‘Spider-Woman’ artist responds to criticism of controversial cover art

(CBR) Following several days worth of criticism from multiple mainstream outlets regarding his “Spider-Woman” #1 variant cover for Marvel Comics, noted illustrator Milo Manara has responded to the controversy via an interview with Italian-language comics site Fumetto Logica. Note that the below is translated from Italian to English via a free online translator, thus the inexact grammar. Disparities in word choice — and perhaps content — are possible.

“By reading on the Internet, I saw that the criticisms have two different reasons,” Manara said via an Italian-to-English translation on FreeTranslation.com. “A is the side erotic and sexy, the other is the anatomic error. Now, on the incompetence in the drawing I don't know what to say. Let's say that I try to do my best for 40 years. Nobody is perfect, and I can make mistakes; simply, I am a professional, then I do my best.”

“On the erotic side, on the other hand, I found the thing a little surprising,” he continued. “Apart from the fact that there is a compulsory prerequisite to do: it seems to me that both in the United States and in the rest of the world there are things much more important and serious you have to deal with. The facts of Ferguson, or the drama of Ebola. That there are people that if the take for things like… unless there is, in these times, a hypersensitivity to images more or less erotic, due to this continuous comparison that we are called to do with Islam. We know that the censure of the woman's body should not be a characteristic our, western. It is also this that I am surprised enough.”

The response failed to satisfy The Mary Sue, one of the earliest outlets to criticize Manara's cover. “It”s sad to see him take the route so many do when people try and discuss issues as they pertain to women”s representation in entertainment — namely, that there are more important things to worry about,” wrote the site's editor-in-chief, Jill Pantozzi. “This line of argument assumes people can only be concerned about one thing at a time and is meant to derail (whether on purpose or not) an otherwise worthy topic of discussion.”

Manara also gave insight into his artistic choices behind the positioning of Spider-Woman in his illustration — a pose that some observers have described as submissive. “What I wanted to do a girl who, after climbing a wall of a skyscraper, crawling on the roof, she finds herself on the edge, and his right leg still has it off the roof,” Manara said according to Google Translate. “So the criticism anatomical that were made, I think they are wrong: it is not to have both knees on the roof. One leg is still down, and the other is pulling up. Precisely for this reason, also, then this back arched. I tried to do this.”

“After that, it's not my fault if women are like that,” he continued. “I do the design only. It's not me that I've done so: is an author much more 'important,' say, for those who believe… For evolutionists, including me, on the other hand, women's bodies have taken this form over the millennia in order to avoid the extinction of the species, in fact. If women were made exactly as men, with the same shape, I think we would have already been extinct for a long time.”

The Manara-illustrated “Spider-Woman” #1 variant cover was released online on Monday, and quickly attracted a negative response from numerous mainstream outlets, including Slate, Elle, Entertainment Weekly and Bustle — the latter of which called the cover “just plain lewd and irresponsible on the part of the minds at Marvel.”

Those against the cover have expressed disappointment in not only the content, but the context — sending the wrong message for a female-led superhero series at a time when mainstream comic companies, including Marvel, are making a concerted effort to be more welcoming to female readers.

Those defending the cover and Marvel's decision to publish it have commonly cited Manara's long and acclaimed history of erotic art — considered a master of his craft, he's been an illustrator since 1969 — and the fact that it's a variant cover, while the main cover is by series artist Greg Land.

Manara has illustrated multiple variant covers for Marvel in recent years, none of which have received the type of outcry as the “Spider-Woman” illustration. “Milo Manara has been working as a cartoonist since 1969, and what he does hasn”t materially changed in all that time,” Tom Brevoort, Marvel's senior vice president of publishing, wrote on Tumblr. “So when we say 'Manara cover,' his body of work indicates what sort of thing he”s going to do.”

“Spider-Woman,” illustrated by Land and written by Dennis Hopeless, is scheduled to debut in November. Hopeless himself acknowledged the controversy on Twitter, writing, “I can promise you we have no intention of blatantly sexualizing any of the characters in our story” and “I don”t have any input at all on covers. You have my word that our story treats [Spider-Woman] with the utmost respect.”