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Abandoned Love: The Titanic Tale of Teen Tony Stark, AKA Iron Teen

Every week, we will be examining comic book stories, plots and ideas that were abandoned by a later writer while still acknowledging that the abandoned story DID still happen. Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of Abandoned Love. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

This week, we take a look at how Marvel resolved the whole “Iron Man is a bad guy and has been replaced by a teen version of himself from the past” storyline from the mid-1990s.

In 1995, Marvel had a crossover event between Avengers, Force Works, Iron Man and War Machine. It was titled the Crossing and the bare bones plot is that Tony Stark was revealed to have been manipulated by Kang since Tony was a young man. Tony secretly turns on his fellow Avengers and surreptitiously kills a couple of them, including the nanny for Crysal and Quicksilver’s daughter, Luna. In Iron Man #323, Luna reveals her thoughts via some sort of thought scanner…

Now revealed as a bad guy, Iron Man takes on his former friends in Avengers #393…

teentony3

So now Iron Man and Kang are working together against the Avengers. The Avengers figure that the only person that could stop Tony Stark is, well, Tony Stark. So they travel back in time to right before Kang first corrupted Tony. They bring the teenage version of Tony into the present.

In Iron Man #325, he is like the proverbial kid in the candy shop…

teentony7

He uses one of Tony Stark’s Iron Man armors to fight against old, evil Tony, but things don’t go well for the younger Tony…

In Avengers #395, old Tony finally breaks free from Kang’s control long enough to stop Kang’s big ol’ McGuffin device, at the cost of his own life…

Old Tony has one more good deed to do before he dies…

So now young Tony takes over as Iron Man in the regular title, with a futuristic chest plate of his own keeping himself alive…

After a few months, in the battle against Onslaught, a number of superheroes sacrifice themselves to stop Onslaught…

As it turns out, they did not die but instead were transported to another Earth and here, Tony is back to being an older fellow…

After a year, the heroes returned to the regular Marvel Earth and old Tony Stark returned to his own title…

teentony17

As you might imagine, Marvel chose to pretty much ignore teen Tony for awhile. Finally, after a couple of years, Kurt Busiek addressed what exactly happened in Avengers Annual 2001, as Jarvis answers some questions. He explains the basic story of how Iron Man turned evil and how young Tony was brought to the present…

The theory is that Franklin Richards, who was the reason that the heroes all survived, using his reality-altering powers to “fix” Iron Man, so when he returned he was the way Franklin remembered him, so that required altering Iron Man back to his old, familiar state. This, though, does not make Tony Stark feel any less guilty over what happened before Onslaught…

So THAT’s how you return Iron Man back to “normal” after a strange detour through time travel and a Teen Tony, an “Iron Teen,” as it were.

If YOU have a suggestion for an abruptly dropped storyline, e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com

49 Comments

Chris McFeely

March 2, 2013 at 5:21 am

I just read The Crossing for the first time (omnibus!) last month. Boy oh boy, those rare few Jim Calafiore issues that we see one page of in this article were a serious joy to behold, surrounded as they were by viciously crap 90s excess.

90′s art was so weird. Of the panels that illustrate this article, only Sean Chen (a fine penciler) has a tolerable style.

Iron Lad.

I am probably in the minority but i liked “The Crossing” storyline and teen-age Tony. Was sorry to see it abandoned. Loved that Mike Deodato artwork during his Avengers issues.

A teen hero comes from the past to the present to tackle his misguided/evil older self. Hey, they should do that again?

I can’t remember, how come Teen Tony had a bad heart, had he been involved in a Teen War?

First among the sins of this storyline, and there are many, is the fact that they killed off Iron Man not in his own book but in Avengers.

The Crossing was the death blow to my love for Avengers. I didn’t even last through the whole story-line and didn’t buy Avengers regularly again until Bendis came on board…

“superstitiously kills a couple of them”? Should that be “surreptitiously,” or were the killings somehow themed around avoiding breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks, etc.?

I remember how hopeful I was with Teen Tony: the “promise” that he would slowly develop his armor over time, the possibilities of new interactions with old foes… then then they pretty mush rushed everything and ended abruptly.

Looking back on it now, it feels like it was never meant to be anything but filler.

A lot of the fault of “teen Tony” happening in the first place has to fall on the shoulders of Harras and especially Kavanagh. I mean, Harras is the definition of “editorial interference,” which caused many of the best ’80s Marvel writers to depart in the early ’90s. But Kavanagh, my head, destroyed many good Marvel titles. His Excalibur issues (after the team had ceased being protectors of time and space and became just another mutant team) were dreck, and he made the last 20 issues of Web of Spider-Man completely unreadable –aside from the fact that he was one of the main people responsible for the genesis of the Clone Saga, and interesting idea gone horribly awry.

