Two weeks ago, writer Mark Millar announced a relaunch of his popular superhero Kick-Ass as a black girl… at least in comic book form. Whether a film adaptation will also follow (as was the case with the original Kick-Ass, a geeky white teenager named Dave Lizewski, who headlined 2 movies), isn’t known at this time.
Announced today, Marvel is doing a similar thing with Iron Man. The comic-book version of Tony Stark will be shedding the Iron Man suit and Riri Williams, a 15-year-old black girl, will be stepping in. Following the events of the Civil War II comics, Tony Stark gave up the Iron Man suit, allowing science genius Riri Williams — who reverse-engineered her own Iron Man suit out of her MIT dorm room — to don it instead.
Williams was created by Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis, who has helped diversify Marvel’s cast of characters with Miles Morales and Jessica Jones, as part of the relaunch of “Invincible Iron Man,” a flagship series in the more diverse Marvel NOW! era.
Riri’s character design was drawn by book artist Stefano Caselli.
— Alex Fitzpatrick (@AlexJamesFitz) July 6, 2016
“I thought that was the most modern version of a superhero or superheroine story I had ever heard… 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,” Bendis said in an interview with Time magazine online about Riri’s ascension to Iron Man successor resulting from her decision to take charge of her life using her scientific skills, after being a victim of a random act of street violence.
Bendis does hint that Tony Stark is aware of Riri and that their paths may cross, either in the “Civil War” series or when Riri makes her debut in “Invincible Iron Man” #1 in the fall.
It’s noted in the Time piece that Riri is still working on the name for herself, so she likely won’t be called Iron Man.
So what does all this mean? Kick-Ass is a black girl; Iron Man is a black girl; etc… I’m not sure quite frankly. On the surface it all reads well and good, and one’s immediate reaction might be to applaud the efforts. And these are moves that might bring young black girls to the superhero comic book universe, who previously mostly ignored that space because they didn’t see representations of themselves very often – especially in high profile series like this one.
I would like to see originally created black superhero characters within the Marvel universe (and other comic book universes), instead of black versions of existing white characters, which feels gimmicky to me.
I certainly wouldn’t hold my breath for any movie or TV adaptations of Kick-Ass or Iron Man as black girls; but I could be proven wrong!