Everyone knows that Tony Stark is Iron Man. He told us so. In so many words way back in "Iron Man." Since then, he's been seen in a pair of sequels as well as "The Avengers." He also popped up in a cameo at the end of "The Incredible Hulk." All of these moments have been captured on film, over the past five years, in hopes of reminding us that Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark. Unless you've been watching some of Iron Man's adventures on TV. Then there are plenty of choices for his alter-alter-ego.
I mention this because I overheard a group of fourth grade boys arguing the other day. This is nothing new, since fourth grade boys can argue about most anything and everything, but this particular debate focused on super heroes. One of them insisted that Iron Man was "a real guy." That makes since, since their cultural awareness as ten-year-olds would put them solidly in the movie franchise wheelhouse. For the past half-decade, Robert Downey Jr. has been the man in the iron mask. That's why it was so easy for this same kid to insist that Spider Man was not a real guy, since there have been two of them. This is the moment at which I show my age by reminding anyone else who watched the Spider Man TV show back in the seventies about Nicholas Hammond. The effects were atrocious. The costume was awful. But it was my favorite comic book hero brought to life.
The folks at Marvel helped blur this line more fully by enlisting Lou Ferrigno's help in "voicing" their Hulk as they wheeled out a third actor to play gamma ray bombarded scientist Bruce Banner. The actual Hulk was made up of tiny pixels generated in a computer somewhere, but Ed Norton, Eric Bana and Mark Ruffalo provided points of contact for those pixels. Still, obviously the Hulk is not real.
Batman? Real. He's Christian Bale. Unless you're over twenty. Then the parade begins. Superman? That one used to be easy. I guess the folks at DC Comics aren't as committed to the man behind the mask. Or maybe it's all just an illusion. I won't tell those fourth grade boys. They're still awaiting the results of this week's matchup on WWE Raw.