PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Tomorrow Is a Thief: The Countdown to "Iron Man 3"

Splash Art: Promotional Poster for Iron Man 3 (a detail). Insert Art: Iron Man 3 teaser image and cover art to Invincible Iron Man #525.

With the soft reboot of Marvel Now!, and incoming director Shane Black, no longer share even the semblance of being connected, thematically at least if not by narrative. So what happens now?

There's no reason not to be excited about incoming Iron Man director, Shane Black. His trademark method of engaging the reading in his scripts ("EXT. Malibu Mansion. The Kind I'll live in if this movie hits it big", for example) belies the attitude of a veteran. There's a healthy, jocular irreverence for the institution, married with an underlying respect for the process. So there's already, some two weeks away, from Iron Man 3, a not unreasonable expectation that it will be a solid movie.

The question going into Iron Man 3 is not whether or not the movie will succeed at the box office (it's almost sure to), but what the movie will signal for Marvel storytelling both with its cinematic and comicbook universes. Neither would it be unfair to say that with Marvel's current run Iron Man the comicbook, and especially after Guardians of the Galaxy #1 that Disney now finds itself in the same conceptual territory that DC has with Time/Warner almost from the very beginning, with the release of 1989's Batman. A place where movies are as much singular creative visions as the landmark creative visions of star creators.

It's something of a rumor mill effect. Back in 1989, everyone knew Batman, or at least they thought that they did. But other than Frank Miller's (back then) recent reimagining of Batman as older and angrier, what landmark visions did fans and general audiences have available to them? Miller's auteur treatment of Batman in 1986's the Dark Knight Returns in a certain sense perhaps paved the way for general audience's acceptance of the idea that superheroes rely on auteurs to interpret them. The idea that every version of superhero, or at least every notable version, is as unique as a production of Shakespeare. Just as Branagh's Hamlet won't by any means be Jacobi's Hamlet, so too can Miller's Batman be wildly different from Burton's. Superheroes, like Shakespeare, would became something of rumor -- everyone knew of them, no one knew them well enough to disagree with the artistic vision of the auteur in question.

For the longest meanwhile, from Burton's original Batman all the way through to Chris Nolan's Batman Begins (well really through to the Dark Knight Rises), and including Marvel movies like Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy and Bryan Singer's X-Men and X2, the idea of superhero movies as reliant on auteurship persisted. Superheroes, at least superheroes on the silver-screen demanded a kind of singular vision if they were to succeed. This fact alone would more than likely would explain box offices crash-and-burn failures like Daredevil or Superman Returns.

In a sense then, the "tie-in" nature of Jon Favreau's Iron Man and Iron Man 2 with Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca's monthly Invincible Iron Man was something of an aberration, rather than the standard. Nobody came out and said it, but how could you believably deny that one creative vision plugged into the other? It wasn't only down to Sal Larroca's vivid rendering of Tony Stark and Pepper Potts and the rest of the cast. It was as much down to Matt Fraction's fluid characterization that made it seem as if Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow stepped off the screen. More than that even the corporate espionage that tied in with actual government-sanctioned black ops, the evocation of Iron Man as a means of social engineering, these and other thematic arcs tied the two projects, cinematic and comicbook, together. And like almost every episode of House all themes would eventually fall into orbit around the character of protagonist. And why not. Stan Lee took the writing of Tony Stark, an arms dealer, a misogynist and a drunk, almost on a dare. What redeeming qualities could Lee himself find that would make Stark likable?

With Shane Black, screenwriter on high-octane actioners like the Last Boy Scout and Lethal Weapon, and erstwhile director of Downey Jr. on Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, as incoming director, and Marvel's apparent thematic untethering of writer Kieron Gillen's monthly Iron Man from its cinematic universe, comics fans are left with a question of cultural relevance, but also one of cultural legitimacy. Is it important to recapture the interest of the mainstream?

Back in 1989, it would have been incredibly rare to expect to see a sales boost after Burton's Batman. Similarly today, Iron Man 3 is exactly that -- a really great summer blockbuster without much of a payday that kicks back to the comicbooks and collected editions. It certainly will be a change after the relaunch of Invincible Iron Man in 2007 which "tied in" almost day-to-date with Favreau's cinematic debut of the character. But the question remains, will fans want to reignite that popcultural mainstream relevance where moviegoers transition into becoming readers of the comicbook, or will they be satisfied with the ghosts of the '90s comicbook industry where microcelebrity and self-exclusion from the mainstream hold sway?

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.