Finally! The last of the Avengers Adaptation series!
Also, of note, Adaptations and the Superheroic Setting, which discusses the creation of a separate universe for different media. The Avengers and the movies leading up to it are a good example of creating a separate setting that shares common elements with the original work but still allows for creative interpretations. Otherwise, the nitpicking on minor details will get annoying and detracting.
In 1963, Marvel decided to pull together a team to challenge DC Comics’ Justice League of America. DC’s JLA comprised of the company’s heavy hitters – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Aquaman, the Martian Manhunter, and the Atom. Marvel’s first attempt to counter the JLA resulted in The Fantastic Four. While The Fantastic Four succeeded, the team wasn’t what the publisher wanted. Stan Lee pulled together Marvel’s top tier characters – Iron Man, Thor, the Incredible Hulk, Ant-Man/Giant-Man*, and the Wasp – to create a competitor. The characters came from Marvel’s top books; Iron Man’s Tales of Suspense, Thor’s Journey into Mystery, The Incredible Hulk, and Tales to Astonish, featuring Ant-Man and the Wasp.
The first issue of The Avengers brought the team together. Loki, wanting to exact revenge on Thor, lured the Hulk into attacking a railway car. When the call for help went out, Loki diverted it to Thor, inadvertently sending it to Iron Man, Ant-Man, and the Wasp as well. All four heroes converged and, setting the tone for not only the full Avengers run but also spin-offs, misunderstood each other to the point of in-fighting. Thor worked out the illusions and that his brother was behind them, allowing the heroes to team up and assemble as the Avengers.
The Hulk left in the second issue, leading to a fight against the Sub-Mariner. The fight, though, broke a chunk ice free from an ice floe, leading to the return of Captain America, who took the Hulk’s place on the team in issue 4. Hawkeye, who had appeared as an Iron Man villain in Tales of Suspense #57 joined the Avengers in issue 16. The Black Widow, another of Iron Man’s rogue gallery**, joined the team in issue 29.
In 2000, Marvel launched a new imprint, Ultimate Marvel. The original goal was to update backgrounds and clear out continuity snarls*** that caused potential new fans to be locked out from the regular universe’s titles. In the Ultimate line, the Avengers became The Ultimates, a team brought together by the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., one General Nick Fury****. The team comprised of Captain America, Giant-Man, the Wasp, Bruce Banner, and Iron Man; Banner would go on to inject himself with the super-soldier serum to become the Hulk, who the rest of the team stopped with the help of Thor. The second Ultimates series introduced Loki, who arranged for Thor to be put away as an escaped mental patient.
This leads to the movie, Marvel’s The Avengers+. Marvel Studios had an ambitious plan to release a number of movies leading up to one about Marvel’s mightiest team, the Avengers. The first movie in the Avengers Initiative was Iron Man, one that had fans wondering until the announcement of Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark. Iron Man performed beyond expectations, allowing the rest of the series to continue. Each movie in the Initiative acted as the origin story for the title character, allowing The Avengers to get to the heart of its story without having to explain who all the characters were. SHIELD first appeared in Iron Man, although after the end credits, and reappeared in Iron Man 2. Hawkeye, Agent Clint Barton, appeared in Thor. During this, Disney bought Marvel, sending panic among fans. The first movie released with Disney as distributor was The Avengers.
The movie mixes mainline Marvel and Ultimate Marvel continuity. Changes were made to both line’s story on how the group formed and the composition of the team, but Loki remained the element that brought the team together. The heroes are brought to squabbling amongst each other, distrusting, as Loki tweaks each hero’s sore spot. The bickering becomes an all-out brawl on board the SHIELD Helicarrier, allowing Loki’s team of agents on board while the fighting disrupts and almost destroys the vessel. With the death++ of a SHIELD agent, the heroes pull together as a team to defeat Loki and his minions.
