Return to the introduction of Riri Williams and get her full story!

Celebrate Black History Month by delving into the first appearances of Marvel’s most prominent African and African-American characters on Marvel Unlimited!

Riri Williams, the first African-American woman to wear the Iron Man armor, debuted in wildly appropriate circumstances. The 15-year-old MIT student made so much noise working on a secret Iron Man armor that she roused the floor’s RA in the pages of INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #7 by Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato.

In issue #9, Riri explained that she made the armor as a dare to herself, but took the apparent disappearance of Tony Stark as a sign that it was meant to be. She donned the suit not long after when campus security showed up to ask about some unfortunate video footage implying that she’d stolen some of the tech from the robotics lab, though she routinely stated that she simply borrowed parts that weren’t being used by anyone else.

Figuring out the whole flying tactical armor thing over time, a near crash in the pages of issue #10 made Riri realize that she needed an artificial intelligence to help keep the thing in the air. In the following issue, she lost her armor while attempting to stop a police escape and got taken in by the cops, but only briefly.imvim2015_promo

Riri and Tony Stark finally came face to face in issue #12 when the latter interrupted an argument between the former and her mother. The young woman then revealed the armor to them both. As Riri explained, she based her design on the Mark-41 but put her own touches into it.

With Stark mostly incapacitated thanks to the end of Civil War II and his battle with Captain Marvel, he passed the metallic baton over to Riri who now stars in the latest volume of INVINCIBLE IRON MAN as Ironheart!

History Lesson

Riri just appeared last year for the first time, so there’s not a lot of history available on her. However, back in September, creator Brian Michael Bendis did an interview with Marvel.com about the creation of the character and how the announcement lead to crazy amounts of attention, including commentary by Robert Downey, Jr. that got people thinking Riri might take over for Tony in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He explained that he started getting hate mail as well as actress headshots for the role, which only exists in the comics so far.

“It just revealed how shallow the pool is for women of color in certain roles,” Bendis said. “There’s evidence we’re on the right track, but still much more to do. You see, there are some people who just really have some difficulty with change when it comes to these characters who they’ve known for years if not decades in some cases. And I get that. But, you know, I think it was [Marvel Chief Creative Officer] Joe Quesada who was talking to Stan Lee and asked him what he thought about some of these changes, and Stan’s response was that fans wouldn’t recognize one bit of the Marvel Universe if he was still running it. ‘You guys are the ones who truly love this stuff,’ he said. ‘But we would constantly tear it up. Who knows what it’d look like now if we were still at the helm.’”

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From Iron Man to War Machine and back, an armored hero with few peers!

Celebrate Black History Month by delving into the first appearances of Marvel’s most prominent African and African-American characters on Marvel Unlimited!

One of the best things about long-term comic reading is seeing the development of a character into a hero. That’s what readers of IRON MAN got to see in the 70’s and 80’s when it came to James Rhodes.

In his first appearance back in 1979’’s IRON MAN #118—by legends Bob Layton, David Micheline, and John Byrne—Rhodey debuted as Tony Stark’s helicopter pilot, but the billionaire decided to fly the whirlybird himself up to the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier for a meeting. In issue #120, Rhodes told Bethany Cabe that he’d known Stark since the Vietnam War, and would go on to become an important person in Tony’s present leading up to and after the classic “Demon in a Bottle” storyline.

A few years later, Tony took to the drink again as Obadiah Stane focused on destroying Stark financially. With Tony in no condition to fight, Rhodey donned the Iron Man armor for the first time in 1983’s IRON MAN #170 to defeat Magma.

Iron Man (1968) #170

Iron Man (1968) #170

  • Published: May 10, 1983
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: April 29, 2013
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Rhodes wore the suit for a while, taking on villains like Radioactive Man, helping to found the West Coast Avengers, and even participating in Secret Wars. After a while though, the suit took its toll as the helmet had been designed for Stark’s brainwaves. The incompatible hardware drove Rhodey mad, but Tony repaid his friend by standing by him and helping him recover.

After getting some help from Alpha Flight’s Shaman, Rhodey got his head fixed and returned to the armor until a bomb orchestrated by Stane nearly killed him. Rhodes remained good friends with Tony, helping during the Armor Wars story and even taking over the suit a time or two when absolutely necessary.

