What Stan Lee Meant To A DC Fanboy.

The pop culture world has been mourning the loss of Stan Lee this last week after he passed away on Monday at the age of 95. The internet is still flooded with social media posts paying their digital respects to the man who will be remembered for co-creating some of the most iconic comic book characters ever to exist. Stan’s influence had an immeasurable impact on my life as well, and I wanted to write about that briefly.

Avengers #1. Art by Jack Kirby.

I definitely read plenty of comics as a kid, but some of my earliest memories interacting with the Marvel Universe are actually from watching two of the most legendary cartoons of the 90’s: Spider-Man and X-Men. Cartoons like these played a key role in getting me hooked into comics and cultivating a love of art in general. I remember buying several books over the years from school book fairs that detailed how to draw the Marvel characters, and for a long time I even considered becoming a cartoonist or comic book artist.

The X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons of the 90s were the best.

If you were unfortunate to have missed these animated gems growing up, the animation in both were top quality while also doing a fantastic job of capturing the essence of the comics. Both shows had memorable opening themes as well, with music that screamed 90s. Once either of these two shows started, nothing else mattered until the episode was over.

Do yourself a favor and check out the opening titles to both Spider-Man and X-Men.

Honestly, whenever forced to choose I’ve always leaned more to the DC Universe. My parents named me after Superman actor Christopher Reeve (a tale for another day), which naturally made me gravitate to that side of the superhero aisle. That being said, I wholeheartedly believe there is enough geek love to go around for both companies’ cast of characters.

Marvel and DC have always offered 2 sides of the same coin for me, allowing me to jump back and forth depending on what kind of story I’m in the mood for. And who was the person responsible for differentiating Marvel from the rest of the superheroes at the time? In large part it was Stan Lee of course.

The DC Universe roster has been around longer and excels at telling entertaining stories that provide an escape from reality. These heroes live more in the realm of fantasy and mythology as the universe is crowded with super powered beings from other planets who always do the right thing to protect their imaginary cities from the forces of evil. They are truly larger than life.

Stan saw this even back in the 60’s and decided to tell his stories from a different angle. He created characters along side legendary artists Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others who at their core were every day humans, based in real cities, dealing not just with bad guys wanting to wreck everything but their own real life dilemas as well.

This famous panel drawn by Steve Ditko was paid homage in Spiderman: Homecoming.

This artwork from iconic artist Steve Ditko was paid homage in Spiderman: Homecoming.

The Marvel characters don’t just provide entertaining escapism, they also resonate with readers. They’re not just tireless do-gooders who always do the right thing. They make mistakes. They fail. They give us hope that it’s possible to do great things while also struggling with every day life. I’m not saying these qualities are completely absent from the DC Universe; only that Stan set up Marvel to consistently do a far better job.

The X-men constantly face prejudice and racism from a world that doesn’t understand their mutant abilities. Tony Stark is his own worst enemy with a monster size ego and inner demons of alcoholism. Mathew Murdock, a nobody from Hell’s Kitchen, turned his crippling disability into one of his greatest strengths as a hero. Peter Parker is constantly forced to juggle the pressures of his personal life with crime fighting. The list could go on for pages.

The immense success of the Marvel movies over the past decade is also proof of how much these characters resonate with the world. I was 23 years old when Iron-Man released and now at 33, married, and a baby on the way the franchise is 20 movies in and still going strong. I, like so many others have been to every single opening weekend, and have collected each film as it came out on DVD/Blu ray. I absolutely love and am fascinated with how these movies all contect together and reference each other as every iteration builds the universe just a little deeper, just like issues of comic books.

President of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige deserves a large amount of credit for crafting films that appeal to the masses, but the heart of the these characters wouldnt exist without Stan. Honestly, seeing Stan’s cameo in every single film is also part of the experience that will sadly end after his last cameo in the upcoming Avengers 4.

Despite all of this, I don’t find myself overly saddened thinking about Stan’s passing. He had a long and fulfilling life, and is now at rest after accomplishing more with his life than most ever think is possible. He has inspired countless artists and creators to leave their mark on the world and will continue to do so as future generations experience his universe for the first time.

