As the giant juggernaut of entertainment that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe slowly starts to come to the end of its stage 3 process, many fans have started to ask questions about what is to come in the next stage.
With a long line of box office hit movies, plus the clever use of the small screen, each TV show and movie is integrated together in order to create a giant universe. The MCU has got so many things so right where other franchises have failed. However, as the years pass actors either get older or want to leave their respective roles in order to broaden their acting credentials. One of the main questions that Marvel fans have about stage 4 is whether any of the characters are going to get recast? The top of everyone's concerned list is Tony Stark himself. Having been excellently portrayed by Robert Downey Jr., many people have a hard time imagining another actor fitting into those Iron shoes. If that's the case then the MCU could go a different way and, rather than replace the actor, they could show respect to Tony Stark and actually replace the character.
With that in mind, here are 15 characters that we think could replace Tony Stark in the MCU.
15 Pepper Potts
We start our list with an interesting character for a possible successor to Tony Stark and that's Virginia "Pepper" Potts. The character of Pepper Potts is already integrated within the MCU, being portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow in all 3 Iron Man movies plus the first Avengers movie, so the character is already well established. Within the movies, Pepper Potts has actually worn an Iron suit and even went as far as saving Tony Stark in Iron Man 3.
However, in the comic books, Pepper Potts has a lot more involvement in the world of Iron Man. Not only has she been a lot more "hands on" in the superhero game but when she was on a trip with Stark, they were attacked by Ezekiel Stane, an attack which left Potts with shrapnel close to her heart. Stark built her a suit and Potts became Rescue, and would often aid Iron Man. This could be a storyline the MCU might want to explore in the future.
14 "Happy" Hogan
Tony Stark's faithful, confident driver and security guard, they don't come much more loyal than Harold "Happy" Hogan. Already a staple character within the MCU, although Hogan seems to be there more for comic value than anything else.
Where the movie version of this character differs from the comic book is that Hogan doned the Iron suit a lot in the early days of Iron Man in order to prevent people knowing that Iron Man was Tony Stark, whereas in the movies Stark announced it to the world straight away. Not only that but Hogan was a talented boxer and fighter in his youth and also helped Iron Man bring down some of his foes. Most famously when he put on a suit to help take down Mandarin. It may be a bit of a stretch for the MCU to promote Hogan to Iron Man, but if an aging Stark wants to take a step back, Hogan could be good as the muscle.
13 James Rhodes
As with the previous two entries on this list, if the MCU is looking to promote an existing character to the position of Iron Man then the best candidate for that would be James Rhodes. Already a big character in the MCU as War Machine, Rhodes is well equipped to take on the Iron Man mantle.
Throughout the comic books and the movies, no one else has spent more time in an Iron suit than Rhodes - with the exception of Tony Stark of course! Being a skilled pilot, Rhodes has taken to his War Machine persona without too much trouble and has learned how to use the suit better than almost anyone.
Within the MCU, Rhodes has been portrayed by Don Cheadle and is only one movie behind Robert Downey Jr.; they would have been equal but Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard in the first Iron Man movie. So Cheadle has the experience and character development to take James Rhodes to the next level.
12 Mary Jane Watson
This entry may not be as crazy as it first sounds. The object of Peter Parker's affections has had a long history within the comic books and Mary Jane Watson has tried her hands at many things. Spider-Man's former wife has had a lot to put up with, more often than not being taken by villains in order to get to Spider-Man.
However, more recently Mary Jane Watson has left some of that behind her and has gone to work for Tony Stark at Stark Industries. Having access to Stark's suits, Mary Jane has also put some on and has even worn the Iron Spider suit. We're not sure how Mary Jane could fit into the MCU but seeing as they have just got the rights back to their beloved Spider-Man, Mary Jane could be showing up very soon. From there it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to have her working for Stark and before we know it, this comic book story arch could be on the big screen and we may even get a new Iron Man in the form of Mary Jane Watson.
11 Natasha Stark
The MCU has yet to really delve into the vast Marvel multiverse and all the possible Earths. This is something the comic books have been doing, with some success, for years. If the MCU wanted a character, and storyline, that was something completely different then they might want to look at Natasha Stark.
