Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe


In 1961, Marvel Comics – under the editorial direction of Stan Lee – ushered in a new era of comic book Super Heroes – heroes who were brilliant, but imperfect; heroes who struggled with who they were and the powers they held.

One of Marvel’s most beloved and flawed characters, Tony Stark, whose alter ego is Iron Man, was the first to appear on the big screen, in Iron Man 2008, as Marvel began to recast its heroes and the universe they share for the cinematic experience. The audacious charms of Tony’s reckless genius–billionaire–playboy–philanthropist character were hugely popular, and two sequels followed – Iron Man 2 2010 and Iron Man 3 2013.

This move from comic book to big screen was inevitable, and the parallels between the two visual storytelling mediums are obvious – both use similar panel-to-panel structures to show the development of characters in the narrative through images.

Installation view of Foyer Cabinet, ‘Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe’, GOMA 2017 / Photograph: Natasha Harth © QAGOMA

The storyboard shown here depicts an action sequence from Iron Man 2 2010, in which Iron Man and his friend War Machine defend themselves from an attack by war drones remotely controlled by Iron Man’s nemesis, Whiplash. The film drew inspiration from the early comic book Tales of Suspense 1959 #39, in which Tony Stark and Iron Man first appeared, and from the ‘Extremis’ story arc from the more recent comic book release Iron Man 2004.

Amanda Slack-Smith is exhibition curator ‘Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe’ and Associate Curator, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA

Adi Granov / Iron Man no.1 / Concept art for Iron Man 2 2010 / © 2017 MARVEL

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Go behind the scenes to experience more than 500 unique objects from your favourite films, including Iron Man’s suit of armour, Tony Stark racing suit and helmet, Stark racing car, and never-before-seen iconic objects which offer a glimpse into the work of production designers, storyboarding and pre‑visualisation artists, costume and prop designers, and visual effects artists alongside the original comic books which introduced the characters and influenced the films.

Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe / Gallery of Modern Art / 27 May – 3 September 2017

Feature image: Installation view of Foyer Cabinet, ‘Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe’, GOMA 2017 / Photograph: Natasha Harth © QAGOMA