Wednesday, July 13, 2016


"A famous man once said, "We create our own demons." Who said that? What does that even mean? Didn't matter. I said it 'cause he said it. So now, he was famous and it was basically said by two well-known guys. I don't... uhh... I'm gonna start again.

Tony Stark.
He's my absolute favorite superhero.

(Well, there is Matt Murdock, but we won't go there. See previous post.)

What I want to do for today's blog post is to outline a few things and showcase a recent art piece I did in light of Captain America: Civil War. The movie itself was AMAZING. It was HEARTBREAKING. But everyone survived, including me, thank goodness. My focus, though, is Tony Stark's character arc and his unique role in CW. I was really fascinated by the direction they took his character and I think it is important to highlight what is exactly is going on and where I see him heading from here.

Recently I rewatched all three Iron Man movies and it was really interesting how all the events shifted a little and revealed new aspects of themselves in light of Avengers 2 and Civil War. I still believe the three Iron Man movies were a complete arc in of themselves, but what they've done since then is fleshed out unfinished threads of Tony's character that I never noticed in my previous viewings. For example, the first Iron Man deals heavily with accountability, the very backbone of what the Accords is about in the CW: "I saw young Americans killed by the very weapons I created to defend them and protect them. And I saw that I had become part of a system that is comfortable with zero-accountability." Ever since his awakening in the caves, Tony has been struggling with this concept of accountability, and the conflict of that movie happened because of Tony's choice to rise up and stop the machinery of corruption his company had become in his carelessness.

Then we have Iron Man 2, of which we can say is just another variation of Civil War, I would call it a mini-Civil War, as Tony and Rhodes were temporarily pitted against each other for very similar reasons that Steve and Tony were against each other over the Accords. In this, the American military finds it a threat that Tony has sole possession of the suit technology, as they believe there will be dangers (due to the creation of said technology) that Tony alone won't be able to handle. Just as the Accords was about the Avengers being monitored and controlled by a government body (Tony did compare the Avengers to weapons of mass destruction on a couple of occasions in CW, if you remember), so in Iron Man 2, the US government desired to control and monitor Tony's suit, of which Tony only glibly responds, "I have successfully privatized world peace."

It is the same concept. Tony desired to have free possession of his own property, just as Steve desired to have his freedom to make the calls as he saw fit. Then we see in the conclusion of the conflict in Iron Man 2, due to Tony's completely irresponsible behavior, has Rhodes having no choice but to confiscate the suit on the behalf of the military, just as Tony Stark, due to Steve not submitting to the Accords, found himself having no choice but to see his friends locked up in jail!  
I'm not making any moral statements here, just outlining how Tony Stark's story has been building all along towards the conflict of Civil War and why we now see him on the opposition of our heroes. Accountability is a big theme in Tony Stark's story and it goes hand in hand with his legacy, the primary foundation of his character, driving all his motivations even when they go against his own better judgment or desires; and intrinsically connected to these themes is Tony's own nature. This is the main reason why I love Tony Stark so much, because unlike the other superheroes, who, although are dealing with their issues on varying degrees, always have villainous individuals as their main conflicts; Tony's greatest villain is himself. True, in any superhero movie you need some baddies to fight for there to be explosions and stuff, but the real point of conflict here is Tony vs Tony and I find that much more fascinating! Iron Man showed a changed Tony fighting the consequences of his wantonness and carelessness which allowed Obadiah to run amok without restraint. Iron Man 2 showed Tony at odds with his arrogance and pride which made him an easy target for Hammer and Vanko; Vanko, who ended up creating the exact same technology as the Iron Man suit despite Tony's egotistical assurance that no one could. Then Iron Man 3 brought all of this to its head by showing us plainly how Tony Stark "creates his own demons," where through a drunken night stand and a cruel brushing aside, became the catalyst for the creation of Extremis and The Mandarin.

Many people have criticized Iron Man 3 because of its villain reveal, but Tony's conflicts always lead back to him. It is the crux of what his character story is all about! So, going from Iron Man 3 where Tony Stark inadvertently creates his own demons, to Avengers 2 where Tony literally creates his own demons with Ultron, we see how events are just becoming bigger and bigger manifestations of what has been happening with Tony the whole time; so that, in Civil War, fueled by all this guilt, Tony, once again, creates even more demons, but this time amongst people whom he has called his friends! Now here is where things are getting pretty dark for Tony. Through this self-destructive cycle, he is now straddling villain territory! Say what you will about the Accords, Tony Stark's decisions are looking eerily like a villain's. He keeps Wanda imprisoned, basically, for what he deems as for her or other's "good." He manipulates a sixteen year old into fighting for him without question. He stands by as all his friends are considered criminals and aids in their imprisonment. As actor Tom Hiddleston said "Every villain is a hero in his own mind.” Tony Stark thinks he is doing the right thing, pursuing accountability, and assuaging his guilt, but he is really just falling further and further into darkness and isolation, as Civil War finds Tony alienated from pretty much everyone by the end of it, even Pepper (SOB!). Tony Stark is falling apart at the seams like one of his iron man suits! However, there is still hope. Steve did send him his love letter, Rhodey is still by his side, and there is Peter Parker, whom I really believe will be the final and lasting redemption for Tony Stark in the end. 