A badly injured Stark revealed the War Machine armor in 1992’s IRON MAN #281, but didn’t wear it long as he seemingly passed away in #283. In the following issue, Rhodes discovered that Stark not only left him the company, but the War Machine as well.

Rhodey filled the position valiantly for a while until he discovered that Stark didn’t actually die and set out on his own, leading into his first solo series, WAR MACHINE. Since then he’s worn many variations on his familiar armor, filled in for Iron Man, helped save Tony’s life on more than one occasion, and joined groups like S.H.I.E.L.D., the Secret Avengers, the Office of National Emergency, the U.S. Military, the Crew, and the Avengers.

Iron Man (1968) #283

Iron Man (1968) #283

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Unfortunately, Rhodes recently fell in battle against Thanos in the pages of CIVIL WAR II #1. He and the other heroes who wanted to use the future-seeing Inhuman Ulysses to stop incidents did so, but at the cost of Rhodey’s life. Enraged, Tony Stark rose against Captain Marvel which launched the entire Marvel Universe into another massive conflict.

History Lesson

Over the years, Jim Rhodes wore more than just the Iron Man and War Machine armors. In the second half of his 1990’s series, he lost the silver armor and wound up with a symbiotic suit called the Eidolon Warwear that granted him a variety of new abilities. Much more recently, Rhodes donned a look originally sported by Norman Osborn. He first appeared as the Iron Patriot in the pages of GAMBIT #13 before continuing on into a five-issue series called IRON PATRIOT, but returned to his more familiar War Machine identity before the events of Civil War II.

Next, we’re sticking with armored heroes who pick up where Tony Stark leaves off with a Riri Williams spotlight!

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Follow the Ultimates powerhouse back to his formative days!

Celebrate Black History Month by delving into the first appearances of Marvel’s most prominent African and African-American characters on Marvel Unlimited!

Unfortunately, not everyone who puts on a costume to defend the defenseless receives the adulation and thanks they so rightly deserve. In the case of Adam “Blue Marvel” Brashear, instead of praise, he received fear and admonishment, just because of the color of his skin.

The 2008 five-issue limited series ADAM: LEGEND OF THE BLUE MARVEL by Kevin Grevioux and Mat Broome kicked off with the villain Anti-Man taking on the Avengers—including Ares, She-Hulk, and Sentry—single-handedly before disappearing.

The story then cut to June 4, 1962 as Anti-Man fought the hero known as Blue Marvel. In addition to trading blows, the two super beings also argued about whether the world should be forced to change or not. The fight ended with Blue Marvel standing victorious over Anti-Man, but with the color of his skin exposed through his torn costume. This resulted in mistrust on both sides of the racial divide.

The Pentagon immediately investigated the images, discovering the Marvel’s true identity as Adam Bernard Brashear, a Magna Cum Laude Cornell graduate with a PhD in theoretical physics who also played football and served in Korea. Though highly conflicted in doing so, President John F. Kennedy asked Adam to stand down when it came to using his powers.

Back in the present, Tony Stark—then the head of S.H.I.E.L.D.—used his clearance to find out the story behind Blue Marvel and why he hadn’t heard of him. Stark learned that the President called Adam in to face a harbinger from space and he disappeared during the cosmic conflict.

Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel (2008) #1

Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel (2008) #1

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In reality, though, Brashear had been living a normal life married to a deep undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and teaching physics at the University of Maryland. After learning the truth about his wife, Adam flew to the moon and had a conversation with The Watcher. He then met with Iron Man and the other modern heroes to explain that he and Anti-Man got their powers when Brashear’s experimental antimatter negative reactor exploded, consuming both Adam and his best friend Conner Sims. With Anti-Man returned, they used this information and Adam’s experience to take on the threat.

After talks with Namor and Anti-Man, Blue Marvel faced off against the Avengers, lost someone very close to him, and then finally ended his one-time friend’s life-threatening rampage. With his secret life no longer a problem, Adam eventually returned to being a hero, though not as prominently as he had in the past.

History Lesson

Adam Brashear kept something of a low profile after his introduction to the Marvel Universe, but before long joined up with Luke Cage’s Avengers in MIGHTY AVENGERS. As part of that group he faced off against the Illuminati leading into Secret Wars and then stood as a member of the proactive big brain squad appearing monthly in ULTIMATES and now ULTIMATES 2. As part of that group, Adam has helped cure Galactus of his hunger, save Anti-Man from certain death in Exo-Space and fix the fabric of time and space. That’s a pretty respectable track record for a character who’s been around for less than a decade.

