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Monday, July 18, 2016

RiRi Williams, Marvel's New Mary Sue

There’s a big controversy over RiRi Williams the Black female Iron Man. However, once a reader looks past the flash, they see there’s little substance. 

Structurally, RiRi Williams is a poorly designed character. Basically she’s a Mary Sue in an Iron Man suit. What’s a Mary Sue? A character who knows everything, can do anything and everything based on whatever situation the writers throw her into. Because that character is a cipher who represents the writer in a fantasy world like the Marvel Universe. 

Looking at the foundations for this so-called 15-year-old genius, she’s just too smart for her own good. And the foundations for her creation are virtually implausible even from a comic book perspective.  

Some will argue that 15-year-old Peter Parker made his own webshooters. Yeah, gifted and talented kids that age can create small simple devices like that. And the formula for Spider-Man’s webbing would be fairly simple to create with basic household chemicals and stuff like rubber cement. 

Others will argue that Reed Richards created all sorts of inventions when he was younger. But he didn’t become Mr. Fantastic until he got bombarded with those cosmic rays. And he didn’t refine his inventions until he got older. 

And a few will debate that Tony Stark was a brilliant inventor even when he was a child. But Tony Stark spent years inventing and creating and learning from his mistakes before he even came up with the Iron man armor in that VietCong camp with Professor Yinsen. And over the years he refined his tech improving it with each passing year going from cogs gears until it evolved into a micro-circuited mesh armor featuring advanced computers and weaponry such as repulsors and pulse bolts. 

In each of those cases we saw a natural and organic progression to these characters development and growth over their character transformation arcs. But you’re gonna tell me RiRi Williams at 15 is so smart she’s gonna be able to hack Abe Zimmer’s tapeworm, hack Stark Enterprises’ private security files and find the specs for Iron Man’s Armor and start building her own suit? 

I’m sorry that’s Mary Sue Territory. 

Even 15-year-old Tim Drake in A Lonely Place of Dying wasn’t this smart. Yes, Tim deduced Bruce Wayne was Batman in that classic story. And he figured out Dick Grayson was Robin and there had to be some sort of tragedy that led to Batman being solo. But after he put on the Robin suit to take on Two-Face in that junkyard it still took him two YEARS of training before he was ready to put on his own Robin costume. 

And in that time he had to prove himself against Bat rogues like KGBEAST, King Snake, Lady Shiva and the Joker. The big problem with RiRi Williams is that she isn’t a well thought out character. I just can’t believe a teenager, even a genius who goes to MIT can build an entire suit of Iron Man armor. Having been on a college campus, I know most dorm Singles are the size of a walk-in closet. If Tony Stark needs a lab at his corporation to build his armors, where would she have the room to keep the equipment and tools and computers to keep that kind of equipment?

Moreover, where would she get the money to make this suit? Iron Man suits must cost millions of dollars. Even crude knock-offs are gonna cost a couple of thousand bucks. Even with Workstudy this kid ain’t got that kind of cash. And she wouldn’t find these kinds of tools to make an Iron Man Suit at the MIT Bookstore. 

And when would she even have the time to even build this armor? Even geniuses need time to sleep and eat. Not to mention going to class. Yeah, Tony has time to tinker with the Iron Man suit he built. But he owns Stark Enterprises. He has other employees working for him running things so he can focus on bigger stuff like building Iron Man suits and saving the world. 

 Like Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens RiRi Wiillams just knows too much and can do too much. She’s underdeveloped and poorly thought out. Who needs Tony Stark to be Iron man When RiRi Williams is just as smart as he is? Who would need Reed Richards in a couple of years? With the direction this character is headed she could be the next Wesley Crusher building her own starship. 

When I look at RiRi Williams she shows me how little Brian Michael Bendis knows about Iron Man. Instead of crafting stories utilizing Tony’s rogues and supporting cast, he creates this Mary Sue to overcompensate. Yes, she’s a black Female. And she’s got on an Iron man suit. That’s the flash that gets people’s attention.

But she lacks the foundation for a solid character transformation arc. Good characters have strengths and weaknesses that can be fleshed out during their character transformation arcs. It’s their flaws and imperfections that allow us to connect with them and identify and relate with them. If a character knows too much and can do too much early on there’s no room for them to learn and to grow.

That prevents the reader from learning and growing with them. Taking away from the reading experience. And giving the reader no incentive to care about their adventures. 

I know Marvel is desperate to add some diversity to their ranks.  And Black readers are desperate to see characters of color in Mainstream comics. But poorly thought out poorly designed characters don’t help diversify the marvel Universe. In most cases these “Colored” versions of White characters just get lost in the shuffle like Battle Star did in the 1990’s. If Marvel wants to diversify their universe, then create an original Black female character with tech-based powers. That’d sell more comics in the long run than creating another Iron man knock-off that’ll be forgotten in three to five years. 


  1. I can't care much about her but it seems that the characters accused of being Mary Sues tend to have pretty narrow appeal. That's like wondering why Wolverine and not Kitty Pryde became the breakout star of the X-Men franchise.

    (As someone else pointed out, that's like wondering who reads furry comics.)

    Mary Sues are ultimately appealing to a few people. Even if Kitty wasn't intended to be a Mary Sue, she's not really as popular as others make it out to be. The same goes for Tim Drake and one wonders why more people own dogs than comics.

    1. Well Ad. comics aren't the way they used to be for me. I guess you are probably going to say about the same thing. Nowadays I pretty much watch movies based off comic books as opposed to the comic books themselves. Comics aren't the money that they used to be. The superhero merchandise and superhero movies are generally speaking, the real money. I just liked the characters better before I retired from comic book buying, back when there were fewer spinoffs. I don't have any idea how many Robins and Batgirls are in Batman right now, and I don't exactly want to know either.

  2. Yet another "marvelous" creation from Bendis. And people like his writing, WHY?

  3. I've found people who are willing to be pros and at least turn Riri into a palatable character myself included ah elegy of comics should be written right now.

  4. I take it you're no fan of Death Note but I love the thrust and parry between Light and L Lawliet.