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Like A Fool I Mixed Them – The Avengers in Born Again

As you all know, superhero comic books are a serial medium, and superhero continuity, in particular, is an ever-changing status quo as characters change dramatically over the years. However, “classic” storylines are often viewed on their own and not as a part of whatever continuity was current at the time the story was released. As a result, when you look back at these storylines and the issues surrounding them, there often is a bit of a disconnect between viewing these stories as “timeless” and the reality that they are very much rooted in their own particular era.

This is the second in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) of pieces looking at interesting overlaps in comic book continuity. I figured that it would be worthwhile to show you another one right after the first to make sure you understand exactly the type of thing I’m talking about. In this piece, let’s look at Iron Man’s appearance in Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s classic “Born Again” storyline in Daredevil (spoilers ahead for Born Again if you haven’t read it!).

Enjoy!

At this point in Born Again, Matt Murdock has returned as Daredevil (in one of the most iconic pages of the 1980s) and is fighting the super-soldier Nuke in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen with Nuke having military support from an armed helicopter. Frank Miller correctly notes that a firefight in the middle of Manhattan is bound to draw attention from the superheroes of New York City, and handles it beautifully (as does Mazzucchelli)…

Whatever you think of the relative aesthetic merits of Iron Man’s short-lived red and silver “Silver Centurion” armor from the 1980s, it still stands out like a sore thumb when re-reading a classic storyline like Born Again.

If you have suggestions for future odd pieces of overlapping continuity, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com, and maybe I’ll feature your idea in a future installment of this feature!

36 Comments

You see I wasn’t bothered about the Avengers’ brief appearance in Born Again, because it was done in a similar way to how Alan Moore used the JLA in Swamp Thing– it’s an appearance by these god-like Titans who save Hell’s Kitchen, take away Nuke and are gone. I also thought it was really cool that, like in the Swamp Thing JLA appearance (and Superman in Dark Knight) they never actually use the names of the characters.

That said, I would have preferred it if Mazzucchelli had kept Iron Man more in the shadows like he did with Thor. It’s more the oddness of him standing there that grates than anything.

Good feature Brian– I hope you use the JLI appearance in early Sandman. That one really bugged me.

I thought the Silver Centurion armor was a real classic when it debuted, but apparently I was in the minority. Wasn’t that armor one of the most hated ever?

I really dug that look.

What’s really jarring is Daredevil wielding a machine gun and taking down a helicopter that explodes two yards away from him. After we see Thor, Iron Man doesn’t seem so out of place. These guys (& Cap) clearly represent old-school heroes, they don’t deal with street level crime.

I was always under the impression that it was one of his most popular looks! Anyway, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the design — I think it has everything to do with the way the armor was drawn here. Certain aspects are played up while others are dumbed down. For example, the nubs on the side of the helmet and the shoulder pads could have been toned down a lot here, and that would have helped this particular rendition match the story stylistically. Same goes for the uni-beam triangle on the chest (it’s huge here!). And his stance is especially silly looking on the 2nd page, last panel.

I liked that armor, too.

The Silver Centurion is really the armor that’s used for cheap pops from the fans.
The masses go with the multitude of Gold and Red, but the Centurion is used to show “We’re down with the hard core”, ala it showing up in Iron Man 2 as the Suit Case Armor, or in the Iron Man Cartoon season two intro.

(and it’s really one of the best designs).

Other than the art style, I don’t really see any problems with Iron Man showing up here…I’ve always loved the Avengers showing up, and especially how they’re described.

“A soldier with a voice that could command a god…and does”.

Those two panels comprise one of my absolute favorite moments from comics.

On the other hand, just thinking of Born Again makes me even more disappointed in Shadowland (before I bailed on it).

I loved when the armour debuted, just ’cause it was a great story (the showdown with Stane in Iron Man 200). Although I think it was first shown in West Coast Avengers no. 1, a month or two before it was officially first used in continuity.

My biggest problem with the design was the clunky head, and maybe the epaulets. What I love about the classic 70′s/80′s golden Avenger look was that it looked way more flexible than it probably had any right to be, but made for some great art when he was really brawling with people.

This is a fun idea for a blog feature, by the way. My mind will be mulling over other possible examples, now.

If I were still twelve, I’d be aching for Daredevil to hand Iron Man his ass somehow.

If I were still twelve…

Is it bad of me that I’m still annoyed at Morrison finding a half-assed way to ignore every other superhero who operates out of New York in New X-Men?

I loved the red & silver too. Had to have the comic figure of it.

However it marks the start of “lets change the armour every couple of years” whiuch has just got silly. The seventies red & gold is the best suit, as Stark Disasembed showed. Go back to that !

See, wheras i prefered the Red & Gold that followed the Silver Centurion as an update to the classic.

The dimensions of the Red & Silver armor tended to make it harder to draw correctly for a lot of artists (and Al Milgrom), where the shoulders, more specifically the origin points of his arms, look impossibly wide for Tony’s body, and the lack of a neck. He tended to look more like a Transformer half the time. I’m more for the 70′s Red & Gold look, but like some of the newer sleek versions too if they don’t light up too much, though it changes so much I can’t tell what’s current anymore. I also dig the movie armor!

…And I’m not really reading this one as horribly jarring, either. Maybe because Iron Man was still wearing the silver and red when I first read this storyline in TPB form. But he wore that armor for what, 2 or 3 years? That’s not a bad stretch by today’s standards.

If I’m understanding the theme of this feature right, I’d suggest something like the abrupt Crisis crossover in Swamp Thing’s “American Gothic” storyline. That’s one that read really jarring at the time it came out.

I don’t think his appearance is jarring in any way. What’s jarring is his presence. Iron Man was on the West Coast team at the time, and he shouldn’t be likely to show up here. He should’ve been replaced with Captain Marvel (the real one, Monica Rambeau) or the Black Knight.

