Marvel has introduced a new Iron Man: Riri Williams, a genius M.I.T. student who is female and black.
Writer Brian Michael Bendis discussed the new comic book character’s impact on the Invincible Iron Man series in an interview with TIME.
“One of the things that stuck with me when I was working in Chicago a couple of years ago on a TV show that didn’t end up airing was the amount of chaos and violence,” Bendis said of developing the new character. “And this story of this brilliant, young woman whose life was marred by tragedy that could have easily ended her life — just random street violence — and went off to college was very inspiring to me. I thought that was the most modern version of a superhero or superheroine story I had ever heard.”
Williams is a science genius who enrolled at M.I.T. when she’s just 15 years old, before quickly gaining Stark’s attention after she builds her own Iron Man suit from the comfort of her dorm.
Since the unveiling, there’s already been backlash, but reminds fans to realize it’s a new day and age.
“Some of the comments online, I don’t think people even realize how racist they sound,” Bendis said. “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.”
And for those thinking this may spoil Civil War II, Marvel confirms that announcing Stark’s exit as Iron Man “doesn’t mean you know the end” of Civil War II.