The Marvel Cinematic Universe almost feels unrecognizable when compared to what it looked like a decade ago. New heroes have entered the fray, and we now have entirely new franchises that would've arguably been impossible to imagine in the days of Iron Man, such as Ryan Coogler's Black Panther. That said, while a movie like Black Panther may have seemed like a pipe dream to many fans years ago, it has apparently been on Marvel's radar since the early days of Phase 1. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige explained:

We always knew we wanted to do it someday. We always knew it was the manifest destiny of Marvel Studios to bring to life all facets of the Marvel universe. At the end of Iron Man 2, when Nick Fury is discussing for the first time the Avengers initiative with Tony Stark, he's brought him to this secret shield warehouse. One of the maps prominently displayed is a map of Africa with a little pinpoint to where Wakanda is. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, we talked about Vibranium for the first time and Bruce Banner mispronounces Wakanda. We've been feeding it through the films, knowing if we had the opportunity to keep making films, Panther was high on the list. It was his inclusion in Civil War that sped it up.

So, it seems that the folks at Marvel Studios have wanted to introduce Black Panther from the very beginning. The MCU has always intended to create a cohesive world that touches the farthest reaches of the Marvel landscape, and a fundamental element of that creative process has been the investment of money and resources into the creation of Wakanda. From there, the official teases started with Iron Man 2, then continued with Avengers: Age of Ultron until T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) finally showed up in Captain America: Civil War.

Marvel has always used Easter eggs in its movies, and that Black Panther reference in Iron Man 2 is something that many fans have talked about for years. Specifically, it showed up towards the end of the film in the scene where Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) discusses The Avengers Initiative with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). You can catch that quick nod in the background of the Iron Man 2 shot, below.

Of course, many members of the audience have been clamoring for a Black Panther movie since the 1990s, if not earlier, and Hollywood icons like John Singleton even tried to pitch (decidedly different) versions of the T'Challa story long before the genesis of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So why did it take so long after the establishment of the MCU? Elsewhere in Kevin Feige's interview with Variety, he explained that the first half of the MCU's decade-long existence was spent building towards The Avengers. Once those relationships were established, and the MCU could move towards the events of Captain America: Civil War, it became increasingly manageable for them to introduce an outsider to represent the rift between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans).

RELATED: How Black Panther Went About Changing One Of Its Potentially Offensive Characters

T'Challa will return with his Vibranium suit when Ryan Coogler's Black Panther hits theaters tomorrow on February 16. If you are looking for more information about the landmark Marvel movie, then check out our in-depth Black Panther review, as well as what other people are saying about the movie. Beyond Black Panther, T'Challa and many other citizens of Wakanda will return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe later this year when Avengers: Infinity War premieres in theaters on May 4.

BLACK PANTHER DELETED SCENE: The Okoye And W'kabi Argument You Didn't See

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