The Avengers isn’t a pure adaptation. However, especially in light of Lost in Translation #54, the creators bring in a number of elements from both the main Marvel continuity and the Ultimate line, blending the elements to let the movie stand as its own continuity. The movie also blends together the different themes from previous movies, from techno-thriller to Shakespearean drama to pulp heroism, turning The Avengers into a work of its own. With the exception of Edward Norton, casts from the previous movies reprised their roles; Norton was replaced with Mark Ruffalo as Banner. Humour came naturally from characters and situations instead of being forced. The Avengers felt like both a serious comic book and a step back from the dark grey of the Batman movies without going too far the other direction as seen in Flash Gordon or Street Fighter: The Movie.
Next week, a superhero round up.
* Hank Pym changed his hero code name at the start of The Avengers #2 to Giant-Man. He’d later take several other names. — Scott
** Natasha first appeared in Tales of Suspense #52, five issues before Hawkeye’s first appearance. Fittingly, she first appeared in Marvel’s cinematic universe in Iron Man 2 — Scott again
*** Some snarls include the Summers family tree, which involves time travel, and Spider-Man’s Clone Saga — Yep, it’s Scott
**** General Fury was redesigned early in production to look like Samuel L. Jackson, who gave his permission to use his likeness. Made him the perfect actor to cast as Nick Fury in the movie. — Trivia Scott
+ As opposed to the remake of the TV series that starred Patrick McNee and Diana Rigg. — Still Scott
++ Maybe. We only have Nick Fury’s word on it. — Doubtful Scott
This week, everyone’s favourite hero with anger management issues, the Incredible Hulk.
The Hulk first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #1 back in 1962. As with many of Marvel’s early original heroes*, the Hulk was created by Stan Lee, with Jack Kirby. The origin had Dr. Bruce Banner, physicist, being at ground zero of a gamma bomb. Instead of dying, Banner absorbed the gamma rays, turning him into the Hulk. From that point on, whenever Banner was upset or angry, the Hulk would be released. Stan Lee has said that he invoked Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde along with Frankenstein with the character, noting that the Hulk, despite being the monster, was the hero. Although not an immediate hit**, the character guest starred in other Marvel titles and became a founding member of the Avengers, staying in The Avengers for the first two issues before leaving.
In 1978, CBS aired a television series, also called The Incredible Hulk based on the comic. Changes were made; Bill Bixby played Dr. David Bruce Banner, a name change required by executives. The gamma bomb accident because a lab accident that infused Banner with gamma radiation. The Hulk, played by Lou Ferrigno, had reporter Jack McGee chasing him, trying to find out the truth about the accident. The series ran five seasons, with three made-for-TV movies following.
Wait, you may be thinking, why mention the TV series when I haven’t done anything like this before? Isn’t this about the 2008 movie, The Incredible Hulk? Indeed it is, I say as I somehow read your mind. However, I continue, the TV series is important to keep in mind for the rest of the review.
The 2008 movie The Incredible Hulk was filmed by Marvel Studios as part of its Avengers Initiative, a series of movies leading up to the release of The Avengers. The Hulk, as mentioned above, was a founding member of the team, despite leaving after the second issue. Might be easy enough to gloss over; Avengers #1 is older than the target audience. Except, as seen with the other entries, the filmmakers are well aware of the history of the comics. The Hulk is, now, one of Marvel’s iconic characters, inspiring phrases such as “hulking out” and the source of, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”***
The movie quickly shows the Hulk’s origin during the opening credtis, combining the one comic and the one from the TV series to have a super solider serum test go wrong. Banner was led to believe the serum was to help resist gamma radiation. General Ross, an old foe of the Hulk from the comic, had other ideas. The movie opens in Brazil, with Banner working at a factory while trying to research a cure. An industrial accident that leads to a Stan Lee cameo lets Ross know where Banner is hiding. Ross sends a special forces team, led Emil Blonski, to retrieve the hiding scientist. Suffice to say, they got Banner upset, and that never ends well for anyone.
