Meet the new Iron Man, a badass black female teen prodigy.

The cover of Marvel's upcoming "Invincible Iron Man" comic contains a bold 21st-century update for the iconic character.

Photo by Marvel.


According to Marvel, Tony Stark will be stepping down as Iron Man — at least temporarily.

Robert Downey Jr. with an Iron Man suit. Photo by Toshifumi Kitamura/Getty Images.

Assuming the role in his place? A black female teen prodigy named Riri Williams.

Photo by Marvel.

According to a Time report, Williams' skills make her a natural fit for the role.

"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."

Marvel has taken steps to increase the diversity of its characters in the past several years.

Previous nonwhite characters to take over as tent-pole superheroes include Spider-Man Miles Morales, whose arc began in 2011, and Sam Wilson's Captain America.

The diversification extends to gender as well: Marvel increased its number of female leads from zero in 2012 to 16 in 2015. Kamala Khan, the first Muslim-American Ms. Marvel, was introduced in 2013.

Needless to say, the announcement was met with much rejoicing!



But with the news came calls for more inclusion behind the scenes, as well.

Jamie Broadnax, who hosts the "Black Girl Nerds" podcast, was enthusiastic about the announcement.

"I think it's great. I cannot stress that enough. I think that Marvel is doing excellent work, even in the cinematic world," Broadnax told Upworthy.

Nevertheless, she believes the industry has fallen short when it comes to opening doors to creators of color — and black women in particular.

"I think it's important that black people are allowed to write black stories," she said. "I'm not saying that it should be exclusive to us, but I think that we should have those opportunities."


She cited Regine Sawyer ("The Rippers," "Eating Vampires"), Mildred Lewis ("Agents of the Realm"), and Nilah Magruder ("M.F.K.") — talented writers and illustrators who would be assets to publishers like Marvel, especially as they introduce more characters of color.

"They're out there. It's just that for some reason, they seem to get missed when these opportunities come by," Broadnax said.

In the meantime, the Riri Williams "Iron Man" is an overdue acknowledgement of the obvious:

Practically speaking, you don't need to be any particular race or gender in order to fly around in a red-and-gold mechanical suit.

Though it helps to have some cool poses handy. Photo by GabboT/Flickr.

And in a universe where mutants move objects with their minds, alien raccoons hang out with giant trees, and gods mingle with mortal men, the notion that superheroes have to look the way they always did is ... dubious at best.

Here's hoping that in the future, character choices like this will be met not with a big announcement but with a shrug.

If comic-book writers' rooms start to look more like what's on the page, we might just get there sooner than expected.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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