I wrote a post earlier this week about the 'Spider-Woman' variant cover controversy. In it, I expressed my displeasure for the only reaction I had seen from someone at Marvel about their distasteful choice to have an erotic artist produce a variant cover for the first issue of a series aimed at women. At the time, all that had been said was from their VP of Publishing, Tom Brevoort, and it was less than stellar. In fact, it was dismissive and ignored the actual issue altogether:
"It’s also, for a Manara piece, one of the less sexualized ones, at least to my eye. Maybe others feel differently. But given that the character is covered head-to-toe, and is crouched in a spider-like pose, it seems far less exploitative to me than other Manara pieces we’ve run in previous months and years."Now, thankfully, we have a more in-depth statement from Marvel's Editor-in-Chief, Alex Alonso via an interview with Comic Book Resources. He says, in part:
"We always listen to fans' concerns so we can do better by them. We want everyone -- the widest breadth of fans -- to feel welcome to read "Spider-Woman." We apologize -- I apologize -- for the mixed messaging that this variant caused.
And that's what this cover is. It's a limited edition variant that is aimed at collectors. While we would not have published this as the main cover to the book, we were comfortable publishing this as a variant that represented one artist's vision of the character -- a world-renowned artist whose oeuvre is well-known to us, and to collectors. It is not the official cover for the issue. It is a collector's item that is set aside or special ordered by completists -- and it doesn't reflect the sensibility or tone of the series any more than the Skottie Young variant or Rocket and Groot "Spider-Woman" variants. If you open up the book, you'll see that this series has everything in common with recent launches we've done, like "Black Widow" and "Ms. Marvel" and "She-Hulk" and "Captain Marvel." It's about the adventures of two women that have complete agency over their lives, and that are defined by what they do, not how they look."First and foremost, I appreciate the apology. It's nice to see someone at Marvel actually acknowledge that perhaps they screwed up. That second part, however, seems a little too much like excusing-by-way-of-explaining to me, but that's corporate speak for ya. Their next question elicited a much more interesting answer though:
CBR: Given that, since there has been a history the last couple years of Manara variant covers at Marvel, is that something you still see happening going forward -- or maybe giving extra consideration to in the future?
Alonso: Yes, we'll do more Manara variants. He is a world-renowned artist with a huge fan base, and his variants, like the Skottie Young variants, are aimed at people who appreciate his art and his style. But we are aware of the growing sensitivity to covers like this, and we will be extra-vigilant in policing their content and how we use them in our marketing.That answer speaks volumes to me. That tells me that they do realize exactly where they messed up. Now, as much as I'd love to stop seeing women reduced to the sum of their jiggly bits in comics, I recognize that this is not the day to fight that battle. This is, however, a step in the right direction. Having one of the "big two" specifically say they recognize that form of art is not always appropriate, is a huge step in the battle to stop portraying women as sexual objects.
Art is interpretive, we all know that, and there will always be an audience for erotic art; but the comic and gaming industry has been assuming that their entire fan base is that audience for much too long. To have a glimmer of hope that Marvel may be breaking from that assumption is very welcome. Now we just need to keep on top of this to ensure that they actually practice this kind of conscious consideration.