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Breaking the Superhero Mold – The Success of Iron Man

Superheroes are time-tested formula of success. Backed by some of the most ardent followers and major production houses, major superhero movies have rarely fallen flat at the box-office. But a lot has changed since the first Superman movie was released in 1978. Movie goers are the end-customers and their taste & preferences are destined to evolve over time. No business can afford to ignore the changing behaviour of their customers, and hence required to tweak (or overhaul) their offerings accordingly in order to stay relevant amid fierce competition. Production houses are no exception.

The Iron Man

Back in 1960s when the legendary Stan Lee created the comic character of Iron man under the Marvel comics’ banner, the character was meant to be a superhero with which people could relate and not a superficial imaginative man flying with a cape on his back. Iron Man’s inception was based on the premise that utilising his wealth, astuteness and aura he could avert the dangers of World War-III taking place in the comic series as he was technically equipped well enough to fight the large scale terrorism. Soon after he featured as one of the founding members of the Avengers super hero team which was more or less inspired by the DC comics Justice League.

The positioning of Iron Man is a testimony to the changing times. For long the ideal superhero had been the one with the responsibility to save and protect (with great power comes great responsibility), & the one with limited sense of humor but a humility matched by none. Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Captain America and many more have created a huge fan-base capitalizing on their unique capabilities, but they all possessed similar character traits.

There was clearly a need of something unique, a differentiating factor which was neither apparent in Marvel universe nor present in DC.

So, when you brought forward a formula where you put a multi-billionaire American playboy, a renowned business tycoon, an astounding tech savvy and an uber-cool individual, you are bound to get a remarkable superhero as the likes of ‘Ironman’. It is worth noting that amid many superheroes marvel universe churned out over more than a decade, the Ironman couldn’t carve out a space for itself as he was not ranked among the favourites in book of geeks until a big revolution that came in 2008 when the first movie on the superhero was made by Jon Favreau.

Robert Downey Jr. was casted as Iron Man and now he is “The Iron Man”. Having delivered some powerful performances in diverse roles before Iron Man happened, Downey Jr. already had a good fan following. Jon Favreau leveraged his talent to show a refreshing and I-don’t-give-a-flying-f**k form of a superhero, who had not been as wildly a popular character as Batman, Superman or Green Lantern during the good-ol’ comic days.

How Iron Man was sold to the audience? (And why they welcomed it with open hearts?)

Every great “sell” is accompanied by an astonishing story, well-crafted to perfection by storyteller(s).

Tony Stark is an Electrical Engineer from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated with two master’s degrees by the age 21.  Despite all the technical expertise, he has never been anywhere close to a geek or nerd (as per the stereotyping) but quite the contrary. He leads a reckless life and seldom misses to awe people whenever he could.

He is not the one who always takes bullets for others. He is not always right. He is impulsive and does ludicrous acts. But he has something which was long missing in a superhero, a good sense-of-humour and a penchant for larger-than-life image.

Most of the Superheroes (before Iron Man) were not boring but wouldn’t it be more fun if they had delivered some rib-tickling one-liners? (However, the characters and setting might not have justified this.)

Iron Man was exactly the superhero that audience wanted. Jarvis, a highly-advanced voice-recognition assistant of Tony Stark, can easily be the dream of any sci-fi lover. And then comes the automated suit that has some fascinating ways to get on the body of Tony Stark and has the potential to propel our superhero to high altitudes without done-to-the-death capes. All machines and setting look like a thing of future. More relatable to appeal to a logic-driven audience.

His personality coupled with an impressive CGI work impresses not only the usual superhero movie lovers, but also those who are not big fan of Marvel or DC. Wolverine, a DC comic superhero, in X-Men is also portrayed as a no-nonsense superhero with a little quirk and has built quite a following.

And how can we forget the recent phenomenon, Deadpool. Ryan Ronald might not have anticipated that Deadpool would be what Green Lantern couldn’t. Deadpool again (successfully) breaks the superhero mold to emerge as something so bada*s and funny that we couldn’t keep ourselves away from swooning over his attitude. He kills people (sometimes innocent), cracks a joke or two on just about anything but he is larger than superhero life and this is what that matters.

