Marvel’s Brevoort responds to Manara controversy

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I said I was going to be happy and puppies today, but I feel I should note that Marvel’s executive editor Tom Brevoort responded to the whole Milo Manara thing on his formspring:

Q: Mr. Brevoort, what is your opinion on the debate over M. Manara’s variant cover of Spider Woman? A similar quarrel happened few months back for one cover on DC’s Teen Titans #1. Personally, I agree that women in comics are often “over-sexualized”. 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.

[snip] A:

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.

It’s also, for a Manara piece, one of the less sexualized ones, at least to my eye. Maybe others feel differently. But given that the character is covered head-to-toe, and is crouched in a spider-like pose, it seems far less exploitative to me than other Manara pieces we’ve run in previous months and years.

But all that said, it’s the right of every reader not to like something.

And fortunately, it’s a variant cover, so people will likely need to seek it out if they want it, rather than it being the display piece for the book.

I think a conversation about how women are depicted in comics is relevant at this point, and definitely seems to be bubbling up from the zeitgeist. That too is fine. Nothing gets better unless ideas are communicated.


Ya hear that internet? NOTHING GETS BETTER UNLESS IDEAS ARE COMMUNICATED. As in IT’S OKAY TO TALK ABOUT THIS. Drops mic.

Comments

  1. Michael P says:

    I think the most telling thing about readers like the one above is how they equate complaining about exploitation with complaining about all sexual content. It’s almost as if they think exploitation and sex are synonymous.

  2. Aaron says:

    “And fortunately, it’s a variant cover, so people will likely need to seek it out if they want it, rather than it being the display piece for the book.”

    Has Greg Land changed his art style recently? While it’s probably picking nits, Porn Tracer’s art does not empower women.

  3. Isn’t this kinda like someone hiring Tom of Finland to do a comic book cover, and then being shocked at the results? I mean it’s Milo Manara, do people NOT realize what they’re going to be getting from him? Or is this more of a matter of “Marvel, don’t hire this guy.” I’m not sure. But at least for me, I know if Milo Manara’s name is on the cover, it’s gonna be scandalous and ridiculously sexualized.

  4. Ah, I’m grateful that Marvel is offering us the option of avoiding the lewd sexualization of beloved characters when selecting covers!

  5. @Nathan: Would Marvel ever hire Tom of Finland for a cover (if he were alive)? I don’t think so. They’d think it would make their (straight) male readers uncomfortable and therefore choose an artist that draws men in a less sexualized way. The same should apply to Manara.

    I have no problem with either artist in general, but maybe Marvel superhero comic covers aren’t the right place for them.

  6. I’m guessing all this controversy will make this cover much sought after and briefly valuable.

  7. I don’t get it. Who is being “exploited” by this cover? Besides the odd naive fan who opens the book (purchased, no doubt, at an inflated price) to find that the interiors are drawn significantly worse than the variant cover?

    The Manara cover is a highly sexualized celebration of the enduring allure of the human female rump, to use the Beat’s phrasing. I can see that it’s irksome to hear some (let’s say male) fans try to deny that. But beyond that, what is the controversy? It’s hardly the first time Marvel has offered for sale a sexualized depiction of the Spider-Woman intellectual property (poor Jessica–the true material victim of this outrage!). Sorry, Bill, you don’t get to determine how media companies exploit (ha!) their properties, only which versions you wish to support with your purchases.

    If this were an image of the teenaged Ms. Marvel, obviously there’d be reason for all the outrage. Even if this were a variant cover for Captain Marvel or She-Hulk, books with great artists who avoid any objectification or sexualization of the female leads, at least there’d be reason to question Marvel’s business sense in chasing women readers away from series that otherwise are perfect for them. But this is a series drawn by Greg Land. That ship had already sailed.

    Not every book has to appeal to every reader. If this series tanks, you’ll probably see fewer female-led books with cheesecake or creepy porno art. Ms Marvel’s a hit, but given the less than spectacular sales on Captain Marvel and She-Hulk, it’s hard to fault Marvel for not putting all their eggs in one basket.

    Unless you believe exploiting male sexual desire to sell product is simply immoral.

  8. Can I just point out here, that I’ve never seen this piece (by Manara, right?) of Medusa before and I think it’s pretty damn awesome!

