ZEBRA GIRL UPDATED WEEKENDS BY JOE ENGLAND

- Latest Page Posted 18th Feb 2017, 9:08 PM

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ZEBRA GIRL
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COMMENTS FROM THE AUTHOR

view Joe England's profile

18th Feb 2017, 10:21 PM

Joe England

You thought I wouldn't draw attention to it, didn't you? I can see how you thought that. Some cartoonists gradually increase the fan service in their comics and don't directly address it. It's just "art evolution." And that's fine for them. But, well, I dance to the beat of a different drum. And I say there's a reason for everything! If I'm inclined to draw my characters in a more titillating manner as time passes, it's going to have a canonical, thematically appropriate explanation!

Besides, it's never too late for another little subplot.

- EDIT, 2/19/17: If you're interested, I'd like to direct your attention to the comments below, specifically the notes left by Azi and Murmur. I want to thank them for voicing their feelings regarding this recently lampshaded development, and I hope that my responses can offer insight to anyone else who might feel similarly. It's important to me that you know that your concerns are important to me, and that I give honest thought to any criticism. I'm grateful to anyone who takes the time to help the comic by articulating an honest impression.

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COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE

18th Feb 2017, 10:27 PM

Syncronocity

Boobs are their own reason.

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18th Feb 2017, 10:37 PM

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Love Betty's expression in the second to last panel.

Ever thought about doing a completely adult version of ZG (or going back and editing all 15+ years) so as to have something for your Patrons? There's no way you can be such a good artist and not have some... "extras" hidden in an extra folder ;) Maybe even a storyline where Zandra tempts Jack, classic succubus style.

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view Joe England's profile

20th Feb 2017, 12:40 AM

Joe England

Hah, well, the commissions in my DeviantArt gallery are as adult as I get, I'm afraid. I don't think I'd know where to begin with an entirely erotic version of the comic!

Mind you, I'm not saying I don't have extra private folders in secret hidden places. They just probably don't have the kind of stuff you have in mind.

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20th Feb 2017, 8:12 PM

Rhio2k

Got anything with Betty?

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view Joe England's profile

20th Feb 2017, 11:49 PM

Joe England

Well, there's something in my scraps folder wherein Betty and Bloo engage in scandalous behavior.

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18th Feb 2017, 10:39 PM

CG Hardy

The Massmary Effect is spreading.

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18th Feb 2017, 10:43 PM

Hangover Included

Jeez Joe, you're such a tease! How am I gonna wait a whole week for more of this?

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18th Feb 2017, 10:50 PM

Hangover Included

Some times I honestly can't tell if your characters are reaching out through the fourth wall to lampshade something, or if you're really just actually setting up a plot.

Often I'm not at all sure that you aren't doing both at once in some kind of doublethink Heisen-plan. Maybe you have a grand plan, maybe you just noticed your art style has changed subtly and are pretending that it was intentional, maybe both at the same time. I'll never know. Which totally makes it even better.

You are the captain of my dreams, carry on your noble mission!

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view Joe England's profile

18th Feb 2017, 10:57 PM

Joe England

Thank you, I aim to steer as best I'm able!

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view Umbral Reaver's profile

18th Feb 2017, 11:09 PM

Umbral Reaver

Perhaps Zandra's ability to subconsciously warp reality around her is being affected by her awakening realisation of her desires. An unreasonably sexy rabbit gives Zandra a dance. Zandra starts thinking about how much she really likes boobs. Reality slowly warps toward a boob-dominant state.

Whatever the case, I approve wholeheartedly. :3

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18th Feb 2017, 11:32 PM

Hangover Included

This is my new favorite super power

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view Umbral Reaver's profile

19th Feb 2017, 12:30 AM

Umbral Reaver

If Jack ever finds out, his new life goal may be to seek mastery of that power.

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19th Feb 2017, 4:22 AM

Morfos

How do you know it isn't Jack doing it? He's a reality manipulator. "Something sexy is happening somewhere." Bet that made him think of boobs.

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18th Feb 2017, 11:43 PM

Havenchaser

Panel three, it just made my day. The perfect manic grin of a vorpal pook with cuddle-interruptis.

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18th Feb 2017, 11:52 PM

Hangover Included

Betty is ten pounds of crazy in a five pound sack, being carried by Steven King's It. But she makes it look good. ...like, really really good.

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19th Feb 2017, 1:21 AM

John

Ah, but, Zandra, as you've just observed, the most common superpower is getting more common!

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19th Feb 2017, 1:22 AM

Rock

Interesting.... I wonder.

Anyhoo, I'm looking forward to seeing Zandra break out.

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19th Feb 2017, 1:53 AM

Nestor

But think of chains guy's reputation if you break free, Zandra. What about chains guy?

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19th Feb 2017, 3:45 AM

Dae

I suspect that "Zandra" is going to have some epiphany on her identity and "true name," leading up to the chains just not being accurate anymore.
His reputation isn't on the line if you hired him to imprison a cat, and then that cat turned into a dog.

As is in classic folklore, you just have to think very carefully about what you ask for.

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19th Feb 2017, 12:06 PM

Chazz

Either that, or they were never actually effective on her in the first place, and she was just playing along because she didn't feel like it was the appropriate time to just flex and bust out.

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19th Feb 2017, 5:20 AM

eoforyth

Boobs. Perhaps it has something to do with Zandra finally being able to have sex, after all that time not able to touch 'normal' guys due to acidic bodily fluids? She is certainly surprised by her own sexuality recently, but maybe it is 'busting' out all over the place! I shall look forward to having you explain this matter at some point :)

Hmmm, names. I wonder where this is leading.

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19th Feb 2017, 6:16 AM

Guest

"Try to keep collateral damage to a minimum."

Interesting that Zandra gives a damn about collateral damage. The question is, <i>why</i> does she care about that? Is it a resurgence of empathy and/or compassion, is it the <i>realpolitik</i> recognition that she's got few resources to command and every instance of unnecessary damage is a waste of energy, it is something else entirely?