Where’s the Wasp? She was the team leader at the time.

Including Monica or the Black Knight would be much less effective (and more jarring in retrospect) than using Iron Man. The whole point was having the iconic Avengers show up to provide a contrast w/ the streetlevel Daredevil.

Exactly, and that’s why the silver armor is interesting to see in retrospect, because however good or bad it was, it is not the iconic Iron Man armor.

Actually at the point these issues were set Thor wasn’t an Avenger. I can’t remember which issue of Daredevil this part pfBorn Again is from, but it’s c230 which is the same point as Avengers 270. We’re still about six months shy of Thor’s return during Under Siege

I liked the Silver Centurion armor just fine.

That said, it was a bit goofy looking due to its size, and it was in use during a fairly troubled time in Iron Man’s book, when he became both more goofy in behavior (as Tony Stark) nd more questionable in a moral sense.

Then again, it seems obvious that Miller did not want us to much like the Avengers at this point. The distortion is intentional, in behavior even more than in appearance.

The appearance of Thor is likewise more thematic than chronological. Thor can look very opressive when a writer feels like it.

I liked the Silver Centurion look, but then I liked Wolverine better in brown and dark yellow than blue and lemon yellow too.

I predict we’re going to see a lot of questionable looks for Superman as this series progresses. I don’t think there’s a comic book fan alive who doesn’t mentally superimpose classic Superman over Electric Blue Superman in Grant Morrison’s JLA stories.

Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin

January 3, 2011 at 9:17 pm

@ZZZ

“I don’t think there’s a comic book fan alive who doesn’t mentally superimpose classic Superman over Electric Blue Superman in Grant Morrison’s JLA stories.”

Well, Morrison/Porter’s JLA is one of the rare cases where Electric Blue Superman looked cool. The scene where Superman wrestles an angel especially comes to mind.

You know, every other time I’ve seen this page I just thought it was Richmond Lewis experimenting with some of her more expressionistic coloring.

What doesn’t scream 1980s about these panels? Nuke – a rabid, chauvinistic and jingoistic patriot on steroids, the hero taking down a helicopter with a machine gun…Iron Man’s armor.

I think if anything this is an attempt to contrast Matt Murdock with the ‘gods’. Maybe I am wrong, but it just seems like Matt is so far out of his element in being able to stand up to the Avengers. Matt’s had his life taken apart by the Kingpin, then he had to face Nuke – the aftermath leaves dozens dead and now he can’t even finish it, because the Avengers show up to take Nuke away – seemingly on the order of Nuke’s superiors. Matt seemingly lacks potency here and it seems like his first time out again as Daredevil is an exercise in futility.

I guess the appearance of that Iron Man armor doesn’t bother me that much because it’s the armor he was wearing while or was wearing soon after I started reading comics regularly.

T wrote:
I thought the Silver Centurion armor was a real classic when it debuted, but apparently I was in the minority. Wasn’t that armor one of the most hated ever?

No, I’d say that was the one where the helmet had a nose!

You know, I love the Bobster as much as … actually, much more than … the next guy but these Dylan lyric riffs have got to end …

I liked the Silver Centurion look, but then I liked Wolverine better in brown and dark yellow than blue and lemon yellow too.

Yeah but any right thinking person prefers the brown Wolverine costume to the yellow & blue

He should’ve been replaced with Captain Marvel (the real one, Monica Rambeau)

The real Captain Marvel is a DC character.

Perhaps I’m the minority, but I think Iron Man’s red & silver look is slightly less gaudy than the red & gold, and therefore more appropriate to this story.

It’s just that people are so much more used to the red & gold to notice how gaudy that is.

The real Captain Marvel is a DC character.

The real Captain Marvel is a Fawcett character.

>Well, Morrison/Porter’s JLA is one of the rare cases where Electric Blue Superman looked cool. The scene where Superman wrestles an angel especially comes to mind.

There was also an issue were he used his electromagnetic powers to stop the moon from being pulled from the sky by minions of Neron. And, in Rock of Ages, there was a very interesting thing involving how his new nature reacted to Dr. Light´s powers.

It seems Grant Morrison knew better how to use Electric Superman than the very guys who came up with the concept…

Ehh, the Iron Man armor is the odd point here? OK it doesn’t look as good as the classic one but so what? More jarring was the whole use of the heroes from other comics interrupting Daredevil’s fight (and that was done on purpose.) Btw since when do the Avengers show up to retrieve renegade soldiers (without superpowers or supertech) for the government? It’s like asking Superman to catch the Penguin.

The part that REALLY shocked me was seeing an almost-naked Kingpin in the company of other almost-naked men. Thanks for nothing Miller! :D

And once again: did Electra-blue Superman have superstrength or not? If he didn’t, then his wrestling Asmodel was a goof.

I like this idea. I can think of many things, looking back, that would seem jarring.
The Huntress during Giffen/Dematteas JLA quickly comes to mind. It was to promote her book, and at some point she quit, only to reappear taking care of Ice during the Kooey Kooey fiasco. What is even more daunting is how her character has changed, costume has changed, etc but she is still Helena Bertinelli. (This was around Justice League of America 26 and 34)
I think the updated Spider-Woman origin in New Avengers 15 and 16 will seem jarring in hindsight since all those stories weren’t Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman.

with you 100% on this one Brian, I recently reread this one, and when I got to the Iron Man shot, I said, oh, right…that… armor, and shook my head a little. I’m nitpicking one of my fave stories of all time here, but I think that first panel whee you see Iron Man could have been executed better. The Ben Urich dialog panels of Cap and Thor convey their imposing awesome power. Then Iron Man just appears unannounced against a busy background that makes him look small.

Do another one of these, please.

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