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She Has No Head! – The Manara Variant Isn’t The Problem

Milo Manara Spider-Woman #001 2014 Variant

Milo Manara’s variant cover for Spider-Woman #1

So, much to everyone’s shock (I’m guessing), I have very little problem with the Milo Manara Spider-Woman #1 variant cover. Surprising to nobody, I do have some issues with the information we have thus far for the forthcoming Spider-Woman book.

So let’s get into it.

Milo Manara is a well-known creator/writer/artist primarily of porn and erotica, perhaps mostly notably a series called Click! (which, full disclosure, I own). So, when you hire Milo Manara to draw a variant, you are hiring him to get a very specific thing: titillating erotic imagery that is at the very least reminiscent of porn and generally of women.

This is exactly what he delivered. It seems ridiculous to criticize Manara for delivering exactly what he does and what was surely expected of him. Though his response to the Spider-Woman cover controversy is depressing and predictable it’s not particularly surprising. Yes, it’s practically a bingo card of alarming statements we see all the time when people try justify portrayals of women in media: the “there’s other ‘real’ problems in the world to worry about” “all superheroes are basically naked with colors on them anyway” “women are just built this way, I draw what I see” “it’s not my fault this how women are/look” “women wear less than this/are more provocative than this in real life” etc. and of course the artist describing the character/his work as “beautiful, nice, attractive, seductive” all of which have to do only with how Spider-Woman looks to him/should look to him and nothing to do with who she is or what she does. Pretty depressing stuff.

But again, as sad as it is to hear these statements, this is a European (Manara is Italian) man that draws Erotica for a living and has for decades. None of this is terribly surprising and anyone surprised by it is not paying attention. The question shouldn’t be why does Manara draw a Spider-Woman that looks more like a porn star than a superhero, the question also shouldn’t be why didn’t Marvel send Manara back to the drawing board when he turned in his work. The question should be why is this what Marvel wanted in the first place?

Marvel knew exactly what they would be getting, and we can only assume that they are happy with it – or else surely they wouldn’t have released it?  So if you want to criticize the Manara Variant existing, you need to aim your questions at Marvel, not Manara who is just doing what he does and has for years. Worth nothing (possibly?) is that there is also a Skottie Young Spider-Woman Variant forthcoming, which will surely be adorable. It might have been wise to release the Manara and Young variants at the same time, but Marvel clearly made a decision not to do that, possibly because they knew they were going to get this attention for their book and wanted it. And look it that. Here. We. Are.

So why are we (the collective we) up in arms about this one when so many others have come before it? Well, there are several reasons for it by my estimation but let’s lay them all out, since we’re here.

#1. The Manara Spider-Woman Cover is more aggressively objectifying and arguably gross than other recent Manara variants.

This Manara variant is pretty extreme for Manara’s superheroine covers (this comparison by The Mary Sue with an image from his porn series Click! is pretty jaw dropping even for someone that owns and has read Click). It’s worth noting at this point that hiring Manara to do variants is not an unusual thing for Marvel. By my count (and I may have missed a couple?) Marvel has had 14 Manara variant covers in the last year and a half. Here they are in all their glory/non-glory:

Manara Variants 2013 and 2014

Milo Manara Variants: Avengers World #1, Avengers: Enemy Within #1, Guardians of the Galaxy #1, Guardians of the Galaxy #5, Savage Wolverine #2, Uncanny Avengers #2, Uncanny X-Force #5, Inhuman #1, Uncanny X-Men #12, Amazing X-Men #1, X-Men #1, Black Widow #1, Fearless Defenders #1, and Spider-Woman #1

The last three (next to Spider-Woman) belong to: Black Widow #1 (released only 8 months ago), one of Storm for the all-female new X-Men #1 from mid-2013, and one of Valkyrie for the now defunct Fearless Defenders #1 from early 2013. These are particularly of note to our discussion because unlike the others, these are for female led/headlining/named series, like Spider-Woman. So, did those covers draw less negative attention because they were less aggressive and sexually overt than the Spider-Woman variant? Probably.

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#2. Is this one drawing more fire because it was released differently?

In the “exclusive solicits” (released/updated on August 18th in the afternoon on CBR), both the Greg Land cover and the Manara Variant were shown although other forthcoming variants were listed (Skottie Young, Siya Oyum, and a TBA Groot and Rocket Variant). In the “full solicits” that went up the following day, it was still the Land cover, the Manara Variant, and one page of the Land interiors.

SpiderWoman Solicits

Click to embiggen

Conversely, Black Widow #1 had three illustrated variants and while they were all listed with credits in the solicitation, only the Phil Noto cover was actually shown. X-Men #1 had a whopping five “official” variants plus another five “sponsored” variants but when announced in solicitations only the Coipel Cover and the Terry Dodson Variant were shown. Fearless Defenders #1 eventually had three illustrated variants. The solicitations only listed two – the Manara and a Mike Deodato variants – and the Skottie Young Variant came later, but regardless, only the primary Mark Brooks cover was actually shown in the solicits.

Non SpiderWoman Solicits

Click to embiggen

This new approach of putting the Manara Variant front and center certainly got them news coverage. They not only got the usual comic book coverage they might expect from a comic/cover reveal, they also got the mainstream media talking. Huffington Post, io9, Entertainment Weekly, Slate, Elle, The Guardian, Vox, The Daily Mail (and many more) all covered the solicit news. The pieces that offered commentary were unfriendly at best.

So did Marvel make a clear PR choice on this – the most aggressive of their Manara variants – to release it with the original cover – which for anyone that reads comic is also a bit suspect since it’s done by Greg Land? Or is it something as simple as the Manara variant was done and ready to go at solicitation time and nothing else was? If “raising awareness” of the book was the goal then…well, doing it this way, by design or by accident, I’d say mission accomplished. But I’ve never been a believer in the whole “any PR is good PR” thing so I wouldn’t have opted for this method. Still, a hell of a lot more people know about a new Spider-Woman book now than this time last week. But unlike with their new female Thor announcement I have trouble imagining those potential new readers turning out (or picking up for their kids, etc.) something that has these negative connotations stapled to it.

Particularly problematic for Spider-Woman is that the regular Greg Land cover also happens to be reasonably offensive – to anyone with eyes – but that’s a whole other thing. So is this a calculated attempt to get some PR, negative or otherwise? Why else release a Land cover and a Manara Variant and nothing else? While we’re at it, why put Greg Land on a book starring women anyway? Wait…we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

#3. Is this cover perhaps drawing more fire because Marvel has been making good moves when it comes to women lately and this feels like a huge step back to people?

To be honest, Marvel has been killing it when it comes to female characters in comics. When the new Thor, Angela, Spider-Woman, and the announced Leia book come out, Marvel will have an astounding (and awesome) 11 female-led titles. And while the books that are currently out headlining/starring women (Black Widow, Elektra, Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, Storm, and X-Men) obviously have differing levels of quality and success from book to book (and month to month) it’s a staggering push forward and an effort that has been shockingly well executed overall.

Marvel Female Led #1s

One of these things is not like the others! X-Men #1 by Oliver Coipel, Black Widow #1 by Phil Noto, She-Hulk #1 by Kevin Wada (interiors by Javier Pulido), Ms. Marvel #1 by Sara Pichelli (interiors by Adrian Alphona), Captain Marvel #1 by David Lopez, Elektra #1 by Mike Del Mundo, Storm #1 by Victor Ibanez, and Spider-Woman #1 by Greg Land. 7 powerful, distinctive, iconic covers filled with personality and vision, and 1 slapped together mess with some seriously questionable anatomy.

Since we’re focused on art for our purposes today let’s quickly summarize the art in Marvel’s current female-led books. They each have impressive artists known for their accomplished and well-considered work – in fact, there’s not a cheesecake or “controversial” artist among them. They also represent awesome diversity when it comes to execution: Phil Noto’s Black Widow is a realistic but effortlessly loose watercolor style that highlights Natasha’s gift for violence and her humanity in equal measure; David Lopez’s Captain Marvel is a classic superhero style with an emphasis on smart design and strong emotional beats; Mike Del Mundo’s Elektra is a highly rendered painted style showing off an understanding of Elektra as a fighter in a way we have not seen since Bill Sienkiewicz’s revolutionary work on Elektra Assassin; Javier Pulido’s She-Hulk is flat, cartoonish, and wonderfully exaggerated focusing largely on Jennifer’s sense of humor and the bizarre dualities of her life; Victor Ibanez’s Storm is a traditional comic book style anchored in real world problems and with Storm meticulously rendered to feel like an incredibly well-developed person rather than a superhero-meets-supermodel caricature, or worse, an untouchable and unrelatable goddess; while Adrian Alphona’s Ms. Marvel is a visual smorgasbord of unique characters we never see in comics and capitalizes beautifully on his heroine’s highly creative powerset and creative mind.

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These are excellent choices. EVERY. TIME. Do you know how hard that is? It’s hard. Or at least comics have lead us to believe it’s hard (and we’ve seen a whole lot of evidence to back it up). Marvel has done it incredibly well with their new 2013 and 2014 Marvel Now titles, so it’s strange to suddenly add Spider-Woman by Greg Land to the pile…but again, let’s put a pin in that and circle back.

#4. Perhaps the outcry has been so loud simply because the voices interested in these issues – and the voices that support women in comics – characters, creators, and readers – has gotten so powerful and so mainstream that you simply can’t release something like this and expect it to not be commented on?

When I started writing this column about women in comics, I certainly wasn’t alone in talking about these issues, I was not blazing some new trail, but I am honestly stunned by how many voices have joined the discussion just in the last five years…the voices are many and they are loud. The Internet is certainly a mixed bag, but it has provided access to information and made it possible for anyone with a strong voice to be heard, even on issues that formerly weren’t considered particularly important. But enough people invested in media — both big and small — have decided that the representation of women in superhero comics is something that can and should be discussed. So there’s a particular amount of attention paid to things like this and you simply cannot expect (or hope?) to slip under the radar these days.

uncanny psylocke

Yes, we are actually supposed to be two totally different women (and yo, one of us is Asian! guess which one!) but yes, we are PERFECTLY identical right on down to our giant balloon boobs, really broad shoulders, and non-existent hips!

When you add a little bit from each of the previous points to the mix, you end up with “of course there was going to be a shitstorm.” And given that most people naturally don’t think it’s good to tie female superheroes to porn in this day and age, of course the response was going to be primarily critical and negative. If the Manara variant had been a bit less aggressive then it might have drawn less aggressive criticism even if it hadn’t slipped entirely under the radar. If Marvel had released it along with an adorable Skottie Young variant it might have at least blunted the force of the reveals and shown people another option of a cover to buy since the Land version isn’t a great option either. And that brings us to the real problem, which we’ve been slowly getting to (and sidestepping) throughout this column.

