I don’t pretend to be a comics expert. Honestly, my qualifier for such a term to bestow on anyone, with any subject, would put most ‘experts’ into the ‘I guess I know some stuff’ category. I’m definitely a novice with comics, particularly with immersing myself in the world. Too many alternate universes and reboots and timelines to keep track of, and really only a handful of characters I’ve found genuinely intriguing for more than an arc or two.
** Deadpool being a notable exception. Every damn thing I’ve read with him I love. I love freaking everything about that warped little psycho mercenary. **
Yet I do like that comics reinvent themselves to change with the times. My own brief reading encounters with the Young Avengers, and second-generation Bat brats, have highlighted some of these changes. These comics brought out more diversity and opened up older characters to a new generation by giving them faces closer to their own in age, looks, and interests (even if none of us will grow to be master sorcerers or the next supreme archer assassin).
Still, some notable longtime heroes are markedly without successors or pupils.
Granted, do you really want a younger version of Logan? Oh, the angst. Let’s not.
However, it occurred to me how odd it is that there’s no real successor yet for Tony Stark and Iron Man. In the age of the millennial, it seems more plausible than ever to have some cocky nineteen year old genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropist running around. Some kid whose father is a European businessman (from Amsterdam or something) and mother is a push-to-over-achieve Asian woman (Indian or Japanese, possibly). A kid raised on worldwide culture in the age of the internet, who used his not insignificant allowance growing up to fund well-digging and Unicef missions in Africa. Who understands the value of giving back when you’re loaded, but still carries all the arrogance of a spoiled, rich, teenage genius. He blogs about social responsibility and takes selfies with the Jolie-Pitt clan, and funds medical research while absorbing information all the while. He creates and patents new desert irrigation systems, and works with NASA and Russian scientists on the concept of terraforming other planets. He also plays golf and polo, owns an animal sanctuary, and trains falcons.
Yet he’s stuck in permanent brat mode. He’s brilliant, but incredibly arrogant and narcissistic. He secretly admires the Avengers and what they do, but would never admit it because it might finally break the cracks in his logic -- that in order to be successful you have to be ruthless, and in order to be a hero you have to be selfless. He can’t marry the idea of being a genius billionaire and a hero.
Then, at some energy conference or whatever, he meets Tony Stark. He’s too full of himself to see Tony as a role model, but genius recognizes genius. They basically get into a philanthropic pissing contest, as Tony tries to impart on the kid how difficult it is to truly keep fighting the good fight for causes you claim to believe in if you never get your hands dirty -- literally. He challenges the kid to actually go to some of the villages he’s helped, and then to those he hasn’t. To visit hospitals where his research and funds have reached, and then military care centers where they haven’t. To literally walk a mile, or leagues, through areas untouched by technology and modernity as they both know it.
At this last the kid relents, curious and challenging. He’ll do it, if Tony does, too. They’ll organize a trip, on foot, through a section of rural Asia. The first one to cave and ask to find a real city with a nice hotel has to give a million dollars each to Unicef, cancer and AIDS research, a military veterans and family fund, and the space program. Tony grudgingly agrees.
They do make it a few weeks into the journey, learning a lot about each other, and life outside the bustle of the new millennium, and true charity. Of course Tony caves first, and the kid gives him hell for it. But once they’re settled in some swanky hotel in, like, Dubai, the kid admits he almost begged off the whole thing on day two and pledges to give money to the agreed causes as well. He then asks Tony what he plans to do when he can’t be Iron Man anymore. The out of the blue question floors Tony, and he barely has time to answer when he gets an emergency call. He takes the kid with him to Stark Tower and has him sit in on the meeting. Some crisis, need help, blah blah. Once everyone else is out of the room, Tony looks at the kid.
“You really want to know what I’m going to do when I can’t do this anymore?”
Tony takes off his wrist cuff and slaps it on the kid. “Find someone new to do it.”
Tony lets him in the suit for that mission, knowing it should be an easy one, and keeping control of the suit from Stark Tower virtually -- kind of like a driving instructor in a practice car. The kid is still shaky, but shows promise. He comes back wanting more, and Tony says no.
“Not until you’ve had that ego broken a few times, kid. You need to lose, and lose big, as yourself, before you lose in that suit, with that title. Get your heart broken. Go actually dig some of those wells, or build some of those third-world hospitals. Understand what it is you fight for when you put on the suit, what you represent, and what it costs when you fail. I’ll call you back from time to time, check in on you, get you some practice rounds, but you don’t get to be Iron Man until you fuck everything up and rebuild it from the start.”
“Is that really what you did?”
“Yup. And don’t think that one experience of it kept me from doing it again. Even geniuses can be idiots, and the more arrogant you are, the harder your fall will be. Still, sometimes you need to run before you walk, and if your face slams into the ground, you pick yourself up and learn how to fly.”
Wouldn’t that be cool?