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Iron Man’s Hulk Cameo is Part of a Bigger, Secret Story


Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark had a cool cameo in The Incredible Hulk – and tie-in comics explain his relationship with Thunderbolt Ross.

Robert Downey Jr. had a notable cameo in The Incredible Hulk‘s post-credit scenes – but in secret, it’s actually part of a bigger story, one tying Tony Stark and General “Thunderbolt” Ross together. Over the years, post-credits scenes have become an important part of the MCU. Every film has at least one post-credits scene, and some have multiple mid-credits scenes as well. Sometimes they tease a future plot development, sometimes they wrap up an arc, and sometimes they’re just a bit of humor, but they’re (almost) always worth sticking around for.

The post-credits scene of The Incredible Hulk is one of the most popular in the MCU, simply because it felt like a major step on the road to the Avengers. It saw General “Thunderbolt” Ross attempt to kick back and drown his sorrows after the events of the main movie, only to find his solitude interrupted by a visit from Tony Stark. The dialogue was actually improvised, with both Downey and Hurt making it up on the spot, but they probably had general guidelines from Marvel Studios; it appeared to suggest the Avengers’ first mission would be to take down the Hulk, an arc lifted from the Ultimate range of comics. It’s difficult to say whether this was the actual plan; if so, it certainly changed. What is equally interesting, though, is that Ross and Stark seemed to already be familiar with one another.

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Related: Only One Of MCU Phase 1’s Post-Credits Scenes Make Sense

The history between Tony Stark and General “Thunderbolt” Ross is actually revealed in an official tie-in comic, Iron Man 2: Public Identity. According to this three-issue miniseries, Ross had been watching Stark’s career as a superhero with frustration, considering Iron Man something of a loose cannon. This led him to reinstate some of his old programs, and he commissioned Justin Hammer to construct a one-man fighter that he hoped would be the US military’s answer to Iron Man. Given this was Hammer tech, of course, it all went drastically wrong; an American airman was stranded in the Congo, and Iron Man was called in to rescue him.

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Ross and Iron Man
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Ross decided to make the most of a bad job, and he issued orders to Stark to deploy lethal force during the rescue mission. He then positioned himself nearby in a mobile command center, intending to monitor Iron Man’s performance. Unfortunately Stark objected to this, refusing to consider himself a soldier, and deliberately avoided killing any of the Congolese terrorists. A furious Ross confronted him directly – but Stark had since looked up his records, and made clear his distaste for Ross by quoting classified files he probably shouldn’t have had access to in the first place. Stark was the winner in that particular altercation, and General Ross – and, of course, Justin Hammer – were the losers.

Given this context, why would SHIELD send in Tony Stark to discuss Ross’ Hulk problem? According to the Marvel one-shot The Consultant, Nick Fury was facing pressure from the World Security Council to recruit the Abomination into the Avengers Initiative. SHIELD thus deliberately chose Stark as their point man, knowing his ego would rile Ross so much he refused to cooperate. They were right, and Emil Blonsky was consigned to a cell, never to be seen in the MCU again.

More: Avengers: Endgame — Why Iron Man Really Stopped Thor From Doing The Snap

Key Release Dates

  • Black Widow (2020)Release date: Nov 06, 2020
  • Eternals (2021)Release date: Feb 12, 2021
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Release date: May 07, 2021
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming 3 (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: Feb 11, 2022
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: Mar 25, 2022
  • Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
  • Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022

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