Moviegoers Guide to New 'Iron Man 2' Characters

The War Machine armor in "Iron Man 2"

Despite some lukewarm early reviews, "Iron Man 2" — out Friday — is poised to be one of the biggest movies of the summer. And in the tradition of comic book film sequels, there are quite a few new faces from the original comics making their first appearance on the big screen. Also following tradition, the characters have been tweaked slightly (or drastically, in some cases) on their way to the cinema.

For those unfamiliar with the often-complicated world of Marvel Comics lore, here's a handy field guide to the new characters of "Iron Man 2."

Black Widow

First appearing in 1964, the character played in the new movie by Scarlett Johansson has been around nearly as long as Iron Man himself (who debuted the year prior). Originally depicted in the comics as a Soviet spy, she soon became a regular member of The Avengers, the superhero squad set to make their way to theaters in 2012. Cold War-era villains would be just a tad out of place in the hyper-modern world of these movies, and the film's Black Widow has nearly every trace of Russian-ness scrapped, other than retaining the given name "Natasha Romanoff." She's still a spy, though, and sports the character's trademark black catsuit.


The movie's main villain is actually something of a hybrid, combining two classic Iron Man antagonists: Whiplash and Crimson Dynamo. He's got the abilities of Whiplash, as made somewhat obvious from the electric whips attached to each of his arms. While Whiplash was an American and disgruntled former Tony Stark employee, Mickey Rourke's character is a Russian scientist — much closer to the original Crimson Dynamo (there have been about a dozen). Essentially the USSR's answer to Iron Man, Crimson Dynamo was a Soviet researcher in an armored suit (Iron Man had a lot of problems with Russians back in the '60s). Rourke's character and the first Crimson Dynamo even share the same last name, "Vanko."

Justin Hammer

Visually, maybe the greatest discrepancy in depiction between the comic books and the movies. The comic book version of Justin Hammer is gray-haired and clearly a couple decades older than Tony Stark, while Sam Rockwell is actually a few years younger than Robert Downey Jr. The motivations of the character remain consistent, though, as both are rival industrialists looking to bring down Stark Industries through less-than-wholesome means. This character is the recipient of yet another nationality switch: The comic version is British, his movie counterpart is American.

War Machine

The character of James Rhodes—Tony Stark's friend and military liaison—first appeared in the original 2008 "Iron Man" film, portrayed by Terrence Howard. This time around, he's played by Don Cheadle, and we get to see him in action as his superhero alter ego War Machine, a (much) more heavily armed version of Iron Man. In the comics, Rhodes adopted the black-and-silver War Machine armor after filling-in as Iron Man for Tony Stark on two separate occasions. Recently, he was severely wounded and had his mind transferred into a clone body — the kind of thing that happens in comic books more than you'd think.


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