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Just a few weeks ago, Marvel revealed that Tony Stark won’t be the man in the iron mask anymore, and that a new character, Riri Williams, will be taking over as the Golden Avenger. Today, in an exclusive with WIRED, Marvel has revealed that when she takes over the mantle of Iron Man, Williams will go by the name Ironheart.
Created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato Jr, Riri Williams is a 15 year-old scientific genius who first caught Tony Stark’s attention by fashioning a make-shift version of Iron Man’s armor in her dorm room at MIT. While the circumstances of Stark’s leaving the role of Iron Man have yet to be revealed, Marvel has announced that Williams is taking over the mantle when “Invincible Iron Man” relaunches with a new #1 this fall. But today is the first time Marvel has spoken about what Williams’ title will be.
In the WIRED piece, Bendis had this to say about the naming of Williams’ alter ego:
Iron Woman seemed old fashioned to some, Iron Maiden looked like a legal nightmare. And Ironheart, coined by [Marvel Chief Creative Officer] 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.
The WIRED article also stated that the Artificial Intelligence that supports Irqonheart’s armor will be modelled on Tony Stark’s personality, so the original Iron Man will very much remain Ironheart’s mentor.
The announcement that Tony Stark would be replaced by a young African-American character sparked, as these things always do, much debate on the Internet. Following Marvel’s decisions to install an African-American version of Captain America, a female Thor and an Asian-America version of the Hulk, some fans bemoaned what they saw as the casting aside of tried and true characters for the sake of political correctness. It’s possible that one of the reasons Marvel isn’t talking about for their naming of Williams as Ironheart stems from the oft-heard complaint that if Marvel wants to have a more diverse group of characters, they should simply create new ones rather than replacing popular characters with other versions.
But just as many fans are happy to see Marvel’s line of characters more accurately reflecting the world around them, and happy to see Marvel actively trying to diversify, especially in placing the spotlight on these characters by putting them in starring roles. This move has also raised healthy debate about the lack of diversity among comic creators, a discussion that needs to be kept at the forefront in order to see any change happen, and to see fresh new voices brought into comics.
In any case, moving Tony Stark out of the spotlight for a time to feature a new character is a bold move for Marvel, and the proof of whether it will be successful or not will, as always, be in the success of the stories themselves.