Over on Newsarama, a man goes on the record, and it’s Adam Hughes talking about his designs for the Mary Jane statue. First, the secret origin:
My idea was pretty simple, I thought – classic Mary Jane, from the days when Peter and MJ were boyfriend and girlfriend, and she’s found his Spider-Man costume in the laundry basket. It’s the weird little secret that couples have from each other that gets discovered. For me, the gag was that this was the moment when Mary Jane found out that her boyfriend is Spider-Man. She’s not doing his laundry, because I don’t know anybody that does laundry in a basket on a table. Even if you don’t have a washing machine, you’d do the laundry in the sink. This was MJ spotting something in the basket, pulling it out, and doing the “What’s this?” with a look back to Peter over her shoulder.
NRAMA: Still – why this pose and this look?
AH: Well, Mary Jane isn’t a superhero, so you can’t really do anything with her that’s not some version of her just standing there. On top of that, they’ve already done a fantastic statue of her first appearance of “Face it Tiger, you just hit the jackpot!” So – with that gone, what do you do with her? My thought was to do something that hearkens back to the good old days of the Brown and Bigelow pinup calendars, which is why I put her in the straight-leg bent over pose. It was supposed to be her pulling the shirt out of the laundry basket with a knowing look over her shoulder. Somebody also made a big deal that she was conspicuously not wearing her wedding ring. It’s the iconic look, not the current status, which changes daily. Mary Jane, for the majority of her life as a character, was Peter Parker’s girlfriends. Mary Jane’s life as Mrs. Peter Parker has been the minority of her years. I was going for the iconic look, the iconic era MJ.
Hughes’s original sketch for the scene is reproduced at Just Say AH!, and if it’s not something I would hang in my 11-year-old daughter’s room, it’s still a cute little sketch, with a more successful execution of the idea than the statue. The statue, to be honest, is just not capable of reflecting all the emotions of the situation; telling an entire story with a single image is hard. Maybe Norman Rockwell could have done it, but Sideshow didn’t, IMHO.
Hughes comes off as a nice guy genuinely baffled by the uproar — I suppose this is understandable, although whatever “PC” is has become as conventient a scapegoat as any in matters of this kind. The real money quote is at the end:
NRAMA: Has this response led to any changes in your design or release plans?
AH: We’re not changing any of our plans on the subsequent statues, but we’ve gone through and looked at the other designs to see if we’re doing something that could be misconstrued as sexist or misogynistic.
NRAMA: But isn’t that a slippery slope? Isn’t that in a way going back toward self-censorship in order not to offend a segment of the audience who the product’s not aimed at who are going to be offended by a thousand differing degrees?
AH: It’s not self-censorship, but rather, we’re flirting with self-awareness. Self-censorship would be us looking at the plans for Aunt May cleaning Uncle Ben’s toilet in a teddy for the next statute, and then change that to her doing something assertive, and not doing chores. It’s self-awareness if we look at the designs and see something on the next statue that could possibly bring about the same amount of negative attention from the same people, so that we can prepare for the possible repercussions, whether legitimate or otherwise.
“Flirting with self-awareness.” What a great phrase. I think that’s all we were asking for all along.
BTW, I’ve received a few oblique communications that hint that TPTB are not as oblivious to the issues being raised over the last few days as their public silence would indicate. Developing.
What the @#$%! is wrong with self-censorship?
Sorry, that just slipped out. :D
Really, though. What’s wrong with taking a look at what you’re doing or saying, and thinking, “You know, this might hurt someone’s feelings and I don’t really have a good reason for doing so. Perhaps I should refrain.”
It used to be called courtesy. Now it’s just considered good marketing.
i don’t understand why Newsarama asks the question as though self-censorship were a bad thing, and i don’t understand why Adam Hughes splits the hair. Is it about the difference between artistic restraint borne of fear and artistic restraint borne of respect?
Did i just answer my own question?
I know–GASP!! AREN’T YOU SELF-CENSORING, OMG! In polite society, it’s called NOT BEING AN IDIOT. It’s also called respecting others as equals.
The statue is clearly based on an old Bettie Page photo. She even looks like Bettie Page smiling.
