Variant covers for Invincible Iron Man have wound up on both ends of the spectrum in regards to public opinion. The bad side was visited just last week and resulted in a cover being cancelled after receiving backlash. But the good now comes in a gesture just as powerful.

A recently revealed cover from Randy Green depicts Riri Williams, who’s next up to become Iron Man, sharing a cup of coffee with Ariell Johnson, the founder and president of Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, Inc. in Philadelphia. Johnson is the firs black woman to own a comic book store on the entire east coast.

“When the email went out about potential variants for stores, he was really excited and took it upon himself to work out the [details]. It was really his hard work,” she told ABC News. “I knew what it was supposed to look like, but having the actual art in front of you is so much different. It’s really exciting.”

The cover is more than appropriate given the common goal shared between Johnson opening her shop and the creation of Riri Williams – creating a space for everyone, especially women of color, to feel safe and included in the geek space.

“To think I made it a decade-plus and I had never seen a black, woman superhero is crazy because little white boys have so many [with whom they identify]: ‘I want to be Iron Man!’ ‘I want to be Batman!’ ‘I want to be Superman.’ ‘I want to be Han Solo!’ 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,” she said. “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’s story resembles that of many women of color who have had a long interest in comics and other forms of geek culture. Hopefully more bring moments are in the very near future to make the community as inclusive as it truly should be.

Photo Credit: Instagram/Ariell Johnson

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