Next week kicks off with the man who went from Tony Stark’s best friend to an armored hero in his own right: James Rhodes!

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See how this Daughter of the Dragon and Hero for Hire got her start!

Celebrate Black History Month by delving into the first appearances of Marvel’s most prominent African and African-American characters on Marvel Unlimited!

Misty Knight just might be the best mash-up of popular 70’s film genres in existence. In addition to being an awesomely strong and confident black woman—not unlike many of the characters seen on the big screen in blaxploitation films—she also works as a detective, possesses a deep knowledge of the martial arts and sports a wall-crushing bionic arm!

Though mentioned by Colleen Wing in the previous issue, Misty Knight appeared for the first time in 1975’s MARVEL PREMIERE #21 by Tony Isabella and Arvell Jones. Danny Rand—aka Iron Fist—walked into Dr. Lee Wing’s brownstone only to find seven assassins lying dead on the floor and the Wings missing. The next thing he knew, a woman with impressive martial arts skills leaped out of nowhere to attack him. Iron Fist tried explaining himself, but his assailant continued to attack without listening. To get back on the trail of the Wings’ kidnappers, Danny gave her a nerve pinch that knocked Misty out.

Misty and Danny didn’t cross paths again until IRON FIST #1 by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. Over the book’s 15 issue run, the pair crossed paths a number of times. In that time, we learned her back story as a cop who threw a bomb out of the way that blew up her arm. She later had it replaced with a cybernetic version that offers additional strength to her already powerful form.

Misty also explained that she and Colleen Wing formed a private detective company called Nightwing Restorations Ltd. Knight has also been a member of the Heroes for Hire, Daughters of the Dragon, and even the Valkyrior in FEARLESS DEFENDERS.CAPA2015016_cov-600x924

Though she never joined the Avengers, Misty Knight continues to take part in huge storylines. She and Colleen formed a new Heroes for Hire at the request of Tony Stark during Civil War. Their mission revolved around taking down unregistered super people. She and the same team later tried to protect the planet during World War Hulk, even taking on the Jade Giant’s Warbound pals.

These days, Misty and Sam Wilson spend quite a bit of time together in the latter’s self-titled Captain America comic. She’s helped her fellow hero deal with the backlash against his continued use of the name “Captain America,” but also backed him against confrontations with Doctor Malus, the Serpent Squad, and a public that doesn’t trust the new Cap.

History Lesson

While MARVEL PREMIERE #21 stands as the official first appearance of Misty Knight, Claremont and Byrne actually retconned an earlier issue to make it the chronological debut of the character. In MARVEL TEAM-UP #64, Spidey and the Daughters of the Dragon take on The Steel Serpent. At the end of the issue, the Wall-Crawler asks Misty if they’ve met before and she explained that he saved her from some muggers on Christmas eve with “some dude in a flyin’ bathtub.” That’s a nod to MARVEL TEAM-UP #1 when, while chasing Sandman, Spidey and Human Torch stopped to save an unidentified woman from some hoodlums. It’s only a three-page sequence, but it sure must have left an impression on Byrne and Claremont!

Tomorrow we close out the week by examining the origins of the newest character showcased so far: Blue Marvel!

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It’s the origin of a Hero for Hire as he goes from prison to protector!

Celebrate Black History Month by delving into the first appearances of Marvel’s most prominent African and African-American characters on Marvel Unlimited!

Marvel has always kept their fingers on the pulse when it came to pop culture. If a subgenre becomes popular at the theaters, then it usually makes its way into the hallowed halls of the House of Ideas. You can thank Hong Kong martial arts imports for Shang-Chi and Iron Fist, horror films for TOMB OF DRACULA and Blaxploitation flicks for Luke Cage!

Cage first appeared in 1972’s LUKE CAGE, HERO FOR HIRE #1 by Archie Goodwin and George Tuska. Instead of the streetwise hero we’ve all come to know and love, we instead met an inmate desperately looking for a way out of jail. Locked up in the southeastern Seagate Prison, he wanted nothing to do with his fellow prisoners, but also refused to snitch on them.

