Comic Books Magazine

Jarvis Is An Actual Person & 5 Other Differences Between the Iron Man Films and Comic Books

Posted on the 02 May 2013 by @WeMinoredInFilm

Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man.  The character exists in comic books and various animated television shows and direct-to-video films, but as far as we’re concerned Tony Stark just ain’t Tony Stark unless he’s played by a dude we know could relapse at any given moment. Furthermore, the Iron Man story as told in the Downey Jr. films – Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Iron Man 3 - is now the definitive take on the character, right?  Well, for a comic book character who has been around since 1963 it seems unfair to erase half a century of history in favor of something barely 5 years old at this point, but thus is the power of an immensely popular film franchise.

As a result, if the films are our first exposure to the character we expect everything we believe to be true about the Iron Man story to apply to all other iterations of the character.  For me, personally, when this does not happen it can be incredibly jarring.  Case in point, upon a recent viewing of the 2006 direct-to-video animated film Ultimate Avengers: The Movie I was startled to see Jarvis depicted as an actual person.  But J.A.R.V.I.S. is a computer program with a disembodied British voice which Tony created.  What the hell is he doing showing up as a laconic old butler?  Because that’s how it is in the comic books.

As it turns out,while the Downey Jr. films are more faithful to the comic books than some other superhero franchises there are still discrepancies, ranging from major to minor to storylines the films may not have gotten to yet.  Listed below are 6 such discrepancies:


1) Secret Identity Not So Secret: Tony Stark Being Out and Proud as Iron Man is Relatively New


FILMS: Super heroes have secret identities.  They just do.  They can’t help it.  They are as obsessed with it as they are pithy one-liners and occasionally dying and coming back to life.  As such, to the uninitiated it was relatively stunning when Iron Man cliffhanger’ed us by having Tony Stark stepping in front of a podium and proclaiming before a national television audience, “I am Iron Man.”  Our superheroes don’t voluntarily reveal their identities to anyone, let alone the entire world.  So, kudos to you Tony Stark.

COMICS: Until 2002, as far as the world in the comic books knew Iron Man was just Tony Stark’s bodyguard and corporate mascot.  This entailed multiple storylines in which some bad stuff went down that was Iron Man’s fault, either collateral damage or intentional evil-doings while under the influence of a bad guy.  However, Stark was free to whore his way through Eastern Europe as far as the US government was concerned because they had no idea he and Iron Man were one in the same.   Eventually, close loved ones (including Pepper Potts) would discover his secret, but the world was none the wiser.  How did his coming out party in the comics work out?  The United States President made him the Secretary of Defense.  Duh.  As would be expected, he ended up having to resign his post like one day later (okay, not quite that soon).

2) What Kind of Name is ‘Pepper’ Anyway?  Wait, It’s Just Her Nickname?


“This is for all the times you’ve called me ‘Pepper’ when you know my name is actually ‘Virginia,’ you big jerk”

FILMS: Pepper Potts is a characteristically alliterative Stan Lee comic book character name.  Due to a notoriously faulty memory and an insane work load during the formative years of Marvel Comics, Lee used alliteration in naming his characters to help keep them straight.   So, you’ve got your Reed Richards, Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Betty Brant, Doctor Doom, Green Goblin, Sue Storm, Scott Summers,  and Pepper Potts, among several others.  However, after three films with her and a fourth about to open we don’t need alliteration to help remember Gwyneth Paltrow’s fantastic turn as Pepper Potts in the Iron Man films.

COMICS: It’s a good thing, too, because Pepper’s name isn’t actually Pepper: it’s Virginia.  Or at least that’s the truth in the comic books.  Even with the Stan Lee alliteration effect, her full name is Virginia Potts, but she goes by Pepper, which is her nickname.  This is an incredibly minor discrepancy, but if simply going by the films you might be surprised to learn that Pepper has an actual first name which is not mostly thought of in association with salt (unless you’re some kind of weirdo who commonly asks, “Could you pass me the Virginia and salt?” at meals).

3) Pepper & Tony Aren’t Actually That Close – She Kind of Has Eyes for His Driver


-”Pepper, are you sure Tony doesn’t know about us?”
-”Tony? The old fool-he makes me laugh! He doesn’t suspect a thing.  Now, come over here and make me…happy.”

FILMS: Due to the incredible popularity of the films, Pepper Potts has arguably become in the popular consciousness as synonymous a love interest to Tony Stark/Iron Man as Lois Lane is to Clark Kent/Superman.   Such is the on-screen chemistry between Paltrow and Downey, Jr. that our hearts collectively broke at the end of The Avengers when Stark attempts to call and say goodbye to Potts prior to saving the Earth (well, technically just New York, but as far as movies are concerned that is the Earth) only to have her fail to answer in time.

