J. Scott Campbell Creates the Awesome Riri Williams Art We Wish He Would’ve Created in the First Place
Media and art are important. If they weren’t, there wouldn’t be such a rush to defend their right to exist, or to criticize work that is perceived as potentially harmful. A couple of weeks ago, I had some stuff to say about J. Scott Campbell’s Invincible Iron Man Midtown Comics variant cover starring Riri Williams, which I discussed in the “potentially harmful” category. Today, it seems that Campbell has used the time since the cover was pulled to think about alternatives and has created what is, in my opinion, a superior piece of artwork.
Campbell debuted the above new piece, titled “Riri Rethink,” on his Facebook page last night. Now, this is not in any way an official piece of Marvel art. According to a comment left on the piece, Campbell says he ” Just did it to do it,” so this isn’t a new cover. However, inspired by the new interior artwork that has been released, Campbell offered a new take on Riri that highlights her ingenuity and her innocence.
I love that her face actually looks like the face of a young girl. Gone are Campbell’s trademark “come-hither” eyes, and they’ve been replaced with an open, fresh-faced optimism. I love how she’s cradling her armor, the way a kid would hold a beloved toy, except that this toy happens to be Iron Man armor that’d be worth jillions of dollars that she created in her room, because she’s a freaking genius. But what really gets me are the leggings and the sneakers. I love those sneakers—so much—and the tiny details like the bits and pieces of metal, including an arm, strewn around her, or the earbuds she’s wearing are a nice touch.
This is exactly the kind of variant I wish he’d created in the first place, and I’m so glad he’s created it now. While this isn’t an official piece for Marvel, Campbell joked to a fan in his Facebook comments that “If the people’s demands made the other one go away, I suppose they could also demand this one into existence.” That’s very, very true. It’s not just important for us to make our voices heard when we don’t like something. It’s equally important for us to support the work we do. I’m only one person, and we’re only one website, but if it means anything, this piece has my vote, and I’d love to see it as a cover of some sort somewhere down the line. I’d definitely love to see it in color!
Campbell’s rethink of Riri goes to show the awesomeness that can happen when artists are willing to step outside their usual and tread into less-familiar territory. Campbell’s talent was never in question. The thing that bugged a lot of people was that he took what had become his usual, trademark (and to many, stale) cheesecake, which was often a problem to begin with as it seemed to become the only way he knew how to draw women, and imposed it on a 15-year-old black female character without thinking about the implications. It was a question of decision-making, not of artistic competence. The uproar over that cover seems to have given Campbell a reason to give it another go, and he managed to produce something pretty damn wonderful.
And while I’m still not thrilled that his initial response to the criticism was to “sit out” the “SJW whine-fest,” I will gladly give credit where credit is due. This is awesome new work.
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