As the events of Civil War II draw to a close, we’re sure to see some big changes in the pages of Marvel Comics. Today we’ve learned about one of the biggest. Tony Stark is about to give up the super hero biz and hand his arc reactor over to a brand new Iron Man, or more accurately, a brand new Iron Lady. Riri Williams, a fifteen year old college student who reverse engineered an Iron Man Suit between classes at M.I.T., will soon come to Stark’s attention and be named his super-successor. In an interview with Time.com, writer Brian Michael Bendis discussed Riri and her origins.”This story of this brilliant, young woman whose life was marred by tragedy… and went off to college was very inspiring to me”, Bendis explained. “I thought that was the most modern version of a superhero or superheroine story I had ever heard.” adding “I sat with it for awhile until I had the right character and the right place.”
In addition to being female, Riri is also African American, making her the latest addition to Marvel’s ever growing roster of diverse heroes. In recent years we’ve seen Miles Morales swing into action as the Ultimate Spider-Man, Amadeus Cho transform into The Totally Awesome Hulk and Thor pass his hammer on to his former love interest; Jane Foster.
This all begs the question, why now? After decades of Marvel being a mostly lily white, middle-aged boys club, why are we seeing the genders, races and ages of our favorite characters getting shaken up? Well for one thing, it is 2016, and it makes sense that Marvel would want the characters in its comics to be a diverse as the people reading them. As Bendis said when talking about Riri, “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.”
Looking at it from this perspective, the changes only seem logical, as the world becomes more progressive so will its comics. But there’s also a chance that things are being sped up by the coming demands of the MCU. With Marvel’s movie division acting as its biggest money maker right now, the comics are like incubation chambers for future films. When a character is altered in the book someone has to be thinking about how it will eventually affect their big screen counterpart. And with Robert Downey Jr. hitting his 50s and demanding bigger and bigger paychecks every time he slips on the Iron Suit, you have to believe they’re starting to think about replacements. Since the MCU’s big selling point is its continuity they lose the ability to recast or reboot the role. But if readers have already fallen in love with a newer, younger Iron Man then finding a replacement should be a whole lot easier.
Could Miles, Amadeus, and Riri be the future of the MCU? Well, after the Infinity Wars wrap in 2019 we will have been though dozens of apocalyptic events with these characters. Returning to smaller, character-driven stories like the original Iron Man with a younger, more diverse cast may be the perfect way to give us a fresh perspective on a world we love so much.