Arguably, the secret problem in casting Robert Downey, Jr., as Iron Man was that he was 43 at the time. Now, that’s younger than I am (I turn 46 on Tuesday, and a great present would be contributing to my Patreon or Ko-fi), but on the other hand he’s 57 now. He’s rapidly approaching his senior citizen days, and while you can imagine 71-year-old Michael Keaton in something of a Batman Begins situation, as the surly old mentor of a much younger Batman, it’s a bit hard to picture Robert Downey, Jr.—especially given how hard-lived he’s been—out actually fighting supervillains in a powered suit, even if the suit does all the work.
Solving this problem for Marvel in many ways is Allan Heinberg. Marvel’s Young Avengers was seen as many as ripping off the Teen Titans, and honestly there’s probably something to that claim. Comics are gonna comics, and if you’re planning to point out all the ways that Marvel and DC have ripped each other off over the decades, we’ll be here for days. What’s relevant, though, is that Heinberg is one of the creators of the group. Characters he created are starting to crop up in Marvel projects as the company works to have stars not eligible for the senior menu at Denny’s.
Kate Bishop? Yup, she’s one of Heinberg’s. Billy and Tommy, Wanda’s boys? Heinberg’s. Elijah Bradley, who told off Falcon and the Winter Soldier? Him, too. You can see his hand in where we’re going now, and if we stay true to the comics—sadly nowhere near a certainty—we’re about to see the MCU tackle some things that they’ve been mostly shying away from now. He’s one of those people who is behind the scenes and absolutely vital there.
You get a lot of talk about the various stars of the MCU and their other projects; I can’t remember what the Oscar count of the stars is up to now, but it’s certainly not low. However, people in the background tend to have a wide and interesting array of projects as well. We’re not talking Kenneth Branagh or Chloé Zhao, either. While Heinberg would be remembered by, okay, comic book geeks if all he’d done was his work for Marvel—and DC, where he did a lot of writing for Wonder Woman—he’s also done such diverse things as produce The Sandman and write for Sex and the City. He was a story editor for Party of Five, and there’s another Gen-X nostalgia trap for you.
Maybe, though, it’s why Wonder Woman was one of the best of the DC movies. Because in addition to his comic book work, he did a lot of things that were about human interactions. It’s well established that I’m one of the biggest comic book movie fans writing for this site, but it’s also true that one of the consistent failings of the genre is writing characters who do things because it’s what the story requires and not what human beings would do. By having written stories that don’t get the crutch of a huge action scene whenever you don’t know what else to do, Heinberg had to find other ways to move his stories along. Even if I’m not a big fan of The O.C. and I strongly suspect it would be better if Kate Bishop were involved.