You see, the Iron Man suit takes on duel symbolism in all of this. There is the part I've been talking about, the accountability, his legacy, and self-destruction, all wrapped up into the suit as it represents what Tony Stark can do and has done, the only thing he knows how to do: he "tinkers". Yet for all his tinkering he only has continually made things worse for himself, making bigger and bigger monsters to defeat. However, there is the other aspect of the suit, where it represents his salvation and transformation, but there is a catch! The only time Tony's "tinkering" became a means of redemption is when others were involved. Tony's life was saved by Yinsen's work in the cave, not his own. Yinsen was the one who put the arc reactor in his body and gave him the inspiration and the means to carry on. In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark was literally going to go out of the world through drunkenness and donuts, telling no one about it! Yet through Nick Fury and Natasha's intervention and the love of his father, Tony Stark was able to find the means of his salvation once again. In Iron Man 3, overcome by anxiety and PTSD, Stark is only able to find the means to save the day with the help a young boy, Harley, and perhaps even that crazed fanboy guy in the van! Even at the very end, it is Pepper who delivers the final killing blow to Killian, not Tony. Of course, we cannot say enough of all that Pepper has done for him and means to him, Rhodey too. Tony Stark only succeeds when he allows others in.

Now we see the road block in Tony's psyche that keeps him on this self-destructive path: he tries to do everything alone. I love the imagery in both Iron Man 2 and in Captain America:Civil War, where both have opening scenes of Tony Stark going out on stage and presenting one face to the world, but then showing us quite a different Tony backstage. It is such a nice visual element that represents all that he is. It is the Tony Stark who, when asked in CW by Natasha "You alright?" answers "Always." We see time and time again, Tony Stark pushing away his friends, those who love him and care for him, as he isolates himself in his room of toys and ego. It only makes sense, then, that in order for Tony Stark to break free of his own nature, he will need the humbling help of another. I'm pretty sure this is what we are going to see in Spiderman Homecoming! Or at least the beginnings of it. I could do a whole other post about how Tony Stark seems to develop these relationships with young people more easily and what the could mean in regards to his relationship with his father! I only briefly mentioned Tony's legacy being the primary part of his character, and that is directly related to Howard Stark. For now, this post is already getting too long! Maybe next time. Tony Stark is a pretty complex guy.

I now give you my art piece which is my thinking about all these themes and ideas!

It was intentional that I chose to emulate Rembrandt for this piece. I love Rembrandt's work; his dramatic use of light, the hushed, somber ambiance, the warm, intimate tones, and I wanted to create that same feeling here. The shadowy, enclosed atmosphere with the light and color limited only on Tony shows how isolated and alone he has made himself. It calls to mind a low burning candle about to be snuffed out. It is introspective and morose, as Tony contemplates all that he has become. I have him enmeshed in wires, clinging to him, as if he is being held captive there. The demon-like, broken down robots hanging in the corner further emphasizes the self-destructive nature that has laid hold of him and is always waiting there in the deepest parts, ready to undo him. There is, of course, the cracked shield, which represents that this will be his legacy if he keeps going down this same route: broken friendships and loss. I also purposefully made his Iron Man suit blend in and become a part of him, as if it were showing his muscles and sinews. I prefer drawing his suit this way, showing how he and the suit are one, and all the symbolism that comes with that idea; except in this case, it is breaking off and showing his vulnerabilities and wounds. It is a depressing piece, but it is where we find our hero. I thought I would end this analysis by posting some lyrics from a song that plays during Iron Man. I think it perfectly encapsulates everything I've been discussing here and the reasoning behind my art piece.
Thank you for reading!

"Sometimes I try to do things and it just doesn't work out the way I wanted to. 
I get real frustrated and I try hard to do it and I take my time 
and it doesn't work out the way I wanted to. 
It's like I concentrate real hard and it doesn't work out. 
Everything I do and everything I try never turns out. 
It's like I need time to figure these things out. 
But there's always someone there going. 
Hey Mike: 
You know we've been noticing you've been having a lot of problems lately. 
You know, maybe you should get away and maybe you should talk about it, maybe you'll feel a lot better 
And I go: 
No it's okay, you know I'll figure it out, just leave me alone I'll figure it out. 
You know I'll just work by myself. 
And they go: 
Well you know if you want to talk about it I'll be here you know and you'll probably feel a lot better if you talk about it. 
And I go: 
No I don't want to I'm okay, I'll figure it out myself and they just keep bugging me and they just keep bugging me and it builds up inside and it builds up inside..."  
- Institutionalized by Suicide Tendencies.
Played the first time we are introduced to Tony Stark in his element! 

He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11