My wife and I meeting Stan at Awesome Con.

I’m beyond grateful to have met Stan a year or so ago at Awesome Con in DC, but as incredible an experience as it was, I was surprised at how little he resembled the comic book rockstar from my childhood. He kept reminding me of someone’s grandfather that should probably just be at home, resting. I think it was in that moment that I knew and accepted this marvelous man (see what I did there) wouldnt be with us much longer.

However, this is not how he will be remembered. He will be remembered for all the things previously mentioned in this post; as the man that revolutionized not just comics but art, TV, and film as well. He will be remembered for his bombastic story telling, a knack for alliteration, and his trademark sunglasses and mustache.

Never fear true believers. Though he is no longer among us, his legacy on pop culture will continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Excelsior.

Road to Avengers: Infinity War #1: Iron-Man

I’m starting an ongoing series I’m calling: “The Road to Avengers: Infinity War.” These posts will be for anyone who wants to make sure they are fully caught up for Avengers: Infinity War, but maybe don’t have time to watch 18 movies before May. Think of these posts as cliff notes for Marvel movies. I’m going in chronological order of film release, starting with 2008’s Iron-Man and going all the way through the upcoming Black Panther. With any luck I’ll finish in time.

For my full MCU viewing guide, click here.

Let’s get started!

Iron-Man (2008)

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Tony Stark is the billionaire, genius CEO of Stark Industries; a weapons development and manufacturing company inherited from his dad after both parents died in a car accident. Most of the tech at Stark Industries is developed by Tony himself; having graduated from MIT around age 18 at the top of his class.

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  • Tony lives the playboy lifestyle, and has some very destructive habits including (but not limited to) drinking, gambling, and women.

Important Characters Introduced

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Colonel James Rhodes (“Rhodey”): head of Weapons Development for the US Air Force. Actor Terrence Howard plays him only in the first film before being replaced by Don Cheadle. Rhody will eventually get his own suit called War Machine and join the Avengers.

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Obadiah Stane is a family friend and second in command at Stark Industries. Stane is the closest Tony has to a father figure until he turns against him.

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Pepper Potts is Tony’s loyal personal assistant who handles all of his day-to-day needs. She also becomes Tony’s love-interest.

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Happy Hogan is Tony’s chauffeur and will later become his security detail, or as Tony likes to joke “forehead of security.”

Yinsen is imprisoned along with Stark, from a nearby town. Yinsen has some degree of medical/technical training and is highly intelligent as he speaks several languages and not only saves Tony’s life but also helps him build the first Iron-Man suit.

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JARVIS is the audible AI that runs Tony’s house. Once he has perfected his Iron-Man suit, Tony uploads JARVIS to the interface, who going forward assists Tony in the operation of the suit, especially in combat.

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Agent Coulson works for SHIELD, a secret government group that we learn in later movies, tracks individuals with special abilities and powers.

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Nick Fury (after credits scene): Director of SHIELD. He is the mastermind behind the “Avengers Initiative.”

A Change of Heart

  • During a trip to the Middle East to demonstrate his latest weapons to the military, Tony is captured by a terrorist group known as The Ten Rings.
  • Tony is gravely injured during his capture, when he learns the hard way that the terrorists somehow are using his own weapons. A Stark Industries missile lands and explodes nearby, sending shrapnel tearing into his chest. He passes out and is captured.

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  • When Tony comes to, he’s in a cave with a fellow prisoner, Yinsen who informs Tony that he was the one who worked to keep Tony alive. Despite his efforts, however there was shrapnel that could not be removed without killing him.
  • Yinsen was forced to attach an electro-magnet to his chest to keep the shrapnel from entering his heart and killing him. The two get to know each other during their capture and become friends. Yinsen’s words of wisdom also make Tony realize that with all of his accomplishments in life, he has nothing to show for it.

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  • After learning the terrorists will kill them both unless Tony builds one of his new prototype missiles, he decides instead to build the first crude version of the Iron-Man suit out of the materials available in order to escape.

