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FRIDAY NEWPOST - "FanService" and Sexy Ladies in Comics

HippieVan at 12:00AM, Sept. 12, 2014

There's been a bit of a kerfuffle recently over an almost ridiculously sexy Spider-Woman cover drawn by Milo Manara. I was quite surprised by the uproar, actually - voluptuous ladies in skin-tight outfits is definitely not new to comics. For whatever reason, this particular drawing seems to have crossed a (seemingly arbitrary) line into unacceptable territory.

Personally, I was more intrigued by critiques of this cover that approached it from a this-is-bad-art perspective. This article shows how one person made a horrifying 3D rendered version of this Spider Woman. I also really liked this blog, where another artist picks apart the anatomical issues with the covers.

Generally I think that the comic book world - and the world of cheesy superhero comics in particular - is a place for fantasy so this isn't that big of a deal. That being said, on a personal level a cover like this one might turn me off of the comic unless I was already familiar with the content.

Does this sort of thing bother you? Do you think women in comics are generally ‘over-sexualized’? Do comic artists have a responsibility to present their characters in a realistic way?

Have a comic milestone, a community project or some comic-related news that you'd like to see in a newspost? Send it to me via PQ or at hippievannews(at)!



jamoecw at 11:46AM, Sept. 17, 2014

typically men want women that are closer to normal body type than is portrayed, and want women to have more of a backbone than what women often imagine men want.

jamoecw at 11:39AM, Sept. 17, 2014 she was drawn to be a sexy woman, doing something not very sexy. you can see that the body proportions pretty much just put the ass a bit bigger, and the pose is from climbing over the edge of a building (the critic thought she was getting ready to pounce, and also forgot as most do about the spider power to cling to walls). it is far more anatomically correct than the cover drawn by the non errotic artist, maybe marvel knew what they were doing? after all spider woman is supposed to be an attractive figure. taking a sexy woman and drawing her in a way that is not inherently sexy is the opposite of objectifying women. it is sort of like saying that even if you are sexy, you can still be who you want to be.

irrevenant at 2:43AM, Sept. 16, 2014

@jamoecw Good point about the "dangling" leg and her clinging to the wall with her foot. @kawaiidaigakusei It's possible the artist was making a clever metaphorical reference to a spider, but it doesn't seem likely given how typical that sort of thing is (and especially since we're talking about an erotic artist).

irrevenant at 2:08AM, Sept. 16, 2014

@El Cid I'm obviously not saying it's the *only* reason that comics are doing poorly. And yes, if I had the money I'd be tempted to start my own comic company and do it very differently. Though honestly, I think it would be insanely difficult to succeed given the reputation the Big Two have created around comics in general (if they're taking an "there's no such thing as bad attention" approach as you suggest, that doesn't help!). People's complaints aren't particularly inconsistent, BTW (except for the ones by different people, of course). It's possible (and sadly fairly common) for a picture to be oversexualised *and* so poorly executed that it's laughable rather than sexy (the original Catwoman #0 cover is a good example). And I think you're well aware of that. BTW (II), you implied that people are being dishonest about their reasons for disliking this art. Presumably you have a reason for that, so what do you think their reasons are? Incidentally, I love your comic. It's epic. :)

jamoecw at 8:11PM, Sept. 15, 2014

mainstream media causes more harm than if she was buck naked riding a cock when they make such unfounded claims. if they had done their homework and actually had something then it would be a different story. now this image will show up in all sorts of places and get presented as being sexual. young girls will look to it as a guide, which will end up not working. so they will try harder. that is how women get oppressed by 'men's objectivity of women' in media. are there sexual elements in the image? yes. the clothes are painted on, the ass is a bit big and depicted oddly, the lips are big, and the hair isn't kept under the hood like the guys. none of this is specific to the image, or new in the slightest for the medium. treating it as such in society's main view sends the wrong message to those that don't know any better. if it crosses a line then say something, but one should let people discover what is sexy on their own and not send impressionable people off on tangents.

