It has been argued--not least by the illustrious Diana Kingston-Gabai--that Iron Man Week, while judged a success by any measure for the Prattle, it lacked a proper cap wherein I stopped being a passive observer of Iron Man's vast and mostly dull history and said something about my feelings on the character and how he should ideally be presented.
They also reminded me a week was seven days, so there's that as well. Thus, only a little late, and for your further delectation, I present the final installment of Iron Man Week:
There's a scene in an Iron Man issue (from the first Layton/Michelenie run, round the #150s I want to say) wherein Iron Man's trussed up in front of a laser cannon by the Living Laser. He finds out in short order that his hands are bundled up in aviation tape, and thus firing his repulsors would only blow his own hands off. If he tried to yank the cables restraining his arms, the cannon behind him would fire and probably vaporize him.
He seems utterly trapped.
Fortunately, he gets the Laser monologuing, and as anyone who saw The Incredibles can tell you (when they're not spinning a line of bullshit about an alleged Ayn Rand subtext in the movie) monologuing will get you in trouble every time. Iron Man burns through the tape on his hands, repulsors the cables, and tucks and rolls just before the cannon fires.
This, to me, is Iron man's Crowning Moment of Awesome. The subsequent fight afterwards isn't bad either, as Iron Man breaks out his jet-powered roller skates which are basically his version of Kuribo's Shoe.
Now, why this moment?
Because it plays to Iron Man's strengths as a character--he's physically able to go toe to toe with an enemy, but he also has the added advantage of being able to out-think them. And it's the way that he out-thinks people that sets him apart from Marvel's other scientist heroes.
Tony Stark isn't Reed Richards. He will never build a portal to the Negative Zone or invent cloth that never tears or looks like stuff from Dave Cockrum's old sketchbooks, he works in a more practical arena.
Moreover, his gift is more reactive science than proactive science. Richards comes up with wacky Grant Morrison-style inventions because he's an explorer. Stark developed the Iron Man suit (as I said in my post about the movie) to provide a means to keep himself alive and to escape.
So Tony Stark's gift is that he can innovate under pressure and, once he's got the bit in his teeth (so to speak) he won't stop improving something until it's perfect. Layton has mentioned in interviews that Stark suffers from a kind of obsessive-compulsion, and there's certainly something to that--witness the constant evolution of the Iron Man armour as only the most obvious example.
More than that--and this is a flaw only hinted at and largely ignored because it's easier to write stories about a bad heart or falling off the wagon--there's an element of being Iron Man that for Stark is an escape. As Iron Man, he's no longer Tony Stark, multimillionaire industrialist, or ladies' man, or what have you, but at the same time he is. One of the things seldom explored (and now that it's been written in stone that Secret Identities Are Bullshit, sadly lost) was the idea that in a way, as Iron Man, Tony Stark went incognito at his own company as just another employee, and thus Iron Man became in it's own way, another secret identity. No one ever did anything with it to any great extent, but the potential was certainly there.
Moreover, since we seem to be on a somewhat psychological kick here, as O'Neil elucidated in his Iron Man run, the armour was initially a means of escape for Stark, a way to escape inner pain. The exact nature of that inner pain's never really fully explored, but it's easy enough to draw a line through the character's history and connect some dots. Stark loses his parents at an early age, but is a child prodigy and finds early success in innovating existing technology. He grows up a child of privilege, but lacks a family and thus is further isolated by the demands of running a company, maintaining his family fortune, and the constant pressure in the technology line to forever innovate and never stand still. It leaves little time for friends, even less for a social life of any consequence. If he's connected to the rest of humanity at all, it's through a wall of money and isolation.
Ironic, then, that locking himself in a suit of armour is itself an escape from a very locked-in life.
On the technical end of things, as we've mentioned before, Stark has a tremendous sense of responsibility when it comes to his inventions. The idea that he things he builds may be used to kill people is ultimately not something that sits well with him. The Armor Wars is an concrete example of that--the Iron Man armor is a deadly weapon on the order of a loose nuke, should its secrets get out. There's plenty of stories that can be told there that reflect our own feelings about the advance of technology and is it moving too fast and can you really ever keep it out of the "wrong hands" in a world where information runs around the globe at the speed of light and can be accessed almost anywhere at any time?
It would behoove, however, to do those stories in a way that doesn't make them immediately dated by the next presidential election. Just sayin'.
It's that sense of responsibility that keeps Stark connected to the larger world, in a sense. Rather than being a distant, remote, technocrat, convinced he knows better than anyone how to run the world in an orderly fashion (i.e. "douchebag") Stark should, motivated as he is by his past career as an arms dealer, the responsibiliy for what he's done and what was done in his name should, ideally, motivate him to focus both his corporate and intellectual gifts toward improving the human condition and generally making the world a better place, not unlike how Gilded Age robber barons like Carnegie and Flagler became humanitarians in the twlight of their lives or how Nobel became known more for lauding great acheivement in the humanities and sciences rather than, y'know, "that asshole who invented dynamite." Stark's quest to improve himself (psychologically and, through the Iron Man armour, physically) expands to the macro level of trying to improve the entire world.
To boil it down to the most visceral and basic, level (and I'm borrowing from he damn movie again) Iron Man stories should never forget Rhodes' reaction to seeing the Iron Man suit for the first time: "That's the coolest thing I ever seen."
Iron Man should always--always--be really damn cool.