On -isms: The Manara/Cho Thing

By | Thursday, November 03, 2016 2 comments
Look, Milo Manara and Frank Cho can draw whatever the hell they want. Both are talented artists who've thus far made a living out of drawing porn. (Manara has at least been honest on that point.) No one is telling them that they can't draw what they draw. No one is telling them that they can't publish anything they draw. There's nothing about censorship in this discussion.

There are really two things the so-called "social justice warriors" are saying here, and I feel the need to emphasize that point because not everyone (including Manara and Cho) seems to be getting it.

First, people are saying that the types of images these two men are known for drawing are offensive and degrading to women. The images are depicting women as simply objects of sexuality. Their images are essentially saying, "The only parts of a woman worth focusing on are her boobs, ass, and vagina." Whether or not Manara and/or Cho actively believe that, or are actively trying to send that message, that's what their images are saying. And so women, not surprisingly, are responding by saying, "That's not cool. We're more than that."

It's like if you called your one Black friend the n-word and they said, "I'm offended when you call me that. Please stop it." That's all women are saying here. "We're offended when you draw us like that. Please stop it."

The second thing people are saying is that they're trying to tell Marvel and DC that they don't like these types of images in their comics any longer. Yes, there has been a lot of it's-only-barely-not-porn cheesecake in superhero comics over the years, but the market has changed. Western comics used to be big, but the market shifted and publishers largely stopped making them. Romance comics used to be big, but the market shifted and publishers largely stopped making them. The market is shifting again, and in order to continue publishing profitable comics, publishers will need to shift with those trends. Trends that lean away from racism and misogyny, and toward equality and inclusiveness.

There's no law saying you can't make Western comics. There's nothing preventing people from making romance comics. But they're not really practical in today's market. The same thing is happening to people who traffic in art like Manara and Cho practice. There's a niche for it -- just like there's a niche for romance comics -- but the outrage you're hearing is just the customers telling publishers that the market has shifted once again.

I've got nothing against Manara or Cho. I've never met either. They're clearly talented artists who've made careers on that talent, and I don't wish them to lose that livelihood. But they also need to recognize that no one is trying to silence them. They're free to draw whatever they like. But, like everyone else who claims they should be allowed to say whatever they want regardless of who takes offense, they're NOT free from their drawings having consequences. And if that means no one hires them to draw offensive pictures of (essentially) naked women and they refuse to draw anything else, then they just brought that on themselves.
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Phil said...

Cho drew his "outrage" cover as a commission and it was obviously meant as a joke. He continued to draw them as one off commissions because people wanted them. Also to tell critics don't tell me what to do. None of them were intended for print. I find them funny. As far as his regular comic work is concerned I must admit I don't follow his work at all. Looks ok but I don't read a lot of new comics. I don't think I own a single comic book he has drawn. Milo Manara as far as I know did one Spider-woman cover. I know he's done more work but I just can't say.
Personally I like Mike Mayhew's work. Also Steve Rude.
I don't care for the over sexualized look. I grew up with Romita and Curt Swan. And in the words of Darwyn Cooke, superhero comics have a problem. You can't sell toys and underwear while depicting these heroes looking like playboy models and murdering people.

Regardless of whether he intended an image to be a joke or not, people still took offense to it. Just like how people take offense to someone in Black face even if that's meant as a joke. Women (as a general rule) don't find being portrayed as sexualized fetish objects funny.

Again, no one is saying Cho can't continue to draw like that. But they're saying that they won't buy his work if he does, whether that's personal projects and individual commissions or large print run comics for a major publisher. He's free to draw and say what he likes, but he's not free from criticism and he's not free from changes in the market.