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CSBG Archive

Everybody’s Somebody’s Baby – Day Ten

Here’s the next run that did not make the Top 158 comic book runs list, but was still beloved by at least one reader out there!

Enjoy!

Len Kaminski’s Iron Man

Iron Man #278-318

Len Kaminski took over Iron Man at an odd time – not only was his first issue right smack in the middle of a massive crossover, but he was also picking up John Byrne’s unresolved storylines.

So it is to Kaminski’s credit that he lasted on the book for a number of years.

During Kaminski’s run, he introduced the War Machine armor, which was a huge hit at the time.

I honestly don’t recall if it was in the plans to spin War Machine off as Jim Rhodes or not (it seems likely) – but that is what happened soon afterwards.

At the time, Marvel made a bold move – a move few books have ever rivaled since – TWO cover enhanced covers within three months – neither of which having any real reason to be there!!!

Then, with issue #300 – there was a new cover enhancement – that storyline had Stark’s friends team-up and each take an older Iron Man armor to fight that big bad guy, Ultimo. It was actually a pretty cool idea.

#300 was also a brand new armor – which is one of the quicker armor transitions (although you could make a good argument that the #290 armor was a work in progress with the #300 armor being the culmination)

Admittedly, the book lost a bit of a focus after #300…

But still, it was a lot better than what followed it, as Kaminski’s last issue was directly followed by the Crossing!

Marvel just recently released the first ever trade of the Kaminski run. It contains his early issues where he introduced the War Machine armor, “killed” Stark and had Rhodey become Iron Man, and then Iron Man return with Rhodey becoming War Machine. By the by, it’s been about 15 years, and I still have a problem with Stark’s motivations there in not telling Rhodey – it was FORCED, Kaminski!! FORCED!!!

Here is reader Bill on why this run is great…

Every now and then one is lucky enough to experience the joy of seeing one of your favourite characters portrayed in a way that just feels “right” to you. You have the sense that the writer really understands what makes the character in question uniquely themselves, and their view of the character makes total sense to you. In the better cases, not only is the presented characterisation completely compatible with your own understanding of the character, but it also resonates with the cumulative characterisation presented over decades by dozens of previous writers. In the best cases of all, not only does the writer’s version of the character agree with your own understanding thereof, but reading the former deepens, enhances and improves the latter.

As an audience member wishing to be entertained, ideally, you want to be presented with surprises (for entertainment; things you wouldn’t have thought of yourself) that nevertheless, upon reflection, “make sense” – in retrospect, you realise that, yes, that development or event or reaction is compatible and consistent with the character as they have always been presented; the best ones not only make sense but give one deeper insight into the character – the development or event or reaction builds constructively and organically upon the sum of previous characterisation.

I was lucky enough to experience that joy reading Len Kaminski’s run on Iron Man. Repeatedly.

SPOILERS!!!

There were many great issues, I’ll just mention a smattering of some of the things that made perfect sense:

* Seeing the view from inside Shellhead’s armour, complete with the armour’s SE computer operating system, drop down menus, system diagnostics, etc * Discovering that some alien technology (say, Ronan’s) could be clearly superior to even the more powerful Iron Man space armour (being only human tech)
* Dr Doom decreeing a day of mourning in Latveria when he learns Stark has died
* Tony believing in Fermat’s Last Theorem and Goedel’s Proof
* Bruce Banner being able to deduce who was in the suit, back in the days when Iron Man still had a secret identity
* The West Coast Avengers showing up to challenge the “Iron Man” seen running around after Stark’s funeral

… and some of the things I loved:

* The rich mixture of classic foes (Firepower, Justin Hammer, Ultimo, Crimson Dynamo, Mandarin and many, many more) with new (Technovore, Vor/Tex, Masters of Silence) and “new to Iron Man” (Venom, Omega Red, Shatterax)
* Following fine “Iron Man” traditions, like that (e.g. the Star Hunter in #237) of seeing a very threatening opponent vanquished and then forcing the reader to see this foe in a different, unexpected, sympathetic light (e.g. Living Laser in #289), with poignant results; or that (e.g. the issues that introduced the original underwater, orbital and stealth armours) of exploring new environments (cyberspace, the “inside” of various computers, and the internal organs of Captain America(!)), and new suits. (Was there ever a comparable run with as many new suits, and whole new styles of suits?)
* The humor, like Hercules’ dialogue in the first Galactic Storm crossover (#278), or lines like “As if things weren’t already complicated enough. I smell another one of those massive logistical nightmares where several hundred superhumans convene to figure out how to “save all humanity” coming up again…. And as usual, I’ll probably get stuck with the catering bill.” (Sidenote: as a rule, the compulsory crossover tie-ins were handled with style and grace.)
* Taking down the X-Men single-handedly (welllll, kinda ;)
* The talk with Cap in #303, the fight with the Hulk (and its surprising but more-than-plausible conclusion) in #305, the AA meeting in #313, …

… and some things that deepened my understanding:

* Tony quoting Dylan Thomas in the middle of battle
* We learn (for the first time?) that Tony’s father was also an alcoholic
* Everyone’s dreams/visions: e.g. Rhodey’s in #284, Stark’s in #284-288, #300 and #306

I’ll finish with one personal highlight that was all three – made perfect sense, deepened my understanding, AND I loved it:

Tony’s conversation with the Goddess (from Infinity Crusade) on pages 8 and 9 of issue #294. Just… distilled perfection. It’s too long to quote here but if a better and more glorious concise explication of Anthony Stark’s world view has ever been printed, I can’t recall it.

(And this in a scene linking to a company-wide crossover… talk about making a virtue out of a necessity!)

Bravo!