While Banner returns to the US to get the original data from the project that turned him into the Hulk, Blonsky and Ross work together to create a weapon capable of going toe-to-toe with the green monster. Blonski volunteers to under go the super soldier treatment, foreshadowing the events of Captain America. The first fight between Blonski and the Hulk, at a college campus, leads to Blonski recuperating in the hospital with every bone broken, but healing fast. The fight was also recorded by a jounalism student with the last name McGee.
The movie continues, using Blonski as a mirror to Banner. As Banner works to get rid of the Hulk, Blonski works to embrace the monster within, eventually becoming the Abomination. The difference between the two gamma radiated monsters is that Blonski kept his intelligence. Where the Hulk is raw, brute strength and fury, Blonski keeps his skills, losing a little in raw power.
The movie itself draws from the Hulk’s forty year comic history and the television series, blending the two. Edward Norton, who played Banner, looked a lot like the late Bill Bixby, even down to mannerisms as Bruce. Lou Ferrigno not only has a cameo as a security guard, but is also the voice of the Hulk. The journalism student mentioned is a shout out to Jack McGee of the TV series. Audience members who know the hulk solely through the TV series would not be lost. The influence of the TV series brought me to a question that I hadn’t considered before; that is, “Is there such a thing as an adaptation that is more influential than the original work?”
The Incredible Hulk also had to deal with history progressing since 1962. Originally, Blonski was a KGB agent. With the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the de-Sovietization of Russia, having a KGB agent would stick out. Turning Blonski into the English-born son of Russian immigrants on loan from the UK to the US brings the character into the 21st century. Likewise, the gamma bomb became a lab accident; the push to out-arm the Soviets also disappeared with the end of the Cold War. While the US does maintain a stockpile, the need to increase the number of warheads has dropped greatly. The movie updates the Hulk mythos nicely, telling an archetypical Hulk story with a current setting.
Next week, expanding a setting through an adaptation.
* As in, not the ones originally created my Marvel’s predecessor, Timely
** The Incredible Hulk, volume 1 lasted six issues.
*** Originally from the TV series, in the opening credits.
While getting prepped for the The Avengers review*, a small detail kept drawing my attention. It came up in Iron Man, and continued through each entry of the Avengers Initiative. It’s the setting. Not just Tony Stark’s lab or SHIELD’s headquarters, but the entire universe.
Let me backtrack a bit to explain. Most major comic publisher has its own universe where their heroes live, work, and fight crime. DC’s universe includes fictional cities like Metropolis and Gotham City and fictional countries like Qurac. Marvel doesn’t go for the fictional city, but does have its own fictional countries, like Doom’s Latveria and Silver Sable’s Symkaria. This allows the various characters and titles to crossover and guest star as needed, and leads to team books like Justice League of America (bringing together DC’s iconic characters into one book), Teen Titans (for DC’s sidekicks), and The Avengers (Marvel’s Justice League equivalent.) Image, even though each book is its own universe, does allow its published characters to appear in other characters’ titles, in a form of metaverse**. Over time, as storylines grow and wrap up, as characters are introduced and interact, as villains come and go, each title’s history starts getting complex. Add in the various guest appearances by characters from other titles, and the complexity starts looking like the family tree of European Royalty***. It makes for difficulties to jump in on a title. It also makes for difficulties when adapting.
