: traditionally a minor, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz: minor, yet Zenescope has made a career of blatantly sexualizing those characters for YEARS. Where, as a retailer that surely sells these books, was his outrage over those??? Which by the way are FAR more cheesecake than your very fun and well depicted PPG variant that in all likelihood would have gone unnoticed if not for the efforts of this “selfless crusader””

    Where are the campaigns for shutting down Zenescope? Is it okay because they are publishing “mature” comics? But what difference does that make if young girl is about as likely to get powerpuff issue with that variant cover as any of Zenescope’s issues?

  23. Nick said:

    “I’m pretty sure that Craig McCracken, Cartoon Network, and the creators working on the comics (obviously including Mimi Yoon) would all say that The Powerpuff Girls is “for” everybody.”

    I’m with Nick, Heidi. Why is PPG “for girls?” Doesn’t it have a significant number of male fans? And if so, isn’t that a positive change in the culture, a la HUNGER GAMES, that signals more willingness of male readers to patronize female characters?

    I do not find the contested Yoon drawing to be more than moderately sexualized, on the level I call “GLAMOR” in this essay:


    I don’t regard this particular Yoon drawing as coming up to the level of sexualization necessary for the cheesecake of “TITILLATION,” much less the in-your-face qualities of “PORNIFICATION.”

  24. I notice that the image chosen to illustrate this article on the Beat’s homepage is that of Mr. Berger & his lady pals, as opposed to the PowerPuff Girls cover in question. ’cause talking about the dude who raised these concerns is totes more important than the art being discussed.

    As for the Zenescope Fairy Tales..those covers accurately represent what’s inside the books. Most comics people know that those books aren’t for kids.

    Not all fans of PowerPuff Girls are comic book people.

    What’s wrong with wanting a comic for kids (not just girls, children, which includes boys) to look cartoony & young?

    To repeat: there is zero issue w/ Ms. Yoon having made the cover – it’s what Cartoon Network signed off on. & I have adult pals who’ve done kinda-sexy adult PPF cosplay. The issue here is simply (to me, anyhow) that this one title happens to be geared towards kids. There’s not much left in comics that is. ;) What’s so wrong with wanting the cover to match the interior? Not everything has to be sexy. There’s nothin’ wrong with some sexy, but it’s not right for everything.

    Saying the image isn’t sexy or sexualized next to Vampirella or Starfire isn’t a fair comparison, also.

  25. This discussion might be relevant if significant numbers of children were actually going to read this comic.

  26. Why can’t the teenage Powerpuff Girls be sexual? As it happens, real-world teenagers have sex. WTF, let the girls be sexual, god knows the male teenage superheroes are.

  27. Personally, I find Hasbro’s My Little Pony Equestria Girls designs way more aged up than Yoon’s Powerpuff Girls designs. The only thing Mimi Yoon did was emphasize the 3D forms by using “airbrush” style shading and bright white pinprick highlights to make the body shapes (ie BREASTS) pop off the page like a well lit Dyson vacuum ad photo. If she had used a flatter, more graphic painting style I don’t think anyone would have cared.

    Also, Furries.

  28. “My wife summed it up perfectly when we were at a small local con checking out artist alley. “Does everything need a sexy version?”


  29. Hey, I like the art! I think it’s pretty. Just, as said already, sorry for the repeating, it woulda been better on the Powerpuff Girlz Z Japanese spinoff, as the Powerpuff Girl Z characters girls are already teenagers, rather than as a cover of a cartoony book about super-hero 5 & 6 year old girls.

    Again, not seeing why that’s a problem. I don’t think this art shouldn’t exist. It’d just be better if it was more cohesively in tune with the book’s content.

    If there was a “Tiny Toons” comic book, aimed mostly at kids, should it have Babs Bunny done up as a sexy shiny pinup?

    How about Garfield? Should a Garfield collection have the girl cat, Arlene, made into a half-cat, half-human & done as cheesecake art? No. Because it wouldn’t be an accurate representation of what’s on the inside of the book, right?

  30. @Eva – I think it has less to do with the content of the comic (covers have inaccurately described contents of comics for decades) but more about the target audience. And I don’t mean “folks who buy variant covers,” I mean “kids.”

    I have no problem with the art. The pin-up style certainly fetishizes them and as someone who LOVED the PPG when I was growing up, it’s super unsettling to see. But that’s the style Yoon uses a lot, right? There’s a good amount of folks who love the pin-up looking art, not because they actually think it’s sexy, but because they like the ascetic. (Anecdotally, most people I know who do are usually women. I don’t know if that’s unusual or not but that’s a subject for another day.) But applying the style to characters that are targeted to younger kids was a poor choice.

  31. @Hufnagel: I guess I wasn’t very coherent: that was exactly my point. Pretty art, poor choice for the target audience.

  32. I grew up with Batman and Superman looking like gay porn on my birthday cake plates, deliciously hot abs. And I turned out okay, well okay might be a stretch. That being said Fowlers’ sketch was way better.

Comments are closed.