We already praised DC's movie-themed variant covers last week, and it feels safe to say there's plenty of great work on show here from Dave Johnson, Bill Sienkiewicz, Marco D'Alphonso et al; this is a variant month that justifies its existence through excellence.

But I want to draw particular attention to just one cover, which I think deserves special recognition for oustanding achievement in its field. I refer, of course, to Emanuela Lupacchino's cover for Justice League #40 in the style of a poster for the 2010 Steven Soderbergh movie Magic Mike, which re-imagines the Justice League boys as oiled-up strippers.


Emanuela Lupacchino
Emanuela Lupacchino


I'm not singling out this cover for solely prurient reasons -- though I do of course appreciate it on a prurient level -- but because it's a stark rarity. Here is an often stodgy publisher explicitly presenting its male superheroes as sex objects, in a direct and deliberate concession to the audience that enjoys that sort of thing, on the cover of a comic.

This almost never happens. I've mentioned before that the muscles on male heroes are not equivalent to the curves on female heroes. Male muscles are typically presented as a power fantasy; female curves are typically presented as a sex fantasy. Both fantasies are targeted at the same presumed-straight male reader.

Female power and male sexuality are rare, incidental, and sometimes accidental by-products of typical superhero fiction, and even when publishers do try to balance the scales, they often don't know how to do it well. In Marvel's notorious Swimsuit Specials, which theoretically offered beefcake alongside the cheesecake, few of the artists doing male pin-ups really aced the assignment -- Joe Quesada's 'sexy' Namor still haunts my nightmares.




But in this instance, male muscle is presented as sexual. The stripper motif tells us these men are presenting themselves for a presumed female audience. They're not going to throw punches or lift collapsing I-beams. They're going to gyrate and thrust and tear their pants away. This is simply not something fuddy-duddy DC does with Batman and Superman. That's treating them like... like... Wonder Woman!

Not that DC is wholly averse to fan-service for the boys and girls who like boys; Tim Seeley and Mikel Janin's Grayson is full of this sort of eye-candy, and is notable for being exceptional in this regard. But even Grayson hasn't thus far extended its remit as far as bare-chested beefcake on the cover. (A Phil Jimenez variant cover came close, but was still more of a sultry candid than a full serving of beef.)

As I've mentioned before, Marvel editor Tom Brevoort told Tumblr back in August that people who enjoy superhero beefcake online won't "seek it out and pay money for it" on variant covers. I'll be curious to know what the demand is like for Lupacchino's cover. I would certainly buy the poster.

Here, for comparison's sake, is the Magic Mike image taken from a German Blu-ray cover. You will note that the movie is "Fun, hot und sexy!"




Pleasingly, the Justice League boys are actually wearing less than the Magic Mike strippers. Gotta showcase those logos.

Superman and Channing Tatum are strange bedfellows (you're welcome for the mental image), but there's a precedent; Tatum actually played the Man of Steel in The LEGO Movie. Matthew McConaughey as Batman is even more perplexing, especially in this role; but Batman could probably use some naked bongo time. But Matt Bomer should definitely play Hal Jordan in the Green Lantern movie reboot. Which should be about John Stewart.

On a related note, it should not go unnoticed that this is a very white crew of strippers -- but that's sadly representative of both the Justice League and Magic Mike, and maybe baby oil interferes with Cyborg's circuitry.

One more time, side-by-side;




Fun, hot, und sexy indeed.

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