jamoecw at 7:57PM, Sept. 15, 2014

the leg isn't dangling, the blog that was referred by one of these posts said the same. spiderman/woman can cling to walls, and do so in order to climb walls and such. therefore the leg is most likely being used to push her over the edge. her other leg is splayed at an angle so that she can lift her hind end high enough to get the leg still on the side of the building over the edge (to the top of the building). the parting is classic to the standard spiderman poses, and thus not due to her being a woman. the hair and lips are standard for women depictions in comic books though, so there is that. there is also a shading that follows where a thong would be, but there is a square patch. if you guys think this is at all unrealistic, you should check out league of legends characters. those don't need cgi overlays to tell that they are wrong.

tupapayon at 2:09PM, Sept. 15, 2014

Ok... Too many comments... Almost all of them good ones... On one hand everyone is entitled to have an opinion... On the other, the publishers got their product all the public attention they needed... Artists that publicly show their work should expect criticism... Ultimately, if you don't like the product, don't buy it... Get offended, that's your right... Get aroused (in every sense) that's your right too... After seeing this images all I can say is: I'll be back, I just need to go to the bathroom for a bit... I'll be right back...

kawaiidaigakusei at 11:32AM, Sept. 15, 2014

One major point that I wanted to mention was that Spider Woman's pose looked strikingly similar to a Black Widow spider in the 3D anatomy rendering. No one has stated that spiders have incredibly large butts that stick up in the air and are very distracting. She is not supposed to portray a naturally positioned woman climbing up the side of a wall. She is infused with RADIOACTIVE SPIDER BLOOD and has taken on the anatomy of an arachnid.

kawaiidaigakusei at 11:31AM, Sept. 15, 2014

The outpouring of responses to this article should show that the techniques employed by Marvel's choice of hiring Manara are indeed working. Women have always been objectified in art way before comics. Remember Titian's Venus of Urbino and Manet's Olympia? Videogames are also guilty of warping female body inage--I remember feeling the need to compete when Dead or Alive's Beach Volleyball was released. Given the nature of comics, it is fair to say that men are objectified as well with their skintight uniforms, ripped muscles, and six pack abs. It makes me wonder how many people clicked on this image because of its unrealistic anatomy or because they saw a huge rump complete with dimples of Venus on the front page. I am guessing the latter because there is no shortage of imperfect anatomy in webcomic art. If I am wrong, this is the most passionate argument over the improper use of foreshortening that I have ever read.

Abt_Nihil at 10:18AM, Sept. 15, 2014

SLK8ne: Manara is not employed by Marvel or part of their staff; he was only commissioned to do this cover (and he drew a single X-Men issue a few years ago). He very much enjoys creative freedom. But if you look at some of the European artists Marvel has commissioned and/or employed over the years, like Simone Bianchi, Olivier Coipel or Gabriele Dell'Otto, you'll find that their style differs significantly from what you'd expect from the "Marvel" in-house style. However, that also applies to some US artists enjoying longer contracts. Marvel books today have quite a varied style. Again, just look at the current Ms. Marvel book and tell me that's anywhere near "the Marvel style".

El Cid at 9:03AM, Sept. 15, 2014

Also, I find some of these complaints maddeningly inconsistent. So, you don't like the image because it's too sexual... yet, it's not sexual at all because the anatomy and composition is all wrong? Forgive me, but I suspect we haven't even come close to what's *really* bothering people about this image, and likely will not until we can be a bit more honest with ourselves about it.

SLK8ne at 9:03AM, Sept. 15, 2014

Mind you, I have other questions about this picture. The coloring is definitely /not/ done in the Marvel style. And Marvel is noted for using Sketchup to get perspectives right. As irrevenant pointed out, the perspectives on the background buildings are skewed. To me this looks more like a concept art than a finished cover.

