Iron Man

I’ve always liked Iron Man. Tony Stark has a simple comic book story: a smart guy, who doesn’t think very much about what he’s doing, is nearly killed. The experience changes him–but not all that much. He’s a superhero because he’s addicted to action, because he feels the need to justify his survival, and because he needs the armor to keep himself alive. He doesn’t have any special powers–he’s just very inventive.

Tony Stark’s alcoholism wasn’t introduced until the character had been around for a long time. Stan Lee created Iron Man in 1963 (script by his brother, Larry Leiber, and art by Don Heck and Jack Kirby). The alcoholism was introduced in the 1980s by David Michelinie and Bob Layton. However, even though it came so much later, it fit the character so well that it has never been forgotten. Denny O’Neill later picked it up for a long run on the character in which Stark loses everything and his friend Rhodey takes over as Iron Man.

Iron Man is a natural hero for an engineer: a smart, intuitive guy who succeeds entirely on his own wits. He’s also, of course, handsome, suave, ultra wealthy, self confident–in fact, overly confident. I don’t think anybody could really identify with Tony Stark, which probably hurts his sales. But he’s a believable character at the core, more believable than many superheroes.

I didn’t have high hopes for the movie which just came out, but I’m happy to say that it captures the character very well and was also a very good movie. They changed the details of the comic book story, but kept all the essential elements. In fact, it’s early days yet, but right now I think it was one of the best superhero movies that’s been made, right up there with the first Tim Burton Batman movie. Unusually, the ordinary life sequences were better than the action sequences–something which only works because Iron Man is such a plausible character at the core. That said, the special effects were excellent, and really conveyed the power of the armored suit.

If you’re a comic book fan, sit through all the credits until the very end, to see the short setup for the sequel (if you’re not a comic book fan, though, the setup probably won’t make any sense).

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