In a new interview at Marvel.com, writer Brian Bendis talks in more detail about Riri Williams, the female black teenager and Ex-MIT student that will be taking taking over the lead role in Bendis' Invincible Iron Man title as the Tony Stark-inspired hero Ironheart.
Discussing Marvel's recent efforts to diversify their stable of lead characters and the reaction to the initial announcement, Bendis says the Riri Williams news garnered one of the strongest reactions he's ever seen.
"Can I just say the response to her has been crazy!" he offered. "We heard from Disney that the original article received over 2,000,000,000 impressions! It’s been by far the most seen announcement or article from Marvel publishing, which is just insane when you think about it. 'Good Morning America' did a 10-minute piece on it, which was really nicely done, and then I heard Robert Downey Jr. acknowledged it, and I think it might have been the first time he’s acknowledged the ongoing comics via social media, which is obviously cool. I loved it, to be quite frank."
But the announcement also produced something he wasn't expecting...
"The unintended consequence, however, was that quite a few people misunderstood his endorsement to mean that Riri would be taking over Tony’s role in the movies," Bendis explained, "Then I started getting crazy hate mail who clearly didn’t read the article, in addition to an enormous number of headshots from highly talented African American women thinking there would be a potential role. And it was such a bummer because you could feel how hungry these actors were for a role with this kind of potential, you know? And it was heartbreaking to say 'Oh no, this is the comic book. I’m sorry.'
"It just revealed how shallow the pool is for women of color in certain roles. There’s evidence we’re on the right track, but still much more to do. You see, there are some people who just really have some difficulty with change when it comes to these characters who they’ve known for years if not decades in some cases. And I get that. But, you know, I think it was [Marvel Chief Creative Officer] Joe Quesada who was talking to Stan Lee and asked him what he thought about some of these changes, and Stan’s response was that fans wouldn’t recognize one bit of the Marvel Universe if he was still running it. 'You guys are the ones who truly love this stuff,' he said. 'But we would constantly tear it up. Who knows what it’d look like now if we were still at the helm.'"
Riri's adventures as Ironheart begin in Invincible Iron Man #1, on shelves November 9.