When we first heard Marvel’s New Iron Man was going to be a black woman we were thrilled. The comic book franchise named Riri Williams a 15-year-old science genius enrolled at MIT, its newest character, and this was the artwork depicting her.
Brown skin and a big natural ‘fro? We were all for it!
Fast forward three months and the latest image of Riri has fans clutching their pearls and vocalizing a number of complaints.
The contrast between the two images is stark, starting with the character’s noticeably lighter skin and tamed mane, though the complaint that’s been most vocalized is the sexualization of the character who, remember, is supposed to be a teen — a 15-year-old teen.
The latest cover was drawn by J. Scott Campbell and sparked the hashtag #TeensThatLookLikeTeens to expose just how far off the artist’s interpretation of a teen superhero is — not to mention the difference between the first image we saw of Riri — though Campbell clearly doesn’t get it. Rather than hear fans’ concerns, he got defensive about the backlash, asking whether the character he drew is THAT different from the original?
— J. Scott Campbell (@JScottCampbell) October 19, 2016
The answer of course was yes and led women to share pics of other teen comic book characters that actually look like teens and not grown a– women.
Is this how people see 15 year old black girls? I keep seeing these cover variants for Riri Williams and maybe 2 or 3 she has looked 15. pic.twitter.com/zlCGJ1maFt
— MistyKnightsTwistOut (@Steph_I_Will) October 19, 2016
Marvel heard the concern and actually recalled Campbell’s cover which adds to Black Twitter’s list of wins this year. But as Movie Pilot pointed out, while highlighting a number of other misses when it comes to the depiction of female superheros, the issue lies with Marvel and their decision to commission such artists. And considering the “world’s attention is on this book,” the brand “can’t afford foolish mistakes.” Sadly, they’ve already committed a major one. Let’s hope they get the imagery right the next time around.