By the time Marvel's big Phase 3 announcement came late last year, a whole lot of you super-fans out there had probably worked out that Civil War was coming.
After all, the story-line - one of the most iconic of recent years - seemed a logical next step for a cinematic universe largely centered around Captain America and Iron Man - and, besides, Robert Downey Jr and others had been hinting at its imminent unveiling for weeks before the final reveal.
What, though, if I told you that those hints had actually begun a whole lot earlier? As in...
Marvel Started Teasing Civil War...Back in 2009
Yup, that's right. Way back in 2009, Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige was speaking to a group of journalists after the studio's 2009 Comic-Con panel - with the topic at hand being just who would appear in - the still only partly cast- The Avengers.
But, as it happens, his comments ended up touching on a whole lot more than just casting...
"I think we know. It’s going to be Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Nick Fury. I think it’s safe to assume that there will be some members of the Hulk universe in the film as well. In terms of the additional, I think Black Widow for sure. SHIELD’s organization for sure. And, again, what’s exciting to me about the Avengers movie are seeing those four characters together and interact with each other. Anywhere from the first issue of the Avengers to Civil War, the dynamic between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark is awesome and fascinating. It brings out sides of the others that won’t be brought out in their own franchises."
Yup. That's right.
Way back in 2009, un-prompted, Kevin Feige basically summed up the character arcs of Iron Man and Captain America as going "from the first issue of the Avengers to Civil War."
Just like they're about to in the movies.
Now, that might just be a throwaway comment on Feige's part, but that'd be pretty out of character for the man who has - arguably more than any other - shepherded the MCU into existence, and done so while carefully yet constantly teasing everything (and one) that's coming up.
Instead, it seems more likely that Feige was already well aware of what the Marvel Cinematic Universe was heading towards - and just felt like throwing out the subtlest of teases, knowing that none of us were too likely to pick up on it.
And, if so, that suggests that...
Everything That's Happened in the MCU Has Been Building Towards Civil War
And not just towards Thanos, and Infinity War, as many of us had previously suspected.
And y'know what? That actually kind of puts everything we've seen so far into a whole other perspective.
Tony Stark's Problems With Armor-Proliferation?
That seems less like a set-up for the comics' Armor Wars, and more a set up for both Ultron's imminent arrival, and Stark's likely (non-Fox's film rights-encroaching sentinels, anyone?) response to that threat. Which, in turn, is likely to - at least in part - provoke Civil War.
Captain America's Narrative Arc?
As in, his journey from optimistic innocent at the start of Captain America, to conspiracy-destroying freedom-fighter by the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
That whole path now looks increasingly intended to not only make Cap seem cooler, but also to - in the space of just a few years - turn a blindly patriotic super-soldier into the champion of individual liberty that the Civil War story-line requires him to be.
The Expansion into TV?
Sure, that's still primarily a commercial concern - but suddenly the imminent arrival of Daredevil, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones in the Marvel universe, who - along with Ant-Man, Iron Fist and possibly even the Black Panther - are set to be well-established by the time Captain America: Civil War rolls around in 2016, looks a whole lot like Marvel getting their numbers up for the necessary large-scale battles of Civil War.
Marvel's Pursuit of Spider-Man?
Y'know, the one which, from the sounds of those recently leaked Sony e-mails, has been going on for years now?
That now looks a whole lot like it was originally conceived to culminate in Spidey's arrival in Civil War.
Which, seeing as the Black Panther now looks set to take on Spidey's original role in the story, very much doesn't seem to have worked out - barring some sort of swift change of heart on Sony's part, at least...
And, of course...
Cap and Tony's Relationship
Which, looking back on their early conflict in The Avengers, looks set to be a pretty defining part of the entire Avengers series - and especially Age of Ultron...
Remember this leaked clip?
That seems very much like a clearly designed mid point in their relationship - a transition from barely-contained irritation with each other to the beginnings of outright hostility.
And, seeing as the roots of that go back for years, it really does seem as though Marvel has had Civil War planned for a very long time indeed...