2. Iron Man Embodies the Sword: Tony Stark Has Mastered His Intellect.
In 2010, a lawsuit from the family of artist Jack Kirby against Marvel comics prompted a deposition from writer Stan Lee on the origins of the company’s very profitable characters. Here’s what he said about Iron Man:
Q. Let’s talk a little — let’s talk about Iron Man. Tell us about how Iron Man came about, how he was created, the back story with regard to Iron Man.
STAN LEE: I will try to make it shorter. It was the same type of thing. I was looking for somebody new. And I thought — I don’t know why I thought it, somebody in a suit of armor. And what if it was iron armor. He would be so powerful. So for some reason I have always been fascinated by Howard Hughes. I thought I would get a hero like Howard Hughes.
He’s an inventor. He’s a multimillionaire. He’s good looking. He likes the women. And but I got to make something tragic about him. And then it occurred to me if he — somehow when he got his iron armor — it’s a long story — but he gets into a fight, and he gets injured in his chest. And his heart is injured, and he has to wear this little thing that runs the iron armor. He has to wear that on his chest because it also keeps his heart beating. And that would make him a tragic figure as well as the most powerful guy. So I thought the readers would like him even more with that little bit added to it.
Among the strange paradoxes of the superhero genre: we want godlike heroes to admire but give them too much power and we grow bored. Every hero needs his weaknesses and shortcomings or else the story will produce inadequate dramatic tension. In Tony Stark this manifests in the imbalance of a superhuman intellect but with immature, impulsive emotions.
The Iron Man fantasy is an exhilarating one. Tony lives the teenage boy’s daydream. He’s the smartest inventor on the planet and the CEO of a billion-dollar, industrial giant but he has a broken heart both before and after his transformation into Iron Man. He’s a notorious playboy and alcoholic. If he’s so smart then what has taken him so long to get through adolescence and recognize his own psychological problems?
Mental abilities are only one component of the team. Pure reason and raw intellectual talent are not enough to save us.
As the mind falls, the heart rises to catch it. The second film in Marvel’s rebooted trilogy picks up thematically where Iron Man concludes. What does the story of the Hulk teach about emotions?