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19th Feb 2017, 12:28 PM

Nestor

Did you miss the whole tail end of the subfusc arc? The whole realization in Incubus' illusion space "I was torturing people!" "what was I doing?" etc?? If anything it's the whole reign of terror thing now that needs explaining.

My take is leading and pacing, it's easier to lead a mob of monsters with a plan to make a reign of terror, and then you gently steer them into basically making Halloween a little livelier.

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19th Feb 2017, 6:20 AM

Guest

Okay, HTML tags don't work here. Let's see if BBcode tags do the job…

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19th Feb 2017, 6:22 AM

Guest

…and yes, BBCode tags work. Cool.

Any chance of getting s "preview" function for the comments, Joe? It'd cut down on typoes and crap…

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 9:43 PM

Joe England

Sorry about that, I usually just go back and edit the posts when I need to. I'm not sure you can do that as a "Guest." There's also a box that I can tick to enable HTML, though doing so disables BBCode.

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19th Feb 2017, 7:08 AM

Siansaar

Oh you rascal :D

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 9:44 PM

Joe England

Shucks! 'Tweren't nothing.

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19th Feb 2017, 7:29 AM

Azi

I'm a woman who's followed this comic for years, and I gotta say this strip makes me feel gross. :/ I guess Zebra Girl has always incorporated some fan service, and I've definitely become more sensitive to it as I got older...idk. It just undercut the gravity of the situation for me in an icky, objectifying way, not in a humorous or interesting one.

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19th Feb 2017, 7:50 AM

RedMattis

To be fair there is no way people can like every change. Personally I don't care either way. If you can ignore it, then just ignore it, if it creeps you out too much there are other comics.

I think it is easier to find enjoyable reading material if you can look past stuff you're not interested in. I for example while I don't like furries I still manage to enjoy Twokind; I just shrug and read on when the obvious fan-service targeting that audience happens.

I get you though. Sometimes something hits a nerve, and we all have our limits. Personally, as an example, I really dislike excessive gore for the sake of gore; I've dropped a few zombie comics due to getting too grossed out by gore-fetishism.

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view Umbral Reaver's profile

19th Feb 2017, 9:49 AM

Umbral Reaver

I enjoy it, but then I'm gay as hell for Zandra. :3

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19th Feb 2017, 1:16 PM

Murmur

Yeah, as a woman who started reading this at 13, I'm really glad this didn't start earlier. It's not enjoyable.

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 3:15 PM

Joe England

Murmur, I was at a convention not too long ago. I had the recent comics on display at my table, printed in a portfolio. And a young girl, maybe thirteen or younger, happened by and started turning the pages. I was initially quite happy that she was interested, but then she got to the part where Zandra's in her bathrobe talking to Gregore.

She wandered off, and I remember being concerned over the impression I'd sent. I questioned whether it was the sort of impression I WANTED to send. I still don't feel too good about it. Sometimes I feel almost like I hurt her somehow.

Unfortunately, artists can't always fully control the direction that their muse nudges them towards. And I know how that sounds, like I'm trying to shrug off responsibility for what I create, but it's true. It's HARD to resist an inclination. Making art is indulgent, a series of impulsive acts, an artist humoring his or her passions.

I don't know why this developed. It wasn't a deliberate choice to start drawing the women with more voluptuous figures. But somewhere along the line it began, my pencil swerving to accentuate those lines, to allow the bodies to form more provocatively. Maybe Jack gained greater power in the land of my imagination. Maybe it was the Pook in my Black Warren waking from their sleep. Or perhaps it was tied to Sandra's own corruption, when she initially freed herself from her conscience to live as a demon, a subconscious signal to my own psyche to loosen certain constraints.

Whatever the case, I can't deny that it brought me pleasure as well as concern. Zebra Girl isn't easy to make. Every week, every page is an effort. It was hard to resist something that made the work a little more fun for me.

I can't make excuses, because at the end of the day no one draws this comic but me. But I also write it, and that part is more directly governed by conscious action. So I decided that if I was doing this then it would have a reason, that there would be a cause to this effect within the comic itself. Zandra's journey revolves around a changing body, so it seems only right to acknowledge it as another change that she's enduring, and that she's actually aware of it. And if that doesn't justify it, I hope that it can at least mitigate it, and that you can enjoy the work in spite of it.

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19th Feb 2017, 7:44 PM

Guest

I'm not quite bothered, but that's mostly because I'd actually find the increasing curves being ignored more objectifying--seeing the characters notice it is actually nice, because it shifts it from "We're being drawn sexier to titillate you!" to "Actually going on."

That said, it's something I'd definitely want a callback to later--even if it's as simple as a mention of a thing with wings getting attacked by a mob of busty or rather flat people.

Because the Bust Size Fairy is an ass.

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 9:29 PM

Joe England

You can blame the Ass Fairy for that, I hear those two have been feuding for years.

But yes! This is indeed going to come around to something later on.

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20th Feb 2017, 10:01 PM

Dottie

You know? I don't have an issue with women with voluptuous figures (the curvier ladies of Questionable Content are hot), and I love me a sexy comic (Discord Comics is one of my most favorites to visit). I do find it disappointing when character growth is stunted and characters become 2-dimensional for the sake of fan service--especially when a comic was more story- and character-driven to begin with. Also, unrealistically drawn boobs (not talking about size) can off-putting (Bloo's boobs are looking unreal to the point of either being gross or comical).

That is why I am on the border of being uncomfortable with this arc. For what it's worth, though, I am hanging in there for the ride.

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view Joe England's profile

20th Feb 2017, 11:35 PM

Joe England

I'll do my best not to disappoint you, Dottie. I assure you, fan service is not ever going to be Zebra Girl's primary reason for being. In fact, the term is something of a misnomer in this case, since I'm quite certain that most of this comic's fans prefer to be serviced with story and character.

