Animated franchise, Marvel Rising, recently released their latest special, Marvel Rising: Heart of Iron. As the title indicates, Riri Williams aka Ironheart, is being brought into the mix and will be the newest addition to the Secret Warriors. Even before the general release, fans of the series who attended WonderCon had the chance to watch the world premiere before everyone else. Also, at the Anaheim based convention, Comicon.com had a chance to speak with the cast and executive producer of the show. Present were Kamil McFadden (Patriot), Kathreen Khavari (Ms. Marvel), Milana Vayntrub (Squirrel Girl), Sofia Wylie (Ironheart), and Cort Lane (executive producer). Here are five takeaways about Marvel Rising: Heart of Iron.
1. Careful Selection Process For Secret Warriors Members
There are multiple factors that are considered to determine which superheroes are featured on the show. Because it is a show geared towards children, merchandising plays a role to a degree. Also, the comic publishing side also influences decisions because they have a perspective on which characters are most relevant to the audience but are also knowledgeable of the storylines that can be drawn from. It’s quite a collaborative and wonderful process working with the comics.
The most important aspect is which characters resonate with the viewers. The current group of heroes were selected by a group of girls the franchise was presented to. Lane added, “It was really about which characters were girls connecting the most with, and we thought we could tell the best stories for and who had the most opportunity for character growth that was inspirational.”
2. The New Kid On The Block
When we first meet Riri, she’s closed off from the world. She escapes into science and creating new inventions as a coping mechanism after her painful life experiences. Wylie says “Riri is definitely that person who kind of feels on the outside a lot and that’s because of losses in her life and just dynamics that she’s had before.” Through the course of the special, we witness her open up more as she interacts with the team and through their influence, she gains new friends and becomes a hero.
Heart of Iron represented many firsts for actress Wylie. It was the first time she joined the Marvel Rising Universe and also her first time doing voice acting. She had some growing pains initially because for the first part she recorded alone. For the second half, she recorded with the rest of the cast and she picked up so many things just watching them. Wylie was even lauded for her ability to hit emotional beats hard which allowed the writers to incorporate a really deep emotional breath into the stories.
The special also marks the first time Ironheart will be portrayed in animation and Wylie felt pressure to not disappoint the fan base. With regards to Riri’s fans, she stated “[t]hey have supported her and I wanted to make sure that they still love her just as much or even more through the animation. Just bringing her sass, her confidence and all of that. Her strength and intelligence I think is really who I think she is as a whole and also showing that arc of her creating new friendships is really a fun thing for all the Riri lovers out there to see.”
3. Squirrel Girl: The Heart & Soul
Squirrel Girl has experienced a resurgence in popularity probably in part to her unbeatable ongoing comic series. On the show and in person, Vayntrub perfectly captures the spirit of the Ryan North/Erica Henderson version. Part of that reason is because the actress read the comics even before she was considered for the role. With her background in comedy, she was looking for a funny book. The character seems to be the heart and soul of the Secret Warriors and she is able to bring even the more introverted and guarded members out of their shell. “I have definitely loved the dynamic between Riri and Squirrel Girl. Squirrel Girl is such a welcoming and excited character and she wants everyone to be included,” said Wylie. “So, I think through Squirrel Girl, and finding out she has friends through these characters, will really help her with the other characters too. Even though she hasn’t shown those connections yet on screen, I think she’ll really loosen up to everybody as a whole.”
In this special it’s even hinted that Squirrel Girl has a crush on Patriot, voiced by McFadden. Will the two superheroes get together? The actor answered, “I feel that Patriot knows but he’s not the type to come out and say it. There’s something about Squirrel Girl that makes him open up and be free. She tells jokes and stuff like that, that he’s not really used to, which kind of keeps him off balance a little bit. But also, is like, ‘I like that you kind of get me out of my shell a little bit’. I think as the season goes on, he’ll be more open to see what is behind that door.”
4. Showcasing Diversity
One positive aspect of the show is the diversity of the characters and cast. McFadden commented, “One of the things that just immediately popped out when you asked it is representation. I’m one of the few male characters in a female driven show, but just to show the levels of it and to be able to operate in it, not in the normal capacity that we see of the male dominant shows.”
With regards to the relationships between the superheroes like Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel, Vayntrub stated, “Don’t you have friends that don’t look like you? I think that’s a part of it. I think we’re showing authentic relationships now than ever before. We’re not the first to do it. Many people are waking up to the lack of diversity and the issue in the industry. I feel we’re just representing my friends more. These represent my circle and I think a lot of people are noticing there has been a lack of representation in this industry. I don’t think their friendship is new or novel because these friendships have existed since the beginning of time. You know people who aren’t necessarily from the same backgrounds but love each other. What I think what we’re trying to highlight is that everyone, despite their background, is powerful and worthy of an animated series.”
Sometimes the voice talent can really identify with their animated counterparts. Khavari said, “I relate to Kamala in so many ways being first generation American, having parents from the Middle East, parents from a Muslim background and trying to toe the line between these two cultures. She has a love for Jersey City and I have love for Oakland, where I’m from. There are so many parallels between Kamala and myself that it is very easy for me to relate to her and to understand where she’s coming from. They’ve made my job really easy in that sense.”
5. Who’s Next?
What’s next for the animated franchise? We previously reported the next three specials from Marvel Rising. Sometimes it’s fun to play hypotheticals with the cast and see who from the Marvel Universe they want on the show. Both Vayntrub and Wylie agree that there should be more of the older superheroes like members of the Avengers on the show to provide mentorship and guidance to the relatively inexperienced team. Khavari reminisced about her work on Avengers Assembled and how she enjoyed Kamala partnering with Black Panther. “Because their personalities are so different, Black Panther is so serious, the dynamic between the two of them was super entertaining to me and I want to see more of the juxtaposition of personalities.”
It’s not all hypotheticals. In one of the upcoming specials, Lane revealed that “[w]e do create a new villain in an upcoming thing. I probably shouldn’t have said that. That was an interesting and fun experience. There was a really story driven reason for doing it. We get very excited about that.”
Catch up on the latest special, Marvel Rising: Heart of Iron on Marvel HQ. We want to thank everyone for chatting with us about the animated show. Also, we appreciate Marvel inviting us to take part in the roundtable interviews.