Comics, Critique, Essays, Feminism, Geek Culture, Gender, Harassment, Masculinity, Opinion, Sexism, Sexuality

Udon a Bad Thing: Frank Cho, Anuses, and Visual Impact

Much like many other areas of culture, monthly direct-market comic books are an industry, a scene, which is largely hostile to women even now, a place where harm is produced and reproduced, and objections are seen as shrill lies told for cheap thrills. I know it’s dull, but let’s talk about Frank Cho.

Frank Cho has been making a fool of himself drawing and re-drawing scenes “after Manara” for the last … however long it’s been since Manara’s Spider-Woman lifted her anus to the skies. (Two years.) Frank thinks it’s funny to inspire “outrage,” which is his word for people expressing their dismay at the codification of women as eye food. Eye oysters, perhaps, as these images are intended as aphrodisiac. The use of lines and ink wash to suggest “here is a sexual spur” by the illustrative shaping of a woman doing a pose—it’s always pose she would have to choose to take, not a natural one, in these things—that emphasises a place where a lot of men make a lot of noise about wanting to put their penises as a matter of masculine validation and crowing pride. To wit: between the bum cheeks. Her ass. It’s an image that says “Wheyey … ANAL.”

Comic book covers are perfectly able to communicate that femaleness is concurrent with status as a receptacle for masculinity, and it’s not rare that they do. Idealised images of women are used to define what it is to be a man, a man of fathering age, i.e. a virile man, which masculinity uses to mean powerful and aspirational, by said illustrated women being “fuckable.” Of course, fuckability, in illustration, often (and in this case) contains the imagined quality of consent, because men (largely) do not want to be definable as rapists. This is why so often marketing professionals, which includes commercial artists and cartoonists, will say “she’s empowered!” and “she’s just enjoying her sexuality!” What they mean is, “I wanted to draw someone I wanted to fuck, who I could fuck if she were real, so I drew someone who wouldn’t say no to me.” The lines and colour are used to suggest and arrange a facsimile of “consenting normative female.”

But if one relies upon the creation of an image codified as ones imagined consenting partner, then their imaginary consent is a facet of one’s own desire, and therefore, when separated from oneself, false. Consent is not role-play. Consent is not sexy—dissent is not sexy. The expression of either may be eroticised, but the intention to fuck you or not fuck you—these are both simply, necessarily facts. They have to come from the person you are wanting to hump—the consent of a partner cannot come from you. In pure imagination, one may imagine as many willing partners as one can. In the manifestation of a drawing, one is no longer in one’s own mind. One no longer holds the ability to project consent, absolutely, upon the subject of the image.

[pullquote]One no longer holds the ability to project consent, absolutely, upon the subject of the image.[/pullquote]In this case, one cannot imagine that a drawing of a woman must register to all viewers as “a real person consenting to perform sexualised positioning for an audience of the entire anonymous world.” One must allow that swathes of one’s audience may think: “If this represents woman, and I am woman, then there is an assumptive sameness between me and her.” That one’s art may result in many viewers thinking, what the fuck? Do we still have to deal with this basic aggression? With this assumption of post-pubescent, pre-menopausal women’s desire to look like a flat, carefully directed image, which Joe Average would want to spurt on, all the time? One must allow that the continual deification of fuckable (and there’s bigotry in this library of symbolism—plenty) up4it babes place-holding for women, for the concept of a woman, feels like a bare, dirty foot on the linoleum of our souls. And we only had linoleum laid because the comfortable, rich-pile carpets we began with had been faded by exposure and matted with filth from those others, before, who assumed right of way.

MEN MUST LEARN HOW TO DRAW WOMEN WHO DON’T LOOK FUCKABLE. MEN MUST LEARN HOW TO DRAW WOMEN THEY COULD DESIRE WITHOUT EXPRESSING THAT POTENTIAL DESIRE. MEN MUST LEARN HOW TO LISTEN, FUCKING LISTEN. AND TO BE SORRY.