El Cid at 9:00AM, Sept. 15, 2014

@Irrevenant: Last time I checked, comics were far from the only print medium facing declining sales lately. It's been an ongoing trend for a while now. If you believe you have some secret formula for solving that problem, you should let them know about it, or better yet, start your own comic book company, since you know so much better than they do how to sell comic books. Anyway, I think I've said enough on the subject. They didn't make that variant cover to impress you with their anatomical correctness; they made it to bring attention (even negative attention) to their comics, and I think it's very clear that they succeeded at that. Expect more of the same in the future.

SLK8ne at 8:48AM, Sept. 15, 2014

As far as Marvel's intent goes, not being a telepath, I couldn't tell you. Maybe it is sexist. But, I agree with irrevenant and Kou the Mad. My first thought when I saw the picture was The Exorcist. That body posture is unnatural. It doesn't strike me as being sexy at all period. Like Kou said, that image just doesn't look right.

irrevenant at 5:47AM, Sept. 15, 2014

@Kou There's a few things that could be. The head is bent up at a very uncomfortable angle (try bending your head to 90 degrees from your body like that) and the neck looks elongated to compensate. One leg appears to be just dangling over the edge of the building. The other is splayed out at an angle so that it could not possibly be supporting her weight. Her hands also appear to be hovering above the surface. To be looking at her rump from that angle, her back must be arched to an insane degree. And the background buildings are angled differently to the rest of the scene. @strixvanallen I tend to agree. It doesn't seem unreasonable to expect professional artists to be able to consistently draw people properly.

irrevenant at 5:41AM, Sept. 15, 2014

I just found a comment on that blog that sums up how I feel about this "Sexualisation is very much about adding sexual content without sexual context. 'Oh noes! We are being attacked by a horde of zombies! This must be why I’m thrusting my ass at them while turning at the swivel-hip so both my gravity-defying boobs can be seen practically bursting out of my ripped top!' Um, no.". *That* is exactly what bugs me. Sexiness is cool when. It. Makes. *Sense*. Catwoman being sexy and seductive while trying to flirt with or psych out Batman? Fine. Catwoman posing like a covergirl in the middle of climbing a building or mid-fight? Puerile and distracting. It's also exactly the sort of crap that makes it embarrassing for adults to admit that they like comics and introduce them to new readers.

Kou the Mad at 4:20AM, Sept. 15, 2014

that image just doesn't look right, and i don't mean because of sexualization. Something about it tells my brain something isn't right about it.

jamoecw at 10:55PM, Sept. 14, 2014

the whole idea that this will turn away more female readers than it gains is ignorant of who buys sexualized stuff. i've said it before, and i'll say it again, guys would rather watch porn than 'near porn' imagery. it will turn heads, but if it fails to keep guy's interests with story or nudity, it will not sell to them. which means that the only demographic that will buy such stuff is females that are trying to find their sexual identity. for all i know this controversy was arranged by marvel to boost their sales, and increase their female readership. i'm a guy that likes women, and i don't find that picture alluring in any way, and i get that vibe from others here as well. from an award winning artist with decades of professional experience under his belt (some of it porn), i find it hard to believe that he couldn't make a provocative pose that would have better response from guys if he wanted to. seems to me that this whole thing is smoke and mirrors.

jamoecw at 10:42PM, Sept. 14, 2014

stuff like this sells. it sells to girls between the ages of 8-13 most likely. i am going to bring up spice girls again. spice girls were said to be kept afloat solely by horny guys when they first became a hit. as it turned out their first movie was by far watched by girls between the ages of 8-13. titanic was a movie with very little going for it except for a fairly typical love story, and leonardo dicaprio in a 'innocent' yet sexual relation. it is number 2 for box office sales in the world. the key demographic that put them there? girls between the ages of 8-13. if you can get some sexualized stuff to be considered PG, then you can sell that stuff to girls between the ages of 8-13, and make loads of money. i think the movie El Cid posted hits the nail on the head as far as how sexual it really is relative to other comic books. this controversy, will net marvel extra sales from girls ages 8-13. why? mainstream media called attention to it as something that is PG sexual.