If you cannot manufacture a new product differentiating enough from others in the existing category, create a new category.

Iron Man, Deadpool, a re-christened Spiderman in Civil War, all are the examples of this new category, a new crop of superhero who have all the attributes of a superhero (or at least some) and also a unique quirk.

I wear an Iron Man T-shirt, and by no means it makes me geek or nerdy. It looks cool and makes me feel as awesome as Tony Stark.

Superheroes are destined to be meaner and funnier than they ever were.

 

 

49 thoughts on “Breaking the Superhero Mold – The Success of Iron Man

  1. Article is well framed
    I guess the targeting youth the article mentions is bang on ! Also the high profile content mentioned is alluring. Ironman rocks!! xD

  2. K.
    This was an insightful one. Iron man was never that fun until the movie came , couldn’t agree more. Iron man rocks #thuglife

  3. The major reason for success of Iron Man as a character should go to Robert Downey jr. In case of superheroes like batman and superman, this roles have been played by other actors but imagining ironman without robert downy is next to impossible….

  4. Also, production houses are working on a new mantra i.e. to mightily augment superheroes in a single movie just to make sure fans of any will have its hero in the movie. Just like Dr. Strange hinted Thor or Deadpool hinted X-Men.

  5. Very well put in words. I’m a massive Iron Man fan, and even for a fan, some of these details were unknown to me. Great work putting together the work done. Kudos!

  6. Dude, There are many mistakes in your article.
    Basics are wrong,
    1. Wolverine, a DC comic superhero, in X-Men. He is not from DC, He is from Marvel. (This is the biggest blunder anyone can do.)
    2. Ryan Reynolds is the spelling and not Ryan Ronald.
    3. Tony stark’s education is not just masters.
    He has multiple PhDs in physics, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering. And they cite the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. He got masters degrees in his teens, not in the twenties.

  7. Reading this article reminded me of chills I got when I watched first of the Iron Man series.
    He is fearless(openly accepted who he is?), reckless, bold not so kind(gave his address in open press 🙂 ), spoilt brat (Unlike sophisticated and secretive Batman) and at the same time brilliant, super intelligent and must say a good team player. (Thanks to Captain )
    Only Stan Lee can create such a loving badass character!!!

    Interesting article.
    I would Definitely like to read more about other human turned super-heros 🙂
    Somewhere in parallel universe who knows.. maybe even I will turn into one 🙂

  8. It was a pretty nice article. Now I also expect a superhero to be funny and sarcastic 😀 But not everyone can fit this frame and earn money. Sucide squad tried to follow Deadpool and failed.

  9. Interesting and intriguing article.
    I enjoyed it more coz Iron man is favorite super Hero from the Earth. First is Thor..for his masculine body! . but he is not from the Earth 🙂

  10. “If you cannot manufacture a new product differentiating enough from others in the existing category, create a new category.” This was exactly what was done by Stan Lee and it lead to inception of IRON MAN, the one who broke the sterotype of superheroes. This sets a perfect example of differentiated product works well in a cliched market.

  11. If there is any good time to be a nerd, it is now, with the amount of movies, new comics and much more offered at constant rate. Iron man is one of my favourite superhero (not the favourite, he aint no batman!) and will say that it was tje first iron man movie which made an impact, infact it was the start of the phenomenon of bringing ‘avengers’ on big screen, which was brought to halt after the hulk movie. And after the avengers, performance of Robert Downey Jr, he was the most admired superhero by the marvel fans. Very well written article, sums it all up.

  12. He is the coolest of all the super heroes!!
    Billionaire CEO, Play boy, Unethical yet humane, most unprofessional Entrepreneur & Superhero, ingenious engineer, canny fighter, sarcastic “IRONic Man”

  13. More of a Hulk fan…yet an entertaining and insightful article by the team!!Did not know much about the nuances which went behind the psyche of making this larger than life character of Iron Man.For me..Iron Man is only RDJ and RDJ only Iron Man.Kudos to the team and many more such exciting articles expected from them.All the very best guys.

