Tony Stark – Marvel’s Cinematic Masterpiece

“Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” – with four words Joss Whedon defined the character of Tony Stark for a generation.  But it was never the words alone that transformed a b-level character into a worldwide icon and the anchor for a groundbreaking interconnected cinematic universe.  It was the man inside the armor delivering those lines.  While it’s easy to forget, eleven years and twenty-two films in, back in 2008 Marvel Studios was far from a sure thing.  Marvel had sold their most successful characters (Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four) to other studios and was left to make their own movies with their second tier.  Robert Downey Jr. made it work.  He incarnated Tony Stark perfectly, seamlessly blending cockiness and charisma, arrogance and vulnerability, snark and heart.  He presented a character who resonated and who meant something.  He carried the world of comic books into the mainstream on his armored shoulders, all but single-handedly paving the way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  No matter how much brilliance followed in his wake, this is why Tony Stark will always be Marvel’s cinematic masterpiece to me. Continue reading

The Most Ridiculous Facet of Tony Stark’s Ego (In My Opinion)

It’s no secret, I love me some Iron Man.  Yes, Tony Stark can be a huge tool and our favorite “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” isn’t known for his humility or restraint.  He’s great.  He knows it.  And he’ll happily let you know it too.  However, I maintain Tony’s ego – and his struggle with both the trouble it brings and learning his own limitations – is part of what make him so important as a character.  While I doubt many of us have an ego quite the size of Mr. Stark’s, we all wrestle with ego.  Or at least I do.  So I see parts of myself in Tony Stark as well as lessons I need to learn.  I put a lot of value on that.  However, regardless of the relatability we (or at least I) can find in this particular fault, there is one MASSIVE expression of Tony Stark’s ego that even I find ridiculous.  Continue reading

A Question of Redemption: Doctor Doom the Infamous Iron Man

I’ve been thinking a lot about evil and redemption lately.  The first principle of Catholic Social Teaching affirms every human being is deserving of life and dignity because they are made in the image and likeness of God.  Nothing can take that right away, not even their own destructive actions.  So there is always a line, theologically, between sinner and sin.  While the idea of redemption is theologically vital, we often struggle with it in the face of real world evil.  At least I know I do.  This cognitive dissonance begs the question is there a line, an evil act or actions we can’t return from?  Doctor Doom is a character uniquely suited to explore this question.  For decades he was the most evil villain in the Marvel Universe.  But over the last few years, in both Invincible Iron Man and Infamous Iron Man, Brian Michael Bendis put a newly reformed Victor Von Doom inside Tony Stark’s armor in an attempt to atone for all he’s done.  Now Fantastic Four has returned to the comic shelves and Doom’s future is a question mark once again.  Can someone like Doctor Doom ever truly be redeemed? Continue reading

The BIG Question: Would You Rather Be Iron Man or Batman?

I spent the last week in New Orleans for a conference…where I saw none of the city as I was stuck in 12+ hours of meetings/seminars/lectures every day.  BUT I did direct some of my mental energy towards contemplating one of life’s biggest, most pressing issues.  You see, Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne essentially have the same character framework.  I’m not the first person to make this observation, but it’s true.  Both are insanely wealthy.  Both have brilliant minds.  Both run huge companies.  Both lost their parents when they were young (albeit in different circumstances).  Both became superheroes.  Both are founding/central members in one of their universe’s most important superhero teams – the Avengers and Justice League, respectively.  Despite their similarities though, they are two VERY different characters with VERY different lives…which leads us to our BIG question – if you could choose, would you rather be Iron Man or Batman??  Continue reading

From Tony to Riri and Back Again: Considering Iron Man’s Return

This week’s New Comic Book Day brings two major Marvel milestones.  The first, Tony Stark returns to active duty as the Armored Avenger, shaking off the coma that’s sidelined him since the end of Civil War II.  The second, The Invincible Iron Man #600 marks Brian Michael Bendis’s final Marvel comic.  There’s lots to reflect on with Bendis’s move to DC, to be sure.  However, as someone who writes often of the vital importance of Legacy Characters on this site, I’d rather discuss something else.  What does it mean for Riri Williams – for Ironheart – to have Tony return? Continue reading

The Irreplaceable Brilliance of Black Widow

In 2010, Scarlett Johansson brought Natasha Romanoff – the Russian assassin turned S.H.I.E.L.D. super spy turned Avenger, the Black Widow – to life in Iron Man 2.  Since then, she’s appeared in seven different Marvel movies, more than any other Avenger save Iron Man (nine) and Captain America (eight (and the only reason Cap beats her is because he has cameos in TWO films)).  In addition to screen time, I would also argue the Black Widow is more important to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, story-wise, than any other Avenger save Tony or Cap.  Despite that, we still have yet to see a Black Widow solo movie.  Yet, as one of the MCU’s richest creations, she’s worthy of serious acclaim.  This piece has been rolling around in my head for some time.  Given Avengers: Infinity War’s release this week has me looking back, getting nostalgic over, and celebrating the MCU, it seemed like the perfect time to finally write it. Continue reading

Age Of Ultron: An Underrated Avengers Sequel

I’ve had two conversations recently, one with Jeff (of the Imperial Talker) and one with Rob (from My Side Of The Laundry Room).  Both centered around how Avengers: Age Of Ultron seems to be unfairly maligned by many when considering the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  I would agree – the film is much better than it often gets credit for.  As I’ve been making my way through my Mega Marvel Movie Marathon in preparation for Avengers: Infinity War, I realized something else.  If I was to teach a film from the MCU in one of my classes, (with the exception of the Guardians Of The Galaxy films) Avengers: Age Of Ultron is the one which would fit the best and allow for the most philosophically-oriented discussions. Continue reading

“I Don’t Have Anyone But You”: Love in the MCU

There’s nothing quite as important to human existence as love.  Love should define the core of all our relationships – with our significant other, our families, our friends, our God, and (though we often disregard this) ourselves.  As such, love has always been a central feature – in message as well as in inspiration – of many of our artistic works.  Love fills our novels, our pop songs, our films (from rom coms like How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days to deep, philosophical examinations like Her), our paintings, our plays, and even our comic books.  Being such a foundational part of our lives, we continue to seek and explore it, always and in all ways.  It should come as no surprise then that we find lots of looks at love in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  But, of all the relationships and flirtationships Marvel’s given us, there’s only one power couple – Pepper Potts and Tony Stark. Continue reading