So Sayeth the Odinson: The Comics that Inspired the MCU: The Infinity Saga: Part 1 of 4

Greetings from the Odinson,

From its launch in 2008 with the great Jon Favreau’s Iron Man to the larger than life spectacle of Endgame in 2019, the Infinity Saga was a 10+ year cinematic achievement never before reached by Hollywood, and given the current landscape of Tinseltown these days, won’t again for a very long time.  Over 20 films, hundreds of characters, and dozens of storylines are interwoven and slowly built to the biggest climax in cinema history.  It truly is awe-inspiring what Marvel Studios accomplished. 

But like the great epics, legends, and myths of old, these movies were inspired by something that came before.  The Comic Books. 

Stan LeeJack KirbySteve DitkoJoe Simon.  The stories weaved by these men in the 40s and 60s, along with the tales told over the next five decades by such modern masters as Roy Thomas, Walt Simonson, Ed Brubaker, Mark Millar, and many others laid the groundwork that inspired what we now call the Marvel Cinematic Universe

The Comics that Inspired the MCU: The Infinity Saga: Part 1 of 4

While the first Iron Man film and all three Captain America movies come the closest, none of the MCU movies are direct adaptations of any single comic book tale or storyline.  But every single film in all Phases of the MCU – the characters, the locales, and the narratives – all draw inspiration and cherry-picked from throughout Marvel Comics History

Phase I (2008-2012)

Even though the Avengers are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, for the most part of Marvel Comics History, they have almost always played second fiddle, at least in sales in the modern era, to titles like Spider-Man and the X-Men.  Thanks to financial woes in the 90s, the film rights to Marvel’s most popular characters – Spider-Man, X-Men, Hulk, Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, and Daredevil – all belonged to other studios. 

So, Marvel Studios, when they wanted to launch their films, were left with what was left, i.e. the Avengers.  This was okay with the Odinson here because while I always loved Spidey and Chris Claremont’s stellar run on the X-Men, my favorite comics have always been the ones starring the Avengers characters.  Hence the reason why Captain America and Thor are on my Mount Rushmore of All Time Favorite Super Heroes (alongside Superman and ROM Spaceknight, in case you were wondering).

So now they’re telling me that these are the characters that are going to spearhead Marvel’s homegrown films?  Take all my money!

Iron Man – It had been since 1989’s Batman that I can remember seeing an image of a comic book character in a TV advertisement that got me as excited about a movie based on a comic book as the trailer for Iron Man got me.  When Black Sabbath’s I am Iron Man… rocks the speakers and that metal door comes crashing down to reveal the Mark I grey suit of armor in all its glory, I was giddy and said to myself, “OMG, they nailed it!”

The Comics that Inspired the Film:

Tales of Suspense #39 – Tony Stark’s origin is told and updated beautifully, but besides the respect paid to the source material, the thing that really captured the Odinson’s imagination is the respect paid to the visuals.  The film brought this iconic cover to life!

Iron Man #200 – And speaking of great visuals.  The third act showdown between hero Tony Stark and villain Obadiah Stane – between Iron Man and the hulking Iron Monger – was totally reminiscent of this classic issue that launched a new era for Shell Head in the mid-1980s. 

The Incredible Hulk – This film leans heavily on the premise presented in the fantastic Incredible Hulk TV series that ran from 1977 to 1982 that starred Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno, and though this chapter of Phase I was produced by Universal Pictures and Bruce Banner was portrayed by Edward Norton and not Mark Ruffalo, as he would be henceforth, a post credits meet up between Tony Stark and General Thunderbolt Ross firmly places this movie in the continuity of the MCU.

The Comics that Inspired the Film:

The Incredible Hulk #3 – For most of the Hulk’s early years, his most tenacious enemy was the US Army and that plight carries over into this film. 

Tales to Astonish #90-91 – Within these pages was the debut of the Abomination, a gamma-powered monster whose strength rivaled even the Hulk.  And here, as in the film, the Abomination is portrayed as actually stronger than the Hulk, that is, until the Green Goliath gets angry.

The Incredible Hulk #344 – The scene in the film when Hulk and Betty take sanctuary atop a mountain and bond was very reminiscent of this issue when Hulk and Betty finally have a heart-to-heart and reach a moment of mutual understanding. 

