Iron Man’s Art Noveau armor redesign highlights his similarities to the Eternals, and their shared attempt to escape the influence of their creators.
While Iron Man has worn countless sets of armor over Marvel history, his intricate Art Noveau-inspired suit is unique in matching the style of the MCU’s Eternals, giving an impression of what Tony Stark would look like as one of the immortal beings. However, far from being a coincidence, this is because the design sensibilities of Tony’s suit match those behind the movie heroes’ costumes.
A tireless innovator and designer of advanced suits, Tony Stark tends to devise his armor according to bleeding edge technology and the demands of the moment, whether that’s an almost undetectable stealth suit or armor capable of taking on the Norse god Thor. However, in Marvel’s 2010 ‘Iron Man by Design’ cover art initiative, a host of talented artists were asked to redesign Tony’s armor not according to his needs as a superhero, but based on various time periods and themes.
‘Iron Man by Design’ gave fans some impossible suits Tony would never devise in regular continuity, such as his Pinball Armor and a Roman gladiator suit. However, his most intricate suit – one which originally appeared on a variant cover for Nova #36 – comes from artist John Tyler Christopher. Christopher’s suit was based on the Art Nouveau movement, and imagines Tony in armor adorned by smooth, almost liquid curves and ornate decoration. However, fans of the MCU will also notice the cover bears a resemblance to the MCU’s Eternals.
This similarity is no accident, as the Eternals’ costumes were development with many of the same goals as Art Nouveau. Inspired by the types of dynamic curves found in nature, Art Nouveau is intended to be at once highly decorative and comfortingly natural in appearance. Many of these principles exist in the Eternals’ movie armor, with Eternals costume designer Sammy Sheldon Differ telling Screen Rant that the curving aesthetic, characterized by circles within circles, was meant to feel similarly “artistic and organic.” As ancient and yet highly advanced superhumans created by beings who existed before the Earth, it makes perfect sense for the Eternals to exist in the midpoint of considered design and organic, naturally occurring patterns.
One way in which Tony is identical to the comic-book Eternals is in the concept of their powers being dictated by their personalities. In the comics, the Eternals have the same base powers of cosmic energy control, but wield them in different ways according to their personalities, which were dictated by the Celestials to give each a unique role. Iron Man’s recent attempt to give everyone in New York his level of intellect proved he’s capable of everything from medical breakthroughs to philosophical revelations about the meaning of life, but that his focus on armor shapes his genius in very particular ways. For both Tony Stark and the Eternals, almost anything is possible, but their attempts to change themselves and the world around them will always be defined by aspects of their personalities they didn’t necessarily choose.
Especially in their recent revamp from Kieron Gillen and Esad Ribić, the Eternals are a race abandoned by their gods, trying to build a new sense of purpose after discovering their devotion to the Celestials was based on a lie. It’s easy to see this mass disillusionment as a cosmic version of Tony’s fraught relationship with his father and the ways in which he has tried to turn the Stark weapons empire into something that can benefit the world. While the Eternals may not think much of Iron Man in current Marvel canon, his Art Nouveau armor makes him look like he belongs among their ranks, and if they could overcome the snobbishness of immortals to learn something from a simple human futurist, he might actually be the perfect guide for how to forge something meaningful out of the person you were ‘meant’ to be.
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