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The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – What’s the Deal With Jarvis and Tony Stark?

Every week, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today we look at the abrupt transformation of the relationship between Edwin Jarvis and Tony Stark from employee/employer to father figure/son figure.

Enjoy!

I freely admit that this is a bit of a stretch as an “Abandoned an’ Forsaked” bit, but when commenter Mike K asked when Jarvis first met the Avengers in the comments section of my recent “When We First Met: Avengers Edition” feature, I realized that I could answer Mike’s question and use an old bit I did about Jarvis for this edition of Abandoned An’ Forsaked.

Jarvis (Tony Stark’s butler who he loaned to the Avengers when he gave them the use of his mansion for their headquarters) surprisingly did not appear in the Avengers until the famous issue where Hawkeye tried to show off for the Avengers by tying Jarvis up…

While Jarvis continued to have a place in the Avengers and Tales of Suspense (where he interacted with Captain America, who was living in Avengers Mansion) it took until the first Avengers Annual before either Iron Man or Tony Stark actually interacted with Jarvis in a comic…

Jarvis and Iron Man/Tony Stark barely interacted at all for years. Heck, check out this bit from an Iron Man comic in the #50′s…

Jarvis’ attitude toward Stark is basically that of a guy who happens to work for a man but he doesn’t really know him at all.

It was nearly 60 issues before the two had another substantial interaction, and you’ll note that it was not exactly a familiar one (it was right in the middle of the Demon in a Bottle storyline)…

(and yes, this is THAT resignation letter that I dealt with in a previous edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed

Even when Jarvis was severely injured during the Siege on Avengers Mansion, the relationship between the two was clearly an employee/employer one…

Heck, when Tony Stark was presumed dead in the early 1990s, note that we don’t even get a reaction shot from Jarvis….

And Jarvis is not among those at Tony’s funeral (those ashes are fake – Tony faked his death because he was trying some experimental procedure to reverse a life-threatening injury that WAS going to kill him unless he tried the procedure. But since the procedure very likely was GOING to kill him, he didn’t want anyone to know about it in case it did, in fact, end his life)…

In that same story, when we see Tony in stasis while recovering, he has a flashback to his youth…

Jarvis isn’t even the butler when Tony was a kid!

This all changed with Terry Kavanagh.

First, in the Avengers: The Crossing storyline, when the Avengers go back in time to get to Tony Stark BEFORE he is corrupted by Kang the Conqueror (as in the present it is revealed that Tony is a sleeper agent working for Kang), the present say Jarvis has to prove himself to the Jarvis of the past (note that now Jarvis is the Stark butler from Tony’s youth)…

At the end of the Crossing, the present day Tony sacrifices himself to atone for his sins. The teenaged Tony from the past is brought to the present where he takes over as Iron Man. At the reading of Tony’s will (in an issue written by Kavanagh), we see a different side of his relationship with Jarvis…

Jarvis continues as a supporting cast member in the short-lived Teen Tony run…

Essentially, Kavanagh abruptly just turned Jarvis/Tony into Alfred/Bruce Wayne.

Once the adult Tony returns after the events of Onslaught, the Jarvis/Tony relationship returns to employer/employee. They’ve only had a handful of interactions over the last decade plus.

64 Comments

It is Terry Kavanagh. So no big surprize here…

The Marvel Universe must be pretty low on attorneys if a billionaire inventor CEO hires a storefront Hell’s Kitchen lawyer to handle his will…

Interesting. Having seen Jarvis in Avengers so much, I’d never really thought about this before.

Foggy’s a former DA, not just a “storefront Hell’s Kitchen lawyer”.

I’ve got a memory of reading an old Iron Man strip, I think reprinted in the Big Ben comic in the UK c1982 (so in the US before then), where Jarvis is there barbequeing some food out doors for Stark….. if anyone wants to point me at the US issue I’m remembering

Being a former ADA in no way qualifies anyone to be a competent trusts and estates attorney. The latter is a fairly specialized area of law.

Funny how the art in the “90s” pages goes from bad to worse…everything had that “Image stink” all over it.

It’s funny. I grew with the comic Jarvis, and yet I find myself preferring the A.I. Jarvis from the movies.

There was also a storyline – perhaps from the late Seventies or early Eighties – when Tony Stark faced someone trying to take control of his company. He was worried, but knew that as long as a certain set of shares were held by someone he knew and trusted that the takeover would not succeed. He then learned that Jarvis had sold his shares some time previous to pay for his mother’s medical bills.

Sorry I can’t provide further details.

There are no specialists in the Marvel or DC Universes. Doctors can practice every kind of medicine, scientists are all equally adept at engineering, physics, chemistry, or biology, and lawyers handle every aspect of the law.

