Tagged: Milo Manara

Mindy Newell: The Spider-Woman Scandal – A Different View

Sexy Sue StormThe rabbis of the Talmudic period debated two contradictory versions of Creation related in the Book of Genesis (Bereisheet in Hebrew). The first version of Creation actually referred to Adam’s first wife, Lilith, who was made at the same time as Adam from the dust of the Earth. But Lilith believed herself to be equal to Adam because God had shaped her from the dust of the Earth and had blown the Holy Spirit – the soul – into her form at the same He made Adam. This displeased Adam, so God replaced her with Eve, who was made from one of Adam’s ribs while he slept, so that she would always be dependent and subservient to him.

I have a confession to make.

I’m not as disturbed by that butt shot of Spider-Woman as are many of my good friends and various pros in the comics industry, including my pal and fellow columnist Martha Thomases here at ComicMix.

As my good friend and fellow columnist here at ComcMix pretty much summed up my feelings about that variant cover of Spider-Woman #1 by erotic artist Milo Manara, sex sells in corporate America; the biggest example I can think of right now is the increasingly pornographic pictures of the women in Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit issue, which is always their biggest issue. Way back when – 1977 – Cheryl Tiegs modeled a crocheted swimsuit that – gasp! – showed her nipples, it raised eyebrows… and more than that for some, if you know what I mean. Today, that picture is considered tame. There is even a video on YouTube in which the photographer, Walter Ioosso, and Tiegs talk about how that now iconic photo was considered “nothing, a “throw-away” shot at the end of the day.

Buzzfeed posted a video on its site back in March 2014 in which sexualized men in three commercials shot by Doritos, GoDaddy.com, and Hardee’s replace sexualized women. I suggest checking it out and forming your own opinion – but, especially in the Doritos ad, the overall effect for me is of humor, not sexiness.

Why is that? Why doesn’t that cover disturb me as much as it does other women in this field? Why do I mostly feel envious of the models in Sports Illustrated? (And also, it must be said, a little sad that the days in which I looked incredibly hot in a bikini are pretty much behind me, no pun intended, even though I still look pretty damn good for a woman coming up on her 61st birthday.)

It has been said that the female body is inherently more attractive to the human eye, i.e, our brains. This has something to do with the fact that, anatomically – and as more than one artist has explained to me – it is made up of curves and arcs and circles rather than the hard lines of rectangles and triangles and squares. So maybe that’s part of the answer, because I, like most women, heterosexual or not, do appreciate a beautiful woman’s body – though I don’t know if all straight women are comfortable openly expressing that appreciation. Obviously, I am.

It may also be that at some level I’m reacting to all those commercials that I watched in the late 50s and early 60s in which a housewife, girdled and brassiered up the wazoo, mopped floors in a dress and high heels and a stiff bouffant hairdo. I mean, maybe the freely naked and sensual female body doesn’t offend me because at some level in my pre-adolescent brain I resented that, as a girl, I had to be trussed up like a turkey ready for roasting at Thanksgiving to be considered appealing.

The other thing is, American society is still, in many way, a Puritan society, i.e., sex is bad, and women and men should only “do it” to procreate. You know what I mean – that whole “a woman is creature easily tempted by the Devil, we all carry Eve’s sin within us, we must fight this urge and bow to the wisdom of men, first as a daughter, then as a wife” crap.

And yet at the same time the erotic S & M novel Fifty Shades Of Grey sold bazillions of copies and Tupperware parties have been replaced by “sex toy” parties – the most profitable being held in the Bible Belt region of the country, home of the “women as original sin” theology. And though last summer former Disney girl Miley Cyrus and her “twerking” aroused the ire of uptight citizens…

This year Ms. Cyrus used that notoriety at the MTV Video Awards to raise – sell – awareness of the plight of the homeless and was lauded for it.

So which is it?

Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman, changed her Fantastic Four uniform to show off her boobs and her body. Was it just a sexist change by the artist, or an “I am woman, hear me roar” celebration of everything that she is? “Hey, Reed, get your head out of the Negative Zone and appreciate this brainy babe with the bodacious ta-tas!” And if you don’t, well, I’m moving on.” I mean, did the costume make her less powerful, or more?

So on one hand, yes, that shot of Spider-Woman with her butt up in the air is about anything but power. And yet, on the other hand, it is all about power. Embracing what you’ve got and who you are. For as Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) said to Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford) in Working Girl:

 “I’ve got a head for business and a bod for sin. Is there anything wrong with that?”


Martha Thomases: Sex and Comic Book Marketing

It is a truth universally acknowledged that women in possession of disposable income must be dissuaded from buying superhero comic books.

Okay, that’s not how literature works. It’s not even supposed to be how capitalism works. According to the economic theories I understand, under capitalism, the market determines what products are offered for sale. This is not a comment on the quality of the products, but rather what the public wants. So Coca-Cola and McDonalds make a lot of money, because the public wants cheap sugar, salt and fat.

However, the least common denominator is not the only way to be a successful capitalist. There is a lot of money to be made in niche markets. For example, there are enough people who don’t like Coke for a company like Jones Soda to be successful. There is probably a restaurant in your area that isn’t a burger joint like McDonalds, but does well enough in your market.

Niche markets are even more important in the entertainment business. Sometimes the public wants to laugh, and sometimes the public wants to cry and sometimes the public wants to be scared and sometimes the public wants to think big thoughts and sometimes the public just wants adrenaline.

Which brings us back to comic books.

I can’t recall a time when there were so many different kinds of graphic stories to read. There are comics and graphic novels in all sorts of genres: for children, for non-fiction readers, for mysteries and science fiction fans, even literary fiction. There are far more different kinds of people at comic book conventions and even at comic book stores than I can remember seeing at any other time.

It would seem like a great time for a comic book publisher with deep pockets to experiment with different kinds of books. In this specific case, I’m talking about Marvel (with Disney’s bank). They’ve been doing some cool stuff, like Hawkeye, which look different from the rest of the line.

Marvel says they want to publish comics that will attract women readers, comics with strong female characters that will inspire girls to regard themselves as heroines. Characters like Spider-Woman.

And then they do this.

Marvel hired Milo Manara, an artist best known for his erotic work, to do a variant cover for the launch of their new series. To no one’s surprise, he turned in a piece that looks not the least bit heroic. If anything, that pose reminds me of what my cat does when I scratch her hips.

There have been a lot of articles in the blogosphere about what is wrong with this cover, from the anatomy to the politics. And I find the politics appalling.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the marketing.

There is no way a woman or girl who is thinking about starting to read superhero comics is going to pick up a book with this cover. It looks like the title character is groveling. There is no threat or hint of action. Instead, the character is on her knees, wearing an outfit that looks so tight that it would give the wearer the mother of all wedgies. There are certainly women book buyers who enjoy a little bit of pain and submission in their recreational reading, but that’s not who Marvel says they’re trying to appeal to here.

I don’t fault Manara for the cover. He did what he was hired to do. I fault the person who assigned the cover to him, knowing full well what he would deliver.

When the new Spider-Woman book fails to reach women readers, Marvel will, undoubtedly, claim they tried their best, but women just don’t want to read superhero comics. We hear the same thing from the toy industry, claiming that girls only want to play with dolls and pretend to be princesses or mommies (or both).

The problem with this is that it isn’t true. If you offer girls a toy that lets them pretend to be scientists, as Lego did, stores can’t keep the kits in stock.

You might think, because capitalism, that a toy that sells out is most likely successful enough to stay in production. However, that’s not happening. It seems as if even money isn’t enough to smash gender stereotypes in corporate America.

There’s a nice little niche market there, for a strong female venture capitalist.