Spider-Woman #1: Stop, Just Stop.
Let’s talk about these covers, because when the Marvel solicitations came out this week, the Internet blew up with people criticizing Spider-Woman #1, specifically, the variant cover by Milo Manara. Milo Manara is an Italian comic artist, best known for erotic work like the Click! series and Butterscotch. He is very good at it, and that is what he is known for. Is this cover a good representation of his work? Of course not. However, this is most likely not the only design he submitted for the variant cover, it’s just the one that the editor chose, and that decision, bound with the choice of Greg Land as the series artist is where the fault must lie, but since it is not easy to find out who that editor is, everyone is directing their fury at Marvel, prompting Tom Brevoort to respond on his Tumblr:
“I think that the people who are upset about that cover have a point, at least in how the image relates to them.
By that same token, Milo Manara has been working as a cartoonist since 1969, and what he does hasn’t materially changed in all that time. So when we say “Manara cover”, his body of work indicates what sort of thing he’s going to do.
It’s also, for a Manara piece, one of the less sexualized ones, at least to my eye. Maybe others feel differently. But given that the character is covered head-to-toe, and is crouched in a spider-like pose, it seems far less exploitative to me than other Manara pieces we’ve run in previous months and years.
But all that said, it’s the right of every reader not to like something.
And fortunately, it’s a variant cover, so people will likely need to seek it out if they want it, rather than it being the display piece for the book.
I think a conversation about how women are depicted in comics is relevant at this point, and definitely seems to be bubbling up from the zeitgeist. That too is fine. Nothing gets better unless ideas are communicated.”
This cover and the choice of Greg Land as artist is not the result of Marvel wanting to present women as sexual objects. It’s the result of one editor not realizing that his or her choices are upsetting readers that might otherwise buy a Spider-Woman comic. In a market where the average comic book sells around 35,000 copies, drawing in new readers is essential, and Marvel has done it well, consistently outselling DC as a whole, despite sometimes having fewer titles offered. Marvel currently offers eight series with female leads, including this one. Among those is a series is Ms.Marvel, featuring a Muslim-American teenager that gained Marvel praise for it’s depiction of a young female heroine that did not flash lots of bare flesh.
This comic will sell lots of copies, at least to comic shops. Whether or not those comic shops can get those comics into the hands of readers is unknown at this point, which would bad if they don’t because 100 unsold comics is a loss of at least $200, that they could have spent on other things, not the least of which would be a part-timer’s pay for that week. This is why that Manara cover will cost a fan $10, $20, or more at a shop. Marvel will see the Diamond orders as sales, and will not notice a retailer response to demand until issue #3 or #4, by which time, a shop could lose up to $500 in lost sales, during the holiday season. This is now affecting real people.
What is a fan of good comics to do? Everyone is taking to the Internet to complain. Some are Photoshopping the image to mock it. Some people at Marvel may be looking at that, but many are just too busy to spend their day reading blogs, Facebook and forum posts. If you want to affect change, don’t stop at complaining on the Internet. Send an intelligently worded e-mail to Marvel. If you know the e-mail address for a particular editor, than send it directly. Tom Brevoort answers questions directly on his Tumblr, and as I mentioned, addressed this topic directly. Send your comments not just out into the noise that is the Internet, but direct them to where they might actually convince someone to do something.
That all being said, here’s the Spider-Woman that people should be paying attention to. Gwen Stacy as Spider-Woman from Edge of the Spider-Verse #2, on sale Sept. 17. Preview images come from CBR.