Stickmaker, that storyline was the same storyline Brian posted, where Jarvis resigns.

Hank, Foggy’s supposed to have an encylcopediac knowledge of the law. That’s supposed to explain how we’ve seen him doing everything from handling criminal trials to writing people’s wills.

In the Marvel Universe, you can always spot an alcoholic because all of them automatically turn into Foster Brooks as soon as they’ve had a drink. They slur their words, hiccup, and turn into a rummy in a cheap saloon no matter what their normal speech pattern might be. “Don’ you…don’ you lookit me, Immina bust yer face, y’punk! Hic!” I can only assume this is because none of the writers or editors have ever been around alcohol or listened to anyone else speaking while intoxicated.

(N.B.: I’ve actually been out drinking with Marvel writers and editors more than once; what I’m trying to say here is, this kind of dialogue scripting is cheap, lazy shorthand to convey the idea of “drunkenness” without doing real work.)

I expected that parenthetical to say “(N.B.: I’ve actually been out drinking with Marvel writers and editors more than once, and they actually do talk like that. Weird.)”

I’d say that’s more a David Michilenie thing than a Marvel writer thing. He characterizes with all the nuance and depth of a 70s Scooby-Doo episode.

what I’m trying to say here is, this kind of dialogue scripting is cheap, lazy shorthand to convey the idea of “drunkenness” without doing real work

Are you suggesting that Marvel writers need to do more field work in this regard? :-)

We also need an article on why Teen Tony has a mouth full of incisors. was it that hard in the 90′s to pick up a book about what human teeth look like?

So, did Bethany Cabe ever find out about Tony’s drunken dalliance with ” Mz. Sunrise”?

In addition to being a former DA, Foggy was also a long-time partner in the very successful, high-profile firm of Nelson and Murdock, and well prior to that issue had been long established as handling legal services for the superhero community, including being on retainer as the lawyer for the FF, which is probably why Iron Man hired him as his attorney.

T. as I recall Denny o”neill didn’t do much better with characterizing Tony during his drinking.
It’s not just the slurring with most comic-book drinkers, it’s that they seem to sink so fast to the skid row–in real life people can keep the balls in the air for a long time before everything falls apart.
Did Jarvis and Tony talk after the butler was duped into becoming the Crimson Cowl? I seem to remember it that way.

Well, I guess you could take every nonsensical aspect of the Crossing utterly inconsistent with everything that had come before and make an article out of it… or we could all just agree to forget Terry Kavanagh ever wrote anything.

Fraser, to be fair, in both cases, Tony fell off the wagon WHILE PEOPLE WERE TRYING TO TAKE OVER HIS COMPANY. Yes, his drinking made the problem worse but he might have lost control of S.I. eventually even if he didn’t fall off the wagon.

Fraser, as I recall from interviews around the time, the main reason Denny O’Neil revisited the alcoholism storyline was specifically because he wanted to show just how far and fast someone can fall when they succumb to it. He felt that Michelinie and Layton had dealt with it in too superficial a manner ( particularly Stark’s “recovery” montage) and he wanted to show just how dire the consequences could be. He probably over-dramatized it, but it is a comic book after all. And in the overall context of the book, it’s easy to look at the time between the original Demon story and O’Neil’s revisit as the period where Tony was “keep(ing) the balls in the air for a long time before everything falls apart.” O’Neil spent a good bit of time building up Stane’s takeover of his company as the catalyst for Tony’s dive off the wagon.

Yeah, O’Neil and artist Luke McDonnel did an absolutely superb job showing just how seriously an addiction can ruin a person’s life, followed by showing the strength of character required to beat it. Compared to that, Michelinie and Layton did an after-school special.

Bernard the Poet

May 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Okay, I’ve got to know. Who was the “sinister lovely” in Iron Man #50?

Well I didn’t care for O’Neil’s version either (but then I’ve rarely cared for anything he does outside his early Bat-work). However the points Michael and Kalorma made are certainly fair.
Out of curiosity, anyone else on here ever read Malibu’s Prototype? Not that it relates to alcoholism, but the writer said his main inspiration was that he wanted a more realistic depiction of the consequences of having someone like Iron Man on the payroll (said writer was a business reporter by day job).

interesting always thought since day one of the avengers and iron man that tony and jarvis were not just mearly employer employee. instead find that tony really did not act with jaris much as reall friends like alfred and bruce. not to mention surprised tony did not use Daredevil as his attorney

Lovely was Princess Python, I do believe.

Making Jarvis and Tony Stark into ersatz family members adds a really weird dynamic to the formation of the Avengers. Can you imagine Bruce Wayne “giving” Alfred to the JLA? It’s like Tony was making a break from his past by making his father figure work for his new friends. No, better to ignore The Crossing altogether and go back to the old relationship.

