Osbourne vs. Downey


Hey, now another dissolute drug abuser can truthfully proclaim "I am Iron Man!" Robert Downey Jr. suits up to play the occasionally alcoholism-weakened Marvel superhero Iron Man. I kid because I hope I can love, as I do with every Marvel movie project, and am usually disappointed. (But not by Spider-Man 2.)

Obligatory libertoid reference: Iron Man is one of the rare superheroes who is a direct product of the military-industrial complex, as his alter-ego Tony Stark is a gajillionaire inventor and manufacturer of (mostly) high-tech military tools. Captain America, of course, is a direct result of a military drug experiment on a soldier--Stark is just a contractor. And, according to some, the two now fighting it out in Marvel's political metaphor Civil War series, are respectively Roosevelt Dem and modern Republican.

One is a product of World War II, the other of Vietnam. Which has all sorts of interesting political/metaphorical implications, with Cap as a living synecdoche of post-New Deal America--his alter ego Steve Rogers as a dupe allowing himself to be manipulated by dangerous big-state experiments intended more for protecting its own turf than helping young Pvt. Rogers, who finds himself for decades grappling with all the benefits, responsibilities, and dilemmas that arose from what the state has done to/for him. And Iron Man, blindly developing weapons to fight an enemy he barely understands, far from his home--eventually because of his own bad decisions encased eternally in the weaponized product of his own folly, driven to self-abuse and self-hate…..

But, hey, Downey as Stark, fightin' and smitin' with repulsor rays. Cool. I hope.

NEXT: The Best Only for the Worst

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  1. Somehow I expected something more entertaining when I clicked the self-abuse link.

  2. Under a month until the real Iron Man is declared.

  3. Not to step on your joke, 6, but that link actually WAS not to where I intended it to go---I fixed it. But it still won't satisfy what you are probably looking for.

  4. Brian Doherty-It's not so much that I was hoping for something filthy; it's just that I have a dirty mind and expected something more off-color.

  5. Buddy Bradley would totally kick Wolverine's ass.

  6. The original Ironman was a product of the Korean War, not Vietnam, and he developed his suit of armor after first inventing a sort of mobile iron-lung/chest protector which he needed wear at all times in order to survive a chest wound he got in the war. He expanded this into a full suit of armor. These are 40 year old memories, but I think I got it right.

  7. Maybe there is an earlier Ironman like there is an earlier SubMariner, but the Tony Stark I read about in a "Marvel Essentials" volume a few years ago was captured by the VietCong while in Vietnam, training U.S. soldiers in how to use his new weapons systems. The commies realized they had a weapons genius on their hands, and demanded he build them a super weapon. Stark had been wounded in his capture, and could die at any minute. With the supplies the Cong provided him, he built an armored suit which included a device to keep him alive.

  8. mitch,
    I didn't know about the "Marvel Essentials" version you refered to, I read this stuff way back when it was new. Ironman came out soon after the Fantastic Four first appeared in the early 60's. Marvel rushed a whole bunch of new superheroes into publication on the heels of FF's sudden success. Ironman came out in Tales of Suspense, Thor was in Journey Into Mystery, Antman was in Tales to Astonish, Spiderman was in Amazing Tales. All this happened in the '63 - '65 time period, a little early for Vietnam. Marvel later changed the titles of the comics to suit (pun intended) the characters. X-Men and Daredevil were the late comers. Marvel Essential's editor needs to do a little more research.

  9. An aside: didn't Iron Man become black at some point?

  10. Depends on what you mean by "become black" - but yes, a black dude (James Rhodes) wore the armour at one point.

  11. All this happened in the '63 - '65 time period, a little early for Vietnam.

    The U.S. was heavily involved in Vietnam during this time, hence Stark being captured by the VC.

    Casting Downey Jr. bodes well!

  12. All this happened in the '63 - '65 time period, a little early for Vietnam. Marvel later changed the titles of the comics to suit (pun intended) the characters. X-Men and Daredevil were the late comers.

    X-Men #1 came out in 1963 and Daredevil #1 in 1964.

    Yes, I am a geek.