The first problem with a large universe is licensing. Marvel has had this problem more than DC over the past fifteen years. DC has the advantage of being owned by Warner Brothers, with their main universe titles being released by Warner. Since 1998, Marvel has seen their characters and titles licensed out to New Line Cinema (the Blade series), 20th Century Fox (X-Men and related characters, Daredevil, Elektra, the Fantastic Four movies), Columbia (the Spider-Man series including the reboot The Amazing Spider-Man, the Ghost Rider movies), Universal (the 2003 Hulk), Lionsgate (the Punisher series, Man-Thing), and Marvel Studios (all movies leading to The Avengers). Several things stand out. First up, the Punisher. The Punisher first appeared in a Spider-Man book, then guest starred with other Marvel notables such as Captain America (an Avenger) and Nightcrawler (an X-Man), before making regular appearances in Daredevil and then getting his own title. With the licensing, the Punisher isn’t easily available in any movie with the heroes mentioned. Likewise, Daredevil and Spider-Man share a few opponents, notably the Kingpin, and are based in the same city, New York. Fortunately, New York is big enough that it’s feasible to believe they won’t cross paths often. The excuse will work for movies due to the time between releases.
The next problem is the sheer weight of history. Superman has been published continuously since 1938. That’s seventy-five years worth of stories, continuity, characters, situations, and other dross. Batman dates from 1939. Wonder Woman from 1941. Marvel has characters that predate Marvel, coming in from Timely. Even Spider-Man dates from 1962, over forty years. Some characters even have multiple books. While origin stories may get repetitive, they have the benefit of having the audience come in as a blank slate with no prior knowledge of the character. A movie about a team of diverse heroes, like the Justice League or the Avengers, though, doesn’t have the time to show each team member’s origin and still deal with the central plot. Even in a movie where all the characters gained powers through the same source, like X-Men, there’s a good chance of an outlier (in X-Men‘s case, Wolverine) who has something more happening in his backstory. The X-Men franchise also has the anti-mutant hysteria to add in its setup.
What can the adapting studio do? One way is to just focus on the character and ignore everything else in the universe. This approach works best when the character being adapted doesn’t appear in the same circles as the rest of the universe. The approach also works when the character is best known for the type of story being told. Spider-Man is perfect for a story that’s personal, close to home, or deals with problems that are local to New York. Same thing with Daredevil and Batman. At the other end of the scale, dealing with would-be world conquerors is in line with Superman, the Justice League****, and the Avengers.
Another way is to take in everything from the character’s books, then pick and choose what to keep. This is essentially what happened with X-Men and the Avengers Initiative. It doesn’t hurt that Marvel once split the editorial tasks by group, two of which were the X-Titles and the Avenger titles. The areas are, for the most part, self-contained except for the annual all-title crossover events. Need a villain from Thor to menace the Avengers? No problem! Need a classic Wolverine opponent to act as muscle for Magneto? Easy as pie! The adapting studio has access to a broad range of characters and situations and doesn’t have to worry about having to fill in that man-sized spider hole in the cast.
Then there’s branching off from the main universe to create a new one for the medium. The adapting studio gets the details it needs, the characters it needs, and then branches away at some point, creating its own continuity parallel to the main body. There may be events that are shared, events that are similar, but the two continuities are separate entities. The best example is the Dini-verse, also known as the Timm-verse+, which spun off from the main DC comic continuity as cartoons. The Dini-verse is responsible for the creation of a tragic background for the Bat-villain, Mr. Freeze, and the introduction of Renee Montoya and Harley Quinn into the regular continuity. The Avengers Initiative is doing something similar. In the main Marvel continuity, Iron Man is seen as Tony Stark’s employee and bodyguard. In the movie, Stark just came out and said it; his ego wouldn’t let a lie steal the spotlight.
And there’s the reason for this long aside. The Avengers Initiative are wonderfully done movies, getting the feel of the characters right, but getting some minor but critical details (like Iron Man having a secret identity) wrong. I don’t want to deal with the, “Wait, no, that’s not accurate!” moments while watching an amazing scene. There’s enough small details to show that Marvel’s movie continuity is separate from the main comic line’s. I am acknowledging it here so I can properly watch the movies without having to note discrepancies that don’t make a difference to the scene but do when it comes to continuity.
Next time, the penultimate Avengers Adaptation entry.
Correction: Last week’s Lost in Translation was listed as number 52 when it should have been number 53 instead.
