There will eventually come a time when the stars of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Phase 1-3 era (Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and so forth) will call it a day and hang up their superhero hats. Fortunately, the world of Marvel Comics has already set a precedent for how such characters as Iron Man and Captain America can actively continue to be part of the MCU, even after the actors that originated the roles on the big screen have retired their world-saving games.
For years now, superhero mantles have been passed down from one comic book character to another, resulting in such current popular Marvel Comics mainstays as The Totally Awesome Hulk/Amadeus Cho and Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan, among others. This year we're getting a new Iron Man in the form of Riri Williams, a scientific genius who has been enrolled at MIT since she was 15 and managed to reverse-engineer her own Iron Man power suit - something that naturally snags the attention of Tony Stark. It has now been confirmed that Williams will be adapting a superhero moniker of her own too, upon taking up the Iron Man mantle: Ironheart.
Acclaimed comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis (creator of Marvel Comics' Jessica Jones character) and longtime comics illustrator Stefano Caselli (Avengers Assemble, The Amazing Spider-Man) are launching Invincible Iron Man #1 this fall, properly kicking off Riri Williams' run as Ironheart in the process. Bendis, when interviewed by Wired, explained how Williams' superhero title came to be:
“Iron Woman seemed old fashioned to some. Iron Maiden looked like a legal nightmare. And Ironheart, coined by [ex-Marvel Entertainment Chief Creative Officer] Joe Quesada, after I told him my planned story for Riri, speaks not only to the soul of the character but to the Iron Man franchise as a whole. Tony first put on the armor to save his heart. Riri puts it on for different reasons altogether but still heart-related. When people see her story, you’ll be amazed at how simple and brilliant Joe’s suggestion was.”
You can check out the cover art for Invincible Iron Man #1, below.
While Marvel Comics has a head-start on the MCU when it comes to inclusivity with its superheroes, the latter is taking steps to catch up and not just with its onscreen superheroes either - with Cheo Hodari Coker serving showrunner on the Luke Cage TV show, Taika Waitit directing next year's Thor: Ragnarok, and so forth. The hope is that the world of Marvel Comics will soon follow suit in that respect and bring in more women and/or people of color to write/illustrate the stories about this equally-more diverse new generation of Marvel superheroes. For now, however, the introduction of characters such as Riri Williams alone is reason enough to celebrate and hope that Ironheart resonates with comic book readers as much as Tony Stark did before her.
As for whether or not Riri Williams is going to become part of the MCU anytime soon: it's a possibility. The powers that be at Marvel Studios have teased that 2018's Avengers: Infinity War and 2019's as-yet untitled Avengers 4 will serve as a fresh "Beginning" or "Rebirth" (pardon the DC Comics reference) for the MCU. By that point, Phase 3 will have drawn to a close and introduced a whole new team of characters to take up the charge as the Earth's Mightiest Heroes in the MCU; Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) among them. That could be the ideal spot to introduce the new Iron Man to the MCU too, but for now that's just speculation - no more, but no less either.
Invincible Iron Man #1 arrives in November 2016.