It seems Disney has wimped out from using the famous “Demon in a Bottle” storyline in IRON MAN 3. A few scenes in IRON MAN 2 suggested that Tony Stark’s partying was a little out of control, but the hero can’t take a fall this time out.

The “Demon in a Bottle” story by David Michelinie, Bob Layton, and John Romita Jr showed Tony Stark’s confrontation with alcoholism, and has remained a touchstone for the character ever since.

However, IM3 screenwriters Shane Black and Drew Pearce report that Disney was not down with going in this direction in the new film. “I think we were just told by the studio that we should probably paint Tony Stark as being kind of an industrialist and a crazy guy, or even a bad guy at some points, but the Demon in a Bottle stuff of him being an alcoholic wouldn’t really fly. I don’t blame that. If you’re gonna do alcoholism and the Mandarin, then you would really have to make the whole movie about it,” said Black.

Pearce echoed this, saying, “It’s also kind of a ‘pick your battles’ thing; alcoholism is a massive problem but it’s also not the best villain for a movie.”

Black seemed to think the storyline might still be used some day, and it is true that shoehorning in the very real problems of alcoholism with a carefree story about flying around saving people might be a tonal disconnect and more offensive than not.

On the other hand, it’s also a sign that these are just feel good summer movies, and hints of the actual pain of actual real people are not really a factor. Plus, you know, multimillionaire industrialist job creators who love to party are good for the economy.

I think it would have been great to see darker elements of Tony Stark’s lifestyle dealt with in the film. Overcoming one’s own weaknesses—real weaknesses not just being scared of putting on tights—is even tougher than fighting Ben Kingsley in makeup, and suggesting that being responsible about drinking and staying in recovery would have been a powerful message about what makes a hero. Maybe next time?


  1. For the digital comic enthusiasts out there, Comixology has the ‘Demon in a Bottle’ storyline for $.99 per issue today (Monday, April 22). I haven’t read it in a few years, but I remember liking it quite a bit other than the typical Bronze Age exposition overload.

  2. I like how Black is making Lemonade with this. It is a good point though, you’d have to go all out with the alcoholism thing. It’s something that works much better in the context of an ongoing story (like a comic or TV show).

  3. I don’t understand why there would be tonal disconnect or offensive in regards to featuring alcoholism. Put aside the 2nd movie cause it was a piece of shit, but the first dealt with some very important and very sensitive real world issues (war, corporate ethics, government oversight, terrorism, etc) in a very good way that was both interesting and entertaining. I don’t see why talented guys like Black and Downey couldn’t do the same thing with alcoholism, particularly since Downey has struggled with substance abuse in the past.

  4. “Offensive”?!? Still w/ the facades, eh, Mousemachine??? Never help people face reality & character defects–just keep ’em blissful & ignorant. Maybe the prices @ the Silly Symphony Saloons in the Disney Projects around the globe ARE exorbitant, but as long as the goods deliver & keeps ’em goofy, why not just duck the important issues & keep ’em small down on the farm. Corporations are not people…I hear ya.

  5. This is good news. The alcoholism storyline, famous as it was for being told in its time and place, was probably the worst thing to happen to Tony Stark the character. Made him go from being larger than life to being like your nerdy dad.

  6. The problem I see with having alcoholism in a superhero storyline is that the alcoholism will generally affect real-life relationships and situations, which aren’t easy to fit into superhero storylines, especially given decompressed scripting in comics, and the desired feel-good storylines in movies.

    If alcoholism were to result in serious injuries or death, the hero would be guilty of manslaughter, negligence, or assorted other crimes, and effectively finished as a hero.


  7. Why would they be finished as a hero? Superheroes constantly wreck stuff inadvertently and occasionally kill people under the influence of mind control and stuff.

  8. Why would they be finished as a hero?

    Superheroes might cause property damage during battles, but not deaths. Remember how some people at Marvel would argue at great length that the Hulk never killed anyone during his rampages?

    If a superhero has ever killed anyone while under the influence of mind control, he’s not to blame, technically. The source of the mind control is. AvX was a fiasco in part because of the personal responsibility issue with Cyclops. An alcoholic, conversely, is responsible for whatever he does while he’s drunk.


  9. Wolverine has killed like, a bazillion people on purpose and he somehow manages to star in multiple comics every month and the occasional movie.

  10. I’d agree with the screenwriters as well. A fast-paced adventure yarn isn’t really the best venue for trying to address severe addiction. If it’s “resolved” in the context of a superhero storyline, it would probably come across as superficial and glib to the audience. I’m not sure I’m explaining that well, but getting control of an addiction takes months or, more likely, years, and I don’t think it would be easy to set a superhero adventure against that kind of long-term backdrop.

