Prior to 2008, no one outside the most die-hard fans would have recognized the name “Iron Man” aside from the song by Black Sabbath and the album by Ghostface Killah. Before then Iron Man was simply another obscure member of Marvel gallery alongside the Black Widow and Ant-Man.
However, thanks to the charismatic Robert Downey Jr. and $550 million in box office returns, Iron Man shot up from a C-list supporting character in “The Avengers” to an A-list superhero superstar. As of now, “Iron Man 2” – which will be released on May 7 – is one of the most anticipated films of 2010.
Iron Man was created by Stan Lee (creator of other Marvel classics like “Spider-Man,” “X-Men,” “Fantastic Four,” “Hulk,” and “Daredevil”) and made its first appearance into the world of comics in issue number 39 of “Tales of Suspense” in April of 1963.
He became a lasting member of the superhero team the Avengers (primarily consisting of Captain America, Hulk and Thor), but was frequently outshone by his more well-known group members.
Although he has always remained a superhero character at least most comic book readers will be aware of, Iron Man has never been leading man material.
But all that changed when a supposed has-been, washed-up actor by the name of Robert Downey Jr. took the reigns and created something spectacular.
But what is it about this character that made him such a huge hit with movie audiences everywhere?
Cedric Jackson, a freshman, said that he had known very little of Iron Man prior to the film’s trailer release. But when he saw the film, he said it “blew him away.”
Jackson believes the biggest reason for the film’s and the character’s success lies in the power of the star. “It was all Robert Downey,” he said. “I had never heard of Downey before the film, but now its hard to come across someone who hasn’t heard of him. He’s universally known for making that role his own.”
Jackson doesn’t believe the film would have been anywhere near as successful if Downey hadn’t starred. “He’s such a huge part of the franchise’s appeal,” he said. “I know I wouldn’t have liked it as much.”
Jackson’s thoughts on this seem to be the norm. Katherine O’Brien, a sophomore, said “‘Iron Man’ without Downey’s Tony Stark would be like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ without Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow.”
“It wouldn’t have been nearly as good as the actual film without Downey’s personality,” she said. “Downey did a great job and I couldn’t imagine the film being done better without him.”
O’Brien said the decision to allow Downey to let his charismatic personality leak into the Tony Stark character was the best decision made with the “Iron Man” film.
“It was a great character development quality that added to the movie as a whole,” she said. “Plus, I have to admit Robert Downey is pretty good-looking.”
Keith Aspery, a senior, said that his attraction to the film came from the unique dichotomy between the man and the hero of Iron Man.
“Tony Stark, in comparison to other heroic characters, radiates with the type of attractive personality that isn’t presented as well in other superhero films,” Aspery said.
“Peter Parker is a nerd in school that no one likes.”
“Bruce Wayne is your average boring billionaire playboy, but Tony Stark is a much cooler character to watch and to learn about. He’s got much more of an individual personality. The best quality about his character is that he isn’t only interesting when he’s in the suit.”
O’Brien said she had heard a little about the character while growing up from her older brother who read comic books.
“But I really didn’t know anything substantial until I saw the film,” she said. She had been “very surprised” as to how much she had liked the movie when she first saw it.
O’Brien said the most interesting thing about the film is how different Tony Stark is from all the other superhero characters out there.
The main idea being that Stark wasn’t transformed into a superhero like Peter Parker (who was bitten by a spider) or Batman (who became vengeful by witnessing his parents’ murders): Stark became a hero by his own choice.
And above that, he’s charismatic regardless of if he’s in a metal suit or a leather jacket. “He isn’t limited to being interesting and dynamic only while in costume,” O’Brien said.
“The film brought a fresh face to the superhero genre that brought to the table something new and unique to the already-repetitious world of superheroes,” Aspery said.
“Considering how well Iron Man was accepted by audiences and critics alike and the explosive box-office results, it makes perfect sense that the studio would continue the epic story of the charismatic businessman-turned-hero. He has such a story yet to be told.”