Second Chances: Redemption and Iron Man

yorickironmanI had lunch with Conor and former iFanboy writer Ben Simpson this weekend and, inevitably, the conversation drifted to Iron Man 3 and the worthy buzz that’s starting to build up around the film. Not only is it supposed to be better than Iron Man 2 — which, of course, it has to be (hard to imagine it being worse) — but crowds are saying it’s better than The Avengers, which like that movie or not, is a pretty bold statement.

There’s going to be a lot of discussion about Iron Man this week, which got me thinking about the character, and I realized just how much of a part of my life Iron Man has been through the years. Indeed, my first encounter with the perils of comic book numbering happened with the book, when I mistakenly thought one of my comics was actually the first issue of Iron Man, only to be told by a frustrated older kid that just because the story told the origin of the character, didn’t meant it was the first issue! He was all set to trade some issue of Spectacular Spider-Man for my Iron Man comic, thinking he was hitting the jackpot. The trade went forward and all was copacetic, but it did teach me not only about comic book numbers, but about playground deception as well.

My first real comic book experience with Iron Man was, as they say, not the best “jumping on” point. Indeed, I still remember the first page of my brand new comic: there was Tony Stark, Iron Man—passed out with a bottle in his hand, his body slumped against a dumpster. Turns out he drank too much, which confused me, utterly. Later, I remember having to ask my mom, “When people say they don’t drink…what do they do when they get thirsty?” and, through a few chuckles, she explained to me that when someone said they didn’t drink, it meant they didn’t drink alcohol, but she could see why that could be confusing. (I will rush to my young self’s defense and say that I had assumed, for quite some time, that it had to mean something different, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure it out, despite my listening to and observing adults and TV shows, etc—asking my mom, as we drove down Geary, passing by the weirdo clown car burger place, was definitely a last resort!)


With that issue, my first Iron Man really was James Rhodes, who was wearing the suit while Stark cleaned himself up. I didn’t last long with this story—I was a kid and I wanted action, not Tony Stark all sad and bummed out — but I won’t ever forget my reaction to the storyline: it made me realize that no matter how successful and powerful you are, you can lose everything…and if you are lucky, you’ll have friends to help you get back on your feet.

Those realizations have stuck with me my entire life. I remember when a co-worker quipped that you “were only two paychecks away from being hopeless” if you didn’t watch out, which brought that image of Tony back to me in rather, well, stark terms. Not long after, while I was unemployed in New York, trying my best to get little Mac jobs here and there, I remembered Tony’s struggle and how, eventually, things got better for him, how he was able to redeem himself, not only to his friends and fellow heroes, but to himself. If you work at something, things will get better.

Over the years, though, I will admit–I wasn’t reading Iron Man all that faithfully, with the exception of The Invincible Iron Man. He was, in my reading, a second tier character–one that I appreciated but was never drawn to enough to warrant spending money on him month after month. That being said, when Robert Downey Jr. was cast as Tony Stark for the first film, I was absolutely thrilled with the choice, for reasons that I am sure you are well aware of. Not only did RDJ have the requisite hair, mustache and snark, but he truly understood what it was like to hit bottom because of his own struggle with drugs and drink. Here was a guy, who only a year or so earlier had passed out in his neighbor’s daughter’s bed getting ready to play the lead in one of Marvel’s most ambitious films to date. I did not know, of course, just how much of a battle it was for him to even get an auditionaccording to Chris Heath’s nice piece on him in this month’s GQ, no one trusted that he would be able to do it, no one wanted to insure the project, he had to convince everyone that their faith in him would be rewarded…and, thanks to those people believing in him, the rest is history—everyone’s been rewarded, Downey himself most of all—to the tune of $50 million for his part in The Avengers alone.

invincibleironmancoverIn this land of second (and, sometimes third) chances, it struck me that as cool as it was for Downey to get the opportunity to grab this role and really own it, he had to fight for that chance, he had to work his way to the right people and make things happen—he was not going to get the role any other way. While life does provide opportunities, more often than not you have to work hard just to notice them in the first place, or to create the one you need, right now.

I love that the Iron Man movies have brought the comic book character more into the foreground. I know he was always an important character in the Marvel Universe, but, clearly, his role in events and story lines has become much more influential, and he seems to be appearing in almost as many books as Wolverine! This resurgence comes from the success of the movies, the movies’ success comes because Downey owned the role in a way that very few, if any, mainstream actors could. A role that no one in the industry wanted to give him.  Just like Star Wars, a film that should have been cancelled many times while it was being made because people just did not understand what it was about and did not want to believe in.

