bendis

Exclusive: Marvel’s New Iron Man Is a Black Woman

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Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis talks the creation of Riri Williams, who will take over for Tony Stark

There’s a new Iron Man. Well, Iron Man for now. She’s still working on the name. The events at the end of the comic book event series Civil War II will result in Tony Stark stepping out of the Iron Man suit and a new character, Riri Williams, taking over, Marvel tells TIME. (Note: Tony’s departure doesn’t mean you know the end to Civil War II yet.)

Riri is a science genius who enrolls in MIT at the age of 15. She comes to the attention of Tony when she builds her own Iron Man suit in her dorm. Creator and Iron Man writer Brian Michael Bendis spoke exclusively to TIME about the creation of Riri Williams with book artist Stefano Caselli and Marvel’s increasingly diverse cast of characters.

TIME: How did you come up with the character of Riri Williams?

Bendis: 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. 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. And I sat with it for awhile until I had the right character and the right place.

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.

What have we seen of her so far in the Iron Man comics?

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. He’s aware of her immediately.

What’s been the reception of the character so far (before this announcement)?

Thankfully because of my involvement in the creation of Miles Morales and Jessica Jones and some other characters, it’s getting the benefit of the doubt from even the most surly fans. There are fans who say, “Show us the new stuff,” and then there are fans who say, “Don’t do anything different from when I was a kid.” So when you’re introducing new characters, you’re always going to have people getting paranoid about us ruining their childhood.

I’ve been down this road with Miles Morales, Jessica Jones, Maria Hill. I knew I was in good hands with Mike Deodato and other artists who are helping visualize Riri.

Marvel Comics’ diverse new cast has stirred some controversy among a subset of fans.

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?” 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.

But increasingly we see less and less of that. Once Miles hit, and Kamala Khan hit and female Thor hit—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.

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.

Why did it take so long to turn the Avengers from a team of mostly white dudes into a more diverse array of characters?

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. 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.

I don’t want to spoil anything for fans—

More people are going to be upset that they think they know the ending to Civil War II now than anything we just talked about. But I can tell you just because we’re hearing what we’re saying doesn’t know you mean how Civil War II ends. We’re not telling you the end, at all.

What led Tony Stark to a place where he’s stepping out of the suit?

We’re in the middle of a very big Tony Stark storyline—actually three storylines converging. His best friend died, his company is collapsing and he’s finding out who his biological parents were all at the same time. That’s stressful for a character who is wired the way Tony is wired and has dependency issues the way Tony does.

Tony is also a master at not paying attention to the thing that’s most important and distracting himself with Avengers stuff. 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.

How do they meet?

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.

It’s hard to subtly fly around in Iron Man armor.

You imagine that Tony has Iron Man armor on his Google Alerts.

He’s also aware that this young woman is flying by him in terms of how quickly she’s doing it. Her brain is maybe a little better than his. She looks at things from a different perspective that makes the armor unique. He can’t help but go maybe I should buy her out.

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Exclusive: Marvel’s New Iron Man Will Be Known As…Ironheart!

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Last month we learned that Tony Stark would be stepping down as Iron Man, and bequeathing his role to Riri Williams, a young science prodigy who had fashioned her own version of Starks’s Iron Man suit. Now, in a WIRED exclusive, Marvel has revealed that when Williams officially steps into the role this November, she’ll be known as Ironheart.

Writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Stefano Caselli have teamed up to create Ironheart’s beginning in this fall’s Invincible Iron Man #1. While Williams and Stark have recently met in the current run of Invincible Iron Man, the new volume will serve as the official transition into Riri’s Stark-sanctioned heroism.

The new character name, Bendis says, came out of a group discussion with editors.“Iron Woman seemed old fashioned to some,” he says. “Iron Maiden looked like a legal nightmare. And Ironheart, coined by Joe Quesada, after I told him my planned story for Riri, speaks not only to the soul of the character but to the Iron Man franchise as a whole. Tony first put on the armor to save his heart. Riri puts it on for different reasons altogether but still heart-related. When people see her story, you’ll be amazed at how simple and brilliant Joe’s suggestion was.”

Williams, who enrolled at MIT at 15, reverse-engineered a suit of power armor in her dorm room—but that doesn’t mean Stark won’t be part of the Iron Man ethos: Riri’s in-armor A.I. will based on Tony’s own personality. “Regardless of where he might be physically,” says Tom Breevort, who’s editing the series, “he’ll be soaring along with her spiritually.”

Ironheart is yet another signal—along with Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales as Spider-Man, Jane Foster as the new Thor, and Amadeus Cho as the Hulk—that Marvel is moving toward a more inclusive universe. And as with so many of those mantle-passings, the original announcement that an African-American woman would replace Tony Stark led to a backlash from the Internet’s comment sectioneers, as well as a separate conversation about the importance of who’s actually telling the stories. But for most, Williams taking the suit has been a celebration. As Bendis told Time earlier this year, “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.”

Either way, the cover art of Williams in her suit—along with its variant cover above, depicting Williams admiring her own handiwork—looks great. Now we’ll just have to wait and see if Bendis can tell an Ironheart story as great as the ones he’s given Tony Stark over the years.

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Preview: All New X-Men 30
B
endis & Picheli
Cover by Stuart Immonen

The energy in the club is strong, as Laura is able to move by instinct, as the music plays. She has already claimed Warren from other females.

Look at her expression as she saves him. She is exhilarated, and having fun. Then he gets the chance to return the favor.

I think these two could be very good for each other. She can save him from the darkness growing inside, and he can bring her back from the edge. The look they share, as they wake up with those deep eyes for each other is powerful.

I hope Betsy makes an appearance in the next 6 months.

I am going to miss Stuart, but Sara is going to fit right in.

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“In preparation for AKA Jessica Jones’ debut on Netflix, Marvel Comics will reprint the classic comic title that inspired the series: Alias. The publisher will reprint Brian Michael Bendis’ seminal take on Jessica Jones in a new series of trade paperbacks, complete with new covers by original series cover artist David Mack”
http://comicbook.com/…/ahead-of-aka-jessica-jones-alias-re…/

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The X-Men are going to the Ultimate Universe. The cover also makes a great call back to Uncanny X-Men 139

ALL-NEW X-MEN #32
BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS (W) • MAHMUD ASRAR (A)
Cover by SARA PICHELLI
• Dimension-hopping is something of an X-Men rite of passage and it’s about time the All-New X-Men took the plunge!
• I guess you don’t always have to travel Miles away to visit a new place…
• But will the web they find themselves tangled in Ultimately bring about their end?
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #3

BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS (W) • DAVID MARQUEZ (A/C)

Variant Cover by Steve Epting

• Tony is chasing the evil Madame Masque as her actions threaten to rip all of reality apart! But it is WHO Tony is teaming up with to do this that will have everyone talking.

• And a real good look at exactly what Iron Man’s new armor does…and it is something!

32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

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I mean, look at me. I’m a mess.

“Interviewing the Avengers” from Avengers #13 (Vol. 4)
by brianmichaelbendis, Bachalo, Townsend, Mendoza, Vey & Faucher