“It will come to no surprise that I have spent some time thinking about what it would be like to live as a woman”, says liar.
Posted by Richie on November 24, 2009
Dear God, what have I done?
Yes, thanks to my patented Zany Sidebar Widget, this blog was, for one accursed day, Exiern‘s #9 source of traffic. I’m assuming that this means most of you have now read it, but on the offchance that you didn’t: Exiern is neck and neck with The Wotch as the most dreadful not-actually-transgender comic on the internet. There is an important distinction to be made between the two, however: The people behind The Wotch live in a crazy sexy femocracy where female privilege actually exists, so turning the male characters female as often as possible isn’t just a pretext for poorly-drawn wank material, but a humanitarian gesture on par with Christ healing lepers. The dude behind Exiern, on the other hand, wants you to pay him money to see drawings of nipples.
Exiern‘s the most successful of a particular breed of transgender fanservice comic written by people who don’t appear to have any interest in transgender fanservice beyond using it to attract delicious, delicious readers. Which is to say that it rushes to get one of the main characters turned into a woman as efficiently as possible, has her spend half a dozen pages shopping for clothing and then drops this strand of the plot almost entirely in order to focus on what the author really wants to write about, in this case an utterly worthless “ironic” sword and sorcery pastiche that absolutely nobody would give a toss about if it weren’t listed in transformation fetish comic directories. In fact, ignoring the comics that refer to Exiern – because the author has bought approximately a zillion Exiern ads on every webcomic in existence, and at one point even tried to buy them on Cerise – the big two biggest sources of traffic are metamorphose.org, a database of transformation media, and TG Comics.com, which…
…No, wait, I take back what I said earlier. TG Comics is home to material that makes both The Wotch and Exiern look positively benign. The Wotch may have a character getting addicted to transforming into a woman because women have it so much easier, but TG Comics recently published a strip called Narcissus’ Twin in which a man could only transform into his female alter-ego (who had things so much easier) by giving blowjobs, and facilitated this by giving his roommate date rape drugs and sucking his cock while he was passed out. Twice. It’s a sexy comedy! They also host a strip called The Hot Date, in which a man accidentally turns himself into a woman but also accidentally brainwashes his best friend into thinking he’s the new woman’s fiance. While man-turned-woman is freaking out and trying to explain what’s happened, best-friend-turned-fiance decides to rape some sense into her, and she learns to like it. It’s a sexy romance! Regular readers may also recall that I had a panel from another one of their comics in the sidebar widget for a while; I’ve forgotten what it was actually called, but it was about a man who turns into a woman, spends all night being groped by drunk men in a basement, then realises that women have it so much easier and the whole thing was a big turn-on. It’s just plain sexy!
Exiern, to its credit, never quite sinks this low. That’s because our author, one Drowemos, is very concerned about women and draws the line at suggesting that they’re gagging for it whether they know it or not. Have a cookie, Drowemos! I can confirm that your comic is, officially, less misogynistic than The Hot Date (Image possibly triggering. PROTIP: If your sexy romance needs a rape trigger warning, you might be a sociopath!). Both the main characters are women! They fight monsters together! There are no attempts to justify child rape as an integral part of Orc culture! I mean, with credentials like that, clearly the author shouldn’t need to come out and tell us how very concerned he is, because it’ll come through in his work, right?
On the basis of his work, Drowemos is a waste of space who gets by peddling PG-13 wank-material for free, and the exact same wank-material with visible nipples for $3.50 a month. The only indication the he’s very concerned about women is a rambling, whiny, defensive blog post about just how very concerned he is, which he wrote over two years ago and has yet to demonstrate he believes a word of. Since, to my knowledge, nobody had actually criticised him for the way Exiern handles women – and I do mean “handles” – at the time the post was actually written, it’s obviously there to pre-empt the kind of complaints he knew he was going to get. In the end, he only got it half right: When people eventually did start laying into Exiern, it wasn’t over the endless parade of unnaturally shiny breasts, but the fact he wanted money for them.
I am, therefore, going to ignore the “asking readers for money in exchange for nipples” part and focus instead on Drowemos’ really, really unconvincing essay on why he has to ask his readers for money in exchange for nipples even though he is very concerned about women and doesn’t want to. It’s an astonishing clusterfuck of entitlement, hypocrisy and Nice Guy-ism which well and truly deserves its day in the sun. Or, in this case, a blog that’s still yet to achieve D-List status.