I’m just going to point out that O’Neil was apparently a really bad alcoholic during his first run on Iron Man. If anyone has issues with his writing the character then that is probably it.

chad, perhaps, and maybe my sense of timing is wrong, DD wasn’t his attorney because Matt wasn’t practicing. I believe for most of the Miller, Nocenti, and Chichester runs he wasn’t with Foggy very much. I’m thinking the O’Neil and “Razor Sharp” storylines were the only times they were together for any length in last half of the original series.

Goh, O’Neil was a RECOVERING alcoholic during his run on Iron Man. (A “really bad” alcoholic implies his writing was questionable because he was drinking, a recovering alcoholic implies that his writing was questionable because Tony reminded him of himself.)
The reason why DD wasn’t Tony’s attorney was because Matt had faked his death to protect his secret identity.

The Marvel Universe must be pretty low on attorneys if a billionaire inventor CEO hires a storefront Hell’s Kitchen lawyer to handle his will…

Hmm, that goes a long way towards explaining why their technology is so much more advanced. The money is better spent.

Funny how the art in the “90s” pages goes from bad to worse…everything had that “Image stink” all over it.

My thoughts exactly. Sometimes I have a hard time believing people actually bought and read those things.

Most comic books had better art and better storytelling in the 1950s, if not in the 1940s already.

T. as I recall Denny o”neill didn’t do much better with characterizing Tony during his drinking.

Really? As I recall it Denny O’Neill was worlds better in that regard. In fact, it was of the best runs ever, both for Iron Man and for Denny himself.

Out of curiosity, anyone else on here ever read Malibu’s Prototype?

A few issues of it. It had some interesting ideas, if a bit too decompressed. Art was passable, too. It was quite hurt by the acquistion by Marvel, though. Not half as badly as Mantra, mind you, but stilll pretty bad.

Making Jarvis and Tony Stark into ersatz family members adds a really weird dynamic to the formation of the Avengers. Can you imagine Bruce Wayne “giving” Alfred to the JLA? It’s like Tony was making a break from his past by making his father figure work for his new friends. No, better to ignore The Crossing altogether and go back to the old relationship.

Don’t see the problem, myself. as for the Batman example, that’s pretty much what happened with the Outsiders.

T. as I recall Denny o”neill didn’t do much better with characterizing Tony during his drinking.

I’m not a huge Denny O’Neil fan. In fact, I think when he’s bad he can be REALLY bad. However from what I remember of his Iron Man, it definitely was nowhere near David Michelinie painful. It’s been a while but I remember O’Neil being far better at handling the alcoholism, even though it wasn’t perfect.

I know it was the 1960s… but how did the Avengers survive with such irrational methods of accepting new members?

“Who’s gassing us now? Let’s find out! Hey, it’s the villain Hawkeye! Get him!”
“No, wait! I’m really a misunderstood good guy!”
“Oh yeah? Prove it!”
“Well, I’ve broken into your mansion and bound & gagged your butler.”
“We have to admit, that’s a good start.”
“And now I’m going to shoot arrows at him, including one at his head.”
“That’s a foolproof plan! How could we not respect you? Will you be our chairperson, too? Oh, wait, we’ve got some senior citizen we just thawed out of an ice cube to do that for us.”
“Well, I’ll just have to develop a love/hate relationship with him, manifested as an inferiority complex.”
“Our team is in good hands for the future! I wonder if we could find any other misunderstood supervillains who’d like to join…”

Re: the “sinister lovely” . . . I’m guessing the phrase “strung out working girl” must have had a different connotation then than it does now.

O’Neil largely wrote Tony as a sad drunk, usually catatonic with despair. But other than some slurring and bad decisions (most notably the infamous fight he picked with Machine Man–and LOST), he didn’t really write the character by the stereotypes. Since he was writing a character already established (albeit badly) as an alcoholic, O’Neil had Tony go straight for self-destruction.

Travis Pelkie

May 13, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Those 2 pages with Jarvis in the hospital were at the very least inked by Kyle Baker, right? Around the time of Cowboy Wally? Tony telling Jarvis the Avengers are coming to dinner and the next panel with the chef made it click in my brain as to why the art looked good and familiar.

At least the 616 Jarvis isn’t as…irritating as the Ultimate one. Did not like that depiction.

Charles Knight

May 14, 2012 at 1:58 am

If I burst into a room and one guy’s “clothes” were on the floor and my boss was doing up his trousers, I’d make my excuses and leave.

Yes, that was Princess Python, shortly before she and her snake tried to go toe-to-toe with Iron Man.
Argh, why did you have to make me remember Marvel’s reworking of Mantra?

