Iron Man fans know that the clock is ticking on Tony Stark. Brian Michael Bendis is relaunching Invincible Iron Man with a new character — Riri Williams — as the protagonist. This young woman, who Bendis said is “probably” smarter than Stark, will call herself Ironheart.

It is my belief that Marvel has once again botched an opportunity to diversity its stable of superheroes without annoying long-term readers. Check out my new YouTube video on the subject and let me know what you think in the comments section below.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

48 comments

  1. I’ve said for years their diversity model is essentially lazy, BUT I know why they do it. If they made new characters like fans clamor for, then they might potentially walk into the SJW minefield known as ‘cultural appropriation.’ I believe the answer is to vote with your feet, stop buying the comics and watching the movies. OR maybe make your own? I know, easier said than done.

    1. “I believe the answer is to vote with your feet, stop buying the comics and watching the movies. OR maybe make your own? I know, easier said than done.”

      That is another project of mine that is…percolating. I just spoke to the same artist who is working on my book about it the other day. I want to knock the book out before working on the comic. My main characters and general outline are finished.

  2. Lets hypothetically capture Brian Michael Bendis and inject him with truth serum for an interview:

    Me: Hi Michael, I hate your work anyway…sorry you didn’t get Doug. Anyway, why Riri, Why Rhodey and why do you suck?

    Bendis: First off, if not for this truth serum, I would tell you that I’m not accusing you of being a racist for seeing right through me, but that it’s ‘weird’ that you think my obvious twit plots and story ideas are bad when I drag race into it. This is my cheap way of calling you a racist. I don’t actually believe your a racist…I’m the racist.

    Me: Thats some good stuff.

    Bendis: Anyway, I and my peers having been trying to shoehorn Rhodey in your face for years and have failed badly. This will be just our latest poor attempt. I’m ashamed to admit that far less liberal psychotic writers than myself did a much better job during the 80’s. We are supposed to pretend that era was more racist because we had Jim Shooter or something.

    Me: Get to the point

    Bendis: Of course. We already failed with Rhodey and we were going to fail again, because we are racist. We are incapable of writing an interesting Black character because our view of Black people is so skewed by our politics and patronizing attitudes toward minorities in general that we cannot provide depth, originality or even a good one liner. I decided to kill him and introduce Riri because the only way I know how to deal with my shortcomings as a politically correct writer is to double down and hope that my racism accusations will drown out criticism long enough for me to draw a good paycheck and maybe even make me an icon…

    …ok thats my real problem…I just want to be ‘the one’ that finally diversity blasts comics and I get to stand next to Booker T Washington, Martin Luther King and Al Sharpton where I belong.

    Me: I knew it…Al Sharpton?! Well, that’s it for today Brian. Whenever I go to Burger King, I always feel like you should be there at the window. I hope to see you there one day…maybe trade places with the young black guy who works his ass off, gets the orders right and treats all his customers like human beings.

    Brian: Thanks I deserve that!

    1. “Me: Hi Michael, I hate your work anyway…sorry you didn’t get Doug. Anyway, why Riri, Why Rhodey and why do you suck?”

      Zing! I see how it is, Chuck. I see how it is… 😉

      I think my main gripes with Bendis at this point are the following:

      1. Plots drag on…and on…and on.
      2. Everyone sounds like a slightly different version of Bendis. (As a writer, I do empathize with this problem. I think being politically correct hampers guys like Bendis. That’s why everyone sounds like a well-educated liberal.)
      3. He has an aversion to action scenes that make comic book fans happy, which is weird considering…he writes comic books.
      4. Like most of the other writers at Marvel today, he’s willing to throw continuity out the window if it suits his needs. If you complain, then you just don’t understand his genius.

    2. Bendis loves to write decompressed stories that are padded for trades. His style of writing allows him to make stories last longer, therefore he does not have to come up with as many stories over time. He had the same complaints when he wrote the Avengers, with that said I tend to like his work but I find many other writers to provide better stories that move at a better pace. I also find that his characters become generic and can be replaced by another character and yet they would still seem the same.
      He is another person using the diversity marketing gimmick for free publicity. Why Marvel thinks this is wise is beyond me, it is clearly only providing short term boosts in sales at the expense of long term readers.

