After a long period of praise for their progressive ways in their comics properties Marvel has caused a bit of a stir with a hyper-sexualized variant Spider-Woman cover. She’s crouched on a rooftop, lips slightly parted with her spandex covered ass in the air like she’s waiting to get fucked. It’s a pose that’s perfectly in line with what artist Milo Manara has been doing in his own work on his Italian comic, Click!. Marvel, Manara and the writer, Dennis Hopeless have all weighed in on the controversy.
Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort answered a question on Tumblr about the controversy and paid lip-service to the conversation while simultaneously dismissing its relevance in this particular case.
I think that the people who are upset about that cover have a point, at least in how the image relates to them.
By that same token, Milo Manara has been working as a cartoonist since 1969, and what he does hasn’t materially changed in all that time. So when we say “Manara cover”, his body of work indicates what sort of thing he’s going to do.
So Marvel got the Manara cover that they expected, but why did they want a Manara cover in the first place? Marvel knew what they’d be getting, and they’re clearly happy with what they got. It’s a super-sexy variant cover for collectors and the type of comic reader who still wants every woman to be constantly posed like a centerfold. Whether they’re throwing a punch or climbing a wall the back should be arched and the chest out.
Brevoort feels like it’s one of the less sexualized pieces of work that Manara has done, but that’s beside the point. The cover isn’t being compared to the standard of the erotic comic artist’s previous work. Nobody, or at least nobody worth responding to, is saying, “That’s an over the top pose for Manara. This isn’t what we expect from him. What happened?” It’s being compared to the tone and story that is appropriate for Spider-Woman. It’s being held to the standard of characters like Ms. Marvel. It’s being held up against the standard of a company making Thor a woman and Captain America a Black man.
The original question asked of Brevoort also contains a problematic idea in itself, “However, I am wondering whether this criticism is going too far. It is sort of becoming more like a form of conservatism. It almost seems like some people want to completely remove sexual thematics from comics.” What is at issue is not that all comics should refrain from sexually charged posing, but that those poses should be appropriate to the character and situation, and not a foregone conclusion because of that character’s gender. At issue is that entitled, straight, male readers feel that all women at all times should be drawn to please their gaze. It’s a defensive way to ask the question that’s designed to derail the discussion.
Once again the real question is, “Why did Marvel choose a sexually charged cover variant?”
Manara mostly doesn’t seem to give much of a shit. He’s clearly more bothered by people claiming his anatomy is wrong than people who are miffed about the sexualization of female characters in comic books. He spends much more time defending his anatomy with statements like, “Now, on the incompetence in the drawing I don’t know what to say. Let’s say that I try to do my best for 40 years. Nobody is perfect, and I can make mistakes; simply, I am a professional, then I do my best,” than responding to accusations of misplaced eroticism.