Frank Cho is a controversial figure in comics, and it isn’t because he’s a bad artist or that any of the fans hate his work. It’s because social justice warriors take offense to his irreverent views on political correctness and opposition to censorship. And it all began with his support of fellow artist Milo Manara.
Cho is set to speak on the subject at a lecture at the LUCCA comic and games arts festival with Manara, provoking a new wave of condemnation.
Two years ago, comic artist Milo Manara illustrated a cover of Spider-Woman, which depicted the character from above, with her backside in prominent display. This led to an outcry in social justice circles on Tumblr and Twitter, followed by countless articles that condemned his sexualized depiction of the popular character.
Manara has been a comic book artist since 1969 and is best known for his more erotic work, so the outcry against him was uncalled for, given that he was only producing the type of art he built his reputation upon.
Following the widespread condemnation of Manara, Frank Cho released a series of satirical sketches of other comic book characters depicted in the same pose as Manara’s Spider-Woman — among them Harley Quinn, Spider-Gwen, and Wonder Woman. He did so not only to mock the outraged bloggers, but to champion creative freedom. Predictably, the easily outraged critics took to vilifying him as a misogynist and sexist for not falling in line with their views.
Cho is not alone in his view that creative freedom should be celebrated, rather than stifled by political correctness. And artists like J. Scott Campbell and Deadpool co-creator Rob Liefeld were among the first to defend him.
“As a life-long liberal Democrat and advocate for free speech and equal rights, it fascinates me to see when ultra-liberals become ultra-conservatives where they see injustices everywhere and cease to see reason, and start oppressing people who they disagree with,” Cho said.
“Thanks to the social media, we have entered into a dangerous era of Salem witch trials where no one is safe. Everything is being attacked everywhere in this hypersensitive atmosphere: The movie Grease (Sexualizes teenagers), Road Runner cartoons (Violence against animals), Game of Thrones. (Promotes rape and injustices against women.) The list goes on.”
More recently, Cho was tapped to produce variant cover art for Wonder Woman. The writer of the current run, Greg Rucka, made every attempt to force Cho off the project after deeming his artwork “vulgar” and censoring it. The artist claims that Rucka had been spearheading censorship of his artwork from day one, and that he only wanted to be left alone and work in peace. In response to the hostility and stifling of his creative freedom, Cho left the gig.
Rucka has since declared Wonder Woman “queer” in contradiction to past narratives and continues to promote the social justice cause through the comic.
Not one to simply leave Cho well enough alone, Inverse’s Beth Elderkin has written an attack piece on Cho, condemning his work and downplaying the pointless censorship of his artwork as a “crop of one of his variant cover images to hide his Wonder Woman panty shot.”
She’s no less insulting towards Manara, calling him “blissfully unaware” for the hostility toward his art, while defending the personal attacks he endured as a need to take responsibility for his actions.
What actions? All of this outrage over a variant cover.
“While these men might be talented artists, neither of them are qualified to speak as ‘masters’ of drawing women, because in order to draw something, you have to understand it,” writes Beth Elderkin for Inverse. “Neither of these men have bothered to know or care about what women want to see (or be) in comic books. They’d rather complain about evolution or the ‘PC Police’ rather than acknowledge that they don’t know women as well as they thought they did.”
She’s basically arguing that men shouldn’t be allowed to illustrate women unless they identify with whatever brand of feminism Elderkin espouses. It’s absolute nonsense.
Both adult men and women are sexual creatures, and as such, some artists — like Frank Cho and Milo Manara — are going to depict them in a sexual manner. They should have the freedom to do so. Producing such work doesn’t make these artists inherently offensive, and arguing that they’re wrong to draw women as anything other than chaste limits the sexual agency that every woman has a right to.