I have kept my mouth shut on the whole issue, simply because the statue looked like one of those 40’s-50’s pin ups, or the kind of pin-ups that Olivia does now. Now, I see that I was right, and while the status doesn’t capture it well, AH has ALWAYS been steeped in that tradition, for better or for worse.
Well, Hughes’ definition of “self-censorship” is just plain wrong – not saying X doesn’t have to mean actively saying the direct opposite. You could just… not say it, and that would still be self-censorship.
But there IS a legitimate and genuine distinction between self-censorship and what Hughes is calling “self-awareness.” Self-censorship is where I intend to X, and then think better of it. Self-awareness, in Hughes’ definition, is where I never intended to say X in the first place, and I take extra care to make sure I’m not saying it by mistake. Two totally different concepts.
Newsarama’s hostility to self-censorship is based on the usual kneejerk reaction that a lot of people have to anything involving the word “censorship”, and there’s a degree of validity about it. The question is why you decide to censor something.
The legitimate objection to the statute (if you think there is one) is the message it contains, and not the offence that it causes per se. Or, put another way, you shouldn’t pull the statue just because people find it offensive. You should pull it because they’re RIGHT to find it offensive. Using offence itself as the touchstone for self-censorship is indeed a slippery slope, because that way lies capitulating to the moral puritans and the religious extremists, many of whom are regularly and deeply offended for no good reason at all.
Jesus, anyone with half an ounce of brain could figure out that you can’t wash cloth in the size of this thing.
BUT I guess actual comics news were not to be had at the time of this newest boredom induced ‘outrage’ here.
Come on now, there’s clearly a spectrum here though. There’s a difference between “courtesy” and between eliminating every chance of offending anyone. There’s lots of play in between as any rational person would know. There is a school of thought that says “if I have a belief that this action could offend any person, then I should refrain from doing it.” To me, that’s ridiculous because we know that SOMEBODY is gonna get pissed off no matter what you do. Lenny Bruce was put in jail and today people call him a genius, so there has to be some context to what we’re talking about. Saying across the board that “self censorship” is a good thing or is a bad thing is ridiculous.
Personally, I’m all for pushing boundaries, upsetting people, and stirring up controversy because I believe that without confrontation there can be no understanding. That being said, comic books (the big two in particular) give kids of all ages and genders shitty views of females. If one were solely trained for social interaction in our society based off of these things, well, I shudder to think.
Anyone who hasn’t done so should check out the MSNBC clip with Contessa Brewer interviewing “Feedback” from Who Wants To Be A Superhero? about this statue. It’s hi-larious!
They start by talking about what a shocker this statue is, and by the time it’s over, Contessa has Feedback standing up so she can check out his sixpack and butt in his shiny superhero costume! It really is funny and nobody gets hurt or offended and it brings me back to the bottom line about this image: it’s a gag, folks! It’s tongue-in-cheek over-the-top fun. It’s not meant to make a definitive statement about Mary-Jane as a sex object or subservient female. It’s just a goof in the tradition of Gil Elvgren, who was apparently among the last people on Earth to realize that sexiness can actually be fun!
I’ll agree that Hughes’ picture captures this tone more effectively than the statue, but even the statue got its point across the first time I saw it. Go Google Elvgren, folks. It’s not the end of the world.
But first — go to the Newsarama story right now and click on the MSNBC link. Watch Contessa giggle her way through this utterly silly story. She gets the joke and has a good time with it. I wish more people did.
“I was going for the iconic look, the iconic era MJ.”
I didn’t know the thong was part of MJ’s iconic era.
And just as a comment to those above who wish that artists would be more “polite”: making art, regardless of the creator and audience genders involved, is not about politeness. Polite art that offends no one is just as pointless as art designed solely for the purpose of offense. “Fight Club” is not a polite movie; neither is “Thelma & Louise.” If you expect some kind of decorum in your fiction, then by all means your personal purchasing decisions should reflect that, but please don’t assume that what you consider polite and civil is a universal code that should apply to me or anyone else.
That statue reminds me of the “Leggy-Lamp” from The Christmas Story. Who want to display that in their living room…
I guess the idea (of discovery) kinda got through to me, because I was thinking, What Would Make A Good Statue? And that’s when I remembered the classic Norman Rockwell cover of the young boy finding his father’s Santa Claus costume.
