Tony Stark is set to hang up his high-powered Iron Man super-suit in an upcoming comic book, and the man replacing him isn’t a man at all.
In an interview with Time, Marvel Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis revealed that Riri Williams, a 15-year-old black woman who builds an Iron Man suit in her M.I.T. dorm room and catches Stark’s attention, will officially take over the Iron Man mantle in the upcoming series Invincible Iron Man.
“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,” Bendis told Time of how Stark meets Williams in the new series.
Bendis also revealed that Stark has already heard about his soon-to-be protégée in the current Iron Man series.
“In the latest issue of Iron Man, Tony is in a lab talking to himself, and he’s already aware that there’s some student at M.I.T. that’s reverse-engineered one of his old armors all by herself in her dorm room,” Bendis explained. “He’s aware of her immediately.”
Marvel Comics has slowly introduced a new roster of diverse characters over the past two years who have taken over for traditionally white male superheroes.
Original Spider-man Peter Parker handed over his web-slinging suit to black Latino teenager Miles Morales in a new comic series last year (though he is to remain white and straight in the films, according to Marvel guidelines leaked in last year’s Sony hack), while the Norse god Thor was changed into a woman in 2014.
Other diverse new comic book heroes include Ms. Marvel, a Muslim teenager, and a black Captain America.
News of the updated Iron Man was greeted with mixed reaction on social media, where some supporters of the changes lamented the fact that the new character would still be written predominantly by white men.
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
Marvel Comics: "Iron Man as a black woman would be dope."
Black Woman: "I would love to write —"
Marvel: "We have white people for that."
— Ira Madison III (@ira) July 6, 2016
Invincible Iron Man #1 is written by Bendis and illustrated by artist Stefano Caselli. The new series is due out later this year.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum