Until the release of Captain America: The First Avenger, Iron Man was the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first hero. That didn't last long, but Tony Stark has remained the face of the MCU to this day. When Captain Marvel arrives, Stark's place in the timeline will be retconned, as the MCU’s first solo superheroine flick will be set in the 1990s.
But this change may take place before Captain Marvel’s 2019 release. A Black Panther tie-in comic revealed that T'Challa was Black Panther for a much longer period of time than we thought.
We knew that T'Chaka (the former King of Wakanda and T'Challa’s father) was Black Panther for an undetermined period of time, and that the name Black Panther was actually a title that was passed from one generation to another. But we had assumed that each generation’s Black Panther kept the title until he died.
However, the tie-in comic makes it clear that T'Challa has been Black Panther for longer than any of us suspected. It appears that he took up the mantle one week before Tony Stark announced himself as Iron Man.
T’Challa has been the Black Panther in the MCU ever since Tony Stark announced that he was Iron Man… pic.twitter.com/tkBVZdVL2a
"” MCU News & Tweets (@MCU_Tweets) October 20, 2017
Looking back, Nick Fury’s remark that Stark wasn't the only hero in the world makes even more sense. Stark was oblivious, but Fury was already aware of the existence of Captain America and Captain Marvel, and he may have already known that Wakanda had Black Panther.
It remains to be seen whether this Black Panther origin will show up in the movie.
Black Panther will be released on February 16, 2018.