The Real Ironman

Anyone who has played rugby union has played with Australians and knows that there’s something different about them. Perhaps it’s the cannibals that every Australian tells us they personally aren’t descended from but whose blood we all suspect flows in their veins. Perhaps it’s the relationship they have with Asia that some Australians tell us makes them Asian. Regardless, it took my Austro-Asian colleague Glenn Reeves to point out that there is a real Ironman and he is an Australian.

But first, Australia has a long and deep involvement in the robotic history of superheros. I originally learned about this from my brushes with the Ultraman. Ultraman was born in Japan, but at some point was relocated to Australia for the making of his recent films. Glenn has informed me that the Ultraman is not the only Japanese robotic Japanese superhero to make it all the way Down Under. A whole generation of Australians were weaned on the heroics of Gigantor who was originally spawned in Japan. You might enjoy this clip from the original series in which Gigantor slaughters an evil whale who is sinking ships.

Ironman is the robotic superhero that I wrote about in this review, and it is no surprise with their long history of robots as superheros we find that the real Ironman is in fact Australian. What struck Glenn with his nostalgic appeal was Tony Stark emerging from the cave into a hail of harmless gunfire from the pseudo-Taliban gang of Raza. While watching the the official Ironman trailer with Glenn, he commented that this scene was a direct rip-off from the life of Edward ‘Ned’ Kelly. Apparently, the Kelly Gang, while waiting for a train load of police to show up and arrest them, were involved in the construction of armoured suits forged from dismantled plow shears. Wikipedia tells us that…

At about dawn on Monday 28 June, Ned Kelly emerged from the inn in his suit of armour. He marched towards the police, firing his gun at them, while their bullets bounced off his armour.

See here for the whole account of the gun fight.

Wikipedia, the source of all things true, tells us about the development of the Marvel comic concept of Ironman.

Iron Man’s premiere was a collaboration among editor and story-plotter Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber, story-artist Don Heck, and Jack Kirby. In 1963, Lee had been toying with the idea of a businessman superhero.[1] He set out to make the new character a rich, glamorous ladies’ man, but one with a secret that would plague and torment him as well.[2] Lee based this playboy’s personality on Howard Hughes,[3][4] While Lee intended to write the story himself, he eventually handed the premier issue over to Lieber, who fleshed out the story.[2] The art, meanwhile, was split between Kirby and Heck. “He designed the costume”, Heck said of Kirby, “because he was doing the cover. The covers were always done first. But I created the look of the characters, like Tony Stark and his secretary Pepper Potts“.[3] explaining, “Howard Hughes was one of the most colorful men of our time. He was an inventor, an adventurer, a multi-billionaire, a ladies’ man and finally a nutcase”.

So Ironman is based on Howard Hughes, we are told. But elements of the movie have been lifted from a wide range of imagery. For example, on an HBO special that discussed the making of Ironman, special effects technicians talked about the way in which imagery for the automated dressing of Tony Stark in the Ironman armour is based on the concept of samurai being assisted while donning their armour. I can’t escape the impression that Tony Stark’s fight as he left the cave is based on the Kelly Gang’s gunfight at the Glenrowan Inn. However this comparison has escaped almost everyone except my Australian compatriot. Even reviews like this one, that acknowledge the similarity with Kelly, stop short of suggesting that the the movie is copied from there.

Well, I’m not going to stop there. Edward Kelly is the real Ironman, and I am certain the ideas used in the movie come from his historical gunfight.


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