In the golden age of comic books, fans chose a side and stuck to that side. DC made a name for itself in the world of comic books films by launching the "Superman" franchise. The same company then bounced back with "Batman" and other films, while Marvel experienced problems with its entertainment division. After the failures of "Batman Forever" and "Batman and Robin," Marvel knew that it needed to step up its game, so "Iron Man" was brought to life.

Universal Studios originally obtained the rights to the character in the early 1990s, but the film languished in production for years. It wasn't until 2006 that Jon Favreau signed on for the film and casting actually began. Robert Downey Jr. ("Kiss Kiss Bang Bang") wasn't the first choice for the role, but after talking to him, Favreau admitted that he couldn't imagine anyone else in the role. The film grossed more than $98 million in its opening weekend, making "Iron Man" a hit among fans. Fans also loved the end credits, which showed Samuel L. Jackson ("Snakes on a Plane"). Jackson portrayed Nick Fury and the scene gave fans hope for a sequel.

"Iron Man" eventually grossed more than $500 million around the world, and it was the first film of 2008 to make more than $300 million at the box office. Downey credits the film with giving him a second chance at an acting career, and he enjoyed the role so much that he came back for a long cameo role in "The Incredible Hulk." The release of those two films showed Hollywood that fans loved good comic book films and paved the way for more Marvel films.

Fans who aren't sure how "Iron Man 3" might fare at the box office should just look at "Iron Man 2" and "The Avengers." "Iron Man 2" brought back many of the same characters and actors from the first film, including Downey and Gwyneth Paltrow, who played as his love interest Pepper Potts. In its first weekend in theaters, the film grossed more than $128 million, making it even more successful than the first film in the franchise. "The Avengers" served as the first film to bring together some of the top stars in the Marvel universe. Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Nick Fury, Black Widow, and Hawkeye all appeared in the film. "The Avengers" grossed more than $1.5 billion around the world, making it one of the highest-grossing films of all time.

Marvel did a smart job of connecting its superhero films, and fans flocked to theaters to see their favorite characters and stars. Every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as fans call it, contains connections to past and future films. "The Avengers" showed a relationship forming between Bruce Banner and Tony Stark, which might carry over into the next film, and the film set things up for both "Iron Man 3" and the upcoming "Thor: The Dark World." If nothing else, fans will turn out to watch the ending scenes, which will likely show a hint of what happens in the sequel to "Thor" and the 2014 release "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."

Fans began eagerly awaiting the release of "Iron Man 3" back in 2012. The production company behind the film sent the newest Iron Man suit to the San Diego Comic-Con, and several of the film's stars showed up for a Q&A session with fans. The session ended with the group introducing a series of short scenes from the film, and fans instantly went online to discuss the new film. In March of 2013, fans got another chance to learn about the film on its official Facebook page. Several stills from the film appeared on the social networking page, giving fans their first look at "Iron Man 3."

Downey's contract officially ends with the release of "Iron Man 3," but the actor already announced plans to return for "The Avengers 2," which will arrive in theaters in 2015. He also made it clear that he hopes to return for additional films in the series. Early reviews of "Iron Man 3" point out that the film sets things up for additional films starring the superhero.

The buzz surrounding "Iron Man 3" started increasing in the days leading up to the film's official premier. Fans could watch a live stream of the red carpet, which showed the stars arriving and talking about their roles in the film. With "The Avengers" still on everyone's mind, no one should be surprised if "Iron Man 3" dominates the box office for the next few months.