Iron Man 3 and Iron Man Extremis: A LitFlix

Iron Man 3 PreludeThis is my first LitFlix to do, as I am tackling the comic movies this year. Check out my original post about that here. This is our first summer blockbuster, and our first comic movie for the year. This is Iron Man 3.

I had a bit of trouble nailing down what comic to read, to prepare for Iron Man 3, and I discuss some of that process here. So first, I am going to talk about about my comics hunt, then about the comic that leads into Iron Man 3, and compare.

Past here I am going to delve into spoilers, so be warned. If you want your own LitFlix experience with Iron Man 3, I recommend reading Invincible Iron Man, Volume 4: Extremis. I have the six-part comic on my Marvel App. Also, see Iron Man 3. It’s a blast.

The Great Comic Hunt

Iron Man 2 Public IdentityOkay, I probably could have done a simple Google search for “what comic should I read for Iron Man 3” or something, and while I have done that for Man of Steel, I felt like, by the time we were at a third movie, and post-Avengers, that finding an exact analog in the comics for Iron Man 3 was never going to happen. So I didn’t even really look, at least, not much outside the Marvel App.

My first thought, as I mentioned before, was Ultimate Iron Man. I figured, since the Ultimate universe was the Marvel universe rebooted into the modern age, it was a good starting place. I felt like Ultimate X-Men was a good lead-in for the X-Men films, so I thought the same might have applied with Iron Man. Especially with the real world situations of the first film, it seemed plausible.

Also, it was written by Orson Scott Card, so that’s its own can of worms. Again, I talk about that here.

Anyway, that was not it. Though it did end up a little closer to the comic that was the inspiration for the film than I might have expected, and before seeing the film, I thought that I might be talking a lot more about Ultimate Iron Man. But no, that wasn’t it. I’ll talk a bit more about that later.

So then, I found something I should have expected. I had known, from seeing it on bookshelves, that my favorite author Peter David wrote the novelization of Iron Man. Well, I found that he also did the comicization of Iron Man. So, I read that. It was super close to the movie, to the point of being a little pointless to have someone talented like Mr. David writing it.

I went on to read the Iron Man 2 prequel comic, Iron Man 2: Public Identity. In it, Tony Stark is out Iron Manning it up, fighting more dudes, creating world peace like he talks about in Iron Man 2. Also, there are some backstory bits with the creation of the Arc Reactor, as well as bad Hammer tech, and General Ross from The Incredible Hulk.

Who also is apparently the Red Hulk? Which is a thing? Anyway…

Then, I read the Iron Man 3 prequel comics, or Prelude as they were called, which this time didn’t even really try to hide the movie tie-in, and had movie scene covers. These comics are mainly about War Machine hunting down the Ten Rings, which got me really looking into the Ten Rings, rewatching Iron Man to see the Ten Rings and hear them mentioned. They really were there from the beginning, so that’s neat.

There’s even a great scene where Tony calls up Rhodes and asks for help in New York against the Chitauri. Rhodes is busy across the world, fighting the Ten Rings. I kind of like that he wasn’t completely forgotten for this. Just, you know, mostly.

Okay, so we were there, opening week, the movie coming out Friday. I had not found any particularly good comic tie-ins, other than a blatant prequel filler story. I had not read anything about the Mandarin (and still haven’t, really). But then, I was looking at the posters and thinking, “who is Guy Pearce playing?” I mean really, there’s already a lot of other things going on. The Mandarin was played up so much in the trailers – seriously, they did a good job of creating the mystique and fear of the Mandarin before the movie ever hit the screen. Nice job, trailer-makers.

That’s when I found it. The comic. I looked up Guy Pearce’s character: Adrian Killian. Alive in one comic: 2005’s Extremis.

Then I just had to look at a second page, figuring the first one was not enough. The second page spoiled me. Before the movie came out. Really? Come on. I suppose I have warned you of spoilers, though.

