How did a B-tier superhero become the linchpin for the biggest franchise of all time?
Back in 2007, we were all entirely unaware of what was to come: the world was about to witness the biggest multi-film series the industry has ever seen. James Bond? Nowt, mate. Friday the 13th? When? It was The Avengers who were just around the corner, poised to revolutionise cinema in a way never seen before. But first, Marvel had to figure out a way to get the ball rolling.
Obviously, there had been Marvel superheros on the big screen before (The Punisher, Hulk, X-Men), but this was to kick-off the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a franchise that was separate from the previous adaptations - this was a clean slate. So which superhero was going to be the one to test the waters?
Surprise! It was Iron Man, a character of which the general public were only marginally aware, a bit of a background dude compared to the likes of big-hitters like Spider-Man and Hulky Boy. But why take the risk?
Well, it wasn’t just a punt in the dark - there was a lot of thought behind this maniacal decision, and a lot of it was down to kids. Yep, small children helped decide the fate of the future of cinema.
According to the book The Big Picture: The Fight For the Future of Movies by Ben Fritz, this is how the decision went down:
“Marvel brought together groups of children, showed them pictures of its superheroes, and described their abilities and weapons. Then they asked kids which ones they would most like to play with as a toy. The overwhelming answer, to the surprise of many at Marvel, was Iron Man.
“That’s what brought Iron Man to the front of the line,” said a person who helped to decide which movie Marvel would self-produce first.”
So out of the characters they still held the rights to (Spidey, Wolvey and co. were under Fox’s roof), it was Tony Stark and his really cool suit that clinched it. And that’s a lot of cool suits - the potential for hundreds of different toys was there from the start. And it paid off - not only did they make Iron Man the biggest draw of the eventual series, they bloody made a truck-load of toys out of it too. Just think of the endless reams of dough - it’ll ruin your day.
Money, it makes the world go round, but it sure-as-hell all starts with the kids. A little tip: if you need investment advice, simply give half your life-savings to the next 5-year-old you see on the street, and prepare to reap the rewards, babay!