    3. “I also find that his characters become generic and can be replaced by another character and yet they would still seem the same.”

      Agreed. As Chuck said, Bendis’s characters really just come across as “Bendis versus Bendis” instead of “character versus character.” The end result is that the characters seem interchangeable. This is an incredibly tough obstacle to overcome for anyone who is constantly asking, “Is this racist? Is this sexist? Is this ableist? Is this fat shaming? Do I think this because of ‘white privilege’? Is this [insert endless string of politically correct worries]?”

  3. Sorry Doug, I have to save you from Bendis, your a much better writer, and not just because of the politics.

    I think he’s just a poor storyteller. But he’s really just an indicator of how writing in general is kind of meh. He has good dialogue as far as it goes…but if the characters are all the same, how good is it really? Often the rapid fire dialogue looks like he’s arguing with himself. To me, a good writer (of fiction for example), has to be a good storyteller…I think people nowadays are easily distracted because rather than read to finish a story, they read just to read, as in a soap.

    See, a writer such as yourself has deadlines to meet and a tight schedule. You value the things a writer like Bendis doesn’t have to, getting to the point, getting rid of irrelevant information and providing the reader with elements that stick to the main topic. Bendis is a probably a creature of Marvel’s poor editorial control, but I still think even with a good editor he would be poor.

    The greats of the past wrote 1 to 3 books. Nowadays we are supposed to call writers that meander through 5-9 books all tied to the same story that meander through a vague plot with an unsatisfying, relentlessly stupid climax as ‘great’ writing. This isn’t a magnum opus, this is an egotistical jerk-off obsessed with his own brilliance.

    1. Bendis is a probably a creature of Marvel’s poor editorial control, but I still think even with a good editor he would be poor.”

      This is a very interesting theory. It’s too bad that Marvel doesn’t really have editors who know how to do the job well. It’s almost like they just live for the next Marvel retreat so they can just revel in their self-proclaimed awesomeness.

      “You value the things a writer like Bendis doesn’t have to, getting to the point, getting rid of irrelevant information and providing the reader with elements that stick to the main topic.”

      Thank you. I think a lot of people who don’t write for a living don’t really get how hard that can be at times. It’s actually incredibly difficult when you have extensive knowledge on a subject to boil it down to the essentials. There are stories for work that can easily be pages and pages long…and I need to leave out tons of details that I would love to discuss.

  4. Chuck Hayes, I disagree. Pulp Fiction can be good fiction, there is nothing limiting someone to only a few good books! Those numbers were artificially low because of the cumbersome and unwieldy process used to get books to market. Also, to stop ‘confusing’ readers authors would often use pseudonyms to continue publishing about the artificial constraints of their publishing house.

    1. jrhandleyblog: While I agree it can be enjoyable, theres a distinct flavor to a decent serial. Most notably, keeping the arcs short and the main focus while an overarching plot is touched on and worked. I read Greg Bear for example, he’s pretty prolific. However he rarely goes over a storyline of more than 1 book. Heinlein stuck to one book per story…it isn’t difficulty with publishing, it’s the fact that they know their story, worked very hard on it and wanted to finish that story to share their vision with the reader.

      Then there are guys, like a certain overrated fantasy writer that writes just to write, provides books full of emptiness and gets accolades for things that other writers are savaged for. Then has the gall to string his eager fans along with pointless plotlines and petty sex and violence. Hey I understand people like that stuff and I don’t envy the guy, but let’s not call it ‘quality’ when it’s not.

    2. I’m not sure who you’re referring too…? I know there is crap out there, if I find it I purge it from my library. Sorry if I misread your intent, but it sounded as if you attacked ALL prolific writers. When I like a writer, I WANT them to be prolific and then I beg for more like some strung out meth head! 🙂

    3. Nah, I guess we see it the same way, A good writer will write a lot. He loves his trade after all. I was referring to GRR Martin and Game of Thrones. I actually firmly believe that he hates writing, and that the success of his series allows him to not write. Which, honestly is just fine with me.