In Iron Man 3, Adrian Killian is The Mandarin. Really? They just had to lead with this on some random webpage? I thought I had scarred my whole movie-going experience.

So one of the great things about this movie is, it didn’t. But anyway, I read Extremis.

Iron MAn: Extremis

Iron Man Extremis

So, Extremis opens with Adrian Killian killing himself. So… that’s not quite what I thought would happen in the movie. Interesting to dig up a character like that, really. And to do something new, and different, with him.

In Extremis, Dr. Maya Hansen (who also makes her way into Iron Man 3) and Dr. Killian were working on a super-powered drug called Extremis which accomplishes something that is actually a common but powerful superhero plot: it’s a serum that regenerates the user. It’s the backbone of much of Wolverine’s life, it’s the plot of Heroes: Season One, it’s a cure for cancer, a way to make normal people into superheroes, it’s a major plothook.

In Extremis, Tony Stark and Maya Hansen met when they were younger, both driven, both brilliant; but while Tony had money and came from money, and was a man and accepted inventor and innovator, Dr Hansen was a woman, and did not have money, and had to fight to get accepted with her inventions. Both end up with military contracts funding things, and while we’re used to the story of Stark making weapons then giving up with the Iron Man, Hansen has a similar story. She wanted a cure, and Extremis would do it. It’s a major breakthrough.

But first, it’s weaponized.

It creates supersoldiers, strong, fast, with endurance, and the ability to breathe fire, and you know, who doesn’t want to breathe fire? However, to get there, you have to go through your DNA re-writing itself, the body learning it can quickly regrow itself. Kinda gross, as there is a whole-body-scab phase, and some other things discreetly left out of the movie. Works.

Hansen and Killian never got approved to actually test Extremis on anyone, until it is stolen and given to a domestic terrorist, who uses it to cause mayhem, kick Iron Man’s ass, and generally terrorize. He kills an opinionated girl, for disagreeing with him. He’s a bad dude. And Tony can’t stop him.

The armor is too slow; the Iron Man is too slow. Not sturdy enough. Tony has to wear a full body contact suit to control it. He has an activate chip in his arm for it (this makes its way into the movie, but also worked great as a next-step from the target bracelets Tony puts on while talking to Loki in The Avengers). Tony has also been completely shit-kicked.

So he takes Extremis, with Dr. Hansen’s help. He also coded it a little differently when she wasn’t looking, to add in Iron Man control stuff, replacing the need for quite a bit of tech with his own biology. He becomes a super hero in his own right, without the suit, even. Except his powers are mainly tied into having the suit be perfectly suited to his body, an extension of it.

So he kicks the terrorist’s butt, then realizes, the only way that Hansen could test Extremis was to fake a robbery of it, and put it in a willing victim. This proof-of-concept could get her additional funding, and she could move away from it as a weapon and towards a cure. Too bad for the killing and villainy in-between.

Also in this comic are flashbacks to Tony becoming Iron Man, complete with Yinsen and the electromagnet in his chest. In Extremis, Tony has already had the shrapnel removed from his chest – which happens at the end of Iron Man 3, but still also makes its way in, much like Yinsen and the trapped-in-a-cave origin story made it into Iron Man. Although the comic book Yinsen looks to be a different sort of Asian.

I was amazed by how this comic very clearly was the basis for the movie trilogy. It places Iron Man clearly into our modern world, has him tinkering in the garage, these sorts of things. However, the main points of comparison are all in Iron Man 3.

Iron Man 3 and Extremis: A Comparison

I walked into this movie, therefore, confused and intrigued. Did this comic have nothing to do with Extremis, and I had again found a dead end? They were just using Adrian Killian’s name?

Or, had reading Ultimate Iron Man paid off? Because there was one major similarity between Ultimate Iron Man and Extremis: Tony Stark ending up with regenerative technological powers. Was this what was going to happen in Iron Man 3?


So, I’ve already mentioned some intriguing minor points that are similar between Extremis and Iron Man 3, including characters, the drug Extremis, some of the other technology, and there are others. Heck, Extremis even makes someone breathe fire in the movie. They only do it once, but it was a thing.