The problem is not the Manara variant that nobody has to buy. The problem is that the regular cover is by Greg Land and the book will have Greg Land interior art as well. For the uninitiated, the complaints about Land’s work  range from that he’s a rampant tracer/swiper/recycler to the fact that much of what he traces and photo references is porn. Porn has its place but it’s not in mainstream superhero comics.

So it’s hard to understand how Marvel thought that this was a good idea. But it occurs to me that maybe they took a look at their book line up and felt that a titillating male gaze book was what was missing from their current female-led titles. Technically, they’re right. And it feels like Marvel has drawn a line to say that while they ARE interested in female characters and female led books, this Spider-Woman book? That one is not for “the ladies” or people generally concerned with the portrayal of women in superhero comics. What other message can they possibly be sending by putting Greg Land on the book and also releasing their most aggressive Manara Variant? The message feels clear.


It’s trace-tastic!

You can make an argument that if you’re looking for diversity among your female led titles that what’s currently missing IS actually a super-male gaze titillating visual style But it seems like a pretty good idea to have that be missing.

It’s a good idea to leave that out because we’ve had years and years and years of books devoted to sexualizing female characters for no good reason, and you can still find plenty of them on stands, far more than are needed. There’s really no need to make sure one of these female led titles be what we have far too much of already – the demographic that might cater to specifically is a demographic that is already well over-served in comics. But as much as I disagree with the approach because it selfishly leaves me out of a book I’d love to read and would otherwise have a good shot at liking, I have to admit that Marvel has given me a lot to read lately. They’ve been smart about it, and so, as disappointing as it is to be shut out of Jessica’s new book, I know that not every book can or should be designed for me…so I can accept that. But there’s no way to pretend it isn’t disappointing.

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I don’t know about you guys, but this is always what I look like after I’ve been rendered unconscious on a battlefield. Posed seductively and with a post orgasmic blissful expression on my face. Good times!

As always it comes down to context but in this case there are a few and some of them are at odds with one another. Perhaps Marvel legitimately sees their context as one where they need to appeal to a more “traditional” comic reading base demographic with at least one of their female-led titles. For a reader like me, the context is that the field is already quite crowded with that kind of art, even if they aren’t the artists on Marvel’s existing female led books. For Manara the context is perhaps that his Spider-Woman isn’t naked and isn’t showing off tits AND ass and so the illustration seems quite tame. For many readers the context is simply one more woman being objectified in superhero comics and by an artist known for his erotic work, which immediately sets a clear and frustrating if not disturbing tone.

Greg Land, for me, and for many people, is an instant deal breaker on any book but is particularly disheartening on a female-led book like Spider-Woman. Artists are salt to taste for individuals of course, but there are only three or four artists I refuse to read outright – Land is one of them. I was one of many excited to read Mighty Avengers considering it featured one of my favorite (and much underused) characters – Monica Rambeau – but with Land drawing it, it was a non-starter. Even with a writer I like writing the new Spider-Woman (Dennis Hopeless who did the excellent X-Men: Season One as well as the fantastic Legion of Monsters mini-series among other things) I just can’t do it. Some might ask, why complain about/refuse to buy Land but not Manara? Well, quite simply, Manara draws erotica and it LOOKS, appropriately, like erotica. Land draws superhero comics, which frequently look, inappropriately, like erotica.

Obviously Land sells enough comics that Marvel keeps hiring him. So this is a deliberate choice Marvel has made and though I can’t see the advantage, especially when they’ve been on such an incredible hot streak with female characters and books, surely they have a plan, it’s just not one I understand (or agree with). By the same token, the Manara variants must be selling too – if they weren’t, Marvel wouldn’t have commissioned 14 in the last 18 months. I don’t personally like the message the Manara variants send, but that at least is a pretty easy thing for me to ignore as a reader. It’s a random variant I never have to really see or purchase and designed to please a small collectors market. So consider it ignored. What I can’t ignore is a Manara variant coupled with a book drawn by Greg Land when it’s also supposed to be a book I might read, might write about and review, might relate to. Because man, I fucking love Jessica Drew. I was one of the (apparently) few people that read and liked (despite it’s extreme decompression) her 2009 Spider-Woman series. But I can’t follow her here.

With the inclusion of a Spider-Woman book Marvel will bring their female-led titles up to an awesome eleven. And I’m reading or plan to read all of them, EXCEPT this one.

Perhaps Marvel sees putting Land on a Spider-Woman title as a way to actually be more diverse with their eleven female-led titles, but I can only see it as easy way to let me know that that book is not intended for me to read, promote, or support. So, I guess…thanks for the super clear message? Bummer.

Kelly Thompson is a freelance writer living in Manhattan. She is the author of the superhero novel THE GIRL WHO WOULD BE KING recently optioned to become a film, and her new novel STORYKILLER is out now. You can find Kelly all over the place, but twitter may be the easiest: @79semifinalist


hahahaha the caption on that last photo. perfection!!!

Must have been one hell of a battle…

I thought the exact same thing in response to Manara’s reply – his answer should have just been “This is what I do, if Marvel didn’t want this they shouldn’t have hired me” and instead went with the stupid old “comparative problems” arguement. If he was a Biochemist or High level diplomat who moonlighted as an artist that’d be one thing – how a biochemist or high level diplomat draws a fictional character would be a comparatively minor consideration in his day to day life, but conversely, dismissing the concerns of consumers and commentators of the medium in which he works annoyed me far more than the actual cover did.

Equally I agree on the Greg Land thing – I just don’t buy any comic he does the interior art for because it’s kind of wince inducing, even as in the case of Mighty Avengers as you mentioned. Much as I personally dislike it, I am bregrudgingly willing to concede that there is possibly room in the world for cheesecake and/or erotica to exist in a healthy way. What I don’t really think is appropriate is doing it a) with as poor grasp of anatomy as Land does it, b) so character indiscriminatly as Land does it or c) in general, to the extent that Land does it in the context of major flagship Marvel titles which should be broadly accessible to as diverse an audience as possible.

Thanks for a great break down of the issue Kelly. I completely agree the conversation from the get-go should have been Marvel’s decision to commission and release Milo’s variant, not that Milo drew what he’s always been known to draw. I do disagree with your decision not to buy Spider Woman’s new on-going though. For me it’s more important to support a writer I enjoy, Dennis, and another female-led title. Launch artists rotate out so quickly now, and I’ll vocalize whenever I can that I’m supporting the character and the writer. As important as artists are, and believe me I have a list of artists who always compel me to buy a title even over the writer, I know that they don’t usually last as long as the writer.

I’m another one of those fans who waited eagerly for the Bendis/Maleev Spider Woman solo and was sad it was over so quickly. If Marvel is giving Jessica another solo title shot, I’ll be there to support. As for the Milo variant, it’s just sad that this is what gets a lot of mainstream press. For me the breakout Marvel success story remains Kelly Sue’s Captain Marvel and the legion of Carol Corps fans. I hope in the long term that isn’t overshadowed.

“The question shouldn’t be why does Manara draw a Spider-Woman that looks more like a porn star than a superhero, the question also shouldn’t be why didn’t Marvel send Manara back to the drawing board when he turned in his work. The question should be why is this what Marvel wanted in the first place?”

That’s the key point. I have no real objection to Manara’s Spider-Woman cover as a piece of erotic art. The objection comes from MARVEL deciding to push this image as part of their Spider-Woman relaunch. Couple that with Land’s porntastic interior art, and the whole thing becomes a turn-off (pun not intended).

I probably shouldn’t be commenting on this, because I

A) Have never seen these covers before
B) Never heard of Milo Manara (even though I’m FROM Europe, which might explain A)
C) Wasn’t aware of the controversy (which, given A and B, shouldn’t surprise).

But as a guy, I can see why there’s so much more hassle about the Spider-Woman’s cover than the other 13 you so kindly posted. I mean, she does look like a bodypainted model in a submissive position. If you read the other 13 in public, you just might get away with the ‘it’s just comics’ argument. The SW #1 cover? Not so much.

Manara did a follow up sketch to show another angle of Spider-Woman climbing the wall. It’s like he can’t draw her without making her look like she’s “presenting”.


I’ve said it elsewhere: we need an “ice bucket” challenge where comic readers have to either donate $100 to a women in comics fund (Friends of Lulu is dead, but there’s gotta be something) or else post a video of themselvesIin Spider-Woman cosplay. Doing that pose. That means you, guys.

Anyway Kelly, Marvel tends not to keep an artist on a title for more than one arc, and I don’t think Land is quick. Surely you’ll be able to read this book in a few months if you’re avoiding Land.

I made it through the first couple issues of Mighty Avengers, until they had one wih a guest artist and I realized how much better it was than Land. I’m really torn on this book–I love Jess, and Hopeless has been pretty great in the past, but LAND. I wish there was an option where I paid Marvel half the price and got just the text of the issue.

Is it weird that I found most of the rabblerousing is more from the reaction to the comments against the cover than the comments themselves? And I’m probably a bit bias in this because I was one of those original commenters, but it was mostly, “Holy jeez, look at the terrible choice of covers.” and making fun of how ridiculously bad of a choice it was for a comic they said earlier in the summer was for women. But the actually getting upset about the cover seemed to come after responses going, “Hey! You can’t mock him! He’s a legend of art! You’re not allowed to call him out! There’s nothing wrong with that cover!” And it’s like … when my gender is getting drawn especially bad, I’m going to call them out on it. That’s how it goes.

Great article. No one can blame Manara for the art he did, sure he said some pretty sexist and stupid things, but erotic art is what he draws and that’s what he made. Marvel is the sole problem here hiring someone like Manara in the first place to draw one of their female characters. The past variants he did aren’t nearly as bad, but I just think Marvel shouldn’t be hiring an erotic artist to do covers. They are variants, and to each their own I guess.

But you definitely are right about Land. I have no idea how anyone in the comic industry is still letting this guy draw aka “photo reference porn”. There’s nothing wrong with photo referencing when it comes to drawing, but there is a way it should and shouldn’t be used. Land is a prime example on how it shouldn’t be used. He’s essentially just copying the image and adding the costume and hair to make it the superhero it represents. Photo referencing should be used just to help set up certain poses when an artist has a hard time figuring out them in their mind. It just baffles me that he’s still hired to do any kind of drawing.

Another great post, Kelly.

I’m glad I’m not alone in the excitement-followed-by-crushing-disappointment with the announcement of a a new Spider-Woman ongoing. She’s definitely one of my favorite characters and I’ve been clamoring for her to lead her own book seemingly for years.

“Marvel announces new Spider-Woman series…”

TEARS OF JOY! Finally!

“Written by Dennis Hopeless…”

…Odd choice, but Avengers Arena was pretty good, so OK.

