An ‘Iron Man’ Cover Is The Latest Example Of Why Pinup Artists Shouldn’t Draw Teenagers

UPDATE 10/20/16 4:15PM EDT

Midtown Comics has pulled the Invincible Iron Man #1 variant cover by J. Scott Williams of Riri Williams out of her Ironheart armor. A quick peek at Midtown Comics site show the variant with a bold “DO NOT USE (Item Canceled)” declaration. Marvel representatives confirmed to me the choice to pull the cover was a joint decision from Marvel and Midtown Comics. The Campbell variant of Williams in her superhero suit remains available for pre-order.


As you may know, things are looking pretty dire for Iron Man in Marvel Comics. The playboy billionaire is missing in action during the Civil War II event. Stepping into Tony Stark’s shoes are a variety of characters, including Doctor Doom (I know, right?) and a brand-new hero named Riri Williams. Known as Ironheart, the fifteen-year-old supergenius reverse-engineered one of Tony’s suits to make her own armor. Riri will even get her own comic — Invincible Iron Man — starting this November.

What were you doing at fifteen?

But then, Marvel had to go and muck it up already. You see, when a new comic series is released — especially one with as much hype and name-recognition as Iron Man — Issue #1 is inundated with variant covers. For comic book collectors, it’s like Pokémon. You gotta catch ‘em all. And some covers are pretty rare. In the case of Invincible Iron Man #1, Marvel gave two exclusive variant covers to Midtown Comics in NYC. Which makes them the shiny Pidgey of variants. This is fine. What’s not so fine? Pin-up artist J. Scott Campbell was hired to draw them.

Image Credit: Marvel Entertainment

Fun fact: The standard cover for Invincible Iron Man #1 is $3.99. Campbell’s variant of Williams in armor is $10.00. In a crop top? $15.00.

Image Credit: Marvel Entertainment

Let me be frank. This is gross. I have a 15-year-old. They are caught in the hellscape that is transitioning from a child to an adult. It is gangly and awkward and full of rightful angst over this strange metamorphosis. But as grown-up as they feel, a 15-year-old is not an adult. They are children. (Sorry, son). Both legally and emotionally. Riri Williams is a child. So why hire J. Scott Campbell, known for his pin-up work, to draw her? Campbell has some beautiful work in his portfolio, but this was not the time or place for his style. Even as a variant cover, sexualizing a young teenage girl is not a good look.

But it is a look comics seem comfortable with. Don’t believe me? Just take a look Kate Bishop, who was still a teenager at the time of this cover.

Image Credit: Marvel Entertainment

Or this New 52 portrayal of the teenaged Cassie Sandsmark aka Wonder Girl.

Image Credit: DC Comics

Or this variant cover an extremely naked and underage Supergirl.

Image Credit: DC Comics

Or this unsettling version of the Power Puff Girls.

Image Credit: IDW Publishing

Or..well, you get the point.

For a long time, and some would argue still to this day, the assumed demographic for comic books were straight male readers. Following that train of logic, comics assumed said demographic was there for stories and cheesecake. Over the last few years, things have changed in the market, with 46% of comic fans being women. The industry has struggled to catch up with the new world order, which is how you get blunders like the Milo Manara Spiderwoman cover. Shockingly, women don’t respond well to comics aimed at them but still reduce their heroes to wank material. But there is a difference in an awkward and unnecessary sexualization of Spiderwoman and that of Ironheart. That difference being one is an adult human, and one is a child.

Yes, it has been a Sisyphean task trying to undo decades of ingrained artistic concepts such as painted-on costumes and Escher poses. Yet things are getting better. Marvel has Kamala Khan and DC Comics has the new Power Girl. Spiderwoman’s costume has been updated, Spider-Gwen and Silk are in full coverage. Even Starfire is rocking sleeves these days.

Not that there’s anything wrong with some cheesecake (and I wouldn’t say no to more beefcake, hint hint). One of my favorite series, DC’s Bombshells, is based entirely on a line of 1940s pin-up statues of iconic DC heroines. But like the dessert it’s named after, cheesecake should be consumed sparingly, lest it make you nauseous. And it should definitely not include any underaged ingredients.

I’m not the only one that feels this way. Since the cover was revealed, Comics Twitter has been aflame with conversation. Tee Vixen Franklin started the hashtag #TeensThatLookLikeTeens in response to the hyper-sexualization of Ironheart. I pointed out the character is based on a Disney Channel star that is only 14. The artist himself — J. Scott Campbell — weight in to say he wouldn’t be weighing in and The Outhousers took him to task for it. And, of course, BlackGirlNerds brought down the hammer on how WOC are portrayed in media.

The only one who doesn’t seem to have something to say? Marvel.