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The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – Is Rhodey’s Mom Dead or What?

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 life and death and life of James “War Machine” Rhodes’ mother…

Nick Marino suggested this one.

James Rhodes’ mother first showed up in Iron Man #173 where she babysits a drunk Tony Stark while Rhodey takes care of some stuff as the new Iron Man. Tony gives her the slip and that was it for Rhodey’s mother for quite some time.

In Iron Man #264, Rhodey has to disguise himself as Tony Stark (via some holographic technology) to fool some reporters. Rhodey obviously feels a bit about it, and he notes…

Now either writer John Byrne forgot that it had been established that Rhodey’s mom was alive or he decided it was better for Rhodey’s mom to be dead. I dunno which.

However, a few years later, Dan Abnett has Rhodey go home to Philadelphia in War Machine #12 and both of his parents are alive and well…

Well, alive and bigoted, perhaps, but otherwise well!

Later in the issue, Rhodey’s girlfriend shows up and her reception is rough…

Rhodey gets caught up in superhero business and calls to check on his girlfriend the next issue…

At first we’re supposed to believe that Rae is crying just because Rhodey’s parents are jerks, but later we learn that they told her Rhodey has a kid he never told her about. I Would count this for Abandoned an’ Forsaked except that they never actually really establish that it is true. Rhodey even says that he doesn’t believe it is true and rather that it sounds like his parents just made it up to mess wit Rae, so I don’t think that this was ever established enough to even BE abandoned.

By the way, after he calls to check in on her in War machine #13, do you know the next time that he actually talks to Rae, let alone sees her again? War Machine #24!!! Abnett just has Rhodey completely ignore his girlfriend for over ten issues! Obviously there were plenty of adventures mixed in there (including a time travel story where he lost his original armor) but there was plenty of down time, as well. So geez louise, Rhodey, you can’t CALL your girlfriend!?

ALSO by the way, I love how the above page is set up. Rae, of course, has to be in lingerie while crying about Rhodey. Of COURSE she does. Excellent decision, Dave Chlystek!

Anyhow, over a decade later, Rhodey’s mom pops up in the sixth issue of the second War Machine series (third if you count Chuck Austen’s U.S. War Machine), as writer Greg Pak has her set up in Navajo country as an attempt by Rhodey to protect her (by taking her out of the United States proper)…

I personally think that Pak has abandoned and forsaked Rhodey’s dad here, as the flashbacks (beginning with the “South Philadelphia. Many years ago” caption) all seem to heavily imply that Rhodey’s mom raised him by herself, but since it does not OUTRIGHT write his dad off, we can still believe that he died and/or divorced Rhodey’s mom and has not been officially abandoned and forsaked.

Interesting journey, Nick, thanks for the suggestion!

34 Comments

I was going to make the exact same comments about the gf in lingerie bit.

Did you abandon and forsake the Austen War Machine series, or did it have a different enough name that the Pak series counts as the “second” WM series?

From what I hear, it’s just as well to not mention it….

Fair enough, I’ll throw Austen a bone.

I was totally hoping you had deliberately ignored it, actually.

Austen will probably appreciate a bone in whatever back alley he’s living in now.

Oh, that was cold. I don’t like myself for that one. I actually like his art from Zot 19 and 20.

Back to this feature, though. Iron Man in the first scene talks about how Rhodey’s mom wouldn’t be able to “penerate” his disguise. That’s funny, cuz if you ignore that it was just a typo, either Tony am too dum to talk right, or else he’s lost another battle with the demon in a bottle.

“It’s Foster Brooks as Iron Man!”

Lordy, I’m punchy at this hour.

Wait, so Rhodey killed more people than Jeffrey Dahmer?

Could Rhodey be be raised by his single mom while also having a step-mom he called mom? If he saw his dad and step-mom irregularly, it’s possible he didn’t know they were racist. One of them could have died.

I was rather puzzled about the armor–did it have an AI at the time? If it’s Tony, why wasn’t he talking to the press–he could surely work a holo-inducer as well as Rhodey.

For what it’s worth, Rhodey’s mom just reappeared towards the end of the latest Iron Man volume, sheltering Rhodey after he faked his death (so he could covertly strike against the Mandarin’s goons). Bethany and Pepper quickly figured out the truth of Rhodey’s ruse, to the chagrin of his mom. Rhodey sheepishly acknowledged that it was his mom who taught him to surround himself with intelligent women.

Great stuff, as always, Brian!

This is my most favorite column, followed by Comic Legends!

But, specifically speaking of this feature, someone could say that Rhodey was somehow unaware of her mother being alive due to a kind of witness protection… or not… hehe

Anyway, unless there is some explanation by the OHOTMU’s staff, I don;t think this will be explained further.

I can remember other similar cases, as what happened with Wonder Man’s parents or with Silver Surfer’s native planet (Zenn-La)… abandoned and forsaked… hehe

The lingerie shot is pretty ridiculous, but it’s not as bad as the case of microcephaly Rae is suffering when she shows up on the Rhodes’ doorstep.

Rhodey’s mum could’ve (theorectically) died between IM #173 and #264. so, that’s not really abandoning or forsaking her…

Since when is a reservation out of the jurisdiction of federal agents?

interesting always wondered what the marvel writers where thinking about rhodneys mother mostly do we have her alive including be a little bigoted against his girl friend who gets so upset she is crying wearing Lingerie or do we decide nope according to war machine she is died only back to alive again and maybe raised rhodney on her own like his father croaked or abandoned them. proving even marvel characters family members can get the old bouncing around of is she or he alive or dead.