On a different Earth, Natasha Stark is Tony Stark only he has been born a woman. Every aspect of the character is the same and therefore she could fit easily into the reality that the MCU has created. The only difference is that in this reality, Stark and Captain America are lovers and because of this the Civil War never happened. Seeing how things were left between Iron Man and Captain America at the end of Captain America: Civil War, this could be an interesting way to reunite the heroes. If Natasha Stark found herself in the MCU then she could not only reunite everyone, but they could also slowly edge out Tony Stark and have Natasha replace him.
10 Eddie March
Another new character that the MCU could introduce into their movies is Eddie March. Coming from the poor side of Bay City, March made a name for himself in the boxing ring and fought his way out of his poverty destined life. However, due to ill health, March had to give up his boxing gloves. Luckily for him, he turned to his old friend Harold Hogan and managed to get a job in Stark industries.
In the comic books, March becomes friends with Tony Stark and he actually trains March to become his successor. This could be a good move for the MCU as they could introduce March in further projects and have Stark train him up to become Iron Man. That way they could keep Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in an advisory role until the time was right to complete the transition between Iron Men.
9 Squirrel Girl
If there's one thing that the MCU is getting really good at, it's introducing new superheroes into their universe. From household names like Iron Man and The Hulk to lesser known heroes such as Ant-Man and Black Panther, the MCU is good at giving these heroes a chance to shine and then integrate them into multiple movies and projects.
So if the MCU is looking to introduce a new hero and potential Tony Stark replacement, then they could look to Squirrel Girl. With the ability to communicate with squirrels, Squirrel Girl has almost become a cult figure within the Marvel comic books and could prove a popular choice with fans. Squirrel Girl has also been known to wear an Iron suit and work closely with Tony Stark, most famously when she actually confronted and stopped the planet eating Galactus.
8 Arno Stark
Now we come to an ever so slightly alternate reality, but a reality that could easily be fitted into the MCU. Unaware by Tony Stark is the fact that Tony was adopted and the biological son of the Stark's was Arno. However, due to his health problems at birth, Arno was unable to live without medical assistance and therefore would spend his life in a secret hospital. Not wanting the world to know the fate of their son, the Stark's adopted a healthy baby as a decoy and that baby was Tony.
Once Tony becomes the superhero Iron Man, he learns about his heritage and his brother. Tracking him down, Tony manages to help Arno and together the two of them form a hero partnership. This could be a timeline that might work well within the MCU, especially if there are any more solo Iron Man movies as the Stark's family past has been a big part of those.
7 Iron Suit
There is another avenue that the MCU could explore and that's to get rid of Tony Stark, and therefore Iron Man, altogether. The character of Tony Stark has often been quoted as wanting to stop saving the world and the end goal for him is to have technology that does it for him. He has already shown, in both comic book and movies, what he will do in order to protect the world - especially within the MCU as he created Ultron, which was meant to serve as the world's protector. Although that version turned out to be evil and wanted to make humanity extinct, if Stark could get that right he may be able to step aside completely.
If Stark could produce a number of suits or robots that could protect the world, he could leave the controls with The Avengers and then gracefully retire. That way the MCU wouldn't have to worry about replacing the actor or the character of Tony Stark.
6 Toni Stark
Another entry and another dip into an alternate reality, only this is a reality that could work within the MCU. Much like Arno Stark could work in future Iron Man movies, so could Tony Stark's twin sister Antoinette "Toni" Stark.
In this universe, Tony goes into hiding and his sister takes over the reins of Iron Man. Going by the name Iron Maiden, Toni Stark has some success as a hero and relishes at the chance to be her brother. Unfortunately for her, it doesn't last long as a battle with The Hulk kills her. This brings Tony Stark out of hiding, which is then revealed that Tony went into hiding because of health issues. With the ageing character and the constant fighting that he does as Iron Man, it is plausible that the MCU's Tony Stark would start to suffer health problems which would stop him from being Iron Man. Crossing over into this reality would be a nice way to introduce a new Iron Man and a realistic way to bring the end of Tony Stark.
