Brian Michael Bendis on why Riri Williams was born to be Marvel's new Iron Man

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Nov 9, 2016, 11:02 AM EST

Riri Williams was born for this. 

Gifted with absurd intelligence -- she's what is known as a "super genius" -- Riri is now replacing one of Marvel's most iconic characters, Tony Stark, inside the Iron Man suit and taking the name of Ironheart. She gets the spotlight all to herself in Invincible Iron Man, a new series whose first issues arrives in local comic shops today. Blastr had the chance to talk with writer Brian Bendis about this major shakeup to Marvel's status quo, and what is it that makes Riri the right person, right now, to be the new Iron Man.

"The first issue answers that question," said Bendis. "We find out what drives her. We start seeing what has formed Riri so far.  We find out her ‘why.'"

That "why" involves a horrific tragedy that is revealed in the first issue. If you've been following the news surrounding the character the past few months, you know that how the 15-year-old MIT student winds up taking over for Stark as Iron Man is a direct result from the climax of Civil War II. Since the final issue of that miniseries doesn't hit stands until December, some key details are still unknown. Although the just-revealed cover to issue #8 certainly can lead to some conclusions being drawn.

The cover art to Civil War II #8 

What we do know, according to Bendis, is that Riri is more than up for the intellectual part of the task. Bendis says she's smarter than Tony Stark, and acknowledges that her brains are as much a burden as they are a blessing. "It is [a burden.]. High intellect can bring social issues, connection issues, frustrations with the way the world works," said Bendis.

"With youth comes idealism," he points out. "With genius comes, maybe, the ability to do something no one else has ever thought of."

Bendis has said in another interview that often, the most briliant minds in the Marvel Universe -- the Reed Richards, Victor Von Dooms and Tony Starks -- often want to remake the world in their own image. Riri is different, in large part because of her mother. Because despite her great gifts, Riri is still a teenager, so it's her mother who helps keep her from hiding and insulating herself from the world.

Anyone who read Ultimate Spider-Man of his Avengers run knows that family dynamics -- as different as those can be -- have always been a key element in Bendis' storytelling. In Invincible Iron Man, the mother-daughter dynamic plays a key role. When asked if his own family life influences his writing in any way, Bendis responded:

"Any parent will tell you that being a parent informs EVERYTHING you do and just the idea that one day my kids or grandkids might read this does give me that extra reminder to not suck," he said. "But, yes, I have four children.  My house is filled with vibrant energy and constant inspiration."

In fact, Riri's life outside of the Ironheart suit is going to be a major focus of the new series. "Absolutely. You're talking to a guy known for going multi issue stretches on Spider-Man without Peter or Miles in the mask," Bendis said. "Her out-of-armor experiences are going to be the most unique part of the book."

The teen is also going to be dropped into the deep end of the Marvel pool very quickly.

While not going into specifics due to the still-unresolved nature of Civil War II, Bendis did point out Riri is going to be immersed in the complicated world of Iron Man. "Well, she is going to be meeting a lot of people from Tony Stark’s life and the rash of new heroes like Miles Morales and Kamala Khan," according to Bendis.

He also mentioned that she will be facing off against classic Iron Man villains and several new foes. Bendis also teased that "there's going to be a lot of reasons for her to meet a lot of heroes VERY soon."

Riri Williams' high profile positioning in the Marvel U is to be expected considering who she's replacing and how unique she is.

She's on the front lines of Marvel's push to diversify its comics.  A black female teenager who takes over as one of the world's most recognizable superheroes -- and is smarter than maybe its smartest character -- is going to create obvious media attention. Along with a black Captain America, a black latino Spider-Man, a muslim Ms. Marvel and a female Thor, the comics publisher is making a decided push towards having its comics be a more accurate representation of the real world. Bendis however, downplays the notion of an agenda or intiative behind these new characterizations.

"It’s not a ‘process'. It’s just a bunch of writers and artists and editors making comics that reflects the world they live in," Bendis said.

"Marvel Comics take place in New York, in the real world.  The process is now the stories and heroes are reflecting that. Every character I have helped create, from Jessica Jones to Miles Morales, came out of very specific inspiration.  The same goes for Riri. When it happens like this it’s just magical.  It really is."

Planning to pick up the first issue of Invincible Iron Man? Let us know what you think about it after you read it in the comments below!