Comic book fans have argued for decades over who has the sharpest mind in Marvel’s 9,000-plus-character universe. There are about eight unaided contenders in the primary fictional canon and they’re all male and most are white. Genius scientist Reed Richards, also known as Mister Fantastic, is widely regarded to be the brainiest among them.
But he has been outsmarted—they all have—by a preteen from New York.
Lunella Lafayette, a 9-year-old black girl who goes by the superhero alter ego Moon Girl, is unequivocally, canonically the smartest person in the Marvel Universe, the comic-book publisher revealed at a “Women of Marvel” panel during San Diego International Comic Con.
The pint-sized super genius debuted last fall in the series Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, which reboots the Devil Dinosaur stories from the 1970s. The series takes place in modern-day New York City, and Lafayette replaces the red Tyrannosaurus Rex’s original caveman pal Moon Boy after she accidentally transports the dinosaur into the present day. Lafayette, we learn in the comics, also has inhuman DNA that could potentially give her superpowers—but she doesn’t want them.
The upcoming, third Moon Girl story arc will reveal how Lafayette proved herself to be the smartest hero in the Marvel Universe, a spokesperson for the company said.
“Lunella faces an impossible half-dozen science challenges that might not only prove her smarts, but also save the world,” said a Marvel editor, Mark Paniccia, in a statement about the November arc, which will guest star fellow Marvel heroes including Hulk, Dr. Strange, and the X-Men.
Moon Girl is just one in an arsenal of up-and-coming characters that Marvel is using to shape a diverse new comic book universe. Last month, the publisher said that another brilliant young black woman, Riri Williams, would take up the mantle of Iron Man this fall. And the roster for Marvel’s ”all-new all-different” universe includes a female Hulk, Wolverine, and Thor, and Muslim teenager Kamala Khan, who became the alter ego of Ms. Marvel in 2014. We could also see more of Miles Morales, a Spider-Man who is of black and Hispanic descent.