This led to brutal treatment from some of the guards and eventually a house call from one Dr. Noah Burstein who wanted Cage for a particular project. Before getting into the details of that, the future Avenger explained how he went from thief to gang leader to being set up by his former best friend for selling drugs which ended up with his stay at Seagate.

Though he didn’t like the idea of participating in Burstein’s experiment at first, Cage eventually changed his mind, realizing that death might be better than further incarceration. Upon Luke entering his lab, Burstein explained that he will test “an Electro-Biochemical system for stimulating human cell regeneration.” Cage hopped in, but the experiment came under literal fire when one of the corrupt guards burst in guns blazing.

Luke Cage, Hero for Hire (1972) #1

Luke Cage, Hero for Hire (1972) #1

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Though not a success for Burstein, Cage felt the benefits of the experiment, namely impenetrable skin and superhuman strength, which he quickly used to bust out of prison. In the escape, the guards shot at him, sending him into the water below. The prison officers assumed their quarry died and marked him as such officially, which gave Luke Cage cover to return to his home in Harlem. There he realized that the super hero game can actually bring about some money, so he became the Hero for Hire!

Eventually, Cage took on the name of Power Man and Iron Fist joined him in his solo book with #50, becoming POWER MAN AND IRON FIST. With 49 issues under his belt before that, though, Luke Cage became the first black solo hero to rack up that many consecutive installments!

The characters continue to be associate with one another and even have a series hitting stands right now. Cage also got involved with a woman named Jessica Jones in the pages of ALIAS. Since then, they became an item, had a baby, joined up with various Avengers teams and went on to star in their own Netflix shows!

Even more important, though, Luke Cage and his stories didn’t shy away from some issues that still demand discussion like racism, unfair prison treatment, the complexity of urban living, and crime. Cage navigates those topics in a way that many could and can relate to.

History Lesson

It’s interesting that a character like Luke Cage, who partially owes his existence to the world of film, would eventually come to have an effect on the medium itself. About a decade after the character debuted, an actor by the name of Nicolas Coppola decided to borrow Cage as his stage name. Nic Cage eventually went on to play another Marvel character, Ghost Rider, in a pair of films. Luke Cage eventually went on to appear in “Jessica Jones” and then in his own Netflix series as played by Mike Colter.

Next, we’ll be sticking around New York City for the introduction of the best private eye-detective-cyborg around, Misty Knight!

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Understand the uncanny abilities of the X-Men’s weather goddess!

Celebrate Black History Month by delving into the first appearances of Marvel’s most prominent African and African-American characters on Marvel Unlimited!

Ororo Munroe’s life has been long and storied, which seems fitting given her status as one of the first prominent black characters in mainstream comics. She started out as the daughter of a Kenyan princess and a Harlem photojournalist. They moved to Cairo where the parents died in an accident, leaving young Ororo to fend for herself, becoming a talented thief in the process of survival.

A mutant gifted with the ability to control the weather, Storm debuted in 1975’s GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum. The issue opened with Professor X recruiting Nightcrawler, Wolverine, and Banshee before shifting focus to Kenya where people supplicated themselves to Ororo for help in getting their crops to grow. She took to the sky on waves of wind and brought forth the storm.

Upon landing she met Charles Xavier who asked if she wanted to help the world and not just the land around her. It’s interesting to note that, unlike many of her fellow new X-Men, Storm actually seemed to have it pretty good as those around her praised her as a goddess.

Giant Size X-Men (1975) #1

Giant Size X-Men (1975) #1

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Before long, Storm and the others—Colossus, Warpath, and Sunfire plus the batch mentioned above— met in Xavier’s mansion sporting brand new costumes crafted from unstable molecules. Cyclops then appeared to explain that he and Professor X gathered this new squad to find Iceman, Angel, Marvel Girl, Havok, and Polaris who had gone missing on the island of Krakoa.

On that first mission, Storm and Colossus teamed to attack from the North. In doing so, they faced an avalanche that seemed to have a mind of its own before meeting up with their teammates. Soon they come across the missing mutants and freed them from invasive vines that turn out to be part of Krakoa, a mutated island that fed off the energy of other mutants.

Storm soon realized that her powers did nothing to the huge beast alone, but used her abilities to channel the lightning’s energy into Polaris who shot it all down into the Earth’s crust which resulted in Krakoa flying off into space.

