I am honestly wary about putting forth this idea due to recent current events! The harassment of critic Anita Sarkeesian and the theft and release of stolen pictures from notable actresses and singers shows an undercurrent of misogyny and immaturity in geek circles that does not allow for whimsical and balanced depictions of sexuality. Frankly, the anger of mainstream audiences towards women and the lack of female artists at mainstream comic companies might make the idea I am about to put forth impossible. But I will share nevertheless!
It is evident, even with the recent furor over Milo Manara’s variant cover for Spider-Woman, fans of all genders and sexualities enjoy well-rendered pin-up art. The success of a wide variety of artists—Touko Laaksonen, Matt Baker, Olivia De Berardinis, and even Manara himself provides evidence of that. It is often not the existence of pin-up art that angers critics, but that companies use pin-up art to objectify one group in particular—women—singling said group out and removing its agency.
I had joked to friends that while Marvel is in the hot seat over its Spider-Woman gaffe DC should plan a lingerie-variant month. Kidding aside, the idea has merit—and DC is the one company possessing the iconic characters necessary to make it successful. However, said success is nestled within a public-relations minefield. The only way to maneuver that minefield safely is to make sure that the project as a whole celebrates equality, healthy depictions of sexuality, and consent. Male and female characters should be used as subjects; lighthearted scenes should be encouraged. For example:
- A variant cover for Superman could show Superman in boxer briefs hanging his costume on a clothesline behind the Kent farm. He winks mirthfully at the reader.
- A variant cover for Harley Quinn could show Harley in her underwear looking over her shoulder at the reader. Her skin is white save for a small patch of peach skin on her back. A gloved hand—meant to be the reader’s—is poised in the air, about to paint the last portion.
- A variant cover for Batgirl could depict a scene from a pajama party. A group of young women have hogtied an intruder and are blithely explaining recent events to an amused Batgirl while they eat ice cream.
- A variant cover for Grayson could depict a shot of Dick Grayson from behind as he approaches a seated woman in a business suit. The woman gazes at him seductively. 50 Shades of Grayson, perhaps?
The point is that the project should aim for a wider variety of readers—readers with varying interests and from various backgrounds. It can be done and it can be successful should DC take great care in hiring artists with open-minded views regarding sexuality and a firm belief in equality. But, no pun intended, can DC rise to the challenge?