Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should

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You may not be surprised to learn that we don’t like Frank Cho’s Spider-Gwen sketch cover – but you may be surprised as to why.

First, some background – Cho posted the Spider-Gwen sketch cover yesterday on his website, calling it a “fun doodle for Spider Gwen with a nod to Manara,” referencing this Spider-Woman variant cover by erotic artist Milo Manara. Cho’s sketch cover is not connected to Marvel in any way, and seems to be a re-hashing of this similar Spider-Woman cover he had up for sale back in January.

Here’s the thing: yes, Cho has always drawn some cheesecake stuff, and there will always be a place for that in comics. It’s why we don’t write daily articles about stuff like this and this. But by taking a shot at this particular cover, one that caused so much discomfort among lots of comic book readers, it shows a clear disregard for the perfectly valid outrage over Manara’s original Spider-Woman variant; an incident that, we should note, made our list of the “Worst Moments in Female Fandom in 2014.”

Aside from being an obvious poke at “those angry feminists” who “overreact” to things, the cover is also an unfortunate but elucidating look at what some men think about women who are trying to carve out a space for themselves in the frequently misogynist world of comics – where they feel objectified and overly-sexualized on a regular basis. What makes this sketch even more inappropriate is that the Spider-Gwen book is clearly aimed at a teen audience, meant to entice new, younger female readers to Marvel comics. Plus, Gwen herself is a teenager.

And before anyone tries to tell you that “it’s just a joke,” it would be helpful to remember that jokes can cause real hurt and real harm to marginalized communities, and that is absolutely something worth critiquing.

We’re not calling Cho a bad guy. The Katniss he drew for his daughter’s birthday is adorable; he’s an incredibly talented artist; and he certainly knows how to draw powerful women with respect. We’re just saying that this Spider-Gwen cover is tasteless, and reductive to the plight of the many women who still struggle to feel accepted in comics. And that’s pretty uncool.

Cho has not yet responded to The Mary Sue’s request for a comment. We will update as necessary.

(via David Uzumeri)

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Sam Maggs
Sam Maggs is a writer and televisioner, currently hailing from the Kingdom of the North (Toronto). Her first book, THE FANGIRL'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY will be out soon from Quirk Books. Sam’s parents saw Star Wars: A New Hope 24 times when it first came out, so none of this is really her fault.