Ever since then, Ororo Munroe has fought with all her might to not only protect her fellow mutants, but also keep the world safe from the likes of Apocalypse, Magneto. and even Dracula. She’s gained and lost her powers, been de-aged, sported an awesome Mohawk, and even became the leader of the Morlocks. She’s led X-Men teams, married Black Panther, and saved existence more than a handful of times.

storm-xmen-600x324

Thanks to her high profile in the comics, the character also made the jump to the big and small screen, making her an even more visible role model for generations of kids who learn from her that embracing differences can be empowering.

History Lesson

The popularity of GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 actually saved the X-Men from the depths of comic book limbo! Back in 1970, UNCANNY X-MEN still came out monthly, but instead of new content, the book only featured reprints of older material for five full years. Thanks to Storm and her fellow new X-Men’s popularity, the book started running new original stories with #94 and continues to be one of the stalwart titles on stands each month. Nice work, Storm!

From the hallowed halls of Westchester to the streets of Harlem, tomorrow we turn our attention to the one, the only Luke Cage!

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King T’Challa of Wakanda shows off his incomparable skills!

Celebrate Black History Month by delving into the first appearances of Marvel’s most prominent African and African-American characters on Marvel Unlimited!

When it comes to prominent Marvel characters to spotlight during Black History Month, King T’Challa of Wakanda jumps to the very top of the list. In addition to being one of the most famous African characters, he also holds the record as the first major black super hero from a mainstream comic company.

Created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in 1966’s FANTASTIC FOUR #52, The Black Panther showed his impressive skills right off the bat by sending a high-tech, Vibranium-powered sky-ship to pick up the FF for their first trip to Wakanda. Before long we got our first look at the great African nation where some tribal traditions carry over into modern times in the most technologically advanced society on the planet.

Upon arriving, the Fantastic Four plus Johnny Storm’s college roommate Wyatt Wingfoot landed and immediately found themselves thrown into a battle with The Black Panther, who quickly bested all except for the unexpected Mr. Wingfoot. Between his peoples’ weapons and his own skills, Black Panther nearly took out Marvel’s first family, but Wingfoot acted as a wild card, throwing a wrench in the plans and ending the hunt.

Fantastic Four (1961) #52

Fantastic Four (1961) #52

  • Published: July 10, 1966
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: November 13, 2007
  • Penciller: Jack Kirby
  • Cover Artist: Jack Kirby
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In the following issue, T’Challa explained Wakandan tradition, including the role Vibranium plays in their society and the passing of the Black Panther mantel. The history lesson came to a halting stop when Klaw attacked. While the FF took on his sinister sound-created constructs, the Panther faced the villain on his own and walked away the victor.

After the battle, Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch and The Thing encouraged T’Challa to keep at the hero game. He pledged to use his resources to defend all of humanity, a vow we’ve seen followed in the ensuing 51 years. Black Panther eventually teamed up with Captain America which led directly to him joining the Avengers, which prompted him to take on the identity of a teacher named Luke Charles to experience black life in America.

Not content to only play a part on a team, T’Challa has also anchored ongoing series written and drawn by the likes of Jack Kirby, Christopher Priest, Reginald Hudlin, John Romita Jr., Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, Chris Sprouse, and many other top-notch talents. Each and every one of those comics shows the complexity of this hero who constantly struggles with his responsibilities to his kingdom and the world at large. They say that heavy is the head that wears the crown, but that’s got nothing on the Panther mask!

History Lesson

Though T’Challa remains the Black Panther we’ve seen the most throughout the years, other Wakandan warriors have donned the mask as well. During World War II, Captain America went toe to toe with T’Challa’s grandfather Azzari. He passed the mantle on to T’Challa’s father T’Chaka, but he died at the hands of Klaw. After his death, T’Chaka’s brother S’Yan took over, but lost the honor in ritual battle with T’Challa. Later on, a New York City cop named Kasper Cole used a discarded costume to become the Panther himself. T’Challa didn’t take kindly to the play, but did train Cole as White Tiger. A few years later, T’Challa fell in battle to Doctor Doom leaving his sister Shuri to take over. After healing up, T’Challa returned to the duties at the same time as Shuri who eventually died defending Wakanda right before Secret Wars. Now she’s back as something new in the pages of BLACK PANTHER!

Tomorrow we honor Ororo Munroe, the wildly powerful and incredibly skilled leader of many an X-Men team more widely known as Storm.

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