The Marvel Universe continues to grow with a slate of new series coming to Disney+. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige announced that Riri “Ironheart” Williams would get her own live-action original series starring Dominique Thorne. Some comic fans may be familiar with Riri’s story; she starts as child genius, and winds up the latest hero to don an advanced suit à la Tony Stark’s famous armor. But if you didn’t get into the comics, or just want a quick rundown of the character, this guide to Ironheart is right here for you.
Riri Williams made her debut in 2015’s Invincible Iron Man #7. She quickly captured fans’ hearts in a couple of appearances as a brilliant Black girl and Tony Stark fan who creates her own suit of armor. The two eventually meet and enjoy a mutual respect for one other. There was initial controversy behind Riri because she was created by white male comic creator Brian Michael Bendis; meanwhile, no Black women writers played a role in crafting her persona. A sexualized cover image (which was later changed) of the teen hero also caused a righteous stir over how Black girls and women are seen in society.
The success of Riri’s character led to her own Invincible Iron Man: Ironheart comic series in 2016. The series gave us a more in-depth look at Riri’s background and life. She’s a 15-year-old Chicago native living with her mother and paternal Aunt Sharon after her father’s death. Riri attends the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on an engineering scholarship. The teen genius designs a suit using stolen materials from campus and makes some serious enemies in the process.
Riri becomes a crime-fighting superheroine, to her aunt’s dismay, and her work captures the eye of her tech idol Tony Stark. He gives her his stamp of approval to become the next ironclad hero this world needs. After the events of Civil War II, Riri takes Tony’s place following his coma and later becomes Ironheart. This is essentially where we are in the MCU with Tony’s sacrificial death. Right now is obviously a good time for Riri to step into the suit and become the next iron savior. In the comics, Pepper and Riri often crossed paths, with the former showing concern over the latter’s superheroine life and safety.
In Search of MCU Support
The Riri-Pepper relationship could play out interestingly on TV. Pepper may discourage Riri from carrying on Tony’s legacy, or decide to be a mentor after Tony’s death. There is also a chance for War Machine a.k.a. Rhodey, who is getting his own Disney+ series, to connect with Ironheart as a guide. The series could also take a page from the comics and have an A.I. version of Tony guide the young hero. This isn’t likely, considering Robert Downey Jr.’s Marvel retirement, but anything is possible. Either way, any established characters making appearances shouldn’t overshadow Riri’s shining light as a hero in her own right.
In the comics, Riri also appears in crossover materials. She saves Moon Girl, the smartest person in the Marvel Universe, and helps her ward off Doctor Doom. The character also goes up against Hydra in Marvel’s Secret Empire (2017) storyline.
Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself
In 2018, Ironheart entered a new era; Eve Ewing, a Black woman writer, scholar, and Chicago native, took over the writing mantle. The series, Ironheart, showed Riri fully coming into her own as a hero. She breaks free from being seen as simply a “girl Iron Man” as she uncovers secrets surrounding a friend’s kidnapping.
Riri’s latest run unites her with Shuri, Okoye, and others in a fight against Ten Rings. This comic connection to Shuri could play a role in Black Panther 2 if Shuri reaches out to Riri for assistance with a brewing conflict. The character also appears in the 2019 Marvel Rising: Heart of Iron animated special for an MIT-based storyline. Riri is also a part of a hero collective known as the Champions. They are a group of younger heroes in the Marvel Universe including Spider Man, Ms. Marvel, and Cyclops.
Right now, we don’t know when Ironheart will make its debut, nor any details about the series. But it is beyond time to see a Black girl hero taking on the MCU with intelligence, tenacity, and bravery.