“…and art by Greg Land!”


I’m not a fan of Greg Land, and I would have preferred someone else get Spider Woman. I bought Mighty Avengers grudgingly because I wanted to support a minority led title (and it’s good in its own right of course) but I found that he’s actually gotten noticeably better since his days on Ultimate FF and Uncanny X-men. I feel like he’s finally made his way out of the uncanny valley. I haven’t noticed anything especially gross in his drawing of female characters, but that might be because MA doesn’t have as many. So I’m prepared to cautiously support Spider Woman, at least until he gets super gross.

I’ve been right along with you in these columns over the past couple of months, Kelly, but this one is a bit incoherent. Typically, your position has been that the problem with the industry is that they ignore the existent and potential female market that wants female characters that are not portrayed primarily for the sexual male gaze. You have been careful to say, over and over, that there is room for erotica, porny comics, and so on, but that there also needs to be a slate of books aimed at you (and me) and all the readers that want to read the stories of girls and women who are relatable. That’s a good argument, and to some degree you reiterate it here.

But you also belie that position to some degree by lamenting that one out of Marvel’s eleven books is aimed at the T&A market. It reveals that on some level you just wish that this market didn’t even exist. That I can’t get on board with. Some boys out there want sexy superheroines. They’re entitled to their product just as much as the girls and women are. Marvel is right to produce comics for both markets. I think you know that, but are uncomfortable with it. That’s OK, but you’re stepping beyond the principles you relied upon in the past.

It’s not reasonable to ask Marvel to forego that market just because the niche is filled with other companies’ products. Marvel needs to try to cater to as wide and diverse an audience as possible, within reason. Ignoring the 12-year-old boy market (or the 24-year-old man-boy market) would be a terrible strategy, since they compromise a big part of the readership.

It is possible to take a feminist position that sexualized comic book heroines are per se inappropriate because of the societal messages they send, and that Marvel and DC should take a principled stance against that. But as many posters have pointed out on your previous columns, in a market economy, that’s a hard sell, and it’d hard to fault Big Business for providing a product that is (a) desired by a large swath of the market, and (b) considered socially acceptable and harmless by most people. You have largely eschewed the broad condemnation of male sexuality in comics in the past, which is why I’ve respected your principled position. This column seems to trend that direction.

The fault lies not at the feet of Marvel or DC (much less Milo Manera), but at the feet of the large population that will buy the product. The product is a symptom of the market, not the cause of it. You may find distasteful the boys that want to look at cartoon women with their asses in the air waiting to take it doggie-style. Maybe someday men and boys will have more class than to want to see that stuff (maybe, but I doubt it). In the meantime, we have to live as neighbors with those people, and if you don’t want to be reminded that they’re there…well, sorry.

Now that comics are coming into their mature age as an entertainment medium, there is going to have to be room for both male and female sexuality, as well as male and female stories that are not laden with sexuality. Marvel is not wrong for including one title out of eleven that presents this particular perspective.

I strongly doubt that they released this cover in the solicitations in anticipation of causing this kind of controversy… looking at the solicitations every month it always seems like they just include whatever covers they have ready at the time. It doesn’t seem like the solicitations are something that a lot of decisive PR calculations go into, but rather a perfunctory thing they do every month for every title primarily as a tool for retailers to decide what/how much to order, so it’s weird to see people talk about them “pushing” this cover as if it’s in ads or press releases, etc.

Since the broad strokes of their treatment of female characters have been heading in a progressively more positive direction, I’m inclined to think that wanting to upset people because “any press is good press” doesn’t make a lot of sense. But don’t get me wrong, if they didn’t see how this cover would be so problematic for so many people, that’s disconcerting in itself.

Kelly, I miss your comments on artwork. Bring drunk comic cover solicits back.

I believe Land will not be the artist when Mighty Avengers relaunches as Captain America and the Mighty Avengers.

I’ll bet the cover will be tame compared to what’s actually inside of the book. But that’s another column.

I respect the fact that Milo Manara is admitedly a artist that specializes in erotic art. That is cool by me.

He is not of those guys like Land, Deodato and so many others who disguise themselves as artists of adventure stories while producing porn. That I think is a bit immature and prudish in a roundabout way.

I am all for giving boys what they want, I like to look at the sexy ladies too, but lets be honest about it and call a spade a spade. I’d rather buy Shanna the She-Devil by Frank Cho, under no illusions about what it’s intended for, than some schizophrenic Spider-Woman or X-Men comic that pretends to be about adventure and strong women and probably has a feminist-friendly writer, but with someone like Land on the art.

That is like James Cameron is doing a new Avatar movie, but he is inviting the girls from Playboy Mansion to act in it, instead of Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver.

Nu D: First of all, there’s a difference between sexy and sexualized. Spider Woman is the latter. She’s the object of the image, not the subject. Think of how male characters are treated. When you see an image of Captain America, for instance, posing with bulging biceps or smashing stuff, the viewer is encouraged to identify with him. They are asked to imagine what it would be like to be that character and to have and wield his power. They aren’t asked to imagine what it would be like to see him naked or have sex with him.

In the Manara image, Spider Woman is meant to be looked at lasciviously by people who want to fuck her, not imagine what it would be like to be her. That’s what makes her sexualized. Now, you could draw a sexy image instead, with the same amount of T&A, but in order to accomplish that, the image would have to be encouraging the viewer to image what it would be like to be the character: what it would feel like to be able to turn heads or to hold men in rapt attention with the power of your sexual charisma.

And that brings me to my second point, which is that if the goal is to make a sexy, erotic comic to tap into the market who wants that sort of thing, Spider Woman is pretty much the last character who should star in it. She’s kind of hopeless with men. She’s not seductive. When Clint starts coming on to her in Avengers, she’s completely discombobulated by his attentions. If Marvel wants to make that comic, they should go with someone like Emma Frost, She-Hulk, Black Widow, Black Cat, or Hellcat. But then, there’s no indication that Marvel wants to make a comic like that, with Spider Woman or anyone else.

Am I the only one who thinks that Manara cover’s not that bad?

Alright, the pose is weird, but I get what he was trying to draw.

I’ve seen worse comic art of women *cough*Liefieldinthe90s*cough* but it’s not terrible.

I do agree with the sentiment about Land. How that guy is still employed is beyond me. I read Mighty Avengers and it was annoying as hell to see so many recycled poses – arms-out-stretched, mouth-open flying pose. Side-on head-turned, arms-back flying pose, etc.

I’m only going to read the SW issues tied into Spider-Verse.

First, I need to say that the Milo Manara variant is pretty good example of what it is. He managed to evoke both a spider and a woman preparing for rear-entry. It is beyond the technical ability of a lot of artists and totally in keeping with Manara’s work. The man did what he was hired to do.

Second, the general approach of Marvel to put out a lot of female-led books in a lot of different modes and seeing what sells is a smart one. Some of the titles are appealing to me and others aren’t, but that is sort of the point. Marvel is forcing folks that are advocating a more female-friendly world of superhero comics to vote with their pocketbooks.

Third, some of the reaction to the Manara variants has been unfortunate. It seems like poor form to give an Manara. It is a bit like telling Kirby to study anatomy, or something.

With that said ….

I hate the whole “superhero costume as body paint” thing. It is gross for exactly the reasons that are on display in the Manara variant. It is also really weird to select Spider-Woman as the designated ‘sexy’ book in the Marvel ladies family. Other than Sue Storm, it is hard to think of female Marvel that has a less sexualized history.

A great rundown of the entire affair, as always, Kelly. If this was a bizarre PR stunt to draw attention to the book (even if for all the wrong reasons), it succeeded. I just don’t think they needed to do that. It’s easy to forget that Spider-Woman is the only Marvel heroine who headlined (as in, “had her name in the title”) her own animated series for network TV. Hell, even if you include live action shows, she’s only the third comic book heroine who headlined (or in the case of Peggy Carter, will headline) her own TV show, period (the success of “Wonder Woman” in the late 70’s inspiring her creation and turn in animation). Even if you include “Birds of Prey”, that only ups the tally to four. Batman’s had more TV shows than that just since the turn of the century. With that in mind, it would have been smart to promote her with an artist for both the regular pages and variant covers that didn’t have anything to do with porn, directly or not. Sadly, what’s done is done. I might argue that some in editorial may have thrown up their hands that the Bendis/Maleev team failed to sell gangbusters on her, so this stunt was tried under the justification of, “well, we tried an A-list non sexualized creative team and that didn’t work”. Of course, by that logic Moon Knight should become a beefcake book but we know that won’t happen.

You have a good point that Marvel’s been doing so well with their female characters lately that this could survive a disaster like this, and readers can quickly get over it. This year, Marvel will finally have more titles starring female characters than DC does, once Angela’s series starts (and assuming that by then, Elektra and Black Widow are not canned for low sales). Not long ago, only X-23 could make that distinction. Still, it wouldn’t be difficult to assume as an editorial memo that female heroes should be treated much like male heroes; where having them be sexual beings is okay so long as it is treated in character and it isn’t their only cause to exist.

I can’t explain how Greg Land continues to be popular and continues to get top books to do. I endured MIGHTY AVENGERS with him on it because I liked most of the cast, and it’s been a great book despite him. But man, did I love issues drawn by fill in artists all the more. Sadly, his “tracing” is produced quickly enough that he doesn’t run late as often as better artists do. One would think he’d be ideal for those WWE comics that Mick Foley is writing.

Reflecting on the many good and interesting points of your article, I find myself thinking back on the image released recently of Wonder Woman’s ‘Dawn of Justice’ movie look.

It’s one thing to concede that out of eleven female-led Marvel comics, one of those may simply be aimed at teenage boys eager to look at sexualized comic book art. But in that regard, I would say that the -IMO frankly ridiculous- WW costume, with its lack of protection in favor of showing skin, means that DC decided to make their upcoming mega-blockbuster a movie for that same target audience.

Back when that WW image was released, I found it a shame that it did not get more of a backlash than it did. I see the lack of a complete costume overhaul & the design they went with for the movie as a step backwards in feminism and I thought it was sad that this costume wasn’t simply deemed as unacceptable for the modern look of a warrior princess by overall reception. But I’m probably wrong there, and it doesn’t need to be revamped with more armour and less pointless reveal to it – it may simply be aimed at a specific target audience. And like your feelings towards the upcoming Spider-Woman series, I can’t help but feel disappointment that such a similar decision was made for such a big movie.
(I wasn’t very interested in Dawn of Justice anyway as the DC universe never had any appeal to me anyway, but these things won’t help convincing me that they’re capable of giving me what I’m looking for in superhero fiction.)

I’d love to see an article by you on the WW costume, Kelly.


