- Guy who wants to fund the border wall has privately raised $7 million Thursday 8:41 PM
- Mortal Kombat 11 trailer delights fans with gory fatalities, new characters Thursday 5:46 PM
- What you need to know about the data breach involving 773 email addresses Thursday 5:13 PM
- Senators fear government shutdown may affect FTC investigation of Facebook Thursday 3:43 PM
- Buy beer for a furloughed government worker with this new website Thursday 3:19 PM
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is teaching Congress how to tweet Thursday 2:42 PM
- Congressmen held genetics meeting with Chuck Johnson, despite his past racist claims about genetics Thursday 2:26 PM
- Female bodyguard thriller ‘Close’ is disappointingly un-thrilling Thursday 2:01 PM
- Twitter faces backlash for insensitive ‘triggers’ joke Thursday 1:13 PM
- 10 user-recommended sites for live tarot readings that are almost too good to be true Thursday 12:08 PM
- AsapSCIENCE comes for Jake Paul over Mystery Brand scam Thursday 11:34 AM
- Why ‘I never thought of it like that’ can actually be deeply offensive Thursday 11:26 AM
- Save 40% on the Fire TV Stick 4K when you rent textbooks through Amazon Thursday 11:05 AM
- Netflix reportedly used real disaster footage in ‘Bird Box’ Thursday 10:53 AM
- Holocaust denier Chuck Johnson spotted with 2 congressmen in Capitol Thursday 10:30 AM
New ‘Iron Man’ cover criticized for sexualizing its underage hero
Fifteen-year-old MIT student Riri Williams is the new Iron Man, but her depiction is already inspiring backlash.
Fans were excited about this development, with one caveat: Riri’s character design. There was already some criticism of her portrayal on her introductory cover, but things really came to a head this week, with J. Scott Campbell’s variant cover for Invincible Iron Man #1.
Invincible Iron Man #1
The cover was immediately criticized as an unrealistic and sexualized depiction of a 15-year-old, an opinion that artist J. Scott Campbell characterized as “SJW” (social justice warrior) “whining,” in a tweet to writer/artist Erik Larsen. Later, he tweeted that all he did was give Riri a “sassy attitude” on the variant cover.
Larsen’s argument, that fans are “bodyshaming” Riri by criticizing Campbell’s art, doesn’t really make sense. They’re not belittling the body or fashion choices of a real person, they’re discussing the portrayal of a fictional girl, drawn by a man.
The Riri art controversy ties into several overlapping issues, beginning with the ongoing problem of inappropriately sexualized images of women and girls in superhero comics. Along with criticisms of Riri’s pose and anatomy, some fans say her outfit is unrealistic for a teen in 2016. Basically, a lot of artists are still drawing a trend for crop tops and low-rise pants that went out of style in 2003, following a style of pinup art from the late ’90s and early 2000s.
you wouldn’t draw the majority of your charactes with flip phones, so for the love of god stop drawing them in low-rise flares
— Claire Hummel (@shoomlah) October 19, 2016
In addition to the issue of sexualizing an underage character, Riri’s mature appearance—both in the variant cover and the original—plays into the idea that white people see black children as older than they actually are. This has serious, real-world consequences, and brings us to the matter of Invincible Iron Man‘s creative team.
Like Invincible Iron Man‘s writer and lead artist, J. Scott Campbell is a white man, making Riri Williams another casualty Marvel’s ongoing struggle to hire women and people of color in creative roles.
With characters like Riri, Kamala Khan, and Miles Morales, Marvel revitalized its lineup of top-tier superheroes. But while these characters make headlines and attract new readers, fans and industry professionals often criticize the publisher for failing to hire a similarly diverse creative staff. (Khan is a notable exception, with Muslim American writer G. Willow Wilson and editor Sana Amanat behind the popular Ms. Marvel comics.) If a comic like Invincible Iron Man has an all-white, all-male creative team, it may miss certain cultural nuances that readers find tone-deaf or offensive—which is exactly what happened here.
In response to the controversy, Campbell defended his variant cover by retweeting support and compliments from fans, and pointing out that Riri’s outfit corresponds with her original character design.
Marvel has heavily promoted Riri Williams as part of an effort to diversify its pool of high-profile characters and expand its audience. Unfortunately, this variant cover controversy is exactly the kind of thing that inspires distrust among the very readers who want to see more characters like Riri on the page.
Update 3:59pm CT: Marvel representatives confirmed to HitFix that it and Midtown Comics made the joint decision to cancel the controversial variant cover.
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested.