Originally published in Matrix 187 on 14.03.2008
- "Bruce Wayne’s first name came from Robert Bruce, the Scottish patriot. Wayne, being a playboy, was a man of gentry. I searched for a name that would suggest colonialism. I tried Adams, Hancock … then I thought of Mad Anthony Wayne" – Bill Finger
- "Howard Hughes was one of the most colorful men of our time. He was an inventor, an adventurer, a multi-billionaire, a ladies’ man and finally a nutcase." Iron Man’s inspiration according to Stan Lee
Two superheroes that have quite a bit in common (except their publishing stables) and who have no real super powers at all. They weren’t bitten by a nuked creature or blighted with some deforming mutation, nor do they come from another planet; they are just men. Intelligent men, who have used their ingenuity to devise methods for gaining abilities beyond the norm, but they remain just men.
There are many iconic comic heroes, but surely the coolest of them all is Batman. Bruce Wayne, the caped detective who has solved countless crimes and created the odd monster that he himself has had to tame. Marvel have their own flawed human, although he has created a carapace to aid him in his battles against evil-doers and criminals. As Iron Man, Tony Stark also seeks to right many wrongs.
Artwork by Frank Wu
These two characters were born in different ages of the comics’ industry, with twenty years separating them. Though not immediately obvious, the similarities become more apparent the closer you look. It’s fair to say that there are limits to what can be done within the superhero genre, but, even so, the parallels between these two characters are astounding at times.
Both are multi millionaires or billionaires, depending on the author, with huge industrial empires. This provides them with the independence and funding for their endeavours and gives them the space they need to pursue the life of a superhero, while also providing them with the technology and tools to fight their battles. They both have trusted butlers, who are much more than mere butlers, each providing a sounding board, a conscience and, at times, a voice of reason as well as friendship.
Their entry into the superhero world requires them to have been traumatised in quite horrific ways.
Tony Stark was mortally wounded in Vietnam. While investigating how his technology might aid the American war against communism, he was injured and captured by Communists. With his heart damaged, he was forced to create a metal breastplate to protect and sustain it, and this is the genesis of the armoured weapons-suit packed with gadgets.
Iron Man’s first issue is really quite smart and is an interesting introduction to a new superhero. He first appeared in Tales of Suspense, issue 39, in 1963, which was a mystery anthology, and when Marvel were on the rise with superheroes once again popular after briefly going out of favour. The resurrected Captain America was also published in Tales of Suspense, and this was the period during which when Marvel went from being a small operation to their current position of prominence.
Stark went on to have his own title, Iron Man, which was released in 1968. He pretended that Iron Man was his body guard rather than admitting his secret identity.
For his traumatic origin, Bruce Wayne witnessed the murder of his parents