Takeshi Miyazawa's description of the cultural snafu, which I've just now (that the whole thing's died down a bit) had a chance to read thoroughly, tells me much more than I want to know about Marvel's art policy (Emphasis mine):
I drew the previous cover to Heroes for Hire and was asked to choose at least two girls out of the cast and draw them as sexy as possible so, naturally, I did.If there is one thing that everyone should take away from this, its that using "sexy" as the defining trait for a character (and seriously, if that's all that is matter that a character be drawn as in the cover, that's a "defining trait") is a stupid idea.
Edited to clarify: This interview is from an artist who drew a previous cover, relayed the instructions he got, and described what probably happened with issue #13. I quoted him because I felt the art instructions he repeated were extremely important and the whole point of Miyazawa's post was that by Japanese standards, that cover was attractive so I didn't want to get into the cultural differences of what's sexy and what's creepy, but instead wanted to point out what Marvel was telling their cover artists to do.
If the phrases "strong, aggressive, brave, or heroic" were used instead of just "sexy" there may have been a very different cover, but we can only conclude from the end result that none of those words were important enough to be used when communicating with the artist from another culture who had never seen the characters before.
So who lost sight of the idea that these were 3 kickass women, Joe?