Iron Man 2 – Though probably one of the Odinson’s least favorite films in the MCU, this film did cherry pick some great gems from Shell Heads history.

The Comics that Inspired the Film:

Demon in a Bottle – This seminal storyline saw Stark not handling his alcoholism well, even nearly losing his company, and his role as Iron Man to James RhodesIron Man 2 touches on these story beats, albeit in a much more condensed fashion. 

Iron Man #120 – As in the tale Demon in a Bottle, in Iron Man 2, the main villain pulling the strings and orchestrating Tony’s downfall is Justin Hammer who was introduced in this issue and this film. 

Tales of Suspense #46 and 97 – In this film, Mikey Rourke portrays a villain that combines two of Iron Man’s all time classic foes, Crimson Dynamo and Whiplash, into one character. 

Tales of Suspense #52 – The Black Widow made her debut in the pages of an Iron Man story, so it would stand to reason that she’d debut in the MCU in an Iron Man movie. 

Avengers West Coast #94 – Not only did Tony Stark’s friend James Rhodes take over the mantle of Iron Man for a while, he eventually donned the War Machine armor, just like in Iron Man 2.

Thor – The Odinson can die a happy man because I got to see fabled Asgard in all its splendor on the Big Screen thanks to this film.

The Comics that Inspired the Film:

Journey into Mystery #83 – Though the mortal guise of Donald Blake is not used in the films, the lesson of humility and Thor being cast out of Valhalla by Odin is in this movie. 

Journey into Mystery #85 – So is the rivalry with his evil step brother, Loki.

Tales of Asgard from the pages of The Might Thor #112-113 – Loki’s origins and the fact that Odin took him in after defeating Loki’s father in battle are also present in this film. 

The Mighty Thor #118 – Though it is depowered greatly, the monstrous Destroyer armor is featured heavily in the first Thor film.

Captain America: The First AvengerOh, Captain! My Captain!  Not only have I lived long enough to see fabled Asgard on the Big Screen, I have seen, hands down, the best possible portrayal of Steve Rogers and everything he stands for as portrayed by the incomparable Chris Evans. 

The Comics that Inspired the Film:

Captain America Comics #1 – A small, weak man with the heart of a lion that just wants to serve his country.  I cannot imagine a better rendition of Steve Rogers’ origin as told in this movie. 

Captain America #273-274 – Though Sgt. Fury and the Invaders did not make an appearance (except a quick cameo by Human Torch), Captain America’s adventures during World War II and the Howling Commandos and evil Hydra sure did.  Speaking of evil…

Tales of Suspense #65-67 – The Sentinel of Liberty’s greatest adversary, the diabolical Red Skull, was as sinister and scary as Joe Simon and Jack Kirby imagined him. 

Captain America #297 and Avengers #4 – Though details were changed, the loss of Bucky, Cap going into the ice, and his awakening in the modern era were all handled wonderfully.

Marvel’s The Avengers – Other than finally, FINALY, getting that incredible Avengers Assemble moment in Endgame, the Odinson cannot possibly fathom the moment the six core Avengers assemble in that epic spinning shot on the war torn streets of New York City ready to toe the line, follow Captain America’s command, and layeth the smacketh down on the invading alien hordes ever being topped in my lifetime. 

The Comics that Inspired the Film:

The Avengers #1 – Just like in the comic that started it all, there came a day unlike any other, when Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were united against a common threat.  On that day the Avengers were born!  To fight the foes no single hero could withstand.  And the catalyst for this great assembly was Loki. 

Tune in next week as we continue to look at the comic books that inspired the Infinity Saga – Phase II.

This is Odinson bidding thee farewell

NOTE: For past entries of the So Sayeth the Odinson blog, over a decade’s worth of comic book and pop culture articles and reviews, click HERE.  Also, be sure to check out my novels The Survivors and Autumn Dawn, which were inspired by 1980s horror – HERE and HERE

About Odinson

I am a lifelong comics fan and pop culture enthusiast. Comic books, novels, games, television, movies, I love it all. From fantasy to science fiction, drama to comedy, as long as the writing and execution are interesting, I love it, and I want to talk about it.

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