5 Iron Legion
Tony Stark has become the face of the MCU and therefore replacing the character may be a tall order. If the MCU found this too much of a challenge, then they could look at introducing the Iron Legion.
The Iron Legion was a group of people that each wore an Iron Man suit and helped save the day when Iron Man or The Avengers weren't available. With the likes of "Happy" Hogan, Eddie March, Carl Walker, Michael O'Brien, and Bethany Cable, the Iron Legion became a good group of heroes. Although the MCU already has teams in its movies - The Avengers and The Guardians of The Galaxy already being a staple and with The Defenders on the way on the small screen - it might seem like one team too many. However, having the Iron Legion replace Tony Stark on the big screen could add an extra dimension to the MCU.
If the day does come that Robert Downey Jr. decides to hang up his Iron boots and leave the MCU for good, then the Marvel executives could go a different way. Rather than trying to replace the actor or even the character, they could just retire him and bring in a new face for the Marvel universe and The Avengers.lies it
There is no denying that since Marvel started working on their mammoth cinematic universe, Robert Downey Jr., in particular Iron Man, has become the face of that universe and everything has been built up around him. So when Marvel is looking to go into their phase 4 and reboot the universe, then there isn't a better character to build that universe around than Spider-Man. For years, Spider-Man has been one of the most popular comic book characters and add to that his stand out performance in Captain America: Civil War, Marvel could retire the old Avengers and bring in a new bunch of heroes based around everyone's favorite web slinger.
3 Steve Rogers
Our next entry is in a similar vein to the entry above. With Robert Downey Jr. stealing every Marvel movie that he's been in, the Marvel big wigs might find it too difficult to replace the actor and therefore they might want an existing character to fill the gap. Out of all the characters, and actors, that have been their since the beginning, none would suit the face of the MCU better than Steve Rogers.
Already being loved by many fans as Captain America, Steve Rogers would have no trouble stepping into the role and it would probably be more welcome to fans than replacing the actor of Iron Man. With the events of Captain America: Civil War leaving The Avengers split and Steve Rogers seemingly giving up his Captain America life, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch for Steve Rogers to bring the team back together in phase 4 and lead the new Avengers without Iron Man. Depending on which characters are left after the Infinity Wars movies, Rogers could easily find himself as the top man in the MCU.
2 Tony Stark
With this list, we have looked at possible characters that the MCU could use in order to replace Tony Stark when the time comes. But let's not forget that this is the movie business and what movie executives do best is reboot, remake, and recast. So the number 2 entry on our list is unfortunately the most likely to happen and that is to recast the character with a new actor.
Since the end credits on the Incredible Hulk movie, Robert Downey Jr. has blown us away with his portrayal of the playboy billionaire philanthropist and it's hard to ever imagine anyone else stepping into that Iron suit. Having said that, this is the movies and just like us all, actors grow old and can't go on forever. Both Marvel and Disney have been quoted as saying that they view Iron Man as a James Bond-like character and therefore can be recast every few years to keep it fresh. And let's not forget that across the comic book universe in DC, their two big hitters, Batman and Superman, have been portrayed by many different actors in many different mediums and it hasn't done those characters any harm. It may be sad to see Downey go but we feel this entry is the most likely and therefore inevitable.
1 Riri Williams
Having said everything on our list, with what Marvel might do with the character of Tony stark, we're very hopeful, and very excited, that they go with our number one entry and replace Stark with the new girl on the block, Riri Williams.
The most recent person in comic books to step into Iron Man's shoes is teenage genius Riri Williams. Not only is Williams doing well within the Iron Man comic books but fans everywhere have gone crazy for her which is making her one of the most popular modern day comic book characters. For us the answer to what the MCU should do with Tony Stark is a no brainer, as the MCU's stage 4 could mimic this story arch and bring in the young Williams to take over the Iron Man mantle. They could even keep Robert Downey Jr on if he is willing, and he could be William's mentor and therefore it would be a very smooth transition that should please all fans of the character.
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