Iron Man: How One Character has Transformed throughout History
You’d have to have been living under a rock not to have noticed the recent franchise of Marvel Comics movie remakes recently. Indeed, Marvel creator Stan Lee will be enjoying watching the notes roll in as he relishes in the success of the Fantastic Four, The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy.
In particular, The Avengers received critical acclaim, namely for its stellar cast and special effects, which are a testament to the design evolution that popular Marvel characters have undergone in recent years. One super hero that has seen a particular design shift is Iron Man, whose iconic red and gold image has developed substantially since he was first created in 1963.
Comic book appearances
Tony Stark, known by comic book fans as his alias Iron Man, first came on the scene in the early 60s during his appearance in the Tales of Suspense comic book. The character was written as a billionaire engineer who built himself a suit of armour in order to survive a severe chest injury, which quickly transformed him into a super hero. In comic book form, Iron Man’s invincibility and metallic sheen were highlighted with striking black shadows rather than elaborate costume elements. The 60s were a time of simplicity in the comic book world, and Iron Man’s bold primary colour design was attractive and memorable without being over the top.
Naturally, as time wore on, Iron Man’s costume became more complicated in line with advances in digital technology, and we saw a more structured, paneled costume, with particular emphasis on his chest and biceps – probably to enhance to male dominance of a traditional super hero.
In 2008, Robert Downey Junior first stepped into the role of Tony Stark, and Hollywood transformed the original feeble 1960s comic book image into something altogether more menacing. One particularly noticeable feature was Iron Man’s eyes: rather than showing off Tony Stark’s peepers as in the original Tales of Suspense comic, movie makers took away the personal element and instead displayed bright blue visors, undoubtedly aided by Hollywood special effects.
Iron Man’s colour scheme took some editing as well. With red traditionally considered as a colour that incites emotion, the 2008 movie version of Iron Man had a considerable shift in colour balance. His once all yellow legs are now predominantly red, with the occasional hint of gold, not yellow, drawing attention to his most prominent attributes – his biceps and his cold, emotionless mask.
Credit: Hot Toys Iron Man
In 1996, Iron Man first hit the video game market with Iron Man and X-O Manowar in Heavy Metal. As a 90s Sega Megadrive game, today’s graphics were not on Iron Man’s side, and yet the developers still managed to capture the contrast of red and yellow, while highlighting Tony Stark’s enviable abdominal muscles. Later, 2002 saw The Invincible Iron Man for Gameboy, which had understandably retro graphics, before the rise of the movie franchise which spawned PlayStation games with every subsequent release. The graphics, particularly on re-creating Robert Downey Junior’s face, were outstanding, as they should be with modern consoles like the PS3.
Meanwhile, online gaming has also not eluded the influence of Marvel – in particular, games like Iron Man 2 slots have played a part in the huge ‘gamification’ phase that is taking over online gambling sites of late. Traditional games like online slots are now giving users a new goal of having to fight off classic villains. The slot game gives users the chance to enjoy watching Iron Man sail through the sky every time they win a jackpot, with modern graphics that pay homage to the more widely recognised 21st century design.
Developments in technology, rising budgets and a marked change in customer trends have all contributed to the evolution of the Iron man character design. While some have symbolised changes in our perception of the hero – for example – his increased ‘masculinity’ or lack of emotion, others have been indicative of the era, afforded to us by enhanced graphics and better design technology. The Iron Man as we know him today remains a powerful force amongst the Marvel characters, and with new developments all the time, we could indeed see an even bigger and better Tony Stark in the future.
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