* That is, watching the movies and reading the comics.
** The authors maintain control of their books, and discrepancies are written off as how the character perceived the crossover.
*** Not so much a family tree as a family tumbleweed.
**** Especially if people forget that Batman is a member.
***** My argument really breaks down when people remember that Spider-Man is an Avenger, too. But teamwork can let even the weakest heroes combine to defeat the worst villain around.
+ Named after Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, the showrunners for the DC animated universe starting from Batman: The Aninated Series through to Justice League Unlimited.
The Avengers Adaptation continues!
Captain America first appeared in Captain America Comics, published in early 1941* by Marvel’s predecessor, Timely Comics. The character and the comic were intentionally patriotic, almost a given considering world events. Marvel brought back Cap in The Avengers #4, thawing him and bringing him to the “modern”** age. Cap started as Steve Rogers, a scrawny young man whose desire to enlist and fight the Nazis in Europe was thwarted by his own ill health. However, his persistence got him noticed and invited to the Super-Soldier project, where Steve was given the Super-Soldier Serum, transforming his body to perfect health and physique. Cap then fought through WWII with his sidekick, “Bucky” Barnes, battling the Third Reich.
Captain America: The First Avenger essentially retells Captain America’s origin. As you might have read last week, I went on for a few paragraphs about superhero origins. However, in Cap’s case, there are two elements to consider. One, Cap’s origins aren’t well known to the general audience. Comic book fans, especially those who follow the Avengers, are aware, but Cap isn’t the household name Superman is. Two, Captain America’s origins alone are an exciting story, especially in the context of modern Marvel stories (as opposed to the Timely comics). How Steve Rogers came to the modern world is well worth spending a movie on, if done well. The other key part to the origin is that Steve already had the right mindset to be a hero, even if his body wouldn’t let him. Falling on a grenade that he thought was live without a thought towards what would happen to him while everyone else dove for cover tends to show people what a hero is.
The First Avenger was done well. Once again, as in Iron Man and Thor, the right cast, the right crew, the right director were all involved. Joe Johnston, the director, had worked on pulp-like projects before, including The Rocketeer and Jumanji. The First Avenger definitely had a pulp feel, from time period to larger-than-life heroes and villains. Casting included bringing in Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull and Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Carter.
If you go back a bit in Lost in Translation, you’ll find my review of Flash Gordon. The two movies work together to show what’s needed to make a good adaptation. Both movies had great casting for supporting roles, excellent music, and a script that acknowledged the comic book feel of the original works. The big difference is that Captain America didn’t have executive meddling. Flash‘s execs interfered with casting, to the point where de Laurentiis’ wife picked out Sam J. Jones from the lead role from a game show. Everyone involved in the making of Captain America had the goal of making the film a success.
Casting wasn’t the only item that got attention. Little details about Cap appeared. The shield he used during the PR tour was based on the original one from Captain America Comics #1, which had to be changed because of a similarity to the one carried by Archie Comics’ The Shield. The First Avenger also had links to the previous movies in the Avengers Initiative, with Yggdrasil, a Norse artifact, and possibly the fate of the Red Skill calling back to Thor and Tony Stark’s grandfather Howard a supporting character. These connections may be the first time a comic book movie acknowledges the rest of the original comic’s universe. Usually, multiple studios have rights for the different characters in a setting. In Marvel’s case, Sony had the rights to Spider-Man while Twentieth Century Fox had the X-Men. With the Avengers Initiative, though, all the movies are being created by Marvel Studios and being released through Paramount. Just as important, many elements of the Marvel Universe were introduced. Hydra, a secret society out for world domination, with the Red Skull and Arnim Zola, could easily be the antagonists of a Captain America sequel set in the modern day.
