Overanalysis Theatre: Why Iron Man Is Earth’s Mightiest Hero

It’s my job to talk about how Iron Man could beat Batman, I got paid to rewrite his armor’s operating system, and of course I still come up with things far too nerdy and self-indulgent to sell anywhere else. Welcome to somewhere that isn’t anywhere else!

Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes explored the Avengers’ relationship, and they put Tony Stark front and center with a giant Stark penis towering over the rest of the group.

Subtlety is for people who can't punch tanks.

Subtlety is for people who can’t punch tanks.

EMH was a fast and funny cartoon which understood that the most important aspect of any supergroup was how they bounced off each other while pounding out the villain of the week. Hawkeye smirking at all these damn supes, Black Panther Bat-humiliating anyone who comes near him by sheer capability, Tony grimacing at all the expensive explosions – not because he’s mean, but because all this stuff actually costs money and he’s the one providing it – every interaction is entertaining and informative at the same time, aka perfect characterization. Because super-hierarchies have nothing to do superpowers. Characters are promoted by Fables-style meta-power, where the most beloved character in our world is the most dominant in theirs. This cartoon came out around Iron Man 2, which means Tony could have taken out the rest of the Avengers with one hand tied behind his back and holding an exploding EMP grenade.

His superiority comes across excellently in an opening sequence which is a masterclass of how opening sequences should go.

I now know who everyone in that team is, what they can do, and how awesome the next twenty-four minutes of them doing it is going to be. Where the other heroes are introduced raging out and kicking ass, you see Stark staring out his high-rise window at the massive mechanized alien invasion of the world, as if to go “Seriously, I have to sort this out now? I had a schedule.”

"Pepper, reschedule my meeting with Hammer Industries for when they're not on fire."

“Pepper, reschedule my meeting with Hammer Industries for when they’re not on fire.”

My favorite aspect of this is probably unintentional. It’s based on the nice touch is how they includes the creator credits layer in the depth of the picture, instead of overlaid on top. And shots of all the other heroes are linked by Stark Minority Reporting it up in his cyber-information-space, swiping and pushing screens of data around. But he doesn’t just move the heroes: his swipes shift the production credits too, unconsciously raising mastermind Stark another layer up in the organization, implying he’s in control of the cartoon, not just the characters.

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 10.22.00

Then there’s the glorious escalation of the final twenty seconds: Captain America’s shield saving Tony from a robot he didn’t see (because salvation is Cap’s gig), Tony repulsoring some, Hulk hoisting one above everything, Ant Man immensifying to stomp one from even higher, a giant robot raising above even him, then a moment’s pause before the sky itself crashes down in a cross-cut from Thor – then Tony swooping down from higher again to land front and center of the logo, because he’s goddamn Iron Man and he makes the most money.

Seriously, everyone, that’s how you do an intro sequence. It explains more character in a minute than some shows manage in a season. (Watch it again and see how Thor takes off at the start of that escalation sequence to get into position for later.)

An even better example is the “Emperor Stark” episode. The Purple Man can only mind control people at short distances, so how can he take over the world? He takes over Tony Stark. That’s all! He convinces Iron Man to take over the world and within a month it’s done. No doomsday threats, no armed insurrection, Tony Stark decided to run over the world and in under 30 days he’d convinced the UN and world governments to let him, and everyone loved it. The first villain to successfully take over the world did it by realising Tony Stark was the best!

He could have controlled all the Avengers, decided he didn't need to, and was right.

He could have controlled all the Avengers, decided he didn’t need to, and was right.

The only problem with that episode was how they quickly they hit the reset button at the end, with Tony abashedly handing the globe back after punching the Purple Man into submission. You sure about that, Tony? You don’t want to maybe make a few changes first, up the budgets for education, emergency aid, toxic waste plant safety railings, quickly and easily pacify those fictional countries full of super-terrorists who keep waving diplomatic immunity at you?

They also had Tony in charge of the Avengers instead of Captain America in a way which made senses. It showed off that their differences in expertise weren’t just tactical versus technical, but tactical versus strategic. The closest Captain America comes to long-term planning is using binoculars to find the greatest concentration of Nazis and then charging at it. CEO Stark’s background is half inventing things, half dominating a global arena. The Captain needs to know tactics because he’s used to leading people who fall over when they get shot – a factor which no longer applies. Tony sucks at battlefield tactics because turning up in an invulnerable suit renders them irrelevant (remember how the Captain had to save him from the giant robot standing directly behind his obliviously armor-plated ass.)

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3 thoughts on “Overanalysis Theatre: Why Iron Man Is Earth’s Mightiest Hero

  1. I like the placement of Simon Philips’ name with regards to that Hulk image. It seems to imply that the graphic designer in charge of the credit sequence wanted to get across that Simon Philips is a massive, raging dick.

  2. I’m over here from some other post, but dangit, I am still sad that EMH got cancelled. What I’m only slightly less sad about is that they CHANGED THE GOD DAMN INTRO SEQUENCE PARTWAY THROUGH. I mean what. And you can’t even make the excuse that it was introducing non-movie characters, because they shifted it to focus on only movie characters. Like, people know what the Avengers are! Geez.

  3. Its been a while since I saw the Purple Man episode of EMH, but didn’t Purple Man take control of all the Avengers except for Vision? And used Stark to create a device to amplify his powers so he could take control of everybody else?

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