Italian fanzine Fumettologica has made an English transcript of their interview with Milo Manara available, and offered it to run at The Beat. And it’s…a thing. Like I’ve been saying all along, Manara is Manara and he can draw all the butts in thew air he wants. However, he trots out every bingo card argument there is, from “men are sexualized too!’ to blaming this on the spread of Islam (????!!!!!????). Also women evolved to be sexy.
Also censorship is a red herring here. The issue is a MARKETING one, and I still haven’t seen anyone address that from Tom Breevort on.
I must say, I like the idea of Spider-women advancing like a jaguar. Perhaps focusing on her rump was not the best way to convey this concept.
All that said, this Spider-Woman variant has now become a symbol for many things. It really isn’t just about her butt any more.
Fumettologica: How do you interpret the debate generated by your cover?
MANARA: Reading on the internet, I saw that the criticisms have two different motivations. One is the sexy and erotic side, the other is the anatomical error. Now, about the incompetence in the drawing I do not know what to say. Let’s say I’ve tried to do my best for 40 years. Nobody is perfect, and I may be wrong; simply put, I’m a professional, doing the best I can.
On the erotic side, however, I found it a bit ‘amazing. Apart from the fact that there is a mandatory thing that I have to start by saying: 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. The events at Ferguson, or the drama of the Ebola. That there are people getting angry for things like that … Unless there is, these days, a hypersensitivity to more or less erotic images, due to this ongoing confrontation that we are supposed to have with Islam. It’s known that the censorship of the female form should not be a feature of our own Western civilization. This is what I find also quite surprising.
QUESTION: The main criticism to your picture – although not new, neither in discussions about comics nor in your work – is that it represents a woman who is the ‘object’ of sexual desire, through a shape and a pose that is provocative, not very ‘natural ‘
MANARA: “What I wanted to do is a girl who, after climbing the wall of a skyscraper, is crawling over the roof. She finds herself on the edge, and her right leg is still off the roof. So the criticism about anatomical issues that were made, I think they are wrong: she’s not to have both knees on the roof. One leg is still down, and the other is pulling up. Precisely for this reason, also, then this back arched. This is what I tried to do”.
That said, it’s not my fault if women are like that. I’m only drawing them. It’s not me who made women that way: is an author much more “important”, for those who believe … For evolutionists, including me, on the other hand, women’s bodies have taken this form over the millennia in order to avoid the ‘extinction of the species, in fact. If women were made exactly as men, with the same shape, I think we would have already been extinct for a long time.
Also, I do not consider it one of the covers most erotic I’ve done. I think I have chosen, out of all the poses imaginable – and the proof is there, if one goes on the Internet, where I documented myself, to see all the photos of Spider-Woman – the one that is , even framing, less problematic . If fact the view is a bit from above. You do not see hardly anything. We see only that she has an ass, drawn this way. And it’s a girl with a nice ass, indeed, at least from my point of view.
That’s the way Superheroes are: they are naked, covered in whatever color of paint. Superman is naked painted blue, Spider-Man is naked painted red and blue, and Spider-Woman is painted red. But that’s part of the “trick”, so to speak, that publishers use to create these forms of superheroes nude – of which I do not find anything wrong – but without real nudity. When we see them later in the stories, going beyond the cover, these are characters whose bodies are “in view”.
QUESTION: In addition to the form, however, it’s also the position. Don’t you see it as something provocative, if not problematic, in itself?
MANARA: It is actually a girl who is crawling, or rather, advancing at the pace of the jaguar. After climbing the wall of the building, she is pulling herself on the roof of this building. That’s how I see it. Sure, of course, since women are built in a certain way, any movement they make, if they are nude … and to some degree, more or less, all super heroines are naked. And this cover isn’t any different. And Spider-Woman is not gonna be sitting in a chair, right? But if one goes on the internet to see all the other images of the character, there are many far more erotic, and if they were naked, they would be more vulgar than what I did. Instead, as we know, this leotard, this – let’s say – ‘colored plastic wrap’ is what saves all appearances.
QUESTION: The debate remains open, however, and very timely. To add an item to the discussion, there’s also the intervention of the vice president of publishing at Marvel, Tom Brevoort, who said ” It’s, 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. (…) I think a conversation about how women are depicted in comics is relevant at this point, and definitely seems to be bubbling up from the zeitgeist.”
It seems that this cover has come at a time when even in the comic field there is a somehow new sensitivity: it’s not acceptable anymore to see some excesses in the ‘provocative’ representation of women.
MANARA: I can understand, of course. As I also understand people who have felt offended. But I understand in the sense that it suddenly opens 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 others it is disturbing. But this is something that I have to face every time I. And by the way it keeps surprising me more and more.
If you go to the beaches now, you see girls whose scanty swimwear totally let see the shapes of their bodies. Of course, for someone that can be an image that is disturbing, but not for me. In fact, I’m sorry, but my aim – when I’m asked to draw – is trying to communicate serenity, more than seduction.
