Last month a J. Scott Campbell variant cover for Marvel's Invincible Iron Man featuring Riri Williams caused a tremendous amount of discussion around how women are portrayed in comics. In this particular case, a Black teenager. But what it also did was highlight how reactions to critiques can say quite a lot.
The variant cover was a Midtown Comics exclusive for the upcoming comic from creative team Brian Michael Bendis and Stefano Caselli. Marvel and Midtown Comics decided jointly to pull the cover, and while Campbell's reaction to critics wasn't great at first, it seems he was taking what fans were saying to heart.
You may recall he did explain later his illustration was rushed:
Sometimes these covers, like this one, are drawn in haste to meet a deadline and you have fly by the seat of your pants and fall back a bit on instinct rather than ultra-careful thought. Perhaps with more time, I could've contemplated another more nuanced approach. I have young daughters and I would not be embarrassed for them to see this cover.
Well, it looks like he has been giving it more thought, so much so he decided to give it another go. Campbell called his new illustration “Riri Redux” (say that three times fast) and posted it to Twitter.
Riri Redux pic.twitter.com/nKHvZ1G8uB
– J. Scott Campbell (@JScottCampbell) November 2, 2016
Fans seem to be overwhelmingly positive in his replies so far and personally I think this is a gorgeous piece of art that captures the personality we saw in Marvel's preview illustrations.
On his Facebook page, Campbell mentioned it's not an official cover. “[But] anything is possible I suppose,” he replied to one commenter. “If the people's demands made the other one go away, I suppose they could also demand this one into existence.” This would make a great variant if Midtown wanted to replace the last one (but Marvel really needs to figure out the coloring side of things when it comes to Riri as she's been depicted several different shades) but regardless, it's nice to see Campbell was listening.
The difference in response to critiques is stark when compared to how others have reacted in the recent past. A very NSFW link here will tell you what I mean.
I first wrote about Milo Manara's now infamous Spider-Woman cover in August of 2014. Marvel hired an erotic artist to illustrate a variant cover aimed at female readers and the result was wildly off the mark for what the book stood for. Frank Cho did his take on the cover in April 2015 using teenaged character Spider-Gwen in an unofficial sketch and has spent almost two years illustrating the same thing over and over with different characters (sometimes even putting a bullet in the head of the fan stand-in). All because he was asked to consider the context of his work.
Like the problem isn”t Frank Cho drawing sexy women it”s the glee he takes in hurting women”s feelings
– tired of old name (@DavidUzumeri) October 31, 2016
You can respond to criticism of your work however you like but being a jerk isn't a good look. Words and actions speak loudly to employers who are hiring. Fans speaking up about things they find problematic or indicative of larger issues that affect them on a daily basis is happening more because they're frustrated that progress isn't happening fast enough. At least some people are finally starting to listen and acknowledge that it's possible not to turn people off from a product if you take the time to consider what you're putting out into the world first. Most people are just trying to do their best every day; they're not trying to be offensive. When you screw up, you can do better next time, or you can show the world you were purposefully trying to cause offense and don't care who you hurt. Which kind of person are you?