  13. From the wiki:

    While on a visit to Vietnam to see how his new mini-transistors could assist the American war effort, Stark is caught in a booby trap. Captured by a Vietnamese warlord named Wong Chu, and dying from a piece of shrapnel lodged in his heart from the booby trap, Stark is pressed into building weapons for Wong Chu, along with a fellow prisoner, the famed physicist Yin Sen (later called Ho Yinsen). However, Stark and Yin Sen use the workshop to secretly design and construct a suit of powered armor ? an iron exoskeleton that gives Stark tremendous strength as well as other abilities ? that will not only keep Stark's heart beating, but also allow him to escape. Yin Sen sacrifices himself to buy Stark time to charge the bulky suit of armor, and as Iron Man, Stark makes short work of Wong Chu and his men. On the way back, Iron Man encounters a wounded American Air Force helicopter pilot, Jim Rhodes.

    (Who later wore the suit, and another version of the suit as "War Machine.")

    Yeah, I'm a geek, too.

  14. I'm not a big enough geek to speak definitively on this topic, but didn't comic book writers tweak characters' origins at times so they wouldn't age? As I recall, Captain America was the only one with an origin tied to historical events whose origin never changed, and they froze him so he would remain youthful.

  15. That's true, highnumber. But in the case of Iron Man, he was originally created in 1963. They haven't really mentioned his origin since then, I'm assuming because if you link his origin to the Vietnam war, he automatically becomes 70 years old. (unlike Batman and Superman where you just assume their childhoods were always 30-40 years ago, no matter what year it is). There is a line of "Ultimate" Marvel comics where classic heroes are reimagined. Orson Scott Card has created a new and fasinating origin for Iron Man.

  16. If they asked me to retcon The Golden Avenger, I'd make Stark Industries a military contractor who was visiting Iraq, Afghanistan, or some fictional equivalent sometime in the last 10 years. The whole "captured by America's enemies" schtick can remain.

    I never bought the "IM as lush" bit, myself. At the time the storyline ran, Tony was the recipient of a surgically implanted artificial heart. I'm sure the Dr. Jarvik of Earth-616 told him not to push it with the booze. But Dave Michelinie wanted to write a "relevant" story, so he ignored that bit of continuity, and ran with the champagne-and-martini-sipping playboy image from the earlier stories. Technically, Stark was never a worthless playboy, rather a workaholic genius who happened to also squire the ladies around. IRONically, he couldn't have been getting any in the early stories, as he could never take off his armored chestplate. Unless...

    Miss October: How was your date with Tony Stark?

    Miss January: Very nice, but he's a bit kinky...and vain! I went to bed with him, and he actually wears a corset! And he didn't take it off!

    Miss O: You think that's weird, I once dated Howard Hughes....


  17. "I never bought the "IM as lush" bit, myself. At the time the storyline ran, Tony was the recipient of a surgically implanted artificial heart."

    I've read somewhere that lush-Tony Stark was the alter ego of real-life writer Denny o'Neil who was abusing the bottle without any benefit of transistorized exo-skeletons at the time. Can't find a link to verify this though.

  18. I dunno about Denny and the bottle, but he did write the second story arc where Stark relapses and stumbles around Manhattan, stinking drunk, for about six months before he finally sobered up.

    Here's a better link to that "self-abuse" cover.


  19. Can you explain to me again how the "Roosevelt Democrat" is supposed to be the guy AGAINST trading freedom for security?

  20. Les,
    We're all geeks, but I'm also a Vietnam Vet and the war was barely getting started in 1964. I doubt anyone outside the military ever heard of the place at that time, we were not already "heavily involved". X-Men and Daredevil trailed the others by a shorter time frame than I remembered, you got me good on that one, but these are very old memories and the dates get fuzzy. Highnumber is also right that the comic writers had to tweak the origins to keep the characters from being geriatric superheores (depression era Superman would be getting a tad old), but I am absolutely, positively right about the Korean War origin for the original Ironman. There was even a fight between the old and new Ironman's (Ironmen?) when a thief stole one of the suits of armor and Stark had to fight him. All the alcoholic stuff was after my time, didn't know. Yes, Downey is a great choice for Tony Stark. Now, If we could only get Bryan Singer to direct...

