Awesome Facial Hair Bros. Unite! Why ‘Doctor Strange’ Will Be The MCU Successor To ‘Iron Man’

There’s a lot of high points when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but if you picked Robert Downey Jr.’s career revitalising performance of Tony Stark/Iron Man as one of your favorite facets of the shared narrative universe, you aren’t alone.

Capturing the humor of Brian Michael Bendis’s Stark, blended with darker brushstrokes of David Michelinie and Bob Layton’s Demon in a Bottle -era Iron Man, Downey Jr.’s take on the shell head has captured the hearts of many an audience. When 2008’s Iron Man kicked off the MCU nearly a decade ago, few suspected the franchise would grow into the massively successful phenomenon it has today.

'Marvel Cinematic Universe 2.0' by TyMann930 on DeviantArt
‘Marvel Cinematic Universe 2.0’ by TyMann930 on DeviantArt

Following in the footsteps of Fox-Marvel’s X-Men series, the MCU has changed spin-offs to shared universes, and helped usher in a new “comic booky” mode of narrative cinema. But it never would have gotten to where it is today if not for Iron Man, the movie that started it all.

The Rise & Fall Of Iron Man

There has been much made of , indeed a good chunk of Iron Man 3 was dedicated to dealing with his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and anxiety, whilst Iron Man 2 touched on his alcoholism, a defining trait of his flawed character.

Tony sacrifices his sobriety for an audience with Odin — 'Fear Itself', Issue 4 [Marvel Comics]
Tony sacrifices his sobriety for an audience with Odin — ‘Fear Itself’, Issue 4 [Marvel Comics]

The Tony that we meet at the outset of Iron Man . Of all the characters in the MCU he’s had one of the most interesting character arcs, except maybe that of James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan), cause Hydra brainwashing will do that to a person.

Iron Man charts the fall of Tony Stark and the rise of Iron Man, as he nearly loses everything — his company, his sanity and his life — because of his own unwillingness to accept the consequences that being a weapons developer has. His actions following his return from captivity in Afghanistan are the beginning of him trying to atone for his sins.

Tony waxes lyrical in ‘Iron Man 3’ [Marvel/Disney]

Everything that comes after — even creating Ultron — marks his attempts to save the world, however misguided they may be. And this all stems from his fall from grace right back at the beginning of Iron Man.

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Now, keeping all that in mind, which character do you think this quote is describing?

“In this case, a character who starts off at the height of egocentricity, and is brought down, and falls from grace very hard very fast, very early in the film. And you get to watch his climb out of that, and ultimately his climb out of his own ego. And that’s really what the movie’s about.”

If you guessed Iron Man, well you’d be correct because all of the above certainly can be applied to Tony Stark’s first MCU outing. But the above quote is actually attributed to Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson, speaking to GamesRadar at last month’s San Diego Comic Con about the upcoming movie.

Doctor Strange vs Iron Man

'Invincible Iron Man', Issue 5 [Marvel Comics]

‘Invincible Iron Man’, Issue 5 [Marvel Comics]

The comic book Tony Stark and Stephen Strange are as alike as they are different. The most recent run of Invincible Iron Man aside, the two characters haven’t always been all that closely aligned — though they have run in the same circles as members of the Illuminati and the New Avengers.

Though Stephen Strange’s personality tends to err on the more serious side of things, he and Stark do have very similar character arcs and traits — especially when it comes to their origins, as highlighted by Derrickson. The now famous “Facial Hair Bros.” panel sequence from Invincible Iron Man highlights this nicely, and also it’s adorable so let’s look at that.

'Invincible Iron Man', Issue 3 [Marvel Comics]

‘Invincible Iron Man’, Issue 3 [Marvel Comics]

Both begin their careers with a jarring fall from grace and fame. Tony as a famed weapons developer, Strange as a top class surgeon. , of how the callous and arrogant Strange lost everything — his fame, money and social status — when his famous surgeon’s hands were damaged in a car crash, leading him to seek out the mystical Ancient One in search of a cure.

The Ancient One took one look at him and immediately figured out he was a bit of a dickbag, but saw inside of him a spark of goodness — a spark which he would fan into a flame as he began training Strange to eventually take over the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme, the mystical protector of Earth.

He also smoked in the operating theatre because f*ck your exposed lungs buddy — 'Strange Tales', Issue 115 [Marvel Comics]
He also smoked in the operating theatre because f*ck your exposed lungs buddy — ‘Strange Tales’, Issue 115 [Marvel Comics]

Similarly Tony wasn’t that nice a person to be around before his fall from grace when he was kidnapped by the Mandarin’s henchmen/the Ten Rings (depending if you’re going by the comics or the MCU). Charismatic? Sure. Funny? Definitely. But a morally good person? That’s a gray area.

Both Doctor Strange and Iron Man are proud, but broken men, who have fallen from grace more than once. Tony’s character goes through a series of ups and downs in both the comics and the MCU, from Superior Iron Man to Age of Ultron. Strange may be slightly less controversial a character, but he is not without his own failings.

The Rise & Fall Of Doctor Strange

A notable example occurs during World War Hulk. After having his hands — the source of his magic — crushed and broken by Hulk, Doctor Strange starts dabbling in dark magics, channeling the power of the shadow demon Zom. As Zom possesses him he loses control during the battle with Hulk and endangers the lives of innocent people.

World War Hulk [Marvel Comics]

World War Hulk [Marvel Comics]

With his broken hands and broken spirit, the events of Dark Reign then push Strange at the limits of his weakened ability, and the dark spirit emerges once again — defeating the enemies but also endangering his friends. This leads to Strange relinquishing the title of Sorcerer Supreme, as he feels he no longer deserves to hold that mantle after his actions.

Like Tony Stark in Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War, Strange allows his own narcissism and arrogance to lead him down a path that he never should’ve stepped on in the first place. Like Tony when he created Ultron, Strange thought he could control the force he unleashed in the form of Zom. They were both wrong, and both set their own downfalls in motion.

Dark Reign [Marvel Comics]
Dark Reign [Marvel Comics]

For Tony, , for Strange, he lost all that he had worked so hard to achieve in the form of his Sorcerer Supreme title, and it would be years before he was worthy to win it back.

Benedict Cumberbatch dons the cape in ‘Doctor Strange’ [Marvel/Disney]

Finishing up the aforementioned quote about Doctor Strange, Derrickson told GamesRadar:

“Even though there’s all these big psychedelic images in the film, it is in the end, a movie about one man overcoming himself.”

It sounds like Derrickson has a pretty good handle on what makes Doctor Strange Doctor Strange. And even though the movie will be the MCU’s gateway into the larger world of magic, mystery and dimension hopping, it sounds like the core of the character will remain pretty faithful to the comic book counterpart.

Failing that, we’ll always have the Awesome Facial Hair Bros.

He loves it really — 'Invincible Iron Man', Issue 5 [Marvel Comics]
He loves it really — ‘Invincible Iron Man’, Issue 5 [Marvel Comics]

What do you want to see in Doctor Strange? Have your say in the comments, and check out the first sightings of Doctor Strange below!



Thinking too much about comic books since 1992.