Riri Williams is a young Iron Man character and super-genius. She appeared in 2016.
This entry has S P O I L E R S for Civil War II, Secret Empire and the Invincible Iron Man books during that span. But nothing I’d consider major.
- Ironheart (Riri Williams) (Bendis take (2016-2018), part 1). This here profile.
- Ironheart (Riri Williams) (Bendis take (2016-2018), part 2). (We split this article since explaining what her armours do made it a bit too long).
- Champions (2016-2019).
- Ironheart (Riri Williams) (Eve Ewing take).
- Real Name: Riri Williams.
- Former Aliases: “Iron Woman”, “Iron Lady”, “Fe-male”, “Iron Maiden” and other suggested heroine names were immediately and deservedly shot down.
- Known Relatives: Riri Williams, Sr. (father, deceased), unnamed stepfather (deceased), “Mom” (mother, name unrevealed).
- Note: Riri says that she was named after her father. But it is possible that it was her father’s nickname (say, from “Reginald”, “Ricardo” or whichever) rather than his given name.
- Group Affiliation: Former member of the Underground, former member of Black Widow’s Red Room unit.
- Base of Operations: Formerly a Chicago suburb, formerly the MIT, then back to Chicago.
- Height: 5’3″ (1.60m). Weight: 100 lbs. (45 kg.).
- Eyes: Brown. Hair: Black.
Powers & Abilities
Riri is a super-genius, with a strong focus on electrical engineering, computer science and physics.
She seems to be on the same level as Tony Stark was at her age. With perhaps a bit less of an inventive vision, but better access to information.
She apparently can enter a state of flow at will. While the benefits are obvious, it also means that her people skills and ability to handle everyday life lag behind. She spends too much time in the zone.
Her ability to mentally multi-task is phenomenal. She can conduct complex work whilst paying good attention to at least three information sources. She can crank out complex code whilst in the middle of superhuman combat.
Riri is in good shape, and can be surprisingly nimble (by realistic standards) when she needs to.
On the other hand she’s built like a matchstick, and is unlikely to outmuscle most people above age 13.
Ms. Williams is also a really, really fast typist.
Make mine metal
Riri’s earliest power armourStrength-enhancing body armour, like Iron Man’s prototypes are large exosStrength-enhancing motorised frame worn around the body and limbs. In terms of bulk and outer architecture, they’re reminiscent of post-Gremlin versions of the Titanium Man suit.
The main systems include :
- Flight via jet boots. However, it lacks the fly-by-wire systems necessary to manoeuvre well. On the other hand it seems about as fast as a modern jet fighter. This suit could criss-cross the country and respond to developing crises thousands of miles away.
- The suit is also hover-capable. It is done without noise or exhaust – perhaps via magnetic levitation.
- Super-strength (likely “Class 50”).
- Built-in cell phone, wifi, satellite uplink and an impressive suite of attack software. Williams can wirelessly hack into nearby systems.
Early on, the comms are based on Riri having hacked an unhackable StarkTech cellular phone.
- Virtual intelligence to help with piloting the suit, collating information, etc.. However, her systems aren’t powerful enough to fully keep up with the extraordinary demands of superhuman combat. But they’re still impressive. And a full-bore AI co-pilot would require close to $50M in bespoke hardware to run, so…
- High-end HUD suite, like in the Iron Man movies.
- Gauntlet-mounted zero energy projectors, plus repulsor tech. These can be used as beam weapons, and have a mode to trap an opponent in a floating force bubble. Later on the palm repulsors are improved to become secondary exhausts aiding in aerial manoeuvrability.
- Full enviro seals and submersibility.
- Gauntlets-mounted magnetic units. These were used to take away small arms.
- Detachable, flying gauntlets. These can be remotely operated and are hover-capable. The basic operation would be to remotely punch things, using the gauntlets as rockets.
- And quite possibly more.
Riri then obtains a top-shelf AI, which has the full Tony Stark memories, skills and — alas — personality. It serves her as an advisor, trainer and engineering/programming partner.
