Iron Man Reimagined: A Literary Criticism of an Iron Man Fanfic
The first time I met Tony Stark was in 2008, my father had the newly released Iron Man movie playing in the living room and called (more like forced) me to watch it with him. Back then I had no interest in superheroes or whatsoever (so there was much grumbling on my part) and the only heroes I knew were Spiderman, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. There was no divide between the world of DC and Marvel comics, my 11 year-old mind just lumped them all together as “boys’ stuff” (boring boys’ stuff). They [superheroes] were all just too righteous to ever become interesting, too good and dull. Men or aliens that went on saving the world for no reason except because they wanted to yet the Iron Man was different, wasn’t he? One of the most prominent anomalies in the superhero universe.
Anthony Edward Stark, the first hero I met that didn’t wear an overwhelming amount of spandex or had his underwear on the wrong way, also the first one to have a sense of realism. He didn’t have the picture perfect family life nor was he free of vices, in fact he was full of them. Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, and drunkard gambler on the side as well as ‘the merchant of death’. He was every bit a heroic anti-hero, that went against every superhero code. A downright arrogant jerk with a devil-may-care attitude that appeals to me for some reason. I’m eternally glad my father made me watch that movie that day.
Fast forward to 5 years later, another Marvel character came into my sphere of favorites: Loki, God of Mischief. I admit that what first attracted me to him was his face, which during his appearance in “Thor” wasn’t as eye-catching hence instead of noticing him in 2011, I noticed him in 2013; at the sequel “Thor: The Dark World”. It didn’t take long before my interest in him went beyond his face and into who he is as a character. Loki Laufeyson wasn’t exactly a villain nor was he a hero. He was the first supervillain I saw that displayed wit and elegance in schemes rather than just plain brute force. He was another anomaly in the superhero universe that went against the norm of what I assumed villains were supposed to be. His desire to dominate Asgard (and later, Earth) wasn’t fueled by some random want to be king or powerful (as with normal villains). No, the fuel for his desire was as simple as they come; Loki wanted recognition from the father that never recognized him. His wars weren’t exactly vengeance but him lashing out, out of bitterness and frustration; this feature gave him a sense of being real, and it made him relatable; like Tony.
Now, going back in time by approximately 4 years; it was all over the internet that Disney bought the Marvel universe (with a few exception such as Spiderman, Deadpool, Fantastic Four, and X-men) and thus the rights to dictate how the Marvel movie franchise should appear. Suffice to say the acquisition ruined Iron Man and made all the films horribly child-friendly. Tony Stark became a model adult, losing the intelligent a-hole persona and was replaced by this sorry, and sober guilt-laden man (to think that they had his Arc Reactor removed? Sacrilege! Where’s his Jack Daniels?) Loki on the other hand, isn’t being realized as the truly ambiguous character he is. Disney keeps making him out to be more of a villain after power rather than a trickster that goes where it benefits him most. They’re making him out to be this Machiavellian persona rather than someone that simply enjoys mischief and chaos. I know it’s a comic movie-verse, and that it can go every which way but this child-proofing of something that’s supposed to portray flawed adult superheroes and make people question what they know, ruins it.
So when movies ruin perfectly good works, where do loyal fans turn to? To the bastards created by such failures, more specifically: to fanfiction.
I’ve been reading fanfiction for quite some time now so I suppose I could be considered a connoisseur on the topic (if there is such a thing as a “fanfiction connoisseur”). For 6 years that is where I have turned to when the books being printed could not satisfy my imagination or if I simply yearned for “familiar faces”. It is there that I found the stories that would satisfy the itches that some books and movies left unscratched. If I craved a darker Harry Potter, there it would be; if it were more of the Enterprises’ adventures, I would most definitely find it there; and if it were to cater for my unusual ships (character pairings), there it is in abundance.
One of these unusual character relationships that I’m quite fascinated with is the Loki-Tony one. I can’t really say how or why my fascination with it began but there just seems to be this unmentioned chemistry between them, this charge that could have been realized if society were simply kinder. Loki and Tony have a lot of similarities (such as their need of their respective fathers’ approval) yet they still differ enough that they’re still opposites. Personally, I find that very attractive in a pairing since that means that whoever is the more dominating cannot absorb and mold the submissive one to his whims. The submissive one of the pair will still be able to retain what defines him as a character while at the same time pleasing the dominant partner. It’s as if they’re standing on equal footing and defying the relationship politics. In writers of the Loki-Tony (also known as FrostIron) fanfics, getting the dynamics of their relationship can be tricky. There is a certain level of balance between the two that they must achieve or else their fic would become out of character and flop. The writers cannot make Tony too cocky cause then they’d have to soften Loki’s character for him to allow such an attitude and not kill Tony, or they cannot make Loki too domineering cause then that would just cause Tony to hate him or develop Stockholm syndrome rather than fall in love with him. They must find a way to preserve both characters’ intelligence in order for it to work and then find a suitable storyline that the reader can easily imagine happening in the Marvel universe. Writers of fanfics should also be careful of creating OC’s (or Own/Outside Characters) lest they not fit in with the original characters or settings, thus ruin the whole fic.