Somewhere there’s an alternate universe where “The Crossing” never happened, and Mr Kaminski stayed on as Iron Man scribe for years longer. If I was able to request the Watcher to get me copies of comics from anywhere, that don’t exist here, they’d be near the top of the list.

Thanks, Bill!!

20 Comments

FunkyGreenJerusalem

June 3, 2008 at 1:23 am

Woo-hoo!

Bring on the Kaminski revival!

Didn’t Kaminski do a storyline after 300 where every issue had a different sales-boosting guest star?

The Jim Rhodes as CEO/Iron Man issues are still favorites of mine. That, and there’s a bit where longtime Iron Man punching bags Beetle, Blizzard and Whiplash train extra hard, watching their old fight videos and learning what not to do; then still get their collective butt whipped because Jim didn’t fight like Tony did. Fun.

Kaminski’s Iron run was the only time I was ever interested in Iron Man. Kaminski wins! It was good stuff.

“Didn’t Kaminski do a storyline after 300 where every issue had a different sales-boosting guest star?”

That “Crash and Burn” cover is from that storyline, which I remember featuring Venom, Thunderstrike, and The Hulk, but apparently also included Captain America (at least).

[the question as to whether Thunderstrike counts as a sales boosting guest star is still open, although I know that I bought the issue because I liked T-strike.]

Scott Rowland

June 3, 2008 at 11:54 am

I picked up most of his run as back issues, after being floored by the AA meeting issue. Good stuff – I can’t believe he got dumped for the crossing and Teen tony.

Ah, Kaminski, last boy on earth.

Len Kaminski, really?

I never read his Iron Man. Everything else by him that I’ve read I found extremely underwhelming.

I also was a bit turned off when I’ve read somewhere that Kaminski had to make Rhodes the star of the book, because he couldn’t quite see a “capitalist” like Tony as a hero. Now, I am as liberal as they come, but that is a bit too much.

“Good stuff – I can’t believe he got dumped for the crossing and Teen tony.”

Yes, that may have been one of the steepest sudden drops in quality the book ever experienced.

Hmm, I think the only part of this run I have is the Galactic Storm tie-in. I had to have all those tie-in books for Galactic Storm (I think it might have been the only big multi-book crossover I actually did that for)

Scott Rowland

June 4, 2008 at 9:53 am

Rene,

Tony is the star of the book for most of Kaminski’s run. The Crash and Burn storyline is where he most dealt with the business implications. I think he did a good job, too.

Thanks to all, it’s only Wednesday and my week is made already. You’ve warmed the coccles of my shrivled, cranky heart. Seriously, thanks.

Len

@ Rene: Actually, I never said thing one about Tony not being able to be a hero because he was a capitalist. Heck, I’M a capitalist. I suspect that rumor got its start as a misquote of some comments I made in an interview (possibly MARVEL AGE?), in which I made comparisons between Stark and actual billionaire-industrialist-technocrats (such as Bill Gates). My point was twofold: first was that we DON’T often see “real-life” guys in Stark’s position acting in ways we normally associate with the heroic ideal – and that meant there was something special about Stark besides the huge IQ, bank account and gagetry. Something deep and noble, learned from battling his health problems and personal demons. Something that demands he fight the fight personally, rather than do the “sensible” thing and hire a platoon of Iron Men. The other point I was on about – which I tried to address in CRASH AND BURN – is that Stark believes in a business model rooted in altruism over short-term gain, that making a profit is NOT incompatible with doing right – in fact, it may be essential to long-term growth. Which had nothing at all to do with Rhodes tenure as CEO…

“I also was a bit turned off when I’ve read somewhere that Kaminski had to make Rhodes the star of the book, because he couldn’t quite see a “capitalist” like Tony as a hero. Now, I am as liberal as they come, but that is a bit too much.

Bill K”

I think that was Denny O’Neil who said that, not Kaminski. I loved Len’s run…he and Kev Hopgood really knew what made the book work. He’d be perfect for the book after the Knaufs leave (are you listening, Marvel?)

Mark D – you’re quoting Rene, not me. This system puts the “signature” above the post’s text

Bill K

But I agree with your post-Knauf IM:DOS plans! :D

@ Brian:

Brian said: “By the by, it’s been about 15 years, and I still have a problem with Stark’s motivations there in not telling Rhodey – it was FORCED, Kaminski!! FORCED!!!”

Uh, I think the technical term you’re looking for is “contrived”. CRASH AND BURN was “forced”(I’d know, being the one who got forced… there’s a reason the Venom issue is so, well, cranky…).

Either way, I say Stark knew – given their well-known friendship – if Rhodes ACT the role 24/7, other minds, vast, cool and unsympathetic, would notice in a heartbeat. Stark knew he’d be utterly vulnerable while being dead and all, and had to make sure that didn’t happen. Also, he’s a control freak with serious trust issues, and often fails to anticipate other people’s reactions.

He might be just a tiny bit Asperger’s. On the other hand, he might never QUITE have shaken having once been a thoughtless jerk who manufactured Napalm for booze money.

Hell, for all >I< know, he was a Skrull at the time…

Len

Mark D said: (are you listening, Marvel?)

Like, they should start NOW?

Len

American Hawkman

June 9, 2008 at 8:40 am

I was one of the ones who suggested this… it’s actually one of my favorite runs of all-time. I still hate that Kaminski had to leave the way he did, and, that he had so much editorial interference. I got the “crankiness” out of the Venom issue and the Omega Red appearance… which, actually, made for some of my favorite moments in IM history, so I thought it was perfectly in-character for Stark. It never really even occurred to me that it was editorially mandated, since it perfectly encapsulated the weirdness of seeing Venom treated as a hero and the mutant frenzy of the 90s.

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