Thursday, May 6, 2010

Iron Man, too: All about the Golden Avenger and his star, on the eve of IRON MAN 2

"I've never been in a sequel and it's very daunting because I feel the expectation of the millions of people who watched it and enjoyed it and told me that it was a little different than your usual genre picture and that they expected us to not screw it up. So I actually have taken Iron Man 2 (2010) probably more seriously than any movie I've ever done, which is appropriately ridiculous for Hollywood." 1

A walk down armory lane, courtesy Ian Sokolowski)
That's Robert Downey Jr. (aka "Bob"), obviously, on his reprised star turn as Tony Stark in IRON MAN 2. My friends around the world, seeing the flick already in Malaysia and Germany, suggest that expectation's well met.

"I know very little about acting" Downey's known to say; "I'm just an incredibly gifted faker." That kind of self-effacement and confidence, simultaneously, fits the Micheleine/ Layton comics version of the character I read so voraciously in adolescence.

"It's one thing to say you're Iron Man, and it's another to actually wear the armor," Downey adds. "The film is almost entirely about character, and yet we still have twice as much action as we did last time, so it's going to be nuts." 2

I can't think of a super hero film where the star felt so right as the lead character. Brilliancy, daring, and just a touch of insanity, Downey fits right into Stark's skin. You may know he started acting in his dad's indie films as a child.
Downey studied ballet in England at 10, and during his Greenwich Village teen years, he performed with the Stagedoor Manor troup. 4

His break out role at the end of the Brat Pack Years was the loosely adapted Less Than Zero, a film he says contained "a Ghost of Christmas Future" kind of prophecy in his drug-addicted role that heralded his deeper involvement with risk-taking in the form of heroin. 5

He learned violin and tennis in his spot-on lead in Chaplin, which involved a "dangerous" level of commitment to acrobatic physical comedy.

His glamorized viewpoint on his addictions led to many years of typically brilliant performances mixed with out-of-control social behavior. I was particularly struck by his comments on the place in his spiritual path where he "played Johnny Handgun" in U.S. Marshalls, "the worst action movie ever", as he felt he went to the very edge of what he could do, and live.

Downey worked together on an art piece with the director of the Elton John music video--contemporary artist Sam Taylor Wood, from an art video called "Pietà," made in the manner of Michelangelo's famous Pietà sculpture in Rome. It was included in Sam Taylor Wood's exhibition "Mute" at the White Cube 2 art gallery in London, November 23 to January 12, 2002.

He's a longtime musician as well, singing on many soundtracks as well as a duet with Sting during his supporting role on Ally McBeal. "I'm deep into old Genesis. I'm sorry, but these are songs that mean something to me. "Follow You Follow Me" is a song that's about something to me." 1

With Scarlet Johannsen "completely buff" as the Black Widow, I've very interested in what interpretation of post-Cold War Widow will make the screen. Academy Award winner Don Cheadle may not look Rhodey's part so much as Terrence Howard, but he brings a strong filmography to a much-expanded role.

Amazing Armor
Though Iron Man was created in 1963 as part of the early Marvel Age, his Cold War oriented adventures didn't really come together with their own identity until six issues later, when his supporting cast--including Pepper Potts---came together, as well as, two issue later, his definitive color scheme, introduced by Steve Ditko.
Steve Ditko's classic red and gold design is featured here, along with a guest shot by one of the original X-Men, the high-flying Angel

The other "Bob" in Iron Man's life was comics artist Bob Layton, whose strong inks and influence on plots written with David Micheleine gave Iron Man's armor a sheen and sleekness like never before, and gave
Tony Stark his most appealing and complex characterization yet. (Their partner, penciller John Romita, Jr., was a co-creator of the graphic novel basis for last month's Kick-Ass)

A brand new Iron Man look is a periodic occurrence, as the classic look evolves with the times every couple of years (not to mention many variations such as the Stealth Armor and Deep Sea Armor). The very newest will appear in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #25 this spring:

The history
of the comics character,
synopses of most individual issues,
as well as his various media incarnations and much fan celebration through art and fiction, is documented here:

and, since 1996, here:

Tale of Two Iron Men
Iron Man #118 also saw another important innovation in the form of Tony's soon-to-be best friend, James "Rhodey" Rhodes, whose characterization largely ended up on the cutting-room floor last time.

Bob Layton tells

“Part of the problem was that Tony Stark never had a best friend, He didn’t have anyone who he could confide in and share his point of view. We wanted to create someone who was a counterpart to him who didn’t have superpowers and wasn’t just an employee — somebody that he had a personal relationship with. We felt he needed a human foil there. It was never our intention for him to take over as Iron Man.” 6

As fans of the mid-80s run of the comic remember, Rhodey ended up in the role, in "Iron Man 2" if you will...during Denny O'Neil's shake-up and deeper exploration of an addicted Tony Stark cracking beneath the psychological pressures orchestrated by Obadiah Stane, reprised as the villain for the first Iron Man film. has a lot more of this very talented guy; check him out!

Len Kaminski and Kevin Hopgood created the original War Machine armor's look as we know it during the 90s. He's grown into a character in his own right since.

Briefcase armor suit scene:

The games seem to be the best thing in superhero first person players this side of BATMAN:ARKHAM ASYLUM. A great two-player is a rare thing! But you can see for yourself at:

I plan to come back with a second part featuring some of the cybernetics innovations and a touch more history of the character, but let me finish with a shout out to, a board where they discuss everything from the latest dvd releases to current events to daily life to, of course, a love of all comics history, with many aspirants and professionals participating and sharing. Their name stems from an effort back in the 1970s to give Shellhead a "humanized" look...when artist George Tuska attempted a time-lost and humorous innovation to make the Golden Avenger Iron Man With A Nose! They found they couldn't "officially" use the name, but the face plate nose piece lives on in this zany and insightful site's acronym nomenclature. Check'em out!

1 Robert Downey Jr. profile





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Elliott Broidy said...

Superbness all around!