There's been a lot of hubbub online over the past week about the covers for the upcoming "Spider-Woman" #1. Series artist Greg Land illustrated one, and the other is a variant cover by Milo Manara. Both pieces are very much what you would expect from each artist; Land's has his trademark glossy sheen and plays fast and loose with anatomy, and Italian eroticist Manara turned in a piece that's, well, erotic. The latter cover has garnered much more attention, specifically from female fans that wanted to see Marvel continue to produce female series void of covers that hyper-sexualize their leads.
I understand and agree wholeheartedly with the complaints made against both "Spider-Woman" covers -- and I don't think these complaints are inherently anti, well, anti-sexy. The problem, or at least the one that annoys me personally, has to do with inequality. In pop culture, women are treated as objects. Commercials, video games, music videos, sporting events, action movies -- the notion that women only exist to titillate straight men is perpetuated nearly every time you turn on any screen. If men were sexualized too, to the same degree, with the same frequency, and in the same style as women, things would be a lot different. Maybe they wouldn't be better; sexualizing anyone to the point that they lose personhood is a toxic and dangerous practice. But as things stand now, in my extremely mathematical estimation, women are sexualized about 150,000% more than men.
So that's where these mock-up covers I did on a whim come into play. What if Marvel released sexy variant covers for every comic they released? Why couldn't "Magneto" #1 feature the master of magnetism in a brokeback pose with a come hither look? Why couldn't "Legendary Star-Lord" #1's cover focus on the tight behind you just know Peter Quill has? Sexiness isn't inherently a bad thing (whether or not comics ostensibly aimed at an all-ages audience even need sexy covers is a whole other issue), it just needs to be an equal thing. I took pics from the "Marvel Swimsuit Specials" from the '90s and gave them modern Marvel trade dress to illustrate the point. No, these images aren't quite sexualized in the same way as the "Spider-Woman" ones are -- they were mostly drawn by presumably straight men, after all. But they illustrate my point that we never see covers like these, covers where the men show a lot of skin, on the stands. Maybe it's time that changed.
Because seriously, look at that fake "Cap" cover. Captain America can get it.
Captain America - Lou Harrison
Drax - Bret Blevins, Tom Smith
Iron Man - Tom Morgan, Tom Smith
Morbius - Gary Barker, Jimmy Palmiotti, Tom Smith
Namor - Joe Quesada, Tom Palmer, Tom Smith
Nova - Joe Phillips, John Dell, Jung Choi
Punisher - Cindy Martin, Arthur Nichols, Tom Smith
Spider-Man - Christopher Hawkes
Thor - Lou Harrison
Wolverine - Steve Lightle, Tom Smith