Or you show the Silver Age Lois Lane discovering Clark’s secret closet in his apartment.
or, to twist it 180 degrees, show Peter Parker pulling his suit out of the washing machine, which he’s mixed with the whites, turning it and everything else PINK! Maybe have him wear a FF tshirt with some cute but baggy boxers?
The first time I saw that statue, I thought it looked kinda stupid and juvenille, but I knew that Adam Hughes original sketch would probably be cute and funny.
Somethings just don’t translate.
“Polite art that offends no one is just as pointless as art designed solely for the purpose of offense.”
Are you seriously suggesting that that statue is Art – or even that it has any pretensions to be?
Firstly, I love the Adam Hughes picture. It’s cute and funny and he shows great expression in her face and posture and it’s just a nice picture. But it sure misses something in 3D…
But getting back to Heidi’s ORIGINAL beef… Marvel’s still pretty odd about the portrayal of its characters when it comes to making a buck. MJ is a major character in the Spider-Man movies. MJ is the star of her own line of books which are aimed at teenagers. Like I said, I love Adam Hughes’ picture, but it’s totally wrong for selling a comic series for pre-teens and teenagers.
If Marvel wants to stand behind the image of the product they’re presenting to consumers, they’ve got to get their message straight. They’re got to start acting like an old-time movie studio and start presenting to the public how they want their characters to be regarded. This schizophrenic imagery will affect them in the long run.
It’s kind of like this masterful article Heidi did: http://pwbeat.publishersweekly.com/blog/2007/05/16/get-over-my-hotness-alba-pleads/
This “having your cake and eating it too” attitude would never fly at, say, Disney. The marketing behind Mickey Mouse and co. is very careful about the image that’s presented. Sure, some detractors will bring up Pocahantas and her endowments, but if you check the images put forth for her everything is done very tastefully and within character. Her top is not unbuttoned down to her navel. She’s not bending over so you can see down her top. She’s usually shown standing with dignity in poses that wouldn’t be uncommon for Storm of the X-Men (and FF) and maybe Wonder Woman.
“The legitimate objection to the statute (if you think there is one) is the message it contains, and not the offence that it causes per se. Or, put another way, you shouldn’t pull the statue just because people find it offensive. You should pull it because they’re RIGHT to find it offensive. Using offence itself as the touchstone for self-censorship is indeed a slippery slope, because that way lies capitulating to the moral puritans and the religious extremists, many of whom are regularly and deeply offended for no good reason at all.”
To play devil’s advocate: the problem with this line of thought is that the moral puritans and religious extremists think they are offended for a good reason. Who has the right to determine that their complaints are merit-less? How can one pundit decide that in an entire group of people , not *ONE* of them is genuinely offended? I find that as dismissive as brushing off the people who complain about the Mary Jane statue, by saying the only people are complaining are “feminazis, many of whom are regularly and deeply offended for no good reason at all.”
In situations where moral/religious/parent groups complain about the content of movies/video games/TV/music, the argument against them always seems to be “If you don’t like it, don’t buy it.” Those in defense of the controversial art, ask individuals to avoid the product themselves, not force the distributor to censor it. Leave it up to individual responsibility.
Right now, there are on-going discussions to see if cigarettes in movies should be adults-only material. Meaning if there are people smoking cigarettes in your movie, its going to be rated “R.” Is that justified or excessive?
Hell, look at Marvel – Joe Quesada has banned cigarettes from their comics; he doesn’t like them, and he lost his own father to lung cancer. I would say he has a RIGHT to find cigarettes offensive – but people still didn’t appreciate his decision to ban them.
Its unfortunately the same situation here: I don’t think Hughes should have to change his artwork or statue designs. I don’t think the statues should be pulled because there is a group of people, who have a genuine complaint against it. That’s too dangerous a precedent.
Get upset about it, talk about it, explain the reasons why the statue doesn’t’ work. Change minds that way.
Progressive change would see the audience for this material dwindling due to lack of interest, not because production of the material was pulled due to complaints. Taking the statue away for that reason, is just going to make people WANT IT MORE.
Now personally speaking, after seeing Hughes’ original artwork and reading his intent, my thought is still the same: it’s not that great.
