Fans of Iron Man have never stopped wishing and hoping for Robert Downey Jr.’s return as the character on the big screen. But a Marvel executive squashed those dreams before they could turn into reality.

The battery-powered superhero had made his last appearance in “Avengers: Endgame,” where he wore the infinity stones, snapped his fingers and saved the planet from Thanos. This brave act took a toll on his body and he instantly passed, leaving viewers in tears as well as anguish.

Can Robert Downey Jr. come back as Iron Man?

Then, earlier this month, Marvel Boss Kevin Feige told Entertainment Weekly that by introducing the Quantum Realm leaves the door open for all types of possibilities.

“Not every film in the Infinity Saga focused on the Infinity Stones or Thanos, and it’ll be the same across 5 and 6. But we’re gearing up. People will get a taste of this in a big way in Quantumania as we lead to Avengers: Secret Wars, which I’m extremely excited for,” Feige said.

He has worked with Marvel for 23 years — which, as he stated, is “a long time.” But the 49-year-old is still “so excited and in love with the potential” that this fictional universe has.

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“The storylines that weave together through Phase 5 and 6 into Secret Wars and the opportunities that the multiverse brings storytelling-wise, it’s a whole new aspect to the MCU,” Feige continued.

Of course, that didn’t help the already circulating rumors which indicated Downey’s return. Then Stephen Broussard, the VP of production and development at Marvel as well as an exec on the “Marvel Studios Parliament” that helps the studio function smoothly, made a comment about Iron Man’s future, or lack thereof.

Iron man — Off the table?

In an interview with Gizmodo, Broussard addressed the path Phase 5 will take, which looks much different than Phase 4.

“Well, I think one of the meta-narratives of Phase Four was about new characters. It was about new people stepping into mantles. If you look at, like, Cassie (Lang in ‘Quantumania’) getting a suit and Kate Bishop (in ‘Hawkeye’), new characters being introduced like Jack in ‘Werewolf by Night,’” he said.

“After these first 10 years of Marvel storytelling, torches are being passed, like with Robert Downey Jr. no longer being (on the) table and stuff like that. So it was kind of like a new generation stepping to the forefront which, again, has always happened in the comics,” he said.

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Really Broussard? Off the table sounds harsh, especially when MCU’s latest villain, Jonathan Majors, who plays Kang, confessed his wish to face off against the iconic Iron Man.

“I would love to be across from him on screen to see how our philosophies, acting-wise and character-wise, just personally, match up,” he said in an interview. “You know, I find him to be such a fascinating artist, which is why Iron Man is so fascinating. His portrayal of Iron Man is so fascinating and he represents a very clear world view and energy of the Avengers. And I think Kang represents a different era.”

As for Downey Jr. himself, the last time he talked about the MCU character was in 2021, when he told GQ Magazine that he was “alighted, for now. Real world to save. But never say never.” If Downey doesn’t make his return then maybe it's time the torch is passed on to another Iron Man — it’s only fair.