People often want to blame ’90s Marvel excess on Jim Lee or Scott Lobdell or Fabian Nicieza or “too many mutant titles,” but for me its the one-two punch of Harras and Kavanagh. They nearly destroyed two franchises, Avengers and Iron Man, and tried their best with Spider-Man as well.

While Teen Tony hasn’t been forsaken, just abandoned, there does seem to be a forsaken element regarding older Tony. I’m not sure where if at all this has been depicted in a regular story, but in the Iron Man (Teen Tony) entry, in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z hc, Tony’s corruption is stated as starting shortly after Operation: Galactic Storm. Even if it makes less sense for the heroes to go back to Tony’s teen years, I think it’s more palatable that Tony’s corruption was a relatively new development. It also explains why, when Cap and Iron Man argue about their past conflicts during Civil War, Tony doesn’t just dismiss all of Cap’s arguments with “Immortus”.

I saw both seasons of Iron Man: Armored Adventures, where Tony was a teenager, as well as Rhodey and Pepper. The messed-up thing? It was actually good. And if it had been on a network that you could easily mind (not Nicktoons), I’m sure more people would’ve watched.

Was Ray Palmer still in his de-aged teenage state when Teen Tony came along? I think that preceded this story by a couple of years, but I don’t remember how long that status quo lasted.

“superstitiously kills a couple of them”? Should that be “surreptitiously,” or were the killings somehow themed around avoiding breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks, etc.?

Ha! Stupid auto-correct!

Iron Lad.

There already is a different character named Iron Lad, though.

Shouldn’t Tony’s head have exploded or vaporized after taking a punch from Hercules without his helmet on? It seems like in comics, super strength doesn’t mean much when guys start punching each other. It’s like when Spider-Man is fighting guys like Doc Ock or the Vulture and is hitting them in the face and their skulls aren’t instantly pulverized.

“Was Ray Palmer still in his de-aged teenage state when Teen Tony came along? I think that preceded this story by a couple of years, but I don’t remember how long that status quo lasted.”

Yes. He was de-aged in zero Hour in 1994 and joined the Teen Titans in 1996, the latter a little after Tony’s de-aging.

While Ray did become a teen in 1994 it was only with Titans that his teen adventures really began. So while Teen Tony could have been a swipe, it’s also possible that it was one of those odd bits of synchronicity that sometimes happen, like Swamp Thing and Man-Thing, or Doom Patrol and X-Men (I realize you weren’t accusing anyone of swiping, I just thought I’d note that just in case it came up).

“There already is a different character named Iron Lad, though.”

Himself a teen version of an existing character, in this case Kang.

“Shouldn’t Tony’s head have exploded or vaporized after taking a punch from Hercules without his helmet on? It seems like in comics, super strength doesn’t mean much when guys start punching each other. It’s like when Spider-Man is fighting guys like Doc Ock or the Vulture and is hitting them in the face and their skulls aren’t instantly pulverized.”

It probably doesn’t work under close scrutiny, but the usual explanation is the character is pulling their punch (notably, Spider-Man did once kill a woman (the suicidal Charlemagne) by punching her a full strength, believing he was hitting Wolverine.

Shouldn’t Tony’s head have exploded or vaporized after taking a punch from Hercules without his helmet on? It seems like in comics, super strength doesn’t mean much when guys start punching each other. It’s like when Spider-Man is fighting guys like Doc Ock or the Vulture and is hitting them in the face and their skulls aren’t instantly pulverized.

Hercules had been de-powered at this point. So his punch wasn’t as devastating, although yeah, it was still pretty weird that Tony could withstand even a reduced-power blow from Herc. Then again, as poorly written as that story was, stuff like that barely fazes me, ya know?

While Teen Tony hasn’t been forsaken, just abandoned, there does seem to be a forsaken element regarding older Tony. I’m not sure where if at all this has been depicted in a regular story, but in the Iron Man (Teen Tony) entry, in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z hc, Tony’s corruption is stated as starting shortly after Operation: Galactic Storm. Even if it makes less sense for the heroes to go back to Tony’s teen years, I think it’s more palatable that Tony’s corruption was a relatively new development. It also explains why, when Cap and Iron Man argue about their past conflicts during Civil War, Tony doesn’t just dismiss all of Cap’s arguments with “Immortus”.

Huh, that’s fascinating. I didn’t know that they had retconned that. That WOULD make for a good A&F, although I’d like to see it appear somewhere other than a recent Handbook, as those obviously have had some controversial changes here and there (Rawhide Kid most notably) that I don’t know if they are always considered “canon” or not.

“Hey, Jarv — What it is!”

Remember, keep suggestions for other Abandoned Love ideas (like a certain tiny “victim” of the Crossing) to e-mail!

