The January issue of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur includes a special guest appearance from Riri Williams, the new Iron Man (Ironheart). While that news is awesome, Marvel Comics decided to go a little tone-deaf in announcing it, by basically asking the most insulting question they could from this pair-up: “There’s room for two young, black, gifted girls in the Marvel U, isn’t there?”
Yes, of course there is, Marvel. The more important question is: Why are you even asking that? Who do you imagine is confused about this?
Lunella Lafayette, aka Moon Girl, made her Marvel debut last year with Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. The comic follows Lunella, a preteen super-genius inventor who’s afraid of her Inhuman genes, but learns to embrace her super-side after a giant, red-scaled dinosaur — one that she shares a connection with — is teleported into modern times. The comic has been well-received, both commercially and critically, and a crossover with Ironheart was highly requested.
Much like Lunella, Riri Williams is a super-genius inventor whose skills caught the attention and admiration of Tony Stark. And yes, she also happens to be a young black woman. That shouldn’t be called into question, but for some reason Marvel decided to. It could be dismissed as a harmless oversight, but it does represent the comic book industry’s continuing problem with diversity.
Marvel has increased its on-page diversity, especially with the Marvel NOW! initiative, but asking if there’s room for two young black female characters implies that we only need one, which makes their inclusion feel more like a quota than a genuine part of the Marvel U. Plus, you’ve got the controversy of characters like Riri Williams not being written by black women, which runs the risk of them being stereotyped.
It’ll be great to see both of these amazing characters side-by-side, but let’s make it a collaboration, not a competition. We’ve never questioned whether there’s room for both Tony Stark and Bruce Banner despite the fact that they’re both older white male inventors.