This sense of redemption is very much tied into the release of Iron Man 3, of course. The second film was a tremendous disappointment, frustrating to the extreme and just irritatingly bad for so many stupid reasons. While there were some moments that I enjoyed, this third film has a lot to make up for, especially after the success of the Avengers film. I really hope it is as good as everyone seems to say; it would fit the arc of the Iron Man character and the actor who plays him so well perfectly—sometimes we all just need another chance.



Mike Romo is an actor in LA and still enjoys it. Email/twitter/facebook.




  1. Puts things into perspective. Great article Mike! I agree with some of the points on Iron Man 2 as well. There were a LOT of fan-service moments, quite a few appealed to me, but I think Emotional cohesion wasn’t what that movie needed, it needed physical cohesion. From everything I’ve read and seen, Iron Man 3 should hit every single note though.

  2. iron man might be my favorite superhero.when asked i’d say daredeviel or batman but that’s because i’ve read more about them but i relate more to tony stark a normal guy who’s superpower is his iq.Now i’m not stark smart but i find the idea of a guy with lots of problems who all thinks his way out of things to be how i see my self.i’ll be first two say i don’t read alot about iron man the reason is that i like him on teams more the on his own.the only iron man book i followed the one my fraction and i dropped the with 10 issues to go i did pick the hardcover for the new volume and might pick the week’s issue ending i say iron man is cool and if your like the movies give the books a try old shellhead is calling.

  3. Iron Man 3 really is a good as they say! Saw it last week in the UK and it made me love the Iron Man character all over again and brushed the boring 2nd film away. You guys in the States have a treat in store!

  4. When comic book fans are disappointed in an adaptation of a comic, they really dump on it. Iron Man 2 was not bad as in
    “incompetent.” It was reasonably entertaining, although nothing to cheer for. On the other hand, the first Iron Man was not as good as many fans thought. Flight attendants who start stripping around a pole once the plane is in the air? C’mon!

  5. I don’t think Iron Man 2 is as bad as people say it is. I am not saying it was very good, it wasn’t. But people talk about it like it was th worst movie ever made. It had some enjoyable moments. Overall, I feel it was a failure, but not to the extent it gets beaten on constantly.

    However, I could not be more excited for Iron Man 3. Robert Downey, Jr is my favorite actor. Iron Man has been my favorite super hero for over thirty years. Shane Black made Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, my all time favorite movie. It is like this was made specifically for me!

    • Here’s what I know about IRON MAN 2: I had to basically bribe my girlfriend to go see IRON MAN 3 with me because she so viscerally hates IRON MAN 2. (She’s a good woman.)

  6. I read that article in “GQ”. It was really good and nice introspective look into the mind of RDJ. I recommend it to all.

  7. Echoing the same sentiments of Invasionforce and JohnVFerrigno above:

    I ENJOYED Iron Man 2. Is it better than the first? No. But it was a lot of fun to watch and even with some shortcomings I thought it was entertaining. Whenever someone says it’s terrible I usually see no real reason why the person says so. Maybe it has a ‘Dark Knight Rises’ quality where it’s kinda wacky and yet it tries to keep the same tone as the first movie. I know people didn’t like Sam Rockwell’s character but I thought he was great trying so hard to be like Downey.

    I don’t know. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and if they hate it, they hate it. But the vitriol over it is so over the top. It is like this was as bad as Punisher: War Zone or something.

  8. The header just reminds me how awful Salvador Larroca’s art is?

  9. I enjoyed 2, so I’m looking forward to 3. Although I’m probably not gonna rush out to see it (mix of money shortage, so many movies to see this summer, and hopefully going to the comic shop once a month). People need to stop saying that IM2 was the worst comic movie, Elektra and Wolverine Origins are tied for that honor.

  10. I really enjoyed Iron Man 3. Its the best Iron Man movie so far and maybe even close behind Avengers. Only problem I had, apart from the Mandarin, was that it was too jokey and too funny at times, that the suspense really suffered because of it.
    They did the same gag of Mark 42 failing to work properly, like 8 or 9 times and that was a bit tired. Apart from that, great superhero flick! Just don’t try to attatch logic to the villains motivations.