The AI is also powerful enough to co-pilot a cutting-edge, fully integrated power armour suit. This makes certain complex tasks, such as high-performance flight, possible. A human pilot, even one with a brain as fast as Ms. Williams’, cannot handle that many variables at once.
It is also useful to collate data from the sensor arrays. Here again, too much data for meat-based processing.
The Stark ghostcompA human personality that has been transcribed as computer code. can also take control of the Ironheart armour if Riri is incapacitated. But its goal will be to evacuate Ms. Williams.
Ironheart Mk1 power armour
By the Spring of 2017, Williams and the Stark ghostcomp have assembled a cutting edge Iron Man-style suit.
It uses the traditional red-and-gold colour pattern. The sleek styling is in the dominant Iron Man style of the late 2000s and early 2010s.
The Ironheart suit is fitted to Riri’s body type, but it’s largely free of crap to make it look “sexy”. The faceplate is solid, without a mouth (and the “eyes” may be decorative).
Demonstrated abilities include :
- Enormous strength (likely “Class 90”) and durability.
- High speed, high manoeuvrability, hover-capable flight based on repulsor tech. Lowest estimate is Mach 4. Internal stabilisers and medication dispensers to help deal with acceleration, vertigo, etc..
- Unspecified self-replicating energy sources. These may give the armour near-infinite endurance.
- Powerful repulsors, and a potent but close-range electrical arc emitter.
- Advanced batteries of sensors and energy trackers, advanced biological scanners, powerful comms suite with a hacking software arsenal.
- Magnetic generators (mostly used to disarm infantry).
- Repulsor grenades. These are essentially energy bombs, especially useful as a parting gift when disengaging.
- Audiovisual recording of engagements for later analysis.
- An unspecified in-flight stealth mode (never seen in action).
Dang kids and their phones !
Riri uses a high-end StarkTech smartphone, with a customised OS and her own apps.
One app is a powerful tracing utility, that can within seconds locate a phone with a known number.
The phone is also a back-up weapon. When she holds it it can morphImpossibly shifting into another form into an armoured gauntlet with a palm repulsor.
That was the smartphone. Her smart watch includes an emitter that’ll make her armour fly straight to her. The range is at least a thousand miles.
/sbin/shutdown -r now
There’s a soft reboot after Riri’s earliest appearances.
These are details (more fitting hair style, not having a sister, exact characterisation, being drawn closer to her actual age, fashion choices, etc.). The changes seem tied both to a maturing of the character concept, and feedback from Black women.
The situation is reminiscent of the early Batwoman (Katherine Rebecca Kane).
This profile uses the version in the 2017 volume of Invincible Iron Man as the authoritative one when it comes to these small differences.
Soundtrack for this entry
Good geeky flow music.
Riri Williams was born in 2002 in Chicago. Her father was shot dead while Mrs. Williams was still pregnant.
However, Mrs. Williams managed to remarry about four years later. She works for the Chicago film commission.
As a little girl Riri was a difficult child. Her mother and stepfather therefore consulted a local paedopsychologist.
This doctor determined that Riri was a super-genius. Thus, the problem was that she was bored with seemingly age-appropriate activities.
The doctor helped arrange for special care to meet Riri’s intellectual needs. He also advised the adults on how to keep her positively engaged with the world and able to interact with ordinary people.
Though this could be difficult, Mrs. Williams and her husband were mostly successful.
Sweet home Chicago
Riri and her stepdad were also once saved from alien invaders by Iron Man (Tony Stark).
When Riri was 10, an intrigued neighbourhood girl got off her bike and walked into the Williams’ garage/workshop. She wanted to know what Riri was working on. Though Williams was surly at first, the two ten-year olds connected and became besties.
Which in a sense was easy, since Natalie Washington was Riri’s only real friend.
Riri’s super-genius status drew attention. She was put on a S.H.I.E.L.D. watch list.
