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Saturday, October 23, 2021 

Does the wider public really know Tony Stark is Iron Man, and did geeks really win out?

Artist Will Sliney was interviewed by the Irish Examiner, discussing his career at Marvel, and some forays into TV programs, and he unsurprisingly boasts about how all his favorite superheroes have become mainstream, despite the uncertainty the wider public actually knows much of anything about them:
"It’s amazing to me now that they’re so mainstream and everybody knows all the characters from the movies, you know. It certainly wasn’t like that back when I was younger. But yeah, it’s great to see.”

I remind him that he had previously commented that everybody’s granny now knows that Tony Stark is Iron Man. It’s not even 15 years since that was a really niche, arcane piece of knowledge, but now the geeks have inherited the Earth. That first Iron Man film debuted in 2008, the same year the then 25-year-old Sliney did his first work as a professional comic artist.

“Ah look, when I started my job,” he says, “nobody knew what it was, and they certainly wouldn’t have known what Marvel was. It’s amazing now.”
Is it really? And have geeks actually won over the crowds? It's disputable whether you actually hear everybody confirming they know Tony holds the Shell-head identity (or Jim Rhodes that of War Machine), but most importantly, whether or not they do, have they bought the newer comics in the years since the movies came out? Judging by sales receipts, the best answer to that query is "no". But Sliney, in all his virtue-signaling, won't get into that matter. Also, let's consider the hostility from the past to the Comicsgate campaign (and Gamergate), for example. If you have far-left entities hell-bent on villifying purists who're trying to defend the integrity of their favorite superhero franchises and other creations, and that includes the Spider-Man marriage to Mary Jane Watson, you can't say geeks inherited anything, so much as ideologues did. So what's the interviewer's point any more than Sliney's? No questions are even asked about what anybody could think of Kieron Gillen's retconning Tony Stark away from biological connection to his parents nearly a decade ago either. Do any moviegoers know about that, and what do they think? The question is unanswered by this interview.

Sliney did say the following, however:
As we finish our telephone conversation, I can’t resist the urge to ask a nerdy Marvel question, so I ask if the movies have influenced the Marvel Comics universe which inspired them. He considers the question, and says it’s obviously more often the other way around.

“The Marvel movies are so good because they have so many comics stories to be able to find the characters and stories that they like and turn them into movies.

“That’s not to say that if the movies do something that looks great, or feels great, that that doesn't then influence us, the writers and the artists, but it’s definitely more the other way around.” I ask whether Tony Stark in the comics has started resembling Robert Downey Jr, and he replies that artists are “not allowed to do that”. I mention the case of Nick Fury, originally a grizzled white World War II veteran, being “recast” as Samuel L Jackson in Marvel’s Ultimates comic, years before the actor was in real life cast in that very role.

“Yeah, that was a little bit of a strange one, and it probably shouldn’t have happened, I believe, but that’s the reason why Sam got the job, so it worked out okay, but that we haven’t really been allowed to do anything like that since.”
Back at the time the Ultimate universe did this, it may not have been considered a big deal to write up a race-swap, if only because it was an alternate dimension where they did this. But today, contrary to what Sliney claims, race/gender/sexual preference-swapping has become the norm, and was already being practiced by DC as well, as the black Firestorm, Asian Atom and Latino Blue Beetle in the mid-2000s should make clear. And their ascension to roles originally taken by whites was particularly contrived and forced, coming as it did after Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis. So why's Sliney being otherwise inaccurate?

And he's not entirely right that the movies haven't influenced the comics more, and in some cases, for the worse, recalling an early example being when the X-Men's costumes were changed to resemble the silver screen outfits for at least 3 years, and what good did that do? It didn't keep Grant Morrison's take on the characters from being alienatingly sleazy, and basically dull. Sometimes, the movie costume designs have influenced what's seen in the comics of the past decade too, recalling this may have been the case with Wonder Woman's as well. But IMO, some of them look like little more than party costumes you could see at conventions. And some of them even look awfully like plastic. It's just not doing any good for comicdom, I'm afraid. Yet it is pretty surprising Sliney would say that race-swapping Nick Fury probably shouldn't have happened, but he should've reserved it much more for a lot of the social justice propaganda that's come down the lane since, and is so politically influenced, it's ruined many of the franchises he's supposedly a fan of. To say they haven't been able to do something like change Nick's racial background since the Ultimates is missing the larger picture.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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