  11. They probably canned it after not getting the Budweiser promotional campaign on-board. It’ll be “demon in a bottle” of Five Hour Energy instead. “Tony’s gone crazy!”

  12. As Heidi said, “these are just feel-good summer movies.” They’re not going to introduce elements that might be disturbing and off-putting to the largest possible audience.

  13. If the third movie doesn’t have it, fine with me. I never liked the alcoholism storyline. It clashed too much with the ToS Iron Man that I much prefer.

  14. First of all, in the original “Demon In A Bottle” arc, Justin Hammer takes control of the “Iron Man” armor while Tony Stark is wearing it and kills a foreign dignitary. Thus people believe Iron Man is a murderer and the horror Tony feels makes him drink even more. Of course, since people in the movies know Tony is Iron Man, this would make him a fugitive and make it harder for him to clear himself. A good storyline, but maybe not as action packed as Marvel would like (and harder for parents to explain to their kids why Iron Man just killed someone).

    Also I once asked Robert Downey during a junket interview (before the second movie) if he had any interest in making Tony’s alcoholism a big part of a future movie and he thought it wasn’t a good idea. However, Robert is obviously close with Shane Black and if Shane wanted it, it’s likely he convinced Downey to do it.

  15. I met one of the screenwriters for the first movie before it came out and asked him about it. He said they were, “Saving it for the sequel.” So, at least some people thought it would have been in movie number two.

  16. I have no interest in a superhero movie about alcoholism. Thank you, Disney! The reason AVENGERS drew me back to Iron Man after the awful second movie is because I wanted to be Tony Stark flying around New York, living in a penthouse creating crazy stuff and joking around. I was REALLY STRESSED out by my own real world problems and AVENGERS reminded me that life can be as fun as I want it to be.

  17. I kind of agree with Disney, if this was the Iron Man tv show you could do it but in a movie like this it would be relegated to a sub plot and that kinda seems disingenuous.

  18. I don’t expect to ever see a literal, verbatim adaptation of “Demon in a Bottle.” But the alcoholism could be used as a subplot, as Josh mentions.

    That circa-1979 story was criticized because Stark overcame his drinking problem too quickly and easily. When Denny O’Neil took over the writing, a few years later, he had Stark fall off the wagon and go through a more realistic (and grueling) ordeal. O’Neil has talked in interviews about his own experiences with heavy drinking, and he brought that knowledge to these stories, which deserve rediscovery.

  19. My problem with the second Iron Man movie was that it was played too much for laughs. The filmmakers obviously noticed that audiences loved Downey’s quips in the first movie. So in the sequel, the quips took over. I couldn’t take Stark or his problems seriously. (Loved the scene where he was drunk and dancing in the armor, though.) As previously mentioned here, the character recovered in “The Avengers.”

    Anyway, keep in mind that big-budget movies (and TV shows) have to appeal to a MUCH larger audience than the 300,000 or so people who buy Marvel comic books each month. So there will always be compromises and omissions that upset hardcore fans.

  20. At the end of Iron Man 4 perhaps have him go full circle from the first Iron Man movie’s last scene just before the credits, showing him humbling himself asking for help from others: “My name is Tony Stark, and… I am an alcoholic.”

    How else can we have a better metaphor for the early 21st Century audience to relate to: 20th Century cheap oil with American ingenuity, too much too fast, arrogance, and EXCESSIVE consumption in a seductive digital wired world of instant gratification? Here is the equation:
    (Tony Stark + IRON MAN / Avengers * Running a multi-national arms corporation) * alcoholism = cinematic self-destructive consequences; i.e. Iron Man IV

    ***That is the BIG THING here when dealing with Tony Stark in particular when dealing with this “Demon in a bottle” story -Iron Man is derived from SELF preservation; instead of Tony Stark learning how to ask for help he is so used to always solving problems, and “arrogance” so-to-speak can inadvertently cause his sense of logic to never really exercise the possibility that solutions involve the HELP from others. There is no way to overcome something like alcoholism/addiction on your own, just like you can never will yourself to automatically overcome a death, or avoid feelings of rejoice at a wedding… ‘It’s unwise to become your own lawyer’ type of thing. Perfect story most “Americans”/consumers can relate to (or are about to become very familiar with how we have just been screwing ourselves over in the long run as a we have become a *consumer caste* (republican and democrat are two ways of being a -‘consumer’, and in no way do either parties contain the attributes of collaboration, cooperation, tolerance and other *AMERCIAN* qualities that allow an organization or firm to become competitive, effective, and sustainable in the long term). of vainly thinking we can be independent like our *multi-national corporate castes*; not a political outlook involving support/rejection of any political party***)

  21. I picked up on the allusions to recover all through iron man three. “Gift of desperation” “ananymonity” ” we create our own demonds” even the glowing emblem on Stark’s chest is the AA symbol.

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