May 2, 2014


Boom! Studios has announced a new Avengers mini-series called Steed and Mrs. Peel. The six-issue comic will be penned by Ian Edginton (Hinterland), with art by Marco Cosentino (Grimm Fairy Tales) and covers by Stacey Lee. Boom! published new Avengers comics in 2012, and even reprinted Grant Morrison's Steed & Mrs. Peel. Although I supported these projects as a life-long fan of the show, I could never really get behind the look of the drawings. Perhaps it was because of my familiarity with the original series, but I found the character designs brittle and lacking in flair. According to the press release, the new comics from Boom! will sport more stylized artwork. This sounds like a wise move, as the original program was quite stylish and owed some of its look to the pop art movement in the 1960s. If the cover image below is any indication, we might finally see The Avengers spirit and aesthetic in comic-form. So, why am I nervous? Story continues below.

Yes, the cover looks fun! This version of Emma Peel looks like she has charm, humor, and energy that could fit nicely into Swinging London. The fluid form and features do a great job capturing the youthful spark that Rigg brought to the role. It is very Emma Peel. But I'm nervous that they are watering down the series with a typical modern approach to female characters. You can see it in the exaggerated physicality. The changes are subtle, but they are there if you know what to look for. It comes down to chest volume, and Boom! seems to think Rigg needed some work done. Compare with the TV stills below and you'll see a slight shift in bust proportion, weight, and location in relation to the length of the head. They have also lowered her hairline slightly to give her a younger, feline look.

The appeal of Rigg's character was generated by her confidence, brilliant mind, charm, and her youthful Mod beauty- not to mention the fashion! She could fence like a master while writing articles for cutting-edge science journals. An action heroine with a genius-level IQ! This design change might not be so big, but it does point to a larger issue that concerns me. I admit I may be overreacting in this case, but I do see a trend. Why are we constantly sold this idea that a woman's power and value is only in relation to the size of her assets and the degree of her cuteness and availability? Why is female strength typically portrayed as flirtation? Did the women's liberation movement never happen? I know we're just looking at a comic, but Mrs. Peel once stood as a true role model for girls -albeit a role model in kinky boots and leather. I just don't want to see that deeper power lost. The choice to outfit her with an oversized gun on the cover also points to an effort to add cute sex-appeal. Rigg's guns in the show, when used, were often quite small. I wonder if the big gun infantilizes the character somewhat? But Boom! shouldn't feel singled out. The 1998 Avengers film also got Mrs. Peel wrong. Not sure what I mean by the exaggerated physicality and sexual tone? Compare Thurman's costume and stance to Rigg's (with tiny gun) below.

The interior art of the new comic will have a different look. I'm not sure what we're in for, but Cosentino's work can be slightly stiff and he seems to be known for drawing curvy women (from behind)- another bad sign for our Mrs. Peel? Maybe I'm jumping the gun, so to speak. Maybe it will be fantastic! I hope so! I'd love to see a successful pop-art inspired Avengers comic that preserves the original power and charm of the characters. I'm all for a sexy Emma Peel (producer's code for Man Appeal), but don't forget that Smart is sexy, too. Fingers crossed and bowler adjusted. Boom!'s Steed and Mrs. Peel will hit stores this July. Interested in this topic? Check out my interview with writer/cartoonist/historian Trina Robbins (Miss Fury, Honey West, Wonder Womanhere.

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