I assure you, I intend for this to be a minor plot point, and definitely not a focal point for the arc as a whole. It's simply that I've been inclined to draw curvier figures lately, and I just wanted for there to be a reason for it happening within the context of the story.

What's more, it felt disrespectful to the characters to pass off the change as merely a facet of an evolving art style. They're not toys, they're living people (in the way that fictional people come to life), and they deserved to perceive the trend. If it's noticeable to those of us on this side of the screen, leaving them blind to it would have seemed almost like a joke at their expense.

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 2:41 PM

Joe England

Thank you for saying so, Azi, and I mean that sincerely. Really, I do. The fact of the matter is, part of me feels the same way. And I'm aware of how hypocritical that sounds, since I'm the one DOING it.

But over time I found myself indulging in this sort of thing, and sometimes it's harder to tell when you're doing it than when you look back and realize you've done it. I did start drawing women in a curvier, more voluptuous fashion (and the men with a more idealized physique). This began back in the Outlands arc. I don't really know why, maybe it started when Sandra had to change her outfit from that old belly shirt. Perhaps I should have resisted the trend more when I saw it, but I didn't, because I did enjoy it and it's easier to create the comic when it's fun.

But the comic is a story first and foremost. That's why I wanted for there to be a reason for it. I didn't want it to be an arbitrary stylistic trait. And, given that a recurring theme in Zebra Girl is physical transformation, it seemed natural to frame it as such.

Of course, if you see it as a negative then this doesn't excuse it, and if you disapprove I'm not going to try to convince you otherwise. I hope you believe me when I say that I'm concerned about the impression I send to readers. I can only beg patience and hope that, in your view, the good can outweigh the bad.

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19th Feb 2017, 3:23 PM

Christopher

@Joe England:
The author of Exiern recently had similar concerns. http://www.exiern.com/2017/01/01/nudity-and-exiern/

This was my answer to his concerns:
"I think as a webcomic (a partially new medium), you might be suffering from something similar to what games suffered. So the extra credits episode on that mater should be helpfull. I do not think you are doing anything wrong here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP6gXZPVgD4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1qndga6SNU

(Just avoid looking at the other videos, unless you want to loose a few days)."

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19th Feb 2017, 6:32 PM

Azi

Thanks for responding, Joe. The only reason I felt comfortable airing my feelings was that I'd seen you respond to criticisms before, and you never lashed out. It's really a big deal--especially when it comes to comics--when a female fan knows that she can invoke the dreaded specter of objectification and not be immediately written off or harassed.

I suppose I HAD considered this development a stylistic trait. I didn't have the same reaction to Zandra in her bathrobe with Gregore, or Zandra suddenly exulting in her demonic appearance. (I thought those moments were empowering!) I also thought that the sex scene with Mike was beautifully done, and I loved how she realized his intentions and confronted him afterwards. I think it's hard to convey a heroine who can be realistically vulnerable AND badass, and Zandra nails it.

So, the good certainly outweighs the bad, as you say. I didn't think the boobs needed attention called to them anymore than they were already calling attention to themselves, I suppose. Honestly I hadn't noticed that big of a stylistic change, so this was jarring to me. It felt like we were just supposed to look at the boobs for a sec, out of the blue, and that smacks of objectification--especially when it's all three of these characters, who are VASTLY different, suddenly calling attention to their boobs in the same way. Breaking the fourth wall for boobs feels like shouting "OGLING BREAK!", and when the story is as suspenseful as it is now, that break feels especially unneeded and skeevy. I hope this makes sense.

(Of course, Bloo's breasts are hard to miss. But her conversation with Mike about inspiring lust, plus her general character, made me think that this was more of a character choice than a stylistic one for your own gratification.)

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 8:43 PM

Joe England

Thanks for responding in kind, Azi. I assure you, I don't want to draw much attention to it, and I might not have mentioned it at this point, except that... well, I'll just say that the fourth wall isn't actually being breached. Actually, it's kind of being reinforced by making room within the story to explain a noticeable trend. There's a planned resolution to this plot thread that really will make sense in context, though it's not going to be a focal point compared to the many more pressing issues surrounding the characters. I just saw a chance to not only acknowledge it, but to have it serve a purpose, which is something I hope can be said for all the little trails running through this comic.

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19th Feb 2017, 6:57 PM

Hangover Included

I'm glad you said something, Azi. It sucks that you're not enjoying where the comic is going. As somebody who has also been following for years, I would be really sad to be turned off by an artistic choice.

Obviously I don't have any creative authority here, and frankly I don't have the same reaction that you do, mostly because my tastes like up pretty well with Joe's, but I hear what you're saying and I think it's a pretty reasonable statement.

I guess I don't know what else to say, except maybe this:
Joe, I love your comic and your art, you've always been at the very top of my favorites list, and I don't intend to tell you what you should do. But, if it happened that you decided to scale back on the fan service, I would still love your comic and follow it religiously.

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 11:27 PM

Joe England

Thanks Hangover, it's good to know!

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19th Feb 2017, 12:56 PM

jonathan wint

Explanation? There a Perv Wizard in town and this is his Background Magic radiation.

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19th Feb 2017, 1:22 PM

Voidbane

I blame Jack...
His sexy magic is corrupting the weave of reality.

I mean; just look at Tomie!

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19th Feb 2017, 7:27 PM

Zacolyn

Honestly I wouldn't have noticed the general boob inflation if you hadn't drawn attention to it. I certainly noticed Bloo's, but Bloo WANTS them to be noticed, so that just goes along par for the course.
There's another comic I follow that has a lot of busty girls, and that one's bustiness annoys me to a far greater degree than what's going on here. Considering it's doubled by bad storytelling and every female having inconsistent and ultimately the same personality I'm not sure why I even read it...but anyway.
As a woman, I have no problem with what's going on. Your women don't all have gigantiboob, their personalities are different and your storytelling is excellent. You'll hear nothing but praise from me!

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 9:33 PM

Joe England

Thanks very much, Zacolyn. Out of curiosity (no, really, just perfectly innocent curiosity), what comic is this that you mentioned? I'm always interested in comparing when my work is contrasted with something else.