Was the adaptation accurate? Not completely. Bucky Barnes became Steve’s childhood friend and a sergeant in the US Army instead of being a kid mascot. The Howling Commandos appeared, but without Sgt. Fury. Philips became a colonel instead of a general. Small details. However, the feel of the movie, aided by the direction, by the music, hit the right note.
Next week, on the nature of remakes.
* Prior to the US officially getting involved in World War II.
** As in, the day of publication.
Comic writers have created heroes based on myth and legend since the dawn of the superhero. Wonder Woman is an Amazon, blessed by the Greek gods. Fawcett’s (and, later, DC Comics’) Captain Marvel gained the powers of Greek and Roman gods and legends. Marvel Comics, though, tended to keep their heroes more grounded and human, with all the advantages and disadvantages of being mortal. Some, such as Doctor Strange, worked with forces far beyond the ken of ordinary men. However, even Marvel has dipped into the mythology pool. Instead of using the Greek and Roman myths, Marvel pulled a superhero out of Norse legend, the Mighty Thor.
Thor’s first appearance as a Marvel superhero came in 1962, in Journey into Mystery #83. His appearance in the comic would lead to it being renamed The Mighty Thor. A year after his first appearance, Thor was included in The Avengers as a founding member and mainstay of the team. When Marvel began its Ultimates line to try to prune fifty years of continuity without giving the original lines a hard reset, Thor carried over to the new universe.* In both lines, Thor wielded Mjolnir, a magic warhammer that grants the powers of flight, weather control, and shooting lightning bolts.
Marvel’s movie line, although with some rocky entries, has done well, with Marvel Studios having an excellent track record. The Avengers Initiative, starting with Iron Man, was done entirely within Marvel Studios, even after the Disney buy out. The idea behind the Avengers Initiative was to set up the origins of the major Avengers characters before releasing The Avengers itself. Thor was the third movie, following Iron Man and Iron Man 2, and shows how Thor came to Earth and to the attention of SHIELD. The movie shows, once again, what respecting the original material can do to help a movie succeed. In Thor‘s case, the movie paid attention not only to the comic book character but also to the original myths, pulling from both. Thor has a completely different feel to it compared to Iron Man. Part of the change comes from the director, Kenneth Branagh, best known for his adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays to the silver screen. Thor feels like an epic myth in modern times as Thor must learn what it means to be the king of the gods.
Helping elevate Thor is the quality of the cast. As seen in Iron Man, having the right actor in a role goes a long way to making a movie a success. The same idea comes to play in Thor. With such actors as Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Colm Feore, Stellan Skarsgard, and Tom Hiddleston, and a script by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski, the movie had a sturdy base to build from. With Kenneth Branagh directing, the movie came together wonderfully.
Thor had a budget of about $150 million. The movie shows that it’s not just how much is spent, it’s also on how the money is spent. Special effects in a comic book movie have to look at least as good as those drawn in the comics. The costumes must be as close as possible to what the characters normally wear**. These touches can make or break a movie, and, in Thor, these considerations were met and exceeded.
Next time, sinking an adaptation.
* But not the New Universe.
** Or at least have a shout-out, as seen in X-Men.
Marvel Comics has always had a wide range of superheroes. From the patriotic Captain America to the anti-hero Hulk to the Spectacular and Amazing Spider-Man to the outcast X-Men, each hero was more than just the costume, just the hero fighting crime. Iron Man, first appearing in Tales of Suspense in 1963, is no different in that respect. Unlike the heroes mentioned, though, Tony Stark has no innate super powers*. His origin story, first seen in the above mentioned comic, showed how the Iron Man suit developed.** Over time, Tony takes charge of his company, develops more Iron Man suit variants, becomes a playboy, and develops alcoholism. Many of Iron Man’s foes reflect his origins, either being technical (such as AIM and Hydra), Communist (Titanium Man, the Unicorn), or corporate (Iron Monger, Roxxon Oil, Justin Hammer).