QUESTION: What has struck some commentators and writers – Dan Slott for example – is that we have raised so much amazement on a job perfectly in synch with your extensive career, which is known to everyone. Others have instead asked why all this has happened with one of your drawings and not others, suggesting how in your touch there is a graphic load that, for better or worse, makes the strongest erotic impact of the bodies you draw.
MANARA: If that were so, it would be a great compliment. I tend to believe that maybe I was already in the crosshairs of some commentators or bloggers who have seized the opportunity, even though it wasn’t the most convincing one, to raise such a problem. I understand the controversy over the fact that the use of women bodies is a sensitive issue. And I couldn’t agree more on the fact that the female body should not be used in advertising, for example, to sell … silicone sealant. The thing that I do not agree is not so much the fact that these images are erotic, but the fact that they are banal. Everyone is capable of assign beautiful image to any product: it is clear that you transfer to your product the beauty of that image. A trick so trivial that I find cloying. But when it comes to draw a character in red tights, whose line of work is skyscraper crawling, I see no scandal in the fact of drawing her in a seductive way. Because I imagine that’s how she is.
I don’t know if this character will also become a movie, but it does, I think they would have their sweet problems to make her do what Spider-Man does (frame her in the same vicissitudes and athletic performance and so on) without her becoming seductive. If she’s played by an actress endowed with an ass, it is clear that her ass will be seen. I0m reminded that her tights are “painted on” … I also noticed that some website says that more than a suit, what you see in my drawing, it’s body painting. It’s true. Sure it is. But because it is so in all the superhero comics: These tights are painted on them. You don’t see a crease, a wrinkle. You read the muscles perfectly.
I’m not so convinced, though, by the last part of the controversy. That is, those who accuse Marvel that while trying to take a stab at capturing the female audience, by using a cover of that kind, they’re commissioning it to me, an artist who, you know, has a male audience. I totally reject this. My audience is at least 50% female. I know it for a fact because when I go to festivals, and I see the queue of those who put themselves in line to get signed books, there are more women than men. Therefore, I also reject the notion that the celebration of the female body interests only to males: I do not think so.
Ah, there’s also those who insinuate the whole controversy is manufactured on purpose. I can only say I did not know anything until I was informed about it. If anything, from my point of view, I have to congratulate Marvel, who showed respect for a drawing that, as horrible as it might be, no one asked me to do any kind of change. I do not think it was worse than others, or more scandalous than others. And in front of an image of seduction I feel joy, not repulsion.
QUESTION: The author of the regular cover, Greg Land, it’s been noted that he is known to sometimes use photos of porn actresses to draw poses in his comics.
MANARA: I wasn’t aware of that. I respect very much Land as a draftsman. I see that he is one of the most realistic, and I assumed that he used models, but that he traced pictures of that kind, that I did not know. Unless it’s not just unsubstantiated slander? I like his art because it has a certain evocative power, sometimes strong, impressive, so he’s among the ones I like. I have seen, anyhow, that some have given anatomy lessons to him too. You never stop learning.
And anyway, I have to say this: the last thing I want is “épater les bourgeois” (shock the bourgeoisie), or offend someone. I just want to make something seductive that provides five minutes of relaxation. It’s all there is. The reason why I agreed to do some covers for Marvel when they asked me is because I think that in some remote farm in Maine or Oregon there was anyone who would read these comics, perhaps saying “ah, what a beautiful girl “. It’s all there is. I’d be more than satisfied if such a thing were to happen. But I do not think a design like the one on the cover of Spider-Woman could have masturbatory consequences. I do not think; it must be seductive, and I’ll do my best for it to be that way. As I said, the perspective that I chose – I have not framed her from behind, from beneath, etc. – is from above. And from height you see her sinuous back and you see her two buttocks. But it is not what you see, it’s what you know.
I’m tempted to circle back to the beginning: I think there are other things to worry about. but if you please, however, one last thing. To date I have not heard from Marvel (these days there are some communication difficulties, but I think I’ll hear from them soon, next week). But it seems to me that this cover has not yet been published. This is to say that it may well be that Marvel, seeing these controversies, withdraws it and does not publish it. Who knows, maybe we are talking about nothing: Marvel decides not to publish it so then it’s “goodnight to the bucket” (Italian expression that means “and then we’re screwed”). In any event, just for completeness, I remember that they asked me to enlarge a little bit the costume of one of those covers. So in general, if they have any objections, they tell me. And I concur: since the responsibility is theirs, it is their right to be cautios. Furthermore, it’s the American market, so whatever… Also, I was given this assignment 3-4 months ago. It was and remains only a celebration of the body, without any manipulation. I’d understand if they were real girls, forced to do things they do not want to do, for commercial purposes. But it’s just drawings, santa pazienza (holy patience).”
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.