The retcon that the mind-control thing started around Galactic Storm came in with Avengers Forever, didn’t it? Or was it just that Avenegrs Forever explained that Tony’s actions in Galactic Storm were the results of the mind control?

It looks like they used Onslaught/Heroes Return as a loophole to have Tony back to normal and only gave an explanation later because they had to.

And haha old Jim Cheung art. I used to cringe at it when he was doing Flash, I only started to like his stuff on Maverick, where he clearly improved over the course of the series.

>There already is a different character named Iron Lad, though.

And he should’ve taken a number – internet fandom had dubbed Teen Tony the “Iron Lad” years before the latter character’s arrival.

>The retcon that the mind-control thing started around Galactic Storm came in with Avengers Forever, didn’t it? Or was it just that Avenegrs Forever explained that Tony’s actions in Galactic Storm were the results of the mind control?

It retconned Tony from being a sleeper agent for Kang since his early days to being under Immortus’ thrall from Galactic Storm–> the Crossing. Either way it reflects poorly on Tony… but it was a damn shame to make Tony a chump for the entire Len Kaminski era.

And haha old Jim Cheung art. I used to cringe at it when he was doing Flash, I only started to like his stuff on Maverick, where he clearly improved over the course of the series.

Jimmy Cheung’s work seems like a great example of most modern comic book artists. When he takes his time, he’s excellent. When he has to hit a monthly deadline (which he used to have to do when he was breaking in) he’s….less than excellent.

Stark was completely inaccessible to a kid growing up in the early 90s. The mustache, the whole Howard Hughes thing. Or the Clark Gable thing. The rich alcoholism. All of it.

I was really into Teen Tony because I could relate. I bet there’s some kid out there right now really into teen Cyclops and Jean Grey. (they’re probably pirating the comics, mind you but still).

The funny thing is, when I was a teen I connected mostly with the JSA, so I kind of went the other direction. :) I did really like Kitty Pryde, but let’s face it, probably most X-Men readers at the time did. I only found out about Teen Tony after the fact, having dropped Iron Man a bit before that, so I have no real opinions about the character, just the *idea* of the character.

I wonder if there were some teen readers/readers in their 20s back in the day who connected with adult Tony precisely because he *was* an alcoholic. :)

David A.Tyson

March 3, 2013 at 1:15 am

Actually that Retcon in the Marvel Universe handbook did happen in Avengers Forever, it was the issue with the Space Phantom revealing everything to the Avengers. It was a pretty big one.

I do not like this. Me think you are bad iron lung teen full of it. it makes me wonder why.

Onslaught Reborn

March 3, 2013 at 7:31 am

The original storyline heavily implied Tony had been Kang’s sleeper-agent since their first encounter, way back in Avengers #8, but Tony himself is clearly unaware of this until he’s “activated” (although he appears to have been ‘activated’ a few times before, to have been able to build the secret lairs and superweapons he has in the storyline). Unfortunately, too many people seemed to have failed to understand what a sleeper-agent is, and interpreted it as “they’re saying Tony was always secretly a villain, all that time”, so when Avengers Forever retconned it into “Immortus was influencing Tony’s behaviour and actions from Galactic Storm onwards”, readers interpreted this as somehow “less-damaging”, even though it gives him a far longer period of actively being “bad”, and tries to dismiss Galactic Storm and the whole Kaminski run on Iron Man, one of the more well-regarded eras of the book, as being “things Tony would never have done when in his right mind”, suggesting a failure to understand the character, and a desire to “fix” him into being something more flawless and pure than he’d ever really been.

As for “how we got rid of Teen Tony and got Big Tony back”, it’s one of those things where everyone’s happy with the end result, so no-one really looks at how utterly screwed-up the method is. Franklin is healing the “injured” heroes, such as restoring Wasp from her insect form, or repairing Hawkeye’s hearing, so by that logic, he should just have fixed Teen Tony’s heart injury. Franklin doesn’t know who or what Iron Man is under the suit, yet somehow he realises that Teen Tony is “wrong”, and restores Big Tony by merging his corpse with Teen Tony, effectively ending Teen Tony’s life. And he goes to all that trouble for a guy he doesn’t really know, yet his beloved uncle Ben still gets trapped being The Thing?

What
have
I
become?

Oh, 90s comics, you so crazy. Don’t ever come back, please.

During that whole early mid-90s era, it seems like Marvel lost a lot of ground due to the Image defections. Plus with DC abruptly throwing Hal Jordan under a bus and bringing in Kyle Rayner, I guess Marvel felt they had to follow suit with their own longtime-hero-goes-bonkers story arc, thus do we get a murderous Tony and his Justin Bieber-aged replacement.

I’m glad that nothing like this can happen again. Or can’t it?

bulk erase whatever Busiek didn’t like. It was like well Onslaught Reborn, the whole point of Avengers Forever was like fan fic to me with higher production values and rubbed me the wrong way after it ended and I thought about what had been done.

