Writing 101 Day Six: A character building experience

Who’s the most interesting person you’ve met this year?

Obviously, the true answer would be too personal for this blog, so I’m picking a fictional character, a superhero, the one with the most “character” flaws! I thought after I picked him, of picking a real life female artist discovery, but decided to go with this one anyway, because it’s irreverent. I’m picking the character Ironman, who is also known as Tony Starks. I also didn’t “meet” him this year. I saw the Ironman movies last year and probably maybe the year before or a few years ago. I remember when the first one came out, I had no interest in it, so I didn’t get excited about them til recently. Anyway, I’m writing about Ironman, as I can’t think of anyone else of interest that’s not too personal and I find him fascinating…

(Spoiler alert: lots of talk about these three movies, especially the last, Ironman 3 which is by far the best.) Note: Ironman 3 is just so kickass, it’s the best of the three, which in itself is pretty cool, as I don’t know any other movies where the third one is so great and the best. Despicable Me 2 is better than number 1, but it’s only number 2.

Tony Starks does not go through the “typical” transformation that other superheroes go through. He does not come from another planet like Superman and has no magical powers, beyond what he builds. He can’t fly without his Ironman suit. Unlike many others, even Batman, he wears human regular clothes all the time, even when in his Ironman suit. So he has no cape or spandex outfit like Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Robin, Cat woman, Supergirl, etc.

Unlike the other superheroes who are human, he does not have the typical inner conflict split or outside duality of concealing his superhero identity and acting like a human, the way Clark Kent is for Superman  (even though Superman isn’t human, Clark Kent is his “human” costume), and Batman has an alter human ego. So does Spiderman.

So I’ve said what Ironman isn’t. Now what is he instead? He’s a person, mortal, human, flawed, sarcastic, sometimes an asshole even, not such a great boyfriend, but he at least has the balls to just have a girlfriend instead of getting all conflicted about worrying that by being his girlfriend, she will be put in danger, which she is, especially in Ironman 3. He also does stuff other squeaky clean superheroes don’t do. He gets drunk at his own birthday party and acts like a jerk. He’s a bad drunk, a showoff and ignores his girlfriend. He flirts with other women. He develops a mental illness, Panic Disorder, by Ironman 3, and he isn’t nice and squishy sweet with kids (Ironman 3). He gets a kid to help him and doesn’t care that the kid has no dad and doesn’t try to be a dad figure. He treats the kid like an adult, asks him for stuff and doesn’t care that much about him at first. By the end he’s formed a pretty cool relationship with the boy, but on a real level, not like a typical superhero. He does “get” right away that the kid is bullied in school and uses it as a bargaining chip to get what he needs from him. He even gets the kid’s help when he’s in the middle of a panic attack.

The other great thing about Ironman, is that Tony is not like his dad. He knows a lot of science and math but he’s really almost an “artist”; he’s a “mechanic”, meaning at his heart and soul, he just needs to get “stuff” and build things with his hands. He has a fancy computer that helps him with stuff, but he can go to a hardware store and buy a bunch of stuff to rebuild an Ironman suit. He “tinkers”. He likes to use his hands and his brain. So no matter how sophisticated the computer equipment and gadgets, he can just take a bunch of “stuff” and get to work with his hands. I find that very compelling as a person who uses my hands to make stuff and no computer involvement. I like paper and pens, sewing by hand, using real materials. In Ironman 3, he is figuring out the coolest aspect of the suit, how to summon it from far away, so the different parts rush over to him and cover his body, which he puts to use in a grand exciting way at the end. But what is really endearing is that he can take over the kid’s garage with a few things and get going in the middle of nowhere.

He also doesn’t sleep enough and spends too much time “tinkering” and not enough time with his girlfriend Pepper Potts. Despite being a jerk, he wants to be a better person for her, and he has his moments of humility and his moments of really expressing how much he loves her. He also does silly things like give her silly gifts she has no interest in. The big bunny in Ironman 3 was so great, I really had a fantasy of wanting to be his girlfriend and get that gigantic blowup bunny in the driveway. I’d prefer to be more like the character Scarlett Johanson plays starting in the second movie. She speaks a lot of languages and holds her own with him, pretty much challenges him and is way smarter than him and could probably take him down with her martial arts talents in a minute.

It might just be that Robert Downey Jr. knows how to play this guy as a real person, someone you can relate to. I loved the moment at the end of Ironman 1, it’s the anti-superhero moment. He’s having a press conference where you expect him to bullshit about Ironman’s mysterious identity like Superman or the others would; they would never own up to their other identity. But just when the people in the know expect him to keep the cover up, he gets that mischevious look and announces with a lot of hutspa and the grandiosity of a five year old, “I am Ironman!”

There you have it. The anti- superhero. He can’t keep it secret; he likes the attention. He can be full of himself, but then he’s really sweet and way more thoughtgul than you’d imagine. His real cover up is his sort of don’t care asshole exterior, when at heart he is a sweet romantic, which comes out at the right moments.

The other thing I identify with is that he likes to work on his own. He’s not a “team player.” He may help others, but he prefers to work by himself. He doesn’t want a Robin, and he doesn’t want to be part of a team. He would never work at a newspaprer like Clark Kent. In the Avengers, when they are trying to recruit him to join the others, he initially right away says no to saving the world with the other Avengers, explaining, “I don’t play well with others.” Me too. I work in my studio by myself. I don’t have anyone help with my art or “assistants”, and I don’t partner up as an art therapist. I like being alone. I don’t like being in groups of more than a few people. He joins the Avengers anyway, but he deosnt’ work well with others and gets in the way a lot and makes himself a nuicaance but a useful one anyway. I confess I am very excited to see Avengers 2, really only because RDJ will be playing Ironman, probably for the last time. I hope they don’t make an Ironman 4 with someone else, because after the first 3, there just is nobody else who could really be this guy.

I could go on but you get the general idea. Ironman is a total original, an anti-superhero who still does good stuff and saves people, but on his terms with his mistakes and foibles, and with no cover ups or secrets. Sometimes it’s a good thing to not be able to keep secret who you are. He is Tony and Ironman and a mechanic who tinkers all at once. He is truly his own person…



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