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Since we first heard that Robert Downey Jr. was cast as the man inside Iron Man, fans have wondered whether the movies would ever get around to exploring Tony Stark’s addiction problems. It seems like such a natural fit, with Robert Downey’s real life past almost a mirror image of Tony’s comic book struggles with alcoholism. Aside from a glass of scotch now and then, the first movie ignored the issue and there’s little reason to expect the second movie will handle it any differently. But maybe, just maybe, things will take a more serious turn in Iron Man 3.

Talking to Comic Book Movie, Iron Man comic author Bob Layton says he’s heard that Iron Man 2 will end with a segue which sets up Iron Man 3 to explore Stark’s addiction problem. He says, “I think they’ve come up with a terrific segue to the third film, which I think is going to be fairly powerful,” said Layton. “My understanding is that the third film could very well be the ‘Demon in a Bottle’ story mixed in there with everything and I’m kind of looking forward to that, if that’s where they wind up going.” Demon in a Bottle was the name for a nine-issue Iron Man comic run which specifically addressed the characters alcoholism.

If that’s really where they’re going, let’s hope Robert Downey Jr. sticks around long enough to guide Tony through those darker hours. He’s the perfect actor to tackle Iron Man’s alcoholic problems, but by waiting three movies to get down to business, there’s always the chance Robert Downey may be ready to pass his iron underwear on to another actor before they take him there. And if they do go there, will anyone want to see it? Iron Man has made its mark so far by being the fun, light, upbeat alternative to the darker, grittier superhero fare represented by The Dark Knight. If Iron Man goes to hell, will his fans follow? It’s a risk, but maybe the kind of risk that could finally break the third superhero movie curse which has plagued so many other franchises.

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