Iron Man was the hero who kicked off the Infinity Saga, and the aftermath of his ultimate sacrifice was what brought it to a close. But even though a new chapter of the MCU is about to begin without the man in a can, Tony Stark’s spirit is likely to be all over the MCU’s upcoming stories. Here are seven ways we could see the influence of Iron Man affect the MCU going forward.
The Further Adventures of Spider-Man
Spider-Man’s storyline in the MCU has revolved heavily on his relationship with Tony Stark up to this point. Tony recruits him into the world of big-league superheroes and helps him find his way in this new world in Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Tony officially makes Peter an Avenger in Avengers: Infinity War. In Avengers: Endgame, Tony leaves behind a gaping hole that Peter feels the pressure to fill in Spider-Man: Far From Home. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that the main villains in both MCU Spider-Man solo flicks thus far - Vulture and Mysterio, respectively - have been disgruntled former Stark Industries employees out for vengeance.
All that being said, Kevin Feige has stated that moving forward, Spider-Man won’t be as stuck in his mentor’s shadow as he has been so far, and that the point of Far From Home was to make it clear that Spidey - and Peter Parker, for that matter - is his own distinct superhero and not “the next Iron Man”. However, the wisdom Peter learned from Tony will undoubtedly influence his journey as it progresses, and he left him some pretty nifty suit and gadget technology as well. Not to mention that Vulture is still alive, and Mysterio might very well be too…
The Mindset of Doctor Strange
While Spider-Man is the Phase 4 hero who had the closest relationship with Iron Man, he certainly wasn’t the only one deeply affected by his death. In Infinity War, Doctor Strange makes it clear he is willing to sacrifice anyone to defeat Thanos, trying to remain stoic with his signature snark. There are a few points over the course of that movie and Endgame at which we see Strange stay true to this sacrificial mantra, and during all of these moments, Tony is right by Strange's side.
Right before Doctor Strange dusts away in Infinity War, he gravely says, “Tony, there was no other way.” It’s haunting enough considering half the universe is now disappearing, but even moreso knowing he was also referring to Tony’s eventual sacrifice to save everyone. During the final battle in Endgame, he ominously tells Tony “If I tell you what happens, it won’t happen,” and later slowly holds up a finger to indicate his snap is the one way their side will win.
We don’t get to hear from Doctor Strange after this, but he’s seen at the funeral with everyone else and the aforementioned moments show how much of an emotional toll knowing the future has had on him. Strange no longer has the Time Stone, so he probably won’t have to have that type of burden again, but these events will likely have ramifications on his mindset. Does Strange feel guilty for leading Iron Man the way he did? Is he feeling the gravity of what sacrifice as a superhero means for the first time? Hopefully we’ll get some insight into how he’s recovering from the traumatic events of the Infinity Saga’s end in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.
The Ten Rings and the REAL Mandarin
The Mandarin is a classic Iron Man villain in the comics, but the version of the character seen in Iron Man 3 turned out to really be an actor named Trevor Slattery. However, one of the many MCU announcements at San Diego Comic-Con in 2019 was that the real Mandarin will appear in the upcoming Shang-Chi movie. In fact, the full title of the picture, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, also hints at ties to the MCU’s past given that in the first Iron Man film, the Ten Rings is the name of the terrorist group that abducts Tony Stark in Afghanistan.
Thanks to the bonus Thor: The Dark World home release short All Hail the King, we already know a bit about the real Mandarin and his connection to the rest of the MCU. According to All Hail the King, the actual Mandarin is the one in charge of the Ten Rings, and he is fully aware (and none too happy) about what happened with Trevor during the events of Iron Man 3. Given this information hasn’t been divulged in any of the main MCU movies yet, it’s likely that it will come up again in Shang-Chi and help serve to tie the plot of that movie in with the events of the MCU thus far.
Fallout Over the Death of Thanos
Speaking of tying news properties in with existing ones, another villain defeated by Iron Man in the MCU has close ties with a group imminently making their MCU debut. The Eternals is on the docket for Phase 4, and in Marvel Comics lore, Thanos is actually an Eternal.
While it's as of yet unconfirmed whether or not Thanos will have Eternal blood in the MCU, it would certainly be an effective way of connecting the first big-screen story of the Eternals to the rest of the MCU. Possible flashbacks of a younger Thanos living amongst other Eternals could do this, and what could be even more interesting is seeing the Eternals in the film react to his death and defeat after Iron Man’s snap. The Eternals have been around for thousands of years in MCU lore and were undoubtedly affected by the Decimation and Blip, and the idea of getting the perspective of that whole situation from those who knew Thanos as one of their own is a take on the situation we have yet to see.
Could Stark's sacrifice have unknowingly played a role in reteaming the MCU's Eternals team? We'll have to wait until The Eternals releases in 2021 to find out.
A Ticket to The Multiverse
While the Nano Gauntlet gets most of the fan glory for being the device to thank for the iconic “I am Iron Man” moment in Avengers: Endgame, it’s not the only piece of Stark tech that plays a major role in the film. Tony is the one to figure out most of the time travel technology used for the Time Heist, and while it’s put away at the end of the movie, as far as we know it very much still exists and may be used again in the future.
We know the multiverse is going to come into play in the next Doctor Strange movie, presumably also in the Loki series, and likely in other projects down the line as well. With the time travel technology in Endgame taking its users to alternate versions of the MCU, it’s possible that this will be the gateway to some form of multiverse for certain characters.
The technology also leaves the door open for deceased characters to return in some capacity down the line. Captain America retired to an alternate version of the past, but other characters could potentially use it to bring him back to help in a pinch if need be. And even an alternate Iron Man himself could be brought to the current timeline using the very technology his main universe-self created. Endgame opened the door for pretty much any character to return to the MCU, and Tony Stark is the one who made that possible for the remaining heroes to utilize.
The Next Generation
Of course, Tony Stark’s vast resume of technological feats isn’t the only thing he left behind; Endgame introduced us to his young daughter, Morgan, who already seems to be interested in the family business if her playing with the Rescue helmet is any indication.
While Morgan seems a little young to become a full-fledged superhero, there are lots of ways she could get involved down the line. She seems quite close with the surviving Happy Hogan, and surely others who were close to her dad like Spider-Man and War Machine are checking up on her now and then, so we may see her interact with them in the future.
A Young Avengers project is rumored to be in development at Marvel Studios, so we may not have to wait quite as long to see Cassie again if Marvel finds a way to bring her into that group. And then there’s the possibility of her going to the dark side; a storyline involving her turning against the Avengers after losing her father to one of their missions could be a very compelling direction for Marvel to go in the future.
The Entire Marvel Cinematic Universe
Let’s be real: Iron Man’s sacrifice via snapping the Nano Gauntlet prevented Thanos from destroying the universe and creating a new one. Therefore, he is the reason everyone in the Marvel Cinematic Universe - at least those in the main timeline - get to continue their journeys, and the characters we have yet to meet get to begin their’s. Even if he’s not directly addressed in everyone’s future stories, his spirit will be present in them because they know he is the one who ultimately kept the universe - and the adventures - going strong.