Superheroine Sundays: Emma Rios

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Welcome to the first installment of Superherione Sundays. Superheroine Sundays will be an ongoing series that highlights various women in comics, fantasy, science fiction, and other popular culture. Given the plethora of men working in these industries, my goal is to showcase women whose work I particularly admire. One of the things I’ve noticed over the last few years is that women rarely write or illustrate or color the characters and stories I love, even if the characters are female. Therefore, hopefully, by highlighting some women in these industries, I’ll be able to answer GeekMom Corrina’s call to action and do my part as a reader to show our interest in bringing more superheroines into these creative roles.

Image: Emma Rios
Image: Emma Rios/Image Comics

A few years ago, being new to comics, I became a bit of a Kelly Sue DeConnick fangirl. I mean, what woman isn’t? As such, I picked up the book Pretty Deadly after seeing it advertised all over my Female Geek Media feed. The thing was, it’s nothing in my wheelhouse. I hate wild west stuff. I’m not really into magical realism. The story wasn’t on my top ten lists of things I wanted to read.

And yet, I still subscribe to it.

“Karen, why are you still subscribing to a book, you know, a reading thing, that you, admittedly, don’t enjoy reading?”

Two words: Emma Rios.

From the first preview of the first cover, I fell in love with the look of Pretty Deadly. It wasn’t the colors or the location, it was the feeling that came out of it. There was a sense of movement in the stillness of that main image. The stillness came from the female character’s reflection. The motion, however, was in the subtle arcs of the tall grasses. Instead of being perpendicular to the ground, they are at a slight angle and, with the sparseness of them, you can almost feel the warm desert breeze.

Ms. Rios is this week’s focus because I was shuffling through my pile of comics looking to see what females were there. Looking down at the unread issues of Pretty Deadly, I couldn’t help but choose Ms. Rios. Here I am, spending money to just look at her art. Unfortunately, I was only familiar with Ms. Rios from the one book.

Or so I thought.

Because I really love to research the women I profile, I turned to The Googles. The internet informed me that Ms. Rios had also worked on Hexed, another book that I found beautiful to look at but not really my speed to read. Similar to Pretty Deadly, I nonetheless bought several issues of the book just because it was so dang pretty. Clearly, I’m an Emma Rios fangirl without even realizing it.

I’m a sucker for unique voices in art, music, and literature. I love when I can look at or hear something and automatically recognize the distinctive signature of the creator. Ms. Rios brings that distinctive quality to her work. The more I reviewed the images on her official Flickr page, the more I marveled at their beauty, the more I was able to see a signature in everything from her own creations to her work with franchised characters.

In all of Ms. Rios’ work, she incorporates the same sense of individual strands that show movement. Her work often integrates things such as lightning, hair, trees, or grasses that act as thick “lines.” Her work with Doctor Strange, for example, brings in movement arising out of these thick lines in a manner reminiscent of the grasses and trees in Pretty Deadly. In fact, despite my having absolutely no interest in Doctor Strange as a character (I feel there’s a theme here), her art compels me to care.

Image: Emma Rios/Marvel
Image: Emma Rios/Marvel

Similar to the grass in the Pretty Deadly image, this image has Doctor Strange’s hair as well as the wisps of magic. Simultaneously, we see the lines of his individual hairs mimicked in the curvature of his collar. The lines associated with Strange are then mirrored in the lines within Doctor Doom’s cloak and the shadows on his hood. This sense of unity through the stranded lines within the art are what I found over and over in Ms. Rios’ work giving her voice a sense of uniqueness.

Ms. Rios deserves to be this week’s focus for Superheroine Sundays precisely because her art engages me in books whose stories I find uncompelling. The dynamic motion in her art compels me to move forward and to keep looking at the pages, wherein I may accidentally read the dialogue. I may not care about the themes or even have an interest in the characters of these stories, but Ms. Rios brings me into these worlds and narratives because she makes them so stunning. Thank you, Ms. Rios. I look forward to having your art bring me into more worlds about which I have no interest in reading.

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