More positively, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offered a scholarship. Riri enrolled with the Institute at age 11. She was presumably a Course Six student, and had a dorm room at the Sponge .
(Riri’s schedule at MIT seems strange. She likely had a special status allowing her to take classes and validate credits, but without having to meet undergrads requirements or drink from the firehose due to her youth. And with ample time to return to Chicago and be with her mum and her one friend.)
For Riri’s 13th birthday, Natalie arranged for a phone conversation with Riri’s childhood heroine, pioneering astronaut Mae Jemison .
(Dr. Jemison is never named in the stories, and her likeness is slightly altered. Yet it’s obvious that she’s the person Riri is referring to during these flashbacks.)
A few months later, the Williams and Natalie joined a church picnic in Marquette Park. However, nearby kids got into a dispute. This suddenly escalated into automatic gunfire in the crowded park.
Riri’s stepfather dove for the girls, and managed to save his stepdaughter. However, both he and Natalie were shot in the heart.
I am Iron [Foo]
Riri was badly shocked by this senseless loss.
As she recovered, she became determined to be a super-heroine and protect people. To do so, she would invent a power armour à la Iron Man.
In 2016, she had a series of technical intuitions. This bridged the gap to get a homemade power armour working. As a result she turned her MIT dorm room into a robotics lab where she feverishly built her exo.
Working around the clock, she raided campus labs to steal parts for her personal project. Though one of the MIT’s favourite mottoes is “it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission” (often attributed to Rear Admiral Grace Hopper ), she may have taken things a smidgen too far.
When Tony Stark disappeared and was believed dead, Riri had an epiphany. She styled her practically finished prototype with the Iron Man look, to step in as Iron Man’s successor.
As campus security came to discuss the matter of stolen robotics parts, Riri flew away to focus on her new career as a super-heroine without a name.
Returning to Chicago, Riri did test flights in her suit across the country. One took her to New Mexico, where she stopped two escaping convicts. Though she stopped their speeding stolen truck with one punch, the mechanical stress tore her prototype exo apart.
After the police confirmed that she had helped, she could gather the pieces. She apparently used savings to fly commercial back to Chicago – in time to continue hiding her activities from her mother.
At this point, Stark made his return – his death having been faked (again). While he was away he had taken notice of her.
Stark unexpectedly visited the Williams home. After having a look at the suit Riri was busy reassembling, he took Mrs. Williams and her daughter out for schnitzel .
Stark wished to act as a mentor of sorts, since it was clear that Riri would be a super-hero no matter what. He also smoothed things over with their alma materThe school (usually college) where one studied., since Riri couldn’t afford to return the gear she had “borrowed” from MIT.
2017 super-heroes civil war
Riri was caught in major upheaval in the super-heroic and law-enforcement communities. Disagreements about leveraging the Inhuman Ulysses Cain’s ability to predict future crises led to violent conflict.
Williams sided with Stark, who opposed Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers)’s plans to act based on Cain’s foretelling.
As things went even more sour, a rift appeared on Stark’s side. Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) splintered off to protect her friend Spider-Man (Miles Morales). A number of teenage heroes, including Riri, sided with her.
Eventually, Captain Marvel put Tony Stark in a coma. Then Ulysses Cain exalted, becoming a cosmic entity. These two events put an end to the conflict.
Williams continued to act as a beginner superhero, responding to small superhuman crises across the country. She now had a fair bit of hardware – presumably gifts from Stark.
But she was now running into a wall. Taking her suit to the next level would require dozens of millions of dollars in A.I.-capable computing hardware. Even if she continued to code and build everything by herself.
Look my eyes are just holograms
Meanwhile, one of Stark’s contingency measures activated in response to his coma.
It was an artificial intelligence similar to Friday, his AI masterwork. But this one was programmed with Stark’s personality and appearance.
It was shipped to Riri so it would serve as both her onboard A.I. and her mentor.
Riri thus now had access to real training, top-end computational power, and Stark’s full engineering and super-heroing experience. Together they built an Iron Man-class suit.