Fast forward to 2008. Marvel’s luck with movies based on their properties had a rough go with 1986’s Howard the Duck, 1989’s The Punisher, and 1994’s The Fantastic Four***. Things started to turn around with 1998’s Blade, but the character wasn’t one of Marvel’s A-listers. X-Men in 2000 marks the turning point for Marvel’s big names, though, at this point, the company had different lines licensed to a number of studios. The successful Spider-Man movie in 2002 further marked the turnaround of Marvel’s cinematic foibles, though not completely. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Ghost Rider, both from 2007, underperformed. However, waiting in the wings, was Iron Man.
There are times when casting directors find just the perfect person for a role. Iron Man‘s trumped all others when Robert Downey Jr. was cast as Tony Stark. Downey had gone through a rough patch between 1996 and 2001, getting arrested for various drug charges. His appearance as Stark capped a career revival. Downey brought forth all of Tony Stark, from his larger than life public persona to the uncertain man wanting to right what he messed up in private. Even when he was in the Iron Man suit, Stark was still himself, still the showboat who was trying to make up for past mistakes.
The movie itself could be divided into two parts. The first part was Iron Man’s origin,** updated for the modern era. Gone was the Viet Nam War and the Communists. This time around, Stark visited the troops in Afghanistan when he ran into the trap. The second part of the film showed Tony improving beyond the original grey suit to the gleaming red and gold and returning to Afghanistan to help free his fellow prisoner. Also linking the two parts of the movie was the villain. With the update to the modern era, elements from the Cold War, including the Vietnam War, were lost; Stark was at most old enough to have seen news reports of the Vietnam War as a young child. That left the main foe to be either technical or corporate. Obadiah Stane fell into both. His machinations behind the scenes while still acting as Stark’s mentor provided a chilling look into executive backstabbing, with the addition of taking Tony’s prototype and updating it for his own ends.
The movie, simply put, was a huge success, allowing Marvel to continue the Avengers Initiative with follow ups Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger, capped with The Avengers. However, financial success isn’t always an indication of a successful adaptation. First, I’ll begin with the changes made. The big one was keeping the story in the now. Most superhero comics are set Today, that is, when the reader reads it.**** However, 2008 was not 1963. The world has changed greatly in those forty-three years. The Vietnam War ended. The Cold War ended. The Soviet Union ended. Iron Man’s origin needed to be updated to reflect the march of history but, at the same time, remain true to the source. Thus, the trap in Viet Nam became a trap in Afghanistan. However, the Stark-Stane rivalry comes straight from the comics, as does SHIELD. The update in the origins doesn’t affect the characters. The other major change is the identity of Iron Man himself. In the comics, Iron Man is Stark’s bodyguard. In the movie, Stark comes out and admits it. However, the movie Tony would have problems allowing someone else, even if that someone is a complete fabrication, to take credit for Stark’s own work. The change made sense in character.
Summary, the movie is a very good adaptation of one of Marvel’s lesser-known A-list heroes. The combination of casting, directing, script, and acting pull together to make Iron Man enjoyable and accessible. As a major plus, Iron Man is one of the few superhero movies where the villain doesn’t upstage the hero. Although it helps that Stark is larger than life, the main reason is that Iron Man is not just the hero, but the protagonist, the character trying to change the status quo.***** Stane is trying to keep things as they are, without Tony making wide-sweeping changes to Stark International.
Next week, still with superheroes.
* His intelligence might qualify, but his background includes being a teen genius, which is possible, but rare.
** Quick version – after getting caught in a trap in Viet Nam and being taken prisoner, Stark and another prisoner build a device to keep shrapnel from reaching Tony’s heart. Tony then works on a prototype suit of powered armour using the power source of the device to break out of the prison.
*** Involving Roger Corman, known for low-budget films.
**** Exceptions being specific days, usually holidays, but even those are implied to be the one most recently past.
***** In the vast majority of superhero movies, the villain is trying to inflict change with the hero trying to prevent it.