All Ducks Are Birds

…But it bears remembering, not all birds are ducks. Today’s quibble: the mischaracterization of Iron Man in Marvel’s Civil War – but, not necessarily the kind of mischaracterization you think! Because it’s the word futurist that I have a problem with, you see.

Said problem being: it doesn’t mean anything.

Well, not unless you count always being wrong as meaning something.

Fact: there are no good futurists, if we measure “good” by a record of predictions coming true, because everyone who’s ever called themselves a futurist has missed the boat by about a mile every time they’ve lunged for it. Futurism is humbug; futurism is balderdash. Futurism is spoon-bending. Futurism is less predictive than the worst of science fiction. This is not the way the world works, at all: there are no “futurists” worth the name, unless by futurism one means something very much the same as mentalism. Yes: though it’s sad to say so, having plants in the audience is the only way to create that particular illusion.

Eh, Mark Millar?

But what there are, occasionally, are visionaries, and this no one can deny.

Ladies and gentlemen: Tony Stark, visionary. Tony Stark the brilliant engineer, Tony Stark the brilliant businessman, but most importantly Tony Stark, the brilliant engineer and businessman who owns the biggest and most advanced foundry in the world.

And the Iron Man suit is just a knock-off of his particular genius, see…

Because, sure: Reed Richards is a crazy polymath beyond understanding, but do you think he hand-machines all his equipment himself? He does not: he orders in specialized miniaturized manufacturing components from Tony Stark, the world leader in mass-production (and occasional custom-production) of revoltingly high-end super-scientific machine parts, and he puts them on account just like everybody else does. And, where would Reed be without Tony’s vision, of a world where such a stratospherically high-tech manufacturing company could turn a profit? Unless you’re already selling crateloads of those bits and pieces of mad-scientist Lego, you could never afford to make them: Reed’s Radical Cube probably would’ve cost fifteen billion dollars to hand-tool, and he would’ve had to buy half of California just to get started with the wrenches. Not that he couldn’t. But Tony already has that well in hand. Fifty million tops, Reed…but for you, twenty million. No, don’t ask me to go any lower, I’m already cutting my own throat here. Well…okay…hey, if I don’t help you, who will….tell you what, let’s work something out…

It’s serious business. Remember that Michelinie/Layton Iron Man/Dr. Doom thing? Where Tony’s outraged to discover that Stark Industries is still selling the full contents of its catalog to Latverian purchasers? Those were components for Dr. Doom’s time machine for heaven’s sake, people! You think there would even be any time machines in the MU if not for Tony’s youthful, visionary ideas about how to take his father’s company into the next century? Doom would still be building the deframmulator, trying to get it just right. He’d be Tesla by now: a crazy man. AIM would have already killed ten thousand “volunteers” trying to create a MODOK out of cast-off X-ray machine parts and rusty carburators and spit…and Professor X would have spent six hours trying to get his home-built Cerebro off his head so he could go to the bathroom. SHIELD’s helicarrier would still be sitting on the runway at Groom Lake, slowly denting under its own weight. No wonder Nick Fury was pissed that Tony got out of the munitions business! No wonder every supervillain worth his salt (including the U.S. government) has wanted to co-opt Tony Stark! The man is a global treasure!

A true visionary!

But, not a futurist. A futurist only tries to predict, and fails…but a visionary gets it right, and then swiftly gets bored with mere prediction: because a visionary decides to make the world a better place out of their own efforts, and so heads off an unsatisfying future, by replacing it with a little of their own imagination. And then, if they find they have enough power, they start heading off bad futures that haven’t even happened yet: like Tony Stark, making Iron Man the beta-test of munitions technologies that aren’t even going to go to market. What a citizen! And, how I wish I owned a copy of Steve Englehart’s “Big Town”!

Iron Man: is he connected to the whole world, or what? Iron Man: an awesome character filled with edifying moral conflict, and with many stories left to be told about him. A disguised idealist; a figure full of…yes, I’ll say it…irony. Someone whose change of heart has changed the world. Man, this character is so great!

Maybe we’ll see him again in a few years. I hope so. As I’ve said before, I’d want it to be Steve Gerber and Michael Avon Oeming, but we’ll see.

And, I miss the good Tony.

So get it together, Marvel, you idiots!

This Iron Man post dedicated to the return of 2 Guys Buying Comics, the blog that thinks Iron Man is awesome.

Who am I to disagree?



6 responses to “All Ducks Are Birds

  1. *clap*

    *clap clap*

    *clap clap clap*

    ::mounts to thunderous applause::

    That was awesome, and you nailed the essence of why I love this character. Also, good job calling Millar on the carpet about his “futurist” nonsense!