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19th Feb 2017, 7:31 PM

K

I do echo pretty much everything Azzie said in her original comment and reply to you. I adore your work, Joe, but this panel did leave me with a bit of an unpleasant feeling. I do feel bad saying that, but it's true.

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view Joe England's profile

19th Feb 2017, 9:07 PM

Joe England

It's alright K, I'm glad that you said so. I was uncertain about acknowledging this, and it kept me nervous right to the last minute. But this trend was something that existed, something that other people noticed, sometimes when I didn't even see it myself or mean to make it happen. I wanted to give it some kind of weight within the comic. After all, physical changes are a staple of this story, and it seems wrong to let something obvious rest under the radar.

Some cartoonists do change their characters similarly over time. Just look at One Piece! But I didn't want it to be nothing but eye candy, something invisible to the cast but obvious to us. So I brought it up, and now it'll have to serve a purpose. I hope that you find the eventual resolution satisfying. Or at least worth the awkwardness.

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20th Feb 2017, 2:50 AM

Dae

I gotta say, you've done nothing to obscufate the fact that you, as a person, have a lively sex drive and an interest in women. I figured that out when I first started reading... Wow, better part of a decade now? I accepted that from the start as just a thing I'd have to just deal with, as I so often do as a woman nerd, but you've left me pleasantly surpised.

I think your... diligent heterosexuality puts you in a pretty awkward place sometimes, as the sexuality of women is so easily strung along into the realms of objectification and domination. Combine your tastes in aesthetics with the themes of your story, and you really can't avoid some implications. And with also having strong female protagonists, a good portion of your audience interested foremost in the characters could get put off whenever this comes to bear.

In some regards, I could potentially feel put off, too, and know where other folks are coming from. It can totally be disruptive to go from <engaging plot> <dramatic themes> to <oh yeah, there's tits>, especially when you're scouring the panels for clues and easter eggs. I mean, I own a pair myself, and honestly they're irritating for me IRL, too. :p

But at the same time, I have faith in you, as an author and a writer of good women characters. (And they really are well-done) Women do get to have kinks an explore their sexuality, too, and if you're spendig enough time with them, it probably will come up eventually.
As for you actually going there, there's no reason a man can't look beyond the content of his pants to explain a female character's feelings. And then there's the factor of the Occult and its relationship to feminine power in the realm of the sexual. Again, you can't *not* go there if you're involved long enough, but I think what is throwing people off is the fact that people associate a love of tits with the "male gaze."

Which is totally untrue in its essence: an interest in breasts is a pretty universal thing that can be found in any person, just with different flavors to suit different circumstances, cultures and individuals. The "big breasts" thing I generally do find to be a more masculine interest, probably in part because fellows don't have to get distracted by the realities of large breasts that most women could at least easily imagine or even empathise with.

The big catch for me- and something you already seem to be taking care of -is making sure that it has purpose to the world. If its a plot device- fine. If its to let Sandra or any other character explore or express their sexuality, that's fine too, especially if the implications of effecting other peoples' physiology in this way is addressed. Just as you actually addressed Zandra's tormenting the people, and made it not just emotional torture porn.

I do have to ask you to stop calling this "Fanservice." A random risque angle or sideboob? Sure. But you've made clear intent on making this a part of your story, and a part of your world. Have confidence in your work, and don't fear sexuality being a part of it. If nothing else, you're a rather creative and skilled fellow. You always have the option to develop a new muse that can make the "right impression" on that young girl at your booth.

And, worst come to worst, you can always retcon.

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view Joe England's profile

20th Feb 2017, 3:15 AM

Joe England

Thanks very much for your input Dae, it's food for thought. It's always nice when someone takes the time to write out a comment into commentary! I appreciate your thoughtful observations, and your faith. I'll try and live up to it!

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20th Feb 2017, 10:51 PM

Finale

Sorry to butt in when I've got my own conversation thread going, but ... a new work for the younger and less sexually-inclined?

I'd pay Lord Incubus levels of hellish amounts of money to see Mina Cringe finally get her own comic (even if I did like "Emily" Cringe as a name more so).

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view Joe England's profile

20th Feb 2017, 11:26 PM

Joe England

I still have her in the back of my mind.

Now that you mention it, I remember liking "Emily" better too, for a long time. I only changed it because I was told that she was too similar to another character, "Emily the Strange." But I felt much better about the decision when I realized that "Mina" could be short for "Minatory," a name her parents had picked out of a dictionary because they thought it sounded interesting. Look it up, you'll see why I like it!

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20th Feb 2017, 11:39 PM

Finale

Okay, yeah, that is an excellent name. Props.

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19th Feb 2017, 8:16 PM

Hidden Elephant

Yeah, the two you've named are hitting the nail on the head, Joe. This page is so unbelievably awkward. It's a moment of breaking the fourth wall that has caused us, the viewer, to specifically question fan-service. It's not funny, it's not even feeling like it's meant to be funny. It's meant to be a funny that reads as a moment of critique of fan-service and artistic development disguised as a funny that trips and falls right onto its wee little face.
...
If that's foncusing, then good, that's how it feels.

Except that brings us to a bigger question, or rather, questioning fan-service itself. It's funny, but it feels like more and more I'm targeting and locking on to moments of fanservice and questioning "Why?" I don't think I particularly like it, mainly because it becomes all-consuming with very little reason. Today, I saw a miniature model of a supernatural being that looks like a sleeping woman hovering in the air, her dress billowing around her like bed curtains. Very much a fan-service moment, make your own pun. And I wonder; is that strictly necessary? A similar moment happened when I noticed that the armored jump-pack suit that Pharah, of Overwatch, wears has silver metal underwear on the outside. I can never not notice the outer-underwear now. Of course, most of the women in that game wear skin-tight shiny latex-like clothing, but that means a bigger kettle of fish.

