Riri Williams will be taking over for Tony Stark as Iron Man
Another of the comics old guard is getting ready to hang up his armor and make way for some diversity in the superhero workplace.
At the end of the current Marvel comic event story arc CIVIL WAR II, Tony Stark will step out of the Iron Man suit with African-American teenager Riri Williams taking his place. Right now Riri has already been introduced as a 15-year-old science genius already enrolled at MIT. In fact, she is on Tony Stark's radar as it is, having reverse-engineered one of his old armor suits all by herself in her dorm room.
Brian Michael Bendis, who certainly has solid comic credibility behind him, is the creator of Riri Williams, and, as he explained to Time, we've been down this road before and things have been just fine.
Thankfully because of my involvement in the creation of Miles Morales and Jessica Jones and some other characters, it’s getting the benefit of the doubt from even the most surly fans. There are fans who say, “Show us the new stuff,” and then there are fans who say, “Don’t do anything different from when I was a kid.” So when you’re introducing new characters, you’re always going to have people getting paranoid about us ruining their childhood.
I’ve been down this road with Miles Morales, Jessica Jones, Maria Hill. I knew I was in good hands with Mike Deodato and other artists who are helping visualize Riri.
He also had a few choice words for those detractors that see this as some sort of assault on the comics they've always known and have nothing but negative ideas about something they haven't even had the chance to read yet, based on their suface-level observations.
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. They’re individuals just like Captain America and Cyclops are individuals. All I can do is state my case for the character, and maybe they’ll realize over time that that’s not the most progressive thinking.
But increasingly we see less and less of that. 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, and now that it’s here, you’ll go online and be greeted with this wave of love.
I think what’s most important is that the character is created in an organic setting. We never had a meeting saying, “we need to create this character.” It’s inspired by the world around me and not seeing that represented enough in popular culture.
However, one of the most important points Bendis makes as to why these changes are being made is due to the world around us. We are a much more diverse culture now - much more accepting of other races and religions and sexual preferences and gender identities than we ever have before. And while we still often hear terrible stories of people insistent on discriminating others on those grounds, we have made a great deal of progress just in the last few years to make those occurrences fewer and farther between. There isn't just one group of people for stories to be catered to anymore. Everything isn't just for white guys anymore. There's a larger audience out there chomping at the bit for something that represents them, and now they're getting it.
Talking to any of the older creators, it’s the thing they said they wish they’d done more of—reflecting the world around them. It just wasn’t where the world was at at that time. Now, when you have a young woman come up to you at a signing and say how happy she is to be represented in his universe, you know you’re moving in the right direction.
It's easy to ask why don't they just make new characters that are black or Latino or female instead of using the guise of already established characters to do so... but that would be forgetting the fact that the comics industry is still a business. And, as we've seen in Hollywood, it's the brands, the familiar IPs, the franchises that dominate the landscape, while the "original content" we all claim to want so badly is having a tough time getting off the ground and finding an audience to support them. Therefore, if Marvel is going to use the brand advantage of Thor or Spider-Man or Iron Man to introduce these characters and give them a headstart at success, then so be it. That's the way the game is right now.
Riri Williams won't be keeping the Iron Man name, and will eventually find the right monikker for her once she settles into the role. But interesting things continue to happen over at Marvel Comics... and the sky hasn't yet fallen once.
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