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August 21, 2014

Even The Headline Could Get Me In Trouble

imageThat's art for a variant cover by the European comics-maker Milo Manara that Marvel is using for a Spider-Woman book. I don't have much to say about it, although maybe I should: we're in a cultural moment where this kind of thing drives feature stories of reasonable length at The Guardian.

Here's a thought. I sort of like it as art, primarily because of its grotesque sexuality in a commercial context, like Jonny Negron doing the packaging for a line of Barbies. Here's another thought. It's a curious, tone-deaf choice for the publisher, unless the idea is to jumpstart interest by getting this image out there and talked-about. I certainly didn't know there was a Spider-Woman comic out any time soon. It's two different issues, clearly, the art itself and the decision to use that art. They will be conflated because that's what comics people do.

There are some interesting pop-culture flourishes for which one might look. I'm sure Manara will be described by detractors of this drawing not just as a maker of dubious choices but as an outright untalented artist, maybe even a supremely bad one. The Internet rewards scorched-earth arguments. Marvel's use of this cover also serves as a basic reminder there is definitely still an undercurrent of cliched, sweaty-boy sexuality in a lot of comics work, something about which we don't like to think but is definitely there. It's also a good place to see that curious mix of fan ownership and commercial standards. Mainstream superhero fans are at times flattered into thinking they're a creative contributor in addition to being an audience member, but the overriding standard they have to apply when making their voices heard is a commercial one. That's what they know; that's what counts. So you see a lot of arguments about art, but these arguments depend on maximizing profit (or "broadening the audience") as the ultimate aesthetic arbiter. It's always fascinating to see that on its feet. I can't figure out if there's an angle that this is a variant cover, which I think is a goofy practice always and a damaging one a significant percentage of the time.

If only there was as much going on with the covers that exhibit standard good taste.
posted 8:15 am PST | Permalink

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