The MARVELous Rise of Princess Shuri, Ironheart and Spiderwoman

Three years ago y’all saw me geek out over the announcement of a new Marvel character, Ironheart. (Click HERE to read that blog.) Well, this morning got my geek juices flowing yet again with the recent announcement of the new Marvel Rising animated shorts that will feature Princess Shuri of Wakanda, Ironheart and Spiderwoman. Full disclosure, I’ve spent a significant chunk of my career supporting STEM workforce development and outreach and I know I’ve done some good work, but the potential for drawing more underrepresented individuals and women into STEM through popular media conduits like this will make the work I’ve done pale in comparison. Trust me, I’m okay with that if it means seeing more diversity in the STEM workforce.

Lets start with Riri Williams (a.k.a. Ironheart), a 15-years old Engineering student at M.I.T. A comic book character that celebrates smarts in a young, brown girl? Yes, please. We are still living in a world where the default image of a super smart kid is a young, white male wearing glasses who is socially awkward. While there’s nothing wrong with individuals who may possess all or some of those traits, there are a lot of STEM capable people who look nothing like that stereotype. Now many people won’t want to hear this but I’ll say it anyway, REPRESENTATION MATTERS. Kids model off of what they see. I salute Marvel for this choice and fact of the matter, we need more.

(Sidebar: One if these days we’ve got to branch out from just M.I.T., Marvel. Here are the links to a few schools for your writing teams to consider: North Carolina A&T, Georgia Tech, Purdue, Stanford, Michigan and Texas Tech.)

I have to admit that this Spiderwoman is a bit new to me. I just watched her in Into the Spiderverse this weekend and I think she will be an important character as well for young women and girls who see a bit of themselves in her. I also love the fact that she is a musician and presents awesome potential for the incorporation of ARTS in STEM or STEAM if you prefer.

And then there is my beloved and favorite Disney Princess Shuri of Wakanda. Also a teenager, this young woman is brilliant and I have high hopes of seeing her team up with Riri to defeat some common enemy on both the small and big screen. Seeing Shuri makes me want to go find people to build maker spaces that are modeled off of her lab design.

Thank you Marvel for recognizing and representing the smarts of young females from diverse backgrounds. I am looking forward to more of these examples in the future.

Afro Punk announcement of new Marvel Rising animated shorts:

Marta C. Youngblood is a writer, education and social entrepreneur based in Hot Springs, Arkansas. For more information on her current projects visit

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