Famed Marvel Comics talent and Iron Man writer Bob Layton expects Avengers 4 to be the swan song for Marvel Cinematic Universe star Robert Downey Jr., whose armored Avenger has anchored the franchise for a decade.
"He has been doing the same role for over 10 years now, and I think as with any actor sometimes, it is time to move on."
Asked if he thinks Tony Stark dies, Layton answered, "That is one way of doing it, but I'd only be guessing. I know this — I wouldn't want to recast Tony Stark. Who would want to try to top Downey? But, if Tony doesn't come back, they can put somebody else in the armor and start a new generation of Iron Man."
Layton, whose tenure on the Iron Man comic ran for more than a decade, reinvented the character and delivered defining works like Iron Man #128 — the famous "Demon in a Bottle" story — and co-created characters like villain Justin Hammer, seen in Iron Man 2, and James Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine, now a fan-favorite Avenger portrayed by Don Cheadle.
The MCU's take on Iron Man, inspired by Layton's works, transformed the B-list comic book character into an A-list movie star — something Layton attributes to the character of Tony Stark.
"Tony Stark is the most credible character in the entire comic universe other than maybe Batman. All you have to do is believe his technology is real, and, honestly, we may be just few years away from flying Iron Man suits," Layton explained.
"Iron Man is about Tony Stark, one of the most interesting characters in the comic book world. We care about Tony Stark, the fact that he had an epiphany and that once he was left for dead and had to fight his way out of the clutches of terrorists he realizes this is all his fault."
Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark is a deep, multi-faceted character who is always changing — lending to his success and longevity.
"It is always about character with me, not about situation. That is the big difference between a good super hero movie and a bad one," Layton said. "If it is situation driven, it tends to be boring. It's just a bunch of problems to be solved. What makes comic book characters interesting is their depth."
Another Layton co-creation, Ghost, can now be seen terrorizing Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly in Marvel Studios' Ant-Man and the Wasp. Tony Stark returns in Avengers 4, out May 3, 2019.