strixvanallen at 3:41PM, Sept. 14, 2014

Same thing with women depictions in stories. It's normal for writers to have some characters well developed and others, just walking stereotypes. But when only men (or 1 women for each 10 men) are developed in a story, or in stories in which all bad stereotypes goes for women, it's more than mysoginistic, it's lazy (serious, guy, you didn't reviewed your story enough to see that?). I've seen writers bragging that they spent years studying mental patients to write a certain characters, and still, there are writers that get away with not writing good female characters because "understanding women to write female characters is hard D:". There's no excuse, guys.

kalliikak at 3:39PM, Sept. 14, 2014

I honestly don't understand why this gets so much screen time. I don't find it sexy at all... it's not even a very engaging piece of art... looks like something that was done last minute to get the comic to print before a deadline. I do kinda like the way the hands are done, but otherwise the colors, perspective, anatomy, et cetera are just, meh. I feel like some people decided to use this piece of art as an example to prove how evil this other group of people must be, or whatever. But I don't have the time or energy to get offended by stuff like that. Too many other problems in the world. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go work on a comic about sexy lesbian slaves or something, and hope to offend enough people to get lots of free publicity! <.<

strixvanallen at 3:34PM, Sept. 14, 2014

What ticks me off in women depictions in mainstream comics is laziness. I can deal with mysoginy. I can deal with people using their work of art to vent their ideals that I don't agree with. But I draw a line when laziness is involved. Seriously. This Spider Woman drawing is not the worst I've ever seen, but it's a good example of what I'm talking about. A guy comes, draw a character naked using photo reference and whatnot and then, just paint the uniform over it. It doesn't matter if the character is a lady or a guy. That's lazy, man. I can forgive it in a striving DA artist that is still improving, but mainstream comics hire professionals. Give me some REALLY cool clothes, that wouldn't make us embarassed in real life, please. I'm not saying that you should BAN heroes with colourful paint over their bodies in lieu of an uniform, but it's downright lazy to have almost all of them like that. OK, clothes are hard to draw, I get it, but SOME effort is appreciated here.

irrevenant at 3:21PM, Sept. 14, 2014

@El Cid I think I've been reasonably clear on why I think this is ineffective superhero art. And nope, Marvel don't owe me anything. They can draw what they want so long as they're willing to wear the criticism when they make bad calls. Although, if they're interested in remaining afloat as other than an IP farm for the movies, they really should consider not alienating all their *potential* readers in order to cater to their microscopically tiny current readerbase. 14 Million people went to see Man of Steel at the movie. Somewhere around 100,000 read the comic. There are LOTS of superhero fans out there. Marvel should be asking themselves why so few buy comics. @Abt_Nihil I would suggest that there should be such a fuss over this slip-up precisely because Marvel *have* been otherwise moving in the right direction lately. They need the feedback to guide future decisions.

Abt_Nihil at 2:14PM, Sept. 14, 2014

Marvel certainly wasn't unaware of the fact that the depiction of females in superhero comics makes for some bad publicity. They have deliberately tried to improve their reputation for a few years now (it probably has to do with establishing themselves as providing entertainment for a mainstream movie-going audience, and being bought by Disney). They have an unmatched amount of female-led mainstream comics, and they have been trying to market them without resorting to the common imagery - Ms. Marvel perhaps being the most standout reinvention of their line. So, while I don't think there should be such a fuss over this "slip-up", it certainly hurts Marvel reputationwise, and given that it's one of the weakest Manara illustrations I have ever seen, I don't think it was worth it.

VinoMas at 10:19AM, Sept. 14, 2014

This photo certainly has been all over the internet. I think a lot of the talk isn't so much her painted on outfit or obvious "doggy style" pose, but instead her strange looking face. The Spider man movie had a scene where he kisses Jane upside down, and Spider-Woman is almost replicating that scene by having the look of her face and mask almost be upside down. I encourage you to read fallopiancrusader's comment as I feel it sums up my opinions. I agree that super hero drawings have the right to be fantastical and cheesy and even sexy. But for Marvel to hire an erotic artist (if that is what they in fact did), then they need to be willing to stand by that, and that could upset some parents who thought Marvel was marketing to kids.

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