The past few years have been very good to the Marvel universe — an entertainment empire of comic books, movies and TV currently now owned by Disney and dominating the box office for the past few summers.
The Marvel brand has also been roundly praised for its attention to diversity — introducing a female "Thor," a bi-racial "Spider-Man," a Muslim "Ms. Marvel" and a black "Captain America" to its roster.
Building on that trend, Marvel recently announced another beloved hero will undergo an identity change, this time with comics and movie juggernaut Iron Man. In an interview with Time, Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis said Tony Stark will surrender his mantle to MIT science wunderkind Riri Williams, a black 15-year-old girl.
Yet Marvel fans are torn over whether to celebrate this recent development and not for racist reasons. Rather, they're concerned about how Riri's story will be written by Bendis, a white man (who, incidentally, is also known for creating the “Jessica Jones” series, now a popular Netflix show).
"Iron Man will be a black woman," MTV News' headline read. "Will Marvel ever hire one?"
As MTV's Ira Madison wrote in the article, there's simply no excuse for a company championing diversity to not be diverse. In decades of publishing, neither Marvel nor rival D.C. comics have employed black female writers.
"There’s no way to excuse not ever having had a black woman write a single one of your comics, let alone one of your comics starring black women, in nearly 80 years of operation," Madison wrote.
This, Vulture's Abraham Reisman argues, is how Marvel unwittingly undermines its own hard work furthering diversity, when its ranks don't reflect its characters.
"It’s important for fans of the insanely lucrative and ever-growing superhero genre to see people like themselves on the page and on the screen," Reisman wrote. "If a black girl can dream of flying as high as Tony Stark, it’s perfectly reasonable for geeks to dream of a superhero-comics publisher whose staff is as diverse as its characters."