Iron Man to relaunch with Riri Williams behind the armor

Such as with life, the one certainty of comic books is change. When comic creators upgraded the format from serial comic strips to full books in the 1930’s, there was a zero-percent chance that any of the creators had any idea that their creations would last the test of time, much less from week to week.

Often times, early comic offices had dozens of writers being paid by the page, meaning the more that was pumped out, the more shekels the overworked writers left with.

Another thing about all of the people behind the scenes creating those iconic characters? All white dudes creating mythologized white dudes for a market of smaller white dudes. Like all creative enterprises envisioned in a time when segregation was embarrassingly common, it took the comics industry decades to change this, and they moved at a snail’s pace. Even when superheroes of color started to appear in the 1960’s, the industry seemingly struggled to not literally put the word “Black” in the character’s name. See: Black Panther, Black Talon, Black Racer, Black Vulcan, Black Lightning, etc. And a little bonus fun fact: Marvel’s newest movie character, Black Panther, was initially named “Coal Panther” by creator Jack Kirby, who also helped create Captain America and the X-Men, among others.

This is a long-winded way of saying that over the last decade or so, the comic book industry has been attempting to atone for the mistakes of its forefathers. One of the first major instances of this was the 2011 introduction of Miles Morales, a Black Hispanic teenager, taking over the mantle of Spider-Man for Peter Parker in the “Ultimate Spider-man” series. Of course, an uproar was created solely by those who missed the idea of Spider-Man looking exclusively like them.

Five years on from that historic moment, comic characters are more diverse than they’ve ever been and it’s an amazing thing to see. The most unbelievable thing about the new Pakistani-American Ms. Marvel is that a superhero could be born in New Jersey (I kid). Just last year, Korean-American Amadeus Cho became the first non-Banner Incredible Hulk in the character’s history. Joining their ranks today is Tony Stark’s replacement at the helm of the Iron Man suit: 15-year old black woman Riri Williams. Obviously, there are storyline reasons behind the change: Marvel’s big “Civil War II” storyline is raging on, and in an interview with Time Magazine, creator Brian Michael Bendis stated that although the storyline has months to go, Tony Stark will be giving up the mantle of Iron Man by storyline’s end. In the continuity, Williams is a kid genius who is accepted to MIT at an early age. In her college dorm room, she reverse engineers an Iron Man suit of similar quality to some of Stark’s earlier designs. Needless to say, she pops up on Tony Stark’s radar pretty quickly. Outside of the usual stupid Twitter sentiments like “Garsh, in my day Iron Man was an Iron MAN, man!” and “I don’t care what you say, dangnabbit, if he doesn’t look like Robert Downey, Jr. I’m out!” reception to the change has been warm. Of course, we won’t know for sure how this will all play out until “Civil War II” wraps up in the fall. Maybe in the meantime, we could get some people of color to actually write for these new multi-ethnic characters? Just a thought.


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Kevin Stairiker is a features writer for Fly. He is a graduate of Temple University and enjoys writing in third person. When he isn't writing, he's probably playing guitar for a litany of bands, reading comics or providing well-needed muscle at The Double Deuce.

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