In my adventures within this fandom, I’ve seen very few that managed to get all these right. There are some that had a good start but lost it somewhere along the way; there were simply too much going on or aspects were missing from the work. There are some that had good character dynamics but the settings were off or the sudden entry of an OC threw the story of the loop. This sort of strict standard I have imposed on my fanfiction makes it look as if no fic has reached the level of perfection I yearn for, but then I wouldn’t be writing this if such a fic had not existed. There is one fic that has hit all the good points with such a precise aim that if I pitted it against the best of all other fandoms, it would knock out the competition. In fact it was good enough that that fanfic had its own following of fans. I’m talking about Lessons from a God by Malkavia30, a hundred chaptered fanfic about Loki and Tony that involved more than their romantic and sexual relationship but included the rest of the Avengers universe as well. In a hundred chapters Malkavia has created a tale worthy enough to become an actual part of the Marvel world.
The story is what fans would call Tony-centric since he is the one being followed by the omnipotent narrator. It began with a description of the life Tony has had so far, bored and terribly single since Pepper has left him after he almost died during the Chitauri attack. He was hardly ever sober and was back to his destructive ways that was until one night he came home to find Loki in his tower, dead-set on killing him. There was a scuffle between the two, which Tony lost miserably due to fact that his suit was under repair that time, and that led to a round of dubiously consented BDSM. Later on in the story after þja ey (a sort of binding or marriage ritual between the human and Asgardian counterpart that allowed the human to live as long as the Asgardian) Loki admits that during the first few chapters and the beginning of their sexual relations, he still intended to kill Tony or if not that, ruin him in the eyes of the other Avengers but stayed his hand. Going back to the first half of the story, it focused mainly on the sex, Tony’s troubled thoughts on their strange relationship, and how it affected his everyday life and communication with the other Avengers. The turning point of the story was after Loki’s return from Thanos’ realm, this where the romantic feelings between them began as with Loki’s persistence that they bind lest he die. It was not quite love yet but simply possessiveness, Tony did not agree right off the bat; he delayed it in fear that in time Loki would come to tire of him. As was his nature he tried to push Loki away, long story short though they did eventually bind after Tony reaffirmed with Loki that he was not changing a single bit of his personality for him, to which Loki agreed saying that he wouldn’t have it any other way, since breaking Tony would make him lose what he covets the most. The story goes on and at some point the Avengers find out and it created a whole new set of issues but also allowed for Loki’s true to feelings for Tony to surface, while at the same time it was revealed there was a spy in Stark industries selling out weapons’ blueprints to Hydra, another set of problems. So far the story has stopped at an unidentified attack on Tony’s Malibu home where Loki had hidden his son, Fenrir, for safe-keeping. The author has unfortunately deleted her work from the internet and no one knows whether she’s planning to put it up again and continue it.
I might have severely butchered the story with my hasty summarization but it is really well written and more than that. The pacing of the story was good, I did not feel that events were rushed or dragging; and the timing of everything was impeccable. The characters, both original and OC, were wonderfully portrayed and allowed to flourish in their full-potential (Tony remained as Tony and Loki remained as Loki, there was no “compromise” needed on either characters persona). The settings were well-researched and obviously given a great deal of thought (i.e the Asgardian phrases, delicacies, and traditions). The relationship of each of the characters came easily and naturally, especially that of Tony and Loki’s; there was no absorption of the submissive but a character development that was truly faithful to that of the films and comics. My only complaints are that it isn’t finished yet and every now and then, a typographical error would appear. Just one in every few chapters since the piece also seemed to be proofread by the author. The language used in writing the narrative and the dialogue was apt and allowed for easy differentiation by the reader. If this weren’t fanfiction, it could have a chance at being an actual book yet most of society is still not ready for such tales.
In a Freudian level, I suppose the reason why this particular fic is so attractive to me is because it resonates a need I haven’t been given yet. It’s not the BDSM, although that would certainly be interesting, but the need to be wanted with the same intensity as Loki and Tony want each other in this fic. It is perhaps my subconscious desire to be wanted by someone in such a way that in their eyes, I take center stage and perhaps it is also my desire to be able to want someone in the same way. Perhaps I yearn for that mad romance that promises eternity with undying passion and loyalty. From another angel it could be that I find myself reflected and yearning to be both Tony Stark and Loki, to have the other’s genius and the other’s silver-tongue, or maybe it’s just really the BDSM, since I am a hormonal teenager.