Ariell Johnson, the founder and president of Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, Inc. in Philadelphia, and the first black woman on the East Coast to own her own comic book store, will appear on her own variant cover of Invincible Iron Man #1, illustrated by Elizabeth Torque.
Invincible Iron Man #1 will be the official debut of Ironheart, the superhero alter ego of Riri Williams, a 15-year-old, MIT-educated genius who built her own Iron Man armor and will be taking over for Tony Stark following the events of Civil War II. Johnson will be featured on a variant cover of the first issue, along with Riri and Tony, at her comic book store.
Speaking to ABC News, Johnson said that it was the X-Men’s Storm who was “the bridge that got me into this world.” Talking about the lack of diversity in superhero comics, Johnson said:
When you are a person of color, you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel to find someone you can identify with. I always felt like I was watching other people’s adventures. Being introduced to Storm was a pivotal moment for me because had I not come across her, I might have grown out of my love for [comics].
Johnson is a clearly a proponent for diversifying superhero comics and giving proper representation to all people, a goal Marvel seems to share with her. With the introduction of Riri, none of Marvel’s A-list Avengers are their usual, white, male selves. Thor is a woman, the Hulk is Asian-American, Captain America is a black man, and now Iron Man is a woman of color.
Johnson wants her store to be similarly inclusive. “The goal is to be an inclusive geek space,” she said. “So it’s not just comics; it’s gaming, it’s sci-fi, it’s horror, whatever you geek about, we want to make room for you!” She said:
I had a girl tell me I had an excellent book selection and she was 7 or 8. I don’t know how welcome she might feel in some other spaces. Women exist in this space! We’ve always been reading comic books, we just may not have been as open about it. I definitely get very positive feedback from not just little girls, but grown women too.
Invincible Iron Man #1 debuts this November. You can see the full variant cover below.
Art by Elizabeth Torque