By now, many of you have likely heard the latest big ‘rumor’ about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If you haven't, here's the gist. Remember that kid, Harley Keener, that palled around with Tony Stark for a big chunk of Iron Man 3? Well, some are saying he's the heir-apparent to become Iron Man when Robert Downey, Jr. inevitably says goodbye to the role.
If the idea of Ty Simpkins, who will be around 17 by the time Downey will likely vacate the role, donning the helmet sounds ridiculous, we have good news for you: it almost certainly is.
Laying aside the obvious connection to the much-maligned (and rarely referenced) Avengers: Timeslide comic, which replaced Tony Stark with a younger version of himself for a time (“Teen Tony” Google it), there is little of substance backing this rumor up. In fact, the story of Ty Simpkins taking over the role of Iron Man is an excellent case study in what happens when massive potential for clicks meets an audience hungry for news and speculation.
The Ty Simpkins [air quotes] ‘rumor’ appears to have originated with a story from the relatively unknown Middle Eastern entertainment website, Master Herald. The article was clearly speculative in nature, drawing its information from nebulous and unaccredited "calculated rumors...floating around the Internet." While that seems like exactly the kind of thing that dies on the vine - a story from a website with few hits that has no credible sources, and gets various other bits of information wholly incorrect - all it takes, as in this case, is a website with a slightly higher profile re-posting the idea to get the wheels of the rumor mill turning.
And that is exactly what happened. Drawing on the Master Herald story, BamSmackPow picked up the story - though, to their credit, their take was dismissive at best, recognizing the unlikely nature of the rumor, and expressing disbelief that Marvel Studios could do something so tone-deaf as to draw a connection to the aforementioned Timeslide. Still, it's good click-bait, and like a game of telephone, the Master Herald rumor continued up the chain, losing bits of telling information and gaining potentially better respected sources along the way.
By the time the story hit MoviePilot, something got lost in the translation, intentionally or otherwise. Crediting it directly to BamSmackPow but mostly ignoring the their cited source's handling of the story, Moviepilot reported maybe but not definitely but probably definitely said that Ty Simpkins was definitely the next Iron Man, but that the story should be taken with a grain of salt, despite Simpkins's growing star power and upcoming blockbuster role in Jurassic World making him a shoe-in. And this is exactly where the Simpkins story went from being obvious speculation, to potential inside information.
The Ty Simpkins rumor next popped up on JoBlo who, despite denouncing MoviePilot as a "wretched hive of scum and villainy," still gave them direct credit for the rumor, saying "a source" had provided MoviePilot with the info.
It's unclear whether JoBlo didn't have time, or didn't care to trace the source back to Master Herald - if they had, they would have clearly seen the speculative and unsourced nature of the idea. But Marvel Studios speculation is the soup du jour for many entertainment websites - Newsarama included - and the potential clicks on a scoop as inciting as a 17 year old Iron Man was maybe too great to pass up. By the end of their article, JoBlo does in fact relay that the rumor is "all conjecture, with nothing to substantiate it," but this is only after crediting a far more reputable website than Master Herald - and its mysterious source - with generating the idea.
With JoBlo picking up on the idea mere days ago, the spread seems to be dying down a little. Top tier websites have yet to latch on to the story, with Ty Simpkins only garnering dismissive mentions in several round up posts, like this one from ComicBook.com that links back to - where else? - JoBlo.
So why does a rumor like this spread so quickly, and gain so much traction, despite a lack of credible sources? For one thing, those aforementioned clicks drive a lot of rumors like this one up the chain. And even though there has been some misleading accreditation as the story has made its way through the grapevine, no one has lied or misrepresented the story as total fact. And even if it isn't true, what's really at stake for those who pass it along? Far less than what is to be gained by the sheer number of fans clicking through their piece.
Furthermore, it's exactly the kind of story fans want. Those of us who love the Marvel Studios films and are waiting with baited breath for the upcoming Warner Bros. shared universe DC films to snatch up any tidbits we can find, if only because they make our Wednesday visits to our comic stores that much more energetic. Even Ty Simpkins himself seems keen on the idea of a larger role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with a story from ComicBookMovie.com from May 2013 crediting Simpkins himself with speculation that Simpkins's Harley Keener could become Nova, with Simpkins taking this idea from - where else? - online fan speculation.
So, the bottom line is, there's just enough factual fuel to get this fire going. We know Simpkins signed a three picture deal with Marvel, which is pretty standard for anyone they bring in, and that he certainly had onscreen chemistry with Downey. We also know - or rather, can take an educated guess - that Downey will give up the role of Tony Stark a lot sooner than Marvel Studios will want to stop making Iron Man movies. But, while nothing is impossible - someone is going to have to don the armor after Downey exits - there are no more concrete facts to suggest it will be Ty Simpkins, an unlikely idea at best, than anyone else who has appeared in an Iron Man film.
Also, keep this between us, but we heard Mark Wahlberg wants it. Ssssssshhhhhhh....