  21. I am not a comic geek, but I hate it when people argue about easily verifiable information...


    Across the globe, the evil Red tyrant Wong-Chu takes over another small village in Vietnam, defeating its strongest men in contests of judo. Meanwhile, Tony Stark has arrived in Vietnam to observe the testing of one of his new inventions for the US Military. Accompanying a squad of soldiers equipped with his weaponry on a patrol through the jungle, he accidentally triggers a trip-wire that detonates a landmine. The wounded Stark is captured by Wong-Chu?s forces and taken to his nearby headquarters. Wong-Chu realizes his prisoner is a "famous Yankee inventor" and he decides that even though doctors determine he only has days to live before "shrapnel reaches his heart," he will put him to work in service of the communist insurgency.

  22. "I'm also a Vietnam Vet and the war was barely getting started in 1964. I doubt anyone outside the military ever heard of the place at that time, we were not already "heavily involved"."

    Thanks for your service, but your history is a bit off. The US was heavily involved in Vietnam in the 50's (.

    "After seven years of fighting against the Viet Minh, the French governance in Indochina ended shortly after the bloody battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 when, at the brink of surrender, they were unable to obtain U.S. reinforcements or additional military aid.

    The United States had funded approximately one third of France?s attempt to retain control of Indochina. After inheriting the engagement from Truman, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, continued to support French occupation without much deviation from Truman?s policy. Eisenhower surmised that continued support would eventually lead to the liberation of the Vietnamese people from communism. The tide of U.S. support receded when the hopelessness of a full-scale occupation of Indochina against the Viet Minh was realized in 1953. The French also had requested an additional $400 million in assistance but, due to pressure from Washington for the French to make good on their promise to cooperate in Europe, they received only $385 million."

    Now tis nothing compared to our later involvement, but I think it counts as heavily involved.

    So it turns out you are absolutely, positively wrong about both the origins of Iron Man, and US involvement in Vietnam.

  23. MainstreamMan,

    Our difference of opinion on the Vietnam War is a difference of opinion on the meaning of "heavily involved". Our involvement in the 50's and 60's was nothing compared to what came later, I agree with you on that, but I respectfully disagree on the heavy part. I'm absolutley, positively right about the Korean War origin of Ironman. Prove me wrong and I'll humbly and graciously give you the credit you deserve for straightening me out. The stuff you quoted in your first post is the revised version, not the original.

  24. "The stuff you quoted in your first post is the revised version, not the original."

    Sorry, but that is a synopsis of the very first comic to feature Iron Man.

    It is hard to admit to error, but come on.

    "Seeming to pluck his ideas out the air Stan Lee showed something like vision when he chose the country of Vietnam as the setting for the origin of Iron Man (Tale of Suspense #39, March 1963). In 1963 comparatively few American were interested in Vietnam, but bfore long the war being waged there would become the most crucial and controversial event of the 1960s. For Lee, the setting may have been merely expedient, enabling him to introduce the Communist villains he still employed with some regularity. Later, he had second thoughts about his somewhat simplistic treatment of the Asian nation's problems. yet Iron Man was a character whose very premise demanded political intrigue."

  25. Ratboy, are you sure you're not confusing Iron Man with Professor X? He and his step-brother Cain Marko were Korea Vets, and Cain got his Juggernaut powers from a Korean temple after Charlie read the magic spell. They kinda gloss over it now, but his service (and the days of adventuring that came with it) were a pretty important part of his characterization through the original run.

  26. Another serious I.M. fan here, and I have to say it was VietNam, rather than Korea. I have the original Tales of Suspense issue (now in my safe deposit box), and re-read it over and over again. It was his getting wounded (by a mine produced by his father's company) that caused him to turn his buisiness away from weapons manufacture in the first place.

    Stark is unusual, in that he was/is a billionare industrialist who give a damn about the people who work for him similar to Batman, but without Bruse Wayne's icy cold heart. A hero who's abilities stem not from any mystical or alien machinations, but from his brilliant mind alone. He's been my favorite hero since I was 6 years old. A damn shame that Marvel never treated him better.

    As for Downey, well, I guess if anyone has insight into what it must be like to be both brilliant and haunted by addiction, it would be him. Far better than Tom "Xenu" Cruise, who was lobbying heavily for the role before his couch jumping madness set in...


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