How Lee & Kirby's "Fantastic Four" Birthed the Marvel Universe, Part 1
Today, the most important Marvel character whose solo title doesn’t even sell that well.
How weird is it that Iron Man is, like, the most central figure in the entire Marvel Universe, being used by practically every title out there, and yet his own book doesn’t even sell that well (despite solid writing from the Knaufs)?
I suppose it has to do with Marvel’s fairly odd decision to recast Iron Man as the “heavy” – the one that readers want to see guest-star so that Character X can beat him up (whether it be She-Hulk or Hulk or Thor or whoever), as that is not exactly the ideal circumstance to get people to read his main title – “Remember that guy we made you hate? Buy his book!”
Still, that doesn’t mean he isn’t still a cool comic character, as he is – which is why his upcoming movie sounds like it’ll work pretty well, as the basic concept behind Iron Man is pretty darn fun. Rich weapons manufacturer gets almost fatally injured, forced to build suit of armor to keep him alive – turns suit of armor into force for good. That’s a cool idea – and when you add in the cute secret identity twist (pretends to be his own bodyguard), it is a great package.
Of course, over the years, the package has been changed multiple times, the most amusing would probably be Tony Stark’s secret identity.
Like I mentioned, the secret identity twist is pretty cute, but writers have decided to do different things with it. First, Tony “died,” so his identity was revealed then, but then Kurt Busiek had Tony wipe the world’s knowledge of that memory. Next, Mike Grell had Tony reveal his identity during his run on Iron Man (which was 20 issues or so after Busiek’s run ended). After about thirty issues of his identity being publically known, Warren Ellis started a new series where Tony’s ID was once again secret (I loved Ellis’ solution – “Tony told the world he was no longer Iron Man, and they believed him.” Suspension of disbelief rules!). After a year or so, though, Tony once again revealed his identity to the world during the events of Civil War. That is the current status quo.
The most notable change to Tony’s personality, though, would probably be his alocholism, which was first introduced during the acclaimed Michelinie/Layton run on the series, and later hackified by Denny O’Neil after Michelinie and Layton left the book (I don’t blame O’Neil – it was just the card he was dealt – “Play up the alcoholism”).
A close second would be the Crossing, which revealed that Tony was secretly controlled by Kang for, like, years. Tony would turn on his “master,” and sacrifice his life. Luckily, the Avengers had brought a younger Tony from the past (before Kang corrupted him) to confront his future self, and that teen Tony stayed Iron Man, until that stuff was all thankfully forgotten.
By the by, let’s say Teen Tony’s story wasn’t cut off by Onslaught? How long do you think it would have lasted before they returned to the status quo?
Still, despite all the weird things that have been done to Tony over the years (making him the Secretary of Defense, making him the Director of SHIELD, making him a paraplegic, etc.), the basic concept of a super smart dude building a suit of armor to fight crime is still a neat idea.
I also dig how Tony really didn’t even apologize for being an arms dealer, for, like, YEARS. It was only after a decade or so that writers first had Tony be all, “Wait, guns are bad!”
Also, Tony used to be majorly anti-Communist. The earliest Iron Man comics are notable in that nearly every villain is an evil, evil Commie bastard.
And his girlfriends! Tony has been quite the ladies man over the years, and his list of girlfriends has been quite notable. One problem with being a girlfriend of Tony’s, however, is that future writers will often look to kill you off or something like that. I am utterly astonished that Bethany Cabe is still alive.
Iron Man has also been a major part of the Avengers for years, being the guy who gave them their initial funding. Heck, the Avengers’ faithful butler, Jarvis, was on loan from Tony! Good ol’ Stark, some people lend some furniture to help folks start out – Stark loans PEOPLE!
Iron Man’s Rogues Gallery is interesting in that it has a lot of depth, but the upfront talent is a bit lacking. Mandarin’s obviously the “big bad,” but he’s not THAT great of a villain (although Joe Casey’s recent mini-series about him was quite cool). And there’s no clear second after Mandarin, unless you count evil businessman, Obadiah Stane, I suppose.
But boy, are the low-level guys cool! The Ghost, the Living Laser, the Melter, Boomerang, these guys are pretty cool.
Not the Unicorn, though.
He was lame.
At one point or another, Tony has slept with pretty much every female Avenger, so that’s something, too, I suppose.
Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m reaching now…just one more cool cover image, and I’ll leave it be!
Iron Man – he’s cool. And his movie will rock.
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