In Captain America: Civil War, it is revealed that

The Winter Soldier killed Tony's parents, Howard & Maria Stark. He both caused the car crash that was reported in the papers and, when that didn't do the job, killed them both with his bare hands.

The first reference we had to this event was in

the very first Iron Man, (which is the movie that began the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe) when we see a newspaper clipping reporting that Howard & Maria had died in a car accident.

We later saw the event referenced again, when

the computer-version of Zola showed that same newspaper clipping, telling Captain America and Black Widow that "accidents were made to happen", in Captain America: Winter Soldier.

So my question is, for how long had the powers that be at Marvel Studios planned to have this detail of the plot? Has there been any confirmation from any studio personnel in either direction, either saying they planned it all along, or else that it simply fell neatly and conveniently into place?

  • 2
    Aren't all stories planned well ahead? Also, story writers tend you use what they have to fabricate new stories. I don't see why this question exists.
    – Jash Jacob
    May 10, 2016 at 15:06
  • 5
    No, not all stories are planned well ahead. Certainly not as well ahead as 8 years and 12 movies later. The question exists because there are two possibilities, and I'd like to know which is the case.
    – Paul L
    May 10, 2016 at 15:09
  • 1
    Umm, they have a large amount of source material available - comic books. In the comics, Maria and Howard Stark officially died in a car crash orchestrated by Roxxon. In MCU, they just changed it to H.Y.D.R.A
    – Jash Jacob
    May 10, 2016 at 15:22

2 Answers 2


Has there been any confirmation from any studio personnel in either direction, either saying they planned it all along, or else that it simply fell neatly and conveniently into place?

The latter. In the book Marvel Studios’ The Marvel Cinematic Universe: An Official Timeline, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige admitted that they had no master plan in mind when they created Iron Man. They just focused on telling a great story about one character, hoping that it would lead to opportunities for more films in the future.

From the book's foreword (emphasis added):

When we were working on Iron Man, we didn't have a map built out that stretched all the way to the far reaches of the Multiverse. We wanted to tell a great story about one character, hoping that if it worked, we might just be able to do a few more, and if all the stars cosmically aligned, we could assemble the Avengers in a movie. That was the bet we were making when Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury appeared in the post credit scene on Iron Man. He could have easily been speaking directly to us when he said, "Mr. Stark, you've become part of a bigger universe. You just don't know it yet." Universes have a way of growing.

- Kevin Feige

  • Marvel Studios hired hundreds of VFX staff to work on Iron Man, rather than farming the work out to dedicated VFX houses. At the very least Feige knew that they were going to make many more big budget scifi flicks based on comic characters..
    – Valorum
    Nov 3, 2023 at 8:21

Given the amount of money being spent to make Marvel movies ($50 to $250 million dollars) plus advertising costs, it is safe to assume, little, if anything is left to chance. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the underlying premise is to create a collective universe of stories, with interrelated themes, plots, elements and stories, previously unseen at this scale. The mobilization of thousands of people required to make a Marvel movie means the planning of movies is both complex and rigorous. It takes a dedicated group to make it appear spontaneous even though it is anything but.

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  • Plot points such as the deaths of the Starks are critical story elements which they use to pivot entire plots upon. Such planning is very unlikely to be accidental. Movies don't have the time for story embellishment that comics have. A plot in comics may take place over years where writers will add new ideas as they come to them.

  • Movies have to be tightly written and there is likely an extremely complex timeline where story elements necessary to promote future projects are woven into the stories as needed. Some are taken from already existing comic stories, others are created anew as needed for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

  • Captain America's shield is such an example: In the MCU it is a purely Vibranium alloy very different from its comic origin. The nature of Vibranium is that is can only be found in Wakanda. It is likely the introduction of the Cap's shield from the outset was set up as a possibility for the development of storylines in Wakanda if the MCU tracked as economically hoped.

  • Given the success of Civil War, we can expect the Black Panther and Wakanda to become a centerpiece in the Marvel Universe, likely conceived of years ago in the MCU, planned for by dropping seeds in different movies and the execution of those seeds is now about to bear fruit.

  • 2
    While this is all true and excellent information (especially that graphic, that I'll be staring at for roughly the next week of my life...), I was hoping to find information provided by the studio or a filmakers, saying whether or not it's the case, as opposed to speculation and assumption.
    – Paul L
    May 10, 2016 at 15:07
  • To what end? Even if someone were willing to hunt down a paragraph from a trade journal written eight years ago to corroborate your suspicion, how exactly would you be using that information? Someone here may be willing to make the colossal effort, but I just can't see how this would be useful, except academically. May 10, 2016 at 15:16
  • I am not looking for anything so absurd. I was wondering if anyone had seen, since the release of the movie, some studio exec say "yeah, we've been planning that for 8 years now!" or "No, but dang it was cool how conveniently that worked out, wasn't it?!". If no such remarks have been made (yet), that's okay too, I was simply wondering if there were any official word on the topic.
    – Paul L
    May 10, 2016 at 15:30
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    Of interest, though, is the fact that the filmmakers for both Thor and GotG said that they were basically given catalogs of things to pick from to use as Easter Eggs, and that's part of why there is now possibly an extra Infinity Gauntlet, and why there is a cocoon that was not intended to be Adam Warlock in GotG. These details and nods that are picked up later sometimes did start as something unplanned.
    – phantom42
    May 10, 2016 at 16:28
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    @ThaddeusHowze It certainly would not have been revealed eight years ago. If anything, the most likely definitive answer would be someone at Marvel Studios revealing now, or in the near future, that they planted the references to Howard Stark's death as something they always intended to explain, or conversely revealing that they didn't intend it to be Bucky's doing until developing the plot of Civil War, or some other account of the process.
    – recognizer
    May 10, 2016 at 16:46

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