For years, superheroes have been tall, strong, and…white. Give or take a few (Black Panther, Luke Cage, War Machine, Blade, and Storm), we haven’t really had anyone who looks like us taking down evil villains.
Enter Riri Williams.
Marvel’s newest Iron Man is a woman. And she’s Black. Super genius Riri is a 15-year old who enrolls in MIT. Reverse-engineering one of Iron Man Tony Stark’s old armors in her dorm room, she’s taking the Marvel universe by storm.
TIME Magazine spoke with Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis to learn more about the young superhero whose story was inspired by the young people of Chicago. “This story of this brilliant, young woman whose life was marred by tragedy that could have easily ended her life — just random street violence — and went off to college was very inspiring to me. I thought that was the most modern version of a superhero or superheroine story I had ever heard. And I sat with it for awhile until I had the right character and the right place.”
Despite online criticism, Bendis is showing little girls and comic book fans that black girls rock. Riri is faster, smarter, and “so ahead of where even Tony Stark was at that age…this young woman is flying by him in terms of how quickly she’s doing it. Her brain is maybe a little better than his..”
Riri Williams joins a diverse cast of young Marvel characters, including Muslim teenage superhero Ms. Marvel and 13-year old Afro-Latino Spider-Man Miles Morales.