The sketch is still better than the statue, but I still find elements that are wrong with it. The smile and the eyes: according to Hughes, this is supposed to be the moment that Mary Jane suspects that Parker is SM. But I don’t find the expression to be one of suspicion or discovery; its too playful. The pearls and the thong: I get that Hughes is attempting a retro pastiche, and he’s trying to combine elements of retro and modern. The color palette, the pearls – elements of the 1950s. The thong – an element of the 2000s. I just find the combination doesn’t mesh well. Its too anachronistic.
I wish newsarama had asked a few more questions about his actual artistic choices; I think it would have provided even more insight, and given the audiences more context and references to digest.
“Are you seriously suggesting that that statue is Art – or even that it has any pretensions to be?”
Representative art, yes, in the same way that a photo of an attractive man or woman is art. Is it good art? Dunno. Not my kind of thing.
And besides, I don’t consider half the installations in the MoMA to be my kind of thing, either. But rather than saying they’re not “art,” I prefer to be inclusive and just say that they’re not very good art. Otherwise discussions tend to devolve into “well, if I don’t like it, then it must not be Art.”
“What the @#$%! is wrong with self-censorship?”
To that I offer this:http://christophermoonlight.blogspot.com/2007/02/censorship-by-people.html
Man, that laundry basket is tiny. Why, I bet her breasts couldn’t fit inside it.
@Christopher Moonlight: That and a simple wikipedia search gave me better context. Thanks.
But now i’m scratching my head and wondering what’s the word for when an artist makes a choice and then says, “Hey, back up. I feel a seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time moment coming on.”
Or are artists excused from picking their battles (or even their sides) judiciously?
In terms of misogyny and artists who maybe, possibly, should have had second thoughts, I think Dave Sim is way out in front of Adam Hughes and Sana Takeda. Just sayin’.
@ Skipper. You’re welcome. Sometimes I just like to throw out some food for thought. I’ll have to look at wikipedia.
Regarding cigarette smoking and publisher censorship, Quesada should do what Bill Gaines and Stan Lee did: portray it in a negative light. MAD Magazine did a wonderful parody of the Winston cigarette ad in 1976. “If it weren’t for Winston cigarettes, I wouldn’t smoke. My breath wouldn’t stink, my teeth wouldn’t be yellow…” As a six-year-old, I had never seen the original ad, but the MAD back cover stuck in my head. Even moreso was a back cover from even earlier (the front cover was the “Last Gas” gag by Don Martin), which showed a junkie, and the cover was designed so that on closer reflection, one could see a deaths-head in the artwork.
Stan Lee gained immortality because of a simple letter sent from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asking Marvel Comics to help the government portray drug use in a bad light. (Of course, one might argue that the subsequent two revisions to the Comics Code, and then Marvel opting out with its own ratings system, is what is causing all of this trouble now.)
What Joe Quesada and Marvel need to do is sit down and create something similar to what Tokyopop did last February: a list of criteria which describe what stories get which ratings. http://www.tokyopop.com/618.html
Then they need to standardize the trade dress so that a MAX title will not get confused with the Adventures line.
Oh, and this is not just Marvel. Every publisher should do this, so they can COVER THEIR ASS when someone complains. But Marvel should take this opportunity to implement it, and maybe take some of the shit that’s hitting the fan and turn it into fertilizer.
About Dave Sim. While I totally disagree with Sim I think the situation is different becuase he was self publishing and working on his own character.
It’s that whole Volitaire “I may disagree with what you say but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” thing.
If Dave Sim had the same words and thoughts coming out of Spiderman, Mary Jane, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, or maybe even Jaka or Cerebus, it would be a bit different.
But this may not be the right place for this discussion really.
I am not one to care about fan boys getting their rocks off- I just think it’s a little insulting for the most common reaction to concerns over this statue has been as follows:
“OMG feminazi prude! Don’t buy it then! It’s harmless boy fun! It’s playful!”
Ok- fine. You don’t think it’s offensive. I don’t know if I care enough to be offended- but the point is that there are a lot of women who ARE offended.
Is Marvel marketing MJ to pre teen girls or not? Does marvel want to expand their readership an improve their relationship with women or not?
How about if they recognize that yeah, that’s a little offensive to our goal audience, maybe we should make better choices.
