While the holiday weekend has left people more interested in barbecues and outdoor exposure, a few developments. First J. Bone has posted the above image.
But see also this (!).
A few responses from the blogosphere.
Oh, Joe Q. How could anyone read anything perverse into this picture of bleeding, half-naked women strung up in chains, with drops of moisture glistening on their breasts as probing tentacles creep towards them? You heard it from the man himself: this is a totally innocent picture of kick ass women fighting the Brood, and you’re a dirty, dirty pervert for thinking anything else. Also, I particularly like how he tries to cash in on some sort of feminist cred by citing the woman who brought us Drain, a story about a sexy Asian vampire named Chinatsu who likes to lez it up with other sexy female vampires, and decapitate dudes while making jokes about “head” and licking her loooong sword. But you know, I’m probably reading too much into that too.
That said, there seems to be the prevalent idea in these defenses that the product isn’t offensive because the producers did not intend it to be so. That the product is being “misconstrued” as sexist.
It doesn’t work that way.
Adam Hughes does not get to determine what of his work offends people. Joe Quesada does not get to determine what covers set us off. No one gets to make that decision except the person who is offended. To that person, the work is offensive.
Hughes asks, “is it really a sexist or misogynistic act if it wasn’t intended that way on the part of the people doing it? . . .are you seeing something that’s either not there, or that the artist never intended to be there?” First, this demonstrates a lack of understanding of human psychology. Certainly, a person can be subconsciously sexist or misogynistic. Certainly people can consciously hold prejudiced opinions without being aware they are prejudiced: they consider their opinions to be correct. D. W. Griffith was reportedly surprised that his film Birth of a Nation (1915) was attacked as racist, though today that is the unanimous opinion of cinema scholars. There’s that song in the musical Avenue Q, “Everybody’s a Little Bit Racist.”
Moreover, even if Hughes did not consciously or unconsciously have sexist intentions, that does not mean that people who interpret the statue as sexist are wrong. Certainly artwork can be interpreted in ways of which the artist was not consciously aware. A Freudian interpretation of Oedipus Rex is not invalid simply because Sophocles died centuries before Freud devised the term “Oedipus complex.” If an interpretation fits the artwork, it is justified whether or not the creator agrees with it. This is a basic principle of criticism, long accepted in academia, and comics writers and artists had best wake up and take notice. (Not surprisingly, Neil Gaiman recognizes this principle, as can be seen from his introduction to The Sandman Papers, Fantagraphics’ 2006 anthology of academic essays about his work.)
Beyond the fact that Quesada doesn’t see a problem with the cover (A state of affairs I had imagined and found perhaps just as bad if not worse than an intentional use of the imagery to stoke it’s most negative and perversely sexual connotations), I was surprised to hear him say publicly that he’s not a “deep follower” of manga.
Um, should you really be the Editor-in-Chief of one of the biggest American comic book publishers and not be “deep into” the most rapid-growing and widely-read type of sequential art storytelling? Admittedly, it does explain why Marvel’s dozen or so attempts to attract the manga audience have all fallen flat (with a few vestiges of such initiatives seemingly succeeding despite Marvel’s efforts, like Runaways surviving the doomed “Tsunami” line or Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane lasting as long as it has and racking up rave reviews), but, Jesus, if I was Quesada I’d have copies of Fruits Basket and Naruto under microscopes in a big Marvel lab somewhere, with Marvel staff scientists studying the things around the clock and I’d be calling once a day to ask if they’ve managed to identify and reverse engineer whatever it is that makes kids love those things so much.
Also Lea Hernandez has remixed the cover to make it a little less hentai and Misty Knight ethinically accurate.