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  • He also builds a device called a miniaturized “arc reactor:” a smaller version of a power source technology Stark created for his plant. He replaces the magnet on his chest with this device, which will keep the shrapnel from moving without needing to be hooked to a car battery as a power source (often refered to as his “chest piece”).
  • During their escape, Yinsen is mortally wounded. He tells Tony with his last words; “Don’t waste your life.” Tony escapes by revealing his suit is capable of flight, however he doesn’t make it far before the suit stops working and he crashes in the sand. He walks the desert for an amount of time until a military search party led by his friend, Rhodey finds and rescues him.

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Home Again: A New Direction

  • Returning home, Tony has indeed had a change of heart. He decides to stop making weapons and to focus instead on his prototype “arc reactor” technology as a possible source for renewable clean energy. Obadiah Stane is troubled by the decision.
  • Tony also gives up some of his bad habits and grows closer with his assistant Pepper, realizing that she has stood by him for years when most refused. They both begin to have feelings for each other, but are unsure about showing it.
  • Secretly, Stark begins a series of experiments, perfecting his Iron-Man suit idea (which is also powered by his chest piece). iron-man-bootsf658ac656650242638ca09a2890f54ad_MTonyReturnsHome-IM2

A Shocking Discovery

  • Tony attends a fundraiser ball and is informed that Obadiah Stane has been approving the sale of Stark Industries weapons to terrorist groups. Stark decides to use his upgraded suit to find those weapons and destroy them: starting with a group of The Ten Rings who have attacked Yinsen’s hometown with Stark weapons.

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  • Rhodey discovers what Tony has been up to when the Air Force picks up Iron-Man on radar in a no-fly zone and sends in two fighter jets to intercept.

  • Pepper discovers more of Stane’s dirty dealings: that he also paid The Ten Rings to capture and kill Tony in order to gain control of Stark Industries. When she is sent to the office by Tony to retrieve shipping manifests from the company’s database, she stumbles onto the secret files revealing everything.
  • Stane travels to the Middle East to meet with the leader of The Ten Rings, learns how Tony escaped, kills the leader of the group and his men, and steals the remnants of the “Mark I” suit left after Tony crashed. He has Stark Industries scientists build a much larger version (known as Iron Monger in comics).ku-xlarge.jpg
  • After his team is unable to figure out how to miniaturize the arc reactor tech as Tony had, Stane goes to Tony’s home, uses a device on Tony that temporarily causes paralysis and steals Tony’s chest piece, leaving him to die. Stane also admits to paying to have him killed so he could take over Stark Industries.tony-stark
  • Pepper meets with Agent Coulson from the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement Logistics Division (SHIELD), who has been trying to meet with Tony in order to debrief him on the events surrounding his escape. Pepper fills Coulson in on everything and they return to Stark Industries to confront Stane. However, Stane has already activated his suit and rampages out of the building.

The Ultimate Test Run

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  • Tony luckily still has an outdated version of his chest piece. He puts it in and flies over to fight Stane. Tony, who has already told him about his Iron-Man suit, asks Rhodey to keep the skies clear long enough for him to take out Stane.

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  • Tony fights Stane, but is easily outmatched by the much larger suit and his outdated chest piece; quickly running out of power.
  • The fight ends when Tony lures Stane to the top of Stark Industries and has Pepper overload the arc reactor below. This sends a massive energy blast up through the roof. Stane falls through the roof and dies in a massive explosion. Tony barely survives.

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  • A few days later, Tony holds a press conference to try to keep the situation contained. Agent Coulson gives him an alibi to keep it a secret that he was the one in the suit as the press has suspected and even called him the “Iron-Man.”
  • Pepper thanks Agent Coulson who says they will be hearing from SHIELD again.
  • Stark begins the press conference and starts to read the cards, however half way through Tony changes his mind, and the movie ends with Tony telling the audience, “The truth is…I am Iron-Man.”

After Credits Scene

  • (After Credits Scene) Tony returns home after the press conference to discover someone has broken into his house and deactivated JARVIS. The man reveals that he is Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD, and that he’s there to talk to him about the “Avengers Initiative.” Cuts to black.nick fury iron man

The next post will be 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. That will be an extremely short post, as it isn’t a great movie and provides very little needed info going forward in the MCU.