War Machine, the iron-suited alias of Tony Stark’s best friend James Rhodes, has been teased since his line in the very first Iron Man, when Rhodey says, “Next time, baby” as he shoots a glance at Stark’s silver Mark II suit hanging in the garage. We’ve seen Rhodey suited up as War Machine a few times since, and once as Iron Patriot, but he never got big enough to get his own movie. That wasn’t always the case.

Black Panther screenwriter Joe Robert Cole had actually been pitched a War Machine movie when Marvel hired him out of their screenwriting program — a program that lets in-house writers mentor newer screenwriters, and has been the birthplace of their more offbeat ventures like Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok. As he told Complex:

I got into the program in a different way than everyone else that I know that was in it. From what I understand about the normal process is that you apply, I think by submitting a spec screenplay of some kind, they meet with you and then make their decision from there. I had written a Chinatown-style cop script and they met with me about it. At that meeting, they also said they were thinking of doing a War Machine movie. I pitched a concept and won that job to write the script but they decided, based on what Iron Man 3 was going to be, they weren’t going to do War Machine anymore. But they asked if I’d be interested in joining their writer’s program instead.

And it’s a good thing he did, because Black Panther is set to have possibly the biggest opening of any Marvel film ever. But we were so close to living in a world where we didn’t have to wait as long for the MCU’s first black-led superhero movie. It’s unlikely that they still have plans to do one, and Rhodey’s next task is to survive what will surely be the catastrophic events of Infinity War.

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