I feel like you’re replying to something I didn’t say. I agree that SW is “sexualized” rather than sexy in this comic cover. I think you laid out good definitional distinctions between your terms (though inherently subjective definitions). I just have no objection to some small portion of Marvel’s output being overly sexualized, so long as it is part of a good balance of products that provide normal, healthy (and even sexy!) characters for the rest of us non-pervy fans to read.

I simply was pointing to what I perceive as a (tentative and ambivalent) shift in Kelly’s position from her prior columns to this one. Prior columns demanded diversity in the products Marvel offers. This column, while acknowledging diversity exists, expresses discomfort with one facet. I think Kelly was aware of this shift, which is why she wrote:

“I have to admit that Marvel has given me a lot to read lately. They’ve been smart about it, and so, as disappointing as it is to be shut out of Jessica’s new book, I know that not every book can or should be designed for me…so I can accept that. But there’s no way to pretend it isn’t disappointing.”

Her ambivalence comes through. It’s a shift from a position I agreed with–diversity is good, and more comics with good representations of women are needed–to a position I don’t agree with as wholeheartedly–sexualized women should not be in comics. I’m not sure Kelly really wants to make that shift either, since in prior columns she disavowed making the latter argument.

As to your latter point, whether or not Jessica Drew is the right character for Marvel’s T&A title, I couldn’t say. I would say that the most sexualized character need not be the most lascivious character. Just because Jessica Drew is an awkward and shy character doesn’t mean she can’t be the object of desire for a 24-year-old man-boy. There are all sorts of porny tropes where the nerdy, awkward girl turns into a whore with the right man in the bedroom. That is apparently a winning narrative for a certain segment of the population. Hell, nerdy man-boys in their mother’s basement are probably afraid of the Felicia Hardys of the world, and prefer to fantasize that the Jessica Drews are actually super sexy when they take off their glasses. But that’s just pop-psychology theorizing; not to be taken too seriously.

Sorry, I probably shouldn’t have used the word “whore.” It’s too loaded and pejorative for the idea I wanted to convey. Substitute, “sexpot” or something less prone to judgments about women’s sexuality.

Milo Manara complimented Greg Land as a draughtsman. Either he’s trying to show professional courtesy (as Land’s various collaborators have struggled to do, such as Matt Fraction and Kieron Gillen), or his other favorite artists include Rob Liefeld, Pat Lee, and Christian Weston Chandler.

Dean, concur. Even if the cover isn’t offensive, it’s physically impossible. Spandex is going to highlight some areas, but not all–realistically, the cloth should be stretching over her crack rather than filling it in.

Unless Jessica is wearing some kind of shrinkwrap and runs a hairdryer over herself to get it to fit just right. Sheesh.

Porn tracings aside, Land is simply a horrible artist. His swipes, er, reference material just makes it that much worse. So… I will give the new Spider-Woman series a pass. It’s a shame, I’ve been following Jessica Drew since she was a mutated spider working for Hydra named Arachne.

I’m glad SOMEBODY is pointing out this is should be much more of a Land problem and less of a Manara Variant problem. Somehow someway Land was, dare I say, a good artist back when he started on Nightwing. Somewhere along the way he got a computer and access to photoshop, and it all went downhill.

I’d legitimately go out of my way to GET the Manara cover because the Land cover is just so terrible. It makes me go “Wow, this cover is so half-assed I don’t even want to bother opening the book to see the interior or story.”

So…pointed question time. Is someone having a problem with seeing things going well for much of the rest of the female-led titles?

Ms. Marvel and X-men are hits. Captain Marvel doesn’t sell great, but it sells steadily, so I don’t see it going anywhere. Maybe the rest will fade away, I couldn’t say. But I’d guess that Marvel will have another NOWish event in 2015, where they cancel a bunch of them, relaunch some of them and replace others.

It’s the extremity of the image which disturbs. The defences published so far require readers to know the artist’s body of work. Most readers don’t. They judge the image on its individual qualities. Those qualities are extreme even for an industry built on drawing women as sex objects.

Am I a bad person for think the worst problem with that cover is that it is a horrible drawing? Manara is among the finest draftsman in comics history. That looks like something he knocked off in 5 minutes.

“””They each have impressive artists known for their accomplished and well-considered work – in fact, there’s not a cheesecake or “controversial” artist among them. They also represent awesome diversity when it comes to execution”””

which is exactly the reason why this book exist as it is…
your want things to be equal and fair yes? things will never be equal as long as every single female solo is aimed at prude hate all sex appeal female readers, there MUST be at least 1 title that is aimed more at males who like cheesecake.
those readers get those books
these readers get this book
like you said diversity of audiences.
you can not take all female characters and ruin them visually for male audiences, lord knows your trying but this is marvel putting its foot down.

(to be clear i do NOT like greg land or his type of cheesecake, and wont likely be buying this series dew to it but the point is sound, had this been frank cho i would be buying it in a heart beat)

but thats the problem your still saying sexy for sexy sake CAN NOT WORK in serious adventure super hero comics, that is the wrongest thing in the world THEY CAN DO BOTH!
see new ultimates by frank cho, it has some of the most badass versions of Valkyrie & Zarda ever but they also AT THE SAME TIME look sexy as hell

it actually is perfectly possible, go to carlo pagulayan’s facebook (he is a much better artist than manara or land) and he has posted some 3d renders thru a anatomy model filter of the pose showing it was a perfectly reasonable pose

Okay, now I’m getting intensely frustrated at all sides in this ongoing “issue”.

This is an incredibly selective op-ed that chooses to ignore a lot of fundamentals. I find it strange that there’s not even a cursory thought that “maybe the Skottie Young variant wasn’t ready in time for the solicits?” Perhaps they sent him “back to the drawing board”?

Also, what if I broke down some of those so-called “respectable” covers? Is that She-Hulk really progressive, painting a strong woman as if she can barely fit into her role as a professional, stumbling in her heels? That’s “Nine to Five” right there. How about that Captain Marvel? Gotta make her butch to fit in with the boys, eh? That Storm cover is just a straight up boring-ass image; I’m glad somebody somewhere thinks that static image which could be literally ANY character is pushing forward female empowerment. So-on and so-forth, the complaints I could make if I so chose.

I agree, Land’s artwork is a big turn off on most any comic nowadays and, yes, Manara turns in images that highlight the things he, as an artist, personally finds beautiful. No questions there.

But I do question the sense in giving even more exposure to something that you vilify so strongly…while simply further disseminating the image. I’m sure there’s more than one person out there who wasn’t even aware of it until seeing it here and now want to pick up some of those variants. Basically, you’re just doing more advertising for Marvel and if they know that publishing comics with images (again, images; they can’t hurt anyone) that the blog-o-sphere will pick up and endlessly promote the image by simply re-posting it all for free, then why exactly is that NOT a good business model? All business is mercenary, hell, this article is mercenary.

I mean, why didn’t a man write this op-ed for the site if you’re all about diversity and integration of sexual politic?

All forests need to have the chaff burnt away from time to time, need to have sudden flare-ups, but if you fan the flames too much you’ll just burn the whole damn thing down.

Nobody seems to have picked up on the fact that for the Battle of the Atom cover Manara basically painted a naked girl, then painted the (tiny) black suit over it. Really, click the image to embiggen, and you can clearly see her labia.

I would disagree that Manara’s Spider-Woman cover is significantly more sexualized than his other work. That’s a pretty common pose for a Spider-Person so if you’re already willing to take into account that drawing sexy women is what Manara does, then it’s not that out of line with the rest of his work.

Wonderful article. I am interested in contacting you to write for our print magazine. Please do get in touch.

~Briana Newson, Esquire HR

All I will say on the subject is that it is a VARIANT cover. It is not for the mainstream audience, but for people who choose to seek out that type of artwork as an alternative to the primary cover.

It is not to my taste personally, but I have no problem with others wanting something a little more racy for their own personal collection. It’s not as if it’s a newsstand edition of “Archie”, with Betty or Veronica in the pose in question. It is an option, and not the only choice. It is one that is freely chosen.

The image that offends some people (ah, the perennial ‘slippery slope’) is not on a widely-circulated box of cereal or a Barbie doll package. It’s not part of an ad for a Saturday morning cartoon. It’s a VARIANT cover, for a comic book that sells maybe 25,000 copies.

The beauty of America is that we have the choice to view/listen to/taste/touch/smell (well, maybe not smell) whatever we wish, as well as the choice to pass on these same things.

Don’t like it? Don’t buy it. It seems simple to me, and unworthy of 3 or 4 days worth of coverage.

only thing i see is a bad drawing-his others are much better and have better detail..just saying..if he hadnt of put long hair on this character i wouldve thought it was a new issue of Plastic Man.


When you said “Betty and Veronica,” the first thing I thought of was this: http://afterlifewitharchie.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/alwarchie5var.jpg

And this: http://www.comicbookresources.com/imgsrv/imglib/250/0/1/ALWArchie-7var-9acff.jpg

Of course, those are variant covers of a (I presume) non-newsstand book, and they’re meant to be more funny than sexy. Still, I don’t remember any outrage over those. (Then again, we’re not seeing Betty and Veronica’s cracks, either.)

I assume Marvel has put Land on Spider-Woman because they need to put him on a book somewhere. I am guessing that he is on an exclusive contract, which requires him to be working and due to that they need him somewhere. Sopider-Woman just happens to be that somewhere.

Land might only be on the book short-term. I think the sales wont be too bad as any sales lost by the Land decision will made up through the fact that it is tieing into Spider-Verse.

Ok, the premise of all this complaining is completely off-base. “Look at what marvel (or DC) has done: be outraged now”.
The thing is Marvel (or DC) is in the business of male fantasies, just like playboy and FHM and Esquire and whatever. Just like Cosmo or Stephenie Meyer are in the female fantasies market. Never mind what Marvel (nor DC) says about gender equality and trying to get female readers, it’s PC compliance for PR… They are not going to change their editorial line or policies for female readers, that represent something between 7% (realistically) and 30% (idealistically) of the market. Even the success of superhero movies rests almost completely in male shoulders, according to polls. This is not to say there are no female reader, there are. But to ask these companies to change their business plans is like asking playboy to get rid of the nudies and keep the great articles, for inclusion sakes. It won’t happen.

As barbaric as this sounds in a overly PC age (when being offended is the new black), I think this true.

O'Dessa Bourque

August 25, 2014 at 3:35 pm

I’m with Vkatnyte. The art is… Not great at all, and really nothing that’s twisting my panties. Then again I’ve had mostly guy friends growing up, so really I do more twisting myself than getting twisted.

The pose to me is horrible. Technically yes, the human body can have it’s head tilted up like that from the body but… Why would someone? It would not be pleasant on one’s neck, and if you hold that sort of pose, think of how you’ll feel in the morning. The nose looks far to small, the lips too big, and the face just reminds me of a smooshed faced-cat. The rest of the body seems fine enough, and upon some personal inspection, her ass pretty much looks just as it would in such a pose.

