A year and half ago we posed the question of whether or not Marvel Studios was going to delve into the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe after The Avengers. Rumors and reports combined with Easter eggs in the films released up until that point in time – along with certain happenings in Marvel Comics – strongly hinted that Guardians of the Galaxy was on the way, and Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige officially confirmed it at Comic-Con in the summer.

But little did we know that Marvel Studios may go cosmic immediately after The Avengers as fans prepare for Iron Man 3 and the beginning of Phase Two of the Marvel cinematic universe.

With Thor: The Dark World releasing this fall and promising to explore more of the nine realms and the culture of the many otherworldly Marvel races, it seemed the obvious choice to serve as a lead-in of sorts to next year’s introduction of the space-faring Guardians of the Galaxy, especially since Iron Man 3 promises to be more “grounded.” But moviegoers may actually get their first introduction, or at least a tease, of the Guardians as early as this May when Robert Downey Jr. suits up once again as billionaire industrialist Tony Stark.

What? Why? How?

Rumors from a few months ago have been rekindled thanks to some choice words by Robert Downey Jr. given in an exclusive interview with EW, and combined with the leak of an Iron Man 3 toy image featuring a Deep Space Suit, speculation and sources of Latino-Review lead us to believe Tony Stark will be going into space in Iron Man 3 to meet Earth’s first line of defense. Not only that, but Stark may appear in Guardians of the Galaxy as well.

Let’s examine the five pieces of evidence.

1. Marvel NOW!

The first and most obvious clue is in the books, with Iron Man joining the Guardians of the Galaxy roster next month. The genius Guardians of the Galaxy relaunch by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning in 2008 (following Annihilation & Annihilation: Conquest) lasted 25 issues before Marvel Comics put an oddly timed end to it in 2010, only to have them show up in Avengers Assemble after The Avengers film hit theaters in the summer. The Guardians of the Galaxy return in February with a new look and some roster changes, highlighted by Tony Stark joining the team for the Marvel NOW! relaunch of the series by Brian Michael Bendis.

Bendis said the following about the new series in a Marvel.com Liveblog Q&A:

“It’s also a great place for you to hop on and see why we’re excited for these characters to be in a movie and why it’s as good a franchise as Marvel has.”

“Iron Man joins the team right from the get go, which is exciting and show that the Guardians are really the cosmic Avengers.”

Why would Tony Stark leave The Avengers and his other Earthly responsibilities to head into space? Bendis explains on Marvel.com.

It’s more about that he’s a futurist, and he’s an explorer, and he’s a scientist, and an adventurer. You could certainty see Tony getting to a place in his mind where number one, he needs a vacation more than anyone on the planet. But number two, more like a working vacation, and thinking, you know what, I kind of hit a ceiling with my technology. I want to go out and explore some new stuff and see things from a new perspective, and really look at the Earth from a new perspective, and come back and see if that doesn’t help him break past whatever ceiling he’s hit with his work.And plus, we’re going to have some fun with Tony trying to live out his William Shatner/Captain Kirk space-girl fantasies. So Tony will come out here to be part of the Guardians, to explore the ideas that the Guardians had put in his head during AVENGERS ASSEMBLE, that the Earth is a very important part of the cosmic civilization for the next generation. So Tony literally needs to go out and look at it from their point of view to see what he can do to help. And so he gets to have space adventures, he gets to live the William Shatner/Captain Kirk, he gets to explore, he gets to invent, and Tony gets to see the world from a different perspective.

When Tony’s with the Avengers, he’s always top dog, alpha male, he’s always kind of in charge. Here, he’s going to be a fish way out of water. Even though he’s been to outer space a few times, this is living in outer space, which is a completely different thing. And basically living on a pirate ship!

Perhaps at the end of The Avengers, Tony Stark got more than a look into deep space, but a look into his future and the endless possibilities his technical prowess could open his life to explore. Such a drastic departure for the Iron Man norm would certainly offer a new and unexplored character journey for Robert Downey Jr. to play with, should he choose to lock in long-term with Marvel Studios.

Continue to page 2 for Robert Downey Jr.’s hint and the Iron Man 3 ‘Deep Space Suit’ toy…

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