And she looks nothing like Tony Stark
Disney, Marvel, and Robert Downey Jr. can keep squabbling over how long, and for how much money, he will continue to play Tony Stark in the comic giant’s sprawling cinematic universe. On Wednesday, we got some great news about who will be taking over the iron suit on comic book pages. Her name is Riri Williams, and she is a 15-year-old MIT student who happens to be black.
Time revealed the news in an exclusive interview with super star comics writer Brian Michael Bendis, who explains, “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.”
And this isn’t Bendis’ first rodeo when it comes to reframing an iconic comic book hero. He’s the writer responsible for putting Miles Morales, a young boy who is half African American and half Puerto Rican, in the Spider-Man suit. He’s also the one that brought us Jessica Jones. (Bendis created the comic and wrote for the Netflix adaptation as well.)
The writer rather tepidly addressed the issue of racist backlash to Riri Williams succeeding a white man by saying, “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.” When, really, he can state his case for the character, advocate for progressive thinking and tell racists they’re full of garbage at the same time—but Bendis is clearly working in the right direction, so we’re good with him.
And getting back to the new character, the hallmark of Williams will be her intellect, as it should be with anyone destined to follow in the metal boot steps of a genius like Tony Stark. Bendis says of his latest creation, “This young woman is flying by him in terms of how quickly she’s doing it. Her brain is maybe a little better than his. She looks at things from a different perspective that makes the armor unique.”
A different perspective? You don’t say. Print comics are getting more and more of that a little faster than their big screen counterparts. In 2014, Marvel debuted female Thor around the same time as Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American girl who now suits up as Ms. Marvel. It also introduced Isaiah Bradley, the first black Captain America. Meanwhile, we’re still a year out from our first female-lead superhero movie in Wonder Woman, and Marvel opted to go with Spidey incarnation Peter Parker once again instead of tapping Morales to join the Avengers and reboot a stand-alone franchise for the third time.
But while the screen keeps letting us down, we can still sit with the comics, and get to know our brand new Iron Woman (official name pending). And like Bendis told 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.”