(Warning: The following contains reference to an upcoming change in the Marvel Comics status quo, as well as several major SPOILERS for older Marvel comic-book story-lines. Proceed with whatever level of caution your snarky A.I.butler suggests is wise…)
So, here’s the thing. While the recent revelation that Tony Stark will no longer be the Marvel comic-book universe’s Iron Man – – is a pretty big deal, it’s also very much not unprecedented. Y’see, as it turns out, Marvel has been pretty fond of giving its most iconic characters some time off for quite a while now – going all the way back to the 1950s.
Yup, that’s right:
Iron Man Isn’t The First Marvel Hero To Be Replaced By Someone Younger
In fact, it’s a trend that began (sort of) just a few years after Marvel was founded, back when the company was still called Timely Comics. Y’see, back in 1950, Captain America’s original comic-book series was cancelled in the face of dwindling sales and , along with the rest of Timely’s superhero output.
And then, in 1954:
Captain America Returned, Despite Having Been Frozen In Ice
Yup, that’s right. For a handful of extravagantly anti-communist issues back in 1954, Cap returned as Captain America…Commie Smasher. Which…didn’t work out, and the comic-book was swiftly cancelled once again. The thing is, though, when Marvel decided to bring Cap back for good in 1964, the company explained his decades long absence by revealing that he’d been trapped in a block of ice for two decades…since the end of World War Two. Which meant that the 1950’s Cap wasn’t actually Cap at all.
Now, that particular problem didn’t actually get addressed by the comic-books until much later, but we eventually found out that in the wake of Cap’s apparent death, the US government simply replaced him with a series of willing, super soldier serum-less proxies – men like William Naslandand Jeff Mace. By 1954, though, a young man named William Burnside had grown obsessed with Cap, and managed to inexactly replicate the super soldier formula. Unfortunately, however, Burnside was also fairly unhinged (he insisted on having reconstructive surgery to look exactly like Steve Rogers), something that wasn’t helped by the flawed super soldier serum causing a sever case of paranoid schizophrenia. And, so, the 1950’s Captain America wound up being frozen by the US government, only to eventually resurface as a super-villain (because of course he did).
Burnside, though, wasn’t the only man to take over as Captain America. Y’see…
There Have Actually Been Tons Of Captain Americas (Or Is That Captains America?) Over The Years
So many, in fact, that I’m not even going to give them each their own section. Back in the 1970s, when Rogers gave up the name Captain America to become Nomad, he was briefly replaced by a young man named Roscoe Simons…who was soon killed by the Red Skull, predictably.
Later on, having retaken the mantle of Captain America, Rogers was briefly fired from the role, and replaced by a man named John Walker, who soon proved too violent and unpredictable, and was eventually demoted to being the hero ‘U.S. Agent’.
Things were then fairly stable for a while, until Cap was shot (and apparently killed) in the aftermath of Marvel’s first civil war, and he was reluctantly replaced by his recently-revealed-to-still-be-alive sidekick, Bucky Barnes.
Who, in turn, eventually handed the role back to Steve after his inevitable return to action – which itself wasn’t ultimately that long-lasting, with Rogers eventually being ‘aged up’ to the 90-something-year-old man he, y’know, technically is. Which, in turn, led to Rogers asking Sam ‘The Falcon’ Wilson, his long-time crime-fighting partner, to take on the mantle.
Who, thus far, has managed to retain the role to this day, even being allowed to keep the classic shield after Rogers (yet again inevitable) return to youth.
Cap, though, isn’t the only Marvel hero to have been replaced over the years:
Thor Was Once Replaced By A Horse-Faced Alien
Specifically, that guy just above, an alien named Beta Ray Bill, who managed to not only best Thor in single combat, but also lifted Mjolnir, thus proving himself worthy of possessing the power of Thor. To which Odin responded by…changing the rules completely, and giving him his own hammer.
Later, though, Thor also saw his role taken over by a number of humans, including the architect Eric Masterson…
…and the documentary filmmakers (yup, you read that right) Roger ‘Red’ Norvell…
…neither of whom actually survived for all that long. What’s more, the current (female) Thor, Jane Foster…
…isn’t even the first woman to take over the role, with the cosmic entity Tarene briefly becoming Thor Girl – before being swiftly shuffled under the carpet by Marvel, presumably when someone realized .
Meanwhile, over in New York City…
There Have Been Hundreds Upon Hundreds Of Spider-Men (And Women)
Though, in fairness, the vast majority of them were technically just alternate reality Spider-Men, as showcased by the fan-favorite Spider-event, Spider-Verse. Even so, though, Peter Parker has stepped down from the role a few times, famously being temporarily replaced as Spider-Man by his clone Ben Reilly…
…J. Jonah Jameson’s niece, Mattie Franklin, who later became Spider-Woman…
…and, for a while there, even Doctor Octopus (albeit with the villain having forcibly transferred his mind into Peter Parker’s body):
The most beloved replacement Spider-Man of all, though? Well, that’d have to be the Ultimate universe’s Miles Morales, who not only replaced Peter Parker as Spidey in his own world after the ‘Ultimate’ Parker was killed…
…but was recently transported to the regular Marvel universe, where he became one of several Spider-Men currently operating in Marvel Comics (there’s also Spider-Man 2099 hanging around somewhere), and even took over from the original Spider-Man as a member of the Avengers.
Heck, there’s been so much role-swapping going on over the years, that this isn’t even the first time we’ve seen Tony Stark step out of the Iron Man armor, and hand the job off to someone else. That’s right…
For A Long Time, James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine, Was Iron Man
Y’see, as it turns out, having a barely-functioning alcoholic and inveterate risk-taker like Tony Stark stay in one piece as Iron Man is only sustainable for so long – something that has meant that James’ Rhodey’ Rhodes, better known to modern audiences as War Machine, has actually taken over the role on several occasions.
Heck, he even got to be Iron Man during Marvel’s Secret War, the company’s first giant crossover event – during which he had the world’s most awkward conversation about race with Mister Fantastic:
Which, together with even the determinedly peaceful-minded Pepper Potts having now donned the armor in the MCU…
…should hopefully make the idea of a 15-year-old MIT student becoming Iron Man seem a whole lot more in keeping with a long-standing Marvel tradition of shaking things up whenever the company feels like it.
And hey, if it works out half as well as ‘Jane Foster’ Thor, ‘Sam Wilson’ Cap or ‘Miles Morales’ Spider-Man did, we’ll all be cosplaying as Riri come next year’s Comic-Cons…
What do you reckon, though?
How excited are you to see a brand new Iron Man (well, Iron…Woman, I guess?) in the MCU?1 Votes
Staff Writer, Superheroes, Star Wars and such. Bad jokes aplenty. Follow at @kitsb1