Most anyone who has been a comic book fan since the 1990s has at least heard of Jeff Scott Campbell and seen his work. Known for his original works Danger Girl and Gen13, Campbell has used his unique style to great effect and acclaim within the industry. He is now regarded as one of the premier variant cover artists in the entire comic book realm. Although he regularly creates cover art for DC, Zenescope, and other publishers, his best known and most recognizable work is without question on The Amazing Spider-Man book covers. Campbell’s style, which is described as being inspired by the Disney princesses of classic animated films, has always been a massive hit with his fans. But, on-brand with current year, he has detractors roaming the halls of social media. The last few years have seen regular attacks on the artist himself or indirectly by criticizing his work. Obviously, critiquing art comes with the territory and the space in which comic artists willfully subject themselves by putting their work in a public space. However, the nature of the criticism towards J. Scott Campbell’s work is never a matter of a body part looking out of place, or eyes being cross, forehead being the size of Texas, etc. Instead, the complaints are centered around how these people accuse him of hyper-sexualizing his females.
There’s no denying that Campbell’s female art is sexy – exceedingly so, in fact. But that’s the entire point. Sexy sells. You may not like it, but you can’t deny it – and in fact, you can look at raw sales data for comic books in which the characters are drawn in an idealized and attractive manner and those that aren’t and see a clear difference. The latest attempt to take shots at the artist comes in the form of another artist’s “fixes” of one of his most famous and beloved pieces. The cover was for The Amazing Spider-Man #601 and featured Peter’s love, Mary Jane Watson, sitting on a couch and looking over her shoulder out the window as she watches her man swing off to save the day. MJ bears a somber look on her visage, with Peter leaving her company to be once again the friendly neighborhood hero that New York City needs.
Is MJ drawn wearing destroyed jeans and sitting in a sexy position? Yes. Is her cleavage showing through her tight, Spidey logo-emblazoned shirt? Also yes. Mary Jane Watson, from Jump Street, was always meant to be sexy. She’s the classic girl-next-door and a bombshell and, as such, possesses all of the hallmarks of that trope: sexiest girl in school, future model, actress, and with the hourglass figure to back it all up. But, as we all know by now, our virtuous superiors on social media have to take everything good and turn it into sewage. Case in point here is the “fix” that was done to Campbell’s masterpiece, and one of the accounts who hail this as a moral victory over the sexist and toxic fans of appealing comic book characters the world over – all hail St. White Knight!
I just spent several hours, HOURS, arguing with a handful of misogynistic fans, one or two of whom changed their stances, and an OP who was tailoring each of his responses, about this J. Scott Campbell stuff. A thread- pic.twitter.com/xZl8vDKuWx
— Kevin Norman (@kevnorm81) May 4, 2021
Campbell is known for his devil-may-care attitude on Twitter and takes no flak from anyone. This is evidenced in his chiding responses anytime this sort of stuff rolls around. He has gone to great lengths to describe his inspirations for his work, including classic Disney Princesses and his own lovely wife – which I find particularly adorable and endearing – who is a fantastic artist in her own right.
👨🏻🎨 The FIX is in! pic.twitter.com/cPFGjzCDDL
— J. Scott Campbell♠️🎨 (@JScottCampbell) May 4, 2021
You know, if I get just one more Twitter lecture about anatomy or how artwork needs to be “photo-real” and “body positive” from another person with an Anime profile pic, I’m going to go out of my mind! Anime is exactly the same exaggeration kids
— J. Scott Campbell♠️🎨 (@JScottCampbell) May 6, 2021
The more you know… 🌈✨⭐️ pic.twitter.com/q7JdGCwwiy
— J. Scott Campbell♠️🎨 (@JScottCampbell) May 6, 2021
To reiterate, all art is subject to critique – that is the space into which you have ventured. However, accusing Campbell of “hyper-sexualization” in his work is not only an invalid criticism here, but it’s also outright incorrect, and the supposed “fix” of the piece is laughable in its own execution to boot. These Tumblrite weirdos will scream, “Where are her organs!?” and complain about characters’ body proportions, and then this is their idea of an improvement. Evidently, removing a woman’s femininity by way of flattening her curves and making her sit like a frump instead of how the character is known is considered “fixing” her. Pardon this toxic male for making such an assumption, but omitting a woman’s femininity and power of sex appeal and proselytizing that as an improvement seems kind of… sexist. But, of course, we, the fans, who support this content with our wallets and have been for decades are clearly the problem here, and my love for this work is evidence of my toxic misogyny, and I ought to be ashamed of myself. Perhaps I should start stanning for Captain Marvel and disingenuously white-knight on Twitter. Maybe I’ll drink a Coca-Cola to help rid the world of my whiteness while I’m at it.
I’m absolutely joking. The Toddfather said it best: “Make it sexy.” Keep doing your thing, Campbell.