There’s no nudity, and you can’t even see any of her breasts. It’s a super skin-tight costume, but it’s not like we’re seeing a winking brown eye, if you get me. For something making people lose their shit (Which after the brown eye joke, I HAD to go in this direction..), this is just not at all what I was expecting.

Find something real to bitch about next time. Those who are bitching, mind you.

Thank you ^_^ and everyone take care.

Imraith Nimphais

August 25, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Truth to tell, I too, was a bit sceptical when I initially heard Land was on Mighty Avengers but I ended up buying it (because of my huge and undying love for Monica Rambeau) and…he was not as bad as he could be. He did mis-step few times but overall his art was quite good. This new Spiderwoman title, however….? I don’t know. I’ll just have to wait until I see the prev-pages before casting judgement. I have to say, his SW cover does not inspire hope.

I’ve been weaning myself off of Marvel Comics for the past year (gave up completely on DC already) and although they would have eventually lost me anyway this kind of hypocritical decision making makes it all the easier to go now rather than later. At one time I bought 15 books a month. Now it’s maybe three or four and next month I’m done. I know that’s a drop in the bucket to the company but I’m fed up with hearing all their egalitarian BS and then seeing crap like this cover. And I’ve been saying it all along why go this direction? Manara is Manara well known for his porn stylings. It’s easy to leave him out of the Marvel loop.

I think that its clear from the fact that it is Hopeless and Land, two guys who have never accomplished much of anything, that Marvel doesn’t have high hopes for the book’s quality and hopes that eye candy will get it to move from the shelf.

Even if that tactic is successful the droll stories of Hopeless and the same-y art of Land would have killed this title anyway. Not every title gets an A team. This is one of them.

JW –

Yes, it can work sometimes, and I am a fan of Frank Cho.

Sadly, Greg Land isn’t Frank Cho.

Really, I think my major issue is that sexy that is fun and hot and really sexy, like Frank Cho, Alan Davis, and the Dodsons is outnumbered by plastic sexy, or Image sexy, like Land, Deodato, and most of their ilk.

Personally, I’m just glad Greg Land (and that terrible colorist GuruFX with all his 90s variants) is on this book, so now I can read Mighty Avengers when it relaunches soon.


August 25, 2014 at 6:45 pm

The only marvel title I could see either of these “artists” drawing is Satana but they couldn’t really pull off the horror elements of it. They should be drawing Lady Death or something, not Spider-Woman.

Really love reading this, Kelly. Not many writings I read on the internet concerning this Manara-issue gave firm and objective views. Most were subjective, and could be easily argued. I’ve been a fan of Manara’s works, since early 90’s. I still collect most of his recent works, including stuffs only available in Italy.

To me, Manara’s variant on SW was acceptable. Perhaps that I am already familiar with his works, and his SW cover was actually a variant. Not the main cover. It would be a major issue (in my perspective), if Manara’s art were used as main cover.

I was surprised some years ago when Marvel hired Manara to do their variants (knowing his reputation). You’ll get Manara when you hired Manara. But when I looked at his first variants, I said to myself, “Well, these are very kind and polite art.”

Anyway, I look forward to Manara’s next variants. I may not have the variant cover comicbooks. But I do have the posters=).

Manara is a master. And, I’m afraid, there’s far more to “comics” than American comic-books. For some European readers, Manara is far more important than all what has been published by Marvel or DC in the last 50 years. His “Indian Summer” alongside Hugo Pratt or his two “Voyages” with Federico Fellini rank among the best woks the medium has ever offered. And I have been reading and enjoying his art for more than twenty years. It’s not Manara’s fault. That’s what he does. And nobody does it better. He’s a living legend working for Marvel. Marvel should be proud of having someone like him even picking up the phone (I even found a bit offensive that remark about Marvel “sending Manara back to the drawing board”). Yet… Manara is the wrong living legend. Or, funny enough, the proper one to achieve… what? A few more #1 issues from the new series sold because of the “controversial cover”. In a year’s time, two years if lucky, the series will have been cancelled due to poor sales. Yet, the cover will still be remembered and Marvel will have managed to sell a few more comics, was on the news and drew attention from the media and non-hardcore readers. And that’s clearly what Marvel is looking for. You don’t hire someone like Manara to draw a polite gentleman drinking tea in a tuxedo. You hire him to draw explicit poses and impossibly erotic women.


So what you’re saying is that you agree with my piece. Thanks. Next time you could just compliment how well I articulated these things that you agree with. :)

Why is Greg Land not working for Zenescope?
Seems like his art style is just what they publish.

I think you are all missing the point.
Marvel knew this cover would get attention.
On every comic website we see at least one outrage article about this cover.
That’s a lot of free publicity.
The book is 3 month away. Until than the outrage will have died down, but everybody knows that on November there will be a new Spider Woman book and maybe it’s worth checking out because there were a lot of Articles about it.

About the debate, I’m from Europe and sometimes it’s difficult for me to understand american sensibilities.
I got the Teen Titans #1 criticism, I get the 90’s stuff, but I don’t get the flak this cover receives.

This article inspired a few random thoughts, so here goes:
First of all, I’m well aware of Milo Manara and his work. The first time I saw it many many years ago in a french bookstore, I liked his line work, but was disappointed that his preferred subject was erotica. Nowadays, I don’t like his art style quite as much, but back then, I would have bought one his books if I didn’t find the subject matter so repelling to me as a woman (and not just because it’s sexual, but because the stuff he, and many other European artists, drew was degrading). Ultimately artists should draw whatever they want but part of me wishes they would consider the mainstream market once in a while and not just draw exclusively porn or super-violent stuff. I suppose Milo Manara drawing superhero comic book covers is his way of going mainstream.
Secondly, I’m pretty jaded with feminism in superhero comics. I know that Marvel is trying to be more women-friendly as of late, but I’m not interested in buying any of their female-centric titles. Part of the reason is that I grew up with pictures of hypersexualized female superheroes, so I view most of those characters as eye-candy for boys than characters I’m supposed to relate to. Also the fact that most of these comics are written by men leads me to think the female point of view is not “genuine” and that this whole push for female superheroes is a gimmick. Paradoxically, I’m actually tired of this whole discussion of gender politics in superhero comics. I’m tired of people being outraged at the girls with ridiculously huge breasts and skimpy clothes. I guess I’m now of the mindset that we should just let the boys have their T&A because I don’t find sexily-drawn women to be an important subject in women’s issues.
I suppose my ambivalence towards female superheroes and the fact that I’m tired of the whole discussion of sexism in superhero comics helps explain why my favorite superhero is actually a man… maybe Marvel should look into this: making a comic book with a male superhero lead that’s targeted at female readers.


So did you actually read the article? Or not so much?

This is ridiculous.
Manara isn’t a porn artist, he is a comic book artist or if you are exquisite, he is a FUMETTI creator (that’s comic book in italian). Period. His work isn’t not limited to the Click, but to Trip to Tulum (with Fellini script), Indian Summer, the King Monkey, The Snowman, the Borgias (with script of Jodorowski) et al. Calling him a porn artist because part of his work is in the camp of erotica is unfair and biased. Did you know his work or you are limited to read only about superheroes and USA production? Read more genres, then. Read the work of other countries. Read in another language even.
If I’m being unfair, correct me, please. Maybe you has did it. This is the second time I read this column so I could have a wron g image of the author. But from what I just read, it seemed an incomplete understanding of whho is Milo Manara and which is is work. You are right when you write than the aim must be directed to Marvel. They are the ones whom asked for this cover and the people whom must be answer. They have to know what hey wanted when they contacted Manara.

But this cover that bad or is a problem of the eye of the reader? I didn’t see anything wrong with that image, until I read there was a controversy about it. But searching then I found something interesting.
Do you remember, the cover of Amazing Spider-man 471 (30) Put it together with the cover of Manara:


Pretty much similar positions. Maybe Parker was making an audition for some adult rated comic. Compare. Yes, Spider-woman ass looks bigger,but as you know the women have wider hips and bigger asses. Biology. You can’t deny here Manara draws a better anatomy than Cambell. And I mean than Manara draw far more better than Campbell.
I don’t remember anyone saying something about Spider-man exposing his ass or accusing Campbell to made Spidey closer to pornography. Why? Because the people see that image and didn’t see anything wrong with that image. If they saw something was because they were searching something. The same way Ned Flanders records every tv program searching for something “sinful”. Something wrong. But sometimes the problem is with the viewer and not with the channel. They are searching outside which is already inside their minds. The ones who said “that’s offends me” in my opinion,are not much different from the ones who said: “That’s incites me”. Is the same excuse.
Or maybe is just something cultural and yankees are prone to be more shocked to see a naked boob than a cold blood killing.

As I look at the image of Spider-Woman, I am suddenly reminded of the covers of her original series. Each and every cover had her in some form of bondage or whatever. In fact, one cover actually had her tied up to the back of a werewolf. I’m curious how many male heroes are depicted in bondage on the covers of their own books, and if there are still are covers that depict women in bondage? I’m not trying to be obnoxious or anything, I’m really interested, since I do not seem to see those kind of covers anymore, but have to guess that they are out there.

@Tad Bill:

You asked, “I mean, why didn’t a man write this op-ed for the site if you’re all about diversity and integration of sexual politic?”

That question puts the cart before the horse. This is Kelly’s column, and she selects the topics. CBR editors didn’t select a writer to write this Op Ed. Kelly selected a topic for her weekly column. It’s her forum, and she writes about what interests her.

Nice piece, one of the most clever I’ve read about this issue. And yes, I think your theory is correct: they made a greglandish series for greglandian fans, too bad Jessica Drew was the designated victim; luckily other titles are now safe. I also think that Marvel deliberately took the risk of damaging a bit its image to allow some bad PR for this title: if it sells anyway, they hit the goal and milk the cow (awww… bad choice, sorry) if it tanks, they’ll have someone to blame – and that won’t be Manara…

I don’t much care about the pose (although the look of body paint over an actual cloth costume is a bit extreme). But how come no one is mentioning the grotesque facial proportions. She’s got a large mouth bass like lips and Michael Jackson’s post-plastic surgery nose. She’s hideous looking.

I’ve read numerous Spider Woman series, but after finding out it’s Greg Land who’s doing the artwork I’m going to sit this one out until they change artists (and maybe pick up the Land issues at my LCBS’s annual quarter sale).

OK, I’m officially sick of the “sex-hating prudes” strawman. Aside from being yet another lame attempt at justifying the supremacy of male sexual satisfaction in the portrayal of women in media, the conflation of sexuality with exploitation is both a gross (in the sense of large) misrepresentation of what critics are actually saying and a gross (in the sense of disgusting) implication that sexuality cannot exist without exploitation, which reveals way more about the sexual dysfunction of the people who use it than anyone else.

