Marvel pulls cover with 'sexualised' 15-year-old superhero after backlash

Ben Arnold
Contributor
Pulled… cover is canned by Marvel after criticisms over sexualisation – Credit: Marvel

Marvel has canned one its ‘Invincible Iron Man’ covers after a backlash from fans, who have accused the comicbook publisher of sexualising its 15-year-old hero.

The comic, released on Wednesday, features Riri Williams on the cover, wearing a cropped tank top showing off her midriff and a noticeably large chest, and tight, low-cut jeans.

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Williams’ character, a genius MIT student, was announced as a replacement for Tony Stark as Iron Man – using the name Ironheart – earlier this year.

But artist J. Scott Campbell has become the subject of severe criticism, not only for the attire of the superheroine, but also for Williams appearing to have lighter skin than in previous comics.


Teresa Jusino at The Mary Sue wrote a scathing take-down, in a piece entitled ‘Dear Marvel: Stop Sexualizing Female Teenage Characters Like Riri Williams. Love, Everyone’.

“It’s as though they decided a teenage girl’s face was fine, but let’s attach a more grown-up body to that face, because she’s not a true female superhero until you can imagine having sex with her,” she said.

“The sexualization of female heroes in general is a wider concern, but it’s even more acute when the character being sexualized is a young girl. It takes all the arguments about ‘Oh, but it’s just fantasy!’ and throws them out the window. Because if depictions like this are allowed, that means ‘fantasies’ include 15-year-old-girls. That is not okay.”

Campbell, who says that he based his drawing of Williams on the 14-year-old Disney actress Skai Jackson, was unrepentant after being hauled up for the artwork on Twitter.



Now the hashtag #teensthatlookliketeens has emerged in protest at the cover.

Perhaps hoping to quell the furore, Marvel later released other artwork of the character looking considerably more demure.