Alex Billington of First thinks he’s discovered something in the background of a shot in Iron Man. After seeing the movie four (!!!!) times, Alex is convinced that he has seen nothing less than the shield belonging to Captain America himself. Alex says that the shield pops up in the background during the scene when the robots are having a hard time getting Tony out of the Iron Man armor, after his trip back to Afghanistan.

Alex has provided a screencap from the trailer that he says makes his case. As someone who has spent years interested in UFOs, Bigfoot and ghosts, this is all very familiar; the image does indeed sort of look like it could be Captain America’s shield, but I’m not sure that I would have thought that unless Alex brought my attention to it. It also looks like it could be the convergence of lighting and clutter on Tony’s desk.

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that it is the shield. Alex loses me when he begins to dissect what this could mean:

Apparently Captain America was actually given his round shield from the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization when he was found in modern times, which could make sense in this universe. Maybe Tony Stark has been building a shield, for whatever reasons, and eventually S.H.I.E.L.D., who was revealed at the end of the movie, will find out about it at a future point and suggest they give it to Captain America for his use. And this means maybe it will involve some sort of awesome Tony Stark technology instead of just being a metal object he throws around. How about that for a concept?

Well, as is so often the case with the retarded world of comics, Alex is right and he’s wrong. When Cap was thawed out of polar ice in Avengers #4 way back in the 60s, he had a round shield. In the Ultimates universe this was changed around, though, and the movies seem to draw equally from each universe.

The only thing keeping me from calling all of this out as amusing/disturbing fanwank is the fact that Marvel Studios are dealing with their superhero properties in weird ways, especially Captain America and the Avengers. The stated release dates for these films – Captain America will hit in May of 2011 and The Avengers in July – make me think that the Cap film is essentially Part One of The Avengers film. A risk averse movie studio wouldn’t do things this way; look at how Warner Bros wanted to go the opposite way and spin hero franchises out of a Justice League movie. Imagine what a tanked Captain America means for The Avengers when your whole marketing campaign is based on piggy backing one off the other.

So maybe the supposed shield in Stark’s lab will actually be a story point in a future film. Kevin Feige and friends could be just that fanboy friendly.  Or maybe it was put there as a little sly in-joke (which, if it really is the shield, seems like the most logical answer. The razor of philosophy superhero Occam has shown up here). The clearest thing that this ‘shield in the lab’ incident tells us is that Iron Man has hit the nerd consciousness in a big way, and that the Marvel Studios slate is off to a strong start.