Since 1963, the person in the red and gold Iron Man suit has been Tony Stark, but that will change soon. Marvel announced on July 6 that Riri Williams, a brand new black teen character, will replace Stark in the comics. Like Stark, she’s a scientific genius and she’s the latest minority to take up a major role in the Marvel universe. The character was created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Stefano Caselli.
Here’s what you need to know about the new Iron Man.
1. Riki Is a Student at M.I.T. & Only 15 Years Old
Riki is only 15, but she’s already a student at M.I.T. Tony is already aware of her, too. Bendis told Time Magazine that Tony learns about a student who figured out how to reverse-engineer the Iron Man armor.
“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,” Bendis said. “He’s aware of her immediately.”
2. Bendis Got the Idea From a TV Show He Was Working on in Chicago
In his Time interview, Bendis said that the image of a girl who dealt with street violence every day but still persevered and went to college stuck with him. It was part of a TV show he was working on in Chicago that never aired.
“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,” he said.
Riri ends up building her own Iron Man armor, which sparks Tony’s interest. “One of the things Tony does to distract himself from all the things going on in his life is he goes to find this young woman who is flying around the middle of America in an armor that’s not completely made to try to find out what her deal is,” Bendis explained to Time.
3. She Will Take Over For Tony After ‘Civil War II’
The new ongoing Marvel Comics Universe event is Civil War II and Iron Man’s main series is Invincible Iron Man, which is up to #11 already. Riri already appeared in the series and Marvel says that she will “explode out of Civil War II and into the boots of the Armored Avenger.”
Invincible Iron Man will re-start at #1 in the fall, with Riri as the new Iron Man.
“Tony is also a master at not paying attention to the thing that’s most important and distracting himself with Avengers stuff,” Bendis told Time. “How that all shakes out such that Tony is no longer in the armor? 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.”
4. Marvel Is Revamping the Avengers to Make Them More Diverse
Over the past couple of years, Marvel has been working hard to diversify its characters. Sam Wilson, better known as The Falcon, took over as Captain America when Steve Rogers lost his powers. Thor became a woman, with Jane Foster carrying Mjolnir. Bendis was also the creator of Miles Morales, who was Spider-Man in the Ultimate Marvel universe and later added to the main Marvel continuity.
In his Time interview, Bendis said that older creators have told him that they wish they had added more diversity to the Avengers.
“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,” Bendis said. “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.”
5. Bendis Plays a Major Role in Shaping the Marvel Universe
Bendis is prolific and writes several other Marvel titles that are still running. He’s writing the main Civil War II books, International Iron-Man, Spider-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy. In other words, he has a big part in shaping the director of Marvel Comics’ most popular characters.
In an interview with comic Book Resources, Bendis said that his Spider-Man run was building things up for Civil War II, especially since Miles has to pick a side int he new fight. He also said that he agreed with how great it is that fans are figuring out that two Spider-Men or two Captain Americas can exist. For example, Marvel is still publishing a series with Sam Wilson as Cap, while a series with Steve Rodgers as Cap just started.
“No one is ruining your thing. You’re just getting both things now, and both things are awesome. These books should be for any one who wants them,” Bendis told CBR.