Big Screen Avengers 101: IRON MAN 2 Annotations

On May 4, 2012, we’ll see Earth’s Mightiest Heroes team up in the Marvel Studios movie The Avengers. This has been a long time coming and has been hinted at in films such as Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk (and you should check out the annotations on both those movies, too).

Now we get to Iron Man 2, taking place six months after Tony Stark’s defeat of his enemy Obadiah Stane and nine months after he was first captured by foreign insurgents, which led to his becoming the armored hero.


Mickey Rourke plays Ivan Vanko, a character who was created for this film. Soon before the release of the movie, Ivan was introduced into Marvel comic book continuity in the mini-series Iron Man Vs. Whiplash. In the continuity of mainstream Marvel comics, Ivan Vanko is the fourth super-villain to use the name Whiplash, most of whom have had a history of fighting Iron Man. In the first Iron Man film, two USAF pilots were referred to as Whiplash I and Whiplash II, another reference to the comic villains who've used this name.

The first Whiplash was a man named Mark Scolotti, a scientist who felt his work was not recognized as an employee of Stark Induestries, leading him to a criminal career with high-tech whips of his own design that were capable of tearing Iron Man’s armor. He then became a high-tech enforcer for criminals, such as Justin Hammer, and changed his name to Blacklash. The name Whiplash was then adopted by a criminal named Leeann Foreman. Foreman vanished later and a new pair of villains calling themselves Whiplash and Blacklash showed up for a time.

Finally, Ivan Vanko appeared, a young scientist in a small Russian village. A criminal impersonating Iron Man (thanks to stolen technology) attacked the village and killed Ivan’s father Igor Vanko in the process. Though the impostor escaped, Ivan was able to damage his suit and obtain his chest piece power source. Believing Stark had killed his father, Ivan sought vengeance and spent six months creating his own armor with enhanced whips powered by the technology he’d obtained. Even when Vanko later learned it was not the real Iron Man who had attacked his village, he still put the blame on Stark since he had invented the technology used to commit the act.

Ivan's wall shows a news article concerning the Middle East. The byline is by "Rob Downey." Get it?


In this film, Ivan Vanko is said to be the son not of a man named Igor Vanko but of a disgraced scientist named Anton Vanko who once worked for Stark Industries after defecting to the United States in 1963. In the comics, Anton Vanko was the Russian scientist who built a suit of armor and called himself the Crimson Dynamo. He was initially sent to act as an enemy to Iron Man and Stark Industries, but then was convinced to defect and work for Stark instead. This happened in his very first comic book story Tales of Suspense #46, printed in (you guessed it) 1963. Anton later died saving Stark from the second Crimson Dynamo, killing the villain in the process.

The Stark Expo is a fictional technology conference inspired by the New York World's Fair. Like the Stark Expo, the New York World’s Fair occurred in Flushing, Queens during 1939-1940, the theme being "Building the World of Tomorrow." In the film Captain America: The First Avenger, fans see that both Tony's father Howard Stark and the hero Steve Rogers attended that fair, although in the Marvel Movie Universe it was still happening in 1943. The next New York World's Fair was themed "Peace Through Understanding" and occurred from 1964-1965. In this film, we are told that the Stark Expo originally operated annually between 1954 through 1974. It's placement in Flushing not only connects it with the World's Fair but also, perhaps unintentionally, matches the comics where it has been said that major Stark Industries facilities are housed in Queens.


Before Iron Man 2 was released, the marketing folks put up a fake website,, which included a map that displayed all the companies that were displaying their wares. Links took you to web-pages showcasing the Stark subsidiaries of Cordco, Stark-Fujikawa and Accutech.

Cordco was seen in various Marvel Comics and was bought out by Tony Stark at one point so that he could benefit from the company's experimental surgical techniques, having recently suffered a serious injury to his spine. According to the film web-site, Cordo is based in Australia and conducts experiments in developing the Iron Man armor tech for non-lethal and rescue uses (such as a sonic fire extinguisher).

Stark-Fujikawa was originally introduced in the comic Spider-Man 2099 as what Stark Enterprises would develop into in a possible version of the year AD 2099. The web-site displays its new product, sunglasses that posses digital data displays similar to Iron Man's helmet.

