Iron Man a Second-Tier Superhero?
The lead character of the new Marvel movie hasn't received the pop-culture exposure of Superman, Batman, Spiderman, or the Hulk.
The reporter makes the case that Iron Man is a second-tier hero, closer to Thor than Spider-Man. I’m not sure I buy that. In recent years, Iron Man has assumed a larger and larger role in the Marvel universe; being one of the two main protagonists in Civil War, being the center (we think) of Secret Invasion; being the center of the very popular Ultimates and having his own very well regarded Ultimate Iron Man. If anything, I’d argue that Iron Man has become Marvel’s ubiquitous hero, sort of their Batman and Superman rolled into one.
The film’s director disagrees,
He’s not Superman, he’s not Batman, he’s not even Spider-Man . . . “or Hulk or X-Men or Fantastic Four,” admits director Jon Favreau. “You could really go down the list till you get to Iron Man.”
I’m only vaguely aware of these recent story lines, not having actively read the books for fifteen years or more. Iron Man was one of the better characters, though, and many of the storylines in his book and the various Avengers titles he was part of were better than those of, say, The Fantastic Four, who have already been the subject of two recent movies.
My guess is that Iron Man is perceived to be a lesser character because he hasn’t gotten the pop culture exposure of some of the others. Superman was the subject of movie serials in the 1940s, a television show in the 1950s, and a series of films starting in 1978. Batman, too, has been everywhere, including the campy 1960s TV show and the darker films of the 1980s and the current decade. Wonder Woman was popularized by the Lynda Carter show of the 1970s and the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno treatment of the Hulk. Even Daredevil, essentially a Batman rip-off (albeit a well done one), has had his own movie. The only real exposure Iron Man got outside of comics was the 1960s “Marvel Superheroes Show” cartoon (which I recall being excellent when I saw them in reruns a decade or so later) but that was a serial which also featured Captain America, Thor, Hulk and (oddly) The Sub-Mariner.
Not clear is whether the character got short shrift because Marvel considered it less marketable or because of the technical limitations of presenting the character in live action mode. Until recent advances in CGI, Iron Man would have been incredibly hard to pull off.
Surely, though, Iron Man occupies a higher rung on the Marvel pecking order than Ghost Rider? The latter is a relatively minor character who was never able to carry a monthly solo title for very long. Iron Man, by contrast, has had his own book continuously since 1968. Yet, Ghost Rider was a subject of a movie (starring Nicolas Cage) a couple years ago.