Danger Girl #2 (J. Scott Campbell Smoking Gun) Homage Covers

Is it as Simple as a Woman in a Light-Colored Dress Holding a Smoking Pistol?

J. Scott Campbell’s “Smoking Gun” variant for Danger Girl #2 (May 1998) – and it’s more valuable cousin, the “Ruby Red” variant – are highly-prized by J. Scott Campbell fans and comic book collector’s.

Danger Girl, created by J. Scott Campbell and Andy Hartnell only a couple of months earlier, is a group of three sexy female secret agents – Abbey Chase, Sydney Savage & Sonya Savage – very much like the characters of James Bond or Charlie’s Angels. The fashionable evening dress, high-heeled shoes and smoking gun are not unexpected accoutrements for Agent Sonya Savage, the subject of J. Scott Campbell’s variant cover.

Campbell’s approach for this “Smoking Gun” variant – and its “Ruby Red” cousin and the various reproductions published later –  makes this cover unique and surprising in ways that engage collectors beyond the simplistic elements of attire and the proverbial smoking firearm. Its appeal is not nearly as simple as a woman in a dress holding a pistol. Campbell masterfully draws the viewer’s eye around the page.

First we notice Sonya Savage’s pose. It is the Melting Heart pose found in yoga. While the pose is useful for activating specific meridians and points in the body, it is also sexually-charged because it raises and displays Sonya’s well-rounded hind quarters. In fact, this pose ranks high on many lists to help stimulate or reinvigorate one’s sex life. Sexually active adults probably immediately recognize the provocative appeal of Sonya’s position.

Next we notice Sonya’s manner of dress. Her dress or gown is a calming light blue and made of a lightweight or sheer form-fitting material which moulds to her figure as she folds into the Melting Heart pose. The dress is also stylishly split along the left leg – as many evening dresses are – to reveal Sonya’s appealing thigh. The slit also allows the wearer to move her legs but the slit spreads open with the slightest movement, even walking. In some cases, the entire length of the woman’s leg may be revealed all the way to her waist, exposing skin and features which are normally covered and hidden from view. While viewers cannot see how the rest of Sonya’s dress fits, they can imagine how it likely clings and forms to the rest of her body as well. The gown we notice is also sleeveless, which bares yet another portion of Sonya’s body – i.e. bare shoulders and arms – which are normally covered or hidden from view.

Then we notice the gun clasped in Sonya’s hands. It is pointing skyward with a tendril of liquid-looking smoke winding from the tip of the barrel to and around the book’s title. The pistol is symbolically phallic in several ways. While it points skyward, it is not pointed directly up but at a slight 20°-30° angle. Sonya’s experienced hands wrap and enfold the grip familiarly. The rising smoke indicates that the pistol has been shot only moments before.

In this way, Campbell leads the viewer’s gaze around the page, from the title, down across Sonya’s purposefully-positioned-and-attired body along her back to the pistol gripped in both hands and back to the title again. The viewer is encouraged to appreciate the details of Sonya’s thinly veiled body.

Finally, the variant features an empty red backdrop. If not for the presence of Sonya Savage – the only subject of the cover besides the title – the cover would be simply a red blank. Studies of color indicate that red is a powerful sexual signal in primates, including humans. In fact,

“Men viewing women on a red background or in red clothing (relative to other chromatic and achromatic backgrounds and clothing) find them more attractive and sexually desirable, intend to spend more money on them, and choose to sit closer to them. Perceived sexual receptivity has been shown to mediate the red-romance link; men construe the “lady in red” as more sexually receptive and this, in turn, increases their attraction to her.”

(This observation is clearly from a heterosexual perspective, but we cannot help but wonder if this is true for other sexual orientations…)

The variant’s red background underscores J. Scott Campbell’s purpose: Present Danger Girls – Sonya Savage in particular for this variant – as physically attractive and sexually appealing comics for (mostly) male readers.

Comics published later which celebrate Danger Girl reproduce the iconic cover with mostly superficial differences. Most of the details remain the same: the provocative pose, the revealing dress, and the phallic smoking gun. The background color, however, may be changed – perhaps to pink – on occasion, which only serves to sabotage some of the appeal of the original. In instances where the red background is changed, the title logotype is filled with red instead.

Sources: CureJoy.com (“Top 10 Yoga Poses to Reignite Your Sex Life“); National Library of Medicine (“Dressed for Sex: Red as a Female Sexual Signal in Humans”) & the New York Times (Slit Skirts: A Question Of Taste”)