In 1968, the year that Marvel's Iron Man finally got his own comic book, the US Department of Defense announced that some 24,000 troops would be sent back to Vietnam for involuntary second terms. That same year, Steppenwolf's hit song "Born to Be Wild" introduced rock fans to the phrase "heavy metal." Two years later, the trailblazing British heavy metal act Black Sabbath unleashed "Iron Man" -- a six-minute-long rock opera about an unfortunate soul who was "turned to steel" while singlehandedly attempting to alter the disastrous "future of mankind" -- on the world.
So... does the song have something to do with the superhero?
Sabbath bassist and lyricist Geezer Butler has claimed that "Iron Man" was a dystopian "science fiction story" that he dreamed up after seeing "a lot of things in the news about pollution and nuclear war."
However, some metalhead exegetes claim that the source of the song's inspiration is most likely a 1968 British children's book by Ted Hughes.
Hughes's The Iron Man concerns a metallic giant who arrives in England out of nowhere, terrifying everyone but a young boy whom he befriends, and whose obedient servant he becomes. The iron man is buried alive by farmers, whose property he destroys. But he digs himself out of the grave, and later saves the planet from a monstrous alien being. The Iron Giant, a 1999 animated film, is loosely based on the Hughes book; so is a 1989 Pete Townshend rock opera.
That is to say, it seems to me that Geezer Butler's lyrics are a postmodern mashup of highbrow lit written for juveniles (Hughes’s children’s book) and juvenile lit admired by highbrows (Stan Lee’s superhero comic). I AM IRON MAN