Jon Favreau may have provided a very diplomatic explanation for why he decided to bow out of directorial duties on Iron Man 3, but reports of his increasingly tense relationship with Marvel Studios certainly make it seem like there might have been more going on behind the scenes than either party is prepared to acknowledge.

Favreau’s departure came as a shock to fans of the Iron Man franchise who recognized what a pivotal role he had played in helping Marvel establish their cinematic brand.

There was no shortage of suggestions when it came to possible replacements, but the issue was slightly complicated by the fact that it seemed like Marvel was interested in a filmmaker who was not only cheaper – but also one who would be more compliant with their demands for Iron Man 3.

Then we received our second surprise when it was announced that Shane Black had been chosen to direct the film. His involvement renewed the faith of many fans, but there was still one question left lingering – what about Happy Hogan?

In addition to directing Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Favreau also played the supporting role of Tony Stark’s bodyguard, chauffeur, and friend – Harold “Happy” Hogan. Would Marvel be forced to recast the part with another actor or simply decide to leave him out of the proceedings completely? As it turns out, the studio may have a third option.

During a WonderCon panel for his upcoming film Cowboys & Aliens, Favreau was asked if he could be persuaded to reprise the role for Iron Man 3. Favreau revealed that he loves Shane Black, he loves the franchise, and that yes – he would be willing to play Happy again.

It sounds like the ball is in Marvel’s court now.

Given the character’s expanded screen time in Iron Man 2, it seems to me that his absence in Iron Man 3 would certainly be noticed – even by those who weren’t aware that it was Favreau. Although I wish they’d done more with Happy in the sequel than use him primarily for comic relief, I like Favreau in the role and I wouldn’t mind seeing more of him.

It’s a pretty safe bet that we’ll never get to see Happy transform into the Freak like he has in the comics, but there are other aspects of the character that might be worth exploring – including his relationship with Pepper Potts.

If this does indeed come to pass, it would be a nice way for Favreau to pass the torch to Black – and reinforce the notion that his relationship with Marvel might be a bit more amicable these days. If he’s ready and willing, I say make it happen.

On the other hand, Favreau could just be speaking diplomatically again.

Iron Man 3 is scheduled to hit theaters on May 3, 2013.