Big Barda by Chad Raymond

Character: Big Barda
Publisher: DC Comics
Artist: Chad Raymond
Reviewer: Chris Pitzer and Joel Priddy

Chris Pitzer:

Big Barda. If there is MORE woman in comics, I can’t think of her. I’m not all that familiar with the character in details. Or, let’s say if I was, I don’t have the memory that I use to. I know the basics… She’s Mr. Miracle’s main squeeze, she can kick most anyone’s butt, and she was created by Jack Kirby. And… if she was created by Jack Kirby, that causes an instant woosh of shimmering metal, inkblack power dots and really thick fingers.

And now we have Chad’s version.

I like that Chad make’s no pretention in his ability at illustration.

Instead of a 3/4 view with photoshoped lensflares, we get what a straight on view that is reminiscent of the a fertility statue I recall from my art history books. If it’s not obvious, I picked to review this design because I think it’s one of the best that has been done. I love clean simple lines, and this design has it in spades. But let’s start with the best and work our way around. I LOVE the black arm bands and leg bands that can get “lost” in her waves of flowing hair. A very neat trick that isn’t overdone.

Also, the costume reminds of the motherbox for some reason. (Disclaimer time.. I might assume this design is based on the new Mr. Miracle design? I haven’t read that comic, but just found out it’s not even Scott Free, so it’s not really Mr. Miracle in my mind. Back to the review…) The inclusion of the miniskirt gets a big thumbs up for retrochic. I also think the new face painting would add much interest to talking heads.. when they appear in comics. But IS it face painting or a mask or something else? And working our way around the design.. I’m not sure about the feet. I think she needs souls. And maybe some toe coverings. But then again, it is cool to see painted toes, and if they’re indestructible, yeah, why not go for comfort!

And best of all.. she’ll give the Jack of Hearts a run for one of the toughest costumes to draw. Rock.

Joel Priddy:

When I first saw this design at thumbnail size, I was pretty excited. We all know that Kirby was one of the Great Original Visionaries of American Comics, and that the Fourth World stories were Kirby at his most Kirbyesque. Not many people seem to be able to hone in on that weird Kirby vibe, and it’s sad to see his stuff get slowly homogenized over time. This thumbnail didn’t look like Kirby, but it seems to share in the same essential weirdness. And that is rare and interesting.

But then I clicked on it, and saw the enlarged version. Micro-mini-skirt? Stockings with garters? Headlight boob cups? On Big Barda?

Barda’s not some little club-scene sexpot. Comics are full of those, and I’m not sure we really need another. Barda is one of superherodom’s more realized female characters. She’s more Hestia-played-by-Lucy-Lawless than Circe-played-by-Catharine-Zeta-Jones. I highly recommend Michael Chabon’s excellent ode to Big Barda Woman of Valor. It’s a smart little essay, and an astute articulation of Barda. Some of this character can be seen in the face, which is the best part of the design, but the rest of the design undermines it.

I hadn’t planned on reviewing this design, because I didn’t want to seem to be slamming it. But, the truth is, I’ve thought about it several times since I first saw it. There is something quite arresting going on here. I’d like to applaud the visual sensibility that informs this design, and encourage it to be taken further. Embrace that weirdness. But this design is not right for this character.

23 comments on “Big Barda by Chad Raymond
  1. If they were going to do a shilo norman mr. miracle book and therefore assign a earth counterpart for big barda, this costume could work well.

    I would see her writen as this strong powerful african woman that was sold to Granny goodness, and then later escapes.

    The costume also works, because I can imagine some of it as body paint. She would wear the tunic but her legs would be painted and so would her arms. Those bands could be like really nice african jewelery.

    It would be a great juxtiposition of Shilo Norman, black hip american dude, next to Big Barda, proud fish out of water african woman.

    I would drop the hair and go for a nice ethopian braided hairstyle.

  2. I keep coming back to this art piece, examining it, going away and coming back again. At a very basic level, I don’t like the image. I think the artist is talented, but I’m not sure his style is right for this kind of contest. The flat, 2-D style reminds me of Mayan art or some other wall painting.

    I really like that the artist was trying to do something different and for that I give him kudos, but it doesn’t feel like Big Barda to me. Admittedly, I don’t have the background knowledge on the character, but I know that Big Barda is a Big Badass and this costume just doesn’t carry that across.

    Truly this looks more like something out of Star Wars (and it’s not just her pink lightsaber that makes me think that). The costume is too vulnerable. Maybe if she were lounging around the house this would work, but I think that even Big Barda would get decked out in armor before jumping into battle.

    I REALLY like the hair and I like the mask/face paint design. I like that the artis is keeping it weird/fresh. Overall I don’t feel like it works as an update to Big Barda.

  3. Thanks all!

    It’s less Barda’s not some little club-scene sexpot, and more reminiscent of the a fertility statue I recall from my art history books plus skintight supersuits as fetish-informed shamelessness. The flat, 2-D style reminds me of Mayan art or some other wall painting is intentional.

    I’d love to further discuss my influences and process in regards to this design’s development, but I’m waiting to see if Eric Stephenson will weigh in. I’ll win a reviewer trifecta!

  4. I think there is something being lost in the drawing style. It looks like a logo for the actual superheroine. Perhaps one of the reviewers could re-draw it in a more conventional comic book style. Then we could really see what’s goin on. I’ll give credit to the artist for not copping out and saying that “she needs to fit in with humans” and then just putting her in jeans and sneakers.

