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Riri Williams’ path from Marvel Comics to Wakanda Forever was rocket-fuel quick

The story of how Ironheart made it from comics to screen so fast

Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams (Ironheart) in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo: Eli Adé/Marvel Studios

In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, fans got the chance to meet one of Marvel’s newest and most popular heroes: Riri Williams, aka Ironheart. Her ground-level origin, intelligence, and the unusual but vital process of her creation has brought the character to the Marvel Cinematic Universe just six years after her comic book debut.

Actor Dominique Thorne (If Beale Street Could Talk) steals scenes as as Riri, holding her own among the more seasoned returning cast of Black Panther. Where will you see her again and how did this character come to be? We have answers.

[Ed. note: This piece contains a few spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.]

Dominique Thorne as Riri Williams aks Ironheart flying inside Iron Man-esque armor with a HUD display in front of her Image: Marvel Studios

Moviegoers meet Riri when her character is thrust into a complicated international incident involving Wakanda, the U.S., and the powerful undersea nation of Talokan; she’s a world-class mind defying her professors at MIT and working carefully on her very own Iron Man-style flight suit.

Marvel fans first met Riri in 2016’s Invincible Iron Man #7. Originally introduced by Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato, fans met the MIT student as she was... building her own Iron Man suit. Just like Tony, Riri’s first suit — a twist on his Mark 41 model — was a little rough, extremely chunky, and very powerful. It was a passion project for Riri, something she “dared herself” to do, but it would come in handy when the original Iron Man went missing.

All was not exactly well for Riri. MIT threatened to have the 15-year-old super genius arrested for theft, claiming her salvaged materials technically belonged to the university. But after Rhodey sacrificed himself to save Tony, the original Iron Man sought Riri out and pulled her out of trouble. Just like readers, he was impressed.

Riri debuted under her official superhero moniker Ironheart in the first issue of the renumbered Invincible Iron Man. The solicit for the issue exclaimed: “From the violent streets of Chicago, a new armored hero rises!” which sums up some of the more stereotypical aspects of her original backstory. It was her 2018 solo series written by Eve Ewing and drawn by Kevin Libranda, Luciano Vecchio, and Geoffo that would establish Riri as a new Marvel icon.

Riri Williams soars through the clouds in her Ironheart suit, with its oblong heart logo in Ironheart #1 (2018). Image: Eve L. Ewing, Kevin Libranda, Luciano Vecchio/Marvel Comics

With her gorgeous suit, Ewing built out Riri’s world, bringing her own experience growing up in Chicago to the young hero’s solo title. The series expanded Riri’s scientific knowledge and impact as she shared her inventions with the world, and built on Tony and Riri’s relationship. Most importantly, Ironheart #9 took Riri to Wakanda, setting the stage for her MCU debut. Ewing and the team brought Riri and Shuri’s first meeting to life in dynamic and charming fashion, establishing a vibrant pairing ripe for adaptation.

Allying herself with the women of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever makes sense for Riri’s introduction into the MCU. It leans into one of the most inventive and fun parts of her comic book canon, and aligns her with Shuri, one of the few people who can go toe-to-toe with her smarts in the entire franchise.

With Tony Stark dead after defeating Thanos, Marvel’s movies need a new Iron Man, and who better than the young woman that Tony himself saw fit to take up his comic book mantle. Fans will meet Riri again in her very own Disney Plus series, Ironheart, currently slated for fall 2023; and while she hasn’t been confirmed for the film, it’s a safe bet that she’ll also join War Machine in Armor Wars, Marvel’s as-yet-undated movie starring Don Cheadle’s Rhodey Rhodes.

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