Marvel Pulls Controversial Variant Cover that Sexualized the 15-Year-Old Ironheart
Riri Williams is 15 years old. Unfortunately, it seems some comic artists have never laid eyes on a young teenager... pic.twitter.com/hUxKhaGbxc— Donna The Dead (@MildlyAmused) October 19, 2016
Marvel has been under fire for several days after releasing a variant cover for the next issue of Ironheart, drawn by artist J. Scott Campbell. While the visual depiction of Riri has been refreshingly realistic so far, the variant gives her a much more sexualized, adult figure. Now, we're not only forced to say "come on, no woman looks like that," but also "seriously, NO fifteen-year-old looks like that!"
Some have argued that the cover is acceptable because Campbell is known for his pinup-style art, but that's all the more reason Marvel shouldn't have hired him to draw a young teenager. Plus, no particular visual style would help explain why her skin is noticeably lightened:
Update: Just realized the variant also lightens Riri's skin tone so even MORE wtfuckery. pic.twitter.com/zwTnS6gEvg— Donna The Dead (@MildlyAmused) October 19, 2016
There are so many things wrong with this. Women are sexualized far too often in comics as it is, which clearly results from the outdated assumption that only straight men are reading comics (in actuality, women represented 47% of comics readers as of 2014). Sexualizing an underage girl is obviously inappropriate on a whole nother level, but even if Riri weren't underage, the cover represents a pervasive problem in comics. And lightening her skin for a pinup cover is just plain indefensible, as it reinforces the stereotype that lighter skin is more conventionally attractive.
Luckily, Marvel quickly pulled the cover after a social media uproar (which wasn't assuaged by Campbell's insensitive reaction, to say the least). Invincible Iron Man writer Brian Michael Bendis said he was "very glad they were not moving forward with the cover" on his Tumblr:
I am certain the next version will be amazing.
He then shared a few pages from the actual comic, which look much more encouraging:
See, Marvel? THAT'S what a 15-year-old girl looks like.