Meet the new Iron Man: a black female teenager

In upcoming issues of Marvel comic books, Tony Stark will no longer be sporting the suit – MIT student Riri Williams will be taking on the world-famous superhero title.

Marvel Entertainment/AP
This image released by Marvel Entertainment shows the cover of 'Invincible Ironman #1,' featuring the character Riri Williams, a science genius, who will replace Tony Stark in the superhero role.

Forget what you thought you knew about the Marvel superhero Iron Man, a role inhabited in the ultra-successful films by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). 

In the world of the comic books, a female black teenager will reportedly be inhabiting the suit, with Riri Williams, an Massachusetts Institute of Technology student, taking on the title.

The move echoes Marvel's rendering of Thor as a female superhero, having a Muslim teenage girl take on the mantle of the superhero Ms. Marvel, and making one incarnation of Spider-Man be Miles Morales, a half-black, half-Latino teenager. 

As comic book fans know, changes to characters sometimes take place in other universes, resulting in complicated scenarios, but Miles, for one, has been added to the main Marvel stories after initially debuting in a different narrative.

Brian Michael Bendis, a writer for Marvel, said of Marvel’s evolution with these characters in an interview with Time Magazine, “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. It just wasn’t where the world was at at that time. Now, when you have a young woman come up to you at a signing and say how happy she is to be represented in his universe, you know you’re moving in the right direction.”

Mr. Bendis said he has been seeing a more positive reaction to these changes.

“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,” he said of initial criticism. “But increasingly we see less and less of that. Once Miles hit, and [Ms. Marvel] 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.”

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