There’s supposedly a billboard that’s popped up in Los Angeles asking for Marvel to bring back Tony Stark. It alludes to the date April 24th and includes the hashtag #BringBackTonyStarkToLife [sic] and it’s all a bit strange. But let’s review what’s happening here.
Honestly, I’m having a little trouble tracking down the original source of this Tony Stark billboard and the longer I search, the more I suspect this could be a hoax like the Baby Yoda changing station. That was not a real thing that existed, but it definitely fooled me. The best I can find as an origin to the billboard is this Twitter account, which uses the same phrasing in their pinned post, and appears to use the hashtag frequently. A few other people seem to be using the hashtag as well, but a lot of it is, well, trolls. And as one fan campaigner to another, bro, I’m sorry about that. That sucks. As a result of these muddied waters, I can’t find one single source for what’s a very expensive stunt.
People do, however, seem to be preparing for some sort of social media event on April 24th, which is further explained in some tweets in that hashtag. So even if I don’t have eyes on the billboard itself, buzz is happening and people are going to do something on Saturday. An attempt to trend #BringBackTonyStarkToLife, it seems like, though their messaging isn’t entirely clear. The date seems to be selected as it marks the second anniversary of Endgame.
A new billboard has been put up by fans in Los Angeles, and asks Marvel Studios to bring the Iron Man, Tony Stark, back to life. pic.twitter.com/JtG2GvdzmL
— Lights, Camera, Pod (@LightsCameraPod) April 22, 2021
I’ve been an advocate for fan campaigns for an incredibly long time. I’ve put a lot of time into promoting #SaveHannibal, after all, even after all these years and the ever-shrinking likelihood that it’ll happen. So to the people who reportedly put up the billboard (still not convinced it’s there and need a friend to go down and take a pic please!) and plan on doing a hashtag event (more likely to actually happen), I applaud you for getting involved and being passionate. Love that about you. Keep being involved and passionate about the things that you love.
That said, I definitely disagree with you on this one. I very much disagree.
Tony Stark had one of the best written and emotionally meaningful deaths in fiction I have ever experienced. It hit me like a brick and I legitimately cried right there in the theater. And I didn’t stop crying the entire way home (apologies to my poor Lyft driver who was likely wondering WTF was going on in his backseat as I sobbed into my Endgame popcorn bucket). It was an absolute gut-punch and a perfect end to a complicated character arc from Billionaire Playboy Genius Philanthropist to I Love You 3000. It was not at all arbitrary or ham-fisted in any way. It. Made. Sense.
I get it, though. I have a habit of quitting shows when my favorite character dies. I did it with Lost (which I’m now rewatching over a decade later to see if I missed much), The Walking Dead (RIP Glenn, twice), and Supernatural (Cas, again and again and again). In fact, for the latter, I definitely joined similar campaigns to bring him back… and they did it! And then killed him again. And then brought him back again. And killed him again. And then I just stopped trying because I couldn’t take it anymore. When my reason for watching something gets taken away from me, I flip a table and leave. It’s a pattern my friends are all too familiar with, so this is all familiar territory to me.
So believe me when I say I understand the emotions behind this campaign. No judgement there. But this character conclusion provided a set up for the next several phases of films. But even beyond that, resurrecting this particular dead character could render his sacrifice meaningless. Narratively, someone had to suffer consequences so that we didn’t lose half the planet again, and the character that started it all back in 2008 is the best and most meaningful candidate to do so. Killing off anyone else would not have had the impact that killing Tony Stark did. Our continually strong reaction to it two years later is proof enough of that.
It’s also time for the story to move onto the next series of superheroes – a younger generation following in the footsteps of the giants who came before them, but forging their own path. Tony Stark’s death sets the stage for this to happen. He began to directly mentor Spider-Man, and that was great to see, but it’s time for Peter and the other young superheroes to step into the spotlight and shine in their own right. We’re getting that, thankfully, with Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, Ironheart, and so much more. This story has a planned trajectory, and bringing Tony Stark back to life would not fit into what they seem to be outlining for us. Perhaps he could come back in some way as an inspiration for these new heroes, but not ‘to life,’ as the hashtag demands.
Another thing to consider is, do we even know if RDJ wants to come back? This is a question all fan campaigns face, including the ones I’ve participated in. Every time a cast member from Hannibal mentions they’d be totally down to come back, our little six-year-long campaign get a shot of adrenaline and we all get really excited again. A cursory search on whether he wants to come back seems inconclusive. The door is open for him to come back, but chatter seems to indicate it would not be in a living, breathing way. I could see this happening. And that I could get behind.
Guys, I think it’s time for some fix-it fic for the members of this campaign. If you don’t want Tony Stark to have died in Endgame, you have the power to fix it through AO3. I’m not telling these intrepid fan campaigners to stop – heck no, I would be a hypocrite if that’s what I was doing – but I’m simply going to encourage them to forge their own path with the story, much like our young superheroes are doing in the MCU. Make it what you want and find the satisfaction you can there, because I’m not sure how successful this campaign will be for you. These things often fail, and I’m fairly confident Disney has things set up without him for many years. Brace yourself for disappointment.
So feel free to keep doing what you’re doing, but writing out what you wish to see in the series is incredibly therapeutic. I’ve been down this road many times. Many many many times. And keep that passion alive, because that’s exactly what fandom is for. I love you guys 3000.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.
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