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).”


  1. “I see that [Land] 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. ”

    Love it.

  2. Manara is an erotic artist, if anybody is at fault for creating an erotic image for a Marvel cover it’s Marvel. This cover would have gone away with every other silly cover, but now it’s going to make money.

  3. Comics have become a witch hunt of all sorts. I’m surprised Adam Hughes hasn’t been pulled in front of his fans to explain himself.

  4. All of this is in the eye of the beholder, and fans will be fans, but I’ve read numerous comments from artists (male and female) all over the Internet, including The Beat, disparaging Manara’s cover, while being just as “guilty” of drawing equally sexualized illustrations, designing equally sexualized characters or costumes, or even posing nude for equally sexualized photographs.

    The comics industry is tiny. Rather than bag on a fellow artist, they would be better off showing the world how they can get that gig, create that cover, and sell more copies of a comic that represents their ideal of what comics “should be.” If they’re right, they’ll succeed. Considering the flood of negative comments about Manara, it should be easy for them to hit the market with sensitive, inclusive comics that sell like hotcakes to all the fans who are offended by the Manara cover.

  5. Alright, I’ll give it a shot.

    I honestly haven’t seen many people disparaging Manara’s art in general, or this cover in particular. Outside of the re-draw on the Mary Sue, the question I actually see being raised and ignored is: what is Marvel saying about this brand-new Spider-Woman series by assigning a variant cover for the first issue to a well-known and renowned erotic artist? Are they saying it’s an erotic series? Are they saying their preferred audience are men & women who would Spider-Woman as a sexual object?

    There’s a very vocal (female & male) audience interested in superhero comics with diverse and multilayered female main characters. That’s why there are so many Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel cosplayers, and it’s why the recent simple but elegant redesign of Batgirl made a lot of people excited and hopeful about the character.

    There are two covers for Spider-Woman #1. Neither of them are aimed at readers who might be interested in a new monthly title about a well-rounded, non-fetishized, female superhero.

    That’s not inherently wrong.

    It’s just very disappointing.

  6. what i got from that interview is manara saying in so many words “americans are tight-asses” and you know what , he wouldn’t be wrong. we are among some of the leading prudes of the world. funny how the article above doesn’t mention that many of the fans that show up to the “festivals” (which i guess is his way of saying “conventions”) are women, that out-number men. so if women that are fans of manara’s art start buying the comic because of the cover, would that be a good thing or a bad thing, you know, from a marketing point of view.

  7. Manara handled this one with class. Like he says, his illustration was accepted by the editor and published without changes. I liked his observation about superheroes being naked, and their costume spray-painted on. Never thought of it that way, but it’s not wrong.

  8. So here is some simple questions. Why is no one putting the onus on Marvel’s art director? Did Manara just knock out an illustration and hand it in with no submission of rough drafts ?
    So the Marvel editorial pool will get no shade from anyone about this subject? Is it just easier to continually blame a single artist per topic, than the company that hired them?

  9. These variant covers seem to specialize in alternative ways of perceiving a character. One alternative way is as a sexualized image. I’m sure Marvel wants (wanted?) to work with Manara and has a list in their office of interesting variant artists with his name on it. I’m also sure that nobody put more thought into it than that, and this says nothing at all about the editorial perspective on the character or the book. If the stories prove me wrong, the readers will decide if they like it or not.

    I mean, holy crap, superheroes are fetishized objects of power, sex, popularity, moral judgment, etc. That’s what they’re invented to be. Damn tempest in a teapot.

  10. The issue IS a marketing one Heidi as I’ve said from the very beginning. Going back to the old saying of “it does exactly what it says on the tin” both the Manara cover and the Land cover are at odds at the focus Marvel said it was going to have on female readers. If you’re going to walk the walk you have to talk the talk or be careful with those assess …
    You’d think they’d learn.
    Jim – can you point out anything in Karine’s comments that you find incorrect? Do you think that Greg Land is great artist that has no flaws? Do you think that her comments about the way Spider-Woman is posed have no merit? Is anyone surprised that male artists drew both of these?