If any of those big words above confused you, then don’t reply until you’ve educated yourself. End of rant.

If you haven’t figured it out after reading comics for as little as a year, you come to the realization that vast majority of comics that come out by Marvel and DC are sensationalized marketing. I’m not just talking about sexual images, but rather pandering to every conceivable marketing ploy they can use, from variants, to filtering their intellectual properties excessively through spin-offs, and appeasing fan service by letting creative teams have their own series. These companies have no shame, and people who work for them are quick to deny anything wrong with the big two as long as they are getting paid.

I know I will get shot down as a “hater” but that’s pretty much expected when there such strong rabid fanbase for these two companies.

Cray, if you are a hater, then I am a hater too.

There are still a few good things coming out from Marvel and DC, there will always be. But more and more they are the exception.

I’m not going to weigh in on this since I’m not entirely clear on all the issues involved here. I’ve found many of the comments very interesting, but I don’t have time to process them all. For myself, I’ll probably buy the series and see if the stories are any good.

One thing: a number of people have made the point that Jessica Drew is not a “highly sexualized” character. I have to strongly disagree. As I recall, one of her powers is that she emits a pheromone that draws men to her. Indeed, this came up in a past issue of the Avengers when all of the male characters were relieved to find out that their attraction to her was based on her powers. In past series of the character, I also recall background characters commenting on the sexiness of her costume, apparently because it was skintight. (Why this made it any different from many other characters’ costumes was never clear to me).

Anyway, I’m just throwing that out as an historical point. One can certainly debate whether or not having a power that is explicitly about manipulating the emotions of men is actually “sexualizing” the character (I don’t recall her powers working on women). After all, Jessica did not ask for the power and she rarely seems to use it. But it is an element of the character that has been present for quite a while.

Joe Quesada defended Greg Land in a Cup O’ Joe interview years ago. I looked for it and found this link so hopefully I’m posting it properly.


Scroll down to the bottom. If you’re in the big boss’ favor, you’ll get alot of work.

Come ON…you don’t remember that issue of the X-Men where the Orgasmer used his Orgasmatron (TM) on only the female members of the X-Men? I think I voted for that story right after the Death Of Jean Grey in the best X-Men stories poll….

I know it’s getting some of our foreign readers in a tizzy, but Marvel should have sent that cover back for redesign just because it looks awful. In this aspect it’s not how sexy or not sexy it is, it just looks rushed and lazy. That wasn’t true of all his variants…Gamora and the Savage Wolverine covers are very sexy, but look well drawn. (And the Medusa one is just a nice concept and take). But this is more along the lines of the Scarlet Witch one in that “you expect us to pay you for that?”

But I digress because it’s really about Land being the bigger problem. Just as an artist, not politically, I’m not sure how he keeps getting hired with his current output. There’s a difference between using references, in an Alex Ross style, over even tracing backgrounds, like buildings and such for realism, and just tracing figures rather than actually have any true art style. They might as well photoshop the models in panels…why pay him? And the fact that he uses porn for DIRECT references should get him notice from editors “till you can draw, and not use pornography, don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Why does he keep getting hired? Well, he sells, I’m sure. But I’m not sure the titles he is put on sell that much better because of him. (X-Men doesn’t really need any help; Mighty Avengers is getting rebooted even though he drew it).

And yeah, it sells, great. But the issue is that Marvel just shouldn’t be in the porn business. There may be a market for it, and they can do sexy, but just flat out doing it shouldn’t be their business model. It’s not picking on them. I don’t need to see Star Wars porn poses. Disney doesn’t need sex pose Minnie Mouse. Heck, James Bond has always been highly sexual, but they realize that it doesn’t need to be pushed into R rated fare, as adult a product as that is. Ever product/industry doesn’t need to cater to every market. I don’t expect Playboy, Inc. to issue a line of children’s stories because that’s an untapped market for them, either. Do what you do well, and leave the other stuff to others. Because if you’re alienating a bigger market than the one you’re trying to attract, it’s not a good long term business strategy.

@ Tad Bill-

Also, what if I broke down some of those so-called “respectable” covers? Is that She-Hulk really progressive, painting a strong woman as if she can barely fit into her role as a professional, stumbling in her heels? That’s “Nine to Five” right there. How about that Captain Marvel? Gotta make her butch to fit in with the boys, eh?

I guess I’m just seeing different art than you are. To me She-Hulk is more a play on a woman’s balancing act, but rather than being a mom and a working woman, being a working woman and a superhero (see how torn and beat up she is), with the “Savage” breakthrough background. And I roll my eyes at anyone using “butch,” but we must have a different definition than that cover. It appears pretty sexy to me, while keeping her covered and looking capable. There’s a reason so many have used that for their Katie Sachkoff casting. (Yeah, Storm’s cover is a bit boring, but no more or less than any number of hero covers).

@Shaun- you made a point that I forgot…while it doesn’t excuse porn art, and I don’t think it’s as inherent to her as say, Catwoman or the White Queen, I don’t get the “Spider-Woman is the least sexualized character out there” thoughts. I mean, she has the power to sexually attract men. It may be a stupid power unrelated to spiders that needs retconning, but it’s there. Between that and the outfit and look, I’m wouldn’t rank her at the lower end. Though I do find the angle that this really sexy character is just horrible with men to be a charming take.

“yankees are prone to be more shocked by a naked boob…”
yankees. thats priceless. what is it, 1780 already?

@Shawn Kane- so as I’m reading that….plagiarism is ok, as long as a guy’s family has to eat? Allllriighhtttieee

Catman Scratches

August 26, 2014 at 8:22 am

I don’t think that the seductive pose of Spider-Woman is the problem. I think the problem is that her costume is shoved SO FAR UP HER ASS in the image. I mean…seriously?

I’ve said this before here, and doubtless I’ll say it again – to the guys saying “oh but all superheroes are sexy”, just google Tom of Finland’s drawings, with their giant cocks. THAT’s the equivalent of what these types of covers are for most women. Now, it’s fine to like them, but why have there been no covers ever like that? Or like naked men covered in body paint? If it’s ok to chase the market that wants the Manera/Land covers, why is the market that wants the equivalent showing men ignored?

It’s the old adage – if the pose would be ridiculous for a male hero, it’s ridiculous on a female one too.


Actually I totally think that the vast majority of works coming out from DC and Marvel in the last 25 years have been sensationalized crap. The single biggest reason why readers still pick up their books is for nostalgia and the creators working on the book. Without the the high priced talent working on these books….there would be nothing left but nostalgia. Even now creators like Fraction and Bendis do a lot of retro storytelling, they bring back elements from comics from their reading era. So they feed the nostalgia cog. Nothing new ever comes out of these two companies. They can’t sell a book unless it’s an X-men or Avenger, Batman, Justice League related book.

If we want to solve problems like Manera cover….we need to leave the big two to publish these characters as they were originally intended for…kids. It’s time for adults to let go of that Spider-man book and move on to other publishers where the characters are aimed at adults. There’s no kids in comic market because the the adults won’t let go.

“if the pose would be ridiculous for a male hero, it’s ridiculous on a female one too.”

Marvel should try a variant with that as a theme. Get the most “questionable” female covers and just replace the lady with a guy hero.

I”m not offended by the cover, but I do find erotic art a bit juvenille. I mean, what’s the point of it when the real thing is readily accessible. That said — as a Disney-owned company — I can’t see where anyone at Marvel thought this cover was a good idea. And as art, it ain’t that great.


It’s been done, though not by Marvel: http://thehawkeyeinitiative.com/

I disagree with the sensibility that porn should be inherently kept away from superhero comics, and that it somehow by default taints female superheroes. I don’t see porn or erotica as having any intrinsic negative or demeaning qualities. The questions are firstly whether or not those tones are appropriate for a given character or book or scene, and then the question of “is this porn demeaning?” (asked as an actual QUESTION, not just the projected assumption of “This is porn, therefore it’s demeaning”).

Manara drawing an erotica-styled story for Desire, from The Sandman, was perfectly appropriate. I’d say erotica-touched stories about Emma Frost, or Catwoman, or Poison Ivy, could be fine.

But it feels out of place for Jessica Drew. Although, as said in the article, a single variant cover can be ignored. The real problem is Land as the regular interior artist for the series.

And the thing about Land? It’s not even good porn! It’s terrible and gross and boring! And, yes, dehumanizing and objectifying. Land’s stuff looks like he’s just tracing heavily airbrushed Playboy foldouts, or mass-produced internet cam-girl pop-ups.

I am confused as to why you say you feel “shut out” by this comic because it is male-gaze centered. I never feel shut out of female-gaze centered comics. I can and have enjoyed reading things like “Gravitation,” “Descendants of Darkness,” and “Ouran High School Host Club” without feeling shut out. If it has a story or characters I enjoy I read it. If it contains fan-service intended for someone other than me, so what, that doesn’t make the story or characters any less enjoyable. (Unless, of course, the story or characters are distorted in order to allow the artist more excuses to cram in fan-service, but that’s another matter entirely).

If you like Spider-Woman the character, read Spider-Woman. Unless the art is so bad that you can’t follow the story (which, in the case of Greg Land, is a possibility) I don’t see how it would hamper you.


“Shut out” is Kelly’s phrase, not mine, but I can relate to feeling “put off” by comics that are “male gaze” centered for exactly the reasons you mentioned. When I turn the page and see a brokeback pose, it takes me out of the story and distracts me. It looks ugly. To me, that art is “so bad that you can’t follow the story.” Not that it hampers comprehension–like the worst of a Bachalo comic–but that it hampers the suspension of disbelief, or the absorption into the tale.

“Ghatanathoah”: I’m not sure you fully understand what’s meant by the term “male gaze”?

It doesn’t simply mean “stuff that’s sexually appealing to men”, it means that the “camera” (either literal, in the case of film, or metaphoric, in the case of comics and art), is quite literally representative of the eye and gaze of a man. It views the world and subjects AS a man. So OF COURSE many female readers / audiences feel “shut out” by that, because they have to make the leap into a viewpoint that is not their own in order to read the work. They are FUNDAMENTALLY alienated from the viewpoint of the text in a way that the cis-hetero male is not.

I’d also be very, very, VERY impressed to see much of ANY comics that ACTUALLY exhibit a “female gaze”, rather than just being comics that happen to feature a bit of beefcake.

P.S. Comparing comics with a “female gaze” to comics with a “male gaze” is a false equivelancy anyway. The power dynamics are not equal. We exist in a patriarchal society. Those things aren’t interchangeable.


