The Fall of the Self-Made Super Heroes

 Iron Man

Hello, Marvel Writers!

So on May 3 Iron Man 3 hits theaters nationwide.  Kudos to whomever had him bring in all those different versions of the armor; it’s high time we saw them all!  But wait.  Why should he need those different armors now that he’s getting the Extremis serum?

On that point, why did he even get the Extremis serum in the first place?

This is hard for me to understand, or even enjoy, really.  I always thought that Tony Stark was a great character precisely because he had no superpowers.  He wasn’t a mutant, he hadn’t been exposed to any bizarre, deadly radiation; he was just a genius who fought evil in a high-tech suit of armor.  In a way, he was like a modern day version of Sir Lancelot or one of the other ancient knights who guarded the great kingdoms in old stories.

It didn’t matter what tech or tools he had to work with, whether they were top of the line or rusted hunks of metal from the local scrapheap, Tony could whip up any gizmo from whatever he had to hand.  And it would work, often spectacularly, to trounce whatever leviathan monstrosity that Dr. Doom or Kang the Conqueror or, yes, the Mandarin, was aiming at him at the time.  No magic tricks, just astounding ingenuity.  What a feat to watch (or read)!

But, with Extremis, does he even need that anymore?

Yes, Extremis is fantastic.  It allows Tony to interface with computers using only his mind, process information from the Internet or nearby machinery at lightening speeds, and even detect technology that’s in the vicinity of the fight in which he is participating.   And, yes, it certainly speeds up the time he takes to don his armor, which is a plus.  I’m not saying that a super-powered Iron Man is lacking in benefits.  What I’m asking is, “Doesn’t it rob him of a special little something?”

Tony, in the majority of the comics, had to rely on his ingenuity where other heroes and heroines could call on inborn or acquired powers.  He didn’t have to use telepathy like Professor Xavier to defeat a bad guy.  He just had to out-think him.

Tony didn’t need the Hulk’s great strength.  The armor let him dish out almost as much punishment as it let him take.

He didn’t need Kree DNA in his system so he could shoot laser blasts.  He developed flight stabilizers (repulsors) that doubled as neat plasma guns.  And they fit right in the palm of each hand!!!

Why give him, almost out of the blue, superpowers?  Were the sales of Iron Man comics falling that sharply?  And if they were, weren’t there better ways of raising them again than altering Iron Man’s star gift?

I have heard many times that Tony Stark is popularly assailed by doubts about whether or not it is the man who makes the armor or the armor that makes the man.

Really?  Without Tony Stark, there would not be any Iron Man suits.

And if there were, without a hero to pilot them (and that hero would have to know every system and circuit in the suits like a well-read book) the armors would all be decorating the halls of some billionaire’s mansion as displays of wealth.  All this is what Stark could have done.  Instead, he chose to use the armors for the greater good, improving them to the point where only the most arrogant villain is unafraid of facing him in battle.  And there are still a lot of improvements that could go into future suits.  With Extremis, what need would Tony Stark have to focus on those improvements?

On that note, why should he wear a suit at all?  He could fight, using Extremis, in only a business suit if he wanted to do so.  If the mood struck him, he could do it in his pajamas.  Why use a metal suit when you can control machinery?

And worse, Stark’s not the only hero in the Marvel Universe gaining superpowers.  Mockingbird and Winter Soldier (whose only enhancement once was a robotic left arm) have both been given serums that blend Cap’s Super Soldier serum and Fury’s Infinity serum so that they could survive life-threatening injuries.  Young Avenger Patriot gained Super Soldier abilities after getting a blood transfusion from his grandfather, a soldier in WW II who was also given a variant of Cap’s serum, for the same reason.  Before that he was using enhancement drugs.  In the alternate, Ultimate comic line, Hawkeye has been given optical enhancements so that he has the most accurate eyesight on the planet.

I see these new ‘enhancements’ only as thefts from the integrity of these heroes.  Mockingbird and Winter Soldier won many battles where their super-powered compatriots could not even make slight headway, all for the simple reason that they were ‘normal’ humans.  Hawkeye has always been a very gifted shooter; his powers come not from mutant genes or scientific meddling, but from nature.  Despite Ultimate Hawkeye’s alternate history and life in the Ultimate Marvel Comics, the fact that he was not born sharp-eyed detracts a great deal from his (admittedly changed) personality.

And Patriot?  Several heroes in the ‘mainstream’ Marvel Universe, of which he is a part, continue to fight crime with nothing more than finely-honed skills.  Why couldn’t he have become Kate Bishop’s equal, fighting crime without powers?  Certainly, that would cement any romance blossoming between the two, as it has for other heroes in the past.  And it would give him a better standing as well.  He would be a ‘self-made’ super hero.

Iron Man was the first, and is the best, self-made superhero.  In fact, he was the inspiration for several other Marvel characters to don a costume and fight crime with only their natural skills (just ask Clint Barton).  It seems that just as he was the first to become a superhero on his own so he is the first to fall from the humble yet highly honorable position of a self-made hero.  And who can say who will be next after Tony Stark; Mockingbird, and Winter Soldier?  Jarvis?  Kate Bishop?  J. Jonah Jamieson?  Flash Thompson?  Maria Hill?

Yes, Extremis is an amazing advantage.  But the more amazing and the better advantage was Tony Stark’s boundless resourcefulness.  Until it returns, it will be a talent sorely missed by many Marvelites, my fellow writers.

Sincerely,

Mithril (A Troubled True Believer)

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About The Mithril Guardian

I like stories.  Whether they’re on film, in song, or in print, I always remember a good story.  They remind me of paintings.  People cannot see them without learning something.  So it’s a good idea to look at a story from as many angles as possible.  I can watch the same movie a million times and still I will learn something that I did not know before.  Thoughts on the Edge of Forever is where I get to focus on what I learned from stories; what was not obvious the first time, the second time, or the umpteenth time. Earlier posts are written in the form of letters, usually to specific characters, to point out what I saw in a particular story or heard in a piece of music. Some of those letters, though, are like letters to the editor. Why did someone write a story this way and not another? Would the story have turned out better if the writer had done something different? These ‘letters to the editor’ will probably never be answered by the writers - the characters certainly will not answer anything - but their contents are still up for debate. After all, unless you ask a question, you will never get an answer. Still, civil ground rules apply. Any foul language or other form of abuse will not be tolerated in Thoughts on the Edge of Forever. I mean, who wants to be around the guest at the dinner party who is being nasty? Practically nobody, since people go to a party to have fun, not to hang around a grouch. So let’s have fun! The Mithril Guardian
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