The next Iron Man is a 15 year-old black girl

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Iron Man

Looks like a new Iron Man is in town again. Again. Tony Stark hasn’t been the only person to wear the red and gold armour, vacating that spot a couple of times in the past to other people for reasons. The most notable stand-in being James Rhodes, who went on to become War Machine and a hero in his own right. And dead. Civil War II confirmed that even the best technology from Stark Industries wasn’t enough to soften a point-blank punch from Thanos, resulting in Rhodes kicking the bucket and leaving a void in Marvel’s superhero family.

A void that looked like it was going to be filled by 15 year-old super genius Riri Williams. That ain’t happening however, as Tony Stark is going to be taking a sabbatical from the hero scene, leaving Williams to become the next Iron Man. Or Iron Thatcher. That’s the news according to Iron Man writer Brian Michael Bendis, who explained to Time how the events of Civil War II would impact on Stark:

Iron Man

We’re in the middle of a very big Tony Stark storyline—actually three storylines converging. His best friend died, his company is collapsing and he’s finding out who his biological parents were all at the same time. That’s stressful for a character who is wired the way Tony is wired and has dependency issues the way Tony does.

Tony is also a master at not paying attention to the thing that’s most important and distracting himself with Avengers stuff. How that all shakes out such that Tony is no longer in the armour? You’ll have to wait to find out for the end of Civil War II. But it does create a path or Riri Williams, who Tony will know and will be interacting with very shortly in the comics.

Riri isn’t just some random character that popped up out of nowhere. Marvel has been building her up over many months, as a new generation of genius who can easily match IQs with Stark. “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,” Bendis said of Riri.

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Riron Man

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.

Sounds interesting. Naturally, an absolute sh*t-storm has already begun brewing around this news over a fictional character getting a replacement, as Marvel seeks to diversify its cast of heroes to be more than just a white sausage festival. “Some of the comments online, I don’t think people even realize how racist they sound,” Bendis said of recent criticism to Marvel reshaping its cast of heroes.

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.

I’ve got a simpler viewpoint on all this: Fictional characters. Fic-tio-nal cha-rac-ters.

Expect Riri to don her own suit of armour in Iron Man once Civil War II wraps up in a few months.

Last Updated: July 7, 2016

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia's M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

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