In a TIME magazine exclusive, Marvel has announced a new character that is replacing Tony Stark in the Iron Man comic book series. Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis said super-industrialist Stark is passing down his Iron Man suit to a 15-year-old black girl named Riri Williams. She is described as a science genius enrolled at MIT who impressed Stark after building her own Iron Man suit in her dorm room. The inspiration for Riri, according to Bendis, comes from a real woman who survived a life filled with violence and tragedy to go on to college. Bendis said that is the modern version of a real superhero. “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,” the Marvel writer said. Reception for Riri is certainly split between those who perceive this move as a forced social justice agenda, while others welcome the new direction. Bendis addressed this issue:
“Some of the comments online, I don’t think people even realize how racist they sound. 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 [Morales]?’ 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.
“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.”
Bendis told TIME that this doesn’t mean he’s given away the ending to the future installment, Civil War II, but did infer that the path for Riri will be created in that story line in preparation for Stark to hand over his duties as Iron Man to this young lady and ultimately rename the classic character to reflect its new gender.