How Marvel Studios Decided Iron Man Would Be Its First Movie


Nowadays, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the biggest movie franchise in the world, but it all started with 2008’s Iron Man. Marvel Studios lucked out right off the bat with their origin story for Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, as clearly, there was a thirst to see this particular hero on the big screen at the time. But how did Marvel know what people wanted? Simple: They asked them. Well, they asked the little people, anyway.

As revealed in the book The Big Picture: The Fight For the Future of Movies by Ben Fritz (via QZ), the studio’s big scheme to find out what film they should make first saw them give a load of action figures to a bunch of kids and ask them to pick their favorite. You see, their prediction at the time was that the gross from the movie would likely only break even, so they’d need toy sales to make a profit. When the children picked Iron Man as their clear top choice, the film went into production and the rest is cinematic history.

You can see why Marvel’s guinea pigs picked Iron Man as their favorite toy. With the exception of the Hulk, many of the other major Avengers are clearly just guys in costumes. Tony, though, appears to be a colorful robot, and what child doesn’t love a colorful robot? Still, it’s funny to think that if these kids had chosen another action figure, the MCU could have been very different. In fact, we wonder if there’s a parallel universe out there where Hawkeye’s the central hero of the franchise…

Though the reason for this experiment was obviously motivated by corporate interests, it’s quite a pure-hearted way of going about deciding what superhero movie to make. Though us adult comic book lovers get very protective of our favorite characters, it’s worth remembering that, ultimately, how children respond to these films is arguably the most important thing. After all, if they don’t grow up loving superheroes like Iron Man, then there won’t be any future for the genre, right?