Monday, November 08, 2010

Transformation, audience appeal and “fetish comics”

Today I’m going to talk about something that’s been on my mind lately. Bear with me, because this might be long, and it might be a little rambly.

Every now and then, I hear the term “fetish comic” thrown around, usually against comics which engage in male-to-female (or vice-versa) transformations. The first time was while reading Your Webcomic Is Bad and You Should Feel Bad by John Solomon (now removed from the interwebs), on a review of The Wotch. Recently, I’ve also heard it used to describe El Goonish Shive – the implication being that people get off on that kind of stuff, or that the author themself does.

Before I start, yes I am going to defend these two comics against the label of “fetish comics”, and it’s not because “I secretly associate with those kinds of people” or something. It’s because I enjoy reading those comics, and I don’t like seeing something I enjoy being attacked. It’s a perfectly reasonable human emotion, so there.

(And no, I don’t enjoy them in that way. Get your head out of the gutter.)

First, let’s define the term fetish comic. I think we can all agree that a fetish comic is one where the primary purpose is obviously to cater to someone’s fetishes.

So, what might make a fetish comic a fetish comic?

The comic attracts perverts: Well, to be honest, that’s a ridiculous measure. I’m sure VG Cats (which is awesoem, BTW)attracts people into anthropomorphic cats as well – despite it being nothing more than anthro cats playing video games. The fact is, everything attracts some kind of fetish-ers – one would only need to search for Rule 34 stuff to see what I mean.

Even if (and that’s a big if) the fan base is primarily made up of fetish people, that doesn’t make the comic inherently a fetish comic. Unless there is clearly fetish-appealing material in the comic does it make it one. (And TF or TG elements are not merely sufficient – more on that later.)

The comic’s author is a pervert: It is my belief that you can’t judge what a person is attracted to from the elements in a webcomic unless the elements are framed in the manner of which he is attracted to them. That is, unless the TG scenes in either comic are framed in a sexual manner, then there is no basis for believing that the author is sexually attracted to TG situations.

But, whatever, say the author is attracted to the content in that way. If the content is devoid of such sexual framing, it doesn’t matter if they are or not, it’s not a fetish comic. Otherwise, it’s an ad hominem (attacking the content based on the merits of the person), and thus has no basis for criticising the comic.

The comic has transformation/transgender themes: Woah, there, hold your horses! Transformation themes are merely a medium or plot device for telling a story. It’s no more inherently feterish then having two cats talk about video games. There has even been transgender themes on shows aimed at kids, tweens and teens – two examples that come to mind are The Zack Files and Johnny Test.

It’s rather annoying when people have pre-conceived notions about a particular subject, and even more annoying is when they let that colour their judgement on content like webcomics. Please, don’t let that person be you.


I hope that I have presented my case, that comics are only fetish comics not only if they appeal to a certain fetish, but are explicitly framed in the context of being a fetish comic, well enough. If not, feel free to sound off in the comments.

I realise that I probably won’t convince anyone who already has their mind set against such things. I’m not writing this for them, though. I’m writing this partially to vent, and maybe to convince some people to rethink the way they approach things. If I’ve convinced even one to approach their values from a different angle, I will have considered this a success.

Thank you for your time, and good night!