Artist Calls Marvel Out for Altering Artwork of Asian Characters’ Eyes

Greg Smallwood says Marvel editorial made edits to his artwork without permission in the name of “best representation of Asian characters.”

Artist Greg Smallwood (Moon Knight, The Human Target) criticized Marvel for changing multiple panels of his artwork — largely depicting the eyes of Asian characters — for an upcoming issue of Elektra: Black, White & Blood.

“Sad to say that, without my approval, Marvel attempted to ‘fix’ several panels of my art in issue two of Elektra: Black, White, & Blood before sending it to the printers,” Smallwood wrote alongside an image of his original art and the alterations made by Marvel’s editorial bullpen. “They’re not huge changes but I really don’t like my art being tampered with.”

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In a series of follow-up tweets, Smallwood explained that Marvel’s Standards & Practices department flagged his artwork and asked him to redraw it “within tolerance for best representation of Asian characters.” When Smallwood was unable to comply due to the birth of his second child and offered to pull the story instead, his editors said that they would change the pages internally. Objecting to others altering his work, Smallwood found the time to send in new art, but later discovered that his revisions were ignored.

The internal changes made by Marvel staff appear to be hasty redraws in an effort to make the eyes of several Asian characters appear larger. One instance of female nudity was also covered up, resulting in a “muddied mess,” Smallwood said.

Following Smallwood’s tweets, Marvel editor of Daredevil, Devil’s Reign and Venom Devin Lewis responded by saying the company would “own the mistake.” Lewis also stressed that Marvel had already been in communication with Smallwood about utilizing his revised art in the digital version of the comic.

CBR has confirmed that Marvel will use the updated artwork in all digital and future collections, but will not be recalling or reprinting the issue.

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A number of comic professionals chimed in to respond to Smallwood’s tweets, arguing that his editors were in the wrong for the changes. Jen Bartel (Blackbird, Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman) — who is of Korean and Japanese descent — pointed out that whatever the original editorial intentions, the edits made Smallwood’s work “look uncomfortably close to a series of racial stereotypes.”

“… The end product is actually really upsetting and counterproductive from an ‘Asian sensitivity’ perspective,” Bartel wrote. “Sad. For those who aren’t aware, there is a long history of Asians having our eyes described as ‘suspicious,’ ‘untrustworthy,’ etc –literally resulting in the invention of a Eurocentric double eyelid surgery that was then forced upon wounded Korean soldiers by American surgeons.Whoever flagged and adjusted Greg’s art needs an extended history lesson because it’s clear they do not understand what it means to have ‘sensitivity’ around Asian representation.”

Elektra: Black White & Blood is an anthology series featuring stories in a limited color palette that delve into the life of the famous assassin Elektra Natchios, who has currently assumed the Daredevil identity as the so-called “woman without fear.” Issue #1 was released in January, and Issue #2 is set to hit comic book shops on Feb. 23.

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Source: Twitter (1, two, 3)

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