Iron Man 3: Complete Marvel Universe Easter Eggs and Reference Guide

Just in time for Christmas, we peer into this holiday classic for all the nerdy references and callbacks.

This article is nothing but spoilers for a movie that came out in 2013. If you’re really worried and haven’t already seen it, go watch Iron Man 3 and come back.

Shane Black’s entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Christmas, Bang BangIron Man 3, had a tall order to fill. It was the first to follow the industry-altering Avengers, and the final film to bear the Iron Manname, and to add more character and flavor to the movie, Black and Robert Downey, Jr. relied heavily on the source material to build out Tony Stark’s world. 

To help you understand the history that this movie drew from, we gathered up all the comic, MCU and real world references we could find for this list. Did we miss any? Sure we did, so when you catch it, leave it in the comments!

– Tony begins the narration by saying “A famous man once said ‘we all create our own demons.'” That could be a paraphrase of a million people, but it’s also a direct reference to the seminal Iron Mancomic story “Demon in a Bottle.” It ran in nine issues of Iron Manin 1979 (#120-128) and showed Tony’s life falling apart because of his drinking. It was a critical part of Iron Man lore and has been heavily referenced in all three of his movies.

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– The song playing over the Y2K party in the flashback is Eiffel65’s “Blue.” It is period-accurate, and terrible.

– The two people who try and talk to Tony on the dance floor of the party are Ho Yinsen, the man Tony would eventually be trapped in the cave with in the first Iron Man; and a Dr. Wu. Wu had no comics equivalent at the time, but Dan Slott and Giuseppe Camuncoli did add in a Dr. Yao Wu to 2015’s Amazing Spider-Man#1 as a nod to this character. Comics Dr. Wu worked as the head of Parker Industries’ bio-tech division. This is from the era of Marvel Comics where Iron Man and Spider-Man basically switched personalities and mise-en-scenes – movie Iron Man was a neurotic, quippy mess, so comics Peter Parker became a wealthy, jet-setting industrialist whose alter-ego posed as his bodyguard.

There’s also a great Steely Dan song.

– Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) trace their roots to the comic that served as the plot foundation for this movie. Both first appeared in 2005’s Iron Man#1 as the creators of Extremis, a nanite virus that functioned like a new super-soldier serum. Hansen was much as she appeared in the movie, but Killian was very different. He could, like most Extremis soldiers, heat himself to 3000 degrees, but he wasn’t the head of AIM nor was he a villain for Tony. He mostly just killed himself in despair after creating Extremis.

– However, in the comics, Killian had nothing to do with the creation of AIM. First appearing in 1966’s Strange Tales #146, Advanced Idea Mechanics was created in World War 2 as Hydra’s weapons research division. After decades of being weird evil beekeepers, AIM, which had structured itself as a corporation, was bought out by Avenger and former New Mutant Roberto DaCosta and became a branch of the Avengers, then of the U.S. government. Those stories are excellent.

– The main armor in this movie is listed as “Mark 42.” Besides being The Answer, 42 also has some history in Marvel Comics: in Civil War, the 42nd idea that Iron Man, Hank Pym, and Mr. Fantastic came up with following the explosion at the Stamford school was a Negative Zone gulag for people who didn’t comply with the Superhero Registration Act.

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– The Mandarin of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a massive deviation from the pretty racist comics version. Comics Mandarin was created in Tales of Suspense#50 in 1964. His origin, and that of his powers, is more or less an evil Green Lantern: an alien ship crash landed in China, and the man who would become The Mandarin found ten rings of power in the ship and took them for himself. Each ring had a different power, and was activated when The Mandarin willed it.

– We know that Stan Lee is Uatu the Watcher. So that means NY1 morning anchor Pat Kiernan, who has played himself in not only the MCU, but also The Strain, 30 Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the Marvel Netflix shows, Annie, Ghostbusters,and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (among others), has to be Access, the character who prevented the Marvel and DC universes from merging into one, extremely shitty comic universe back in 1996.

– Like AIM and The Mandarin, movie Iron Patriot is quite different from his comics counterpart. James Rhodes never donned the Iron Patriot armor until after this movie came out. Instead, in the comics, Norman Osborn (Spider-Man’s arch nemesis, the Green Goblin) was the first to wear the armor, as part of his scam S.H.I.E.L.D replacement following Secret Invasion. Later, after Osborn’s unmasking as a psychopath, Ho Yinsen’s daughter took up the armor as a member of Sunspot’s New AIM/Avengers team.

– Fun little thing to lampshade in this movie’s Happy/Pepper interactions: in the comics, they were married for decades.

– Speaking of Pepper, Tony tracks his Mark 42 armor to her here, but in the comics, he made her an entirely separate suit of her own: the Rescue Armor, which debuted in 2009’s Invincible Iron Man#10. It was a protective suit that had no effective offensive weaponry.

– Tony’s Hall of Armors has a long comic history, but we really saw this get going in the films in Avengers, which saw him welding cables underwater in a specially crafted suit. Some noteable armors that make their debuts here:

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-The Black Stealth Suit (Mark XVI), loosely referencing Iron Man’s stealth armor first introduced in 1982.

-The Silver Centurion Armor (Mark XXXIII), named after the armor that debuted in Iron Man#200 in 1985. 

-The Heavy Lifting Suit (Mark XXXVIII) looks a lot like the subterranean armor from Iron Man#7 in the late aughts. It also looks a ton like the Hulkbuster that we’ll see in Age of Ultron.

– Happy mocks Tony’s time with the Avengers by saying “Now you’re off with the Superfriends.” They are not the Superfriends. That’s the Justice League of the ’70s cartoons.

– It’s worth noting here that as Jarvis spends much of the movie saving Tony, his next on-screen appearance will be when he becomes Vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron

– Ty Simpkins has been a career child actor, and since Iron Man 3,you’ve probably seen him in Jurassic WorldHe’ll also be reprising his role as Harley Keener in Avengers 4, whatever they decide to subtitle it.

– Apparently Tony is one of the few fans of the original Westworld. He calls out Savin, Killian’s top henchman, for being pretty robotic with a Westworldjoke.

– Thomas, the accountant the Mandarin shoots in the head on live television, is an accountant for Roxxon. Roxxon is kind of the catch all evil corporation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They’re a giant, evil oil company created by Steve Engleheart and Sal Buscema in the pages of Captain America, and have shown up on Agent Carterand Agents of well as in the Iron Manflicks, despite Iron Man’s history being littered with evil corporations.