"I am Iron Man". Those four words sparked the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They defined the Infinity Saga. They belong exclusively to Tony Stark... but do they have to? With Phase 4 ready to kick into high gear, it doesn't look like that notion will be answered any time soon. However, Phase 5 is rumored to culminate with the formation of an all-new Avengers. With the void Iron Man left behind in Endgame, there's no better time for someone new to take the proverbial torch and run with it.
No one will be able to replace Tony Stark. But as new threats approach from the greater cosmos, Earth is going to need someone with Stark-level firepower to fight back. So the question now is... who is Iron Man?
10 Harley Keener
Better known as “that kid from Iron Man 3”, fans have been speculating about Harley Keener ever since he threatened Tony Stark with a potato gun. That speculation was amplified when Ty Simpkins reprised his role as Keener for a brief cameo in Avengers: Endgame.
Now much older and barely recognizable, could the tech wiz from Tennessee be the new Iron Man? It’s not like we haven’t seen iterations of a teenage Iron Man in comics and cartoons. What better way to reintroduce Iron Man to the MCU than by having the suit choose young Harley Kenner - signed, sealed, and delivered by Tony Stark himself.
9 Riri Williams
Riri Williams is an engineering student at MIT who builds her own version of the Iron Man armor by stealing equipment from campus labs. When she’s busted by campus security, Riri escapes by blasting off in her shiny new suit. Obviously, this piques the interest Stark Industries. They take her in, fully funding her genius in the process. She becomes Ironheart.
While Riri isn’t in the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet, her debut is inevitable. With newer, younger heroes taking the place of the original Avengers, they’re going to need their own version of Iron Man. Riri Williams isn’t Iron Man and she never has to be, but Ironheart could be Tony Stark’s spiritual successor.
8 Morgan Stark
It was recently revealed that Katherine Langford of 13 Reasons Why fame was supposed to play an older version of Morgan Stark in Endgame. With a young and charismatic actor like her already in the role, who better to lead a new band of heroes than the daughter of Tony Stark himself?
The first time we see Morgan Stark, she pops out of a tent wearing the Rescue helmet. Was that just a cute moment or Marvel cleverly foreshadowing Morgan’s future? Regardless, there’s no better heir to the Stark empire than his own flesh and blood. Her affinity for technology is hinted at in Avengers: Endgame as well.
7 Artificial Intelligence
Tony Stark could always come back as a form of Artificial Intelligence. Like Jarvis, a virtual version of Tony could guide whoever is using his armor. The idea isn’t completely far-fetched. In the comics, Tony Stark creates a virtual version of himself on the off chance his body can no longer function.
Because he is built on Tony’s conscience and emotions, A.I Tony is almost sentient; at one point swaying a little too much from the original Tony’s thought process. In essence, A.I Tony could power a suit by himself, effectively becoming Iron Man all over again.
6 Back From The Past
The time machine from Avengers: Endgame still exists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was never destroyed, and Professor Hulk used a version of it to send Captain America back in time to restore the Infinity Stones. So if someone wanted to go back in time to meet Tony Stark again, they could do so without any real consequences.
Heck, they could even bring him back to the current timeline if they absolutely wanted to. Although this would be a terrible storytelling decision and essentially cheapen the stakes in the MCU... technically, time travel could be a way to bring the original Iron Man back into the game.
We didn’t get enough Pepper Potts as Rescue in Avengers: Endgame. However, what little we saw proved that Rescue is a badass who’s not to be messed with. She is neither Iron Man nor his replacement, but as far as spiritual successors go, Rescue could easily fill the void that Tony Stark left behind.
Pepper is smart, level-headed, a multitasker like no other… and she has shown more than once that when push comes to shove, Pepper can suit-up with the best of them.
4 The War Machine
War Machine. Iron Patriot. Iron Man? If Sam Wilson aka Falcon can switch his name to Captain America by virtue of the shield, then what’s stopping James Rhodes from becoming Iron Man by virtue of the armor? Having War Machine around is good and all, but when the going gets tough, Earth might need new versions of Iron Man and Captain America to keep the planet safe.
Tony Stark may not be around, but that doesn’t mean someone like Rhodey who's just as good can’t don the suit instead. After all, when it comes to being Iron Man, superpowers aren’t exactly a requirement.
3 Suit Of Armor Around The World
Tony Stark spoke about building a “suit of armor around the world” to shield it from otherworldly threats. The Avengers may have stopped Thanos and undone the Titan’s catastrophic damage to the universe, but it’s evident now that the danger isn’t over. Bigger, badder invaders will descend in due time.
While there’s nothing more effective than having Stark man the suit, we’ve seen that his fleet of Iron Man getups can function all by themselves with help of AI. The man behind Iron Man may be gone, but his virtual memory and hundreds of suits could still guard the planet. Iron Man could still exist as a message to the cosmos, that Earth is protected.
2 Hammer Time!
One of the biggest missed opportunities during the Infinity Saga is the underutilization of Justin Hammer. The exceptional Sam Rockwell played a lame, poor man’s version of Tony Stark in Iron Man 2, which could be the perfect setup for a redemption arc in a post-Endgame MCU.
After all, Tony started out as a boozy, womanizing, greedy, self-entitled jerk before transforming into Earth’s mightiest hero, so why not someone like Justin Hammer? Hammer will never be Tony Stark, but an adjacent version of that character played by Sam Rockwell could be the kind of unorthodox storytelling we never knew we needed.
1 Happy Hogan
The fact that this hasn’t happened yet is a crime in itself. Although it’ll probably be for laughs, the affable Happy Hogan needs to put on the armor at some point and become Iron Man… even if it’s for a brief minute. Actor-producer-director Jon Favreau has been a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since day one. He launched the Infinity Saga alongside Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige and has been a pivotal piece to the success of this monumental endeavor. It would only be fitting for him to suit-up as Iron Man just once (or twice) to aid his friends in battle. There’d be no better tribute to Tony Stark than to have his best friend neutralize a threat to the sound of ACDC's 'Thunderstruck'.