Like Dominque Thornes Ironheart is set for its Disney+ debut next year, many fans are wondering if this could open the door to Robert Downey Jr.’s comeback as Iron Man.
With the release of Black Panther: Wakanda ForeverDominique Thorne’s Riri Williams has made her MCU debut and she’s headed for her own solo series next time Ironheart coming to Disney+ next year. However, Riri’s debut surprisingly left a pretty big question unanswered: how is it Ironheart connected to the MCU’s Iron Man?
Many fans are naturally curious how Riri’s story will tie into the late Armored Avenger without the inclusion of Robert Downey Jr.’s iconic Marvel hero, since Tony Stark died in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. There was no indication that Riri was personally connected to Stark i Wakanda forever other than that she attended his alma mater at MIT
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever director Ryan Coogler recently made the distinction that although “there is a connection between (Riri) and Tony” in MCU, “it’s a complicated connection.” This could indicate that Ironheart will not admire her namesake in the same way as someone like Sam Wilson’s Captain America or Kate Bishop’s Hawkeye.
Right now, it’s starting to look like Riri Williams will be less associated with the genius billionaire than expected. This has fans wondering if Riri has yet to make the necessary connection with Tony Stark, which could mean she could meet Robert Downey Jr.’s hero in some form during her titular Disney+ show.
Is Robert Downey Jr. an opportunity for Ironheart?
The favorite theory for Robert Downey Jr.’s return to the MCU has long been the idea of him coming back in the form of AI. In fact, the last time he was seen on screen in Avengers: Endgamehe appeared in holographic form, already teasing that a virtual form of Tony might already be snoozing on a memory stick somewhere.
In addition, some fans believe in the EDITH glasses Spider-Man: Far From Home wasn’t sent to Peter until after Tony Stark’s death, which shouldn’t have been possible if no one but Stark had access to the glasses. If a digital Tony Stark is lurking online, still trying to put a suit of armor around the world, he can turn to Riri when he finds out that an MIT student has taken after his flamboyant heroic style.
Artificial intelligence seems to be the most practical path for Robert Downey Jr.’s return as Tony Stark, as it is unlikely to weaken the sacrifice Iron Man made that cost him his life. Riri no longer has Wakandan AI to help her in her own iron suit – it would be just as well to have Tony Stark as her new armor servant. Imagine Stark trying to give Riri flying lessons, only for her to tell him she’s already flown with the Dora Milaje.
Robert Downey Jr. in another MCU origin story
In contrast, Marvel may choose to take a more gruesome approach to Ironheart’s connection to Iron Man and put Riri at odds with the late Avenger. One theory as to why Riri might not be too keen on Tony Stark is that he funded the device she built to track the vibranium in Wakanda Forever, which led to a secret underwater civilization trying to kill her and go to war with the surface world.
This would have been possible through Stark’s September Foundation Grant which he awarded to the students at MIT In Captain America: Civil War. Riri can attribute some of Wakanda foreverher death and destruction to Tony Stark for blindly funding her schoolwork without considering the potential consequences.
Wakanda forever Producer Nate Moore recently admitted that while it may have been “fun” to create parts of Ironheart’s MCU introduction “a nod to Tony Stark,” Riri Williams “treads less directly in Tony’s footsteps” in the MCU than she does in Marvel Comics.
This could mean that Ironheart’s morals and beliefs will differ from Tony Stark’s. Riri’s personal struggles and how she deals with them will likely be explored in the Disney+ series; it’s possible Stark’s rather ruthless coping mechanisms are also examined to see if they’ve had any effect on Riri, like the September Foundation Grant (or the recently repealed Sokovia Accords, which were aggressively implemented in the same film).
The Ironheart the series could take an interesting turn to explore the misuse of the September Foundation Grant at MIT, and Riri Williams could take it upon herself to succeed Iron Man and bring justice to others by taking advantage of the billionaire’s impulsive generosity.
If so, this could include Riri analyzing multiple flashbacks of Stark working at her school and realizing the unintended damage caused by Stark’s guilt, or even using Iron Man-style projection holograms to recreate scenes or memories that include Tony and his time like the man in A Box.
If Ironheart is going to feature Riri learning from Iron Man’s mistakes, it would be hard to do without featuring Robert Downey Jr.’s hero in some capacity, but it likely won’t be anything more than a recorded message or a flashback to one of Stark’s seminars or speeches unless he is directly related to Williams’ superhero origin story.
Should fans expect RDJ in Ironheart?
From an industry standpoint, the chances are slim that Robert Downey Jr. appears in Ironheart. Considering almost every Marvel cameo leak up front these days, combined with the pretty penny it would cost just to feature RDJ on a Disney+ show, the amount of resources that would have to be used to make an Iron Man cameo work offset the production value of the upcoming series.
Alternatively, there are other ways Tony Stark could find a way to make his presence felt in Ironheart, similar to his influence with the EDITH glasses in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Although not credited in the film, Robert Downey Jr.’s presence was felt heavily throughout Far from home thanks to the countless photos and murals of Tony Stark and the emotional gap felt by Peter Parker thanks to Stark’s absence.
IronheartThe Disney+ run could take a similar approach Spider man sequel, but it will have more work to do with the limited connections between Riri and Stark so far. However, the upcoming streaming series is the most likely place for Tony Stark to appear since his departure in 2019 due to the nature of the source material, so it’s entirely possible that “complicated connection” between the two iron heroes i Ironheart will feature both Thorne and Robert Downey Jr.
Ironheart will debut on Disney+ in autumn 2023.