With the spectre of Marvel Phase 4 looming ever larger, the conversation about who will be the new Iron Man is picking up pace. Hell, even the OG Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., is weighing in with thoughts about who should replace him after the events of Avengers: Endgame. Below, we’ll take you through the most likely new Iron Man candidates, from MCU mainstays, to another Stark, and even a certain Ms. Potts. Yes, RDJ’s pick gets a mention too. Because no one can keep Tony Stark quiet, even in death.
If Marvel wants to play it safe – and leave some room for some of the younger new Iron Man replacements on this list to come of age – then it should look no further than James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes, AKA War Machine.
Not only has Rhodey proven his superhero credentials time and time again, right from the original Iron Man (where he was played by Terrence Howard, who must stare daggers into his agent every single day), through to Avengers: Endgame.
He’s got it all: the suit, the dry wit, the hatred for pop culture references. Whatever the makeup of the new Avengers team looks like in Phase 4, War Machine will be a part of it – and there’s pretty much no better person ready to immediately step up and take on the Iron Man mantle.
Pepper Potts (Rescue)
In an almost blink-and-you’ll miss it reveal during the Avengers: Endgame final fight, Pepper Potts finally got involved in the nitty-gritty of superhero work by donning the birthday gift Rescue suit made by Tony Stark.
She kicked ass, too. The blue suit, which sets it apart from the dreary colour palettes of the gun-metal greys and chrome reds of War Machine and Iron Man’s suits, is already a big step in the right direction, alongside the bevvy of gadgets and gizmos the suit possesses. Plus, we already know Gwyneth Paltrow has the acting chops to carry a franchise on her back if she wants to (which would be the big caveat here).
It’d be a big win for the MCU to get another big female superhero on-board without having to start from scratch, too. Endgame only hinted at the tip of the iceberg when it came to all-female team-ups in future Marvel movies, so why not have Ms. Potts carry on Tony’s legacy in the best, most empowering way possible?
Marvel is sowing its seeds for the future. The likes of Shuri, Cassie Lang, Monica Rambeau, and Hawkeye’s daughter will be part of the next generation of Marvel heroes in one way or another. You can probably count Morgan Stark, Tony’s daughter, among that motley crew too. Did somebody say Young Avengers?
As the ‘Love you 3000 memes’ have proven in spades, the newest member of the Stark clan has already struck a chord with audiences. She’s in a prime position to do the family name proud as one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes if she so chooses. And don’t forget: She’s already worn the Iron Man helmet as a five-year-old! Sign. Her. Up.
The kid from Iron Man 3
Remember that funeral in Avengers: Endgame? Of course you do. It was only days ago and it’s already been seared into your memory for the rest of your days because of how much you cried. No. Just me?
Anyway, there was one peculiar guest at the ceremony. The slightly lanky, awkward-looking kid towards the back wasn’t just a random dude who snuck past the likes of Nick Fury and Hawkeye so he could get a look at a superhero send-off. No, he actually has ties to Tony Stark thanks to a few key story beats from Iron Man 3.
In the movie, Tony befriends Harley Keeler, a child who has been abandoned by his father (sound familiar?) and sets about helping Iron Man at his lowest ebb. His generosity of spirit helps Tony get back on the right track before defeating ‘The Mandarin.’
Presumably, they kept in touch over the years, hence Harley’s appearance in Avengers: Endgame. It was implied at the time that he’s a pretty damn good builder himself, so it would be no surprise to see him add a few bells and whistles to Tony’s current set of suits, as well as providing back-up for whoever takes over in Tony’s role, if not doing it himself.
This isn’t as far-fetched as you might think. We already know T’Challa’s baby sister has the genius-level intellect to match both Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, but she’s also got the technological prowess of Wakanda at her fingertips too. If anything, she’s almost too perfect to step into the shoes of Iron Man – or at least take more of an active interest in the battlefield.
However, if you’re going by your comics, Shuri’s future has already been essentially mapped out – and it involves taking on the cowl of Black Panther and ruling Wakanda. Sure, that’s a pretty cool character arc, but you also can’t discount the tremendous impact a woman of colour directly replacing Robert Downey Jr. would have. One to consider, for sure.
Remember the little girl from Captain Marvel? By my (admittedly terrible math), she should be around 27 around the time of Avengers: Endgame. Marvel is clearly positioning her to have a key role moving forward, whether that be in Captain Marvel 2, or elsewhere. And it’s also even more clear that her head is in the clouds.
But don’t expect Monica to become the next Iron Man. Semi-spoilers here for a potential MCU future, but Monica’s path firmly lies in becoming Photon, a Captain Marvel-lite of sorts that is able to travel in space, blast energy beams from her hands, and all that jazz. In effect, she could become someone with the exact same tool-set as Iron Man, just without the name. It’d be a neat way for Marvel to sidestep the whole issue of who is replacing Tony Stark in Marvel Phase 4.
Who? Marvel doesn’t have to look towards the MCU for the next Iron Man. In fact, thinking further afield to the comics might be the best way to go to get a fresh start. Say hello to Riri Williams, a fast-thinking (and even faster-talking) alumni of MIT, who manages to piece together a piece of Iron Man-style armour made out of scrap.
She’s rapidly making a name for herself in the pages and panels of comics, having only debuted three years ago but, as we’ve seen with Captain Marvel, the likes of Kevin Feige aren’t shy from doubling down on new and/or re-invented characters in a short space of time.
But get this. Ironheart now has the Robert Downey Jr. seal of approval. Speaking at a recent event, the former Tony Stark actor (ugh, that still feels wrong saying that) gave his blessing for a new breed of hero. Eve L. Ewing, who wrote and popularised Ironheart in the comics, revealed as much on Twitter. Yep. He apparently said he wants to see Ironheart in the MCU.
While he didn’t namecheck Riri has a straight-up replacement for his character, and there’s no darned footage from the event (come on internet, do your job!), just dropping the I-bomb in front of a room of people is enough to get people talking. Let’s face it: Ironheart would be brilliant.
A fresh figure with a heavy dose of RDJ-style sass, and someone who’s not afraid to get her hands dirty? She might be the perfect fit when it comes to the new Iron Man. She’s still her own person and young enough, too, meaning that she could probably fill the Arc Reactor-shaped hole left in the MCU post-Endgame for potentially decades to come.
Of course, sometimes the most obvious (and snarky) answers are the best. Just ask RDJ. Speaking of which, he might not want anyone to take over as Iron Man – and neither might the fans.
He’s done such a good job over the years, becoming just as seemingly irreplaceable as Hugh Jackman with Wolverine. It might be time to retire the character for good and let a new generation make their mark in their own way.
Want to get excited for more related content? Here's how Avengers: Endgame could influence the new Marvel TV shows, and below our spoilerific chat about the ending: