Marvel Confirms Yinsen Was The MCU's Real Founding Hero (Not Iron Man)

Warning! Spoilers ahead for Marvel's What If...? episode 6, "What If...Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?"

Thanks to Marvel's What If...?, it's been confirmed that Ho Yinsen from the first Iron Man is the MCU's true founding hero (not Tony Stark). In the sixth episode of the animated series on Disney+, Tony Stark is saved by Eric Killmonger in Afghanistan, meaning that the Ten Rings never captured him, nor was he forced to build a suit of armor to escape his imprisonment. Furthermore, because he never had those experiences and inspiration from his fellow captive Yinsen, Tony Stark never became a hero in this depicted alternate timeline, making Yinsen absolutely crucial to the foundation of the MCU.

In episode 6 of Marvel's What If...?Tony Stark is saved by Killmonger before being taken captive, resulting in his return to the United States, having learned nothing as there were no traumatic experiences to forge him into a hero that MCU fans know him to be. Instead, he ends up being manipulated by Killmonger in his secret bid to return to Wakanda and claim power. Furthermore, the episode confirms that Tony Stark would never have even thought to create his iconic suit of armor unless he had been captured and met Yinsen to motivate and inspire him to become something more than himself.

Related: Marvel Just Wasted Killmonger’s MCU Return

Not only does Tony Stark help Killmonger create his Gundam army of Liberator drones, but he also comments that "human pilots mean human error," serving as the justification for drones over suits. He also seems proud of the fact that no one has to lift a finger thanks to drones, an example of his unevolved character due to never receiving inspiration from Yinsen to take action and not waste his life. Furthermore, while he entertained the idea of miniaturizing an arc reactor to power the drones for a few seconds, he dismissed the idea just as quickly, proving that he needed the desperate situation of captivity alongside Yinsen and the shrapnel in his chest to envision its actual power and validity. As a result, Ho Yinsen is arguably the MCU's true foundational hero over Stark himself.

As this alternate timeline in Marvel's What If...? confirms, Tony Stark would have never become a hero without Yinsen inspiring him to be one, nor would he have ever come up with the idea for his suit of armor either. As a result, Ho Yinsen's role in the MCU is absolutely crucial, providing Tony with the necessary motivation to become Iron Man. Without him, there truly is no Iron Man, which would undoubtedly create a worse-off timeline like the one featured in this episode.

In any case, it's a fairly dynamic distinction made in this new timeline that absolutely proves the importance and significance of Yinsen in the first Iron Man and the primary MCU timeline overall. Without him, Tony Stark would have remained the shallow billionaire playboy he had been and would have absolutely wasted his life, never receiving the transformative experience, friendship, and inspiration that Ho Yinsen provided that forever changed the course of his life (and the MCU) for the better.

More: The MCU Just Undermined Endgame’s Iron Man Tribute

Marvel's What If...? releases new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+.

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