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There was a kerfuffle yesterday! Over this J. Scott Campbell variant cover to Invincible Iron Man #1. The books stars new character Riri Williams, a brilliant 15-year-old mechanical whiz, as the new person in the armor. Now, Campbell is known for drawing sexy women, and while the above cover is pretty mild compared to past Marvel cover missteps (whisper: Spider-Woman), it did present a teen of color in a sexualized light and this did not escape notice and sent comics twitter on an all-hands-on-deck alert. Teresa Jusino at The Mary Sue sums up the problems:

If you want people to stop “overreacting” to things like sexism and racism, here’s a thought: stop allowing sexist and racist things to happen! Kthanks. But not “bye,” because we have some stuff to discuss regarding recent variant covers featuring Riri Williams over at Marvel.

Invincible Iron Man #1, featuring the formal introduction of Riri Williams as Ironheart, doesn’t come out until next month, but she’s already getting lots of attention. Plenty of fans are excited that a female hero of color is getting her own book. That part is thrilling! Not so thrilling? The fact that, despite the character being 15-years-old, Marvel has approved several variant covers that have been drawn by artists that have seemingly never seen an actual 15-year-old girl before. Either that, or they would rather eschew artistic integrity in favor of being able to attach whatever body they like to a pretty face. 

Like I said this was an APB for twitter, esp. considering that designer Mike Deodato based Riri on 14-yr-old actress Skai Jackson.

 

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https://twitter.com/MildlyAmused/status/788839119338299392
On a positive note, the kerfuffle spawned a hashtag, #TeensThatLookLikeTeens
There were also twitter reactions from  Campbell that added fuel to the dumpster such as calling it an “SJW whine fest.”

 

 

I think Darryl Ayo had a nice refutation of this argument:

Campbell also had some more measured responses, such as answering complaints about Ririr’s lighter skin tone:

But really, if you want a Twitter trail of “dad comics attitudes” this is a fine example:

Campbell also admitted that this wasn’t his best ever drawing (pretty obvious), so points for that.

It’s worth pointing out that Campbell just drew the costume Riri came with, but put a bit more emphasis on her chest and groin areas. When Riri Williams was first announced, the main criticism was that a white writer (Bendis) was writing her when Marvel had never hired an African-American woman to write a comics (a situation now rectified with Roxanne Gay,  Yona Harvey and Nilah Magruder). But now her costume is coming under scrutiny for being…out of fashion:

Indeed, kids today don’t wear inguinal ligament baring clothes. Midriffs are in, but only paired with high waisted skirts and pants! Blame Taylor Swift if you want.

Twitter user @helmetwings, a 22 year old artist named Def, presented a little tutorial on drawing teenagers and teen fashion, which seems to cover all the bases if you’re not clear on it. Jeans are OUT people. OUT OUT OUT.

 

And no, we’re not telling J. Scott Campbell how to live or what to draw. People are just talking about what they find appropriate and what they want to buy, and what the subtext is. Midtown Comics probably thinks they can sell more comics with a Campbell cover than without, and they know their customer base. But as Jusino and most other commenters pointed out, its more a question of hiring a girlie artist like Campbell to draw a book with a teen protagonist. I’ve heard from many people that “Marvel” really does not give a crap about all the online criticism of how they handle their characters in light of the representation movement, and I’m sure this relatively minor kerfuffle won’t really sway them, however…people notice these things. Readers notice these things. New comics readers don’t want dad comics. They want their OWN comics.

That said can you imagine what would happen if THIS cover were to come out today?

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I rank the Invincible Iron Man cover kerfuffle as only THREE dumpster files.

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17 COMMENTS

  1. “They want their OWN comics.”

    Well, maybe they could…you know…MAKE THEIR OWN COMICS INSTEAD OF STEALING DAD’S.

    Mike

  2. “New comics readers don’t want dad comics. They want their OWN comics.”

    I’ll gently push back against that notion — there’s not a lot of sales evidence that I can see that this is especially the case? MOON GIRL isn’t exactly setting the market on fire, and where Riri is getting attention is more from that she’s taking over for “Dad”, not that her character is inherently interesting in and of herself? If the comic was called “Ironheart” (that’s her code name, right?) I doubt it would sell half as many copies?

    -B

  3. Well, suction cupped style clothing is this artist’s style and criticism of his cover should be aimed squarely on the editors. He was just doing his job, folks.

  4. “That said can you imagine what would happen if THIS cover were to come out today?”

    At least we’ve gotten away from “tentacle rape.’ So there has been some progress!

  5. The problem is not fashion (seriously?) And it’s not just the depiction of teenagers (though it’s pretty sleazy to sexualize a depiction of an underage girl, and surprising that this is something that needs to be pointed out to grown-ups).

