So, yesterday, Marvel officially announced that Tony Stark will be stepping down as Iron Man and a new character will be taking his place as Iron Man. It’s not what you’d expect...
The new Iron Man is Riri Williams, a recently created character that’s been appearing in The Invincible Iron Man. People have had a lot to say on it, not a lot of it being good from what I’ve seen. A lot seem to be talking about Marvel forcing diversity, pushing an agenda, etc. I’m not here to talk about race & gender, so I won’t even attempt to (though I will say that no one complains when a white male takes another heroes’ mantle. Bucky, Scott Lang, Eric Materson, etc). There’s more here I’d like to discuss.
While talking about the situation with a friend yesterday, I started just talking about Riri but it moved into me discussing Marvel in general right now, as they’ve been having a lot of hero names/mantles being passed down (Captain America, Thor, Wolverine, & Hulk all come to mind). It was more in-depth than I ever get about comics, and I was impressed enough that I wanted to publicly share them and maybe get some conversations going. So, I’m gonna start on that.
My thoughts on Riri becoming Iron Man are pretty simple: It’s too early to have any thoughts on it. We don’t know the full details or circumstances behind her becoming Iron Man, what the stories are going to be like, or even much about her as a character. She seems cool from the little bit I’ve seen of her in Invincible Iron Man, but I don’t feel I’ve seen enough of her to truly get excited for her in the role. This is some valid criticism, as they probably should have given her more development before putting her in such a huge role. But I assume she will be fleshed out more after taking the role, and I am interested to see how it’s handled. If she sucks and the book is a flop, I’ll gladly criticize it with everyone else. But for now, I think we should wait and see what happens.
There isn’t much more I have to say about Riri, but it got me thinking a lot about Marvel in general and them having new people taking up old mantles. It’s been happening a lot in recent years. I know it’s gonna be an unpopular opinion here, but the more I think about it, the more I like that they’re doing this. I have a couple reasons for liking it, which I’ll do my best to explain.
Firstly, I appreciate that they’re trying to do new things with the characters. They’ve been around for decades, which I think makes it harder to come up with new story ideas for. So when they do come up with some new ideas like they’ve been doing, I think they should at least be given a chance. I know you could say these aren’t actual ideas and they’re just cheap gimmicks, and I think an argument for that could be made sometimes. But I also think changing the hero using a name/mantle can lead to some creative stories. A good example is everything going on with Thor. Someone new wielding mjolnir can lead to some new & interesting stories, and while it has been done before, I don’t think it’s been done in a similar way to this. Eric Materson did take over as Thor when he had the hammer, but Odinson disappeared during that time. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Eric also tried posing as Odinson rather than publicly saying there was a new Thor. Aside from how someone taking over for Thor is being executed, along with who obviously has the hammer, Odinson is still around and they’re doing some interesting stuff with him being unworthy and everything. I’m not saying all this has been perfect (I have some issues with it), but I appreciate them trying something new. Personally, I’d prefer to see them try new things and fail than re-hash the same things over and over. That might be safer, but it’s also very boring.
I’m not saying that passing on mantles to new characters is the only way to come up with new story ideas. The current Spider-Man series is a good example of that, as it’s doing something new while keeping Peter, and while I have some issues with the book, I like that it’s experimenting. I had the same thoughts a few years ago with Superior Spider-Man (except I liked that book more). But if a lot of the ideas they’re having are for characters taking up others’ mantles, I think they should be allowed to try it and see how it goes. Again, it allows them do something different, which I like.
Another reason I kinda like what they’re doing is that I generally really like the idea other characters (new or old) taking other heroes’ mantles. I think it makes the heroes seem more historic and iconic, because it kinda shows how their actions have inspired others to step up and follow in their footsteps.
The one problem with this is that it’s over-done and often seems like a cheap gimmick to temporarily get interest & boost sales (and it often is). Even if it’s more than that and they’re doing interesting things, it’s always hurt and harder to get into because you know the original will be back (Steve is already back, and I’m predicting Odinson will be back as Thor within a year). I have a suggestion to fix that that Marvel will never do, but I’d like to see: Take all this a step further and have some characters permanently step down with new characters (“new” can include old characters in new roles like Laura & Sam, or entirely new ones like Riri) taking up their roles. I think it would require a lot of creativity, would stand out as something ball-sy to do, will mean characters dying or stepping down won’t feel like a cheap gimmick since it’s unlikely they’ll be back, and like I said earlier, it makes them seem more historic & iconic. I also think it would help the heroes’ legacy. Having them step down having inspired others makes them look really good and like the iconic, larger-than-life figures they are, and it saves them from having to suffer through terrible stories because writers don’t know what to do. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I’d rather see my favorite characters look good & be retired than have them suffer through more stories like Clone Saga, One More Day, or whatever’s going on now with Cap being part of Hydra.
Not saying all hero mantles should be passed down to new characters. Some wouldn't feel right being passed on to someone else, and some characters should do their own thing rather than follow someone else. But for some bigger characters it would work for, I'd kinda like to see it done in a more permanent way.
Those are just some thoughts I’ve had about what Marvel’s been up to lately, hopefully explained well. I’m not saying they’re perfect in their execution of everything (if they want to do what I said and phase out the old characters, they’re doing it to way too many at once), but I like the basic idea of what they’re doing and am interested to see what else they decide to do. Based on how people on this site act, I assume people will want to call me an SJW for my thoughts & liking this, but I really don’t care. I’d rather have people parroting the same over-used & meaningless insult towards me than immediately get angry & bitter over anything new and a company tries without even knowing much information.