There’s a new hero steeping into Tony Stark’s armour as Iron Man, and it’s safe to say that she’s a little bit different.
15-year-old MIT student Riri Williams – the creation of veteran comics writer Brian Michael Bendis – is set to take over from the original hero at some point soon in Marvel’s ongoing attempts to make its comic book universe more diverse.
“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,” Bendis told Time. “It just wasn’t where the world was at at that time.”
However, in recent years that has started to change, with a female version of Thor, a black Captain America and Muslim hero Ms Marvel all joining the superhero ranks, alongside Bendis’ own creation Miles Morales, a young mixed-race version of Spider-Man.
“Now, when you have a young woman come up to you at a signing and say how happy she is to be represented in this universe, you know you’re moving in the right direction,” Bendis said.
However, not all the reaction has been positive, with some fans complaining that Riri’s inclusion is tokenism and taking something away from the longstanding character of Tony Stark (played by Robert Downey Jr in the Marvel Cinematic Universe).
“Some of the comments online, I don’t think people even realise how racist they sound,” Bendis said.
“I’m not saying if you criticise 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 realise over time that that’s not the most progressive thinking.”
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Hopefully, when comic-book Iron Man steps down for whatever reason they’ll find reason to love her just as much as the original, even though Tony’s absence from the suit is bound not to last long. This is the world of comics, after all – while it may be progressing in some ways, it's still a fact that no-one stays dead or retired for long.