Irradiated by LabRat
Cross-posted, because anything that inspires me to spit out six hundred words before I’ve finished my coffee probably shouldn’t be wasted at an away game, as Tam says.
Erotic comic art, cheesecake, and beefcake (please!) has a right to exist, joyously. I’ve got two not-cheap books of it myself by two of my favorites, Bruce Timm and Frank Cho. I do love a gorgeous drawing, and I’m a fan of a good appreciation of anatomy, clothed or unclothed, erotically inviting or not.
But this isn’t a cheesecake portfolio. It’s the front cover of a mass-market book. I wouldn’t feel entirely scornful if a religious group were protesting this as wholly inappropriate for a such a cover, which while much more aimed at adult audiences these days are still also marketed to children, and superhero books always appear front and center on the racks. (I know I’ve spent a lot of time in comic shops, and there’s always kids there.)
1) That’s not a pose of a powerful character with spider-powers stalking the city. That is, as Bricken pointed out, most reminiscent of an animal in heat “presenting”.
2) To those admiring the anatomy, um, stop. Frank Cho draws beautiful women with beautiful anatomy. This guy drew a back and butt and damn near photoshopped some arms and a head on there. True that he’s a hell of a lot better than Liefeld, but the anatomy isn’t there so much as it is randomly assembled to make that ass display possible while still showing her face. At least he didn’t go full cubist to get her tits in there too.
3) It’s not about her being “too beautiful” or even an unrealistic body. Most superhero bodies are in fact unrealistic, and frankly no one looks good in spandex except professional dancers. It’s about the bit where the last time I saw something displayed like that, it was one of the roasts I was contemplating on my last trip to the butcher counter. Even a bitch in heat has more dignity. “Here’s your monthly Spider-Woman title, her own book about her adventures and hero career with full focus on her character! This month it’s about DAT ASS. I MEAN DAAAAAMN. We won’t mind if you go get some tissue and hand lotion before you read the rest.”
4) Milo Manara’s main focus as an artist is pinup and erotic art. He’s not so much a regular artist for ordinary comics and animation the way Timm and Cho are. Yes, he does some gorgeous work. Yes, he deserves his own art books. Was it appropriate to hire him as the guest artist for the front cover of, again, a mainstream monthly book? UM. I’m not actually criticizing Manara here, except for his grasp of anatomically correct poses- I’m criticizing Marvel and whoever the fuck at Marvel decided this was a great idea. And if you don’t think this sends a message about what Marvel thinks about its fans and its characters, you’re either legally blind or fucking high.
Marvel does in fact have a right to do this. It’s their book and their house, and while it certainly sashays right up to pornography, it’s not quite. Likewise the fans who drive Marvel’s industry, male, female, feminist, and not, have an equal right to be alienated and to voice that alienation. Loudly as they want. They just don’t have the right to demand any other entity censor Marvel. Do they have a right to imply or outright say, loudly, that Marvel should self-censor? Of course they fucking do. Self-censorship is something every one of us does every day. It’s called “trying not to be an asshole”. They don’t have a right to tell an artist what to art, but they’re *not*. Manara was a guest artist, and no one has suggested he shouldn’t draw whatever the fuck he wants in the already healthy career he’s in. They’re criticizing Marvel’s decision to have him do this in particular, and the comic industry in general’s attitude to their female fans. (Which in Marvel’s case is really, really schizophrenic- which actually beats hell out of “uniform contempt”.) Demanding enforcement of “political correctness” can be kind of assholish, but when they have several *really good points*- and are in fact consisting of a huge chunk of people who pay money for Marvel’s content- it’s really not.