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The Tony Stark Fan Theory Giving MCU Fans Hope For His Return

Let's face it, no one is ever really dead in comic books, thus no one is ever really dead in superhero films. There is always a way to bring a character back, whether it be in a prequel, by a resurrection, or as some former version of themselves (hello White Vision).

More than a handful of popular characters have met their demise in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Spoiler alert: We've lost Frigga (Rene Russo), Yondu (Michael Rooker), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Groot (Vin Diesel), Vision (Paul Bettany), and most notably, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Seven of those 10 characters have shown up in the MCU after their death, meaning the other three have a solid shot of coming back, should the powers-that-be at Marvel Studios decide to do so.

A lot would have to be considered in order for Kevin Feige and his fellow studio executives to greenlight a Tony Stark return, especially since the character is deader than dead following his sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame. Robert Downey Jr. has made it clear on numerous occasions that he is done playing the billionaire playboy-turned-house husband, but after rumors suggested Chris Evans was returning to the MCU after saying he was done as Steve Rogers, proves nothing is impossible.

Fan theories have been popping up all over the place since Endgame, suggesting how Stark could return to the MCU, and a new one is suggesting it's not too complicated to bring him back to the ever-growing storyline.

Tony Stark's body is dead, but not his conscious

A theory on Reddit's vastly popular Fan Theories page has been upvoted over 2,000 times, and suggests that Tony Stark never truly died: as a user named Carrot-Imaginary explains, it's conceivable that while Tony's body is certainly dead, perhaps his consciousness is not. The theory is based on Stark's death in the comics, where his conscious becomes an AI after his body dies.

The theory then goes on to dissect Stark's goodbye message at the end of Avengers: Endgame, where a hologram of the hero speaks to his loved ones just before his funeral. At the end of the speech, Stark turns to face his daughter, Morgan, looking right at her to say "I love you 3000." The theorist suggests this can't be just a hologram, because how would Stark know exactly where his daughter would be sitting when he delivered the heartfelt line? Only an advanced AI would be able to detect everyone's exact position.

Just before he died, Stark backed up his consciousness into his helmet — and probably other places — knowing that he was going to meet his end. He now can live as an AI forever in the MCU, making the possibilities of Robert Downey Jr.'s return endless.

In a February 2021 interview with GQ, Downey was questioned about possibly returning to the MCU. "I have alighted, for now. Real world to save. But never say never," he said.

Now that we know Downey isn't necessarily opposed to returning, we know one way that it's definitely possible (though that doesn't mean it'll actually happen).