Marvel comics in pentagon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I’m reminded when I see movie trailers for the upcoming Iron Man 3 movie, why this of all the comic book hero films, resonates with me as well as a lot of other people.
IRON MAN 3 video – Advancing the Tech teasertrailer
Let’s go back to the origination of comic books, at least those which were more well-known. These characters were mostly dreamed up by men who felt a need to show there was the possibility of being powerful and not misusing the power to benefit others by fighting crime. Many of the most famous superheroes emerged in the 1930′s, among them Superman, Batman, Captain America, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel and Superman became a household word for a lot of kids in America and this success allowed other entries such as those mentioned above.
When television was in its infancy, Superman was reintroduced to a new generation through this medium in the 1950′s. Comic books sold well because of it. Now if you were a precocious kid, you might have looked at Superman, such as I did with a lot of skepticism. Sure, you might make allowances for some of his abilities because he was born on another planet, but why was this person so vastly stronger, able to defy gravity, see through walls and give you a hot foot but aged at about the same rate as everyone else. In the origination, he comes to the planet as a toddler or in some cases and infant, then he gets raised at a normal childhood maturation rate by surrogate earthly parents. That cape may have been the jazz back in the 1930′s along with the red boots, but by the time the 50′s and 60′s rolled around, well, this was a bit out of date. Most significantly, he didn’t seem to have any real character flaws.
The 1960′s saw a change in comic book direction with the introduction of a competitive comic book publisher with characters of more limited powers and most of them not always coping real well with their normal none super hero persona. Two of them stood out for me from the get go, Spider-Man and Iron Man. To a degree that all fictional comic works require, you have to set aside some basic flaws in the plot. You’re not going to find anyone turning into a human with some unique physical qualities being bitten by an insect, irradiated or chemically enhanced. Still, the comic book character development brought the impossible into somewhat more of a character that at least a lot of boys could relate to while growing up. If you were smart, somewhat nerdish and didn’t have a particular body with facial features that attracted girls, you probably could find some identification with Spider-Man and his alternate identity, Peter Parker.
Then we have Iron Man who as a private person, Tony Stark, was 180 degrees from Peter Parker. Here’s a man with almost everything, good looks, multi-millionaire (due to inflation – now billionaire), attractive to women and owns his own high-tech weapons manufacturing business. When due to circumstances beyond his control he’s thrust into a do or die scenario and comes out with guns blazing. The movie and the comic book differ only in who captures him but the end result is the same, he comes up with a super suit of armor to save himself.
Further observation of these two characters is they both had serious flaws. Peter Parker was not confident or assuming of any situation other than hitting the books. He was always broke, but when he donned the powers of the Spider and wore the suit he became a swinger, well at least web swinger and became outspoken and taunting of those numerous villains he faced.
Speaking of villains, I can never get over some of the villains he came up against. Some of the biggest dorks to fill the comics as baddies were seen against Spider-Man. One of them was the Vulture. He looked like an old guy in a very bad green feather boa, which supposedly he had the ability to fly with his human-powered wings. Icarus, your cuz is here. There was a guy called Kraven the Hunter who appears to be a very bad dresser and would not go down well at a PETA convention. He’s also one of those early on villains that die and gets brought back to life. This is where people such as myself really get as bothered by the story line as an invincible man who runs around in blue pajamas and a red cape.
Back to Iron Man. Here’s a man as described, who faces his mortality at the hands of others, figures out with his own ingenuity how to survive, then perpetuates his long-term health through the use of some marvelous powered chest piece. A sort of super powered pace maker. He continues to evolve the armor he wears but becomes very serious and thoughtful about its use and what he must do with his former military industrial complex. He seems to always have more problems when he’s out of the suit and fighting his addictions than when he’s having to fight evil tough guys with his powered super suit.
The technology behind Iron Man seemed to be within the realm of possibility because the introduction of a plate armor covering man began in the 14th century. Solid state powered devices and servo motors were introduced to the public in the 1960′s as well as the beginning of powered exoskeletons. Combining all of these concepts into an advanced armored flying suit almost seemed possible, especially to young boys who watched the irrepressible James Bond super spy movies.
Now that the 21st century is in full swing along with super computers, high-speed rocketry, lasers, flexible body armor, neuron-transmitters linked to prosthetics, etc. we can almost visualize the day when something as advanced as an Iron Man will be a reality.
1 – Grand Comics Database
2 – Marvel Comics Database