“About Dave Sim. While I totally disagree with Sim…It’s that whole Volitaire ‘I may disagree with what you say but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it’ thing.”
To clarify: I wholeheartedly agree. It’s just when folks start tossing around when and if self-censorship is important with regards to taking the feelings of others into account, I really don’t think Adam Hughes deserves to be turned into the stalking horse.
As for whether there’s a difference when it comes to work-for-hire on corporate icons, eh, doesn’t really matter to me, but like you said, a discussion for another time.
At the end of the day, the little statue of MJ has become the focal point for a very useful conversation about the comics industry–even if we don’t all have quite the same reaction to it. It’s generated a perfectly legitimate and often quite interesting discussion about a legacy of representation in the comics business that needs to be discussed and addressed.
At the same time, I can’t believe that even those that are totally livid at the image (or at what they believe it symbolizes) want a marketplace of socially approved imagery. Certainly we’d all like to see a marketplace full of competing representations that don’t reduce the possibilities of superheroes to a single (or a few) unfortunate and predictable stereotypes. Why not nice and naughty and a full range of possibilities in between and beyond? Why not, indeed. Let a thousand representations bloom.
oy. it’s a lovely drawing and an inoccuous if mediocre statuette toy. i still don’t understand the fuss over this statue. that marvel hentai, yes. this, no.
“Are you seriously suggesting that that statue is Art – or even that it has any pretensions to be?”
To Paul O’Brien: Yes, *I* would say that it is certainly “art.” And if you’re going to seriously think that you have some absolute yard stick for what is and isn’t art, then truly you render yourself irrelevant. If you think you have some authority on what art is then I have to ask how you respond to the very large segment of society that would contend that Will Eisner or Jack Kirby were not artists. For a firestorm of debate within this particular community that has struggled hard to be accepted as true art, you demean all of the hard people’s work to lift up this art form that have to defend themselves to people with a similar claim as your’s: to know what is and isn’t art.
“Who has the right to determine that their complaints are merit-less?”
To Eric: How about: the American justice system? People being offended by artwork and claiming it is obscene has a long history, whether it’s snapshots of Bettie Page or an exhibition by Robert Mapplethorpe. This country’s Constitution has a central, fundamental concept: your rights end when they infringe upon the rights of another. Ergo, if I want to produce art that you or may not be offended by, I have the right to do so. Now I fully concede that no one has discussed or even hinted at litigation over this statue, however your premise that there is no one that can determine the value of another’s claim is flawed.
I’m giving up on responding to all the comments directly that I see with glaring logical errors in them (on all sides of this issue), so I’ll wrap up by saying: Once again, Marvel and DC provide terrible role models for pre-adolescent minds in terms of gender roles, abilities, and expectations. That being said I still think I’d like to have one of those statues in my home.
“Why not nice and naughty and a full range of possibilities in between and beyond? Why not, indeed. Let a thousand representations bloom.”
[standing ovation] … Damn, that was well-typed!
Tony Bedard, it might be a joke to you.
Thank god I dropped Leigon of Superheroes.
Jonathan: I genuinely have no idea what you think “art” means. If you truly believe that there’s no valid distinction between “art” and “not art”, I can’t understand why you think it’s so important that comics should be recognised as “true art.” You can’t have it both ways.
The original commenter was making the audacious claim that a collectible statue of Mary Jane Watson bending over to show off her ass was part of the proud tradition of challenging art. Art, in that sense, may be a nebulous concept, but it’s not THAT nebulous.
Eric: This is a perfectly valid question, but the answer is that religious freedom is based on the notion of mutual tolerance. If your justification for censorship is nothing more than “I don’t like it and my god agrees with me” then you’re attempting to impose your beliefs on others, and that’s against the ground rules of our society. Obviously, if you can point to another justification on top of your religious beliefs, then that’s another matter. Equally, you’re perfectly free to try and persuade me of the error of my ways, as long as you leave me with the choice.
Think about it like this:
DC wouldn’t do a Lois statue like this.
See the point? By allowing multiple interpretations of a now very popular (and easily identifiable) character, Marvel opens itself up to these types of interpretations. I think they could have done this ten years ago (5?) and no one would have blinked. But now mj is MJ. Everyone is saying “Oh it’s just Bettie Page” but MJ is not Bettie Page. So make a Bettie statue. See?
