Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Iron Man 2: the backstory revealed by a Marvel Comics aficionado

"Obviously, you were not a big Marvel Comics reader when you were younger."

So begins a letter sent to me by friend and long-time Marvel Comics collector Pawan Varma. I confess: guilty!

In my last blog post, I asked a number of questions about the movie Iron Man 2, questions regarding the introduction of various intense, eccentric characters into the movie without adequate backstory information. Pawan was kind enough to fill me in on the basics of the Marvel superhero universe, and I am glad that he has given me permission to forward that information to my readers.

Here are basic questions I asked about characters in Iron Man 2 with Pawan's answers (and more) following.
  • Why does Tony Stark decide to dress up in his suit and get drunk?
  • Why is Pepper a hot and cold shower of emotion?
  • Why is Hammer such a complete ignoramus yet also, apparently, a brilliant weapons developer?
  • Why does Ivan Vanko decide that mayhem is the answer to his woes?
  • Why is Natalie/Natasha so mysteriously eccentric? (Even Tony Stark asks this.)
  • Who and why, for crying out loud, is Nick Fury?
  • Why does Lt. Colonel Rhodes seem to be the only rational character in the movie?
Pawan Varma answers:

This movie was a setup for the next big one, which will be an Avengers movie. We caught a glimpse of that in the last scene with Nick Fury. Most likely, instead of Iron Man 3, we will see an Avengers movie. Before this, however, you will see a Captain America movie and a Thor movie in the coming year or two. Without these, we cannot have an Avengers movie. 

To answer some of your questions: 
  • Ivan Ivanko needed to be a deranged genius as a foil to Tony Stark. He also needed to be a violent villain to push Tony to do what he needed to do, namely, create the new element so that the Iron Man technology couldn't be replicated. Watching his father die in front of his eyes and laying the blamesquarely on Howard Stark pushed Ivan over the edge.
  • Justin Hammer is a foil for Tony Stark in a different way. They were business rivals until the end of this movie when the rivalry has turned personal. In the future, when Stark finances the super-heroes (see below), Hammer will finance the super-villains. In this movie, we were introduced to the character, got to see some of his foundational character traits, and learned the history of why he hates Stark so much.
  • Pepper Potts is Stark's loyal secretary, but she is also deeply in love with him. Because Stark is eccentric and unreliable, Potts' efficiency and grounded nature are a perfect match to make them a strong team. By contrast, there is no such person in Spiderman's life. As such, he is less effective in a team environment than Iron Man is. 
  • Lt. Colonel Rhodes is a key link to the US government. When the senator (who was pinning the medals on Stark and Rhodes at the end) is next seen, he will be on a mission to register super-heroes with the government. Rhodes will be one of the key opponents working from within the government bureaucracy. (Stark will spearhead the opposition from the private sector.)
  • Natalie (a.k.a. Natalia) is a super-heroine called the "Black Widow." She should have a much, much bigger role in one of the upcoming movies.
  • Nick Fury is head of an organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. (Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division). Again, this movie simply introduced the character and the organization. In future movies, there will be a stronger connection between Stark Industries and S.H.I.E.L.D, with Stark financing a lot of the operations and technology of S.H.I.E.L.D. Coming soon, you will also see Spiderman and the Hulk coming back to work with some of these other super-heroes.
Basically, you are witnessing a re-emergence and re-thinking of the Marvel Comics universe that began 50 years ago. Back then, they would introduce new characters in one comic. If the character caught on, a new line of comics would be produced. With each movie costing hundreds of millions of dollars, however, we are likely going to see animated versions on TV and the Internet first. Specific characters and story lines will come out in movie format every year or every other year. Media, toys, books, and yes, new comics, will be created to complement each other.

I find this whole thing very interesting on two fronts. First, in the comic universe, it is great to see all of these characters coming out and being true to their origins.

Second, the promotion being done is far, far more sophisticated than anything I have witnessed in the past. I like to tell people that I know a fair bit about marketing and publicity. But by comparison, my knowledge is a home-made remote-controlled airplane compared to Marvel's space shuttle. These guys are so far advanced in their knowledge of marketing that I feel truly humbled. 

And that's a good thing. 

Hopefully, this gives you a comic book lover's perspective on the movie. I thought it was a great movie. The big bonus for me was that this movie laid so much of the groundwork needed for future movies. Now, after two more movies, Thor and Captain America, I think we will be ready for a really serious shift in the super-hero movie genre.

My prediction is that in 2014, we will see this shift. And given the way Marvel is doing this, I am already at the edge of my seat.

    And so that's the word from someone more knowledgeable than I. My thanks to Pawan, and my last observation is that there is always a challenge when making a movie from another medium, whether it be play, poem, or book. The movie Iron Man 2 demonstrates that: so much to include and so much necessary to leave out. We even see this in The Lord of the Rings trilogy with the omission of the character Tom Bombadil and omission of the scouring of the Shire at the end of the story.

    It appears we have a lot to look forward to in the superhero movie genre. Perhaps it's time for me to upgrade to HD, hmmm?

    Copyright 2010 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved
    All copyrights retained by the guest writer
    Iron Man images from the official movie site

    1 comment:

    1. I'm a Marvel fan boy from way back and enjoyed Iron Man 2 immensely. I'm also looking forward to Thor, Captain America, and the Avengers.

      I’m also a long time Marvel fan fiction writer:

      If you haven’t already done so check out my Marvel fan fiction. Just scroll down below my author profile and you will see over 40 fan fiction stories here:

      I’m also an Australian science fiction writer: