Monday, March 30, 2009

Flip Side: Female Force comics

Let’s switch things up a bit and talk for a minute about men drawing women.

Specifically, men drawing women to go on the covers of comic books.

You’ve got that image in your mind’s eye already, don’t you? Big breasts, tiny waist, costume that leaves nothing to the viewer's imagination—and is utterly impractical for fighting crime (or participating in it, depending). Doesn’t usually matter the genre—fantasy, superheros, sci-fi, horror—the stereotype is alive and well in the world of comics.

So it’s a breath of fresh air when an artist comes along who draws women tastefully, beautifully, and in a way that shows them as intelligent, powerful, and interesting for more than their gravity defying breasts.

Meet Vinnie Tartamella. If that name seems familiar, you’ve possibly heard it on the news recently. His covers for Bluewater Productions's Female Force series is making serious waves in a rather unexpected kind of artistic ocean: politics. Each comic is a biographical look at a female political figure, and they don’t discriminate based on party affiliation, either. On the covers, Vinnie portrays these powerful women (Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Caroline Kennedy thus far), with strength and patriotism rather than trying to turn them into comic book sex symbols.

Despite having already been interviewed on MSNBC and featured on Regis and Kelly, Vinnie took some time to answer a few questions for Artemisia readers.

Can you tell us a little about the Female Force comics and how you came to do the covers for them?
Female Force is a series depicting strong and influential women in our society. The series is a great way to learn more about these women, their lives, and their accomplishments. Each issue is a one shot bio book. I've been doing work for Blue Water comics for a few years now, the publisher really likes both my comic book and portrait work, so he asked if I'd want to take part in this. I was excited to work on these and soon became the lead cover artist to the series.
What has been the most challenging aspect of this project for you?
The most challenging part has been making each person's traits and likeness 100% accurate. Each woman I depict has her own accomplishments, so its been a little tricky to nail down an image that would represent them really well and/or just to be very iconic looking and be able to sell lots of books.
Which is your favorite cover?
I'm most proud of the Hillary Clinton cover. I was asked to make her at the last minute, and I was able to finish her in about a day and half. For a piece that was done so fast, I'm really happy with how she came out. At the moment Princess Diana is my absolute favorite. (I made her recently for the next series.)
Personally, I think it’s really inspiring to see strong, intelligent women portrayed so well on a comic book cover. Have you heard any feedback from any of the women you’ve depicted?
I've been really happy hearing the feed back on this series. And just recently we had heard back from Bill Clinton's office. He has asked for a few copies of the Hillary issue and wishes us luck on this project! It’s a great honor to hear that! (And we had also sent the cover I made of Bill for the male series "Political Power")
I read that the Michelle Obama cover has been very successful. Have you gotten any figures back on how well it’s selling? What about the others?
It has been selling very well. It's now the highest selling comic book from an independent publisher! The last figures I saw were about a month and half ago. The sales on the preorders alone went from about 28,000 to 40,000 in a week. And on ebay I've seen the single issue going for as high as $350! And the issue doesn't even hit stores until late in April (about the 29th of April I believe). The first 2 issues sold out in about a heartbeat. Second printings are in the works for those as well.
The Female Force covers have gotten a lot of national media attention lately, too. How many interviews have you done so far?
Yeah sure has, I've personally done about 4 or 5 (Sun Sentinel, two for MSNBC, local CBS) with a few more to come. Next month I have one planned during a signing I'll be doing in NY at St. Marks for a Japanese morning show, the week Michelle's issue hits stores. The publisher has also been featured with the series on CNN.
If you got to pick, who would you want to put on a Female Force cover next? Will there be new editions?
The one I really wanted to make was on Princess Diana, which I've done for the new series. So, yes there will be more series after this one, and yes, the men will have a spot light as well. But I do personally love creating these all and its really great that young girls (and women) will have a chance to learn more about these strong woman that have had such a huge impact on the world.
If you’d like to see more of Vinnie’s work (and he’s good with the more traditional comic book females, and also does some awesome comic heroes) you can check out his work at

Female Force comics are available through your local comic book stores, and will soon be available on

Image Credits:

Above: "Female Force" © 2009 Bluewater Productions, art by Vinnie Tartamella
Below: "Michelle Obama" "Caroline Kennedy" and "Hillary Clinton" ©2009 Bluewater Productions, art by Vinnie Tartamella.

Images posted with permission from the artist.

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