    4. I have no opinion on his work, since I haven’t read it. I think you’re right on his love of the craft. He seems to love the limelight and the Cons more than the writing.

    5. “Nah, I guess we see it the same way, A good writer will write a lot. He loves his trade after all. I was referring to GRR Martin and Game of Thrones. I actually firmly believe that he hates writing, and that the success of his series allows him to not write. Which, honestly is just fine with me.”

      Glad I’m not the only one who thinks that GRRM and Game of Thrones are completely overrated. I’ve never understood the hype surrounding it. It’s boring. None of the characters are even remotely likable. There are constant pointless sex scenes and rapes and the story ultimately goes nowhere.

      I also agree that Martin hates writing, which is fine by me. He’s more interested in going to cons than he is completing his series. And then he has the gall to complain about deadlines. Maybe if he didn’t spent so much time at cons and at the Emmys, he’d actually get something done. I’m not even published and I’ve already finished my first book and am working on a second.

    6. “While I agree it can be enjoyable, theres a distinct flavor to a decent serial.”

      I agree. I actually think that serialization has ruined comics and also TV as well. It can be hard for new viewers to hop on board if everything is connected. I personally think both mediums should go back to the old stand-alone stories they used to have before everyone started imitating “The Sopranos” or any other show that relies on excessive serialization. The X-Files, Burn Notice, Alias, current Doctor Who, Haven, Heroes, Fringe, Lost, etc all got bogged down in their own plot and it eventually collapsed under their own weight. That’s what happened to a lot of modern comics as well.

  5. The market was crying out for a teen black girl in the Iron Man suit the way the market was crying out for a new Ben-Hur.

    1. But Ben Hur was a well written classic, least there is justification on that front… artistically speaking! Updating it once technology improved to do more with the vision. Not so much with the Ironman.

  6. I saw an article that apparently the name “Ironheart” was used for an Iron Man porn parody made in Japan, and the character was a Japanese woman in the suit.

    For shame Marvel, the Japanese pornography industry already beat you to the diversity finish line for Iron Man.

    1. “For shame Marvel, the Japanese pornography industry already beat you to the diversity finish line for Iron Man.”

      I was telling a friend off the radar today that I’ll probably bring that up in a future YouTube video. Haha. I can just imagine Bendis’ face when he found out about that. The jokes will go on for years…

    2. I should commission some art of Marvel’s Ironhheart vs Japan’s. With Bendis in the corner ‘researching’ names for the character. Actually, this would be right up Frank Cho’s alley.

    1. I joked a few weeks ago that Joe Q had been spending too much time binjing Care Bears with that daughter of his coming up with that name.

  7. What you have just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone is now dumber for having listened to it.

    1. “What you have just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone is now dumber for having listened to it.”

      You’re still reading my blog, huh? At least you’re not posting anonymously these days. If you’re going to quote Adam Sandler movies, then at least have the courtesy to add a YouTube clip.

      Regardless, slow clap for “taimurdar” for not putting forth any counter-argument while sticking it to me…with Billy Madison quotes. Is “Tai Murdar” your rap name? Good luck with that.

    2. That Billy Madison quote is so overused these days that it’s lost any meaning to me. Nice try, troll. Not.

    3. “That Billy Madison quote is so overused these days that it’s lost any meaning to me. Nice try, troll. Not.”

      These guys are hilarious. I really just feel sorry at the lack of self-awareness on “Tai Murdar’s” part. He really thinks he comes across looking like a witty guy. I suppose his “Boyz” (don’t forget the “z”) think he’s funny, but in the real world you need to bring more to the table than just an insult. He has a college email address, so I suppose he’ll learn that once he graduates.

    1. “Douglas, at this point, what do you think needs to done for the Riri Williams Iron Man comics to be a success?”

      Well, as I said in the video, I will at least purchase the first three issues of the book. If it’s good, then I’ll say it’s good. If it’s bad, then I’ll say it’s bad. The writing may be good, but the sales job to guys like me by Marvel has been horrendous.

