Italian comic book artist Milo Manara has found himself at the centre of a storm of controversy as he’s making comic book headlines for all of the wrong reasons. His Spider-Woman #1 variant cover has been lambasted for the unseemly shape of Jessica Drews backside and the pointless over-sexualisation of yet another female superhero, leading to one artist posting a critique of both Manara, and fellow criticised artist Greg Land’s work.
However Milo Manara has responded to the uproar surrounding his art via an Italian website (who has gone to the trouble of translating the interview to English as well) and to be honest comes across as slightly nonplussed.
Browsing on the internet, I have seen that criticisms have two different directions. One points out to the sexy and erotic side; the other to some anatomical mistakes. About the incompetence in the drawing … I don’t know what to say. I just try to do my best, since 40 years to date. Nobody is perfect, and I may be wrong; simply, I’m a professional, so I do my best.
On the erotic side, instead, I found it pretty surprising. That said, I should like to add a premise: it seems to me that both in the United States and around the world, there are things much more important and serious to worry about. What’s happened in Ferguson, or Ebola’s dramatic rise, for example. The fact that some people take this so seriously … Unless the point is that, in these days, a sort of hypersensitivity to erotic images is spreading, maybe due to the ongoing discussions we are facing related to Islam. We know that censorship on woman’s body should not be a Western trait. That too, is quite surprising to me.
Yes, Manara has gone ahead and referenced Islam as a possible cause for hypersensitivity towards the female body in erotic form, and whilst he has a point that Western culture should be much more open and that as far as things go this isn’t, or shouldn’t be, that big an issue. However that doesn’t take away from the fact that his variant cover is seemingly overly sexualised because of the needless ‘painted on latex suit’ style picture he’s created. Manara talked about this as well.
I do not consider that as one of the most erotic covers I’ve ever done. I think I have chosen, out of all the poses imaginable (and the proof is if you go on the Internet, where I dug for documentation, looking at all the Spider-Woman images), one of the less problematic shots or viewpoints. Indeed, she is viewed a bit from above. You don’t see hardly … anything. We just see that she has an ass, drawn like this. And she’s a girl with a nice ass, yes, from my point of view.
Superheroes are like that: they are naked, some sort of painted. Superman is naked painted in blue, Spider-Man is naked in red and blue, and Spider-Woman is painted red. But these are sort of elements part of the “trick”, so to speak, that publishers use to create these nude figures – on which I don’t find anything wrong. But there is no real nudity. If we look at them later in the inside stories, going beyond the cover, these are characters whose bodies are “in view”.
Manara finishes his argument
I can understand, of course. As I also understand people who have felt offended. But I understand them in the sense that it suddenly open my eyes, and I have to acknowledge that what I think is a beautiful picture, nice, attractive, seductive – that is exactly my purpose, or what I want to achieve – for some others is disturbing. But this is something that I have to consider every time. And in some ways, I am more and more surprised.
If you go on a beach now, you will see girls who have skimpy swimwear, which allows you to fully ‘read’ the shapes of their bodies. Of course, for someone it can be a disturbing image, but not for me. In fact, I’m sorry, but my aim – when I am asked for a drawing – is trying to communicate serenity, as well as seduction.
Manara’s reply is typically predictable but you can tell that he comes from a world where the perceived hypersensitivity of feminism hasn’t transfered over to art, which as history shows has always treated the female body fairly erotically. And I think it’s also incredibly important to remember that Manara is Italian, which I’d like to think speaks for itself. Anyway, he says a lot on the issue so be sure to check out the full interview if you want to.
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