In an exclusive interview with Time, creator and Iron Man writer Brian Michael Bendis announced that Tony Stark is stepping down and will be replaced by a Black woman.
Riri Williams is a 15-year-old science genius who enrolls in MIT and gains Stark’s attention after building her own version of the Iron Man suit in her dorm room.
Bendis was inspired to create her character after working on a TV show in Chicago that didn’t end up airing. The story focused on a brilliant young woman who rises above the street violence and tragedy marring her life and goes off to college.
“As we’ve been slowly and hopefully very organically adding all these new characters to the Marvel Universe, it just seemed that sort of violence inspiring a young hero to rise up and act, and using her science acumen, her natural born abilities that are still raw but so ahead of where even Tony Stark was at that age, was very exciting to me.” Bendis tells Time.
Marvel has slowly been diversifying its comic book heroes with the addition of a female Thor and Pakistani-American Ms. Marvel, but there are many who are not happy with the changes.
“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…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.”
Bendis doesn’t spend too much time thinking on negative feedback. Instead, he focuses on the many young women who come up to him at signings and express how happy they are to be represented in Marvel’s universe.
“…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.”
The “Invincible Iron Man” will be launched this fall. View the full interview here.