Marvel Finally Confirms Iron Man’s Return to the MCU

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Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man

Credit: Marvel Studios

Robert Downey Jr., known for his portrayal of Tony Stark AKA Iron Man, is practically synonymous with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) itself. As the actor who kicked off Kevin Feige’s vast interconnected cinematic project with the first-ever Avengers movie, Downey Jr. has become one of the most cherished elements of the billion-dollar Marvel Studios franchise under The Walt Disney Company.

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in a court room scene looking defeated
Credit: Marvel Studios

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From his role in Iron Man (2008), directed by Jon Favreau, to subsequent appearances in Iron Man 2 (2010), The Avengers (2012), Iron Man 3 (2013), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: Endgame (2019), Downey Jr. has played a crucial role in the success of the MCU.

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) dying looking at Spider-Man (Tom Holland) in 'Avengers: Endgame'
Credit: Marvel Studios

Following the Russo Brothers’ Avengers: Endgame, Iron Man has been noticeably absent from the MCU, having sacrificed himself to thwart the universe-threatening plans of the Mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin). The impact of his absence is more palpable than ever as the MCU navigates the current Multiverse Saga, grappling with the void left by legacy actors like Downey Jr., Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), and Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow).

Chris Evan's Captain America talking to Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark
Credit: Marvel Studios

Related: Tiny Secret In ‘Ant-Man 3’ Reveals HUGE ‘Fantastic Four’ Future

As Marvel Phase Four commenced, there has been a discernible decline in the positive reception of Marvel Studios’ projects. This phase also marked the initiation of the studio’s foray into television, with series such as WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki making their debut on The Walt Disney Company’s streaming service, Disney+ (Disney Plus), in 2021.

Disney+ logo with Iron Man, Darth Vader, Elastigirl, Moana
Credit: Disney+

As films like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023) face underwhelming box office performances, and Nia DaCosta’s The Marvels registers a franchise-low opening weekend, it appears that audiences are yearning for the familiar elements of the old MCU, featuring iconic characters like Iron Man and Captain America.

Although there have been rumors circulating about potential future projects such as Avengers: The Kang Dynasty (2026) and Avengers: Secret Wars (2027), possibly incorporating Variants of these beloved characters, there has been no official confirmation from Disney or Marvel regarding their return until now.

Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man getting ready to fight Thanos in Endgame
Credit: Marvel Studios

Currently, it appears that Marvel fans will get to see the fan-favorite Iron Man character again, as the newest Disney+ series What If…? Season 2 will bring the character back in the form of a Multiversal Variant.

Today, Marvel Studios released the trailer for the second season of 2021’s What If…?, a Marvel Studios animated series exploring alternate realities within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), drawing inspiration from the comic book series of the same name.

The exciting Season 2 trailer showcases a non-“Sacred Timeline” Tony Stark riding an Iron Man-esque vehicle, as well as Stark in a Santa Claus outfit (hat included). It is currently unknown whether Robert Downey Jr. will return to voice the role.

Hosted by The Watcher, the series is every Marvel fan’s dream — presenting intriguing episodes that delve into hypothetical scenarios and alternate timelines, showcasing imaginative twists on established Marvel storylines with most of the original cast from the movies. Each episode explores unique premises, such as key events unfolding differently or iconic characters taking unexpected paths. Through this animated format, What If…? offers viewers a captivating and creative exploration of the Multiverse, providing a fresh perspective on familiar MCU characters, narratives, and classic Marvel cinematic moments.

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

The first season’s cast featured an incredible voice cast — a blend of returning MCU actors and fresh voices for alternate character versions. Jeffrey Wright voiced The Watcher and narrated the series, while actors such as Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter/Captain Carter), Chris Hemsworth (Thor Odinson), Tom Hiddleston (Loki Laufeyson/Loki Odinson), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton/Hawkeye), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/Hulk), Josh Brolin (Thanos), Michael B. Jordan (Killmonger), Paul Rudd (Scott Lang/Ant-Man), Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Karen Gillan (Nebula), and Michael Douglas (Hank Pym) lent their voices.

Benedict Cumberbatch also joined the cast as Doctor Strange/Stephen Strange, and a powerful Varaint known as Strange Supreme. Notably, the late Chadwick Boseman voiced T’Challa/Black Panther (in a Variant that became the Guardians of the Galaxy’s Star-Lord) in episodes recorded prior to his passing, contributing to the diverse exploration of Marvel characters and alternate realities in the animated series.

Are you excited to see Iron Man return to the MCU? Will you be watching What If…? over the holidays? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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