The New Black Female Iron Man Is a Half-Step (But Still Progress)
In an exclusive interview with TIME, legendary comic writer Brian Michael Bendis revealed that the new Iron Man is a 15-year old African-American named Riri Williams. Like Marvel’s introduction of female Thor, most coverage of the announcement has been positive. However, the new character has managed to enrage people from both ends of the political spectrum.
Before we go any further, let’s make one thing clear: the people who think including more diversity in comic books is somehow a bad thing are at the least ignorant and at the worst outright racist. The sanctity of comic books isn’t being ruined by involving characters who aren’t white men. Comic book heroes’ titles are frequently passed between characters, and including other characters’ perspectives serves only to strengthen and diversify the stories creators can tell.
The fact that Iron Man is now a Black woman is what’s pissing off people on the far right. But people on the left are angry too. Why? Because she was created and written by a white man. Let’s take a look at some tweets:
Don’t get me wrong: these people have a point, and a good one at that. Marvel absolutely should have consulted with at least one Black woman writer before moving forward with the project, and allowing an all-white creative staff to handle the character is more than a little tone-deaf.
But that doesn’t mean Bendis deserves to be attacked for what appears to be a good-faith effort, or that his race or gender somehow disqualifies him from writing about other perspectives. Bendis was hired to write Iron Man’s story and made the proactive decision to bring in diversity. Is he now supposed to give up his job because of that decision?
It’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation for the creative team behind Williams. On the one hand, if the new Iron Man were yet another white man, they’d get criticized for not including more diversity. But since they’ve gone in another direction, they’re getting criticized for appropriation. Which is the greater sin? Should writers only be allowed to create characters of their own background, or should they try to include diversity, with the price being potential misunderstandings of another culture?
Twitter user BlackGirlNerds summed up the situation well:
Exactly. It’s a flawed step in the right direction. Let’s hope Marvel does better next time.
What do you think? Are you excited to read the new Iron Man? Let us know in the comments below or @WhatsTrending on Twitter.