Throughout Iron Man’s 48-year run in the Marvel Comics, one name has been synonymous with the character, Tony Stark. Over the past eight years, the character has been more popular than ever, thanks to Robert Downey’s portrayal of him in three Iron Man movies, two Avengers movies and this summer’s Captain America: Civil War. History will be made later this year at the end of Marvel’s new Civil War II comic book arc, where it has been revealed that a young African-American female named Riri Williams will take Tony Stark’s place as the new Iron Man.
Time recently spoke with Marvel Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis, who revealed that Tony Stark discovers Riri Williams after she enrolls at MIT at the age of 15, and built her own Iron Man replica suit in her dorm room. The writer, who created the character with artist Stefano Caselli, revealed that he was inspired to create this character after seeing all of the chaos around him while working in Chicago a few years back. Here’s what he had to say below.
“One of the things that stuck with me when I was working in Chicago a couple of years ago on a TV show that didn’t end up airing was the amount of chaos and violence. And 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. 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. 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.”
While this announcement may come as a surprise to some, Marvel Comics have announced a number of radical changes over the past few months. Last year, Marvel revealed that Jane Foster would take over as the new Thor, and this year, Marvel unveiled a massive twist for the Captain America comics, that Steve Rogers has been a Hydra agent all along (though that was all a ruse). Brian Michael Bendis, who has created diverse characters like Miles Morales, Jessica Jones, Maria Hill, had this to say about fan reactions from some of these characters in the past.
“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.”
Brian Michael Bendis also stressed to comic book fans that this reveal does not mean that they necessarily know how the Civil War II comic will end. He did however tease how Tony Stark and Riri Williams first meet, which will happen “very shortly” in the comics. Here’s what he had to say below.
“One of the things Tony does to distract himself from all the things going on in his life is he goes to find this young woman who is flying around the middle of America in an armor that’s not completely made to try to find out what her deal is. You imagine that Tony has Iron Man armor on his Google Alerts. He’s also aware that 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. He can’t help but go maybe I should buy her out.”
Of course, it remains to be seen how this comic book development, like all of the previous major changes, will affect the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. There have been rumors that Iron Man 4 may actually happen with Ty Simpkins, Robert Downey Jr.’s young co-star from Iron Man 3, taking over as the new Iron Man in the MCU, but that has yet to be confirmed. While we wait for more on these Iron Man comic book developments, take a look at the artwork from Invincible Iron Man, offering our first look at Riri Williams.