There’s a new Iron Man coming to comic books — and it’s not a man.
A black female character is taking over the suit from Tony Stark, Time is reporting. Riri Williams “is a science genius who enrolls in MIT at the age of 15” and “comes to the attention of Tony when she builds her own Iron Man suit in her dorm,” according to the magazine.
“Iron Man” writer Brian Michael Bendis told Time the inspiration for Williams came from his time spent working a few years ago on a television show in Chicago. The show did not end up airing, he said, because of the amount of violent content.
“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,” Bendis said. “I thought that was the most modern version of a superhero or superheroine story I had ever heard. And I sat with it for awhile until I had the right character and the right place.”
Speculation that Williams was coming started a few months ago with her appearance in Invincible Iron Man Vol 2 #7.
Bendis acknowledged that some fans have been less than receptive to the new character.
“Some of the comments online, I don’t think people even realize how racist they sound,” he said. “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 [Morales, a black and Hispanic Spider-Man]?’ that’s a weird thing to say.”
Marvel is well known for mixing things up when it comes to diversity, at least recently.
In just the past few years, the comic company has, in addition to Williams and Morales, introduced a female Thor, an African-American Captain America and a Muslim Ms. Marvel.
Bendis said he sees the evolution of Iron Man as a natural progression.
“I think what’s most important is that the character is created in an organic setting,” he said. “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.”