COMICS: In reflection of the popularity of the films, as of late Pepper and Tony have moved to the foreground in the comic books as a potential romantic couple, but historically the man in her life has actually been Harold “Happy” Hogan (there’s that dang alliteration again).  Of course, Pepper had a crush on Tony in the beginning before she moved on to ultimately marry Tony’s chauffeur Hogan, who is played by Jon Favreau in the films.  Their relationship was typically troubled – they marry, he turns into a gigantic monster, they divorce, they remarry and adopt some kids before trying to have natural kids only to have her miscarry.  He dies, she almost does but becomes a cyborg and superhero.  You know – typical marriage stuff.

4) Pepper Is a Cyborg Who Can Fly and Has Her Own Iron Man-Style Suit of Armor


You see, kids. This is what we call an homage.

FILM: Pepper’s primary super power in the Iron Man films to date has been mostly defined as “sass with a side of Olympic-grade eye-rolling.”   That’s why Paltrow gets paid the big bucks, people!  Plus, at the end of Iron Man she does run across a glass surface while wearing high-heels without falling or hurting herself. which is possibly more impressive than anything Tony Stark does in the entire film (big whoop, he replaces his heart with a shiny battery).  However, in Iron Man 3 Pepper is seen at one point, based upon recent TV spots, wearing the Iron Man armor.  But, wait, how is that going to work?

COMICS: Because Pepper became a straight-up super hero of her own in the comics!  She almost dies at the hands of an enemy of Tony Stark, who saves her much in the same way he saved himself – by giving her a new electronic chest implant.  However, he goes even further and gives her additional cybernetic enhancements, making her more cyborg than human.  Tony also builds a unique set of armor for her, which she occasionally uses to do superhero stuff.  She names the armor Rescue.  Then the armor falls in love with her, and it all gets very complicated.  But before that robot-on-woman action Pepper is a proper superhero of her own.  Iron Man 3 appears to pay homage to this, but I have yet to see the film and can say no more.

5) Jarvis is a Crusty Old White Man


Imagine if Tony was talking to an actual person all those times he talks to J.A.R.V.I.S. in the films. Not quite the same, is it?

FILM: Suck it, Batman!  You’ve got your British butler, Alfred, around to impart meaningful exposition, either in support of or against your actions depending on the plot.  Tony Stark?  He has an interconnected computer program with which he can interact as if he tore out Alfred’s soul and shoved it into a machine.  He calls it J.A.R.V.I.S., and he uses it to help control the Iron Man armour as well simply have a friend with whom to chat when lonely.

COMICS: Say, Batman.  When I said, “Suck it” what I really meant was Iron Man basically ripped off Alfred from you in the form of Edwin Jarvis, a long-time Stark family butler who remains with the family and serves Tony loyally both after his parents die and after he becomes Iron Man.  The personality of J.A.R.V.I.S. in the films is modeled after that of Edwin Jarvis in the comics,  but the concept of there being a computer program with a disembodied voice interacting with Tony instead of a real person is a creation of the films.  However, a good idea is a good idea.  So, the comic books implemented the automated version of J.A.R.V.I.S. into Pepper Pott’s Rescue armor, which she can control via conversation with J.A.R.V.I.S. much in the same Downey Jr. does in the films.

6) In One Universe, Tony Totally Goes There With Black Widow


“I will not look down her blouse, I will not look down her blouse, I will not look down her blouse.”

FILM: Iron Man 2 is about a 50/50 good Iron Man sequel/lackluster S.H.I.E.L.D. prequel.  The narrative momentum of the film routinely screeches to a halt whenever Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) or Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) show up, especially if in tandem.  However, before the film reveals Romanoff’s true identity as Black Widow, an undercover  S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who looks at a dominatrix and thinks, “Yes, that’s seems like an ideal costume for field duty,” she is presented as a romantic foil for Stark and Potts.  You never get the sense that Stark is ever going to do anything with her, but you do get the sense that his flirting is annoying Pepper.  There is, of course, no real romantic tension between Romanoff and Stark (for her, it was just part of her cover identity), and the two barely even interact in The Avengers and will not be doing so in Captain America: Winter Soldier.

COMICS: Marvel has a comic book series called Ultimate Marvel which is set outside the main continuity and inside an alternate universe where the writers are free to re-imagine existing characters.  In this universe of the comics, Romanoff and Stark actually become engaged before she is revealed to be an evil secret agent attempting to seduce Stark to simply extort his vast fortune.   To add insult to injury, after that nasty business is revealed and done away with a Stark-Romanoff sex tape pops up as a further humiliation to Stark.  Considering the whole alternate universe aspect, this one is not really a discrepancy between film and comic book.  However, it was just so crazy I had to include it.

So, there you go.  Now, you have some answers if ever you are talking about any of the above and somebody asks, “Yeah, but is it like that in comics?”  Please use the comments section below to leave any feedback.

Iron Man 3 opens in the US tomorrow, after having opened in the UK nearly a full week ago.  Early word is that Ben Kingsley’s version of the villain The Mandarin differs in several significant ways from his comic book counterpart.  Alas, we poor yanks will have to wait another day to find out.

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