Man, John Romita JR’s art was really going through a weird phase around that time. I forgot that he was drawing that way for a short stretch. Glad he got out of that.

Rhodey’s mum could’ve (theorectically) died between IM #173 and #264. so, that’s not really abandoning or forsaking her…

Yes, but ignoring that death afterward is what counts as abandoning and forsaking.

Wow– so much terrible. Indian reservations are (sometimes) beyond the jurisdiction of state and local police, but they’re entirely within FBI jurisdiction. The lingerie shot and the appearance of Rae when she first appears are ridiculous. And Byrne’s Rhodey might as well be Buck Wild, sho ’nuff.

Yes, but ignoring that death afterward is what counts as abandoning and forsaking.

Correct-a-mundo.

So that’s John Byrne who wrote that atrocious plantation dialect for Rhodey?

I’m always freaked out when tiny-headed women come to the door! Even if I’m living in a 2-dimensional movie facade of a house- look at that, there’s no depth! The bushes grow right around it… And why is the scene with the parents all in extreme close-up? What a lot of strange choices..

And the less said about that last scene, the better.
searing…. colors!!!

So that’s John Byrne who wrote that atrocious plantation dialect for Rhodey?

Yeah.

I’m likely the only person on the planet who misses the Warwear.

I was sad that War Machine series was cancelled, in part because I wanted to see where the writers were going with Rhodey’s ‘son’ and his parents. The apparent racism of his parents was a nice twist too.

Every single woman I know always puts on her best lingere so that she can cry over her boyfriend.

Every single one.

Sometimes they all get together so that they can have pillow fights, too.

Oddly, @John Trumbull, so do a lot of the men I know.

Time to put on my cryin’ lingerie…

Are there any other references in that era to Rhodey’s mom being dead? Because I *suppose* one could handwave that one line as being a joke, even though Byrne didn’t intend it as such. Especially since he’s talking like Amos ‘n Andy when he says it.

Or even better than handwaving it away as a joke, just think of ‘ol mama as being grandma, gramma, nana, meemaw, etc. Assume he meant his mother’s mother and the whole “abandoned” thing goes away.

(Who the heck spells it ‘ol rather than ol’, though?)

Jim, great solution. “Ol’ Ma” as a nickname for his grandma. Great idea.

If that’s what a typical Marvel comic looked like in the 1990s, I am glad I wasn’t around to see that.

But on to the topic at hand: That “glad my mama isn’t around to see this” line was pretty obviously just a cast-off, and I’m sure Byrne would have never even thought to research if Rhodes’ mother ever showed up in a comic for such a tiny phrasing. So this “Abandoned an’ Forsaked” is a bit of a stretch. But still entertaining.

I would be really hesitant to say “I’m sure John Byrne would have never” about anything. He has built entire stories (good ones, even) out of wiping out tiny bits of continuity that he disagreed with. And with OHOTMU at their fingertips since the mid-80s, unless it is wrong about something, there is less of an excuse for such a mistake.

Besides, some of the fun of continuity-based comics is finding in-story ways of saying “What this really meant was…” Blaming a flub on the writer is the cheap way out and doesn’t change what the text says.

Jim – I know, I’m a party-pooper. :)

Jim, on the one hand that’s a valid point; on the other hand, they were overturning the original OHOTMU fairly quickly–I remember the Spider-Man editors explaining not much later why they had Black Cat as having no super-powers when the Handbook said otherwise (the defense, IIRC, was that she claimed she had a bad-luck power, so how were they to know otherwise).
Although reading the Essential version the abandoned-and-forsaken bits don’t annoy me as much as all the forgettable characters who got their own page or half-page (the Aquarian, and Handbook editor Gruenwald’s creation Maelstrom for instance).

My brother totally had the original issue of Handbook that featured the Aquarian. I remember, even as a little kid, being like “Hippie Jesus is a Marvel character?”

He started out as a Superman variant created by Steve Gerber (IIRC) but then … yeah. Turned out the Aquarian wasn’t the character Marvel fans everywhere had been waiting for.

Heh… I actually miss the Warwear myself. It was hideously ugly, but it was a good concept, and the Brood history from its flashbacks made it seem like it belonged in the MU. Still a little shocked it never turned up in Abnett/Lanning’s more recent MU stuff.

Don’t be too hard on Byrne’s Rhodey-speak… Denny O’Neil’s was WAY worse.

A better plot for this feature was Rhodey’s fear of the Iron Man armor. Micheline and Layton had Rhodey nearly die in the suit and become too traumatized to wear it again, but Byrne had him put it on without a second thought. Then, Kaminski brought it up again, only to have Rhodey overcome it for good and for all with the first War Machine arc.

For that matter, Kaminski’s Rhodey was allegedly a guy that managed to get through his entire military service without ever killing anyone, and had never killed before the opening War Machine arc. This kind of flies in the face of Micheline/Layton’s origin story for Rhodey, or his mercenary past in Somalia, and Pak happily ignored it altogether.

” and become too traumatized to wear it again, but Byrne had him put it on without a second thought.”

@TJ Burns: it’s been a long while since I read those issues but, iirc, Rhodey was far from putting it on “without a second thought”. I even remember him sweating like a pig because of all the tension.

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