Iron Man And Philsophy edited by Mark D. White (book review).

I should point out from the start that ‘Iron Man And Philosophy’ was released in 2012’ so that the events in ‘Iron Man 3’ won’t have any bearing in the contents. This is important to note because several of the philosophers use the first two films as the launch points for their topics. It’s also good because I won’t be seeing the third film until its release on DVD and won’t have any bearing on my reading.


Much of all their analysis centres on what kind of man is Tony Stark and where does he stop and Iron Man begins. After all, it’s only his armour which makes him different to anyone else. From the comicbook perspective, there is the examination of his alcoholism and how much of a control freak he is as well as keeping control of who has access to his technology. There are some comparisons to Henry Pym and Reed Richards on the intellectual level and I hope the editors consider giving the multiple personality Pym this kind of examination some time. At the very least, so too should Victor Von Doom but let’s focus on Anthony Stark, a former good drinking buddy when he used to party who is sused to getting what he wants when he wants it.

I think a common misconception with Tony Stark is that after he had the bomb shard in his chest and created the Iron Man armour that he went back to his former life. Considering that he was effectively wearing the chest-plate and breeches all the time ever since until the late 70s when he elected to have a heart transplant in the comicbooks, his womanising never got as far as bedding them. In fact, I recall several tales where he made his excuses and went home alone. Mind you, I was always surprised that any woman he danced with didn’t feel the armour plate under his tux and realise something was different. These days, he’d probably say it was body armour but not surprised in the films, they got the device itself shrunk small from the beginning.

If womanising was out, it’s no wonder that he devoted all his energies into being a super-hero. As there is so much analysis about Stark’s social life, it does seem odd that none of the philosophers recognised that difference. Even with the film, having a lit piece of hardware embedded in your chest might be seen as a giveaway than the equivalent of an ear-ring. Stark could have made an additional fortune by selling on that idea.

Then again, no one seems to have addressed the problem that as Stark often declared that he had Iron Man as a bodyguard that they were never seen at the same time or, indeed, open to any possible candidates as to who was in the armour. The two obvious ones, Happy Hogan and when later Jim Rhodes was introduced were seen when Iron Man was in action so weren’t prime candidates. Was Iron Man waiting nearby to spring into action whenhis employer was in trouble? Any journalist should have picked up on who Iron Man was from an early age but then, like a lot of things in early super-hero comicbooks, such things weren’t really supposed to have been picked up upon.

In many respects, of all the Marvel super-heroes, in his civilian identity, Tony Stark had the highest profile and was as well-known as his armoured alter-ego. The likes of the Fantastic Four didn’t really have alter-egos. You look at the other Avengers and without their super-hero appearances, were all effectively people who could walk down the street as nobodies. Muscular nobodies perhaps. Tony Stark was someone from the start and yet none of these philosophers, who have written about super-heroes make that distinction or even made that comparison to DC Earth where many of the super-heroes were also wealthy and known and needed that disguise. As such, with that kind of celebrity, he was bound to be amongst the jet set and all that entails, even when he didn’t partake in all of its pleasures any more. With his dodgy heart and a need to keep his Iron Man identity secret, he played both sides differently so hardly surprising that he would become an alcoholic without realising it until too late as it was the only vice still open to him.

Much of this book does cover aspects of Stark as the control freak, hardly surprising as he was instrumental in creating The Avengers and supplying the technology to S.H.I.E.L.D.. It was equally hardly surprising that he would attack aggressively any of the people who had the stolen technology in their own weaponry. A lot of the time with this book, where they got it right, I rarely disagreed with them. Many of the vices discussed would be the same for most people whether they had armour or not. I was concerned as to whether or not they would have covered Iron Man losing control of his repulsor and killing the ambassador back in Iron Man Vol. 1 # 124-125 but one of the philosophers did note the event.

Tony Stark is a flawed individual but, then, so are a most Marvel super-heroes and villains. It comes with the Stan Lee territory. If anything, it makes Stark more like us than other heroes as he is nether super-human nor mutant. His ability is in creating technology that can equal either sort. Staying one step ahead is what makes him formidable. Hardly surprising then that his vices get or got the better of him from time to time. Of all the Marvel super-heroes, he is more like us than not. The fact that he is extremely wealthy is a product of his talent. If we lived in his world where the super-powerful lived, wouldn’t we want to be like him? I doubt if we would ever see his dark side. I was going to give a round of drinks to salute the Iron Man, Tony Stark but as he should be tee-total, make that lemonade, ice optional.

GF Willmetts

(pub: Wiley-Blackwell. 280 page indexed enlarged paperback. Price: £11.99), $17.95 (US), $ 21.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-470-48218-6)

check out website: www.wiley.com/wiley-blackwell


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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