Accutech was seen in the comics during the "Armor Wars" storyline as a subsidiary of Stark Enterprises. The film web-site displays Accutech scientists developing haz-mat exoskeletons based on Tony's armor. It is also shown that Accutech is the subsidiary responsible for the creation of the Jericho missile seen in the original Iron Man film. It also displayed images of the Stark-designed sonic cannons that were used in The Incredible Hulk.At the Stark Expo opening ceremonies, Tony appears on stage in a tux, surrounded by many dancing women. This is echoed in Captain America: The First Avenger when we see his father Howard Stark put on a similar show at the New York World’s Fair.


Walking back to his car with Happy Hogan, Tony passes by several adoring fans and a representative of Oracle, which was a major advertiser for this film and is advertised in the viral web-sites for Stark Expo. Tony also passes by a man whom he identifies as Larry King. It is actually Iron Man creator Stan Lee, who appeared in the first film and was identified as Hugh Heffner.

When the U.S. Marshall hands Tony a subpoena, he lets Happy take the document and it is said that he doesn’t like to be handed objects from people. In the first Iron Man film, a deleted scene showed similar behavior when Tony had Pepper carry a hand sanitizer next to him, which he used after shaking hands with folks.

After a night of advertising the return of Stark Expo, Tony has to appear before the U.S. senate. This echoes several clashes Tony has had with the government in the comics. In the 1960s, the character Senator Byrd investigated Stark, believing that he and Iron Man were potentially sabotaging the U.S. military. In the story "The Best Defense" by John Jackson Miller, Tony defied Senator Burch, who demanded that the Iron Man tech be given to the U.S. military to create an army of armored soldiers.


Sam Rockwell plays Tony's amoral business rival, weapons manufacturer Justin Hammer. In the comics, Justin Hammer was a middle-aged man who outfitted several of Iron Man's enemies with advanced technology and was often orchestrating criminal schemes. His wife and daughter later took over the company and also caused problems for Iron Man. Though Sam Rockwell is much younger than the character in the comics, director Jon Favreau was impressed with his performance and it was felt that the energetic and jocular Rockwell would seem more like a fitting reflection of Tony's own wit and energy.

Don Cheadle was asked to replace Terrence Howard, who portrayed Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes in the original Iron Man. Some fans were okay with this, some hated it and demanded to know why the change in casting was truly necessary. To those who kept complaining on the Internet, Don Cheadle's opening lines in this film are: "Look, it's me. I'm here. Deal with it. Let's move on."

In the film, Jim Rhodes is said to be a Weapons Procurement Liaison between the USAF and Stark Industries. In the comics, although he was a combat pilot, Rhodey was a member of the Marine Corps, not the Air Force. In the comics, he met Stark the day after the armored hero had escaped imprisonment and built his first suit. Years later, he left the military before coming to work for Tony Stark as a pilot and a bit of a bodyguard.

Tony Stark jokingly muses he wouldn’t mind being named Secretary of Defense. This actually happened in the comics for some time, starting in the storyline “The Best Defense” by John Jackson Miller. He was then released from this post during the storyline “Avengers Disassembled.” His remark that he is not a “joiner” is ironic considering his desire later in this film to join the Avengers.


When Tony returns to his workshop, we can see the different suits that he wore in the first film. There’s the original make-shift armor that he obviously recovered from the Sector 16 lab where Obadiah Stane kept it (although, since that whole place was blown up, it’s kind of amazing that the armor survived in such good condition). The steel suit that he first equipped with full flight capabilities, but then put away because it had a freezing issue. And the gold-titanium alloy suit that he had painted “hot rod red” and which was seriously damaged during his battle with Stane. Hence, there is a new, shiny red and gold suit that was built afterward.

Notice that each of the armors has a glowing power source. Apparently, after nearly dying in the first film because he didn’t have an extra arc reactor readily available, Stark decided to make a few extra ones and have them sit in storage inside the other suits. Of course, this means that now anyone can take one of the suits (if they get past the security protocols) since they don’t have to rely on ripping Stark’s “heart” out to power it. Foreshadowing…

Notice that Tony’s workshop no longer has all his workshop clutter from the first film. There’s no equipment, no half-built car, not tables filled with uncompleted projects. Evidently, Tony has put aside much of his inventing for a while, focusing on his life as Iron Man.

Tony’s holographic computer consoles are much more impressive and interactive than in the first film. After the first film, director Jon Favreau heard from several computer programmers and technologists that they were working on similar systems to what Tony had used, therefore he wanted to enhance the technology in the second movie in order to emphasize the hero’s genius.

