Iron Man is one of Marvel Comic’s most popular and central characters, with genius billionaire Tony Stark manning the super suit for decades. The name of the hero might have to change as a Black girl will take over Stark’s hardware in a move that will surely change the Marvel Universe forever.
Riri Williams, a teenage genius who enrolls into MIT at the age of 15, impresses Stark after she builds her own super suit. It is the latest head-turning development in the sprawling Marvel universe, which already shifted gears by making Thor a woman after being a man since the character’s creation and other genre-twisting moves.
In an exclusive interview with TIME, creator and writer Brian Michael Bendis explained the impetus behind his story change and what it means for the comic franchise.
TIME: How did you come up with the character of Riri Williams?
Bendis: 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.
What have we seen of her so far in the Iron Man comics?
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. He’s aware of her immediately.
What’s been the reception of the character so far (before this announcement)?
Thankfully because of my involvement in the creation of Miles Morales and Jessica Jones and some other characters, it’s getting the benefit of the doubt from even the most surly fans. There are fans who say, “Show us the new stuff,” and then there are fans who say, “Don’t do anything different from when I was a kid.” So when you’re introducing new characters, you’re always going to have people getting paranoid about us ruining their childhood.
Response to the news has been positive, and even those surly fans will surely come around as they did with the introduction of Miles Morales, a Hispanic teen who becomes Spider-Man, and other such changes.
Black Girl Magic strikes again.
What are your thoughts on RiRi Williams as the new Iron Man? Sound off in the comments.