UPDATE 8/21/14 9:00 AM PT: Marvel senior vice president of publishing Tom Brevoort has responded to the rampant criticism surrounding Milo Manara's "Spider-Woman" variant cover via 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," Brevoort wrote. "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."
Brevoort also expressed his take that the "Spider-Woman" #1 cover is "one of the less sexualized ones" Marvel has published by Manara. "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."
"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," Brevoort concluded. "That too is fine. Nothing gets better unless ideas are communicated."
CBR's original story follows below.
Original story: Marvel released a variant cover for its November-debuting "Spider-Woman" #1 on Monday, illustrated by noted artist Milo Manara. The cover quickly received widespread criticism on multiple online outlets -- both mainstream and genre-focused -- for what has been argued to be a blatantly sexualized portrayal of the character, at a time when there has been a particular focus on the comic book industry's treatment of female characters, creators and fans.
On Tuesday, Bleeding Cool noted the similarity in pose between the "Spider-Woman" cover and an unambiguously sexual cover by Manara in his comic "Click." That same day, female-focused pop culture blog The Mary Sue posted an article entitled, "Marvel, This Is When You Send An Artist Back To The Drawing Board," writing that the cover "does not instill confidence, nor does it tell women this is a comic they should consider spending money on."
More outlets joined the discussion on Wednesday, including io9 ("perhaps asking an erotic artist to draw one of your most popular superheroines for a mass-market cover wasn't quite a good idea"), Vox ("this is not what readers were expecting from a company that has made the effort to show that it's being thoughtful about its female readership and female characters"), Slate ("it looks more like a colonoscopy than a costume"), Elle ("imagine Spider-Man in that position instead, and the concept would have never gotten this far") and Bustle ("it's just plain lewd and irresponsible on the part of the minds at Marvel").
Marvel declined comment on the situation when reached Wednesday by CBR News.
Defenders of Manara's work have stated that it's unfair to criticize him for producing the type art that has made him renowned. Manara has been drawing comics since 1969, with his best-known work falling squarely in the "erotica" genre. Current "Amazing Spider-Man" writer Dan Slott took to Twitter to express skepticism over criticism of Manara's work itself, while making the distinction that he wasn't defending the image's use as a "Spider-Woman" variant cover.
Some artists have iconic styles & stick to specific subject matter.
If you see 'em solicited for a cover, & they DO that, why act surprised?— Dan Slott (@DanSlott) August 20, 2014
Seriously. If Picasso were solicited on a cover, would you be complaining the face he drew had 2 eyes on the same side of its head? C'mon.— Dan Slott (@DanSlott) August 20, 2014
Marvel has worked regularly with Manara in recent years. He's illustrated a number of variant covers, predominantly featuring female characters (along with a Nightcrawler variant cover for "Amazing X-Men" #1). In 2010, Marvel published a long-in-the-works one-shot titled "X-Women," drawn by Manara and written by legendary X-Scribe Chris Claremont.
"And the utterly intriguing, amusing thing is how close he comes throughout the book in terms of presenting the character... how he just gets as close as he can to crossing over Marvel's line of disapproval but not quite," Claremont said of working with Manara in a 2010 interview with CBR. "At the same time, he gets away with presenting the characters in all the glory Milo loves to do so. And I think it's wonderful."
The new "Spider-Woman" ongoing series is positioned as a spinoff of the Slott-written "Spider-Verse" event, and is slated to be written by Dennis Hopeless and illustrated by Greg Land. Throughout his career, Land has frequently received criticism for his depiction of female characters, including the accusation that he has used pornographic images as photo reference. "Spider-Woman" was first announced last month at Comic-Con International in San Diego during the "Women of Marvel" panel.