Make It So: Disney+ Ironheart by Jerry Whitworth
In recent articles here at NerdfectStrangers.com, we’ve taken a look at some of the options open to Disney+ for their two remaining yet revealed upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe series (specifically, Nick Fury and the Invaders). However, given the current pandemic afflicting the world, the move to streaming services has exponentially grown so it’s likely Disney+ could be looking to expand even further to take advantage. One property with a great deal of potential is Ironheart. Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato in the pages of Invincible Iron Man, Riri Williams is a child prodigy attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she designed and built a crude power armor in the vein of Iron Man. Attracting the attention of Tony Stark, Williams received the hero’s blessing to follow in his footsteps as Ironheart going so far as to supply the young woman with an artificial intelligence made in his image to aid her. Becoming a big hit for Marvel, Robert Downey, Jr. (whose portrayal of Tony Stark/Iron Man started the MCU) has openly championed adapting Ironheart in the movies and it is rumored to be one of the few moves Marvel Studios could make to bring him back to the film franchise. Lets take a look at what an Ironheart series could mean for Disney+.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has built a strong supporting cast for Iron Man that can easily live on past the life of the character. Don Cheadle as War Machine and Gwyneth Paltrow as Rescue are the most prominent candidates to pick up his legacy but it’s clear Tom Holland’s Spider-Man was intended to follow in Iron Man’s footsteps (Jon Favreau’s role as Happy Hogan in the franchise a clear indicator of this). However, with Sony’s ownership of the arachnid hero, his inclusion in the MCU has boiled down to a case-by-case basis. Beyond that, though, it’s likely the Iron Man brand will want to grow meaning Marvel Studios intends to have an Iron <insert name> emerge. Fans speculated that could be Ty Simpkins, who played Harley Keener in Iron Man 3 (2013) and Avengers: Endgame (2019), possibly taking up the role of Iron Lad. The take, however, is viewed by many as being controversial because not only is Iron Lad a different character in the comics (Nate Richards, descendant of Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic) but whose comic book origins directly lead to the formation of the Young Avengers (to prevent Iron Lad from becoming Kang the Conqueror) which is rumored to be an emerging brand for the movies. Alternatively, fans speculated Katherine Langford being cast as Tony Stark’s daughter Morgan in the future in Endgame was to set-up a legacy character. It should be noted, Rachel Weisz was cast as Melina Vostokoff in Black Widow (2020) who was called Iron Maiden in the comics but who had no relation to Iron Man (though, the Iron Maiden in the Mangaverse was Tony Stark’s sister Toni). Ironheart’s introduction streamlines and simplifies these issues.
Simply put, the character of Ironheart is in the present. No time travel, no bending over backwards to turn one character into another (which courted controversy previously with the Mandarin in the third Iron Man film that is being remedied to a degree for the Shang-Chi brand). What more, the use of a Tony Stark A.I. could not only bring back Robert Downey, Jr. but propel his inclusion into the future as that A.I. in some ways took Stark’s place in the comics when the original was in a coma. Further, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe using a version of MC2’s Hope Pym as its Wasp, it could also mean their borrowing MC2’s concept of Tony Stark living on as an A.I. controlling a suit of power armor called Mainframe as well. But, getting back to Ironheart specifically, if it is the MCU’s intention to jump start a Young Avengers brand, it would be poetic for Ironheart to be the true start point. With Spider-Man, Shuri (played by Letitia Wright), and Stature (portrayed by Emma Fuhrmann) already in the MCU, Ms. Marvel and the Kate Bishop Hawkeye on the way (with Wiccan and Speed teased), and the likes of Patriot, Kid Loki, Hulkling, Miss America, Marvel Boy, Midnight, and Brawn some of the possible characters to come from the other Disney+ series, Ironheart coming at the tail end could be the catalyst for their assemble. Also, as an aside, Iron Man has a deep rogues gallery left relatively untouched by the MCU that could go on to trouble the young heroine. Tomoe, Ultimo, Technovore, Living Laser, Spymaster, Titanium Man, Controller, Dreadknight, Sunturion, Melter, Firebrand, Unicorn, Mauler… a ton of yet used foes. Another interesting aspect of the female hero is her basis on actress Skai Jackson who maybe at the perfect age to play the character in the MCU (shades of Samuel L. Jackson’s casting as Nick Fury following his basis for the Ultimate version of the character).