What will be real interesting is whether Marvel does kill/disintegrate/shrink Mary Jane in “One More Day.” Whether it’s a great story or not, if they do get rid of her, it seems to be a further admission that you “can’t” have a strong female character in comics who isn’t a victim. There’s a lot more you could say about that and arrested adolescence and so on but I’m probably there, too so I won’t. But if JQ says you can’t write good stories with MJ in the picture; well, try other writers.
It’s not just this statue, it’s the continual practice of making the female characters all look like they have sex addictions.
We have just had the release of the 3rd very successful Spider-Man movie, bringing millions of people to the realization that comics still exist. This continual over-sexualization of the characters tells casual viewers that comic book fans think all women are sluts.
@Alan Coil: Very well said. I don’t think I mind the MJ statue all that much (then again, I’m not a woman) but I’m offended at how counterproductive it is to the garnering of respect toward our field. It seems that every time we bring new people into comics stores, we place things in front of them that just make them want to walk right back out, without taking a good look around at all the wonderful things that are being offered. Whether it be Women, Christians, Children or whatever, we always seem to have the right oversized poster (or other such promotional object) to alienate them, and for what? Every time I see this happen, the fraze that crosses my mind goes something like, “Hey, cut your bull shit out.”
@Alan Coil: Very well said. I don’t think I mind the MJ statue all that much (then again, I’m not a woman) but I’m offended at how counterproductive it is to the garnering of respect toward our field. It seems that every time we bring new people into comics stores, we place things in front of them that just make them want to walk right back out, without taking a good look around at all the wonderful things that are being offered. Whether it be Women, Christians, Children or whatever, we always seem to have the right oversized poster (or other such promotional object) to alienate them, and for what? Every time I see this happen, the fraze that crosses my mind goes something like, “Hey, knock your shit off.”
“The original commenter was making the audacious claim that a collectible statue of Mary Jane Watson bending over to show off her ass was part of the proud tradition of challenging art. Art, in that sense, may be a nebulous concept, but it’s not THAT nebulous.”
To be accurate, I didn’t mention the Mary Jane statue in my original post at all. I was merely talking about the assertions of earlier commenters that “self-censorship” was somehow “polite.”
You were the one who asked me if that particular statue was art. And my answer was that as a three-dimensional representation of a fictional character, yes, I thought that it met the minimum definition of a work of art. Anything above and beyond that is purely the product of your own interpretation, as “audacious” as it may have been.
Hmm, didn’t hit the stop button in time.
@Anonymous: You are beating a drum i did not hand you (q.v., “and I don’t really have a good reason for doing so”).
Hrmm… now I’m just appalled by how off-model the sculpt is. It doesn’t do justice to Hughes’ design at all.
“Hrmm… now I’m just appalled by how off-model the sculpt is. It doesn’t do justice to Hughes’ design at all.”
Good point. The Hughes illustration is silly, and his explanation for the scene (Mary Jane playfully discovered the costume in the laundry) doesn’t come across. But the actual sculpture is pretty bad. Whoever sculpted it changed her hair style, amplified the pose …
oddly, i find the pic of that pose to not be as offensive as the statue.
that said, Adam may sound like he doesn’t realize the sexuality he brings to virtually every pic he does, but that would mean he’s an idiot. even his website (the link provided) does it tongue in cheek with, AH ‘does’ whichever character he draws next.
he knows that all he creates his stuff to tantalize hormones. i’d really like to see his facial expressions when answering these types of questions.
i really like the original hughes did now that i look at it from the perspective he described. the statue is awful but i’d love to have the original image (above). anyone know where i can find it?
I was reading around some of the posts here and I found interesting things that you guys talk about, I just made a blog about quitting smoking resources and ideas that you might want to check out.
If someone is interested in this topic just go to; http://endthehabitnow.blogspot.com and let me know what you think. Your honest feedback would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance.
I’m not a commenter to blogs in general, but your article on Missed it: Adam Hughes speaks on the Mary Jane Statue! really caught my eye. I had been looking for information on Picture Cute Long Hair Style on Ask.com, and was intrigued by the link to here. Good job!
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