Who Is That 'Iron Man' In 'Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness'
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The arrival of a new trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was a good day for nerds who enjoy pausing videos and staring at blurry figures until they kinda sorta look like obscure comic book characters. That said, we have to admit that one of those messes of pixels actually does look a whole lot like Superior Iron Man, the douchey (well, douchier) version of Tony Stark who debuted in 2015 in the comics.
So we're gonna go ahead and save you a trip to Wikipedia by telling you where this Iron Man came from, what his whole deal was, and how he relates to (spoilers) Professor X and (double spoilers) Tom Cruise. Let's start with the fact that ...
It Was The Red Skull's Fault, Basically (Also: Spider-Man's)
Superior Iron Man was inspired by the success of Superior Spider-Man, the series where Doctor Octopus takes over Peter Parker's body and decides to prove that being an arrogant and deeply unpleasant human being shouldn't be an impediment to becoming a successful superhero. This storyline is also responsible for the fact that poor Pete now has memories of Aunt May's wedding night with Doc Ock somewhere in his brain.
Anyway, for Iron Man, the whole thing starts when the Red Skull gets a hold of Professor X's brain and, like a good Nazi, he starts using it to spam hate into every mind in the planet. Scarlet Witch and Doctors Doom and Strange create an "inversion spell" to allow the good part of Professor X's brain to take control, but while doing so, they accidentally make every hero and villain standing nearby invert their good/evil stats -- so, for instance, Carnage goes from a remorseless serial killer to a big sweetheart ...
... and Tony Stark becomes, well, a tech bro: he moves to San Francisco and offers everyone there an app that that will physically turn them into "perfect" versions of themselves, neglecting to mention some slight privacy issues (like how he secretly infected the whole city with a techno-organic virus). Once everyone is hooked on the app, Tony reveals it was only a "free trial" and they'll have to spring up $99.99 a day to continue using it. This is also when he debuts his fancy new Endo-Sym armor ("Sym" because he made it with symbiote parts).
Eventually, most of the other heroes and villains go back to normal, but Tony manages to stay in inverted form by putting up a psychic force field around him. Among Tony's many dick moves during this period was giving Daredevil his sight back and then take it away, just to mess with him. (It's even more dickish that he hasn't done it again now that he's no longer evil.) Oh, and he wanted to exterminate mutants with giant killbots, so that was rude.
It took the Marvel Universe being destroyed and then glued back together for Tony to snap out of his jerk phase. But, before that, he had some issues with a certain group that also seems to appear in the trailer ...
The Illuminati: Marvel's Secret All-Star Think Tank
In the Multiverse of Madness trailer, Doctor Strange is seen being marched into a room where a man who sure sounds like Patrick Stewart says "We should tell him the truth." The situation reminded a lot of fans of the Illuminati -- no, not the real-life secret society that sends out cryptic messages via Super Bowl half-time shows and One Direction music videos. We're talking about Marvel's foremost super supergroup, which usually includes Strange himself, Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Professor X, Namor of Atlantis, and Black Bolt of the Inhumans (though we're guessing Marvel Studios won't want to remind people of that mess, so they'll probably replace him with Deadpool or whoever).
The Illuminati came to be when Marvel's heroes failed to prevent a space war from spilling over into Earth and Tony proposed creating a superhuman police force to deal with situations like that. The other superhero influencers he invited to the first meeting said nah, but they still thought it'd be a good idea to secretly share information and preemptively deal with threats. For instance, one day they decided it'd be a good idea to send Hulk into outer space where he won't bug them anymore, because there's no way such a plan would ever backfire!
What's interesting is that the group in the trailer seems to deal with matters related to the multiverse, and so did the Illuminati in the comics. When the Illuminati discover that other universes are crashing into theirs, they feel like they have no choice but to destroy the other universes to survive. Of course, not all Marvel heroes agree with this decision.
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Tony himself ran afoul of his fellow Illuminati during his inverted period and was imprisoned for a while. At this point, we don't know if the Superior-looking Iron Man variant in the movie will be a member or an enemy of the cinematic Illuminati -- both options would make sense with the character. What we do know is that his face probably won't look like Robert Downey Jr.'s. Which leads us to ...
Tom Cruise Was Supposed To Play Iron Man Before Downey Jr.
Rumors that Tom Cruise would replace RDJ as Tony Stark have been swirling around the internet for a few years, but they seemed about as credible as that story about Keanu Reeves playing W(h)o(a)lverine. Or, you know, that nutty one about Tobey Maguire and maybe even Andrew Garfield being on the next Spider-Man movie. With the MCU's current focus on the multiverse, something like Cruise as an alternate Tony suddenly looks a lot more realistic -- especially because this casting choice isn't as random as it might seem.
Reportedly, Cruise has been interested in playing the character since at least 1998, when most people thought "Iron Man" was only the name of a Black Sabbath song (it's possible Cruise thought he was making a music video). By 2005, though, Cruise was no longer on board and didn't seem too impressed with the state of the project. He said: "They came to me at a certain point and, when I do something, I wanna do it right. If I commit to something, it has to be done in a way that I know it's gonna be something special. And as it was lining up, it just didn't feel to me like it was gonna work." It's very possible that he was just disheartened to find out they wouldn't be trapping him inside a metal suit and dropping him from planes.
Cruise's inclusion in Multiverse of Madness would imply that there's a reality out there where every "What If…?" casting choice is true. Who else will we see? Joaquin Phoenix as Doctor Strange? Jim from The Office as Captain America? Edward Norton as Hulk for more than one movie? In that universe, is the clip below not a lie?
Or maybe we're looking at this the wrong way. Maybe that isn't a silver armor -- those are bandages. Like a mummy. At last, the Marvel/Dark Universe crossover we've all been waiting for has come to pass.
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Top image: MTV Live/Wikimedia Commons, Marvel Studios