Comic book readers will soon learn more about the person who will take over for Tony Stark as Iron Man in the Marvel comics. Suiting up next: Riri Williams, a Black science genius who enrolled at MIT when she was 15 years old, TIME reports.
In the series, Williams catches Tony Stark's eye after she builds her own Iron Man suit in a dorm room. But before heading off to pursue a higher education, the teen makes a different kind of impression closer to home.
"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," Invincible Iron Man writer Brian Michael Bendis, who created the Williams character along with artist Stefano Caselli, told TIME. "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."
And the right place was reminiscent of one of America's largest cities. Bendis says he was inspired to create the character after working in Chicago on a television show for a couple years and being deeply affected by the amount of chaos and violence in the city.
Having been previously involved with the introduction of other diverse characters including Miles Morales (a half-Black, half-Latino teenager who becomes Spider-man) and Jessica Jones, Bendis says he has some idea of what to expect from the public.
"Some of the comments online, I don’t think people even realize how racist they sound," he 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."
Still, Bendis is hopeful that creating more diverse characters will someday help shift the conversation and inspire people to be more "progressive" in their views.
"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," he added. "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."
Book readers can expect Riri Williams to show up near the end of the Civil War II event series, but Bendis says that her introduction does not spoil how the series will end for Tony Stark.
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