  14. This article was a take on superhero movies and to what extent they struck a chord with audience, yes the author delved a lot on certain characters but it was more about the right combination that works for audience. In that aspect, a good read !

  15. Iron man character was a change how super characters were portrayed. This article very well explains the transition. Good to read such stuff. I am a fan of iron man and really enjoyed reading this article. Great work man. Keep writing.

  16. NIce article. iron man is huge the poster boy of marvel. sad to see Robert leaving soon. well articulated good work man. keep it rolling 😉

  17. This was such an insighful article about the inception of superhero.
    Love the way you compared it with a product and how a unique product can give birth to a long lasting product and at the sametime changing consumer needs also should be taken care of which is exactly what Iron Man did and thus breaking the stereotype.
    Great work 🙂

  18. Read the article.. it was indeed a nice read. Characters like iron man attracts youngster, moreover the action in the movie is superb 😉

  19. read it. found it interesting. The way the movie makers have presented the movie is what have made the iron man franchise bigger than ever. kudos !

  20. Not a big iron fan when it comes to comics but the movies are really nice and your article has rightly mentioned that movies has got the attention of crowd more than ever. Good drafting.

  21. I live in the comic world – so everytime I watch a movie, I’m like damn! that’s not what happened!!
    But it’s true.. whenever I wear Iron Man T-shirt now- it’s a conversation starter for this nerdista

  22. I have been following Robert for more than 5 years now thanks to his role as Iron Man. The things mentioned above are actually the reason which sparks a notion of going through all the marvel movies! But undoubtedly we can’t forget it is the spontaneity of Robert that lures us the most

  23. Iron man is one of my favourite superhero (not the favourite, he aint no batman!) and will say that it was tje first iron man movie which made an impact, infact it was the start of the phenomenon of bringing ‘avengers’ on big screen, which was brought to halt after the hulk movie.

  24. Only Stan Lee can create such a loving badass character!!!

    Interesting article.
    I would Definitely like to read more about other human turned super-heros
    Somewhere in parallel universe who knows.. maybe even I will turn into one

  25. production houses are working on a new mantra i.e. to mightily augment superheroes in a single movie just to make sure fans of any will have its hero in the movie. Just like Dr. Strange hinted Thor or Deadpool hinted X-Men.

  26. He is not the one who always takes bullets for others. He is not always right. He is impulsive and does ludicrous acts. But he has something which was long missing in a superhero, a good sense-of-humour and a penchant for larger-than-life image.

  27. Most of the Superheroes (before Iron Man) were not boring but wouldn’t it be more fun if they had delivered some rib-tickling one-liners? (However, the characters and setting might not have justified this.)

  28. If you cannot manufacture a new product differentiating enough from others in the existing category, create a new category.I wear an Iron Man T-shirt, and by no means it makes me geek or nerdy. It looks cool and makes me feel as awesome as Tony Stark.

  29. If you cannot manufacture a new product differentiating enough from others in the existing category, create a new category.I wear an Iron Man T-shirt, and by no means it makes me geek or nerdy. It looks cool and makes me feel as awesome as Tony Stark.

  30. Very well put in words. I’m a massive Iron Man fan, and even for a fan, some of these details were unknown to me. Great work putting together the work done. Kudos!

  31. This was exactly what was done by Stan Lee and it lead to inception of IRON MAN, the one who broke the sterotype of superheroes. This sets a perfect example of differentiated product works well in a cliched market.

  32. article reminded me of chills I got when I watched first of the Iron Man series.
    He is fearless(openly accepted who he is?), reckless, bold not so kind(gave his address in open press ), spoilt brat (Unlike sophisticated and secretive Batman) and at the same time brilliant, super intelligent and must say a good team player.

  33. It is worth noting that amid many superheroes marvel universe churned out over more than a decade, the Ironman couldn’t carve out a space for itself as he was not ranked among the favourites in book of geeks until a big revolution that came in 2008 when the first movie on the superhero was made by Jon Favreau.

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