This comic runs on the donations of the readers and the main source of that income from the comic is the R-rated members section. Yes there are other things in the member section but no one seems to care about them much. And yes I do get some Paypal donation for the odd wallpapers. But it is the Topless Tiffany picks that drives the cash.
Now, Drowemos writes Exiern, but he doesn’t illustrate it. He did for the first few years, but then wisely decided to find a new artist as his own illustrations looked like this. However, rather than making a sinister pact with a webcomic-artist-seeking-writer on the DeviantArt forums, Drowemos instead went to a professional artist and paid them to bring Exiern to life in such a way that it appears to have been done for free by someone from DeivantArt anyway. Since the artist gets a fee for each page of Exiern regardless of how much money was donated that week, Drowemos is therefore operating at a substantial loss unless he can rake in enough donations to break even. His solution to this crisis: Nipples with a side of labia. For a mere $3.50 a month you gain access to an “uncensored” version of the comic, meaning that – for example – you could see the above image without the conveniently-placed speech balloons, revealing… well, you can’t really say “revealing all”, because they’re already about 97% revealed. That remaining 3%, though, is so valuable that people are willing to shell out for it, and – although I don’t have any actual figures on me – Exiern is apparently making enough to stay afloat. Is Drowemos happy about this? No! He is very concerned.
Here is the thing about that, I am not 100% comfortable with this source of income.
To which the obvious reply is “Then stop doing it, jackass”. Unless he’s got some ridiculous justifi — oh, here it comes.
I love this comic. I love that every week I get to share a joke with the world. I love that you guys are here walking side by side with me through the story. I love working with Studio Boom and getting a comic of this quality. And I simply can’t do that without the money from the cheesecake images. The numbers just don’t work. Sex sells, where stories merely entertain.
Ahhhh, they made him do it by forcing money into his hand. The unquestioned entitlement here borders on medically dangerous, so let’s take it one dose at a time: Drowemos doesn’t actually have to write the comic. He doesn’t have to pay someone to illustrate it for him. He doesn’t have to raise the money by pandering to fanservice-addled protoplasm who lose interest if the female lead’s clothing stays on for more than two consecutive pages. However, he’s enjoying himself, and that makes it OK. So… y’know. On the one hand, a bunch of stuff he claims makes him uncomfortable and isn’t remotely necessary to his continued survival. On the other hand, he gets some very minor-league recognition and… no, that’s it. In other words, it’s purely for personal gratification. Exiern is not supporting his starving family. If you can’t see an actual moral dilemma here, congratulations, you’re less of a shit than Drowemos.
There, now nobody ever has to give Drowemos money again.
The whole “Poor me, nobody appreciates writing, I’ll just have to add more boobs” self-pitying defense is, of course, weapons-grade arsecock: A quick roundup of the big names in fantasy webcomics, off the top of my head, throws up The Phoenix Requiem, Girl Genius, Goblins, Order of the Stick, Earthsong, Dominic Deegan, Gunnerkrigg Court and Dreamland Chronicles. Some are fanservicey, some are not, but all maintain a sizable fanbase of readers who actually, y’know, read them, and none feature a “make their clothes fall off for money” button. I may not personally like all the comics on that list, but their stories have still managed to resonate with an audience who feel compelled to find out what happens next, rather than just holding out for their weekly T&A fix (thankfully, as anyone who’s witnessed Dominic Deegan‘s attempts to be “sexy” will attest to, shortly before breaking out in a cold sweat). Yes, there are plenty of good comics that don’t have a big following, but the excuse that endless, endless tit shots are somehow required for success doesn’t really hold water: people do appreciate and financially support webcomics for their stories, but Exiern isn’t one of them.
Because it is the story that’s the biggest problem with Exiern, and the comic would be objectionable even without page after page of supple, heaving donation incentives. Drowemos may allegedly feel bad about the way his comic treats women visually, but he fails to grasp that misogyny isn’t just about his comic’s boob quotient, it’s about the approach as a whole. Returning to a previous good comic example, Girl Genius is – God, I didn’t spot the pun until it was too late - overflowing with buxom women in Victorian foundation garments, but nobody I know seems to have a problem with it, because Phil Foglio treats the characters as characters rather than living cleavage delivery devices. Even Oglaf, a webcomic with high-fantasy nudity as part of its mission statement, presents us with actual stories in which sex is a plot point, rather than a generic narrative in which women randomly have their clothing removed whether they like it or not. Exiern, not so much.