      Why would Bendis go out of his way to say that Riri is probably smarter than Tony Stark? There was zero reason to do that. He could have framed the discussion any way, but he chose to needle guys like me. The mere fact that she’s intelligent and young and rebellious automatically signals to readers that she and Tony will butt heads. There is no reason to essentially say, “Sooooo, yeah. That character who is replacing Tony? She’s the one person in the Marvel universe who can outsmart him.”

      I am going to buy the comic because it’s blog material and I’m interested in hearing what you guys have to say. Others who do not have blogs to write are going to say, “You know what, screw you Bendis. I’m not playing your stupid games.”

      Marvel is going to push this book hard and it will do its predictable variant-covers smokescreen to boost sales, but I don’t see how this can generate real momentum on its own unless the first stories are undeniably awesome. It’s just really frustrating that readers still know next-to-nothing about this character and we’re supposed to be jumping up and down with excitement over her creation.

      When I was a kid, people went nuts for Venom. I used to sit and draw Venom in the middle of class when I should have been studying… There was nothing manufactured about it. That kind of excitement is really rare. For most characters you have to just slog it out and build them up. They have smaller roles when they first appear on the scene, they find their voice, and then eventually they have that breakout moment in a team-up, etc.

      You can’t just force popularity on the readers. It doesn’t work. I mean, it works with people who only care about political symbolism or diversity quotas or whatever, but most people treat characters like they treat people. The onus is on the writer to introduce the character and then cultivate interest. Marvel, once the “House of Ideas,” no longer deserves that distinction. It’s just, “Like our creation or you’re sorta-kinda racist/sexist/homophobic.”

      People are tired of the personal attacks. Marvel needs to go back to basics, because it’s really drifted from the formula that made the company great.

  8. Very good comments.
    Well, first about Riri Willians I agree with you. Why we should be excited about her character? She had no good set up and barely any decent characterization. Her introduction was really awkward. We not even know her actual name. Can you say to me what is her motivation to become a superhero? She just build an armor suit for no reason and decided to replace Tony when he was presumed dead and later, when her mother discovers it and asks why she did it she just replies “you told me I am special”. So she wants to be a superhero because her mommy said she is special, is it? May be the millennials can relate to that, but it just speaks against the current generation.
    I also don’t think Bendis is the best writer to handle the new character, even Riri is his creation. A new character (mainly a derivative one like Riri) need to establish her own mythos and differentiates herself from Tony. But Bendis spreads the story too much and we have people talking and doing stuff, but little characterization and progression. You can see it with Miles, that was created five years ago and don’t have his own rogue gallery and barely have any personality trace that differentiates him from Peter. I could write a long essay about Peter as a character, but if I do the same with Miles I fear I could barely write more than ten lines.

    And about why Marvel keeping doing such ham-fisted diversity attempts in its universe, it baffles me too. I made several hypothesis about that and I still confused. May be the heads of Marvel/Disney demanded it as a PR maneuver. May be Marvel comics really wants to broad its market and is trying really hard to attract minorities and sincerely believes it will works (or just wants the press). However, there is a different explanation, a incredibly cynical one.
    When a writer creates a new character he gain royalties, right? Any toy, shirt will give some money to the creator, doesn’t it? If Marvel Studios uses the new diverse characters in the movies, will the creators gain A LOT of money with that?
    May be it is why he created this nothing of a character to replace Tony, instead of Lila Rhodes. May be it is why Silk was created and appeared in a so prominent role even at Peter’s expense. The new character needs the spotlight, if not, he/she will not be adapted. It can be an egregious possibility, but looking at the current situation, the fans are not winning, Marvel comics is gaining nothing and the characters and comic books are being damaged and it can explain who is actually winning.

  9. Ok, you want something to add to the table. From the late/great Dwayne McDuffie-
    “But there is a hardcore piece of the audience whose back goes up whenever you go into these issues, and they don’t even realize it. And what kills me about it is that when they’re writing about it, they’re always hyperrational. You know, Look the fact is, there are more white characters, and if you picked randomly, you would end up with all white teams. And the fact that there were three black people on this team is statistically ridiculous. It’s obviously a quota. And the quota arguments on fictional teams crack me up. Because who’s actually I’m sorry, is somebody losing a job here? Which fictional character is losing a job? There’s no connection. They’re not talking about what’s going on in the comics. They’re talking about what they think is going on in their lives (and that’s not really going on either.)”

