Sometimes Superhero fashion is all about technological enhancement. Let’s think about Iron Man? Who is the Superhero here? Tony Stark, or his armored suit? Iron Man is more identified by his costume than for the human inside it. Iron Man is an augmentation of a man, a human that has added technology to himself and become Super thanks to technology. But, this leaves us with a human and non-human paradox. How much of Stark is a machine? How much of Iron Man is human?
Stark envisions and creates Iron Man’s suit. He is the owner of it. However, Iron Man cannot exist without the suit. There would be no Super Stark without the suit. In essence, Stark has a little bit of Cyborg in him since he has a device in his chest that lets him live. However, being a cyborg brings questions on how human Stark is, and even how unique he might be.
If Stark could create a suit, other smart people could replicate it. Thus, it’s not too unique per se. In integrating cyborg parts to become a Superhero, Stark isn’t that unique anymore. In fact, every time he creates a new suit, he abandons the old one. Thus, the Iron Man identity is transferred through the new suit. Stark is super as long as he puts on the latest version of the suit. Without it, he’s just a man who needs technology to survive. (Remember he has a prosthesis in his chest that allows him to live.)
In Iron Man 2 the US military asks a suit to Stark. He is reluctant to hand over his suit since he is Iron Man, the suit and the man make the identity. So, the combination of man and machine is better than them alone. According to this, Iron Man’s identity is far more complicated that just attaching it to the suit.
Iron Man is unique because he is always at the forefront of technological innovation. In doing that, he puts the identity in the brains and not the fashion per se (in this case, the resulting suit). He doesn’t use a mask. In stating publicly who is into the suit, Stark is challenging villains to his game: to create a better technology to be unique.
However, Stark sees his human identity fused with that of Iron Man: he eats with the suit on, parties with the suit on, gets drunk with the suit on… As time goes on, we can see that Stark’s identity is more challenged than that of Iron Man, to the point that the man is merged with the technological suit.
Stark has transformed himself into a technological Superhero with enhanced abilities beyond a human’s dream. However, the alter-ego (Iron Man) and his ego (Stark) merge in one as time goes by. So much so, that Iron Man’s experience becomes fully automated.
Dressing and undressing is a technological event, and a theatrical one when Stark does it in front of a crowd. As the tech of the suit gets better, Stark can dress on demand, asking for different parts of the suit to assemble and dressing him when he needs the suit. Thus, the pieces fly around him and dress him. This is to convince the audience that Stark (Downey Jr.) is in fact inside the suit and that we’re not seeing any CGI.
The spectacle of quick change is used in many films for audiences to believe in the identity of the characters. Think about Superman and his change of customs: from a simple human (Kent) to the Superhero (Superman).
Despite how cool the suit can be Stark is still depending on technology for survival: he needs a device on his chest to live. (Only in recent films he can get rid of it). Stark, in refusing his disability, he creates a fashionable technological custom to renavigate his identity. In renegotiating his new identity, he also gets empowered by it.
Stark’s suit is as utilitarian as is fashionable: it has bright colors and is shiny. In designing all the tech and choosing the colors with symbolic meaning, Stark is making a statement: gold as a heart of gold, red like in a modern knight armor.
What do you think? Who is Iron Man? Stark? The suit? Both? Can be Iron Man’s identity be transferred?
Want to read more? Try reading: The Superhero Costume : Identity and Disguise in Fact and Fiction.
Also, find more interesting info here:
- Geek Fashion: We Love Fine Marvel Superheroes.
- Lessons on Geek Anthropology: When Superhero Fashion Makes You Feel Super.
- Comics THORsday: Comics, Women and Fashion. Spider Gwen and Silk.
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