@deron

Don’t forget:

“Wait, I’m still not sold on letting Hawkeye join…”
“I’ve got trick arrows.”
“You’re in!”

Alfred-as-father-figure was a (relatively) recent retcon, right? I wanna say post-Crisis, Year One, but maybe it goes back farther than that.

They did somewhat better in the Earth’s Greatest Heroes miniseries retcon, showing how Hawkeye wound up befriending Jarvis, who convinced him to try and get onto the team.

What the hell is the deal with Tony’s furred bathrobe?

You’re right about that, Thad. Golden and Silver Age (bronze too, I think) showed him applying for a job to the adult Bruce.

I have to admit, when I saw “A.I. Jarvis” in the first Iron Man flick, I was confused. I’m assuming that was an “Ultimates” thing, as a lot of the movie stuff was? I never read much Ultimate stuff, except the early Ultimate Spider-Man.

I’ve come to accept it now (I imagine it’s easier in the movie universe to have Jarvis be a voice in Tony’s helmet than to add a whole other character to deal with), but I always loved Jarvis as a character and was upset to see him turned into a computer program at first.

Alfred-as-father-figure was a (relatively) recent retcon, right? I wanna say post-Crisis, Year One, but maybe it goes back farther than that.

It was a Post-Crisis thing. But it was well-established by the time Kavanagh adopted it for Tony/Jarvis.

But Bruce and Alfred have always had a close relationship. Alfred knew Batman’s secret identity in his first Golden Age appearance (although he discovered it by accident), and he gave his life to save them in the Silver Age. In the Bronze Age and later he’s been a sort of sounding board for Batman, usually the voice of reason that Batman ignores. It’s always been a deeper relationship than employer and employee.

The examples above show pretty clearly that Jarvis wasn’t supposed to know Iron Man and Tony Stark are the same guy, which puts a certain amount of unavoidable distance into their relationship.

There was a 1970s Batman story wherein Alfred got very annoyed that his carefully prepared evening meal was going to go uneaten when some sudden Bat-business came up. “Why do I bother?!” Not a reaction you’d expect to see these days, it was quite startling to re-read it recently.

Post-Crisis, Miller’s version of Alfred was initially most influential. Not only was he now originally Thomas Wayne’s butler, but he was pretty much for the first time witheringly sarcastic about Bruce becoming Batman. (This was presented at least as a veneer in Batman: The Animated Series as well). It felt like a big change at the time, let me tell you! Somewhere in the late 90s (maybe first with Devin Grayson?) he became much more of a loving father figure.

Am i the only one who enjoyed Teen Tony? It was a nice idea for a few issues, come on!!!

Teen Tony strikes me as one in a long run of “We’re going to build our story around someone who’s totally new to the super-hero universe so they see everything with fresh eyes!” Most of them aren’t that fresh.

Teen Tony worked about as well as teen Ray Palmer. Take that as you will.

“I have to admit, when I saw “A.I. Jarvis” in the first Iron Man flick, I was confused. I’m assuming that was an “Ultimates” thing, as a lot of the movie stuff was?”
No, that’s unique to the movies.

Weird. But I guess it proves that my comic-nerd ‘purist-sense’ wasn’t malfunctioning.

wetstereorebel

May 15, 2012 at 4:34 pm

@deron…

are you is who I think you is?

I very much prefer Jarvis as AI. We bonded during the Iron Man XBOX 360 games, I think.

It’s interesting since Jarvis DOES have a rapport with other characters (Hawkeye, Captain America, certainly).

Yeah, it really IS weird. Heck, during his first year or so as a character, he was more a Captain America supporting cast member than anything else!

Yeah, at the time the Crossing came out, their interactions in issue 280 that you posted were pretty much the only significant interactions Tony had with Jarvis since Gruenwald first started editing Avengers- over 13 years ago. It was weird to see a character that Tony had barely interacted with in 13 years being retconned into Tony’s surrogate father.

TJCoolguy > The “A.I. Jarvis” film version is a mix between the flesh and blood Jarvis and HOMER (an A.I. Stark used to run his home during Kaminski’s era) from the comics.

Well, also, for the last couple years in Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man, Pepper Potts has had an AI called JARVIS built into her Rescue armor. JARVIS’s personality is patterned after our old pal Jarvis’s.

Okay, so there are some progenitors in the comics. That’s good at least. I just can’t help wishing I would have seen who Hollywood would have cast as him. The actual Marvel Studios stuff has been so well-cast that I know they would have pulled it off.

Whenever I think of Tony’s lawyer, I think of Felix Alvarez.

Much, much too late, but I think Felix Alvarez was a Stark corporate lawyer, not Tony’s personal attorney. Employing separate firms can help avoid conflicts of interest.

This is probably the greatest idea Kavanagh ever wrote.

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