If you remember back a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, we were, for the first and probably the last time, I was doing the A to Z Blog Challenge and we were looking at some heroes and what their true villains were. We’d looked at the Avengers as a group (still my favorite movie right now…until Superman comes out), at Batman’s crazy ass, Captain America and his relationship with time, Don Draper’s mad mad world, ET and his retarded self, Foghorn Leghorn—the big ass chicken, Carl MF Grimes from The Walking Dead, and Hawkeye, the most useless archer ever. Then life got in the way.
Now we’re back and we’re looking at the man and the suit, Tony Stark AKA “I am Iron Man.”
I should start by saying I’m a big Iron Man fan—I have comics from the 80s when people thought it was both sexy and wholly heterosexual for buff men to run around in mesh half shirts. I’ve been with ‘ol Shellhead during his depression, his alcoholism and his Armor Wars. I thought the casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark was genius. I own all the movies and have seen Iron Man 3 3 times (though I’m pissed about the Mandarin). Once I run the race, I’m gonna get an Iron Man tattoo (haven’t decided where). I’m an Iron Man fan.
But as a hero, the Iron Man suit (or prosthesis, as it formally called) is only as good as it’s pilot. And Tony? My man got problems.
In the comics, Tony Stark is plagued by a deep insecurity caused by his relationship with technology. In the movies and the comics, Tony is injured on a battlefield and depends on an electromagnet to keep a cluster of shrapnel from trying to burrow its way into his heart—the only thing that changes is the locale (in the comic, it’s Vietnam; in the movie, it’s Afghanistan). His very life depends on the reliability and efficacy of technology. After seeing the depravity of humanity and blah blah blah, Tony becomes something bigger than human—a technological superhuman.
Iron Man is different from other superheroes in that he’s manufactured. There’s no gamma radiation, no Super Soldier serum, no spider bite, no birth from an alien world with a red sun, no extensive martial arts training and seething revenge-based impetus to fight crime. Iron Man is a suit; Tony Stark is just a man. Anyone can wear the suit. James Rhodes can wear the suit and be Iron Man (and has). Pepper Potts wore the suit. Shit, even Happy wore the suit and he’s the chauffeur. Anyone can be Iron Man.
In The Avengers, Cap asks the most pertinent question of all: “Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off and what are you?” See, this is where the insecurity sets in. While the quippy response was great for laughs and elicited a nice head nod from Scarlett Johanssen’s sexy tail, there is a whole lot of truth to this. And it’s the whole point of Iron Man 3: there has to be more to the man than the ability to make a suit. Otherwise, you have another Doctor Doom on your hands.
What it comes down to is a moral center. Spidey has the whole “with great power comes great responsibility” thing couple with Uncle Ben’s death. Superman has his middle America earthly father to guide him. Batman has the senseless murder of his parents burned into his psyche. But Tony Stark? This is what he’s lacking. In the comic, he has an unfortunate injury in an unfortunate war and capitalizes on his escape to become something bigger, something greater. The movies pick up on this and use both his imprisonment and his relationship with Pepper to give him that moral compass but, the truth is, Tony Stark is and remains a shallow guy. And he knows it. In fact, Iron Man 3 was about this very idea.
Like I said, I’m an Iron Man fan and the truest statement the movies ever made was in Iron Man 2 when he told Congress, “I am Iron Man. The suit and I are one.” For Tony Stark, the challenge is making the man measure up to the hero and becoming someone worthy of wearing the suit.
That’s my word. See ya on Tuesday for another installment. Next we’re gonna be talking the Justice League.