Marvel Quietly Retcons ‘Iron Man’ as Studio Deals With Growing Turmoil

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Tony Stark shows Arc Reactor to Obadiah in 'Iron Man'

Credit: Marvel Studios

The Marvel Cinematic Universe could be changed forever if a recent entry into the Marvel live-action canon is anything to go by. Yes, Marvel Studios has retconned the MCU’s Iron Man (2008).

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man
Credit: Marvel Studios

Under the leadership of Marvel Comics aficionado and superhero superfan Kevin Feige, the comic book movie genre was reignited in 2008 with the arrival of the critical and commercial hit Iron Man. Led by Robert Downey Jr. as the charismatic, arrogant, yet loveable Tony Stark, the first official entry into the MCU is still a beloved fan-favorite.

Helmed by director Jon Favreau, who also stars in the franchise as Happy Hogan, Iron Man — and its captivating post-credits scene with Nick Fury — launched the MCU and promised a blockbuster-scale, interconnected world that would hopefully go on for years and years. And 14 years later, the billion-dollar franchise is still churning out movies and now TV shows, even if fan reception has started to sour.

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in 'Iron Man' (2008)
Credit: Marvel Studios

Related: ‘Iron Man 4’ “Trailer” Stuns as Tom Cruise Takes Over as Tony Stark

The release of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023), the 31st film in the MCU, saw historic lows for Marvel Boss Kevin Feige’s series. Those fears of superhero fatigue were tempered slightly with the subsequent debut of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023), which proved that Marvel sequels still had the buzz they used to have (think, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) and Thor: Ragnarok (2017)).

Now, 14 years after Iron Man‘s release, a new Marvel project has seemingly retconned the events of the movie.

Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man
Credit: Marvel Studios

The MCU’s Iron Man

A new book, “Marvel Studios The Marvel Cinematic Universe: An Official Timeline” (2023), details the events in the MCU, very similar to Disney and Lucasfilm’s recent “Star Wars: Timelines” guide. But, something within the book changes what fans thought they already knew and retcons Iron Man in the process.

According to CBR, the “Marvel Studios The Marvel Cinematic Universe: An Official Timeline” has pushed Iron Man further away from the events of The Incredible Hulk (2008) — two years apart, in fact.

Edward Norton as Hulk
Credit: Marvel Studios

Related: 13 Years Later, Marvel Replaces Historic ‘Iron Man’ Actors in the MCU

This would then change the timeline trajectory of Favreau’s Iron Man, as at the start of Iron Man 2 (2010), it is confirmed that Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark has been the red and gold future Avenger for only six months. But what does Iron Man 2 have to do with The Incredible Hulk?

Well, in “Fury’s Big Week”, a comic book project that was released ahead of the debut of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers (2012), Marvel confirmed that the events of The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor (2011), all Marvel Phase One movies, all happened during the same time period.

Nick Fury talking to Iron in Iron Man 2
Credit: Marvel Studios

So if the official Marvel Studios encyclopedia is saying that Iron Man is two years prior to The Incredible Hulk, with their events taking place in 2008 and 2010, respectively, then Iron Man 2‘s placement — six months after Iron Man — would be up for debate and would change when Tony Stark became Iron Man in the MCU.

Of course, as CBR notes, this could be an error and will be caught before official publishing commences. But if it’s not, it shows that not even one of the world’s most celebrated interconnected universes is as airtight as one might hope.

And this retcon, if that is what this is, comes at a time of turmoil and disaster for Feige’s superhero studio. As the Infinity Saga wrapped with the acclaimed Avengers: Endgame (2019), which saw the Avengers take on Thanos (Josh Brolin), the MCU had a rocky upwards climb on its hand. How would it top a decade-long, relatively cohesive, and thoughtful saga? It introduced the Multiverse.

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man
Credit: Marvel Studios

Marvel Phase Four, and now Five, has been turbulent. From the introduction of the Disney+ TV shows to a widely-panned multi-million-dollar movie bombing at the box office and the endless shadow of superhero fatigue, the MCU has hit every hurdle going. And then, earlier this year, celebrated performer and the next Big Bad actor of the live-action Marvel Universe, Jonathan Majors (Kang the Conqueror), was arrested in New York City on domestic abuse charges, throwing the future of the Multiverse Saga into disarray.

The MCU may not be the steady ship it once was, but it seems to be on course correction. Upon the return of the former CEO of The Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger, Disney, and Marvel Studios seems to have halted the seemingly over-saturation of content, spreading movies out across the year more conservatively and pulling back on streaming offerings. Next up on the small screen is Secret Invasion beginning June 21, and then The Marvels takes on the movie theaters on November 10, 2023.

“Marvel Studios The Marvel Cinematic Universe An Official Timeline” releases on October 24, 2023.

Do you think Marvel Studios is retroactively altering its own timeline? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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