Article information gathered by: Jay Christoph
Brian Michael Bendis hands the mantel of Armored Avenger over to RiRi Williams, aka Ironheart!
Marvel has done an interview with Bendis about the changes occurring with Iron Man. Enjoy!
Since the news broke surrounding one of Marvel Comics’ newest up-and-coming heroes, Riri Williams, buzz about this young girl and the role she will play in the post-Civil War II Marvel Universe has surged.
So what we do know?
Riri will find herself donning a suit of armor of her own making and becoming Ironheart! Despite the creation of a new persona, however, what this means for Tony Stark as Iron Man remains to be seen.
To get to the bottom of this and more, we spoke with the man behind it all, INVINCIBLE IRON MAN writer Brian Michael Bendis!
Marvel.com: Brian, in just looking at Civil War II, it becomes painfully clear that whatever moral high ground Tony may feel he has, he equally undercuts himself in other instances such as when he tortured Ulysses early on and knowingly started a second superhuman civil war.
Is he still “super” to you? Or has he somehow lost that aspirational nature that we, as readers, come to expect from our Marvel super heroes?
Brian Michael Bendis: You know, it’s funny because I think I’ve heard nearly every minute of every day that “You’re ruining Carol!” or “You’re ruining Tony!” with the same verve. They don’t see the other side of it. And with this civil war, we’re challenging you at the end of every issue to think about what side you’re standing on, which was by design. We were very excited about pursuing this as writers, this constant challenging of our readers through pushing each of the characters into difficult territories.
While you may say Tony has lost his moral high ground, I’d have to totally disagree.
Marvel.com: But can you explain why that is?
Brian Michael Bendis: The moral high ground that I try to take is the one where I say we don’t know where this is going to end, and we’re going to leave that up to the individual readers to decide. You know how you’re not really supposed to ask a question where you already have the answer? I try to avoid doing that as a writer; ask the question and then let the readers answer.
Marvel.com: Okay, that’s a fair point. So, no hard and fast conclusions from you then?
Brian Michael Bendis: I know it will be frustrating for some fans, but it will also be immensely gratifying for many more as they’ll be able to, in their own way, insert themselves into the story. The only part I’d like to change would be where people are yelling at me. That can get a little weird, but that’s also another whole article for you to write! [Laughs]
In general, that’s what I love the most: seeing them struggle with what side they’re on. No single hero has the moral high ground. They both believe themselves to be 100% right, but then again, they also have some incredibly similar personal demons that both drive and inspire them.
How it ends for them? You’ll have to wait and see what happens with the newly announced eighth issue.
Marvel.com: Now, shifting gears a bit, Marvel’s been making some changes over the past few years in terms of diversifying its stable of super heroes from Miles Morales and Kamala Khan to the newest iteration of Thor.
And recently, news broke about the brilliant ex-MIT student, RiRi Williams, building an Iron Man suit of her own back in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #7 and her inheriting the Iron Man role. Reactions range far-and-wide to include Robert Downey Jr. giving her the thumbs up.
Brian Michael Bendis: Can I just say the response to her has been crazy! 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.
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. 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.”
Marvel.com: If you’re hearing that from one of the key people who helped usher in these iconic heroes, I’d have to imagine that sets you at ease to some extent, no?
Brian Michael Bendis: It’s always for the better when we’ve looked at the world around us and tried to bring the Marvel Universe closer to speed, and I don’t regret. Not even when the Neo-Nazis were recently targeting me—and it was upsetting—a friend of mine from within comics said “No one’s going to love all of your work all of the time, but if the Nazis are upset with you, you know you’re doing the right thing!”
Marvel.com: I don’t envy you one bit! Speaking of making those changes though, when you first developed RiRi, did you plan for her to step into Iron Man’s role from the beginning? Or will she follow more in line with Miles Morales and make the role her own? After all, we do see her take on a new title in “Ironheart.”
Brian Michael Bendis: The story of Riri is a very different one from Miles. She’s coming with a different background, perspective, and reason to the Iron Man franchise than Miles did when he became Spider-Man. That’s a big deal for us to explore.
We’re also coming in at the ground level of a young person deciding to become the best version of herself that she can be, and if I’m honest, that’s my favorite stuff to write. It just is. I love exploring the hero who says “I can be better. I can do better” and then goes about learning from each journey a little more about him or herself. They begin to uncover their personal line in the sand when it comes to morality and whatnot. People will discover what drives her and we haven’t even scratched the surface of that and her connection with the armor.
Marvel.com: Brian, you mentioned something that’s particularly interesting, which I think many of your long-time readers will no doubt have picked up on as well, where you are often writing about younger super heroes. What is it about this ages that captures your interests, as we’ve seen you tackle [Ultimate] Peter Parker, Miles Morales, the younger X-Men, and now RiRi Williams amongst many others.
Brian Michael Bendis: I think everyone is at that age or has been through that point in life and knows how important it is. There’s the age where they tell you you’re legally an adult, but there’s another point when either someone personally tells you or you tell you you’re an adult. These moments take place when the world comes crashing down on you and adulthood finds you. Whether it’s financial or loss, something puts us all there even if it’s different for everyone and at different times.
Too often, we see that bravado of being indestructible within teenagers quickly called into question when that moment arrives, and it’s in that moment that real growth, a real journey begins. That’s pretty fascinating from a writer’s perspective. It’s that exuberance of youth that makes someone put on a costume and fight crime. It’s hard to [imagine] a middle-aged man putting on a costume and deciding to fight crime.
And, of course, having teenagers surrounding me in my home that inspire me and remind me about what’s going on in that generation’s world. So, it’s easy to tap into, you know? And the wounds of high school still ache, and the scabs are still easily peeled off in order to bleed all over the place.
Marvel.com: We often hear concerns about diversity coming at the expense of the established heroes. Can you talk about the importance in bringing new, diverse characters into the Marvel Universe?
Brian Michael Bendis: I hear a lot about that especially with Miles Morales and now with RiRi. Now, I worked with an actress on “Powers” that said something interesting to me: It’s not the diversity of skin that interests her as an African-American woman but the diversity of perspective and experience that really made the series interesting to her. And I’ve been thinking a lot about that. But that is what I think makes RiRi important and we’re going to explore that.
Marvel.com: Last question, Brian: You introduced this character in early 2016, but we won’t actually meet her until closer to the end of the year. Why hold her back from Civil War II and keep us waiting to see what’s she’s been up to?
Brian Michael Bendis: Well, she is seen briefly in CIVIL WAR II #4 and you’ll catch her in the big fight scene in CIVIL WAR II #5, but we’re not going to find out what’s making her tick until her first issue. But you’ll get all the goods then: What inspires her, how she comes to the armor, and so on. Trust me when I say this: You don’t want to miss this one.
RiRi Williams steps up and into INVINCIBLE IRON MAN from Brian Michael Bendis and Stefano Caselli this November!