- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Marvel Comics will soon give billionaire Tony Stark a race and gender swap with a character named Riri Williams.

The Iron Man superhero that fans have come to love over decades in comic books and successful movies will be at least temporarily replaced by a black teenager who attends the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The news corresponds with recent editorial decisions to create a female Thor, a black version of Spider-Man named Miles Morales, and a gay version of Iceman.

Writer Brian Michael Bendis told Time magazine that his new character was inspired while working on a television project set in Chicago. The series never aired, but the idea of a “brilliant, young woman whose life was marred by tragedy that could have easily ended her life — just random street violence,” stuck with him.

“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,” Mr. Bendis told the magazine Wednesday.

The writer said he hopes he can convince skeptics over time that their criticisms are often “not the most progressive thinking.”

“Some of the comments online, I don’t think people even realize how racist they sound,” the writer continued. “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.”

The full emergence of Riri Williams and the shelving of Tony Stark will take place over the next few months with Marvel’s industry-wide event, Civil War II.

“More people are going to be upset that they think they know the ending to Civil War II now than anything we just talked about,” Mr. Bendis told Time. “But I can tell you just because you’re hearing what we’re saying doesn’t mean you know how Civil War II ends.”

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