Thursday, August 18, 2011

Behold: Skankarella

First of all, check out this great cover by Jeff Wozniak and then head on over to his website and check out more of his work.  Jeff's broad style and experience in graphic design and in working with things designed to catch the eye (hockey masks) made him a perfect fit for this cover, and the final product is gorgeous.



Cover Art by Jeff Wozniak.
See more of Jeff's work at ArtistZero.com

I've already done an entry publicizing Skankarella, and have the purchase links at the top of the page so I won't rehash those.  Instead I'll go behind the scenes and maybe explain the cover a little bit.  There may be some minor spoilers here.

I came up with the idea for Skankarella falling asleep one night.  The title popped into my head for no reason so I wrote it down before I dozed off.  Later I sat trying to think about what it meant, who it would describe and in what context it would be used.  I thought it would be an intended insult, but that the characteristics that it described might not be inherently negative.  I began to try and answer one question: just who would 'Skankarella' be?

The Cinderella parallel is obvious so I started thinking with the fairy tale in mind.  The problem with the Disney version is that it's valueless.  We know virtually nothing about Cinderella, and there's no real reason to root for her or identify with her.  Other than being oppressed by her step-family, she has no personality.  The Prince is even worse...he doesn't even speak.

I think the tale livens up when there's a reason behind that hatred, and thus a reason to side with Skankarella.  (Because honestly no one is crying for the gorgeous blonde in the Disney version.  Puh-lease.)  The 'hated' characteristic of Skankarella was going to be her individuality.  The original character was going to have a sort of gothic sense of style, something people might immediately sneer at without even considering what she's really like as a person.

As I started jotting down some notes and watching a few different takes on the Cinderella fairy tale, I started to think in a different direction.  In the Disney movie, the Prince has his own problems, a father that wants him married at all costs, (but we never get to know the Prince because he never speaks so who cares).  I wanted to illustrate how the Prince and Cinderella are somewhat similar, but I didn't see any plight I could levy on the Prince that hadn't already been done by someone else.  Unless the Prince were female.

When Skankarella became a lesbian, I fell completely in love with the story.  It added an extra insidiousness to Skankarella's step-family because I could make their motivation for their awfulness a stereotypical force of good, religion.  When an antagonist is a dick and knows they're a dick that's one thing, but when they're a dick and think they're morally superior...I think they're so much more dangerous.  And in watching the Westboro Baptist Church continually make asses of themselves, the blueprint for the villains was easy to construct.

Everything fell into place after that.  In holding to the theme of individuality, Skankarella was always an artist and a comic book enthusiast, and Julia Prince a writer.  Like in the Disney movie, Julia's father has too heavy a hand in directing her future.  Because of his stereotypical male influence, she grows up as a tomboy taking on many 'male' activities, enjoying enough of them to be too afraid to go against her father's wishes in certain areas.  Unlike the Disney movie, she also has a mother who tries to push her as far from tomboyishness as possible.  Both parents tug her in directions she doesn't want to go.

At the same time that Skankarella is being verbally and physically abused by her step-family, Julia is abusing herself in trying to conform to her father's plans for her career, and her mother's plans for her romantic life.  It was important that both characters have a source of strife (and not just the taboo nature of being gay in rural Kansas).  I wanted Skankarella to help Julia as much as Julia helps Skankarella and for them to fit together like puzzle pieces rather than have Skankarella latch on to her idealist Prince like in the Disney movie.

When I mentioned comic books a few paragraphs up, the cover started to make a bit of sense for some people.  Raven Darkholme, better known as Mystique, and the somewhat less well known Irene Adler as Destiny were and are lovers in the X-Men universe.  Being gay and looking for a companion is difficult, especially if you're in an area that's less than receptive.  Trying to be secretive and avoid harassment and at the same time search for someone like yourself are goals that often conflict.  Having the pair meet in costume as fictitious lesbian lovers was a great way to hint at each's orientation to the other and encourage them to come out of their shell (or closet).

I think I'll end with that before I give too much away.


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