A young black woman is going to be the new Iron Man in the Marvel Comics universe, the company announced today. It’s the latest in a series of creative changes that have brought some much-needed diversity to the traditionally white comics world, but the company is still have trouble with diversity in another, major way.
RiRi Williams, a 15-year-old super genius who got into MIT early and created her own Iron Man suit in her dorm, will take over the role traditionally held by Tony Stark, a white, billionaire, genius playboy. She’s a fairly new character, having just been introduced this March in the seventh issue of “Invincible Iron Man,” but it seems she’s poised for greater things.
It’s unclear how she’s going to take over the Iron Man empire (it’s unclear if RiRi’s going to change the name) or what will to happen to Tony. Maybe he’s the one who is going to die in the “Civil War II” series.
The new Iron Man is the latest major shakeup in the Marvel Universe.
In the past few years, we’ve gotten a half black, half Latino Spider-Man, female Thor, black Captain America, gay Iceman, and Pakistani-American Miss Marvel. Most of the original white heroes are still major players, but their official mantles have been passed to a much more diverse next generation.
This is a big deal, because diversity has been sorely lacking in the comics world, especially because most of the biggest characters in mainstream superhero comics were created in the 1960s — or even earlier.
“There was a part of an audience crawling through the desert looking for an oasis when it came to representation,” Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis told “Time.”
While it’s great that Marvel is really committing to diversifying their cast of characters (and solicitations for upcoming comics suggest that they’re going to continue to be very visible and important) the company is still struggling with diversity on another front.
Bendis, the writer who created RiRi and will writer for her in the series, is a white man. As are most of Marvel’s writers.
White men can, of course, write diverse characters and do them justice. Bendis has written characters like this in the past, and should get some credit for that. But Bendis is writing four other books for Marvel right now, and most of the rest of the creative staff is white. We’re getting a diverse cast of characters, but not a diverse cast of creators — or voices.
Several fans have already noticed this sad discrepancy.
I’m happy for all of these Black women leads in Marvel comics, but really wish the publisher would give Black women a chance to write them
— Black Girl Nerds (@BlackGirlNerds) July 6, 2016
It’s not all bad. “Miss Marvel” is written by G. Willow Wilson, an American Muslim, and Ta-Nehisi Coates is writing the ongoing “Black Panther” series, to name a few. However, minority creators remain just that — a minority. Who knows what types of stories they could bring to the table, or what new characters we’re missing out on?
Marvel’s trying. Good for them. They just need to do better on making their writers and artists look more like their increasingly diverse comics universe.
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