Just wanted to post I check out all of the original SpiderWoman covers and you can too:
She tied up three times in 50 issues. Doesn’t seem that outrageous to me.

@ Shaun, M-Wolverine:

… I don’t get the “Spider-Woman is the least sexualized character out there” thoughts. I mean, she has the power to sexually attract men. It may be a stupid power unrelated to spiders that needs retconning, but it’s there. Between that and the outfit and look, I’m wouldn’t rank her at the lower end. Though I do find the angle that this really sexy character is just horrible with men to be a charming take.

I raised this, so I’ll clarify.

Spider-Woman was designed by the one and only woman in the old school Marvel Bullpen: Marie Severin. Not coincidentally Severin gave her a costume that was pretty much indistinguishable from Silver Age costumes for male superheroes (http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/5275/1685/1600/032.jpg). She also gave her thin, athletic build with few curves.

When the title went to series, Carmine Infantino mostly stayed on model. He added long, flowing hair and made her breasts rounder and less pointy (http://marvel.wikia.com/Spider-Woman_Vol_1_30?file=Spider-Woman_Vol_1_30.jpg). However, he really honored the design that Severin created overall. That 70s series lasted a bit under four years. It remains both one of the longest running female-led Marvel series and a decent percentage of the total appearances by Jessica Drew.

It ran concurrently with the only solo female Marvel adaptation into another media of which I am aware: the Spider-Woman cartoon (http://youtu.be/Xao_sF3aAo0). That series had the same basic design.

So, yeah … pretty de-sexualized.


Reading a comic perceived from a viewpoint fundamentally different from your own doesn’t sound alienating, it sounds fascinating.

For instance, I remember reading a prose story that was written with a male gaze, but with a gay male gaze rather than a straight one. I personally am not gay and have do not find other men attractive at all. However, I certainly didn’t feel shut out or excluded from the story. I was, on the contrary, fascinated to see the world through a gay man’s eyes.

Now, if I was constantly bombarded with stories written with a gay male gaze, I might find that got old rather quick and I wouldn’t find it as absorbing. But it certainly wouldn’t stop me from reading a good story with likeable characters.

@Dean- I don’t think you were the only one to bring it up, so it’s not all on you. I just don’t find her drawn that less sexy than most of the characters were in the 70’s. Most of them outside of Catwoman weren’t drawn like plastic surgery porn dolls until at least the 80’s. The cartoon seems as “sexy” as anything at that time…which means not much. (Though the final shot of the credits do show some curves). I mean, back then Wonder Woman wore less, because it was her costume, but she wasn’t drawn like a brick shithouse either. http://www.comics101.com/comics101//news/Comics%20101/69/ww2.jpg

I don’t think she was created as a sexy character like Catwoman or White Queen, etc. But to say she’s inherently meant to be the LEAST sexy character out there…I don’t see it.

Related to what Natalie said, one thing I find very offputting about some supposedly “sexy” art in comics is how badly integrated it usually is with the rest of the comic.

Even in comics that have no artistic pretension, I like it when it seems like the writer, editor, penciller, inker, etc. appear to be working together to create something. They’re all rowing in the same direction.

This doesn’t happen with a lot of the worst offenders of “bad girl” art.

My countryman Mike Deodato is one big example. There was one issue of Avengers where the dialogue said the Sentry’s wife was average-looking, even “frumpy”, but Mike Deodato drew her as a sexy supermodel, like all his women. Writing and art working at cross-purposes.

If the scene calls for a female character to appear sexy – she is trying to seduce someone, she is on the dance floor, etc. – then the art should reflect that. But I do find it strange and silly when the character starts to pose like she is doing a belly dance, when the writing clearly indicates otherwise.

I can’t believe the amount of people that think they hold the truth and say what Marvel should or should not do. They can do what ever they please, if you don’t like it don’y buy it. End of the story. It’s also incredible the things some people say about Manara’s art…
I thought America was a bit more open minded, but I guess something more than super heroes comics beating the crap out of each other (even between them selves) to solve their problems is too much at the moment for some people.
There is a huge confusion between sexism, being sexy or using a woman as an object that make all this scandal and debate ridiculous and immature (and overrated too).
I don’t want to be disrespectful, but there’s way too much energy in this article to demonize this cover, and it’s really not a big deal.

the pose is really fairly common for spider (or even other animal) characters. Normal people probably wouldn’t climb over a wall like that, but it looks animalistic. i don’t find it offensive unless the camera angle is directly behind her behind. the silly part is the spandex going right up her crack to a point and being basically just a painted on costume, as so many costumes seem to be. you don’t generally see every rippling muscle through spandex, so whenever that’s drawn (or a movie costume has abs built into it/airbrushed on – like the Man of Steel costume), it’s kind of silly.

The Land cover does look lazy and boring.

I’m not a fan of Greg Land, but for all the claims that he traces porn, has anyone ever matched his art to any source images that might not be found in a non-porn newsrack magazine?

For all the claims of porn face, I’ve seen several of his “woman with mouth open in ecstasy” images which had been matched back to their apparent sources. The sources were never porn. They were just movie or TV stills of actresses talking, screaming, or whatever other non-porn related acting they were doing at the time. The linked JimSmash article itself shows the sources for a few, such as an oft-used Sandra Bullock image. (The image that JimSmash labels “porno tracing” doesn’t actually trace the open mouth of the source image. And honestly doesn’t look much like the alleged source other than the eyes and both women having blonde hair, anyway.)

The claims that Land traces porn largely came from the appearance of “porn faces”, and his “porn faces” look to instead be coincidence. Something about his drawing process converts a non-porn face source into a porn face image. It is likely the combination of how he doesn’t do a particularly good job matching his source images to the scenes and that he for years simply drew an insane number of teeth-baring open mouths. (You can add in a bit of how his not-quite-photorealistic style takes away some of the source context, as well as the detail that many open mouths look like open mouths regardless of reason, and that many “real” porn faces themselves are faked or exaggerated.)

@Natalie it seems that you did not read japanese comics for female audiences.

About the conteoversy of Spiderwoman. Well, Spiderman appears in that position, with that ass, in a los of pages and covers

“I have trouble imagining those potential new readers turning out (or picking up for their kids, etc.) something that has these negative connotations stapled to it.”

Why? And based on what? That you “believe” it? Why do critics, particularly comic book critics make the assumption that new readers care about what they care about? Or that new readers even know what good art is or isn’t? Janelle Asselin made the same assumption in her critique of that Teen Titans cover. I agreed with Asselin’s general assertion and I agree with most of what Thompson says above. What I don’t agree on is the odd, unfounded assumption that bad, sexist art turns off new readers. History and evidence of any sort just don’t prove that out at all. Crappy covers sell all the time, sexist covers sell all the time. To women and men, girls and boys. If women were turned off by crappy, offensive art then Tarot would never have sold a single issue. Is it that some of these critics have been to SCAD or some art school or other to study comic art and just assume, as most college students infused with the hubris of newfound knowledge tend to believe, that everyone feels exactly the same about art as they do? I’ve yet to see one shred of evidence(other than the comments of a few high profile bloggers) that either the Land or Manara covers will turn off new readers, women or men in droves. Especially given that both Manara and Land have a large following among women and cosplayers.

I’ve been picking up Mighty Avengers to support Al Ewing and the characters, but man it hurts when I know my dollars are going to support Greg Land too.

It’s true that Greg Land is doing something right, otherwise Marvel would not continue to employ him. But what is striking to me is that not only does he still get work, but he gets work on high-profile projects. Ultimate Power, Uncanny X-Men, Iron Man, etc. These were high profile projects for Marvel. And they chose Greg to illustrate them. If anything, Mighty Avengers and Spider-Woman are the kind of books you expect to fly under the radar and maybe stick a non-A-list artist on. I really hope Captain America & The Mighty Avengers skyrockets up the sales charts with Land gone because all of the interested fans were just waiting for him to go. And it’s a shame because as much as I would enjoy a Spider-Woman book she’s not a big enough draw for me to fork more money over to Land.

My opinion on the Manara cover is if you’re armed with information, it’s exactly what you would expect. Though it’s certainly more explicit than previous Marvel Manara variants it’s still a Manara variant. If you are not armed with information, then it’s a knee-jerk powder keg of emotion. Is it objectifying of women? Yes. Does it deserve the criticism it gets? Yes. But it’s not designed (being a variant cover) to be front-and-center for the general comic audience than a rack of porn dvds would be left in front of a nunnery. If a nun wants to watch porn she will go seek it out. The mistake was Marvel decided to advertise it in a way no one could ignore. With Marvel’s good will progress with diversifying their market to women, this screams “BUT WE HAVEN’T FORGOTTEN YOU BOYS!” And I’m more referring to Greg Land on a female-centric book than the Manara variant.

Arguing that Spiderman has been put in the same position without being pornographic, and therefore it’s not pornographic for Spiderwoman to be in that position is like arguing that because Peter has been shown shirtless, it wouldn’t be pornographic to show Jessica shirtless.

Same presentation + different anatomies = different meaning.

@ M-Wolverine:

I don’t think she was created as a sexy character like Catwoman or White Queen, etc. But to say she’s inherently meant to be the LEAST sexy character out there…I don’t see it.

That is not exactly what I am saying.

Somewhere Gail Simone once compared working comics to doing improv. The job in both was to say ‘yes’ to whatever the person before you did. For me, that really captures what is pleasurable about corporately owned comics as opposed to films, animation and TV shows based on those same properties. Creative people come in and have to say ‘yes’ forty, or fifty, or seventy-five years of occasionally damn fool ideas. That seems like an impossible task. However, since the core concepts are so simple and the plots are so action-oriented, there are often unimaginably huge areas that are almost entirely unexplored.

The best bits of business in comics turn on just that. Just because Swamp Thing thinks that he is Alec Holland doesn’t mean that he is. The reader just assumed it. A smaller example is the diner scene at the end of Kingdom Come. From their orders to the revelation it turns on, it is all about filling in previously empty space about very well-established characters by building on what was there before.

Some characters (e.g. Wonder Woman, Catwoman, White Queen) had their sex lives partially filled in from the very beginning. Golden Age characters come from the pulp tradition. There are certain archtypes that they broadly fall within and Selina Kyle is a femme fatale. William Marston was doing research on sororities and used that to inform his depiction of Diana Prince. Emma Frost was inspired by an old episode of the TV series, The Avengers, that featured moderate kink. For a character like Jessica Drew, it is a totally blank canvas.

What Big Two publishers are trying to do by hiring guys like Land and Manara is to cheat that process. They are using sexualized imagery without developing Spider-Woman in that area. Manara is suggesting a sexual preference by Jessica Drew without (I presume) having any story-driven reason to make that suggestion. Land is borrowing sexual images that appeal to him. All of it is to titillate the reader and not to tell a story that is unique to the character.