All this stuff concerns me, because I am toying with starting a web-comic and I like designing characters. I don't want to fan-service, but the sexy both distracts and attracts. So far, I think I'm good. While one female character wears a loincloth and a wrap, she is an 8-foot tall shark-ogre-monster from a far simpler culture who may or may not have interesting and unfortunate-for-others dietary habits.

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19th Feb 2017, 8:52 PM

Joe England

I guess that's why I brought it up, Hidden Elephant. It's not just meant to be funny, and it's not meant to break the fourth wall (this comic left that kind of humor behind long ago). If fan service is in my comic then I do want it to serve a purpose, or at least have an explanation, and I worked one out that I hope should ultimately make sense and have a satisfying resolution.

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19th Feb 2017, 8:52 PM

Typeminer

I'm just going to observe that ZG is a long-form graphic story that we see at the rate of a page per week (more or less). In any story like that, one page that seems out of character may have a very good purpose in the overall continuity.

I've been reading ZG a long time, and it's come a long way. Joe puts it up here for anyone to read at their pleasure. Good artists have to stay interested in the work, or everything devolves into Garfield. Joe obviously puts a lot of thought and work into the art. I was glad to see the addition of comments, and the caliber of the commenters.

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19th Feb 2017, 9:12 PM

Joe England

Thanks Typeminer, I do have something in mind regarding the overall continuity. This is now an established story element, and as such it will indeed have a purpose. I'll have to leave it up to the judgement of the audience about whether or not it's very good!

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19th Feb 2017, 9:25 PM

Finale

With no bias one way or the other, all I have to say on the matter of this page is to ask if the multiple jokes at Wally's expense when Crystal shoved him into the no-shirt spiked collar combo are any different.

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19th Feb 2017, 9:36 PM

Joe England

I was hoping someone would notice Wally's share of the syndrome. Come to think of it, Mike's been looking fairly swole lately....

Anyway, I won't deny that there's a double standard regarding the stigma surrounding the objectification of men versus women. Perhaps I'm less sensitive to Wally since I'm a man myself. Or perhaps it's more that Wally's more of a well of comic relief, so it's easier to stomach laughing at his expense. Or maybe it's that he's used to having Crystal model likewise, and it's a touch of karma. Or it might be that he's a werewolf, and being half naked is to be expected. All of the above?

It seems like something softens the blow. But I'm glad someone noticed that it's still a case of objectification, and I'll offer my assurance that I'm aware of it too.

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20th Feb 2017, 5:41 AM

Peter Piers

And now that you've been made aware of it, you can even add it into the plotline, and suddenly men AND women alike are suffering the same syndrome. Double standard goes away. :)

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20th Feb 2017, 10:25 AM

Joe England

I was always aware of it, it's just easy to pick on Wally without drawing attention.

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20th Feb 2017, 10:19 PM

Finale

Thought of something else to add - sexual humor has always been a part of Zebra Girl, from Jack's comedic perversion through Sandra's questionably-located tattoo to "Are you here for Tool?" and beyond.

So again; is this page really outside the mold of Zebra Girl? Food for thought, I guess, even if I'm rather studiously avoiding expressing my own opinion on the matter.

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20th Feb 2017, 11:22 PM

Joe England

I'll admit, I had hoped that it wouldn't be taken as TOO far outside the mold. Like you said, it's not entirely foreign to Zebra Girl's standard of humor!

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21st Feb 2017, 10:27 AM

Leorale

You wondered why Wally's shift towards shirtless-muscle-spike-guy isn't eliciting the same reaction as all the women getting more busty. I think it's because of a couple things:

- Wally is male. Men are far less objectified in our culture, especially by straight and mostly-straight men. When it looks like you're objectifying a woman, it reminds us of all the other times women are harmfully objectified. With men, that is much less of a problem in mainstream society, so it doesn't twig as strong a reaction.

- Wally's still a male fantasy of a manly body. Women who like men have all different fantasies, of course, and some do like our dudes muscled and spiked, but it seems more a guy thing to draw them that way. He reads more like a power fantasy -- I wanna be ripped and strong like Wally, I wanna be Wally -- rather than a sex fantasy -- I wanna touch a body like Sandra's, I wanna do whatever sex things I most enjoy to this body. You know?

Anyway, the objectification didn't bother me personally, but it is valid that it bothered you and some readers, so I thought I'd get my academia on in case it resonates or helps shed light on the discomfort for you.

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21st Feb 2017, 12:03 PM

Hidden Elephant

Weirdly, here's another thing that I noticed. I think we can safely say that Black Betty, Bloofer, and Wally are the most fan-servicey characters. However, Betty has dozens of needle-like fangs and some people don't like furries. Bloofer has two rows of dozens of needle-like teeth and the ability to stretch her maw into body-horror-like proportions. Wally has none of this. Even his former alpha did a body horror shtick when she turned herself inside out to assume wolf form. It's odd that the female fan-service characters have some element or possibility to cause revulsion due to lethal physical traits, whereas Wally does not have any of that going. He's big, but he's a teddy bear. Some food for thought.

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20th Feb 2017, 5:37 AM

Peter Piers

Art above all else, that's always my motto. It's gotten me in a few icky situations, defending folkloric stories for being folkloric (folklore is pretty much often synonimous with all sorts of unwanted behaviour nowadays, especially racism and sexism). But it's still my rule of thumb.

This probably won't help you much, Joe; as an artist, you can't afford to ignore the effect you're having on your audience, and will feel hurt when you unintentionally hurt *them*. Thing is... Things change, and they change so quickly. What wasn't offensive a decade ago is horribly offensive now, and maybe won't be again in the future.

You must have read the first strip of the Peanuts, right? By today's standards, it's flatter than a pancake which has been run over by a steamroller. At the time, though, children were not exepcted to say things like that, and it was a riot.

