Marvel's New Ironman: Riri Williams (2017)
Creator and Marvel's Iron Man writer Brian Michael Bendis created Riri Williams '20, a black female character who takes over for MIT alum Tony Stark. Riri is a science genius who enrolls in MIT at the age of 15. She comes to the attention of Tony Stark after stealing campus equipment to build her own reverse-engineered prototype of his Iron Man Armor design in her dorm. After coming under suspicion by campus security, Riri puts on the suit and flies away.
On Pi Day 2017, MIT Admissions released a student-made fan film based on the Marvel comic-book character to let prospective students know when the university’s admissions decisions would be made. The short starred real-life MIT student Ayomide Fatunde ‘18, a chemical-engineering major.
Although Riri Williams is a fictional MIT black woman, she’s played by a real MIT black woman, directed by a real MIT black woman, and ‘lives’ in a real MIT black woman’s dorm room, something I thought was pretty awesome.
It shows that all of Riri’s characteristics can be found, collectively, among all of the black women at MIT, and I’m glad that there’s now an additional story among all the fictional stories where people can witness this identity.
People were excited about Riri because she opened up the spectrum of imagination —for people in and outside of the demographic of black women...It makes you think, I can imagine a black, female, mechanical engineer — because I’ve seen one. It allows people of that demographic to imagine themselves that way, too.
Riri Williams (played by Dominique Thorne) appears in Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever (2022) as a 19-year-old MIT student who invents a vibranium-detecting machine, with some scenes filmed on campus,