The legacy of Iron Man in pop culture: From sinner to savior

If you know comic books and comic book films (and if you are reading this website, you probably do) then you are well aware of the place Iron Man now takes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The genius of Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal, combined with no shortage of natural charisma, has consolidated the character of Tony Stark into somewhat of a legendary figure within modern cinema. What many do not know is that, up until the first Iron Man film, the character was struggling and Marvel was unsure where to go next. So, how did we get to this point, just how popular has Iron Man become, and what can we expect from the character in the future?

The calm before the storm

Before the release of the 2008’s Iron Man, the character was in what many fans would consider a bit of a slump. Tony Stark was always an interesting character, on many levels, but this didn’t always translate to commercial interest. His alcoholism, his genius, and his struggles with maintaining a balance between these and his ego left him as a character with great depth, but one which many had trouble identifying with. When writers struggled with him, he came off as more arrogant than likable, and the sales of the Iron Man series of comic books were starting to reflect that. This was one of the reasons as to why many were worried about the film, compounded by the common lack of comic book film quality prior to the MCU.

A Marvel-ous rebirth

When the first trailer for Iron Man film dropped, so did people’s jaws. Amazing visuals, a perfectly cast Tony Stark, and classic rock music including Iron Man from Black Sabbath made many people genuinely interested in a film adaption for the first time. This hope and faith, as it turned out, would not be misplaced. The film was a revelation in modern action films, deftly weaving comedy and spectacle, and ending up a huge hit with fans and audiences both. All told, the film brought in $585.2 million off a budget of $140 million—a genuine blockbuster, and one which brought enormous new interest to both Marvel films, and Iron Man as a property.

This popularity was one of the main reasons why Marvel now knew they had the potential for something big, and something special. Launching full force into their cinematic universe, they had opened the floodgates, leading to one of the most popular film franchises of all time. This was mirrored by a commensurate re-sparking of interest in the comic books, further building engagement, and excitement among fans old and new.

Crossing over

As you might expect with any major property capable of bringing in the wealth as modern Iron Man has, there have been multiple attempts to further capitalize on his popularity. As a major franchise, and one so majorly visible, there was no shortage of avenues which Marvel could take in their push for further opportunities. Among the more standard here were the novelizations, which recounted adventures from another point of view, and the toys, which accompany any major comic book-based film release. What really stood out to us were the video games.

If you’ve seen the films, then you know of the heads-up-display which Tony used whenever he piloted the suit. The first time audiences saw this, minds jumped to one thought: That looks like a video game! It makes sense, as from Tony’s point of view, everything looked like a game. So, making a game from this specific property was a no-brainer. This started off with more direct adaptions of the films, before burgeoning out into the more diverse.

The first of these was the simply named “Iron Man” game, released in 2008, to coincide with the film. This included voice-over work from the actual cast, but was unfortunately panned by critics as it was apparently rushed for release. This was the same opinion given to the game’s sequel, released in 2010, as they both earned scores of around 5/10. Since then, the games have become much less about direct adaptions, which has seen their popularity rise significantly. While there are too many to realistically list here, these games ran the gamut from slot games such as the one based on the Iron Man 3 movie to Iron Man’s inclusion in the roster of the very popular Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, released in 2009.

Future unknown

As we enter the age of the next Avenger film, we have to wonder about the future of the character, and where he might possibly go from here. We all know that comic book deaths tend to not be final. This is especially the case when the Infinity Stones are involved. This coincides with rumors of the return of the War Machine to the Iron Man comic book, who met with an unfortunate end after disagreeing with Thanos. Can we expect the recently crippled film Rhodes to suffer the same fate as his comic counterpart?

Whatever the result ends up being, we can’t wait to find out. With both the comic books and cinematic universe entering new and exciting phases, we have no idea what is coming next, but we know we’ll keep watching and reading all the same.

Featured image: Rojak Daily


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