I've re-read and re-watched plenty of films, books and movies which made me cringe more today than they did at the time, as I became aware of a number of things. But, was it gratuitous? Was it done out of ignorance? Was it done out of malice? Was it done to perpetuate a hurtful stereotype? Was it done to use a stereotype in a humorous fashion? (so much our lives depends on stereotypes or shallow impressions in one way or another, it's humanly impossible to be absolutely correct all the time. That realisation is liberating - you don't stop caring, but you do stop over-worrying)

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20th Feb 2017, 5:38 AM

Peter Piers

(1000chrs limit)

Context is everything. And this is a comic which won me over very early on, partly because of the wall-breaking moments (which have no place in this new style, that's fine). A comic which has dealt with a lot of Jack's pervy moments, no less. Yes, I did find it odd that I was suddenly supposed to stare at boobs. It wasn't any odder than a number of other things I've been asked to acknowledge in this comic.

FWIW. You're getting tons of feedback over this, and I'm actually sorry. I understand where people are coming from when they tell you they feel bad about it. My overall point is, you can - and probably should - worry about your audience's reaction, but as long as you are doing *what you feel is the right thing for the comic*, you'll always be fine.

There will always be some people who won't like something. You can't account for them all. What you can - and what it seems to me you have done - is this: you consider your actions, you think about your reasons, and you are satisfied that this is the right course of action, so you follow it through. THAT makes it a Joe England comic. Because Joe England is writing it. And people who trust Joe England will trust the comic. And if they ever want to stop reading the comic, it'll be because they didn't like Joe England, and there was NOTHING Joe England could have done to stop that, except to change himself to the point where he - and the comic - became something else, maybe better, probably not.

I tend to get verbose. :) Just keep rockin'! You won't please everyone all the time, so don't worry TOO much about it. You obviously care, though, and that only makes you a better artist - heck, that much is obvious just by the evolution of this comic strip over the years!

(sidenote: in a "one-page-a-week" format it's easer to get hung over smaller details. I can't help but wonder how much it would have affected some people if they had been able to move over to the next page, where we got back to the main plot. There's a world of difference between what appears to be a punchline for the week and a few bizarre panels in the middle of a greater story. And this is something else you don't really have that much control over)

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20th Feb 2017, 5:39 AM

Peter Piers

I hope this is not too muddled. I tend to think four of five leaps ahead of what I'm actually writing, and that makes for unsightly gaps of reasoning. I apologise in advance about that.

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20th Feb 2017, 1:23 PM

Joe England

No need to apologize Peter, I love it when people put work into their comments and critiques! It makes my production feel all the more worth the effort. I appreciate your time. And honestly, I don't think we're so different, you and I! I tend to think leaps ahead as well!

It often leads to stumbling.

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20th Feb 2017, 9:20 AM

Nimrod

Not to get into all of the history, but Joe is in good company when it comes to subtle adjustments to the endowments of his female characters. To keep this brief I will mention that way back in one of my college art classes I read that the artist of Family Circus, Mr. Bil Keane, has mentioned in an interview that over a span of several years he had slowly increased the frontage on the mother character.
In short, he was doing this for artistic and expression of the character’s role and not really any fan service, even though this was years before that concept was expressed. As time went on he realized that nobody had noticed and he admitted to trying to see how far he could go.
He eventually reached a size that made him feel “artistically uncomfortable” and nobody had commented. So, he pulled it back and kept the whole exercise to himself. It was only years later that he mentioned it in the interview, almost as an afterthought.
When I first heard this I was skeptical. So, I went back and reviewed the Mom over time and actually that did happen! Not only did the dates match but the extent of “growth” matched up. It was very subtle and the change was over years, but it did happen.
I do like Joe’s first comment above as it parallels what Bil Keane said in many ways. The fact that today one can actually break the 4th wall and have the characters actually react to it just points to changes in the audience. Just wanted to share that this sort of thing happens a lot more than people thing in comics.
I would mention that now that Bil’s son draws the comic the Mom is back up to her maximum size, which happens to be where she was in the strip when it started way back in 1960 and briefly during Bil’s experiment years.

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20th Feb 2017, 11:20 PM

Joe England

You don't say! Hunh. Neat story.

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20th Feb 2017, 10:27 AM

O.B. Juan

For those of you who want to compare to the 'original' Betty design, it is on page 512. http://www.zebragirl.thecomicseries.com/comics/512

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20th Feb 2017, 10:44 AM

CyberSkull

I blame this entirely on Jack the Plaid.

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20th Feb 2017, 11:56 AM

Guest

I have no issue with erotic bodies in my media, male or female.

Honestly, to call this "gross" or whatever just strikes me insecurity, or at least a disgust with a sexuality you don't share.

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20th Feb 2017, 3:09 PM

Hangover Included

I feel like a lot of the commentary in this thread since the first 24 hours is kind of missing the point.

What Azi, Murmur, K, et. al. said (if I may paraphrase) is that calling out the fanservice makes them uncomfortable and they don't enjoy it. It's a pretty simple statement.
I don't think anything needs to be said in response, because they're not opening a discussion on morality or artistic license, they're sharing their experience so that Joe understands where his readers are at with this week's comic. There's totally nothing wrong with that, and nobody needs to feel attacked, or defend themselves.

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20th Feb 2017, 3:22 PM

Newt

I really appreciate how open you are to critique and open discussion of your art.

I'm an artist myself, and I'm queer and very much like women and women's bodies, so I feel like maybe I get to comment from all 3 sides of the equation a wee bit? Is Woman. Likes both men's and women's butts. Draws Stuff.

I think I'm automatically more forgiving of the odd bit of cheesecake in your art, because your track record shows that you are an artist who *does* recognise that women come in all manner of shapes, and you do represent that. Viv and Mabel being two particular characters that come to mind, not to mention Rebecca who - growing breasts or not - doesn't exactly fit the traditional cheesecake mold.

That said, I can see where it might still make people uncomfortable, if only because this sort of thing is *so* common in other art that it's not *this one instance* that brings up the discomfort so much as the pattern. I know in the past I've had times when I've encountered something jarring in art I loved and got frustrated that I couldn't have *just one thing* that didn't have the jarring thing in it.

