Recently, we shared a piece of ‘Iron Man 3concept art that fans will be able to grab in Comic-Con 2012 (while supplies last). We had fun speculating on what might be happening in the above image. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) looks surprised by the men with machine guns running toward him. And why is the armor on his arm smoking? Who better to ask then the man himself?

Downey was speaking with Entertainment Weekly (via We Got This Covered) and the magazine had this to say about the above image:

What’s happening here? The context isn’t immediately clear (and Marvel isn’t talking), but the image matches the way Stark’s armor attaches to him in the 2005-06 comic book series Iron Man: Extremis. The title refers to a nanotech serum that allows humans to bond with metal, becoming biological combat machines.

That confirms the rumors we’d been hearing about ‘Extremis’ serving as the backbone for this sequel. And so this shot does appear to have Stark bonding with his armored suit. The phrase “biological combat machine” just sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

And if it sounds like Downey is ready to take Stark and Iron Man to an unseen level, well, that’s exactly what he has in mind.

[I] radically want to challenge Stark’s identity, rather than just have him battle another bad guy. These things tend to, in Act 3, really become about the same old things. So let’s really flip that. I feel like I don’t know where you go after Iron Man 3. Leave it all on the field, you know?

Saying he’s going to “leave it all on the field” suggests to us that this could be RDJ’s last turn in a standalone ‘Iron Man’ movie. Or course, he’s obligated to return for a second ‘Avengers’ movie. But stories floated a while back about Marvel treating Tony Stark like James Bond, recasting the role and keeping the franchise moving with a fresh face (and no need for a reboot).

What do you think? Is Downey laying the groundwork for a possible franchise exit? And do you think they should blow it out with ‘Iron Man 3’ to give him an explosive send off?