While director Jon Favreau may have initiated the tradition with the first Iron Man film, the MCU’s history of post-credits sequences has an even earlier point of origin — and a much more precise endgame than the “lark” on which the first was delivered.
That film showed Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury (and make no mistake, it was his Nick Fury) telling Tony Stark that the latter isn’t the only superhero on Earth. Easter eggs and breadcrumbs are important for the franchise, sure, but Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige had even more to share on this multi-film phenomenon.
Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, the Marvel head honcho remembered Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as the place where the post-credits began. “It was the greatest thing in the world,” Feige said, referring to when Matthew Broderick told everyone left in the theater to leave. “I thought it was hilarious. It was like a little reward for me for sitting through the credits.”
Putting those rewards in a movie for Marvel fans became his way of creating synergy throughout the films — even if it was simply just for fun at first. “Even though everything else hadn’t been turned into a big film before, or had the name recognition among non-comic-book readers that others ones did, we had the opportunity to start putting certain heroes in other heroes’ movies, which hadn’t been done before,” Feige said. “It’s a bonus of what’s to come.”
Marvel audiences now bank on those bonuses, rarely even getting up from their seats when the credits roll — or even after the first post-credits scene has ended.
As far as focusing the first one on Nick Fury, well that was something for the hardcore fans. “I presumed the only people who would stay through the credits were people who would know who the guy in the eye patch was,” Feige explained.
Sometimes, the scenes focus on organic and fun details that simply don’t fit the main arc of the film they appear after. Other times, they directly tease another film — like the scene at the end of Iron Man 2 in which Agent Coulson finds Thor’s hammer. Then, there are those that are just fun ad libs that snowball, like the bit at the end of Age of Ultron in which the Avengers are chowing down on shawarma.
The endings are the endings, Feige says, and the post-credits are hints at what comes next. Now, along with cementing Stan Lee as the cameo king of the film world, Marvel films have created a paradigm shift for when people leave the films they’ve come to love. Knowing that tease is coming is the ultimate payoff for Feige’s post-credits strategy (and one that continues for Avengers: Infinity War).