@Dean- You might not be saying it, but others, like Greg, have.

And that brings me to my second point, which is that if the goal is to make a sexy, erotic comic to tap into the market who wants that sort of thing, Spider Woman is pretty much the last character who should star in it. She’s kind of hopeless with men. She’s not seductive. When Clint starts coming on to her in Avengers, she’s completely discombobulated by his attentions. If Marvel wants to make that comic, they should go with someone like Emma Frost, She-Hulk, Black Widow, Black Cat, or Hellcat. But then, there’s no indication that Marvel wants to make a comic like that, with Spider Woman or anyone else.

Which is what Sean and I were commenting on…the totality of comments in that direction. She may not have started out sexy, but it’s not exactly doing Kitty Pryde porn with the character’s history. She’s been drawn sexy AT LEAST since she come back under Bendis. And has had pheromone powers for awhile too, which are nothing but sexual. (She even oddly turns off women). So I don’t think it hardly started with this cover; just taken to excessive new heights with it.

@Ramiro- Can you tell us if this cover is an example of sexy, sexist, or objectifying, and why? Because otherwise just chastising everyone really doesn’t educate us much on why people are wrong.

@Billy- I’m sure there are whole websites covering his tracing, but during coverage of this story I’ve seen at least one image (actually, two, from the same source, I found today) that were taken directly from a pornographic image. NSFW obviously.



The problem I have with your comment is that you suggest the female ass and breasts are intrinsically and invariably sexualized. That is naked breasts cannot just be naked breasts, but are automatically to be considered pornographic, whether breast feeding, sun tanning, showering or just being plain unclothed. Or the female ass, is never not pornographic.. Spider-man and Spider-Woman should both be able to stick their respective asses in the air in the that very stock spider pose and not be thought of as pornographic, Similarly, Peter Parker and Jessica Drew should both both be able to appear topless and not be considered to be engaged in acts of the pornographic. To have a problem with such is to have a problem with both nudity and female anatomy. To me Spider-woman’s pose while comic style exaggerated was not at all provocative.


In fairness, while that Pam Anderson image (also in the article) certainly looks like porn, I don’t think it technically qualifies. I’m pretty sure it’s from a magazine spread on Pam Anderson for something like Movieline (or maybe Maxim or FHM) back in the mid to late 90’s. I’m fairly certain it’s not Playboy (or similar) because I remember seeing that photo spread (and being kinda shocked by it) and Playboy is not something I’ve ever really bought. And while Pam Anderson had her 90’s sex tape “scandal” she’s not a porn star but an actress.


You’re absolutely right that not all representations of naked female breasts are pornographic, just as not all representations of naked male breasts are pornographic. However, that doesn’t mean there’s a 1:1 relationship. A pose that on a male would not be particularly porny, on a female may so be, and vice versa.

The same goes for the ass thrust presented here–perhaps even moreso–since female ass in the air is a standard position for heterosexual sex, while the male ass in the air is not.

It’s a false equivalency to try to excuse this image by showing comparable images of Spider-Man. It’s just not the same.

It also is not really a credible argument that Manera did not intend the sexual innuendo, because he is who he is. In contrast, I strongly doubt Cambpell (who is also known for his pretty porny style), was intending to suggest that Spiderman was “presenting” on that ASM #30 cover.


While I don’t know the source, the Pam Anderson pic is what I consider something you’d be able to find in a non-porn magazine on a magazine rack. Kelly’s memory appears to support my opinion.

Like I said, the idea that Greg Land traces porn largely seemed to come from people seeing his female characters as having “porn faces” or “O-faces”. People saw the mouths, then the faces, and finally the poses and assumed Land was tracing from porn. Except many of Land’s “obvious” porn face women were matched to clearly non-porn sources, and people had little trouble matching Land’s art in general to non-porn sources while there were no smoking guns for porn.

I was one of the people who knocked Land’s art. The continued lack of a porn smoking gun caused me to look a bit closer at *why* Land’s art looked the way it did, along with other issues with Land’s books. (I even went through an issue of X-Men counting the number of teeth-baring mouths to non-teeth baring, and I want to recall even comparing it to other artists. Land, of course, had an insane ratio of teeth-baring open lips/mouths to non. My guess was that if someone at any point was speaking/screaming/etc even for an instant in a panel, then he drew them with an open mouth.)

Does it really matter if the pic came from an actual porn magazine like Playboy, or only a quasi-porn magazine like Maxim?

It matters only in the sense that Billy is taking issue with the specific claim that Land swipes from porn. Billy is not defending Land’s art, he just thinks it is worthwhile to note that it doesn’t seem like he literally traces from porn, which is something that is often said about Land. Not a big deal, of course, but it’s a fair enough point by Billy. I, myself, have found myself at times noting that the porn thing is a bit overblown (and I think Land is a bad artist, as well).

But if he swipes the most porn-tastic images from Maxim, isn’t that essentially the same thing? He’s changing the clothes anyhow. Why would it matter if he swiped from Playboy, Cosmo or Maxim? Sure it’s not strictly accurate that he swipes from porn, but he picks images that are pretty close to pornographic. Just because Pam Anderson’s nipples are covered, doesn’t mean the image is any less titillating (pun intended) than one where they are not.

Wow, what a surprise. When you list all the arguments in favor of the cover and declare them automatically invalid, you win by default. Congrats.

Thanks, Brian. Indeed, I think Land is a bad artist myself.

Yes, Land traces a lot. He copies from movies, photos, and his own work. He’ll use the same pose multiple times in a single cover. His female characters can morph body builds from panel to panel because he keeps switching between different actresses for his source images. Different female characters can look identical because he uses the same actress as a source for both, and because he has no stable standard look for anyone. He will Frankenstein layouts with little thought given to how his source images will fit.

But that isn’t the same as “Greg Land traces porn.” That is a specific criticism, one that delivers a specific insult, which goes beyond criticizing his heavy (and poor) use of photo reference. And it is a criticism that is unfounded. Yes, Land is bad at how he uses sources, very bad at times, but he isn’t tracing porn.

(Besides, as I said earlier I found it interesting to look closer at Land’s art years ago just to see why he gave that perception. And why it was sometimes painful to read a comic with Land art in general.)

As a European that lived his culturally-speaking key years (between 8 and 28) in North America (Ontario and Quebec to be precise), I never understood this fascination about those super-heroes of all kinds. Millions of comics that amount grosso-modo to exactly the same scenario (decided to edit the s but denied that word its “ii” plural form) dished out about a zillion times (abeit slightly modified) to almost blind (read illiterares) fully-willing victims.

How was Wonder-woman not a sexist thing, any less than Milo’s illustration? Because the cleavage shown his more “cheeky” than “breasty”? Should feminists not read this illustration as Spiderwoman not dominating the world by showing us (down there in the city) its vulva area?

I always found suspect that all these tight-wearing heroes had the pectorals and abdominals so clearly in view of everyone. Just how these super-dudes managed to find tights so perfectly espousing their muscles like gay culture was doing in the 80’s? What exactly frightens you in this illustrations, anyway ? Finding a spandex or other type of fabric that will exactly espouse the curves and partings of her inner-thighs in such a position?

Mainstream unitedstatian culture should start wondering about its pre-conceotions.. Just like female nudity (even partial) is not accepted in mainstream US medias, male mudity gets better accepted. Would there have been a fifth of the outage itf it was Justin Bieber showed his nipple rather than Janet at halftime show of the superbowl? A nipple and a breast are just the same, whether they’re male or female. So if a construction or road woker takes his shirt off for whatever reasons (heat, for ex), thus exposing his nipple, should he not get charged for indecent exposure. Personally, as a feminist myself (males gain everything by having women as their equals) I welcome the days when female road workers will bare their torso because of the heat. It’ll certainly be less offensive to my male lesbian apetite to view that, than bare-chested men. Get over yourselves, really.


PS: Unitedstatian comic readers shocked by a little cheeky cleavage need to get a life… or at least grow taste, by checking out European Bande Dessinée.

respectfully yours (really, I mean it)

post- PS: isn’t this kind of controversy exactly what Marvel was after, by getting Manara involved (si I fully agree with the blogger’s second and fourth paragraphs). Exposure i exposure… Little doubt that sales will dramatically increase, though morally-offended comic readers will bring that version home in a brown bag, having worn their burburry with the collar turned up and a hat and sunglasses ttire from a neighbouring city… And they will lock it up in their safe, only to pull it off when feeling like guiltily jerking off over it… Creeps!!!

I confess I haven’t blown the image up to study every nook and cranny, but it certainly seems like Pamela Anderson is naked in that pic. Naked pictures = porn. Now, can porn be artistic? Sure. Can porn mean all out penetration images? Sure. But I’m not sure the source really matters because then you’re making a judgment call between Cosmo, Playboy, and Hustler, or whatever. If the trace is of a naked pic with nipples showing from Sports Illustrated is it not as porn-y as one of the fully dressed shots in Playboy?

And while it’s generous to call Pamela Anderson an actress, not a porn star, she became an actress by getting spreads in Playboy…so she was a porn model long before she was an actress of any sort.

Nathanael Nerode

March 15, 2015 at 6:20 pm

I can’t believe they’re still hiring Greg Land.

Land’s art *stinks*. He traces constantly, he doesn’t know anatomy, he can’t draw faces, and worst, he doesn’t use consistent references, so the characters change appearance from panel to panel. His use of porn and fashion-model poses as sources is just the last straw. There are several websites which have found the sources of Land’s tracing, and yes, some of it is porn magazines like Playboy. Sometimes he traces other comics.

Joe Quesada basically said that Greg Land worked fast when a fill-in artist was needed on short notice. Of course he worked fast, he did it by ripping off other artists, and he did it badly. No excuse for hiring him.

There are a lot of *good* artists who can draw artwork *well*. Some of them draw cheesecake well, too, if that’s what Marvel really wants. Including Amanda Conner. Many of them also do it *quickly*. Including Amanda Conner.

And yes, Spiderwoman, which has never been a cheesecake character, and where it would be horribly out of character, should not be drawn in a cheesecake fashion. If Marvel wants a cheesecake book, do something like Emma Frost, who was cheesecake from her first issue.

Why is Land still being hired? If Marvel stopped hiring him, he might go back to school and learn to draw.

Frankly, I buy a fair amount of comic erotica, *marketed* as erotica, mostly written and drawn by women. It’s a fascinating if poor-selling and obscure genre. Outside the genre, I’m OK with cheesecake in context, but in a typical superhero story, that context is not present 90% of the time.

But even if it is appropriate, for goodness sakes, I don’t want to see it drawn by the incompetent Greg Land. Give me “Green Arrow and Black Canary Wedding Special” (appropriate context, see) drawn by Amanda Conner instead.

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