Marvel has been paying attention to their fans who have been wanting more racial and gender diversity in their comics. We’ve already gotten the Afro-Latino Miles Morales, Sam Wilson as Captain America, and the Latin-American LGBT teen America Chavez. Now it looks like Tony Stark is going to be replaced as Iron Man, and his replacement is a 15-year-old black girl named Riri Williams.
Riri Williams was created by writer Brian Michael Bendis, who is currently writing The Invincible Iron Man in which the character makes her debut. It’s no surprise that Bendis is the one who introduced her, given that he has created a number of new characters within the last several years, including Miles Morales.
If you’re not currently reading any of the current Marvel continuity, be aware of spoiler warnings.
As part of the Civil War II story, Bendis killed Tony Stark’s best friend, James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine. If anybody was going to be replacing Tony as Iron Man, surely it would have been Rhodey, but that is no longer possible. Instead, the 15-year-old MIT student, Riri Williams — who builds her own Iron Man suit in the comfort of her dorm room — is being set up to replace Tony.
Bendis did an interview with Times, where he went into more detail about the decision to introduce Riri Williams, what lead up to that, and what it all means moving forward.
“This story of this brilliant, young woman whose life was marred by tragedy that could have easily ended her life — just random street violence — and went off to college was very inspiring to me. I thought that was the most modern version of a superhero or superheroine story I had ever heard.”
Bendis reveals that Stark is already aware of Williams and what she is doing in her dorm room. Tony is very aware of her intelligence, with Bendis adding that Riri might be just a bit smarter than Stark is and may be interested in recruiting her in some capacity.
Signs that Tony will be stepping away from the superhero life are already being set in motion.
“His best friend died, his company is collapsing and he’s finding out who his biological parents were all at the same time,” Bendis said.
The writer promises that the two will meet face to face and begin interacting with one another soon.
The inclusion of Riri Williams into the Marvel universe is another sign that the comics industry is doing their best to move away from what their characters typically look like — white men. There still seems to be a section of the fans that aren’t too thrilled about all of these changes and may even find them annoying. Bendis says he is used to this and that those complaints have actually started to die down more and more.
“Some of the comments online, I don’t think people even realize how racist they sound. I’m not saying if you criticize you’re a racist, but if someone writes, ‘Why do we need Riri Williams we already have Miles?’ that’s a weird thing to say.”
It’s a question that many people will echo. There are others, like Brian Michael Bendis, who would argue that you’re allowed to have more than one person of color existing in any given property.
“Once Miles hit, and Kamala Khan hit and female Thor hit — there was a part of an audience crawling through the desert looking for an oasis when it came to representation,” Bendis continued, “and now that it’s here, you’ll go online and be greeted with this wave of love.”
Riri Williams will star in the relaunched The Invincible Iron Man No. 1, which will be written by Brian Bendis and drawn by artist Stefano Caselli.
[Image via Marvel Comics]