Marvel Comics introduced playboy Tony Stark back in the 1960s. Every comic buff worth his salt knows the story. Stark was in Vietnam surveying some of the weapons he’d invented while they were in action. While there, he tripped a trap and got blown up. When he recovered, he was in enemy hands and had shrapnel dangerously close to his heart. He and another prisoner, Yin Sen, invented the gray suit of armor that Stark wore into battle against the Vietnamese warlord.
Iron Man is one of my favorite characters. He’s had a troubled life, constant women problems (some who were lovers who became enemies, and some enemies who became lovers), a severe bout of alcoholism, and (in one of the most confusing bits of retconning ever) turned back into his teenage self.
Lions Gate Home Entertainment paired up with Marvel Comics for what is apparently going to be a four-movie deal, with all of the product being released as straight-to-DVD animated movies. The first two were Ultimate Avengers and Ultimate Avengers 2. Doctor Strange is currently in production.
If Iron Man’s original origin had been kept, he would be in his sixties at least by now. Marvel Comics dropped the Vietnamese connection as they retconned the character so that he could stay at a perky age.
The Invincible Iron Man starts over from scratch, keeping much of the Tony Stark character in place. He’s still a rich playboy with a keen inventor’s mind. But he’s remiss in his responsibilities to work outside of inventing and in his friendships. The Lions Gate film also presents the character of Jim Rhodes. “Rhodey,” as he’s known, went on later to become a more militant version of Iron Man known as War Machine. The pairing works well on the screen and gives Tony someone to play off of.
With the announcement of the live-action Iron Man movie coming out in 2008, I’d really expected Lions Gate to go all out on their animated feature since it would get a lot of push from the other movie. I’d figured that Iron Man would square off against one of his technologically advanced enemies – perhaps the Crimson Dynamo, or Stane, or even a military-based foe created expressly for the movie.
I wasn’t expecting the Mandarin, but once I wrapped my head around the idea, I thought it was pretty cool. The Mandarin was one of Iron man’s principal enemies from the comic series. Weirdly enough, and I’m really interested to see how this pans out, Jon Favreau’s live-action Iron Man movie is also going to feature the Mandarin as the villain. Fans are going to get their choice of treatments it seems.