I grew up reading comic books, absolutely adored them. You know that moment in Captain America: Civil War at the airport where the heroes all go toe-to-toe? Yeah, I may have teared up at that moment.
It was emotional. We were so deep into an on-screen adaptation of my youth, and it was done right! (i.e. it wasn’t Ghost Rider. Stupid Nic Cage.) Watching all my childhood favorites break out the fisticuffs was a moving experience.
I remarked after leaving the theater that it was the greatest moment of my life. My wife huffed and asked, “What about our wedding day?”
“I stand by my statement,” I said.
Yet that’s not my choice for favorite superhero movie. Moment maybe, but it goes deeper than that …
Before you go branding me a johnny-come-lately or a bandwagon fan, I want you all to know that I’ve been stanning Tony Stark for at least a full 35 years before “stanning” came into our lexicon.
The year was 1984, the bump in my her stomach that would become my sister just starting to show, my mother drug me kicking and screaming to the Shop Rite down the road. I knew she was going to get nasty Kix cereal instead of whatever 374% sugar frosted milk bombs that I would want, and I had no inclination to stare at the rows of Jolly Green Giant peas.
I don’t know how I’d missed it before, but that trip I spotted a spinning rack towards the front containing comic books. (It seems foreign to think of this today, but back then, most grocery stores had them.) I parked my butt there flipping through the pages in wild wonder.
When it came time to move to the checkout line, I was verklempt. I must have wailed like a siren because my mother forked out the exorbitant 60 cents (I know–damn inflation!) to secure my first Iron Man title.
From that point on, I would always beg to go to the grocery store. I would do odd jobs or dig through couch cushions for spare change just so I could buy the latest title. Depending on how much I had scrounged and what issue was new, I would buy the titles in this order: Iron Man, Spider-Man, Avengers (mostly for Iron Man), Batman, and G. I . Joe.
In other words, I’ve loved Tony Stark 3000 way before his snot-nosed daughter did.
It makes sense now. At that time, I was way into King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Iron Man was the modern day iteration of that, sans piety, pedantry, and pomposity.
Ok, maybe not pomposity, but …
When rumors of an Iron Man adaptation started swirling around the interwebs, I got nervous. We’ve all seen what Fox did with The Fantastic Four.
Even worse, word was Tom Cruise was being sought to portray the Armored Avenger. Uh, hell no.
Then word came out that RDJ had gotten the nod, and the knot in my stomach subsided. I knew the character was in capable hands. The film itself … still some trepidation.
Seeing the film was more than I could have ever hoped for. They did the character justice. They told a great origin story. They struck the perfect balance of action and comedy, of seriousness and come-on-this-is-a-comic-book-film-ish-ness.
And while it was complete popcorn fare, a feel-good summer blockbuster, there were also some subtle but deep critiques of the military industrial complex. With Bush Jr. still at the helm and the debacles that were Iraq, Afghanistan, and Blackwater, it was painstakingly relevant.
And that end-credit scene that set the whole next 12 years (and probably the next 30 to come) in motion? Well, I had no idea because I left during the credits.
I mean, who had ever heard of an end-credit stinger? I didn’t even know Ferris Bueller had one in 2008.
But when I found out Nick Friggin’ Fury strutted out and mentioned something called “the Avengers Project?”
Ah, simpler times. Way before we knew existential threats such as coronavirus, Donald Trump, and Thanos were on the way.
I generally like to play against the grain, but here, I’m going to go with the most obvious answer because my response is genuine.
My favorite superhero, my favorite superhero film, my favorite four-word sentence in the English language: