Revisiting Superior Iron Man

As Marvel Studios has grown into one of the most consistently successful production entities in Hollywood, the value of information about the studio’s upcoming projects has spawned an industry of its own. No other IP has the cachet of Marvel Studios IPs and those with information on those projects–the scoopers, leakers, insiders and influencers–have a major impact on how a small fraction of the audience perceives upcoming projects. If we’ve learned anything from WandaVision, it’s that Marvel Studios’ fanbase has a bit of an issue separating speculation from rumors and separating legitimate rumors from gobbledygook and no one example better illuminated that than a flatly false rumor that lingered around the direct follow-up to WandaVision: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

One year ago today, Marvel Studios released the official trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness just ahead of Super Bowl LVI. Partly because of Marvel Studios’ overly intense secrecy and partly because of a new creative team taking over the film late in the game, an unusually high number of rumors sprang up around the film, most of which came from a new wave of “insiders” who hadn’t established any sort of track record in regards to being an accurate, trustworthy source of information. However, what was true then and is more true now is that a track record of accuracy isn’t necessary for “inside information” to gain traction online. Fans want to hear what they want to hear and if the “inside information” checks off a few boxes, it spreads like wildfire.

And so, the legend of Tom Cruise‘s Superior Iron Man was born. It’s not worth tracking down where the rumor began much less digging into how it was ever able to cross over from the small fraction of fans who typically follow the rumor mill so closely into mainstream media; it happened and fans wanted to believe it so desperately that when the Super Bowl trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness debuted, thousands of fans took to Twitter to proclaim that the screenshot of Lashana Lynch‘s alternate universe Captain Marvel seen below was in fact Cruise‘s Superior Iron Man.

Even as higher-resolution screenshots from the trailer emerged, fans held strongly to their beliefs that they were seeing Marvel Studios debut Tom Cruise‘s MCU character in a trailer. Fans held so strongly to this belief, which was strongly stoked online by insiders old and new, that when the movie debuted and Cruise wasn’t in it, they were furious and shocked that they had been misled despite all the evidence they needed to know Cruise wasn’t in the film was quite literally right in front of them. Some convinced themselves that the actor filmed scenes for the movie but that Marvel Studios ultimately chose to cut them.

After the fact, Multiverse of Madness writer Michael Waldron explained that not only did the studio not cut footage of Cruise from the film but that there never was any footage because Cruise was, as anyone with access to the internet could have known, busy shooting back-to-back Mission: Impossible films. Though Waldron admitted he thought the idea would have been pretty cool because Cruise was offered the role of Tony Stark in 2008’s Iron Man before declining, it never progressed past the idea stage. Interestingly enough, rumors of a Superior Iron Man appearing in Avengers: Secret Wars (which doesn’t even begin filming for at least another 18 months) have already begun popping up online and you can bet it won’t be long before Cruise’s name gets associated with them again and fans take the bait…again.

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