Although the Marvel Cinematic Universe has stayed mostly static with its character portrayals over the years — Tony Stark is still Iron Man, Thor is still Thor, Steve Rogers is Captain America, etc. — its comic book source material has often changed up who exactly is wearing each superhero suit (in 2015, Thor was replaced by a woman in the rebooted “Thor” series, and other incarnations of Cap have seen his shield wielded by other MCU vets, most recently The Falcon). Marvel’s comic book arm is doing just that again, and this time, it might have actual repercussions for the MCU.
TIME reports that the end of the comic book event series “Civil War II” will see a brand new Iron Man taking over, as Tony Stark will be stepping away and ceding his duties to a brand new character: Riri Williams, a “science genius” who builds her own Iron Man suit from the comfort of her MIT dorm room after reverse-engineering one of Tony’s old suits. Oh, and she’s also a black woman.
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“Iron Man” writer and Brian Michael Bendis spoke to the outlet about the new character, her creation and how she will fit into the wide world of Marvel.
Bendis said, “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.”
The writer is also hopeful about the reception Riri will get from fans, telling TIME, “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…when you’re introducing new characters, you’re always going to have people getting paranoid about us ruining their childhood.”
Still, Bendis is aware of possible backlash. After all, he’s been through it before. He explained, “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.”
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MCU star Robert Downey Jr. has been a little reticent on putting a final end date on his run as Tony Stark — he told the Daily Star in April that he intends to stay on as Iron Man for “a couple more years,” and he’s expected to star in two more “Avengers” films and make an appearance in 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and a possible fourth “Iron Man” film is constantly being chattered about — but he can’t play the superhero star forever.
The MCU, however, shows no sign of slowing down, and if they want to recast their Iron Man one day, it looks as if Marvel has just delivered them a brand-new — and very exciting — possibility for the gig.
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