WARNING: The following contains reference to an upcoming change in the Marvel Comics status quo, as well as several major spoilers for older Marvel comic book storylines. Proceed with whatever level of caution your snarky A.I. butler suggests is wise.
While the recent revelation that Tony Stark will no longer be the Marvel comic book universe's Iron Man — a role that will now be taken over by a 15-year-old super genius from MIT named Riri Williams — is a pretty big deal, it's also not unprecedented. In fact, Marvel has been pretty fond of giving its most iconic characters some time off, going all the way back to the 1950s.
Iron Man Isn't The First Marvel Hero To Be Replaced By Someone Younger
It's a trend that began (sort of) just a few years after Marvel was founded, back when the company was still called Timely Comics. In 1950, Captain America's original comic book series was cancelled in the face of dwindling sales and a public backlash against comic books, along with the rest of Timely's superhero output.
Captain America Returned, Despite Having Been Frozen In Ice
And then, in 1954, by way of a handful of extravagantly anti-communist issues, Cap returned as Captain America, Commie Smasher. Which didn't work out, and the comic book was swiftly cancelled once again. But when Marvel decided to bring Cap back for good in 1964, the company explained his decades-long absence by revealing that he'd been trapped in a block of ice since the end of World War II. Which meant that 1950s Cap wasn't actually Cap at all.
That particular problem didn't actually get addressed by the comic books until much later, but we eventually found out that, in the wake of Cap's apparent death, the US government simply replaced him with a series of willing Super Soldier Serum-less proxies — men like William Nasland and Jeff Mace.
By 1954, a young man named William Burnside had grown obsessed with Cap and managed to inexactly replicate the Super Soldier formula. Unfortunately, Burnside was also fairly unhinged — he insisted on having reconstructive surgery to look exactly like Steve Rogers — and that wasn't helped by the flawed Super Soldier Serum causing a sever case of paranoid schizophrenia. And so 1950s Captain America wound up being frozen by the US government, only to eventually resurface as a supervillain (because of course he did).
But Burnside wasn't the only man to take over as Captain America.
There Have Actually Been Tons Of Captain Americas (Or Is That Captains America?) Over The Years
So many, in fact, that I'm not even going to give them each their own section. Back in the 1970s, when Rogers gave up the name Captain America to become Nomad, he was briefly replaced by a young man named Roscoe Simons — who was soon killed by the Red Skull, predictably.
Later on, having retaken the mantle of Captain America, Rogers was briefly fired from the role and replaced by a man named John Walker, who proved too violent and unpredictable and was eventually demoted to being the hero US Agent.
Things were then fairly stable for a while — until Cap was shot (and apparently killed) in the aftermath of Marvel's first civil war, and he was reluctantly replaced by his recently-revealed-to-still-be-alive-sidekick Bucky Barnes.
Who, in turn, eventually handed the role back to Steve after his inevitable return to action — which itself wasn't ultimately that long-lasting, with Rogers eventually being aged up to the 90-something-year-old man he, y'know, technically is. Which, in turn, led to Rogers asking Sam "The Falcon" Wilson, his longtime crime-fighting partner, to take on the mantle.
Who, thus far, has managed to retain the role to this day, even being allowed to keep the classic shield after Rogers' (yet again inevitable) return to youth.
Cap, though, isn't the only Marvel hero to have been replaced over the years.
Thor Was Once Replaced By A Horse-Faced Alien
Specifically, that guy above, an alien named Beta Ray Bill, who managed to not only best Thor in single combat, but also lifted Mjolnir, thus proving himself worthy of possessing the power of Thor. To which Odin responded by changing the rules completely, and giving him his own hammer.
Later, Thor also saw his role taken over by a number of humans, including the architect Eric Masterson.
As well as the documentary filmmaker (yup, you read that right) Roger "Red" Norvell.
Neither of these characters actually survived for all that long.
What's more, the current (female) Thor Jane Foster isn't even the first woman to take over the role, with the cosmic entity Tarene briefly becoming Thor Girl — before being swiftly shuffled under the carpet by Marvel, presumably when someone realized what a ridiculous name Thor Girl is.
There Have Been Hundreds Upon Hundreds Of Spider-Men (And Women)
Meanwhile, over in New York City, Spider-Men have been vast and plenty, though the majority of them were technically just alternate-reality Spider-Men, as showcased by the fan-favorite Spider-event Spider-Verse.
Even so, Peter Parker has stepped down from the role a few times, famously being temporarily replaced as Spider-Man by his clone Ben Reilly, as well as J. Jonah Jameson's niece Mattie Franklin, who later became Spider-Woman.
And for a while there, he was even replaced by Doctor Octopus, albeit with the villain having forcibly transferred his mind into Peter Parker's body.
But the most beloved replacement Spider-Man of all? Well, that'd have to be the Ultimate Universe's Miles Morales, who not only replaced Peter Parker as Spidey in his own world after the Ultimate Parker was killed...
...but was recently transported to the regular Marvel Universe, where he became one of several Spider-Men currently operating in Marvel Comics (there's also Spider-Man 2099 hanging around somewhere), and even took over from the original Spider-Man as a member of the Avengers.
Heck, there's been so much role swapping going on over the years that this isn't even the first time we've seen Tony Stark step out of the Iron Man armor and hand the job off to someone else.
For A Long Time, James 'Rhodey' Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine, Was Iron Man
As it turns out, having a barely functioning alcoholic and inveterate risk-taker like Tony Stark stay in one piece as Iron Man is only sustainable for so long. This has meant that James Rhodes, better known to modern audiences as War Machine, has actually taken over the role on several occasions.
Heck, he even got to be Iron Man during Marvel's Secret War, the company's first giant crossover event — during which he had the world's most awkward conversation about race with Mister Fantastic:
So together with even the peaceful-minded Pepper Potts having now donned the armor in the MCU, should hopefully make the idea of a 15-year-old MIT student becoming Iron Man seem a whole lot more in keeping with a longstanding Marvel tradition of shaking things up on a whim.
And hey, if it works out half as well as Jane Foster Thor, Sam Wilson Cap or Miles Morales Spider-Man did, we'll all be cosplaying as Riri come next year's Comic-Cons.