Bad Girl Art, despite what the name might imply, is not the opposite of Good Girl Art. In fact the two are closely related. While Good Girl Art features attractively-drawn (and usually under-dressed) female characters who are sweet or heroic in nature, Bad Girl Art features attractively-drawn (and equally under-dressed) female characters who have dark, scandalous, and violent edges to their personas. Unlike the term Good Girl Art, which once broadly described any form of comic book pinup art featuring sexy girls, the term Bad Girl Art is not as widely used and tends to pertain more specifically to certain characters and publishers. The art form was at its most prevalent during the initial explosion of Bad Girl characters, which reached its peak in the 1990's.
Common visual characteristics of Bad Girls include elongated and exaggerated physiques, well-endowed busts, long flowing hair, and revealing yet busy costumes resembling bikinis in design. They also tend to carry oversized melee weapons, sometimes bloodied by their defeated enemies. Most, though not all, also possess powers of a supernatural nature.
It should be noted that most Bad Girl characters are not truly "bad" -- that is, villainous and evil in alignment. In fact, the majority of Bad Girls are presented as protagonists who are opposed to true evil. However, in contrast to traditional female superheroes, the personalities and methods of the Bad Girls can be nearly as dark and violent as the evil opponents they battle against. Unlike traditional superheroines, Bad Girls exhibit little or no compunction about maiming or killing enemies.
The first precursor to the modern Bad Girl appeared more than two decades before the term was coined: The vampire-powered vixen Vampirella, who premiered in Warren Comics in 1969. Another Bad Girl precursor was the barbarian swordswoman Red Sonja, created by Marvel Comics in 1973, who became famous for wearing sexy bikini-like armor while slicing up her opponents. A third precursor to the genre was the Marvel character Elektra, an alluring yet deadly female assassin who first appeared in 1981. With their skimpy costumes, long flowing hair, edgy personalities, and propensity for violence, these women provided a template for the wave of Bad Girl characters that appeared a decade later.
Heyday: the 1990's
In 1989, just before the turn of the decade, Joseph Michael Linsner's supernatural femme fatale character Dawn made her first appearance, setting the stage for an explosion of Bad Girls in the 90's. One of the biggest promoters of the modern genre of Bad Girls was Brian Pulido, the founder and writer of Chaos! Comics, which published a roster that leaned heavily on strong anti-heroine leads. The earliest and most prominent of these was Lady Death (created by Pulido and artist Steven Hughes), who made her debut in 1992 and is often considered to be the first 'official' Bad Girl in comics. Other popular Chaos Bad Girls were Purgatori (created in 1994) and Chastity (created in 1995). Despite Chaos Comics going bankrupt at the start of 2000, their Bad Girl legacy has continued, with other publishers snapping up the characters and continuing their stories.
Another early exponent of Bad Girl art was Everette Hartsoe of London Night Studios. An independent comic book artist and writer, his Bad Girls were ultra-violent and their costumes ultra-skimpy, sometimes appearing completely nude. His most significant characters were Razor (created in 1991), Stryke (created in 1991), and Poizon (created in 1995).
Other notable Bad Girls to debut in the 1990's were Angela (created by Neil Gaiman in 1993), Shi (created by Billy Tucci in 1993), Glory and Avengelyne (created by Rob Liefeld in 1993 and 1995, respectively), Lady Rawhide (created by Don McGregor and Mike Mayhew in 1994), Red Monika (created by Joe Madureira in 1995), detective Sara Pezzini as the sexy wielder of the Witchblade (created by Michael Turner in 1995), Darkchylde (created by Randy Queen in 1996), and Magdalena (created by Joe Benitez in 1998). Though the popularity of Bad Girls declined towards the end of the 1990's, notable Bad Girls to debut in the 2000's were Tarot (created by Jim Balent in 2000) and Cassie Hack (created by Tim Seeley in 2004).
Teams and crossovers
The very nature of Bad Girl characters dictates that they generally do not 'play well' with others and prefer to operate solo. Hence team books featuring Bad Girls were rare, even at the height of their popularity when many of them had solo titles. One of the few high-profile 1990's team titles to promote Bad Girl Art was Danger Girl, created by J. Scott Campbell and Andy Hartnell in 1998, though the Danger Girls were too 'good' to be true Bad Girls (with the exception of Natalia Kassle, who was revealed to be a traitor to the team).
Despite the lack of team titles, Bad Girl crossover titles featuring two or more Bad Girl characters (Lady Death/Vampirella, Witchblade/Lady Death, Vampirella/Purgatori, Lady Death/Chastity/Bad Kitty, Glory/Avengelyne, etc) were very popular during this period. In most of these crossover stories the titular Bad Girls got along poorly at first and would often fight each other, until the threat of a common enemy forced them to work together.
The prominence of Bad Girl Art declined in the 2000's, but the art form continues to maintain a level of popularity and appears to be here to stay. Dynamite Entertainment has become known for purchasing and reviving many popular Bad Girl characters previously created by other publishers (Red Sonja, Vampirella, Lady Rawhide, and others). In 2010 Dynamite purchased every character in the former Chaos Comics inventory, with the notable exception of Lady Death, who remains the property of creator Brian Pulido (now with Coffin Comics). Dynamite hired Tim Seeley (creator of Cassie Hack) to create a new Bad Girl character, Lady Hel, to replace Lady Death in Dynamite's Chaos universe.
Another significant publisher carrying on the tradition of Bad Girl Art is Zenescope Entertainment (the publisher of Grimm Fairy Tales and its many spinoffs). Zenescope's heroines (the most notable of which are Sela, Belinda, Britney Waters, Liesel Van Helsing, Samantha Darren, and Robyn Hood), though ostensibly "good girls," are often portrayed in a Bad Girl style on Zenescope covers. Edgier Zenescope heroines who conform to the true Bad Girl model include Hellchild, Keres, and Mystere. Many of Zenescope's villains also tend to fit the Bad Girl archetype; they include Baba Yaga, Limbo Queen, Queen of Spades, Venus, Lynessa, and Goblin Queen (not to be confused with the Marvel character of the same name). These characters were featured together in a miniseries called Grimm Fairy Tales presents Bad Girls in 2012. Zenescope's cover art tends to blur the boundary between Good Girl and Bad Girl Art, depicting Bad Girls alongside (or in conflict with) Good Girls.
Unofficial "Bad Girls"
Though the terms 'Bad Girl' and Bad Girl Art are usually specific to the above characters and publishers, some mainstream comic book characters are thought of as unofficial 'bad girls' by fans due to their strong similarities, both in appearance and temperament -- especially if they are "drawn that way." Such characters include DC's Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman (collectively known as the "Gotham Girls"), Marvel's Elektra, Emma Frost, Goblin Queen, and Black Cat, and Dynamite's Red Sonja (formerly a Marvel character), though other characters can potentially fit the label as well. At the start of the Bad Girl explosion in 1991, Marvel even created a team called B.A.D. Girls Inc, comprised of three sexy former villainesses (Black Mamba, Asp, and Diamondback) turned good. Sexy pinups featuring any of the above characters (and others) could be considered either Good Girl Art or Bad Girl Art, depending mainly on the artist and how the character is presented.