Marvel-ous Monday: The Origin of Iron Man and His Critical Role in Establishing the MCU
“You have my respect, Stark. When I’m done, half of humanity will still be alive. I hope they remember you.”
I don’t know about any of you, but when Thanos coolly said those words, the movie theater let out a collective gasp. This scene on Titan was monumental, and it is easily one of the most defining scenes in the collective MCU. I believe it is safe to say that Tony Stark’s Iron Man is the most recognizable hero in the Marvelverse, especially in its cinematic one. Robert Downey, Jr. has brought life to the lovable “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” in a breathtaking, awe-inspiring way, and many credit his performance to the global success the films possess. Yes, Thanos may have won in Infinity War, but if those Endgame trailers tell us anything, they tell us that such success will be short lived. Thanos has pissed off the wrong heroes, and Tony Stark is leading such surge. Sure, that exchange between Thanos and Tony was only fitting to feature Marvel’s most iconic super heroes, but has Iron Man always been the gold and crimson warrior we need to save the universe?
Making his first appearance in the ever so famous Tales of Suspense line in 1963, Tony Stark was thrown into the role of a super hero. I will say that the MCU has done a fairly decent job in depicting Stark’s origin on the big screen, but there are some variations. First and foremost, Stark was captured by terrorist in Tales of Suspense #39, but he was not in a war-torn Afghanistan; instead, he was injured and captured by Wong-Cho in Vietnam. As any Marvel fan or comic book apologist knows, many of Stan Lee’s early works dealt with the political turmoil in America or elsewhere in the world. Characters like Captain America and Iron Man capitalized on the patriotic strength of our nation, and those Marvel super heroes served as an inspiration for many around the world.
Tony Stark was no different in such regard. In fact, many attribute his status and charm to that of former President John F. Kennedy. Much of the nation embraced his cool demeanor as he took office in 1960, but such Presidential legacy was infamously cut short on November 22, 1963. Tony Stark debuted that same year in March, so the comparisons drawn between these two men were thought of a bit later in the decade. Although Lee never confirmed such rumors, JFK was an advocate for a military presence in Vietnam, and Tony Stark became Iron Man in that vary nation. Coincidence?
The 2008 release of Iron Man proved to be quintessential in the building of the MCU, and I think much of the film’s influence can be attributed to its heavy reliance on Lee’s vision for the character. Aside from the location and villains featured in that first film, Iron Man’s origin was fairly accurate in terms of its comic counterpart. Such accuracy is highlighted through the character of Ho Yinsen (portrayed by Shaun Toub), the man responsible for saving Tony’s life by inserting an electromagnet into this chest and sacrificing his own life for Tony’s escape. In the film, the two build the arc reactor, a device conceptualized by Tony’s father Howard. Being an MIT graduate, Stark idolized the work of Yinsen, so it was only fitting to have such an influential figure help create the moniker and suit of Iron Man.
This is where I would usually discuss our hero’s super powers and abilities, but I really don’t think Iron Man needs the introduction. However, there are some interesting spins the MCU has taken from his comic legacy. If you remember the plot revolving around the Extremis soldiers in Iron Man 3, you will know the genetic strands of such nanotechnology are severely flawed. The way such mutation is depicted in the film is a bit similar to the repulsor technology villain Zeke Stane (Obadiah Stane’s son) uses to turn people into bombs in the comics. Much like the film, Pepper Potts is turned into one of these weapons, and she nearly loses her life. Well, the Extremis technology is a bit more advanced/positive in the comics, and Tony even injects himself with Extremis after suffering some potentially life-threatening injuries in battle. With the Extremis manipulation, Stark is able to heal quicker and have a genetic connection with his armor. Another fun spin in the comics involves Stark role of protecting the Space Infinity Gem/Stone. The Space Stone allows him to exist in any location, manipulate objects across the galaxy, and control space.
Some of Iron Man’s most worthy foes have already been featured on the big screen: Obadiah Stane (the Iron Monger), the Ten Rings, the Mandarin, Ivan Vanko (Whiplash), and Justin Hammer. Outside of these characters, Iron Man regularly fights the likes of The Controller, A.I.M./M.O.D.O.K., Crimson Dynamo, and Madame Masque. Most of the villains Iron Man encounters jeopardize the safety of the U.S. people, and the stereotypical terrorist manifesto is often shared among those villains.
All good things must come to an end, and death ensures such statement to be true with human beings. Tony Stark is an exception. Leaving the moniker of Iron Man behind in 2016, Stark found a way to copy his being to A.I., and he now aides fellow MIT grad and new Iron Man/Ironheart Riri Williams. The A.I. technology is similar to Stark’s creation of J.A.R.V.I.S., but he took the tech a bit further and can now project a hologram of himself to communicate with Riri. As Riri notes in comics, it is almost like Tony Stark is a “techno ghost.” Another interesting spin placed upon the character of Tony Stark is his transition to Sorcerer Supreme. (Side note: If you haven’t checked out the Generations line, you definitely need to do so.) The Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart story focuses on Stark for a few pages, but fans get to see Tony take over Doctor Strange’s popular moniker and finally meet face-to-face with his prodigy.
Both A.I. Tony and Sorcerer Supreme Tony are possibilities for the MCU’s Phase 4 and beyond, especially if the MCU creative decides to split up the Infinity Stones and have them protected by various super heroes. I believe that Robert Downey, Jr. is far too important and influential to the MCU, and removing him completely from the future phases could prove costly in both the story line and the box office. I know contracts and film agreements are often published and made known, but if there is one thing I’ve learned from this franchise, it’s that they can keep a secret–well, unless you’re Tom Holland or Mark Ruffalo. Some actors have made their exits known after filming for Endgame wrapped, and those characters will certainly be missed. I just hope RDJ is not one of them.
From this point forward, Marvel-ous Mondays will feature characters in relation to the upcoming Avengers: Endgame. Discussing possible roles and outcomes leading up to Marvel’s most-anticipated film to date is a lot of fun, so if there is a character you would like to read about, feel free to comment here or on social media.