On April 22 2021, a fan campaign seeking to resurrect the Marvel Studios version of the character Tony Stark drew attention on social media with what appeared to be a photo of a billboard.
We contacted Outfront Media, the company which owns the billboard on which the advertisement was reportedly placed, seeking further confirmation as to whether the billboard was real, where it might be, and who might have been behind it.
Spoilers for Marvel Studios projects below
The pop culture podcast Lights Camera Pod posted the photograph, saying that it was spotted in Los Angeles (but offering no details beyond that.) The text on the billboard reads:
For our beloved hero please
Bring Back Tony Stark
A new billboard has been put up by fans in Los Angeles, and asks Marvel Studios to bring the Iron Man, Tony Stark, back to life. pic.twitter.com/JtG2GvdzmL
— Lights, Camera, Pod (@LightsCameraPod) April 22, 2021
In the movie Avengers Endgame, Stark (played by Robert Downey, Jr.) sacrifices himself to save the universe from the villainous Thanos (Josh Brolin.)
The campaign itself to resurrect Stark is not new; the movie news site IndieWire first reported on an online petition on Change.org using the #BringBackTonyStarkToLife hashtag in June 2019. The petition is attributed to a fan based in France named Méline Loiseau. The date mentioned in the ad, April 24 2021, marks the second anniversary of the film’s release in that country.
The petition, which had amassed more than 66,000 signatures as of time of publication, argues that this version of the character (who originally appeared in Marvel Comics in 1963) “deserves to live and see his daughter grow up”:
He has helped so many people (in the mcu and in our world), he has helped people to live (including me) to overcome their problems, to accept themselves, to face life. He’s so important. He saved our lives and it’s our turn to save him.
We love him so much. We love him 3000. Without him, now, we are totally lost. For many people, he was their reason to live and hold on in life.
The account behind that petition also maintains a Twitter account under the username “Meline Stark.” We contacted this account asking if they were involved with the ad purchase.
Downey, who has played the Stark chracter in ten movies, has publicly retired from the role following Endgame, which wrote off both his character and fellow Avenger Steve Rogers (Chris Evans).
“We had to get off. We opted to, and knew it was part of the job to get off the bus while it rolled on to other destinations,” Downey has been quoted as saying. “There’s something very sobering about it. I’m glad he and I will be there to welcome others as they retire their jerseys.”
Marvel announced in December 2020 that it would create a new show, Ironheart, featuring the character of Riri Williams, a young investor who creates “the most advanced suit of armor since Iron Man himself, Tony Stark.” First introduced by Marvel Comics in 2015, Williams is presented as a successor of sorts to Stark’s legacy as a tech-using superhero.
Loiseau’s campaign, and the billboard advertisement, are another manifestation of online fan campaigns from 2019 spilling into real-world settings. The same year she launched her campaign, a group of fans of director Zack Snyder began pushing for Warner Brothers to allow Snyder to release his own version of another superhero movie, Justice League; also, a petition calling for the final season of the HBO show Game of Thrones to be “redone” gathered more than a million signatures, but it was subsequently rejected by the cable network.