This is a seriously cool turn of events. In the new Iron Man comics, Tony Starks’ character is going to be replaced by a black girl named Riri. Can we talk about how strong women — especially strong women of color — are seriously lacking in the Marvel world?
— JEFF DEKAL (@jeffdekal) July 6, 2016
In an interview with Time, Iron Man writer Brian Michael Bendis confirmed that Riri is a brilliant 15-year-old MIT prodigy who is brought to the attention of Starks when she “builds her own Iron Man suit in her dorm.”
So, we’ve got a strong woman of color who is math-minded? We almost can’t handle how amazing this is. Let’s not even touch upon how she’s a teen girl, and teen girls are universally disregarded as having invalid opinions, feelings and ideas. The girl built her own Iron Man suit. Can you build an Iron Man suit? Can we hashtag #womenwhocode? There’s got to be some serious computer coding that suit. Riri is everything we ever wanted out of a superhero.
“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,” says Bendis. “I thought that was the most modern version of a superhero or superheroine story I had ever heard.”
Marvel — and the whole comic book world in general — has desperately needed representation of women of color. Riri is everything we could have asked for. Of course, whenever you change up the Marvel universe, there’s some blacklash (and all you guys complaining sound super racist, right now). Benis says there’s less criticism than there used to be, but even though people are opening up their minds to superheroes who aren’t white men, others are not as happy.
“Some of the comments online, I don’t think people even realize how racist they sound,” said Bendis. “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. 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.”
Thank you Marvel for recognizing that old, white men aren’t the only people who can be scientists or superheros. Now, can we get a woman of color on your writing staff to help flesh out Riri’s story? Surely, white dudes aren’t the only ones who can write comics.
I’m happy for all of these Black women leads in Marvel comics, but really wish the publisher would give Black women a chance to write them
— Black Girl Nerds (@BlackGirlNerds) July 6, 2016