“Stark” also came up with the Ironheart moniker, as a reference to the bullets that had killed Natalie Washington and Riri’s stepdad.
Ironheart now operated as a responder in all sorts of heroic-level crises. These included super-villains, aliens, monsters, otherdimensionalLocated in another reality invaders, etc. and a clash with the Techno Golem. During the latter she briefly teamed up with one of her heroines, Virginia “Pepper” Potts.
Riri also went to Latveria to confront Doctor Doom (Victor von Doom). Back then Doom was using the Iron Man name in an attempt to be a hero, which Williams resented.
Von Doom chastised her for having left MIT. He then collapsed due to stress from a complex vision quest he had been undertaking.
Ironheart flew him to S.H.I.E.L.D., if only for medical care. Thus, she was hailed as the person who had brought Doom to justice. Which she thought was stupid since she hadn’t done anything noteworthy.
This hype also increased her unease about the media coverage she was getting.
I’m head of the class, I’m popular
By this point, Tony Stark’s biological mother Amanda Armstrong was firmly in control of the Stark companies. Her wingwomen were Mary-Jane Watson and the artificial intelligence Friday, both of whom had worked in a similar capacity for Tony Stark. Pepper Potts also advised.
Armstrong offered to have Riri move in and take over Tony Stark’s personal lab.
A day later, a MIT rep came to the Williams home. Riri was at best apprehensive. But the Institute (who had kept schtum about Ironheart’s identity) actually wanted to hire her as a special researcher.
Hours later, the youths super-team the Champions invited Ironheart to join their ranks.
Riri decided to take her time to think about it all.
During that span, she was defeated by the Will O’ the Wisp. But the “Stark” A.I. took control of the suit and evacuated the unconscious Ironheart.
Ms. Williams also entered the possible future that Victor von Doom had been trying to explore in his vision quests. She thus met a 126-year-old Tony Stark, who had become Sorcerer Supreme and Earth’s benevolent ruler.
Far-flung-future-Stark heavily implied that Riri’s future work in tech and futurism would play a critical role in making the world a much better place.
I’m not saying it was aliens, but…
While Riri was patrolling over New York City, a heavily-cloaked, tiny spaceship came crashing down. Ironheart narrowly deflected it so it wouldn’t crash onto Manhattan. She managed a victimless impact into Roosevelt Island instead.
The ship was carrying a fatally wounded alien child. Her language was unknown, but she did say “Laura Kinney” before dying.
At this point Ironheart realised that a potent alien virus had started affecting nearby civilians.
… but it was aliens
The island was placed under armed quarantine by S.H.I.E.L.D.. Ironheart activated a fleet of Stark flying camdrones to monitor the infected population.
S.H.I.E.L.D. also parachuted in Wolverine (Laura Kinney).
By this point, the data from Riri’s scans showed that the infected civilians has less than 48 hours to live. However, it was discovered that the Wolverine healing factorThe power to heal wounds and regrow tissues, like Wolverine could destroy the virus.
With her sealed armour and biological scanners, Ironheart significantly facilitated the operations on the ground. Though it was impossible to save everyone, the virus was destroyed with low casualties.
Wolverine then left for space with the Guardians of the Galaxy to find the virus’ source.
Then came the big Chitauri invasion attempt of 2017.
Ironheart and her Stark AI were the ones who restored Earth’s planetary defence shield after a Hydra suicide bomber wrecked it. Having the shield back on saved the world.
However, Riri quickly realised that something was off. She deduced that the suicide bombing actually was a diversion to hide a software backdoor. The shield had actually been kept offline by a third party, not by hardware damage.
As the saboteurs intended, this forced Earth’s most potent assets to move into orbit to fight Chitauri drones before they’d land. Then the shield was switched back on and couldn’t be turned off.
This trapped the heavy hitters off-planet, freeing the way for a Hydra take-over of the United States.
Oh no ! What happens next ? Find out in part #2.
Source of Character: Marvel Comics.
Writeup completed on the 24th of December, 2017.