  5. This design strikes me as an emphasis on the word GOD in the Fourth World’s New Gods. It looks like Chad is trying to separate Barda from humanity. I look at this design and I note that the major difference between this redesign and, say, Paul Dini’s design from Batman Beyond is that Barda has always felt like a Wonder Woman rip-off. This design tears away from the “goddess living in man’s world.” It creates a definate visual separation between the two characters and each character’s ultimate role. Diana is a peace-bringer and teacher, her attire should accomodate that role. Barda is a warrior. Any reason she has to promote peace come solely from her relationship with her husband. Diana cannot, by nature of what relationship with the world around her, appear to be distant and foreboding. Barda, on the other hand, flourishes in that role.

    While I like the design, I think that on its own it wouldn’t stand as well as if combined with other New Gods in the style of other historical eras. For example a Romanesque Orion, or a feudal Japanese Highfather, or a Pacific Northwestern style Big Bear modeled after a totem pole. But only if the redesigned characters, like Chad’s Barda, retained the over-the-top coloring schemes of Kirby’s New Gods.

    Interesting piece.

  6. As a pure art piece I love it. It is very deity, very primative and I like the use of strong basic colors. I would love to see a more ‘realistic’ artist translate this into another piece and see how it would look. I think the face mask/piant is fierce. Simple and strong.

    I like!

  7. This is kinda neat! I like the colors and the graphic quality of this illustration. I agree that the design may need to be pushed a little more. Overall, I like it. It reminds me of the design work that can be found in the Art of Incredibles.

  8. I like the design. Like the colors. Love the character. BUT…I think Clone Wars Jedi when I first viewed this. I don’t feel Big Barda in this at all. too pretty.

  9. I think the second critique of this piece is off a bit. Barda’s battle armor is often portrayed with a skirt – even by Kirby. It’s not an element the artist here simply threw in. And what the reviewer sees “garters” I see as a seam that runs all the way up under the skirt and around the torso. Nothing about this pieces says club-scene sex pot to me.

  10. This works. It’s as outrageous as the 4th world books, and it’s kind of Kirby-tribal. I could learn to love this one.

  11. I suppose I could pull myself away from World of Warcraft to finally address some concerns, criticism, and better explain my influences.

    This design of Barda is the result of discussion surrounding the latest Mister Miracle series, part of the Seven Soldiers event. Barda was absent from the latest revisioning of Fourth World mythos, but so were a lot of New God elements. What we were left with was a parable of fantastic proportions hidden inside a bleak “realistic” plot. Over the course of the series, Shilo Norman became less a successor to Scott Free as the expression of New God Saviour – the Risen Son and “Jesus” of hero comics.

    But in that world, how does Barda work?

    First we asked what Barda was “goddess-of”. Fertility, War, Motherhood, all fell flat until one suggested she was a spin of the Hindu goddess . A read on Durga proved accurate – but still not as epic, or as primal, as I’d hoped. Who is the goddess that could captivate and be enthralled by SuperJesus? Michael Chabon knows. So does Alan Moore. For those more symbolically inclined, Barda is the Goddess of Strength — she who marches between the philosophies of Apokolips and New Genesis.

    With that understanding of Barda’s true nature, developing a revision of her costume was simple. Stripping away unnecessary encoutrements like armor and the cape, I covered her body in a primary colored supersuit, matching the style of of the Seven Soldiers’ New Gods. But while she’s now covered head-to-toe in costume, the illusion is such that she is naked – a design decision I made that further explains and announces who Barda really is.

    She finds our prudeness hilarious.

    This is a woman with an alien sense of a woman’s role in contemporary society and struggle through history. She’s dominant in every way, unconquerable. She understands sexuality and desire and the female form(s), and uses it not as a femme fatale’s trap , but as a warrior goddess’s flag. FLAG.

    While her bodice is the most controvercial, her mask is the most interesting. The detail here is intentional as well. As the unconquerable Barda, she screams for attention, and her face is one that should be beautiful and terrifying. I looked to mandrills to inform me there, as well as King Mob of the Invisibles, and “Hair War” competitions of Detroit beauty parlors. I replaced her annoyingly ornate headdress with big BIG hair that, like Barda herself, is larger than life.

    Finally, and most importantly, I worked to give this Barda a symbol. A logo that could be hers, to give her importance that she might belong to the JLA before even the new Mister Miracle might. As said before, Barda comes from two worlds – New Genesis and Apokolips, two opposing worlds, of which her singular view is a third path. That single view is represented in the third eye that adorns her forehead. It is that set of three eyes that is most important to understanding and representing Barda. She chooses no one side, but both, and still has enough strength to forge a third path.

    (The three “eyes” are drawn again on her chest. One for each breast, and one over her heart.)

  12. Nice to hear more of your thoughts on it, Chad!

    I’m personally a fan of this redesign, despite some weaknesses in the illustration. I think the whole thing works better knowing it was intended as a compliment to the new Mr. Miracle rather than new threads for classic Barda.

  13. Thank you, Mr. Trippe. My Barda design is as much classic Barda as Shiloh is classic Scott Free. Barda, the New Godddes, should be considered a force of nature, not a sequence of continuity.

  14. I have a lot of opinions on this piece, so I’ll break it down itno two categories.
    The good: This costume really gets the Kirby wierdness down. The gloves and boots, the mask and the skirt all capture the original design sensiblities, and the bold colours tie into that as well. It doesn’t have anything to do with the design, but I like the drawign style as well.
    The bad: The nipple hightlights just seem weird and vaguely out of character. I like the yellow; maybe use the same sort of yellow shape Barda’s original costume had? The little bits of piping leading up from the leg things look to much like garters, and that hair would get caught in everything.
    All in all, I think this is a fun, creative, design that just needs a little rejiggering.

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