Last month we learned that Tony Stark would be stepping down as Iron Man, and bequeathing his role to Riri Williams, a young science prodigy who had fashioned her own version of Starks’s Iron Man suit. Now, in a WIRED exclusive, Marvel has revealed that when Williams officially steps into the role this November, she’ll be known as Ironheart.
Writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Stefano Caselli have teamed up to create Ironheart’s beginning in this fall’s Invincible Iron Man #1. While Williams and Stark have recently met in the current run of Invincible Iron Man, the new volume will serve as the official transition into Riri’s Stark-sanctioned heroism.
The new character name, Bendis says, came out of a group discussion with editors.“Iron Woman seemed old fashioned to some,” he says. “Iron Maiden looked like a legal nightmare. And Ironheart, coined by Joe Quesada, after I told him my planned story for Riri, speaks not only to the soul of the character but to the Iron Man franchise as a whole. Tony first put on the armor to save his heart. Riri puts it on for different reasons altogether but still heart-related. When people see her story, you’ll be amazed at how simple and brilliant Joe’s suggestion was.”
Williams, who enrolled at MIT at 15, reverse-engineered a suit of power armor in her dorm room–but that doesn’t mean Stark won’t be part of the Iron Man ethos: Riri’s in-armor A.I. will based on Tony’s own personality. “Regardless of where he might be physically,” says Tom Breevort, who’s editing the series, “he’ll be soaring along with her spiritually.”
Ironheart is yet another signal–along with Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales as Spider-Man, Jane Foster as the new Thor, and Amadeus Cho as the Hulk–that Marvel is moving toward a more inclusive universe. And as with so many of those mantle-passings, the original announcement that an African-American woman would replace Tony Stark led to a backlash from the Internet’s comment sectioneers, as well as a separate conversation about the importance of who’s actually telling the stories. But for most, Williams taking the suit has been a celebration. As Bendis told Time earlier this year, “We never had a meeting saying, ‘We need to create this character.’ It’s inspired by the world around me and not seeing that represented enough in popular culture.”
Either way, the cover art of Williams in her suit–along with its variant cover above, depicting Williams admiring her own handiwork–looks great. Now we’ll just have to wait and see if Bendis can tell an Ironheart story as great as the ones he’s given Tony Stark over the years.