Originally Posted by metaphysician
Nah, when one makes speeches like that, its either a general "I am an awesome and terrible villain" act. . . or it means one was *disillusioned* by a hero in the past.
I could buy it either way: the Mandarin might well have *never* believed in heroes, having never met an actual one. Thus, he assumed the world was a place filled with venal, weak, petty individuals occasionally blinded by self-delusion, and so forged himself into the kind of person who could achieve greatness in such a world. If so? I expect that when Tony Stark shows his unexpected heroic strength, the Mandarin will switch from disdain to outright rage.
Yeah, I'm sure there's a helluva lot more context to that brief quote. Because frankly, it's outright stupid: "First lesson: there are no heroes." That's total bull**** and even Mandarin knows it --- there's heroes all around, from the everyday variety to full-blown folk heroes and, of course, superheroes.
So the actual speech probably continues with Mandarin offering some sort of qualifying description of the term: "First lesson: there are no heroes. There are only people who......(fill in the blank)"