With Iron Man 2 shaping up to kickstart the summer of 2010 as our most anticipated film of the year, Thor deep into production and The First Avenger: Captain America finally casting its hero in Chris Evans, what comes next?

We know The Avengers is the big plan for these heroes; To all meet-up in the most epic superhero film ever. But that’s not scheduled to hit theaters until 2012. Since Robert Downey Jr.’s second go as Tony Stark is already finishing up post-production, they’ve got a very long time before he’s needed on set to film a leading role in The Avengers. That leaves a lot of time to shoot the trilogy closing installment, Iron Man 3.

With Captain America shooting in June and working through this summer to hit a release date next summer, after Thor kicks off the season, we can expect our heroes to come together to shoot The Avengers sometime next year. Since Robert Downey Jr. has no current Marvel roles to shoot until then (he has Sherlock Holmes 2 to do though), he could be free and clear this fall to shoot another Iron Man movie with director Jon Favreau as they bask in the success of Iron Man 2.

Ed Douglas at Coming Soon picked up on an interesting tidbit of info from the Associated Press on an article about Downey’s upcoming comedy Due Date, co-starring Zach Galifianakis. In it, they mention what work they’re getting to next; For Galifianakis, it’s The Hangover 2 and for Robert Downey Jr., it’s reportedly Iron Man 3 this fall.

We know it’s coming, we just didn’t know the timing. If it does happen to shoot later this year, we can assume that Marvel’s plans of having two flicks per year will come to fruition and that 2012 will see The Avengers sharing the summer with Iron Man 3. It’s not surprising considering the two years between Iron Man 1 & 2.

I do wonder how much those two films will cross-over and when in the timeline Iron Man 3 will take place. We know both Iron Man and Iron Man 2 take place before The Incredible Hulk and Thor, but will the third installment be based before The Avengers if it comes out after that movie? That seems odd if it’s the case but if it’s the other way around, we can expect a bunch of major cameos. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Iron Man 3 take the big team-up movie’s place at the beginning of the summer in May and The Avengers open later that summer instead. At this point, it’s all just fun speculation.

Are we going to see Tony Stark take on the Mandarin in the third installment? Time will tell. Hint: Maybe he’ll be a villain set up in Iron Man 2?

Share your thoughts in the comments and with us on Twitter @ScreenRant and @rob_keyes.

Iron Man 2 opens May 7, 2010, Thor opens May 5, 2011, The First Avenger: Captain America hits July 22, 2011 and The Avengers is scheduled to debut May 4, 2012. Iron Man 3 opens… July, 2012?

Source: Coming Soon