So, the most read story on Bleeding Cool this week, was the post about Milo Manara's variant cover for Spider-Woman #1, commissioned by Marvel Comics.
One artist redrew the cover in order to show Milo Manara how it should be done. Something another artist, Richard Pace, was incensed about. While Marvel executive Tom Brevoort gave a "you hire Milo Manara, you get Milo Manara" defence.
But what does Milo Manara think about all the fuss? One Italian website decided to ask him. Manara tells them that he sees two main forms of criticism on-line, one about anatomical accuracy and the other focused on his use of sexual imagery.
The latter he finds surprising, given that he believes there are far more important things to worry about, such as the events of Ferguson, Missouri or the threat of an Ebola virus . He wonders if the controversy has something to do with the spread of Islam, and states his belief that the portrayal of a woman's body should not be subject to censorship in modern-day Western Europe.
That's a good way to start, certainly. I can feel Tumblr tumbling as I type. And as to the anatomical criticism,
I wanted to draw is a woman who, after climbing the wall of a skyscraper, crawls on the roof. She finds herself at the edge, her right leg still not on the roof. So regarding the anatomical criticism, I think they are wrong, she is not meant to have both knees on the roof. One leg is still down, and the other is pulling up. And that's why her back is arched.
It's not my fault if women are like that. I only draw them. It's not my design, it's one from a far more "important" author, for those who believe. On the other hand, for evolutionists, like me, women's bodies have taken this form over millennia to avoid the 'extinction of the species'. If women were made exactly as men, with the same shape, I think we would have been extinct for a long time already.
Yes, there is going to be considerable debate over that one as well, I think. But there's more to come. Milo talks about how he believes that this is not one of the most erotic covers he's done. And, reminding me of Patrick Stewart in Extras, he tells us that as the view is from above, "You can hardly see anything. We only see an ass, and it's a girl with a nice ass, from my point of view."
Possibly not the point being made. He also talks about the art of super-heroics, echoing what I've often heard everyone from Stan Lee down say.
"Superheroes are like that, they are naked, they are just painted. Superman is naked, painted blue, Spider-Man is naked, red and blue, and Spider-Woman is painted red. This is part of the trick, so to speak, that publishers use to create naked superhero forms – not that there's anything wrong with that – but there is no real nudity."
He returns to the criticised position of Spider-Woman in the image,
"It's just a girl who is crawling, or rather, advancing like a jaguar. After climbing the wall of the building, she is pulling herself on the roof. I see it… And I suppose, Spider-Woman could not be sitting in a chair, But if you go online to see all other images of the character, there are many far more erotic ones out there, if they were actually naked, they would be far more coarse than what I drew. Instead, this leotard, this – let's call it 'colored film' preserves their modesty."
Milo does try to have some understanding for other peoples' perspective. Some.
"I have to acknowledge that what I think is a beautiful picture, nice, attractive, seductive – for others it is disturbing. I have to take note of this, every time. And in some ways, I get more and more surprised by this.
"If you go on the beaches now, you see girls who have skimpy costumes, which show off the shape of their bodies far more. For some people that is intrusive, but not for me. In fact, I'm sorry, but my aim – when I'm asked for a drawing – is to try to communicate serenity, as well as seduction."
But that only goes so far. He also says,
"I tend to believe I was already targeted by some commentators or bloggers who take advantage of the opportunity to raise problems. I understand the controversy and that the use of women's bodies is a sensitive issue. And I agree that the female body should not be used in advertising, for example, to sell … silicone sealant. I don't have a problem that these images are erotic, just the fact that they are used in a trivial fashion.
"It's easy to transfer the beauty of such an image to your product. It's a trick so trivial that I find it cloying. But when it comes to drawing a character with a red tights, climbing the skyscrapers, I see no scandal in artwork, even if it is seductive."
He also touches on something we have observed about audiences at comic shows, specifically Zenescope.
"I'm not so convinced, by the last part of the controversy. Those who Marvel accuse of not considering their female audience by using a cover of that kind, and by telling me that I have a male audience. My audience is at least half female. I know when I go to festivals and I see the line of those wanting their books signed, there are more women than men. So the idea that celebrating a female body is of interest only to men, don't think so."
"I have to congratulate Marvel, who showed respect for the design … no one has asked me to make any changes. I do not think this one was worse than any of the others, or more scandalous than any of the others. And in front of an image of seduction, I feel joy, not repulsion."
He also expressed his admiration for Greg Land's alternative cover, also criticised, as more realistic and using models. That all he wants to do is to provide work that provides five minutes of relaxation – but that's all.
"The reason why I agreed to do some covers for Marvel when they asked me, is because I think that in some remote farm in Maine or Oregon there was someone who would read these comics, perhaps saying to themselves "ah, what a beautiful girl." I'd be more than satisfied if such a thing was to happen. But I do not think a design like the one on the cover of Spider-Woman could be used for masturbation…".
He concludes telling us, and no I'm not sure of the translation on this, but I like how it comes out. "But I am the drawings, holy patience."
Holy patience indeed, Milo Manara. But something tells me that this will ignite the commentary, rather than put it out…