    1. “Ok, you want something to add to the table. From the late/great Dwayne McDuffie…”

      Thank you, Taimurdar. Now you can be seriously addressed. Although, let me say that I do not particularly care what Dwayne McDuffie thinks — I care what Taimurdar thinks. As of now you have posted anonymously on this blog, you have posted a quote from Billy Madison, and you have posted a quote from Dwayne McDuffie.

      Let’s psychoanalyze this, shall we? It seems as though you have a deep need to be heard, but also a fear of putting yourself out there for criticism. You can be applauded (by some people) for anonymous cracks and jokes from Adam Sandler movies. You can appear smart (to some people) by quoting established writers. But the moment that you share what YOU — Taimurdar — think, in your own words, then you open yourself up to real scrutiny. You’re vulnerable to having to rethink your position and acknowledge that maybe you don’t have all the answers and that the guy you’re talking to isn’t a racistbigotsexisthomophobe.

      So, you can mock me like you did earlier. You can mock my readers. But, at the end of the day, we are the ones who publicly opened ourselves up to the slings and arrows of you and anyone else who comes across this blog.

      With that said, I will now respond to Mr. McDuffie’s point, which in many ways doesn’t even relate to the argument I’m making about Riri Williams.

      Is my “back up” right now? Sure. Yes, I totally realize it. It would be strange if I ran a blog that regularly covered Marvel’s attempts to politicize its products and then did not acknowledge that fact. Mr. McDuffie’s point seems to ignore that many creators are openly hostile to guys like me — for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So when Nick Spencer says all Republicans are “evil,” I will respond. When David Walker rants about “conservative white people” and tells them to “eat a bag of d***s,” then I will respond.

      Do you think I really want to write about Mr. “Bag of D***s”? I really don’t. I’d rather be reading Mark Bowden’s “Black Hawk Down,” putting my own book through another round of revision, or sitting by the pool with my wife. If these guys weren’t regularly demonizing long-time customers, then I would be blogging on something else, working on other creative products, or eating massive amounts of Peruvian food with my wife.

      Am I “hyperrational” when it comes to comic books? No. I’m just “rational.” The prefix is just Mr. McDuffie’s opinion, and if you can show me were I’m being “hyperrational” then I’d love to talk about it.

      I said that I would have been happy if James Rhodes filled in for Tony Stark. I said it was logical (dare I say “hyperlogical”? Zing!) to have Lila Rhodes step into the role. I also said that expecting fans to jump for joy over a character with almost zero backstory…who appeared in a handful of panels over the course of a year…is weird.

      That is not “hyperrational.” That is completely fair assessment of the situation and one that did not warrant your earlier Billy Madison response. Like I said, once we start having a real conversation it’s difficult to turn the guy on the other side of the table into a conservative caricature, a racist, a sexist, or whatever “ist” is on the agenda for the day.

      “I’m sorry, is somebody losing a job here…”

      No, but that is a giant red herring considering that Marvel’s own talent makes it abundantly clear that they are activist-writers instead of just “writers.”

      They often make historic (and still popular) characters look bad to elevate others, which is totally unnecessary. If Marvel were addressing diversity issues in a neutral manner then I would have no problem with it. What is happening is that there is a kind of sick glee by guys like Mr. Spencer and David Walker and others as they needle loyal readers. I have purchased Marvel comics since the early 1980s. I have spent thousands of dollars lining the pockets of artists and writers, as have many of my readers. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that guys like David Walker refrain from telling me to “eat a bag of d***s” when I disagree with him. I don’t think it’s irrational for me to be annoyed when Tony is killed and replaced with a total unknown instead of James Rhodes. I can go on and on.

      Anyway, I hope that clarifies things a bit for you. But like I said, I’m more interested in your opinions than the opinions of Dwayne McDuffie.

