Before Downey signed on to play Tony Stark and secured his path to becoming the world's most bankable action star, he was — by his…

Picture a big pile of money in that metal hand.

Robert Downey Jr. has reached a two-picture deal with Marvel Studios to appear in The Avengers 2 and The Avengers 3 — but notably not for a possible Iron Man 4.

The news was confirmed by Marvel, which declined to offer specifics on the nature of the deal.

He reportedly earned more than $50 million for The Avengers, and although his multi-picture contract with the comic-book moviemakers was fulfilled by Iron Man 3, everyone involved was moving forward as if a deal for more films was inevitable.

“I’d go start another one tomorrow, but it’s not tomorrow,” Downey told EW when Iron Man 3 was debuting. “And there are a lot of other considerations. But I also don’t like the idea of leaving people hanging or leaving people in the lurch.”

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige also previously told EW that they hoped to continue working with Downey, whose charismatic interpretation of Tony Stark helped launch its multi-billion-dollar film franchise. But he also indicated that Iron Man was bigger than any one actor.

“I believe there will be a fourth Iron Man film and a fifth and a sixth and a 10th and a 20th,” the producer said. “I see no reason why Tony Stark can’t be as evergreen as James Bond. Or Batman for that matter. Or Spider-Man. I think Iron Man is a character just like that.” Feige declined any further comment Thursday.

Writer-director Joss Whedon is already at work on The Avengers 2 script, with plans to begin shooting in March 2014 with a debut in theaters set for May 1, 2015.

A date for The Avengers 3 hasn’t been set, but parent company Disney has already announced May 6, 2016, and May 5, 2017, as target dates for future, unspecified movies from Marvel’s as-yet-undetermined Phase 3 lineup.

But that big question remains: Will we see any more solo Iron Man adventures starring Downey?

The actor, who is currently shooting the legal/family drama The Judge in Massachusetts, says he hopes to launch an entirely different film franchise at some point in the near future, and often notes that at 48, his super-powered fighting days are obviously numbered.

It is starting to look like Iron Man 3, which ended on a fairly conclusive note, won’t be the last we see of Tony Stark, but it might be the last time he stands alone.

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Iron Man
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