Tramp Stamps & Armor Exposing It All

Friday is the fantasy day so this post comes a little late. My apologies. My internet connection was acting up so I couldn’t put the post up until now.

In Wednesday’s mashup I offered some male eyecandy and today we’ll take a brief look at how women are portrayed in recent fantasy and urban fantasy book covers and gaming culture and where the trend begun.

Red Sonja by Maroto Adams

Maroto Adams' Red Sonja

Chainmail bikini babes have been a phenomenon of the fantasy genre since Marvel’s Red Sonja comic in the 70s. A good example of the phenomenon is work of profilic artist Larry Elmore. Many of his 80s and 90s pieces show women in scanty armor and even if most body parts are covered, the boobs are always displayed. Elmore has done illustrations for Dungeons & Dragons roleplayin game a lot of fantasy book covers, including the early Dragonlance novels.

The trend of showing off the curves is still rampant in computer games and many illustrations in roleplaying games. Both being male dominated hobbies likely has a lot to do with the fact. With outrageous armors like these, it’s no wonder that some ladies don’t feel welcome in the MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games) circles.

While I was playing World of Warcraft, the biggest online game with over 10 million players all over the world, the big difference between the male and female versions of the same armor really annoyed me. Armor’s purpose is to protect, dammit, not display you. And pretty much all the available female avatars were much shorter and daintier than the beefy male avatars of the same fantasy race.

As for current fantasy covers, my biggest issue with many female cover characters is their weird poses. The women are supposed to look strong and menacing with weapons bared but the way they stand sends the opposite message. Jim Hines demonstrates the trend by assuming some of the poses. And here’s Anna at Genre Reviews showing a female version of the same poses and some male poses for contrast.

Also, have you ever heard the term tramp stamp? If you’re an urban fantasy or paranormal romance fan, you are likely very familiar with the ‘back pose, butt display’ trend. Here’s a very illuminative video by Scifi Guy in which he has collected tens of tramp stamp covers together.

The similarities between the covers are staggering. I like to admire female beauty portrayed with taste but with so many urban fantasy covers looking the same, no one stands out anymore. All the flaunting has lost its shock value and could be toned down. It makes simple elegance, like these Holly Black covers, pop out all the more.

Have you noticed the phenomenon? Is it present at other genres than fantasy and urban fantasy? Have you read a book lately that had a cover you loved? And how much does a cover affect which books you pick up? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Coleen Patrick
    Apr 2, 2012

    I agree about the covers starting to all look the same. At Barnes and Noble the teen section looks like one big wall of black books. And it’s similar with the contemporary YA too. Right now it seems like the trend is cupcakes and candy on the covers. It is cute and eye catching though and I admit covers do get me to pick up a book, but so do titles. Ultimately though its the blurb or first page that determines whether or not I read it.

  2. Reetta Raitanen
    Apr 3, 2012

    Ooh, cupcakes and candy covers sound adorable. I haven’t noticed them here, though. Hmm. I think that US and Europe have different covers for many books. And our English book selection is very poor 🙁
    I totally agree about the cover blurb and first page being the ultimate sales maker. The blurb often tells apart the commercially published writers and indies in Amazon. Such lost opportunities.

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