It will come to no surprise that I have spent some time thinking about what it would be like to live as a woman. I sort of have to do that to write this comic.
It will come as no surprise that the evidence says otherwise. Drowemos, like every non-transgendered author of a transgender webcomic, hasn’t thought about what it would be like to live a woman, he’s thought about what it would be like to live as a collection of misogynist stereotypes drawn from sit-coms and Christmas cracker jokes. Spoilers coming up! When a man is transformed into a woman, as happens semi-regularly for no fucking reason other than keeping Wotch fans reading, the following changes take place: Age reduced to around 23, long hair, nail polish, Barbie physique, obsession with shoes, inexplicable nudity, giggling fits. Lest you think this hyperbole, I present the case of two priests who may or may not have names. While attempting to sacrifice our formerly male heroine, the magic that cursed him/her was released and affected them too.
LOOK AT HOW BOUNCY AND FULL IT IS.
I don’t think any one of the images in Exiern is bad nor are any one magazine cover nor any one comic book image. But the over all gestalt, the sheer volume of these images when taken all together form a single message: “women are just bodies”.
Except, as anyone with an iota of self-awareness can tell you, the above panels would still be “bad” even if the characters were wearing burqas. The “thinking” behind this isn’t “I wonder what it’s like to live as a woman”, it’s “They’re women now, so… I dunno, boobs. Oh, and shoes”. The latter’s especially hideous given that Exiern is set in a pseudo-medieval fantasy world where shoe-obsession has no aesthetic or rational reason to exist. Yeah, it’s one of those fantasy worlds, where “fantasy” is a catch-all term for “whatever was going through the author’s head that day”.
The other main character from Exiern who, in an exciting first for the comic, was always female. Special Power: Tits.
And yet this is not the lowest point that Drowemos’ writing sinks to. The lowest point is not a specific page, panel or line or dialogue, but an entire spinoff comic called Exiern: Dark Reflections, a “What If?” story set in an alternate dimension where Drowemos can’t even be bothered feigning concern about the way he treats his female characters. Rather than asking for a membership fee in order to view an uncensored version, Dark Reflections supports itself by publishing one page for every $90 the readers donate. It’s currently on page 39, which works out at way too many fucking donations. Because Dark Reflections is a “dark” and “adult” comic, it doesn’t need to come up with magical reasons for women’s clothing to fall off, since it can just have them be stripped, leered at and implicitly-almost-raped by a talking gorilla. A dark and adult talking gorilla.
That the dragon-thing’s tongue is cut off in the next panel doesn’t make a difference, because she’s already been reduced to a powerless, sexualised figure and dwelt on for far, far longer than the narrative requires. As if to drive home just how misogynistic this scene actually is, Drowemos helpfully follows it up with what a male character being tortured looks like:
Similarly powerless, but he’s struggling and looks as if he’s actually suffering rather than posing for a centrefold. The snake are hurting him, not showing off his sexual characteristics for the benefit of the readers. It also lasts for one panel, because that’s as much as we need to see to get the point across, and dwelling on it would be unpleasant since – Yes! – torture actually is unpleasant. Unlike gorilla rape, which is wanktacular as long as you’re rescued at the last minute.
I don’t like the way our society objectifies women.
I don’t like the way our society objectifies women.
I don’t like the way our society objectifies women.
Not sure I agree with you 100% on your police work there, Drow. In fact, it’s Exiern and its equally appalling peer group – The Wotch, Abstract Gender, Happy But Dead, TG Comics, Drop Dead Gorgeous, good Christ I’ve read way too many of these things – that represent the ultimate in female objectification, because they present the female body as a vessel for male characters to inhabit, control and live out personal fantasies through, without ever having to consider how women, cis, trans or intersex, gay, straight, bi or asexual, might actually feel. Even Shredded Moose had more thought put into its female characters than this.
Alfred Nobel made his fortune from dynamite and while he regretted the effect his invention had on the world. But he did not stop selling dynamite. Like wise I regret playing a part in a world that marginalizes women but I am not going to stop making my comic because of it. You can’t give up your love that easily. Perhaps if I make enough money one day I will invest it in a comic of unsexy competent women in a positive light just as Nobel invested his money in his prize. This comic will be well written engaging and make absolutely no money. But at least then I will be able to rest knowing that I have balanced out my impact on the world.
My favourite part is “perhaps”. Also, didn’t they just option a Strangers in Paradise movie?