Marvel Comics has allowed Frank Cho to draw and draw and draw Spider-Gwen in this anus-up pose, and in the backgrounds of other images in which other characters take the floor. And to take money from it. He has drawn her shouting “OUTRAGE!” and being shot in the head, because Frank is bored of hearing about outrage even as he draws pictures to incite it. Frank’s not smart, but perhaps he’s cunning, because I feel obliged by respect for teen girls, like the one I used to be, to say his stupid name and discuss his stupid imagery. Frank Cho has chosen to use this character, because she is a teenager, who appeals to teenagers. Is that why, Frank? To make sure teenagers know that people like you will draw them with their assholes in the air, just for existing? Or did you choose to use her for another reason? Well, the one I describe is an outcome anyway. Perhaps you see why I suggest you learn to listen. Men like you have burnt my sympathy for your ignorance quite, quite away.

Udon have employed Frank Cho to draw iconic Street Fighter character Cammy (herself treated poorly by image-tweakers and marketing dicks for years and years and years) in the Manara Asshole Pose on one of their official Street Fighter books. In the words of Matt Moylan, Director of Publishing, they did it because it would get them “great press,” and because they do not understand that “sex positive” doesn’t mean “it’s good to use sexual machinations that make girls suffer humiliations, bodily dissociation and internal twisting, because building commerce without mercy is the reason for this life.” In the words of Jim Zub, writer of said book, they shouldn’t have done it, and I agree. They did it because they’re weak, and not very good at thinking, or because they don’t care much about pain. They don’t believe testimony of the harm images do. I hate them, which is fine, because I probably won’t ever meet them. It’s not a hate that matters to me, but it’s a hate that’s real. I hate them.

I’ve lost count of how many women around me have said they don’t care about Frank Cho anymore, even as he spurts out new, old-style disrespect and damage. Even though he’s just been contracted to produce a year’s worth of variant covers for Wonder Woman comics. For Wonder Woman comics. Do you know why the women around me are losing contact with their initial reactions? Because, with the complicity of direct market comics, Cho is using repetition of his vicious little motifs to become invisible, on purpose. He is carving out a sticky little niche like rain carves rock, in which he will produce actively harmful, dulling jibes, and feel safe and smug and victorious. Eventually nobody with a voice will say anything about it any more, and so when a lone somebody does pipe up, out of their own need to question why this happens to bodies like theirs, he can point to this sodden silence and say, “Hey, what’s the problem? No-one else minds.”

The problem is Frank Cho, and Udon, and Marvel, and yes—Manara. The problem is sexism in direct-market comics publishing. The problem is the use of image, code, branding, sexual bombardment, to make women and afab-people feel unmoored, and to make men feel like men.

  1. David Fairbanks

    May 2, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    Someone needs to send this to DC along with a note about bringing Cho on for 24 Wonder Woman variant covers.

  2. Richard C. Meyer

    May 2, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Stop lecturing people. And Hell with your arbitrary rules

    1. Claire Napier

      May 2, 2016 at 12:56 pm

      Go fish…….. Richard

    2. Wendy W.

      May 2, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      “Richard”, everything Claire said is spot-on. Those Cho covers are vile. He’s a middle-aged man acting like a middle schooler with a notebook, drawing girlie pictures to share with his buddies in the back of the classroom, only Marvel is giving him a much wider, much more damaging platform, making comics a poisonous place for women to be. The Manara cover was a bad enough mistake, but to have Cho repeat it endlessly, mocking everyone for their legitimate anger over it is just insulting. To hell with him, and you, for your inability to listen to what women have to say on the matter.

      1. Green

        May 2, 2016 at 3:22 pm

        MARVEL FIRED HIM, DC CONTRACTED HIM TO DO VARIANT COVERS.

        NOT EVERYTHING EVIL ON THE WORLD IS MARVEL FAULT

        1. Wendy W.

          May 2, 2016 at 4:34 pm

          You’re right, only about half — the other evil half is DC. (And I say that as a reader from both publishers, though fewer lately because they can’t get their houses in order.)

    3. Edward

      May 2, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      Go wait in the truck, Ricky.

  3. 2ndEarlofRoch

    May 2, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    News Flash. Nobody who’s opinion matters cares that you are offended. [multiple lines of dull farting sound -Ed.]

