Welcome to Cover Girl. Each month, we gather a team of WWAC contributors to analyze a new and notable comic book cover featuring one or more women. This month, Tia, Paige, Louis, and Nola examine Matteo Scalera’s cover for Space Bandits #4.
Tia: This is … very visually confusing. I’m having a hard time telling what’s going on at all. I thought the mantis’s hand on her stomach was a glob of goo. It took me a good fifteen seconds of squinting and staring to realize the thing below her crotch is her guns. I still don’t know what the purple thing under the purple hand is. I like main girl’s hair, though.
Nola: I didn’t really have any problems processing it visually; it all made sense to me. That said my initial reaction was a sort of mild … revulsion? Not because of the monster girls, but because of the context. To see a butch girl situated amidst a horde of monster girls (in soft blues and pinks no less) is a very queer thing in comics, and to have that presented to us not by any queer creators but instead by two men (Mark Millar being one of them) feels … cynical, distasteful.
Paige: The coloring of this cover is gorgeous with all those vibrant purple and blue tones, and I really like the protagonist’s character design! It commands attention, and I am a simple girl easily distracted by all things pretty, sexy, and potentially queer. I would at least pick this comic up and leaf through a couple of pages if I saw it on the shelf of my LCS. So shout out to Scalera on that, because upon closer inspection I pretty much dislike everything else about this cover.
Louis: First reaction? Bleurgh. You’d think it was because I don’t like monsters or humanesque creatures. But that’s not even half the problem here. One look at this cover and I know it’s not for me—there’s all this touchy-feely stuff that is supposed to be sexy. And I’m sure it is, if you were a straight white guy. I get seriously faux-queer vibes here—it’s intended for a straight male audience, not the queer people it’s pretending to portray. And it’s created by two dudes. Colour me unsurprised.
What do you think the artist is trying to achieve?
Tia: They’re trying to get us to stare at her crotch, I guess, given it’s one of the lightest colors on the cover. I would think it’s some kind of sex/power fantasy for dudes who want to fap to lesbians, but what I assume is the main character is too overlapped by the myriad of other characters in the shot. Rather than being surrounded in a power fantasy way, she’s being absorbed into them. The coherency of her body is ruined by the overlaps and by the weird fashion choices: her hands, covered in fishnets, already a strange choice for a supposed bandit, are barely readable as hands. As for all the brothel girls, they got the “black market alien sex trafficking” look down, but wow, nothing is really sexy about them at all.
Paige: This cover screams manufactured sexiness by way of lesbians, taboo alien orgies, guns, and crotch shots. And like, I’m super into all those things, but this does absolutely nothing for me. I agree with Tia that, rather than tantalize, it confuses readers with the overabundance and somewhat anatomically inaccurate display of limbs. It’s also such a strange choice to have the protagonist’s eyes closed. Rather than suggest she’s overcome with pleasure, or something, it just looks like she’s sleeping. The visual undermines the idea that she’s an active, enthusiastic participant in this would-be orgy, which gives the scene decidedly more sinister implications than what the artist was probably going for. Honestly, it’s giving me the creeps the more I look at this convergence of “deviant” bodies—and you can tell from all the BDSM gear that this is what the artist lazily thinks represents scary sexual deviancy—onto our unsuspecting lead.
Nola: Yeah, like I said above, I agree with Paige here—this is a cynical grab by straight men at a corner of the market that is alien (heh) to them, and it comes with all of the baggage straight men bring when they depict women in sexualized situations. This girl ain’t into it. She’s not reciprocating, she’s not enjoying herself, she’s tired, or bored, or upset. Her hands are on her weapons and at her crotch, a decidedly phallic representation (and a decidedly masculine tradition of equating that representation with the violence of a gun); the artistic equivalent of “so which of you is the man in this situation?” None. The answer is none. That’s the point of being lesbians.
Louis: I think the artist is trying to showcase their ‘range’. Look at all these characters, who are separate but still touching sensually. Unfortunately, like everyone above me has observed, it’s quite confusing. I’ve had to study this cover a few times to figure out who is where and doing what, and whose limbs are whose. Plus, what is with the crotch shot? The guns covering the crotch doesn’t come across as powerful at all—would a male character be posed this way? Guns pointing down? I don’t think so. I’d have had this protagonist point her guns at something, even the reader, to show that she has agency and is active.
Is this cover monstrous enough?
Paige: Absolutely not. In 2019, sexy humanoid aliens are at the absolute bottom of the Monsterfucker Lexicon. I’ve seen Venom fanart more fucked up than this—hell, the actual comic books give me more creative monstrosities than this. Stop giving female monsters boobs and give us all something to really scream about, you damn cowards.
Nola: Hell no it is not. I’m not gonna complain about female monsters with boobs, but it’s notable that aside from the mantis, the female figures presented here are exclusively slim, lithe bodies. There’s no body diversity amongst the parts of these bodies that are identifiably ‘human’; there’s no body positivity of any sort. It’s “skinny hot girls with some tentacle appendages” and that’s just … well, like Paige said—bottom of the heap. It’s honestly super disappointing, and I can’t say I’d give this book a glance past this cover.
Tia: What monsters? Over half the people in this shot are human. We’re left with Generic Tentacle Girl, Staple of Hentai, and the mantis, who has some bug-ish elements going on, but they’re not sharp and chitin-like enough to really read as bug.
Louis: I’ve never been a massive fan of humanoids who straddle the line between human and alien so broadly that you can’t quite tell the difference. In that sense, this cover isn’t pushing the boundaries much—the praying mantis is the only real monster here, and something else has multiple beefy arms. But aside from that, the rest of the characters are very human-passing women. I’m quite annoyed that pretty much all the characters are thin—would it hurt to have a little body diversity in comics?
Space Bandits #4, written by Mark Millar, was released on October 2, 2019 from Image Comics.