Tony has discovered that his miniature arc power source is poisoning him with palladium. In the comics, there have been a couple times where Tony was endangered by his own tech. First, of course, there was his explosive weapon which shredded his chest with shrapnel, leading to his first becoming Iron Man. Years later, he was shot and used experimental technology to repair the nerve damage to his back, but then found out that it was poisoning his nervous system. A few years after defeating this problem, Tony found a new threat when the energy fields of his new armor was causing cellular breakdown in his body, leading to a redesign.

Soon before this film came out, Pepper Potts was indeed named CEO of Stark’s company in the Invincible Iron Man storyline “World’s Most Wanted” by Matt Fraction.


Although it is not stated in the film, the person who brings Ivan Vanko his fake passport and documentation that will allow him to infiltrate the racing event later is supposed to be an agent of the Ten Rings. This was the organization that kidnapped Tony in the first Iron Man film, led by Tony’s enemy the Mandarin. So once again, the Mandarin is influencing Stark’s life without the hero fully realizing it.

The name on Vanko’s passport is “Boris Turgenev.” In the comics, this was the second Crimson Dynamo’s real name.

Harold “Happy” Hogan is played by director John Favreau. In the comics, Happy Hogan was a professional boxer before becoming Stark’s chauffeur, so him giving Tony boxing lessons in this film is appropriate.


The Black Widow is played by Scarlett Johansson. Emily Blunt was offered the role but turned it down, later stating that she felt superhero movies (including this one) put the female characters to the side rather than letting them join in on the main world saving action.

The Black Widow first appeared in Tales of Suspense #52 in 1964 and was a Russian spy who got close to Tony Stark with the intention of stealing the secrets of his technology. She also later manipulated the archer Hawkeye into helping her in criminal acts against Iron Man. Later still, it was revealed that the Black Widow had been a reluctant agent and had been forced to commit these acts against Iron Man and the U.S. She defected, operating with S.H.I.E.L.D. and later as a member of such teams as the Avengers, the Champions and the Secret Avengers. She was even leader of the main Avengers team for a while.

The Black Widow’s real name is Natalia “Natasha” Romanoff (though, in Russian, she would use the female form Romanova as her last name). Here, she is first introduced as Natalie Rushman. In the comics, “Nancy Rushman” is an alias she has often used.

It is said that Natalie has done modeling, is a ballerina, and is fluent in French, Italian, Russian and Latin. In the comics, Natalia is indeed fluent in many languages and Russian is her native tongue. She had false memories of being a ballerina, implanted by her supervisors when she was trained as a child to be an assassin as part of the secret Black Widow program. In the comics, she also had a few training sessions with Wolverine and is several decades older than she looks, her aging slowed down thanks to the chemical treatments received during the Black Widow program.


Tony has apparently made an emergency suit (less powerful than his standard armor) that can fold into a shape not unlike a briefcase. In the comics, as soon as Tony returned to the states from escaping captivity, he built a new suit of armor that was constructed from layers of metal that would, when powered down, allow the suit to fold and collapse enough to fit inside a briefcase. He made sure this feature applied to several of his suits. Later on, as the armor got heavier, he equipped with the briefcase with tiny repulsor units to lighten the weight. A couple of suits would fly out of the briefcase and form around Tony, using magnetic fields to move and hover. One suit was bulky enough that it couldn’t fit into a briefcase but it could collapse into a large, briefcase-sized box configuration, similar to what we see in this film.

This emergency suit is silver and red, recalling Tony’s famous “Silver Centurion” armor, which he wore in the comics from 1985 to 1988.


Tony may extremely foolish for telling Ivan Vanko how he could improve his technology, but consider the circumstances and his experience. In this reality, Tony has never had a repeat fight. Every enemy he’s physically defeated has been defeated for good and been unable to return. His arrogance in thinking that Whiplash fits in the same category is understandable.

As Senator Stern speaks on the news, the ticker below informs us that the U.S. threat level has been changed from yellow to red in reaction to the discovery that someone else has replicated Tony’s arc reactor technology.

Pepper’s remark to Tony, "Not everybody runs on batteries..." is ironic. In the comics, just before this film, Pepper was seriously injured and Tony saved her life by implanting a repulsor magnetic-field generator similar to what had saved him when he first became Iron Man.

That’s all for part 1. Click here to jump directly to part 2 of Iron Man 2!

More Marvel Studios Annotations:

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