    You’re noise. Plain and simple.

    1. 2ndEarlofRoch

      May 2, 2016 at 3:08 pm

      Cool I’ve just been censored by a self-righteous blogger who thinks she’s Carrie Nation reborn.

      1. KS

        May 2, 2016 at 3:30 pm

        Pretty sure it doesn’t count as censorship when the editor keeps in your comment and adds their own sound effect in response.

        (Also, comment section moderation is absolutely valid)

      2. Claire Napier

        May 2, 2016 at 3:45 pm

        I just finished a beer, so, not that similar. ✌️

      3. iola

        May 2, 2016 at 6:04 pm

        Hahaha, the cool irony of someone bleeting about how no one cares about the OPs opinion and then crying about not being given a platform for his. Cry more.

    2. Green

      May 2, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      SO WE FOUND A MALE COMIC BOOK READER THAT HATES WHEN EVIL FEMINISTS TAKE AWAY HIS PORNY

    3. DMaster

      May 2, 2016 at 10:46 pm

      Newsflash: nobody around here cares about your opinion. Expressing distaste in somebody being a blatant turd is perfectly natural, and reasonable in the context of an essay like this. Expressing distaste in distaste of someone being a turd outs one as turdlike themselves. Knock it off.

      And for your information, kudos on correct use of “you’re”, take kudos back for wrong use of “whose”.

  4. Lauren Miller

    May 2, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    The Amazing Spiderman 471 had Spidey in almost the exact same pose in 2001. Why are you not complaining about the objectification if his ass, which is in just as outrageous a position? http://comicsbeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/10583949_10152367965345835_5481620032236656223_n-1.jpg

    1. Claire Napier

      May 2, 2016 at 2:23 pm

      Lauren… I’m not complaining about different things because I didn’t set out to complain about different things. I set out to describe a problem, and in fact, I did it. Please feel free to pitch me a piece on the objectification of spider-man’s ass, if you feel strongly about it. Thank you.

    2. Green

      May 2, 2016 at 3:24 pm

      THE POSE IS VERY DIFFERENT, YOU JUST USING IT AS EXCUSE.

    3. iola

      May 2, 2016 at 6:02 pm

      Because objectification of men is laughably different, without an extensive, and looooong history of repression, violence, degradation, patronization, exclusion or reduction of rights and benefits, etc. and use as justification for said acts.

      A man depicted in the same pose or situation as a female is completely, utterly different in context and interpretation because of history and culture.

      Google Feminism 101.

  5. Dale O.

    May 2, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    It’s sad that Moylan is involved in Udon at all, because I generally like the Street Fighter Comics, and about two artists I follow come from there, but he has such shitty views. I bought a webcomic collection of Bravoman that was written by him that had commentary by him, and some of it was pretty similar to his (very shitty) tweets. Great Article!

  6. Veronica

    May 2, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    “Marvel Comics has allowed Frank Cho to draw and draw and draw Spider-Gwen in this anus-up pose, and in the backgrounds of other images in which other characters take the floor.”

    No, they didn’t. they are private comissions that Marvel has no control over it, they can only warn cho to not do it. I don’t know exactly the reason they fired him off Awesome Hulk

    1. Claire Napier

      May 2, 2016 at 3:46 pm

      They haven’t put out a press release saying that the company is against it and why, so: effect is allowance.

  7. Brad

    May 2, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    Rather than make assumptions i’d rather just ask you…what exactly are you advocating for here? What do you want to happen to Frank Cho and artists who draw the type of content he does?

    1. Claire Napier

      May 2, 2016 at 4:47 pm

      Am I advocating, Brad?

      Or are you asking me to take hypothetical responsibility for people who have refused any conceptual responsibility to me?

    2. IOLA

      May 2, 2016 at 5:56 pm

      Pretty sure the extremely simply answer is: Clients don’t hire them to do that moronic crap for their books, and further, that people in general realize this is foul behavior and don’t buy this nonsense from him in the first damn place.

    3. DMaster

      May 2, 2016 at 10:15 pm

      It isn’t obvious? We want to them to wise up, apologize, and stop being immature trolls spreading sexism and ignorance, or else shut up, go away, and never come back.