  9. I’m curious, would we still hear the outrage if the variant was done by comic’s legend R. Crumb or would we celebrate Marvel for hiring an Indie legend?

  10. There are zero women involved in this discussion, outside of Heidi (The Watcher). Point of fact!

  11. I think Tom gets to the real point of this — this is Manara. He is an auteur, not just any artist hired to draw Spider-Woman. His style is so dominant that you can spot it at fifty paces. That’s art. Seeing posts elsewhere about people critiquing his anatomy is really missing the point. Comics are always about exaggeration. This is just a different version of Alfred E. Neuman’s ears, really. It is ABSOLUTELY sexualized, but I don’t think it is doing anything worse than that. I always thought these covers were a big coup for Marvel.

  12. What’s the inside of the comic like? I wonder what the story is about.

  13. I think the problem that people are having is the disjunct between Manara’s subject matter and the subject matter of the Spider-Woman comic. Nobody on Earth should have any problem with Manara drawing erotica. It’s what he does and that’s fine. But using that as trade dress for a story that will (presumably) not venture into any topics around sex and sexuality creates a cognitive dissonance. If the comic isn’t sexually charged, why use a sexually charged image to sell it? We all know the obvious answer (because unkissed virgin wizards) but it’s a shame that we have to say it.

  14. The name of the assigning editor has not been released, but that’s the real culprit here. What was he or she thinking? Is an erotic comics artist a suitable cover artist for this book? These are the actual questions not is a butt sexy.

    A nice Tumblr gallery of Manara’s Marvel covers. They are all a LOT better than this one, TBH.

    http://lordtimeblogposts.tumblr.com/post/73977863748/milo-manara-marvel-covers

    What’s most interesting about this kerfuffle is that in the few years since these Manara covers were released, the groundswell of women who like genre material in all mediums has become enormous. There was not even a conversation about this a few years ago.

  15. jacob lyon goddard says:

    i’m always more annoyed that he draws all of his female protagonists looking exactly the same, but with different hair (but the same tiny non-existent noses), while his male characters vary quite a bit.

    but that’s not limited to Manara, i’ve always had the same problem with Tezuka and a hand full of other “masters”.

  16. Bob W. says:

    Hey, remember that thing about judging a book by its cover? Yeah, neither did anyone else apparently.

  17. Seth Hollander says:

    “The name of the assigning editor has not been released, but that’s the real culprit here.”
    Yes. Someone in power at Marvel has decided that promoting their female characters is best done by have Manara transpose these character’s costumes and signature features onto his standard pornbabe creations.
    Someone else in power at Marvel needs to overrule that first someone…

  18. Mikael says:

    Wait – so Queen Beat is going along with Tom’s deflection? Figures. Company men all around.

    And the whole readers have to find the cover is bunk. As the cover was sent out to COMIC BOOK PRESS OUTLETS by Marvel to be SEEN, shared, and more importantly, PROMOTED. Marvel’s PR arm is aggressive with their promotions. Of COURSE they want as many people as possible to see this. Tom’s answer is false.

  19. chris says:

    @Gene Ha

    From the article:
    Dopodiché, non è mica colpa mia se le donne sono fatte così. Io le disegno solamente. Non sono io che le ho fatte così: è un autore molto più “importante”, diciamo, per chi crede … Per gli evoluzionisti tra cui sono io, invece, il corpo delle donne ha assunto questa forma nel corso dei millenni proprio per evitare l’estinzione della specie, insomma. Se le donne fossero fatte esattamente come gli uomini, con la stessa forma, penso che ci saremmo già estinti da un pezzo.

    [Enter Google Translate]
    After that, it’s not my fault if women are like that. I do the design only. It’s not me that I’ve done so: is an author much more “important”, say, for those who believe … For evolutionists, including me, on the other hand, women’s bodies have taken this form over the millennia in order to avoid the ‘extinction of the species, in fact. If women were made exactly as men, with the same shape, I think we would have already been extinct for a long time.

  20. OK, what he said was he tries to do his best and nobody is perfect, as far as the criticisms to the anatomy goes. If he’s wrong, he owns up to it.

