Iron Man was the beginning of the MCU and its biggest single-character success to date. Robert Downey Junior embodied the billionaire, playboy, philanthropist like nobody else could and we love him for it. That being said, the movies have not exactly been tailored to the fans, but more to the everyday viewer. I’m all for making comic book movies accessible to a wide audience and this method obviously works from a box office standpoint, but some of the greatest parts of the Iron Man comics have gone by the wayside as a result.
That’s not to say that nothing good came from the comics to the movies. I applaud the adaptation of the origin story in Iron Man 1, Rhodey’s War Machine in Iron Man 2, the Vanko family in Iron Man 2, the Man-or-Iron-Man identity crisis in Iron Man 3, the characterization of Tony Stark through the entire MCU, and several other things throughout the Iron Man saga. That being said, there are elements from the comics that have been forgotten, abandoned, or ignored.
I will also say that this is not a demand for Iron Man 4. My frequent readers may note how I despise the Iron Man 4 rumors and the people that say it’s inevitable. I don’t think there will be an Iron Man 4 and I don’t think there should be. But if I could have included things from the comics, I would have included these.
Demon In A Bottle
You probably knew this was coming, so why not start with it? Tony Stark is an alcoholic. If you look at Iron Man 1 and 2, there was even an emphasis on his drinking (rewatch him on the airplane with Rhodey in Iron Man 1). Then, after having built up the possible story, it was abandoned going into Iron Man 3. Considering Alcohol is widely considered Tony’s greatest enemy, it was a waste to not include it in some way through his film trilogy.
While Pepper Potts is assumed to be the automatic love interest of Iron Man, it will interest many to know that this is almost completely original to the film universe. After fifty issues of Iron Man, before he had even his own self-titled comic, Pepper married Happy Hogan and didn’t reappear regularly until over 30 years later. In the meantime, Tony fell for a woman named Bethany Cabe.
Cabe is an incredible strong woman character, especially for the time era she was introduced into. She was one of the few who cut through Tony’s BS and got to the core of his character. She was there when Tony broke down into alcoholism for the first time. It was her that took Tony’s hand and walked him back to sobriety.
It was rumored that now-Invisible-Woman Kate Mara would be playing her in Iron Man 2, but when the film was released, Mara was only giving Tony summons to the Capitol for one scene. Cabe tragically never reached the screen.
Despite the wonderful set-up of the character, Iron Man’s greatest human villain was turned into a punchline in Iron Man 3. While there was some apology to the fans through the short “All Hail the King”, Iron Man never faced the diabolical, magical villain known as the Mandarin. Perhaps the creators were afraid of the racist implications of a villain who was originally an “evil Red Chinese Warlord”. In the end, no one really cared about Aldrich Killian and many Iron Man comic fans felt like they had been honestly and truly betrayed.
I would call this treatment of the Mandarin the greatest sin of the MCU to date.
Armor Wars was the epitome of Tony’s sense of responsibility leading to him almost losing everything. When he discovers that his technology has been used by armor-based villains around the world, Tony leads a war against them all. This leads to Tony losing his membership as an Avenger, “firing” Iron man from Stark Enterprises (no one knew Stark and Iron Man were the same), losing his friendship with Captain America, and breaking almost every moral code he has. It is a wonderful story arc that spawned a sequel almost immediately.
Granted, this would be more difficult to see on-screen because it would involve the introduction of numerous armored villains, I feel like that could have been done similarly to Iron Man 2’s ending. It would have been a beautiful story arc to see on screen and a wonderful set-up to the personality of Stark that eventually leads to Civil War.
Iron Man is the foundation of the MCU. It has done a lot of things right, but in doing so it abandoned much of the comic origins that originally made the character great. Once again, I don’t think we will see an Iron Man 4 and I don’t think we should, but maybe elements of these can be brought into other films. For now, only time will tell.