Is this how people really see Black women? The Riri Williams story
By Simret Aklilu
When Marvel Comics announced that its next character to continue the iron man legacy would be a Black, MIT engineering student named Riri Williams, the minority community was beyond elated. But when the much-anticipated comic book arrived, what followed was a wave of criticisms concerning the cover’s sexualized features attributed to young, black 15-year-old girl.
In an interview with Wired, writer Brian Michael Bendis said the series would recount the story of a girl who fashioned another version of Tony Stark’s iron man suit in her dorm room, and will be known as Ironheart.
Although there are positive features to the picture by J. Scott Campbell – Riri’s afro and brown skin – the negative features that stand out to people are the crop top that accentuate her chest area as well as her stance on the cover.
This would have been less of an issue if Riri had been illustrated teenager- more specifically a 15-year-old girl-and not a full-grown woman. This also connects back to the sexualization of black women in other platforms dating back decades. The mere existence of this type of cover reinforces the image of Black women that women have worked so hard to change.
Fans took to various social media platforms-most notably Twitter- in criticism of the cover trending with the hashtag #TeensThatLookLikeTeens and attaching with it a plethora of pictures depicting age-appropriate black teenagers.
“Is this how people see 15-year-old black girls? I keep seeing these cover variants for Riri Williams and maybe [in] two or three she has looked 15,” wrote one fan with the Twitter panhandle @Steph_I_Will.
Amid all the backlash regarding the cover, Campbell took to Twitter, but did not apologize outright.
“The decision today is unfortunate,”said Campbell in a tweet. “Simply attempted to draw a young, sassy coming of age young woman. But I don’t blame Midtown or Marvel.”
Merely two minutes later, he went on to refer to the situation as a “faux controversy.” Ultimately, Marvel pulled the cover and eventually produced a variant- more conservative-image of the character.
The new Invincible Iron Man #1 debuts this month and will be available for purchase.