Friday, May 24, 2024

Riri Williams: Marvel’s Newest Iron…Person

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Marvel is pulling out all of the stops in an attempt to give our comic pages a little more color. While this has already been happening (Sam Wilson as Captain America, our new Ms. Marvel, Amadeus Cho as the new Hulk, Miles Morales…etc.), we get a complete change up to one of the most popular Avengers: Iron Man. While the first Civil War has been brought to our movie screens, Marvel is already working on its second…in the comics, that is.

I haven’t read as many comics as I would like recently, but here is a character I will definitely keep my eye on — Ms. Riri Williams, an MIT student who is infiltrating Tony’s technology and who already fucks with it heavily. I’m sure most of you readers have already heard about her, but I want to shed a little more light on her.

Contrary to popular belief and buzzwords on most articles, Riri isn’t as new as most will think. She was first introduced in Invincible Iron Man #6, and had a small featurette, displaying her reverse-engineering on the Iron Man suit. 

And Tony calls her out for her ingenuity. I’m already in love.

Furthermore, not only has she been seen making the suit, she has already used her prototype! If she wants to patrol these streets, she has some big shoes to fill.

But then again, it looks like she has an inclination for leadership.

Now, of course the comic fandom has some solid critiques (besides “A black girl???!!?? Omg what a SJW move!!!”).  There is concern on the matter of Michael Bendis, the current writer of Civil War II, creator of RiRi and the direction he wants to go with her. We have a white man writing a teenage black girl from the inner city, a feat which could be compared to Andrew Lloyd Webber writing Christine in The Phantom of the Opera. Some comic fans I’ve encountered do not have much faith in Bendis, considering the trajectory of CWII. The other concern, of course, is giving a WOC writer the platform to shape Riri rather than this white dude, no matter how popular his story currently is. From a tumblr post confronting Bendis about the lack of POC writers at Marvel, his response is as follows:

“There are women of different backgrounds working in all facets of comics. There are women working on almost every book I work on right now.

Including many editors who might not have the flashiest job but their influence is ENORMOUS![…] but as far as Riri, it wasn’t like marvel had a character they cooked up in the diversity machine and it was me and a woman of color up for the gig and they shoved her aside to hand it to me. I know some want that to be the narrative but it ain’t.

I created the character. I brought [her] to the book. No one asked me to. No one told me to. I did it all on my own. Soon after, in development, I discovered what her potential was and marvel liked where I was going with it.”

This seems like a very genuine remark from Mr. Bendis, and I hope he stays true to it. But I have some personal requests/hopes for Riri, as someone who gloms onto characters that have the potential she does.

  • While Marvel has done wonders in the way of providing at least a few more WOC for us, I do hope this is not a case of pandering. Writing an intelligent black girl from a not so good neighborhood could either be incredible, or fall flat. Her start is looking pretty damn great, so let’s keep the momentum going. 
  • Write Riri with personality. Don’t be afraid to make her act out, or give her a mind of her own that is nothing near her predecessor. She has another set of skills that could really help her out if you let it. Although, revolutionary is a quality she could stand to maintain, in her own way of course.
  • For the love of god, do your research. This is not just up to the editors. Make her speak and act in a way that a black girl, exposed to social media, varying music (including rap), and the inner city would speak (and I DON’T mean the stereotypes—I’m more referring to code switching). She’s allowed to have the mannerisms she would have from growing up while maintaining her level of intelligence.
  • Make her race count. Make her womanhood count. Especially since **major spoilers** in the comics, War Machine dies in the second Civil War (something the MCU had no problem alluding to), meaning we’ve lost yet another outlet of representation. She-Hulk is in grave danger as well, apparently. And I hope neither of those casualties were in order to bring Riri in, because let’s be real, that’s just not necessary. But what I want to focus on saying is, make her black and proud. Let her stay black and proud. It’s a simple request, considering the already piddly numbers.
  • Maybe change up her style a bit. Alright, this is completely personal, but at first I thought she was Misty Knight. For those who don’t know, she is part of The Daughters of the Dragon, and should be featured in Luke Cage when his series comes out. Misty also had a ton of interactions with Stark in the past, and when comparing the two…

Yeah, you can stand to change up the looks just a bit. That hair is going to have to fit in that suit somehow, and let me tell you, that is no easy feat. Another option could be to team them up, and that’s certainly not off the table.

And, while she doesn’t need more validation, RDJ also endorses her arrival through one of his tweets. 

Last but not least…Riri is supposed to be inspired by Skai Jackson looks wise, but I am more than ready for a superhero role. Just saying!

In the end, one can only hope that Mr. Bendis “goes with” Riri  in a manner that can give black girls something to hold onto. In my circles, there is a lot of pushback for Civil War II already (with good reason—some major OOC moves happen in light of Rhodey’s death). And although Riri’s position seems temporary, the black community—especially the younger ones—could use a few more heroes right now. 

While we’re on the subject of revamps, I spotted a black mother becoming KickAss a la Mark Miller. It’s worth a look, don’t you think?

What do you guys think of Riri being put into the spotlight? Let me know!

Images Courtesy of Marvel

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