    The problem is the depiction of all women. This is prevalent in most media, but especially in comics. Yes, yes, everyone in comics is exaggerated, yadda, yadda. With few exceptions men are depicted in ways that emphasize strength and power. Women are drawn in ways that emphasize sexuality. And while sexuality is a part of everyone’s personae, that’s how it should be portrayed. A part. Not the driving emphasis of every movement a person makes. Being a force to be reckoned with is a little difficult when you need to be voguing with every step.

  6. 1. It’s not in any way “sexualized”

    2. Until you’re a fictional black teenage girl I don’t think it matters what you think she should be wearing.

    3. The most horrific parts of comics history are littered with bad fashion choices. I have no problem with characters dressing out of fashion because if they were to dress in fashion they would then be out of fashion five minutes later.

    4. As an individual with a younger sister, I absolutely support the idea that teenagers have been known to dress inappropriately and grow large breasts that they then cover with clothing much too small for the task. Furthermore, if said sister was going to strap on a suit of armor and help some people i would say she could wear whatever the hell she wants.

    5. Everybody is over these overly sensitive outbursts which are used as clickbait. You’re overshadowing the positive messages presented in the work by making an issue out of a variant cover that isn’t even offensive. “She’s light-skinned and attractive, let’s burn it down! Rabble rabble!!!” But not “she’s non-white, 15, and a genius.” No, not that. As we all know, it’s fashion and physical attractiveness that are the most important things to talk about. None of this diversity and intelligence nonsense.

    And finally, Lolita is still a literary classic, but a drawing of a teenager in a tank top is sexualization? STFU.

  7. I find it weird that the depiction of an “Iron Man” shows all sorts of exposed skin. Doesn’t that completely defeat the idea? Tony Stark never posed with an exposed midriff.

    The problem is that comics often use sexiness in a completely gratuitous fashion, The women aren’t just sexy – they’re always posing in ridiculous poses and showing off their boobs, even in the middle of a fight. Even if it doesn’t fit at ALL. It’s actually laughable, and a distraction from any actual story.

  8. “The problem is that comics often use sexiness in a completely gratuitous fashion”

    I’m not sure what else you would expect when we’ve primarily got an adult audience reading juvenile subject matter. Of course, I don’t understand the point of the new, non-naked Playboy either.

    Mike

  9. Of course, we live in a comics world where the “perfect” form is used to be attractive and grab attention. My beef is with artists that just seem to be able to draw one type of body over and over again for different people. It seems as though some of them have just learned about anatomy from comic books ( or their imagintion), and never from real ife.

  10. @Get Rir-eal –

    Got any pictures of your big-breasted little sister I can have? Or would she like to pose exactly like this Iron Man cover for me? Don’t worry, I’m only going to sell her pictures in one store in Manhattan. That’s okay in this scenario, right?

    I can’t make any promises about what my customers will do with these sexy pictures of your little sister once they get them home. But that’s okay, because Lolita’s a classic.

    Remember, “Until you’re a (real-life teenage girl) I don’t think it matters what you think she should be wearing.”

  11. No, I don’t have any but they’re plastered all over her facebook page. Google away.

    I don’t think you understood my Lolita reference. The book is still considered a literary classic where an older dude takes advantage of a 12 year old girl. Nobody seems to care about this. Why aren’t there book burning parties for this book? Because it’s a classic. Yet a 15 year old in a crop top and yoga pants on the cover of a comic book results in talk of sexualization. It’s ridiculous. There is actual (fictional) sex with a 12 year old in Lolita vs. a picture of some midriff and tight clothing on a 15 year old which doesn’t even suggest anything sexual. It suggests “i just finished my workout.” I am more disturbed by the content of Lolita than by this comic book cover yet one is heralded as a classic while the other is derided into oblivion. It makes no sense. It’s also an example of the fact that i know what sexual exploitation of minors looks like and this comic book cover ain’t it.

    You might want to see a psychiatrist about your Humbert Humbert-esque desires for my sister, though.

  12. @Get Rir-ril

    You have zero grasp of what Lolita was about. It was meant to turn your stomach as Humbert tries to justify himself from jail, not to say having sex with kids is fine.

    If you want to show that sexy underage teens are an established, acceptable cultural trope, do some more homework, rather than just name drop a ‘classic’.

  13. I am confident in my grasp of Lolita, thanks. I understand it’s not a pro-statutory-rape novel. The author used a 12 year old as a sexual object. Folks on this site claim J. Scott Campbell used Riri as a sexual object. Juxtaposing these two ideas illustrates the absurd notion that Riri is being sexualized on this cover. It doesn’t matter how you feel about Humbert Humbert because he’s irrelevant in this comparison. If you had paid attention to what i was saying, you might have figured that out. Maybe your homework should consist of being able to comprehend what you read instead of reading into things you don’t comprehend.

  14. “New comics readers don’t want dad comics. They want their OWN comics.”

    Well, maybe they could…you know…MAKE THEIR OWN COMICS INSTEAD OF STEALING DAD’S.
    Mike

    #ThisComment

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