  8. Jim Reddington

    May 2, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    Marvel fired him? When? He was only supposed to do the first 6 issues, like he has done on previous books he has done for them on other books.

  9. iola

    May 2, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    Cho is completely disgusting and has no regard at all for women as people, which makes it doubly painful when he uses his own daughter as an excuse. The “I can’t be sexist because I totally have women that are related to me” BS he trots out. I met him at SDCC many, many years ago, before I even knew who he was, and was immediately struck by how skivvy he was acting towards me. Being a female of decent attractiveness I’m used to assholes being foul, so I wrote him off as some moron in a sea of propped-up comics old-guard that thought that sort of behavior was acceptable.

    Except he keeps popping up, being a more massive ass than before. I’m so sick of him, but either we ignore his foulness and give no press to it so he crawls back under his rock, or we have to write about it because idiots at DC totally think it’s cool to hire this sad excuse for a human. To hire him for a “female empowerment” ledgendary icon and her book. The WTF level is through the roof.

    Additionally, Moylan is a horrendous pile of wet shit and has been for some time. He lurks about BleedingCool sometimes, waving his ass in the air farting out how extremely, undyingly misogynistic he is and proud of it. Willfully ignoring anyone who tries to use small words to explain how awful his views are. BC is bereft of a lot of common sense or decency in the comments on the regular, though. So he probably thinks his vile attitude is totally normal and the majority. Sad, really. I don’t buy a single thing from UDON because of him, and neither do any of the very large group of comics-and-artbook-buying people I know.

  10. Merri

    May 2, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    STANDING OVATION. Also, creepy gwen is a teen and being drawn like this…Yes I know she is 19, makes this only .01% less creepy.

  11. Johnny Joestar

    May 2, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    “Frank Cho has been making a fool of himself drawing and re-drawing scenes “after Manara”

    Don’t you mean, “Cho has been making a killing and also donating said money to charities that help women”?

    1. Claire Napier

      May 3, 2016 at 6:41 am

      No, worst of all JoJos (wow!), I don’t. I mean quite what I said.

    2. Wendy Browne

      May 4, 2016 at 9:21 am

      Ah the ever popular “but he’s been donating the money to charity” excuse that makes all the utter disrespect better.

  12. Mongoose

    May 12, 2016 at 2:48 am

    HOW DARE MEN FEEL LIKE MEN! BOYS MUST NOT BE BOYS! RAIN MUST NOT FALL! FISH MUST NOT SWIM! BIRDS MUST NOT FLY!

  13. An Artist

    May 13, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    I love Cho, he draws a great artist. His men are just as great as his women. In fact Michael Turner (RIP) was the reason I decided to become a comic artist and stop tracing anime.

    Real talk, I’m a female comic artist. Most of my money is made through commissions like you’re chastising Cho for here. Mostly men pay me to draw what they want to see. Which happens to be women. I don’t care. They’re drawings. The women that commission me also ask for women. Hmm. Usually their sexual fantasies played out using a proxy. I love to draw men I’d love more of that stuff but I don’t get asked to and that’s most of what I draw and post on my free time.

    The facts are us artists have to draw what the market wants. So if you want something else you can open your bank account or shut your mouth.

    1. Claire Napier

      May 14, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      So keep on not caring and get that $$$. Why do you want my blessing?

  14. Andrew Matson

    May 20, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    Dear god, you need to get fucked. This is a prime example of people who are have their head so far up their own ass, they no longer understand basic humanity.

    1. Claire Napier

      May 20, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      “Thanks” I guess Andrew but I’m just not interested in you that way 😞

      1. Andrew Matson

        May 20, 2016 at 2:17 pm

        Right, because all guys think about is sex all the time.

        1. Chris M.

          May 20, 2016 at 3:55 pm

          So the commenter that chimed in about heads up asses and needing to get fucked is acting prudishly offended about a sex joke? Ha!

        2. Claire Napier

          May 21, 2016 at 9:24 am

          Not ALL guys, Andrew

          Gosh, cool it with the misandry 😳

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