Born shortly after the death of her father, Riri Williams grew up in Chicago with her mother and sister, soon discovering a pretty surprising truth about herself: a genius intellect with special aptitude for engineering. By the age of fifteen, Riri was already attending M.I.T. on a free scholarship offered to her because of it.
It was during this time that Riri reverse-engineered the Iron Man Mark 41 suit in her dorm room, using (stolen) materials from the M.I.T. campus. After testing out her suit's capabilities a few times, Riri had her first taste of crimefighting by stopping a truck carrying a group of prison escapees in New Mexico, which came at the cost of her suit's armor integrity.
While rebuilding her suit from the ground up, Tony Stark learned of her accomplishment, fully endorsing her potential as a hero by offering to take her under his wing.
Even after falling comatose at the end of Civil War II, Tony continued grooming Riri to be his replacement through an AI of himself he created for his hypothetical incapacitation. Good thing, because Doctor Doom deemed himself to be the new (Infamous) Iron Man roughly around the same time, and intends to keep it that way.
Later as part of Marvel: A Fresh Start Riri returns in her new ongoing solo. Written by Eve L. Ewing and Illustrated by Kevin Libranda.
Ironheart appears in:
- Marvel Rising: Heart of Iron (2019), voiced by Sofia Wylie
Ironheart provides examples of the following tropes:
- Affirmative Action Legacy: She's an African-American girl who ends up replacing Tony Stark in Invincible Iron Man, albeit with a different codename.
- Armor-Piercing Response: When she makes it clear she doesn't care to join SHIELD Sharon sardonically asks her if she's a fan of Hydra. Riri responds with a succinct breakdown of how SHIELD abuses power and asks her if she really thinks people who don't like their methods are really With Us or Against Us.
- Break the Badass: She confronts Thanos in Infinity Countdown: Champions #2, expecting an easy victory. Thanos, not impressed, disintegrates her armor and leaves her a sobbing wreck.
- This is followed up in her own series, Riri Williams: Ironheart, where she has a clear case of PTSD.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: See above.
- Child Prodigy: Riri was diagnosed as a genius when she was five years old.
- Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Modeled after Skai Jackson.
- Composite Character: Eve Ewing's portrayal of Riri is basically a Afro-american female preteen composite of Iron Man, Bat Man, and Spider-Man:
- Like Batman, she was motivated to become a crime fighter because two people — a man and a woman — very close to her were fatally shot. For Batman, it was his parents. For Riri, it was her best friend and her step-father.
- Like Spider-man, she is motivated heavily by a combination of survivor's guilt and the borderline With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility moral teachings of her step-father.
- Like Iron Man, her super-powers are 1: she has Super Intelligence, and 2: she uses Powered Armor.
- Dead Guy Junior: Riri is named for her late father, who died shortly before her birth. And her name is "Riri" which isn't a nickname of any sort.
- Determinator: Tony recognizing this quality in her is part of the reason he offers to take her in.
- Ditzy Genius: Despite being a genius engineer, Riri still has her airheaded moments. Like taking over Latervia on a whim.
- Divergent Character Evolution / Palette Swap: After she joins the Champions and is handily taken down by Thanos, who destroys her armor, Riri builds a new suit that replaces the red in her original Stark-esque design with black and pink. This represents her first major step away from being simply "black female Iron Man".
- Friendless Background: She's only had one close friend who unfortunately died as the result of a drive-by shooting.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Was able to reverse engineer one of Tony's old Iron Man armors to make her own suit.
- Generation Xerox: While not related to Tony, she shows many of the traits associated with him. It's part of the reason he decided to take her under his wing.
- Good Parents: After learning of her incredible intellect, her mother and stepfather made a deliberate effort to raise her as altruistically as possible, fearing any social disconnect that would make her a Mad Scientist. She's fully aware of why they're doing it but has accepted it.
- It Amused Me: Inverted. She quit M.I.T. because she found it boring.
- Ineffectual Loner: Despite being on a team, Riri would rather still work alone, sometimes to the detriment of the mission.
- Legacy Character: Subverted. She's more of a diminutive character branching off from an established one with a similar name (example: Batman and Batwoman, Batgirl, etc.), but she's effectively one of these.
- No Social Skills: As part of her intellect and also trauma from dealing with tragedies in the past, she usually holes her herself away from everyone, tinkering with her armour. She did it with MIT and also in her own garage.
- Not So Different: On the surface level, Riri couldn't be more different than Tony Stark (a young black girl compared to a white man) but she also has Tony's determination and poor communication skills and some would say questionable morality.
- Shout-Out: Riri's armor has some design elements that are reminiscent of Optimus Prime.
- Spirit Advisor: A Virtual Ghost of Tony Stark (who was in a coma) serves as onboard AI and mentor of her next armor model.
- Suicidal Overconfidence: A Champions issue actually sees Riri attempt to challenge Thanos of all people to a fight. It's a miracle the Mad Titan was feeling merciful and only disintegrated your armor.
- Superhero Speciation: Played with during the Search for Tony Stark arc, where Riri teams up with number of other heroes with powered armor that are all unique and visually distinct from each other for contrast.