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The Mandarin

Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 5,217
In Reply To
America's Captain 

Location: Bayville New Jersey
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 10,503
Subj: The symmetry is the cave
Posted: Sun Feb 18, 2018 at 12:07:32 pm EST (Viewed 76 times)
Reply Subj: The Anti-Mandarin
Posted: Thu Feb 08, 2018 at 07:29:25 pm EST (Viewed 141 times)

Previous Post

So I decided to put a Mandarin-style manifesto in my signature box. Mine represents Tony.

Hey, I'm America's Captain, which you might assume is a reference to Captain America, but Tony is a captain too - a captain of industry. Scholars will be studying the brilliance of my screen name for centuries to come.

As for the manifesto - I actually think this is important in a way that transcends comic books or, better, helps give meaning to comic books. Something weird has happened to the American zeitgeist post-Summer of Love (1967). Notice how my manifesto has a picture of John Wayne on it. That's him in his 1947 role, The Tycoon. The American zeitgeist was different then. Industry was viewed as a very positive thing. Not surprising since, as a result of the American Industrial Revolution, the United States had become a major world power rivaled only by the Soviet Union.

Here's an article on the American Industrial Revolution:
3 Key Elements of the Industrial Revolution in the United States

I believe this is the mindset Stan Lee and Don Heck were laboring under when they first created Iron Man. Yes, I know, Stan later wrote that he made Tony the way he was as a challenge. Stan supposedly wanted to see if he could create the most unlikable character possible and make him a popular superhero. I personally think this is revisionist history. I love Stan Lee dearly but I do in fact think he tells a fib now and then. Iron Man in his earliest stories was a Cold War hero. He was a 1950s style leading man. He was a character who might have been played in the films by Clark Gable - who played Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind. I've attached a photo of Clark Gable. Tony Stark was Howard Hughes as a superhero. Here's an article on Howard Hughes - aviator, engineer, industrialist:
Howard Hughes

I think all of this was very straightforward and non-ironic. But then 1967 happened and oops - it wasn't cool any more to be Howard Hughes.

But post-2017 (fifty years later) the time has come, in my opinion, to reclaim the original intent of Iron Man and, in so doing, reclaim at least a smidgeon of the pre-Summer of Love zeitgeist. Industry is a very good thing. It's awesome. It's the best thing to happen to human economics since - well, since agriculture was first invented, some 15,000 years ago. Nevertheless, it has a dark side. Combating that dark side is what my Tony Stark stands for. Notice the vertical red stripe on the right hand side of my manifesto and what is written there: "Respect for the Law - the Environment - Common Decency." That's how industry needs to operate. That's how Tony Stark operates. That's also, incidentally, how AT&T (my employer) operates.

Our pal the Mandarin has his Mandarin. Well, your pal America's Captain has his Tony Stark. This, in my opinion, is the true mirror image. If one were to embrace my Tony Stark, one would immediately see the point of the Mandarin as foil and arch nemesis. Tony the nutty professor has no obvious symmetry with the Mandarin. Tony the captain of industry is a very different story. The symmetry is obvious and compelling.

The symmetry is the cave or the labor camp, depending on the era. The Mandarin is forever the ruthless aristocratic brute who wants to put you in a sweat-shop, devouring your creativity to profit himself, or laying in a hospital bed next to a Falun Gong getting your organs harvested. Stark is forever the slave escaping the slave-camp with his boundless creative genius.

Indeed, part of what makes them work is contrast rather than equivalence. The Mandarin uses chi-mysticism to enhance his savagery and strength, and combines this with symbols of wealth gained by colonialism/exploitation/stealing.

Stark clads himself in the product of his own creativity and scientific brilliance.

That's not an equivalence, it's a contrast. Yet there is a certain equivalence built into the contrast, in that the result is something of a caricature of pre-cave Stark's worst traits.

Indeed, their life-stories parallel each other to a certain point, and then take a sharp detour near the end of their origin stories.

Both Iron Man and Mandarin began as aristocrats. Iron Man was raised by parents who were cold and concerned with hardening him up and making him a real man.

The Mandarin was raised by an aunt who hated him, and raised him to be an evil super-soldier, obsessed with war and science and martial arts and political deviousness. He was raised to be the harshest possible version of what a “real man” is.

Iron Man squandered some of his fortune on wasteful, hedonistic things, but ultimately was responsible enough to keep his company afloat and keep the people under him employed and prosperous.

The Mandarin squandered every bit of wealth he inherited, bankrupting his estate to transform himself into a super-soldier. His estate became so bankrupt he couldn’t even afford to pay property taxes. As a result, the lives of everyone who depended on his estate was ruined.

Out of a desire to protect American soldiers with the best equipment and keep his company alive, Iron Man de facto supported American actions that were at least semi-colonial. It’s a stain on his conscience that he works every day to rectify.

The Mandarin explored new lands, discovered alien resources, and outright conquered, colonized, enslaved the native villages there so he could exploit the resources there, i.e. the alien technology and rings. He was pretty much colonialism-incarnate. He remains a proud conqueror and exploiter to this day.

At each stage of their lives, their stories have parallels, though Mandarin's version is always at least slightly more evil. Then at the end there is a huge divergence: Stark becomes a slave, and through his creativity becomes a knight.

The Mandarin explores/exploits/steals, and via that Christopher Columbus-like behavior gains what are, at least in the Silver Age and Bronze Age, essentially ninja-tools.

I'm digressing a lot. My point is that Stark is the slave in the cave, and The Mandarin is the brute who wants to put us all in the cave.

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