Riri Williams, certified genius and 15-year-old, has been garnering a lot of attention lately. As a young black woman whose new series, Invincible Iron Man, will mark her as the successor to billionaire genius and Avenger Tony Stark, that’s hardly a surprise. But new variant covers drawn by J. Scott Campbell for the first edition of Invincible Iron Man have been attracting some extremely negative attention from some fans and bringing key points of comic culture contention into the ring.
Marvel announced in July that Riri would be taking over as Iron Man after the retirement of Tony Stark, who’s feeling understandably out of it after the events of the Civil War II storyline.
Expectedly, there’s been a fair share of racist and sexist backlash over Riri’s upcoming reign, as well as discussions about the importance of having black writers work on stories about black characters. But a new controversy surfaced about cultural perceptions of black women (and, especially, of young black women) when Campbell released a special Midtown Comics variant cover.
Several fan tweets include Campbell’s variant cover, which features 15-year-old Riri in lowriding pants and posed in a way many online are describing as “pin-up” art.
Campbell, who originally tweeted that he wasn’t going to get involved with the controversy, replied with the above tweet, including an image of the original cover used to introduce Riri to Marvel fans, saying: “Hmmm.. This is the character I was asked to draw, people understand that, right? Is it THAT different? #nonconroversy #movealong” (sic).
The Twitter account Black Girl Nerds responded to Campbell’s defense of his work with “You do realize these are valid critiques from both fans and critics right? This deserves your attention.”
Twitter users also pointed out that Campbell’s variant lightens Riri’s skin tone from the original cover.
Finally, the #TeensThatLookLikeTeens hashtag has come to light as a popular response to Campbell’s variant. Many Twitter users are taking to the internet to share their favorite (and personal) pieces of art that show an accurate view of the teenage body, which they show as diverse and far less sexualized.
Invincible Iron Man Issue #1 will be available November 9.