Is Iron Man Heroic?

All of us pay special attention to a superhero’s powers because, to put it simply, powers define them. This is what has happened ever since the release of Marvel’s latest (and final) Iron Man 3 trailer. There is a particularly awesome scene when Tony Stark calls in “backup,” which consists of a freaking army of Iron Man bots. It’s reasonable to say that a ton of excitement emanated (perhaps verbally) from each viewer upon seeing this scene. However, does this fleet of robots with potentially unlimited power make Iron Man more of a hero? I don’t think so.

When someone speaks about a hero, they talk about specific attributes such as bravery, selflessness, or personal sacrifice. The problem with having a ton of powers, however, is that powers tend to take these heroic characteristics away. Iron man is not really that brave anymore if his armor allows him to enter a battlefield without the threat of any sort of harm. His heroic deeds are even further dampened when copies of these invincible machines are mass produced to help him out. Heroes by nature try to overcome threats of danger. It’s difficult to say that an all powerful Iron Man does the same.

However, please understand that I am merely stating that the unrealistic excess of powers to be considered unheroic. When comic book characters like Iron Man become too powerful in comparison to their opponents/obstacles, the degree of their acts–the risk involved–becomes diminished. This is not to say that Iron Man is completely bad. In fact, I believe Tony Stark to be a real hero because he constantly tries to “overcome” things by finding ways to create and utilize the suits for good. In the trailer, when an emergency exit door explosion causes important U.S. personnel to be sucked out of Air Force One, Tony Stark is the person who decides which buttons to push in order to save the people. Stark is the decision-maker, the hero, and the suit is supposed to be nothing but his tool. The person behind the power is the real hero because he/she is the one deciding how to use that power for good.

This is the reason why every comic book character has a secret, more human identity. Human characters like Tony Stark are flawed physically and mentally, (unlike perfect God-like aliens, powerful robots, etc.) which gives them the opportunity to find ways to improve themselves and overcome their deepest obstacles. To relate this to the trailer, Tony Stark understands that at his current state, it is impossible for him to save all of the people who have fallen out of Air Force One, or to fight mano-y-mano with an extremely powerful enemy like the Mandarin. Stark must then find a way to push himself to his utmost limits by intelligently using his marvelous creation of a super-suit, or an army of them, in order to level the playing field with his opponents to surpass such dire situations.

If these powers are to become anything more than that, the characters will have nothing to struggle for and ultimately, they will have nothing to overcome. Fortunately, these characters–and hopefully Tony Stark in the upcoming movie–are not written to be so powerful. Every comic book hero is designed to be a person who, even in the face of despair, still tries to pick themselves back up. A redemptive quality such as this is what constitutes real heroism. Let’s hope Iron Man 3 depicts the same message.


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