    The quintessential problem with Stark/Richards technologies has always been “If these dudes have all this tech, why does the rest of the world progress at roughly the same level as our own Stark-less world?”

    The answer is — HAS TO BE— that it’s carefully guarded and kept under lock and key by these dudes because they know that bad things will happen if people even KNOW that the technology exists. And that’s why Tony and Reed suddenly turning everything over to the Gubmint undermines the whole premise of the Marvel U. Simply put, there’s no way to justify “super people in a normal world” when the world has no excuse for being normal.


    Again, well done! (And thanks for the dedication.)

  2. Tony Stark is the most underused character in the MU. Apart from Howard, obviously. He’s too morally compromised to be good, but making him evil is simply a waste.

    I’d pitch him somewhere in the moral wastelands where you never know if he’ll conquer global warming or invent bunker-buster nukes. Even he doesn’t know which side he’s on.

  3. The difference between Reed Richards and Tony Stark has always been the classic difference between a scientist and an engineer. The scientist doesn’t know how he feels about something until he collects data, formulates a hypothesis, and tests that hypothesis with more data. He’s a collator of events and observations. He goes where the facts tell him to go. He believes nothing he can’t prove.

    An Engineer, on the other hand, starts off with a vision of something that he believes can and should be done. And dammit…he makes it happen. It’s just a question of how to do it, given the time and the money and the resources available. But whatever it is, it can be done, if you’re willing to bear all of the different costs.

    There’s always at least speck of arrogance in Engineering. Sometimes, a whole mountain of it. Tony Stark is the man who figures that this here mountain would make a great headquarters for the Avengers…all that needs to be done is to hollow the whole thing out and dig eighteen floors of sub-basement underneath it, and erect an enormous facade over the front of it that looks like natural rock face, but is actually a lowerable launch bay for aircraft. It’s not an absurd idea…look, he’s got blueprints and a schedule and everything.

    Stark has a plan and the determination (the arrogance) to make it happen. Richards could never have come up with this idea on his own, but once it’s been suggested, he locks himself in a padded cell until the walls are covered with enough equations that he’s proven to himself that there’s no other way. The proofs release him from personal responsibility.

    That’s the bigger difference. Reed does things of incredible scale because the numbers compel him and he feels there’s no alternative. Tony does them simply because he’s certain that they need to be done. One is the slave of reality, the other tries to be its master.

  4. Chris: You’re welcome!

    Clone: Ha! Love the new username! And, I think that speaks right to the point of the character, as well as also being something I disliked intensely about the alcoholism thing, because once you have the concealment of the bad ticker and the subsequent superheroing it motivates, you don’t need anything else. Because there’s your whole classic character, nice and neat and tied up in a fetching ribbon. Tony Stark comes packaged with a very interesting, very elegant ambiguity already, so why tack other, lesser stuff on top of that? Any writer ought to be able to run with the basics for a hundred years, without ever running out of things to say, and it’s a total mystery to me that they don’t.

    Ihnatko: I don’t entirely agree with you here, because I think Reed Richards has been badly-written for years now, but if we can meet in the middle to say that he’s mainly driven by pure curiosity I think I can get on board with the rest of it, for sure. For one thing, Tony can mobilize money and resources for his engineering dreams in a way Reed can’t, because he knows that he can design profitability in right from the scribbling-on-napkins stage…right from the start, it’s got nothing to do with “curiosity”, but with the vision of how his inventions can change the world. I’ll totally go with that. Although Tony’s an unusual kind of an engineer, don’t you think? All the ambition, without any of the arrogance…

    Yeah, you can guess where I come down in the age-old physicist/engineer battle. But don’t tell the mathematicians, or they’ll be in here laughing at both of us…

    And…your username is like an Eternal’s name, or something!

    Also, Ed, if you’re reading this — I almost put that Taxonomy of Marvel Geniuses thing in here! But then I realized I don’t really want to share it, yet…

  5. Well, the first journey round alcoholism was at least a good story, but I have difficulty feeling empathy with stinking rich billionaires who swill too much Bollinger.

    “Look at poor me, SHIELD’s trying to take over my company and I’ve got dozens of meetings and my dazzlingly gorgeous girlfriend doesn’t understand me.”

    How can you resist the temptation to laugh out loud?

    (Obviously, if there are any real billionaire alcoholics reading this, hey, I feel your pain. It must be torture for you.)

  6. Pingback: Blog@Newsarama » Matty told Hatty about a thing she saw. Had two big horns and a wooly jaw.·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s