Heroes Never Rust #3 by Sean Ironman
Superhero Films’ Effect on the Comics
Before the first Iron Man movie, I never liked the character. Some of my dislike for Tony Stark surely came from people constantly mentioning the character because of my last name and from getting the same Iron Man action figure as a gift year after year as a child. When I was young, I didn’t like superheroes that were human. I didn’t want to read about something that could happen. A person could build a suit and fight crime. My interest was more in the X-Men. But, even as I grew older, I came to love human characters like the Punisher even more than the super-powered ones. But Iron Man was never interesting to me.
I read some Iron Man stories, and other than comics like Warren Ellis’ “Extremis” and David Michelinie’s and Bob Layton’s “Demon in a Bottle,” the character never really grabbed me in the long run. Superheroes that were millionaires never really interested me. (Except for Batman, who got a pass because I considered him to be crazy, and that was interesting.)
But then the movie was released.
While much of the success was because of Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Tony Stark, the movie succeed for me because they went back to basics with the character. And around the same time, Marvel Comics did the same in the comic books. I actually started to read Iron Man comics, Matt Fraction’s run, and looking forward to the next issue.
Now, the reason I started reading Iron Man comics, and I’m sure a big reason for Marvel’s push on the character, was because of the film. There have been many changes to the comics because of the films over the last decade or so. I tend to remember only the bad decisions. Decisions like changing the 5’3’’ Wolverine to look like Hugh Jackman. Or bringing any number of the characters that return from the dead around the time the film is released, for example, William Striker returning in X-Treme X-Men and partnered with Lady Deathstrike when X2 came out in theaters. Not too long ago, Marvel Comics brought in an African-American Nick Fury into the Marvel 616 Universe to coincide with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury in the movies. (Although the Ultimate Universe Nick Fury was based on Samuel L. Jackson.)
Usually, I think about films’ effect on comics as a negative. I have a hard time believing many of these changes have comic from the writers and artists of the comic instead of some higher-up in the company. But film adaptations can help refocus the character in the comics.
One of the benefits of creating a comic book instead of a film is cost. Comic books cost nothing compared to a film. The great thing about this is the ideas for a comic can be incredibly wild. They don’t need to bring in as huge of an audience to be successful. This is one of the reasons is why comics are so cool.
But this can also backfire from time to time. Like in the 90’s story Avengers: The Crossing when Iron Man kills Yellowjacket, another Avenger, and the rest of the Avengers travel back in time and get a young Tony Stark to defeat the adult Tony Stark. The younger version ended up staying in the present timeline and replaced the adult Tony. That’s just confusing.
A film can help set things straight. Sure, I understand that the higher-ups want things to change or at least some stories be ready for the audience that watches the film and may be interested in the comics, but it can work when the focus is still on character, getting back to what made the character a success in the first place.
Sean Ironman is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida, where he also serves as Managing Editor of The Florida Review and as President of the Graduate Writers’ Association. His art has appeared online at River Teeth. His writing can be read in Breakers: An Anthology of Comics and Redivider.