    2. “Ok, you want something to add to the table. From the late/great Dwayne McDuffie- ‘But there is a hardcore piece of the audience whose back goes up whenever you go into these issues, and they don’t even realize it. And what kills me about it is that when they’re writing about it, they’re always hyperrational. You know, Look the fact is, there are more white characters, and if you picked randomly, you would end up with all white teams. And the fact that there were three black people on this team is statistically ridiculous. It’s obviously a quota. And the quota arguments on fictional teams crack me up. Because who’s actually I’m sorry, is somebody losing a job here? Which fictional character is losing a job? There’s no connection. They’re not talking about what’s going on in the comics. They’re talking about what they think is going on in their lives (and that’s not really going on either.)”

      Once again, swing and a miss. Like Doug said, you’re obviously scared that if you offer your opinion here, it will be challenged, so you share quotations from “Billy Madison” and Dwayne McDuffie instead.

    3. As far as I know, Dwayne never ‘converted’ a character’s race or gender to suck up to an interest group. Maybe if he were alive, he would be all aboard with that, but that wouldn’t make him right. He seemed to be doing the opposite of what Marvel’s doing now, creating and promoting new characters and trying to create teams of largely minority characters…maybe he got some pushback for that, but It wasn’t from people like me, I want that, I want to see a team of mostly minority characters…presented like the people I know and grew up with rather than a mouthpiece for tired liberal platitudes from people that would never show up in the streets I grew up in.

      I know this, Dwayne became a writer that overcame the comics medium (and really most entertainment medium) most obvious, elephant-in-the-room racist stereotype they are never called on, and that’s the need to call in a minority to write a minority, rather than be considered for a wider variety of work…diversity so to speak. If I remember right, Dwayne hated the idea of having a minority character solely as a representative of an entire race or ideal, rather than a variety of views and opinions and lifestyles that reflect real life…I don’t see that in comics. I barely see that anywhere in entertainment. As a minority myself, that doesn’t ‘tow the line’ and pull the right levers as I’m expected to…I appreciated that.

    4. “If I remember right, Dwayne hated the idea of having a minority character solely as a representative of an entire race or ideal, rather than a variety of views and opinions and lifestyles that reflect real life…I don’t see that in comics.”

      Readers have told me to check out this work, and I can’t imagine they would do that if his work remotely felt like the kind of stuff activist-writers are dishing out today.

    5. McDuffie’s best comic was Static Shock, which was made into an animated series with the same name. He definitely drew a lot from Spider-Man, but he didn’t turn Peter into a black man. He created his own character, who is still pretty popular.

    6. OMG Doug!!! I almost forgot Icon…one of McDuffie’s creations:

      A conservative Republican. Ouch.

      Anyway, it wasn’t very popular, but it came out back in the early nineties. I think Dwayne really created Icon as a soft criticism of certain conservative views, but had some respect for them, in fact Icon was a very likable character. The fact that Dwayne created him at all, and tried to relate to his views (even though he opposed them) shows a level of tolerance that these modern day shills lack.

      Linky: http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Augustus_Freeman_(Dakotaverse)

  10. The point is, “Why should we like this new character, or even care?” I gather the writer of Ms. Marvel has done the job of causing the readers to like and care about Kamala Khan. Whether Bendis will do the same for RiRi Williams remains to be seen, but his track record in that area isn’t good. There is nothing innately interesting about female or minority characters, any more than there was anything innately interesting about the thousands of white male characters that comic-books have created over the years. Interest lies in the execution only.

  11. The funny thing is, Ironheart could be a good name for a character, just not this one.

    Giving the replacement of Iron Man the name of the genderswapped version of him that is used in a porno is just hilarious. Marvel is beyond parody at this point.

    1. “Marvel is beyond parody at this point.”

      I almost want to just write a post that is dedicated to off-the-wall Marvel ideas. People can add to it and then we can revisit it over the next five years and see how many actually come to fruition. 🙂 I know there is some writer who has begged the editors to make Mr. Fantastic transgender…

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