I. Am. Iron Man.
No, I’m not. No one is, or can be. Number one, he’s a fictional character created by Stan Lee, of Marvel Comics fame. Number two, I’m nowhere near his genius and will never have his money. I can relate to his personality though. That’s where I really feel connected to Tony Stark (Iron Man).
Before I go any further, I should state that this article is two-fold. I have been wanting to write this specific article since Iron Man basically ended his very existence at the end of Avengers: Endgame (it’s been two years now, hopefully no spoilers). I also told a friend that I would get my thoughts out on why Iron Man has always been my favorite as well, and just kept putting it off. Sorry Christin!
Back in 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe wasn’t even a thought. Marvel movies itself weren’t close to what they are today. X-Men was the premier Marvel franchise, with Spider-Man not too far behind. If you wanted a superhero blockbuster, shoot, DC Comics had Batman holding the number one spot. Along came Robert Downey Jr. to save us.
For those who are unaware of Robert Downey Jr. and how much of a gamble it truly was for Marvel to place him as a lead in a rebooting franchise (see, Fantastic Four failures, Hulk, Spider-Man over and over), let’s take a quick look at the actor’s past. Robert has had numerous run-ins with the law, and drugs, while serving time for each instance. The man was throwing his life away on such things. He liked to party, and while he could still act, the other side (the wrong side) was winning.
Before long, Robert was out of work and needing a reboot himself. Enter Jon Favreau (director of Iron Man 1 and 2, but not the 3rd). It’s been well documented that Jon fought for Robert and believed in the vision of him as Iron Man. What a gamble. But, what a pay off. Iron Man was released in the summer of 2008. The movie was a smash hit and the rest is history.
In that year of 2008, I was also on the path of my own rebooting. I was in and out of serving my time to society from my own struggles and past transgressions as well. I was very much like Robert Downey Jr. in that I too, loved to party, while also maintaining a poker playing lifestyle. I played poker for a living, and did pretty well at it. I just didn’t make the best decisions with said money. Eventually, that lifestyle catches up to you.
It takes rock bottom to realize what really matters in life sometimes.
During that summer, I was also living at home while I was rebuilding my life (soon to be 24 years old). Thus, I spent a lot of time with my youngest sister, who was 6 years old at the time. She probably wasn’t too aware of the lifestyle I lived or had been through, but knew enough that if I was home all the time, versus going out, that could only be a good thing. I took her to see Iron Man with me.
My sister ended up loving the movie. I did too. I knew of Robert Downey Jr.’s past and was very intrigued by his turn as Iron Man. I was immediately addicted (no pun intended). I wanted to immerse myself into Iron Man’s history, story, and started reading the comics. I saw this playboy, quick-witted, narcissistic billionaire turn himself into a, well, OK, still playboy type, who then used his money and mind for good. I thought to myself, this would be me. Heck, outside of the billions of dollars (obviously), this was me.
I had done so wrong, and now wanted to give back. I wanted to use my mind and my “powers” for good. I knew it was going to be a long road, because I didn’t have the billions, or the mechanical wherewithal to create an Iron Man suit. I could, however, create my own little world in which I helped people. That year would lead me to seeking out a job, and a life, outside of poker.
In my second book, “Life and Love After Poker,” I detail these moments in going from a poker player with no direction to a man starting over by taking a low-paying job as a pipe plug fabricator, to a welder, to a student, to the funeral director you now read from today.
Another touching story as I reminisce about Iron Man, is when the movie came out on DVD (remember those?), I bought it of course. My little sister was always a troubled sleeper, so when she woke up in the middle of the night, she would come into my room. I’d let her sleep in my room, but when she did, she always asked for Iron Man to be put on. There were many nights we would both fall asleep to watching Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr. more importantly) become who he is today.
Iron Man has since become a global icon and the absolute face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With his presence, wit and action sequences, he was always the one I watched the most. Still to this day, I never get tired of watching anything with Iron Man in it. Whether it is the first Iron Man movie or even him in Avengers: Age of Ultron (not the best). In fact, Robert Downey Jr. himself is one of my favorite actors. His turns in Gothika, Due Date, Sherlock Holmes, et al, still keep my attention.
I look at Robert Downey Jr. and see myself. I look at Iron Man and see myself. I look at my past, my present and my future, and see a villain turned superhero. I can use my past mistakes and turn them into future deeds. All for good. Never for naught.
While Iron Man is no more (again, Endgame), his spirit and story live on. Throughout all of his moments in movies (Tony Stark) and in real life (Robert Downey Jr.), Iron Man survives. The metal cannot be mended or melded into anything but good. There is always good that remains, you just have to dig deep. Iron Man motivated me to dig myself out of my own little cave of darkness. Iron Man became a beacon of hope, truth, justice and plain old awesomeness.
As time goes on, in life and in the movies, we always reflect on ourselves in what we see. What we live through. What we have achieved, or not achieved. The reason superhero movies resonate so well with audiences is that we see a little bit of ourselves in our heroes. We want to be them. We feel as if we are them. I see myself in Iron Man while watching the Marvel movies. I then see myself in Robert Downey Jr.
Robert has since become a family man and settled down. He gives to great causes and is a representative of turning one’s life around. He speaks out against injustice and lives to promote his superhero persona. Robert put in his time as Iron Man, and while I selfishly wanted him to continue in the role forever, Tony Stark’s story ended perfectly.
When I saw Avengers: Endgame in theaters, I was blown away by how the past (nearly )15 years tied everything together so perfectly. Endgame was truly the end game. From Iron Man until then, everything made sense. Every character’s story was told and then brought to life. In some cases, their stories and lives ended, just as real life happens. All good things must come to an end. Sometimes life ends abruptly, and the scars remain forever, but we have to keep moving forward. We have to believe in the good. The laughter. The love. In the end, that’s what matters. That’s what makes a good movie, but really, a good life. Do not lose sight of that.
During the final fight scene in Endgame, the audience knew something was building for the biggest ending possible. It was teased in the previous Avengers movie (Infinity War, 2018) that Iron Man’s time was coming to an end. News broke out of Robert Downey Jr. wanting to step away as Tony Stark. Then again, so was news of Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, and the like all coming to an end. I had no idea what was true or not.
We, the audience, did not know what to expect in Endgame. As that final battle was taking place, I was bracing myself for a moment I did not want to see. During Infinity War, Iron Man is stabbed by Thanos (big bad guy) and you think he dies. You think that’s the moment, right there, but it isn’t. Iron Man does not die. He is spared and lives. In my head I was thinking, “OK, they teased us and he makes it. Yes!” I was wrong. With the audience going nuts during Endgame’s finale (and tears flowing down my face) Robert Downey Jr. left the MCU in true heroic fashion, by taking control of the movie, sacrificing himself and ending on the very line he arrived with…
I. Am. Iron Man.