    As for the criticism to the erotic art, he thinks it’s hyper-sensitive in the US and there are more important things such as Ebola or Ferguson to worry about. censorship of the female body is not a concern in Western Europe as it is here.

    He says her right leg is off the edge of the ledge and so it slims her a bit and she does not have both knees on the roof yet, pulling herself up, so it brings the butt up and arches the back, advancing at the pace of a jaguar.

    as far as painted-on, he says many are painted on, superman, spider-man, etc. this is no different.

    he understand people feel offended but this is what he thinks is a beautiful picture, and others may think it is disturbing. we are OK with beachwear. he is trying to communicate serenity and seduction.

    he understands the controversy around using women’s bodies as sexual pieces and that it’s sensitive. he thinks it’s fine to draw a superhero as seductive. He says male cosutmes show muscles rippling and are painted on, too. it’s true hers is painted on.

    Says his audience is 50% female based on people who approach him at festivals and signings.

    He did not realize Land used porn, thought it was models. Appreciates Land’s style, says you never stop learning.

    He drew this 3-4 months ago and was taken aback by the controversy. He says it was a celebration of the body without any manipulation by him. he says it’s a drawing, not a real woman doing this against her will. He understand when Marvel does or does not can a cover of his.

  21. FWIW, I streamlined a lot of what he said, so do not take those as quotes, merely a summary of his discussion on the topic.

  22. “There was not even a conversation about this a few years ago. ”

    Bollocks. Everybody’s been going through the motions of this exact same conversation every time there’s any kind of really porny-looking mainstream Marvel/DC cover for bloody years. What you mean is that there wasn’t a conversation about this that included a capital-A Artist like Manara, because all his pre-Marvel nudie bird rubbish was European and therefore automatically Fucking Art, Darling – look, it’s all in Foreign and everything – But the second he touches English-language superheroes, whammo, he’s fair game.

    I’m not impressed with either side of the argument, this time round. See you all again next time as usual.

  23. Chris Williams says:

    Excuse my Italian, but not only is he saying that women naturally look like that because … “evolution”, but it happened within a thousand years?

  24. Full translation of Marara’s response:

    fb.com/EurocomicsUSA/posts/596739597113208

  25. Jay Miller says:

    The drawing of Spider Woman may be sexist, but it is also of poor quality.

  26. Glenn Simpson says:

    It seems like regardless of how people can argue about what is “sexist” vs. “sexy”, etc., Marvel either needs to decide whether they want to court that female market or not, and if so, stay far away from anything that is even in the same range as all that. The drawing itself is Manara being Manara, it’s just a question of whether Manara should have been hired at all. There were people complaining that DC’s “bombshell” covers shouldn’t have just been women.

  27. Ben Lipman says:

    “it seems far less exploitative to me than other Manara pieces we’ve run in previous months and years. ”

    Great defense, Tom.

  28. Torsten Adair says:

    Would someone please photoshop Tom of Finland’s beefcake into a superhero costume?

    The Billy action figures come close, but it’s not the same.

    Oh wait… didn’t Rick Vietch cover this in Bratpack?

  29. Blakeney says:

    My first reaction when I saw the the Medusa thumbnail in The Beat’s article stream was “Huh!” So Marvel is doing nudity covers now?” Because, seriously she looks like she’s doing some kind of body paint thing instead of clothes.

    The issue’s not as simple as “women being sexualized”. First of all there is (or at least was) a line between sexy and sleazy. In the past few decades that line has not only been crossed, but trampled over.

    But there’s more to it than that. It’s not just about sex, but about stereotypes. There’s been talk about how all superheroes are drawn with exaggerated body types. That may be true, but with male superheroes, it’s usually the *muscles* that are exaggerated – hence the idealization.
    With female superheroes it’s the more often the curves and the poses that are emphasized. Some think of this as sexualization – I think a more appropriate word is caricaturization.

    Caricature – a representation in which a subjects distinctive features or traits are deliberately exaggerated (sometimes to grotesque effect).

    For decades caricatures of people from various groups were considered not only popular entertainment, but a viable means of advertising. Thankfully, we now live in a time where the idea of using stereotypes to attract a buying audience is all but unthinkable. Except when it comes to women. Stereotyping women via caricatures is still an openly accepted prejudice. And it needs to end.

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