But you're aware of the changes in your art. And you're mindful of them. And you're working to put meaning in them. And that counts for a hell of a lot.

Only critique I'd suggest, if I was going to, as someone who has uncomfortably large breasts herself. Big boobs are painful. Especially unsupported or badly supported big boobs. I was 25 before I found out not every woman gets migraines if she goes without a bra. If this effect is going to be occurring on any non-supernatural characters you've got, I hope those poor ladies get some sturdy underwear! (Seriously I have had raw skin and blood under mine before from friction and poor-fitting bras, to say nothing of the time an underwire snapped and stabbed a puncture wound in my armpit! Shit is not fun.). Just so long as I don't see any anime-style flapping tits I'm pretty sure my suspension of disbelief won't be ruined!

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21st Feb 2017, 5:13 AM

Joe England

Thanks for contributing to the discussion Newt, it's greatly appreciated. You certainly offer valuable perspective! I'll definitely try to take your words to heart!

Hmm... it certainly sounds like large breasts are a textbook case of something being both a blessing and a curse (and possibly the latter more than the former). Which is fitting terminology when we're talking over a comic with magic and demons and stuff!

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20th Feb 2017, 3:22 PM

Umbral Reaver

I have read the above comments and I understand and concur with a lot of what's said!

That I liked this page without really questioning it makes me feel bad. :I

It might be a combination of attraction to buxom women and my own projection. I would very much like mine to be bigger. Is that bad?

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21st Feb 2017, 4:59 AM

Joe England

I wouldn't say it's bad, Umbral Reaver, though I'm sure you have every right to be perfectly satisfied with your body just the way it is.

Uh... similarly, I hope you don't feel too bad about liking this page without questioning it! And... hopefully you still do like it. I hope!

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21st Feb 2017, 12:43 PM

Umbral Reaver

I do!

Zebra Girl has been my favourite webcomic for many years and still remains at the top of my list.

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21st Feb 2017, 3:00 PM

Joe England

Good to know!

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20th Feb 2017, 6:21 PM

Pelinkovac

I take issue with your referring to this as "fan service" seeing as this doesn't really serve me anything I can't already find on the internet, Joe. The internet is generous in supplying me with copious amounts of just about any body-part I'm particularly attracted too, in all shapes and sizes. True fan service would be concentrating on essential story-telling elements and unless every female character in your webcomic is on the verge of lactation, I don't see any other point of drawing attention to it other than that you want to embrace some kind of pornographic element that I had not otherwise perceived. If you're going to focus on sexuality and pornography, Joe, I'm afraid I might just lose interest.

Like I said, the internet already supplies a generous amount of pornography. What's in short supply is well-thought-out creativity and storytelling.

This is nothing I have against you, Joe. I don't know you personally, although I feel like I've gotten to know a little more about you through your videos and journals. But what you seem to be inferring here is that everyone who reads your webcomic either wants or expects larger breasts on your female characters. Granted, I'm sure some people do, some do not, and others do not care. But for you to draw attention to it this matter paints a broad stroke that doesn't involve me and might actually turn me off.

That's all I have to say. Do what you will--it's your webcomic, after all.

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20th Feb 2017, 11:17 PM

Joe England

Not at all, Pelinkovac. It's your webcomic. Like all art it truly belongs to the audience. And I firmly believe that, by and large, this comic's audience is primarily concerned with story and character.

Understand, when I say "fan service" I mean it merely as a catch-all term to describe whatever erotic element is present in the art. I appreciate that it's something of a misnomer in this case, since I'm well aware that this comic's appeal is not primarily erotic. And I don't mean to say that I'm going to focus on increasing this factor to please anyone.

What I mean to say is that I have, over time, increased it. And I don't necessarily want for this to be construed as a point of pride. But as my work has evolved over the last several years I've just started drawing figures noticeably curvier.

This is a tendency that some artists develop. And I assure you, it's more difficult to control than you might think. The act of creating art is a satisfaction of various urges from one moment to the next, and artists are inclined to humor their muse. And muses sometimes lead artists in this direction. Especially cartoonists, I think.

Many of them let it happen without actually addressing it, allowing it to simply be taken for granted as a facet of a changing style. For my part, I wanted to acknowledge it directly so that I could create a rationale for it happening within the comic's canon. I didn't want it merely to exist as a quirk of the art, I wanted it to have some kind of meaning to the characters and their lives.

That's the point of drawing attention to it. It's not to embrace pornography. It's to give a reason for something that happened without any apparent reason (beyond the inclination of the artist). I feel quite certain that most people who read this comic aren't overly concerned with larger breasts one way or another. I take personal responsibility for the fact that, over time, figures have become more pronounced. It was never about satisfying a perceived demand. But it occurred, and I made it into a minor plot point simply because I felt it was obvious enough to deserve a cause.

I assure you, I don't mean to disrespect you or anyone else in the audience. On the contrary, I want to show respect to you and to the comic itself by accounting for something which would otherwise be inexplicable as anything beyond the whim of the author.

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21st Feb 2017, 12:08 AM

Guest

I understand the reasons for this. My problem isn't that you've inserted the reason inside your comic as a wink to your readers, but it's more the overt lack of subtlety to it and the implication that it's actually an integral part of the story.

This is the same reason people get tired of Marvel Comic's Deadpool. He's funny to a point and then becomes obnoxious.

Now, remember when Jack made an earlier comment about how Zandra was sexier than he remembered? It was subtle and masterful on your part, and thinking back on it worked in both a story context and acknowledgement that your style had evolved over time. Nothing about bigger breasts, curves, or whatever. Just a small comment from Jack.

Another count of this coming from Jack is that you've well-established him as being "the perv" anyway, right? So, naturally, he'd make that kind of a comment.

This current strip takes your earlier subtlety and throws it out the window, Joe. That's basically the main point of contention I have. You're making me as a reader self-conscious about an aspect which I think plays a very minor role in the overall scheme of things.

