The Cover (Non-)Story
Comic book cover controversy is apparently in this year. I can’t wait for 2015 to bring a whole new thing we should be outraged about, because this one is as dumb as dumping a bucket of ice on your head during a drought.
Before I dive in, let me note that this post my opinion and doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of others who contribute to this site. Okay?
The first kerfuffle started ruffling feathers this past Spring, with this cover for Teen Titans #1:
It should be pretty obvious what social critics found most objectionable about the cover, even if the argument is reducible to “the artist acknowledged that women have breasts.” Yes, Wondergirl is a teenage heroine (although not necessarily underage, and gasp, teenagers have anatomies as well), but besides the mere presence of breasts, there is nothing especially lurid about the picture or Wondergirl’s pose or position. That isn’t to say that there aren’t other problems with this cluttered mess of a cover, but from an artistic perspective, the boobs aren’t the worst of it. It’s the ‘what the hell is going on here,’ of the composition that gets to me.
Of course, the Teen Titans were only the tip of the iceberg.
This week, the comics world has been aflame with stories about Milo Manara’s variant cover for the forthcoming Spider-Woman #1:
A canny reader can probably work out what part of this picture has had the Internet social justice warriors sharpening their swords all week. Never mind that this is a rare variant cover, drawn by a world famous artist who is widely known–like other luminaries such as Frank Frazetta–for his erotica, which should suggest that his work would emphasize the female form. The commentary ignores the real artistic crime: that apparently, Spider-Woman looks just like this guy:
Jokes aside, yeah, her butt, it’s like, right there. But you know what? That’s a pretty classic Spider-Man pose. How about this one:
What we have here is a picture of Peter Parker in a state of estrus, presenting like a baboon of the Serengeti. Or, maybe just climbing on a wall, like he has for the past sixty years, just like Spider-Jackson… I mean Michael-Woman… ahem, Spider-Woman is in the picture above. Yes, her butt is in the air, but I haven’t seen many complaints about Peter Parker’s myriad contortions, which often put his Ken Doll crotch front and center of the cover, or poses like the above that make him look like he’s auditioning for the part of ‘the catcher’ for some especially racy direct to DVD content. The fact is, comics distort the body, artists will portray their peccadilloes, and not every cover which features a woman not clad in a burqa requires a renewed dialog about the male gaze–especially when comics, not to mention the films, are overwhelmingly filled with unrealistic portrayals of the male physique.
I recognize that my position could be construed as concern trolling by some. But the fact is that people, both men and women, enjoy depictions of the human body that accentuate the things that we find attractive. The vast majority of the Spider-Woman audience will never see the variant cover in the flesh–it has been vastly amplified by bloggers and news sites running with the story. Truthfully though, it’s innocuous. Is that butt crack an inch too deep? Maybe. But in the grand scheme of things, why care? Don’t buy that one, and get the other cover. Or don’t buy it at all. But if you’re going to bitch about a little booty on the cover of a comic book, try to be at least a little reflexive when you’re fanning out over Chris Platt or Chris Pine’s abs the next time you go to the movies. Or, if you’re like this Slate writer, decry this:
in the same article you’re praising this:
Because that just makes you look fucking stupid.