I've decided, quite foolishly, to write a series of blog posts examining how various comic book characters have evolved to fit mythological archetypes. It's my theory that the fundamental nature of comics books (viz. multiple authors, super-powered characters, sensationalism, continuity snarl, and complete lack of logic) is more or less the same thing that contributed to the development of myths and legends thousands of years ago. Because of that, we see the same characters coming up again and again under different conditions.
stronger than ours, your stamina never fails.
You must be made of iron head to foot."
-Eurylochus (The Odyssey)
#1: Iron Man and Odysseus
Experts of the snooty glare.
A) Rich Kid
- Odysseus is king of Ithaca, as his father Laertes was before him. He is immensely wealthy, has loads of servants and is one of the most influential people in Greece. He's accustomed to a lifestyle of wine, women and song.
- Tony Stark is CEO of Stark Industries, as his father Howard Stark was before him. He is immensely wealthy, has loads of employees and is one of the most influential people in the world. He's accustomed to a lifestyle of wine, women and song.
B) Brilliant Mind
- Odysseus is considered the most cunning human in Greek mythology. Renowned for his wit and resourcefulness, he was one of the Greeks' foremost diplomats, advisors and commanders in the Trojan war, and probably their best fighter after Achilles. A great inventor and craftsman, he designed the Trojan Horse in which the Greeks infiltrated the Trojan defenses and won the war.
- Tony Stark is a brilliant electrical engineer and shrewd businessman, as well as a cunning strategist and politician. He's a former Secretary of Defense and Director of SHIELD, as well as being one of the most powerful superheroes and one of the most intelligent scientists in the world. A great inventor and engineer, he designed the Iron Man armour in which he defeated and escaped from the Viet Cong.
C) Twisted Mind
- One of Odysseus' epithets is "the cruel". The Greeks praised his cleverness because he was on their side, but everyone else considered him a dishonourable scoundrel. He's an unapologetic murderer and pirate, and generally a vicious bastard. Even his fellow soldiers resented him; he manages to antagonize Achilles, Ajax and Agamemnon (almost all the other main champions of the Greek side), over the course of the Trojan War.
- Tony Stark is an arrogant jerk and egomaniac. Among other things, he's a consummate womanizer, dirty businessman, and war criminal. Personality-wise, he has borderline psychopathic tendencies. He's alienated most of his associates at one time or another, and has a strained relationship with a plurality of Marvel's heroes. Very few people continue to trust him, and with good reason.
D) Sex Machine
- Odysseus, despite being married, has at least five kids on his way back from Troy to Ithaca. My history teacher once described him as "whoring his way across the Mediterranean". He's also famed for his relationships with various seductresses, including Circe and Calypso.
- Tony Stark is Marvel's most famous playboy. He's had a plethora of one-night stands and as many girlfriends as the rest of the Avengers combined. He's also famed for his relationships with various femmes fatale, including Black Widow and Madame Masque.
E) War "Hero"
- Odysseus goes unwillingly to war against the Trojans. Despite his ingenuity, the conflict costs him twenty years of his life and many of his friends' lives. During the war, he leads approximately half of the great heroes of the age against the other half. He's one of the main strategists for his side, and he fights dirty. He's then reduced to a wandering beggar, his position having been usurped by villainous poseurs. He kills them all and reclaims his throne as King of Ithaca.
- Tony Stark is dragged into combat in Vietnam against his will. Despite his ingenuity, he sustains a serious heart injury and endures the death of a great mentor. During the Civil War, he leads approximately half of the superheroes of the age against the other half. He's one of the main strategists for his side, and he fights dirty. He's reduced to bankruptcy and homelessness, but uses his resourcefulness and fights his way back to his former wealth and influence, defeating those who usurped his role.
Iron Man is basically the Odysseus of the 20th century: the powerful, brilliant jerk who leads armies, builds war machines, sleeps around and generally causes a lot of grief for everyone around him. They're also both awesome. Agree? Disagree? Think either fits another character better? Voice your thoughts.