More major are the two main character arcs: Tony Stark’s, and Maya Hansen’s.

In Maya’s story, she has all the right intentions, but ends up doing bad things because she believes so much in Extremis that she is willing for people to get hurt for it to succeed. She was the one who invented it, and Tony does not figure out that she is mildly bad for much of the story.

In Tony’s story, though he does not end up actually getting Extremis himself – thus distancing the film from some of my expectations, and fully from Ultimate Iron Man – he does have to become a hero himself without just being a hero with Iron Man. Yes, in the film he does it with some cobbled together tech and fights some guys to get to the Mandarin, but still, the character arc of having to learn how to be a hero, and not just for Iron Man to be a hero, is there. So that was neat.


There are many minor differences from Extremis, which really, were going to happen. The existence of characters like Pepper Potts and Happy in the mix. The chronology of this being right after the initial Avengers battle. The sorts of things that, unless the movies were all slavishly based on a comic book series, had to be different from the comic. In fact, they do a very good job of working in a remarkably large amount of content from the comic while still maintaining the full character development and timeline from the previous films.

The biggest difference from the comic is the addition of the Mandarin to the whole plot. Which has made me notice that most superhero movies tend to have multiple villains, instead of just one. I think that’s a blog post for another time.

So, I had been spoiled on the Mandarin: it was actually Adrian Killian. However, I was almost immediately reassured by the movie. After opening with I’m Blue by Eifel 65, the movie introduces us to Adrian Killian and Maya Hansen, and Tony Stark blows them both off. As the voice-over tells us, we create our own demons. Maybe especially when you’re a total jerk to them, like Tony Stark is.

But there is Adrian Killian, abandoned and alone, nearly committing suicide. When he returns later, the thought that he might actually be pulling the strings – playing Tony’s demon, as Tony already introduced to us – is not a huge leap. So really, I was not as spoiled as I could have been.

Instead, they turn the Mandarin into a stage presence, into a scarecrow, into a creation of fear. They had to up the ante for incredibly plausible story reasons: how do you compete with international attention on aliens destroying New York?

The other major difference is Extremis making people explode, but that worked pretty well for the story. It was a mystery to be solved – a bomb without a bomb.

The rest is things they did by thinking their way through these elements, by working Extremis into their existing plotlines, by playing with a large number of Iron Man suits – which, like in Extremis, Tony Stark is uniquely suited to controlling.

Overall, this was an okay comic, an excellent movie, and an impressive adaptation for a comic movie: if you did not know it was based on a comic, I don’t think you would need to. I don’t think it would be apparent. They worked it in pretty seamlessly.

Want more about Iron Man 3? Check out Holly’s post on Tony Stark and Pepper Potts!


8 responses to “Iron Man 3 and Iron Man Extremis: A LitFlix

  1. Pingback: Iron Man 2 Revisited | Comparative Geeks

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  4. yeah, I thought it was pretty well known that Iron Man 3 was based on the Extremis comic?
    I still haven’t read the comic itself, but I did watch the motion comic version of it, and it is FANTASTIC:


    • To be fair, I had not put a ton of research into it, so I would not be surprised if the rumors were out there and I just had not seen them. I did see, for instance, the rumors about which comics Thor: The Dark World was going to be based on. However, that was a loosely based, whereas Extremis ended up being hugely influential in the story they told in Iron Man 3.

      That being said, they did have to change the story a bunch to match it together with what they had come before it – in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and The Avengers. I thought they did a decent job, though you get moments like Killian breathing fire which only happens once, and you realize it’s just in there because it’s something they could do with Extremis in the comic. Comic book movies… what do you do?

      I liked your piece on the Motion Comics, thanks for sharing that! And if you liked my piece here, check out some of our other LitFlix!


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  7. Pingback: Talking Movies [Iron Man Month]: Iron Man 3 – Dr. K's Waiting Room

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