The Marvel Cinematic Universe is fast approaching a turning point. After ten years and twenty movies, the release of ‘Avengers 4‘ next summer will mark the end of an era, potentially in a very real sense. In addition to marking the end of Marvel Studios’ third phase of films, it also marks the end – after ten years and twenty films – of the contracts signed by several of the franchise’s earliest and biggest stars.

With all the ominous pre-release chatter that has surrounded ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and its upcoming sequel, some fans are bracing themselves for the possibility that heroes like Iron Man or Captain America could well be dead by the time the credits roll on ‘Avengers 4’. But suppose they all survive? What then? With the actors no longer under contract, at the very least we’d be seeing a lot less of these characters. But even if Robert Downey Jr. continues to make regular appearances as Tony Stark, he’s not going to be able to play the role forever. So what happens when he finally does hang up that armor?

To be sure, Marvel hasn’t hesitated to recast their heroes in the past. Both Hulk and War Machine have changed hands since the MCU launched in 2008. The difference, of course, is that these recastings came when each character had only appeared in one prior film and neither was associated with a particular actor in the way that Iron Man is with Downey. Will Marvel recast their more established heroes? Studio president Kevin Feige had this to say when The Costco Connection broached the subject:

“That’s what we can look to in the comics. And that’s why these characters are so relevant. I talk about ten years of movies, but it’s fifty-plus years of these characters in the comics. And they’re just as relevant and popular. And that’s because they do get updated. They do change with the times… thankfully I don’t have to really think about it yet. ‘Cause we’re still finishing what we started here with ‘Avengers: Infinity War’.”

While Feige does somewhat sidestep the question, the clear implication is that when the time comes, Marvel will recast even their most iconic characters. It’s a tall order, to say the least. After all, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Chris Evans playing Captain America. Of course, we probably would have said the same thing about Sean Connery’s James Bond once upon a time…

Be sure to check back with for more on ‘Avengers 4’ and other upcoming Marvel film and television projects as it becomes available!