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21st Feb 2017, 12:09 AM

Pelinkovac

I made the mistake of not putting my name in the last comment.

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21st Feb 2017, 12:57 AM

Joe England

I don't mean for it to be an integral part of the story, and I don't plan for it to become one. Like Zandra said, they don't have time to care, and neither does the audience at this point in the tale (and likely for the rest of the tale as well). In fact, of all the plot threads I aim to resolve, this is quite possibly the very least important in the overall scheme. I do plan for there to be an explanation, but it's likely never going to be a crucial element.

However, it's not intended as a "wink to the readers," either. This isn't about poking the fourth wall. I want the cast to react to this as a physical development, to have thoughts on the subject. There might be humor in it for the people at home, but it's not simply a chuckle with the audience.

I guess I thought it deserved more than a passing line. I see what you mean regarding Jack's earlier comment, but I felt it was worth addressing the fact that it's not just Zandra whose physique has changed over time. Rebecca, Bloo, and Betty are all examples of the same syndrome. As such, I wanted for the trend to be recognized beyond the main character, because if it's going to actually exist as more than a trick of the light then it deserves to be taken slightly seriously. At least, that's as I see it.

I apologize for making you self-conscious about it, but I guess I wanted the characters to be self-conscious about it. Though, again, not to an extent that would impact the plot in an overt fashion. This is a background element in the larger picture, but an element all the same, and something that the cast is canny enough to notice (and to ignore in light of more pressing concerns).

I am optimistic that the resolution I have in mind will ultimately justify the attention paid to it on this page. I'd like to think that it might even serve to compliment more meaningful themes. In any case, this is not something that's going to overshadow the more important matters at hand. All I can do in the meantime is beg patience, and hope that when the larger picture is revealed this particular spot will prove to blend well with the rest of the composition.

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21st Feb 2017, 3:00 AM

Guest

This is telling and not showing. It cannot be a background element if the characters are out in the open about it. The opposite conclusion would be drawn.

When I came to this update, I was legitimately confused as to what was going on. I thought you were joking in the form of a hideously blatant fourth wall break. It wasn't until I started reading the comments that I thought, "Wow, he's being serious about this."

To be blunt, Joe, this page makes me assume your mind was elsewhere when you wrote it. Your comments would also lead me to believe this is true. That is all; I won't infer anything about what's going on in your personal life. I'll just assume things are going on and some of those things happen to be surfacing through your work.

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21st Feb 2017, 4:52 AM

Joe England

Um... well, I'm not sure what sort of things you mean, but my personal life is pretty much as stable as it's been for a while. I don't think I have any particular issues that would surface through writing a canonical acknowledgment of an artistic tendency. I just figured it would be okay to incorporate it into the plot in some way. A small way, I thought. But it looks like it wasn't nearly as small as I intended.

As for it being a "background element," I just meant that it was something that wouldn't be directly referenced very often, and that it wouldn't impact the plot to any great degree. That's what I generally think of as a "background element," and I do think that the characters can be out in the open about it, in the same way that it's possible for, say, someone in another story to comment on strange weather patterns as they travel through a haunted city. It's not necessarily a plot point, but merely an observation to flesh out some facet of the setting.

That said, I'll admit... I was fairly nervous as to how people might react to this page. The opinions of the readers means a LOT to me. I hoped that it wouldn't be a big deal, that it could just come and go, and if it brushed anyone the wrong way then it could be smoothed over when seen in the context of the larger narrative. I really didn't think it was hideous, or that it would lead some to assume that I was wrestling with inner demons. But if those three panels disgusted you that much... I guess I wasn't nervous enough.

At this point I've done everything I can to describe my motivations. I suppose that also didn't work like I had hoped, if they've only convinced you I wasn't in my right mind. I guess all I have left to say is, if I've let you down, I apologize.

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20th Feb 2017, 10:38 PM

Guest

I actually liked the designs of most of the female characters (minus Bloo and she has a creepy weird personality so over-the-top polyp boobs work for her like Gargamel's freakishly big nose works for him).

But you don't need a backstory on design changes (not even the bigger bossoms). While it is noticable, it does not need an explanation, excuse or justification. It sould be nice to see the female protagonists have more dialogue (there has been little in this arc compared to the boys).

On another note, you know most of us women who spontaneously notice our boobs getting bigger freak out and run off to buy pregnancy tests? Real sexy. XD

I'm bi and love to oogle pretty ladies, but that is all I can think look at this comic. They must all be preggers.

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20th Feb 2017, 11:58 PM

Joe England

Ha, that would be one explanation, alright. Although I doubt that any of them can get pregnant without REAL weird circumstances.

You're probably right though, an explanation might not have been strictly necessary. But I felt it fleshed things out a little more.

I don't know if a pun is intended or not.

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21st Feb 2017, 12:06 AM

Iarei

You know, the only anatomical element that stole any focus from me on this page was the fact that Becky's lower legs seem a bit too short.

I don't want to go as far as calling objectification a buzzword, but I think people conflate "sexually objectifying" with "expressed sexuality that makes me uncomfortable" a lot.

Sensuality does not inherently demean or diminish a character, and objectification can have nothing to do with 'sexy'. Caustic objectification is when a character exists purely to serve a function like "the love interest" or "the evil bitch" or "the magical negro".

Distinct and fully realized characters that are actively beating the Bechdel test into submission? I'm not going to give Joe shit over some extra curves.

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21st Feb 2017, 2:10 AM

Squirrelmaster

A bit of a point on the chains; I wonder if in making up a name for what Zandra is and inscribing it on the chains, they didn't just try to bind her with the generic term. Like if one were to bind a demon with chains with the word 'demon' on them. I don't think that would actually work very well.

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21st Feb 2017, 11:17 AM

Christopher

I just noticed that a thread of Chains is between betties Ears.
And looking back, it was there since comic 729 at least.

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21st Feb 2017, 3:03 PM

Joe England

Oh, she's always had that, since she first crawled out of her hole and got herself dressed for work.

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