30 Days of Marvel Day One: Favourite Character
For a lot of reasons it feels pretty awkward choosing Tony, but that’s life sometimes. Unlike DC, there really wasn’t a clear choice for me because I don’t have that same passionate base. My childhood is perhaps more steeped in Marvel, but my actual firsthand experience of the comics skews heavily to DC. With that said my deep personal investment in Tony Stark goes against pretty much all rational thought, but love it or hate it he’s the Marvel character I know best and feel the most comfortable with. I think that ideally I want it to be Wanda, but I got interested in her right before House of M and thus ran away screaming bloody murder before I had settled in to get acquainted with her history (apologies to Wundagore).
I love Tony because in many ways he is everything I fear and hate about myself. First and foremost is of course that we are both MAAB (Male Assigned at Birth). Something that he revels in and I hide from. There are of course many, many male characters everywhere, but Tony strikes a particular chord with me, perhaps because he is the Dionysus to Steve’s Apollo. He is masculinity unbound while I recoil from it and fear that no matter what I do, I will never truly be accepted as a woman.
We also share a fundamental fear and loathing of our own bodies. Tony’s story, boiled down to it’s essence, is rooted in body horror. He creates the Iron Man suit to stop that infamous piece of shrapnel from reaching his heart, and from that point forward is driven to relentlessly improve himself through the proxy of the suit until they become one through the Extremis virus. The films were where I really first grasped how integral the relationship between Tony and the suit is to his character, helped immeasurably by putting the arc reactor right into his chest.
The broad strokes of his origin (the Stan Lee original is laughably awful compared to the Extremis/movie retcon) are sheer brilliance. Tony didn’t become a superhero because he was a great guy that wanted to use his gifts to make the world better. He became a hero because he got put on the receiving end and he didn’t like it one bit. This is probably going to sound like a huge love letter to the movies, but they had a huge impact on me and how I saw the character, okay? I could just watch the scene where he comes in to do the press conference holding the cheeseburger all day. It’s Saul on the road to Damascus (you’ll be hearing a lot of that over the next 29 entries).
Of course Tony is Saul on the road to Damascus all day every day. His core arc is that he gets (what he thinks is) a great idea, takes it too far, gets fucked up, and then comes roaring back to fix it. Civil War was incredibly awful for so many reasons, but in a perverse way I couldn’t be happier to have begun investing in him in it’s aftermath because it is the most brilliant example of what makes Tony so compelling in his history. I’m fond of referring to Tony as being like a Jiu Jutsu expert; he will submit you from his back. From the moment of his origin, Tony has always been at his most dangerous when he is at his most vulnerable, which is why it’s always so delicious to see him fall. When Dark Reign started, I was beyond excited for two reasons; Loki was deeply involved and it meant that Tony was going into underdog mode. Which became the fodder for Matt Fraction’s virtuoso Invincible Iron Man run that took Tony all the way back to the cave he was born in.
The one thing that I relish about identifying with Tony is how deeply flawed he is. He gets told how brilliant he is all day long, but on some days he can barely look at himself in the mirror for all he is and what he’s done. I love his hubris, self doubt, arrogance, and contrition as if they were my own because it feels as if they are. I suppose I haven’t done anything to justify my shame and self loathing or the depression and dysphoria that threaten to overwhelm me, but it helps to see him beat his demons back.
The one thing that even Tony’s most ardent haters can never take away from him is that he has the best supporting cast at Marvel and second only to Batman overall. Nick Fury, Black Widow, Maria Hill, Pepper Potts, and War Machine. Especially Natalia, Maria, and Pepper. He must be doing something right that the most important women in his life have run The Avengers, SHIELD, and Stark Industries. When he’s well written, Tony not only isn’t afraid of powerful women, he surrounds himself with them (which is another thing that Jon Favreau and his team deserve credit for!).
You may now begin throwing tomatoes at me.