Is Iron Man Marvel? The Future of Comic Book Movies? Iron Man is a superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Co-created by writer and editor Stan Lee, developed by scripter Larry Lieber, and designed by artists Don Heck and Jack Kirby, the character first appeared in Tales of Suspense #39 in 1963, and received his own title with Iron Man #1 in 1968. Shortly after his creation, Iron Man was a founding member of a superhero team, the Avengers, with Thor, Ant-Man, Wasp and the Hulk. Iron Man stories, individually and with the Avengers, have been published consistently since the character’s creation.
Iron Man is the superhero persona of Anthony Edward “Tony” Stark, a businessman and engineer who runs the company Stark Industries. Beginning his career as a weapons manufacturer, he is captured in a war zone, and his heart is severely injured by shrapnel. To sustain his heart and escape his captors, he builds a technologically advanced armor.
After escaping, he continues using the armor as a superhero, creating more advanced models that grant him superhuman strength, flight, energy projection, and other abilities. The character was used to explore political themes, and early Iron Man stories were set in the Cold War. Later stories explored other themes, such as civil unrest, technological advancement, corporate espionage, alcoholism, and governmental authority.
Is Iron Man Marvel?
The Marvel Cinematic Universe recently wrapped up Phase Four of its sprawling saga and kicks off Phase 5 in February with the imminent release of Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania. As the MCU embarks on Phase 5, which will encompass The Multiverse Saga, it’s time to look back 15 years, when the MCU first began in 2008 with Iron Man.
Released in theaters on May 2, 2008, Iron Man marked a significant turning point in comic book superhero blockbusters and kickstarted the MCU saga. Let’s explore why Iron Man was the perfect film to kick off the MCU, and why Iron Man was the only way to properly introduce the idea of a shared cinematic universe to audiences.
The State of Comic Book Movies in the Late 2010s
In 2008, moviegoing audiences were no strangers to the Marvel Universe. Cinematic franchises had already been launched for major Marvel heavy hitters, such as X-Men and Spider-Man, each of which had three hit movies in theaters. There were more mixed results as well, with film releases of Daredevil, The Hulk, The Punisher, and Fantastic Four.
However, Iron Man differed from those previous films in that it was solely produced by Marvel Studios. Paramount Pictures was only on board as a distributor.
Iron Man was a new chapter for Marvel Studios, and Marvel Entertainment, rather than a studio partner, was calling the shots. There was talk of making an Iron Man movie for many years before its release. However, the film languished in development purgatory and never got off the ground. When the film rights returned to Marvel Entertainment, Marvel sought to develop the film independently of the Hollywood studio system. Ultimately, the gamble paid off.
Iron Man was an effective character choice for Marvel Studios to start producing its own films for many reasons. At the time, Iron Man did not have the popularity of characters such as the X-Men or Spider-Man, let alone their cultural impact, but he was one of the fewer big names of the Marvel Universe who did not yet have a major film adaptation.
Iron Man provided a fresh face to introduce to audiences and give them something new. While Iron Man, aka Tony Stark, is a regular human who does not have superpowers, audiences had never really seen a fully-fledged armor superhero with a full litany of gadgets at his disposal onscreen like with Iron Man. Except perhaps RoboCop, who was more of a cyborg or cybernetic human.
‘Iron Man’ Wisely Started the Gradual Progression of the MCU Concept
Iron Man was a gradual entry into the concept of the MCU. Looking back at the first Iron Man, director Jon Favreau heavily favored verisimilitude. The presentation of Iron Man on the big screen is derived from a more grounded, realistic standpoint. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) builds all of his armor suits.
The villain, Obadiah Stane, has scientists build his Iron Monger suit. There are no superpowers, no aliens, no interdimensional beings, and no cosmic threats. Time travel and magic are never mentioned. The biggest sci-fi concept introduced in Iron Man is the arc reactor technology. It was important to begin the MCU this way to give the moviegoing audience something more realistic and digestible.
Marvel Studios didn’t start touching on the more outlandish characters, out-there concepts, and outrageous ideas until much later. Case in point, Guardians of the Galaxy, featuring a talking tree and raccoon, was not released until 2014, six years after the original Iron Man movie.
Once audiences were on board and accepted Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, Marvel Studios gradually added more fantastical ideas and concepts to its cinematic franchise. The strategy has paid off for Marvel Studios for the better part of two decades. Had the MCU started right off the bat with Thor, or even The Incredible Hulk, it would not have been as auspicious and successful as a debut.
The other perfect starting point for Iron Man concerns how the film was made the linchpin to usher in an eventual movie for The Avengers. In the 1960s Marvel Comics, Iron Man was one of the original founding members and leaders of the Avengers team.
For Marvel Studios to begin a new film franchise, it made all the sense in the world to have Iron Man, an original Avengers team member and leader, as the start of the MCU. The shift with the MCU not only introduced a new blockbuster superhero movie to audiences but also the concept of a shared cinematic universe on a scale that had never been truly achieved before.
Even the previous Marvel properties that became successful film franchises never tried or attempted to cross over or share a universe with each other. Iron Man was the first Marvel film to set up a shared Marvel film universe concept was possible. Hence, Iron Man introduced the SHIELD organization and its enigmatic director, Nick Fury, who revealed to Tony Stark the idea of an “Avengers Initiative.” The Nick Fury and Avengers moment was left as a post-credits scene, another staple of the MCU.
The Future of Comic Book Movies
The other factor favoring Iron Man was the automated, high-tech angle of the concept. Tony Stark is an industrialist and futurist who lives in the world of cutting–edge tech, and he engineers a sleek, cool suit of armor that can fly. The film came out a year after the release of the iPhone. Suddenly, smartphones and mobile apps were all the rage and easily accessible.
Iron Man worked in tandem with the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that were happening in the real world at the time. The film was quite prophetic with Tony Stark’s usage of JARVIS as an AI system, ahead of Apple unveiling Siri as a digital AI assistant. Not to mention, Tony Stark might be a billionaire, but he’s a real person without any superpowers.
He builds his armored suit. As a self-made superhero, he is relatable to audiences. After being wounded in a shrapnel explosion, he needs the arc reactor in his chest to keep him alive. Stark’s vulnerability as a character, and his physical ailment, add another layer of relatability.
Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania releases on February 17. The film boasts the cinematic debut of classic Marvel villains Kang the Conqueror and MODOK, two characters created by legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960s; much like many of the most iconic superheroes of the Marvel Universe. It’s fun to look back and see how the vast intricacy of the MCU all started with Iron Man, and the film’s legacy endures to this day.
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