Marvel Comics is undergoing many changes, to say the least. In an effort to appeal to a broader audience, they are delivering brand new stories and a diverse range of characters that, if nothing else, will certainly get fans talking. Case in point: Iron Man. Just two days ago, Marvel unveiled the new Iron Man character, who will take up the mantle when Tony Stark steps away from his role in the Invincible Iron Man series, currently written by Brian Michael Bendis.
Stark will hand his role over to Riri Williams who is, to the intrigue/shock/disapproval/happiness of fans, a young, black woman. She's incredibly smart, having been enrolled at MIT since she was 15 years old owing to her amazing scientific ability. It's understood that Riri first comes to Tony Stark's attention when he hears of an MIT student who has reverse-engineered a suit of armor out of an old Iron Man suit. She has achieved all this in her dorm room and, unsurprisingly, Stark is impressed.
Of course, it's undeniable that the new Iron Man is dramatically different to the current incarnation, and it's perhaps understandable that it's provoked a rather passionate reaction from Marvel fans - whichever side of the debate they sit on. For many, of course, Iron Man is Robert Downey Jr. (or someone just like him, in comic book form). After all, the actor has played him within the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2008, and it's pretty hard to imagine any other actor embodying the role - though that may well happen at some point. Still, it seems Downey is suitably impressed by the female successor in the comic books, having tweeted this response to the news:
Get ready for a new generation of Marvel BAMF... pic.twitter.com/nMChfQkh0n
— Robert Downey Jr (@RobertDowneyJr) 7 July 2016
For those who don't know, BAMF stands for Bad-Ass Mother F***er, and Downey is right; in the new cover and teaser image for the storyline, Riri Williams looks fiercely determined, defiantly holding a brand new Iron Man helmet under her arm. However, for some, her strength is not the issue; the problem many have is simply the gender and race of the new Iron Man. Some of the responses below Downey's tweet accuse Marvel of making every character 'non-white' and not male, just to appease a modern audience.
It's a contentious issue. More diversity is certainly needed, both in comic books and on screen, and there needs to be more representation of minority groups. However, it needs to be dealt with sensitively. In this case, it seems as though Marvel have done a good job. In a first look at Williams' new armor, it's refreshing to note that it's not over-sexualized, as many female superhero costumes are. In fact, it's design is totally unisex, which should give Williams an advantage when entering into combat.
Without doubt, we will see more diversity in comic books and in comic book movies in the future as big companies such as Marvel seek to be inclusive of everyone regardless of gender, race, religion or sexuality. Representation matters, and entertainment companies owe it to audiences to showcase that. While it might not be to everyone's tastes, does it really matter if a character is male or female - when all that really matters, as Downey says, is that the person concerned is a BAMF? Why can't the new Iron Man be a white male? By the same token then, why can't they be a black female?
As yet, there is no firm launch date for Riri Williams' appearance in the Invincible Iron Man series.
Source: Robert Downey Jr.