  11. Art is subjective.
    Comic artists have their own style and these styles have their own fanbase niche. If we are correcting everything that isn’t realistic or truthful to human anatomy, then let’s just use pictures to create comic books.
    I think Jim’s point in calling out Karine Charlebois criticism is that, Manara is an established artist that is respected by peers and publishers alike, and that an “unknown” artist is correcting a “master.” If you are part of the Manara fanbase, this is certainly disrespect. I do find it very interesting that Karine has a lot of followers. 400+ comments? Wow.
    I just find it appalling that the people who find the cover attractive are not making comments, probably worried about getting barraged by attacks by the cover haters.

  12. Has there been any interiors or covers changed in comics prior to printing because of internet furor? Just curious.

  13. Hi Sue — I think there are a lot of things that Karine Charlebois is incorrect about. As a critic, her opinion is as valid as anyone else’s. As a critic she can debate and defend what she personally infers from Manara’s work. But as an artist, there are numerous problems, not the least of which is failing to recognize her relative position vs. a master artist like Milo Manara (and, if you look further down the page, Adam Hughes, whom she also “corrects”).

    Style is one of the most important aspects of comics art — especially for a cover artist. It’s the reason we’re able to instantly recognize at a glance the work of certain artists without having to look at the signature. Milo Manara is a stylist. It’s easy to instantly visually identify Manara’s work as Manara’s. All arguments about appropriateness and “good taste” aside (those are for the critic alone), Karine’s version of Milo’s cover is, by comparison, vanilla and static. It would be extremely difficult to get a gig as a Marvel cover artist with that style — an assumption her online portfolio bears out.

    Style considered, there’s nothing in the Spider-Woman drawing that looks completely implausible to me. We’ve all seen acrobatic gymnasts and contortionists bent and folded into all sorts of “impossible” positions. I’m sure that one of them could attain this pose if challenged to — especially if they only had to hit it for an instant while in motion. Besides, Spider-Woman has agility and flexibility far beyond those of any human gymnast. And all of that said, slavishness to absolute physical plausibility has never been the hallmark of superhero art — or any sort of comics art, for that matter. There’s very little about Jack Kirby’s drawings that’s anatomically correct, and yet echos of his magnificent work still define the superhero genre.

    I think it would be wonderful, interesting, and (depending on who was involved) potentially GREAT to see a Spider-Woman comic written and drawn exclusively by women (and I feel the same way about seeing a woman’s perspective on all of the superheroes), but that wasn’t what this was — and under no condition is that Milo Manara’s fault. Milo Manara is a professional, and it was not his job to turn down the assignment, or provide Marvel with a more sensitive cover that didn’t really look like a Manara cover. He was hired to execute a Milo Manara version of a Spider-Woman cover — and Manara does Manara better than anyone else (yes, much better than Karine Charlebois), and Marvel knew exactly what that meant, and Manara gave them EXACTLY what they asked and paid for. Had he done anything else, it would have been unprofessional of him.

    Karine Charlebois should do herself and the comic book industry a favor by focusing on learning her craft and producing comics that represent what she think they should be, rather than wasting her time and ours by “correcting” the work of other (often more accomplished) artists who are only trying to do their best to deliver what they’re being paid for, as they see it.

    All of the rest of the arguments should be addressed to Marvel. THEY made all of the decisions about that issue of Spider-Woman, and they’re the only one who will be making them in the future. Milo Manara has no authority over any Marvel characters. He’s moved on to his next assignment, where he’s trying his best to give that client the professional job they expect from Milo Manara — and I’ll bet they’ll be happy with his work.

