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Why The MCU Never Adapted Iron Man's Darkest Marvel Story

He might save the universe in a noble last stand against Thanos (Josh Brolin), but the heroic Iron Man isn't without his faults in the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline. The billionaire playboy philanthropist throws his intellectual weight around as one of the best heroes in the franchise, with plenty of pivotal moments in the hero's comic book history making their way to the screen. However, one of the things about Iron Man that don't make it into the MCU is "Demon in a Bottle," a nine-issue story arc from 1979 that sees Tony encounter one of his toughest adversaries — his struggle with alcoholism.

Written by David Michelinie and Bob Layton and illustrated by John Romita Jr., Bob Layton, and Carmine Infantino, the story sees Stark trying to continue his duty as Iron Man while battling his excessive drinking, which begins to impact his life, even to the point of leading his dedicated butler, Jarvis, to quit due to their broken relationship. Eventually, Stark's acknowledgement of his illness leads him to seek help and make an effort to rescue his company, which is close to being bought by SHIELD. 

While undoubtedly a compelling story, it does beg the question of where "Demon in a Bottle" could fit between the Sokovia Accords, the looming presence of Thanos, and Stark's mentoring of a young Peter Parker. As it turns out, it was the fear of limited toy sales that put the lid on "Demon in a Bottle" making it to the big screen.

Studio interference stopped Tony facing darker personal issues in the MCU

While there's no doubt that the now Oscar-winning actor Robert Downey Jr. could've tackled a side of Stark that never really made it to screens, it was the decision of the studio that the demon stayed in the bottle for the live-action iteration. Stark's alcoholism was among the many tweaked details of "Iron Man 2." While there is a scene that sees Tony intoxicated, it never became more than that because the studio got involved out of fears that Stark's alcoholism would impact sales of toys and merchandise.

Most importantly of all, there was concern about the plot point impacting the film's lead. Susan Downey, Robert Downey Jr.'s wife, was reportedly disapproving of integrating the comic book arc into the film and potentially impacting her husband's health, as he himself had a well-known history of substance abuse. As a result, the idea was scrapped, with the film's writer, Justin Theroux, admitting to UGO (via MTV), "It's just a great, gritty storyline. It doesn't transfer to film. We didn't want to be the 'Leaving Las Vegas' version of 'Iron Man 2.' Even just a little bit of that can completely dominate the story." Thankfully, cutting the well-known comic book thread from the film doesn't impact the Marvel sequel or any of Stark's future story. He is Iron Man until the end, and we love him dearly for it.

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