Back To Basics: How Iron Man Comics Bring Out Nostalgia’s Problems

Going back to basics has always been an entertainment franchise’s go to method of reigniting interest. Unfortunately, this method of soft reboots is starting to show its flaws in recent Iron Man comics. By highlighting Tony Stark’s roots from the 60s, readers see how repeating past successes can be very limiting. Because characters like Iron Man only become popular after a number of developments.

The Man in the Iron

This run spurs a lot of going back to basics moments
This run is going back to basics without context.

Let’s look at Iron Man. It should be no secret that everyone finds this character familiar. This is, in no small part, thanks to the MCU movies with Robert Downey Jr. The problem is, starting in 2012, the comic franchise becomes full of hits and misses. So far, the only exception is the Christopher Cantwell series which bills itself as back to basics. After a rough start, the fourth issue and onwards got great review scores. It seems to have something to do with Cantwell’s commentary on the back to basics trope.

The Problem With Iron Man

Going back to basics has always been about driving up interest with nostalgia. The problem with applying this to the comic book Iron Man is that despite his popularity, he wasn’t designed to be a very likable character.

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In an interview with Stan Lee for the Iron Man movie release on DVD, he admits he created Tony Stark as someone people would love to hate. Iron Man is a playboy billionaire who profits by selling weapons. Unlike Bruce Wayne, who serves as a masquerade for Batman to help people, Iron Man is just Tony’s way of securing his assets from government powers like SHIELD. No one’s going to use Stark technology without his consent or royalties.

Time To Stop Playing Karaoke

Did Stark sculpt the muscles?
Some of the suits look terrible.

Going back to basics might be a good idea for entertainment after so much absurdity, but it doesn’t work on characters like Iron Man. Because at his most basic, Tony Stark is a caricature of corporate profiteers. The guy builds more million dollar flying suits than he knows what to do with. In all honesty, with real billionaires regularly making the news, Tony the eccentric rich guy is irrelevant.

Billed as Back to Basics
Can’t get anymore basic than sales gimmicks.

Which is why Cantwell’s series goes out of its way to change course by the fourth issue. After acknowledging his self-pity and ego amid a mid-life crisis, Tony regains his confidence after seeing his friends, like Rhodey, in danger. When dealing with somebody as powerful and intelligent as Avengers enemy Korvac, it brings out a favorable Iron Man trait. Tony Stark has always been a futurist, which is something that drives him both as a scientist and as a tactician. It’s what allows him to stay ahead of opponents, even the ones he acknowledges are smarter than him… like one of his own suits.

Don’t Look Back Shellhead!

Going back to basics might work for characters and franchises that get too absurd for their own good. For characters like Iron Man… not so much. The Iron Man comics hit their highs by dealing with Cold War themes that eventually fade away. Besides, does anyone really want to see a recovering alcoholic going through addiction all over again? I certainly don’t.

What do you all think? Did Cantwell plan for this tackling of soft reboots, or was this just a quick realization?

Jake Palermo
Jake Palermo
Greeting panel readers, My name is Jake but I never replace anyone or anything; I merely follow and fill in the gaps. I write stories and articles that help people piece together anything that helps them understand subjects like culture, the people who write their favorite stories, and how it affects other people.