  14. @Ireland – Yes DC has changed a few covers including the Catwoman on the link I left. While art may be subjective it certainly does not mean that it should remain criticism free. Just because an artist is considered a “master” doesn’t mean that they don’t hit a bum note every now and then. The issue of women’s bodies being distorted and twisted for a sexy presentation isn’t a new thing nor something that Karine just cooked up. I’d suggest you visit Escher Girls who has been doing this for years. No one is suggesting these covers should replace them – but really looking at that Land cover can you really tell me that’s good art?
    @Jim – so your argument is that Manara is above any criticism? Why? As far as him not being the issue her I totally agree. Marvel hired him and got what he does – that’s really the issue.

  15. Personally, I don’t care for the “argument from authority.” If Manara had made an anatomical error then it’s fair game for criticism from any quarter. But I think he’s already defended himself convincingly on that point.

    Charlebois’s critique is based on the premise that Spider-Woman is in a crouching pose with both feet on the rooftop, but she obviously isn’t – her right leg is placed beyond the edge of the roof, so that wouldn’t even be physically possible. From an technical standpoint, the entire critique is irrelevant, and it gives me the impression that Charlebois is in such a hurry to find fault with Manara that she didn’t take the time to analyze the actual picture. Perhaps she assumed that all cheesecake artists have Liefeld-level drawing skills by definition.

    None of this has any bearing on the inappropriateness of the image for a mainsteam comic-book cover, and I agree completely that this is a real marketing blunder. But that’s not actually a good critique.

  16. @Sue – I never meant to suggest that Manara was above criticism. I just think that any artist who wants to work in the same field, and whose own work has a long way to go, would be better off learning how to improve their own drawings before they start “fixing” the masters.

    @Mark Simmons – It will definitely be interesting to see what the sales figures are after this massive media blitz. Scandalous coverage certainly hasn’t hurt Miley or the Kardashians, and this cover has been carried on every site from Time to Elle. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity — I guess we’ll see if that’s right.

  17. I have to agree with Jim as regards someone “fixing” someone else’s art on a comic book cover. I thought that stuff was funny to do to Rob Liefeld’s art when I was 17, but now that I’m twice that age, it seems tiresome and like so much sour grapes. You can pick out almost any comic drawing and find it rife with anatomical errors . This is comics, not Anatomically Correct Figure Drawing 101.

  18. Manara’s anatomy is not perfect, far from it. Karine’s anatomy is not as good. On her Manara correction, Spider-Woman’s right arm on the left of the composition is just hilariously bad. The Greg Land correction is much worse. But as Heidi notes that NOT the point. The real question is if Marvel can only market comic books to straight middle aged men or if they can expand to other folks too.

    I’d love to see a Becky Cloonan cover for Spider-Woman. Her anatomy isn’t perfect either, but her drawings are so entertaining and charming that I don’t care. If we applied the “perfect anatomy” standard to Becky then she’d be kicked out of comics, as would I.

    Anatomy is only one tool in art and it’s not the most important.

  19. Marvel, DC, et al should just bite the bullet and make explicitly erotic versions of their characters so the 150 guys that don’t know about the internet yet can get their rocks off. Then maybe, with all that steam blown off, the regular comics will start being a little less ridiculous.

    I’m all for smut and trash reading but don’t pretend you’re not making smut and trash. Just go all out and be sincere about it!

  20. Sue – Well, I did say that the Greg Land cover was “acceptable” because I did not want to use the term “good.” By this, I am putting forward that it is just swimming in the same level of other artworks in the field.

    “Masters” are far more visible to criticism which I am not saying is wrong. What I am stating is that to the eyes of the master, his fanbase and to peers who respect the master…when you throw that rock of criticism to their backyard, don’t expect them to throw bits of bread back to you. Hence, all this discussion. Sigh…

    “The issue of women’s bodies being distorted and twisted for a sexy presentation isn’t a new thing nor something that Karine just cooked up.”
    I think, for me, you nailed it there. Distorting and twisting the female form, in any comic style, isn’t sexy, it’s cubist. Hahaha.

    Seriously, with all this bruhaha, who finds the Manara Spiderwoman sexy? Well, I’m sure there are, they are just silent.

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