Alexandre Juliao

March 3, 2013 at 2:11 pm

If memory serves, Kurt Busiek got the sleeper-agent thing right, he just replaced Avengers#8 with Iron Man #278 as the starting point of Immortus influence. I don’t think he wanted to retcon Len Kaminski’s run on Iron Man.

” I saw both seasons of Iron Man: Armored Adventures, where Tony was a teenager, as well as Rhodey and Pepper. The messed-up thing? It was actually good. And if it had been on a network that you could easily mind (not Nicktoons), I’m sure more people would’ve watched. ”

Because there teen Tony was the only Tony Stark past, present, or future. Comics Teen Tony was explicitly set up as an alternate reality usurper to the disgraced original’s throne, a stupidly contrived premise for new and old readers alike. For new readers, because it adds a huge wad of backstory unnecessary to the basic premise; for old readers, a reminder that the character they’d been reading was killed off in favor of a younger pretender based on some middle-aged editors’ conceptions of young people.

wetstereorebel

March 3, 2013 at 4:31 pm

I didn’t know Calafiore went back that far.

Onslaught Reborn

March 3, 2013 at 6:03 pm

“If memory serves, Kurt Busiek got the sleeper-agent thing right, he just replaced Avengers#8 with Iron Man #278 as the starting point of Immortus influence. I don’t think he wanted to retcon Len Kaminski’s run on Iron Man.”

It was a lot of the _readers_ who didn’t get the sleeper-agent part, not any of the writers who later referenced it. But Avengers Forever goes out of it’s way to declare Tony’s leading a group of Avengers in the (attempted) assassination of the Kree Supreme Intelligence at the end of Galactic Storm as “something Tony would never, ever have done without Immortus’ influence”, (despite Galactic Storm itself stating Tony doing this because he doesn’t believe the Supreme Intelligence is sentient life, just a complex computer. He’s almost certainly wrong, but it’s his belief nonetheless) and then declares that Immortus caused Tony to have become “colder and more ruthless” in the time between Galactic Storm and The Crossing, and that time period is the Kaminski run.

That is some seriously hideous 90′s artwork. Everything that was bad about the “Image” influence – no backgrounds, no panel designs, splash pages with jumbled images, screaming character poses, incorrect anatomy,generic faces…I could go on, but…why bother? Just happy that era is over!

It is interesting to see how many of the artists who worked on The Crossing storyline (Deodato, Cheung, Calafiore) are still around, and how much they have improved by leaps & bounds since then. Also, I think that some of the problems with the artwork lies in the early computer coloring Marvel was using, which wasn’t particularly good.

The artwork itself aside, I’m always taken aback by those gawdawful ’90s costumes. Look at Black Widow, Swordsman, and especially Hercules in that big team fight from #393. Ugh.

It also always bothers me when a single team member can somehow take on their entire team, for seemingly no other reason than the story calls for it. I’m sure if pressed, you could probably lamely explain it away by saying that the rest of the team is pulling their punches because they don’t want to hurt Tony, but still. Iron Man is no slouch, but I find it hard to accept him holding his own against NINE other Avengers, at least half of whom are world-class powerhouses.

Oh, jeez. ‘The Crossing’ was so bad I don’t care how they retconned it. Even if Busiek’s explanation makes no damn sense, I’ll take it.

This is my biggest pet peeves in comics:
Tony Stark just took a punch from an enraged demi-god in the face. No helmet, no forcefield, or anything to protect him. And he has the ability to shake it off without issue. Tony Stark has no super “toughness” so a punch from Hercules should have sent him into next May.

Also Avengers #393, this is the best Hawkeye costume ever.

oh Franklin Richards u did it again!

Is there any other A or B list hero they turn into a bad guy as many times as Iron Man? Guys who carry their own title?

And if you’re Kang and have had him as a sleeper agent all this time, why do you wait to have your ass kicked by the Avengers a dozen times before you unleash him?

I buy that Peter Parker pulls his punches because he’s worried about killing a normal human, but I’m not sure Herc is the type of guy to do so. Especially to a traitor. But then Tony fights the whole battle it looks like without his helmet. Guess they took the “FACE TO FACE” thing really seriously.

Captain Haddock

May 16, 2013 at 9:07 am

There were a couple of costumes there that, in the right hands, didn’t look bad. I remember really liking how Quicksilver and Hawkeye looked in X-men when Joe Mad drew them, same with Scarlet Witch. Then I read Avengers and just…no.

Onslaught Reborn is right. I was rereading some issues of Avengers that followed the crossing and they emphasized in the letters columns that Tony had not been working for Kang all those year, only primed and ready (which is not what I’d thought reading the issues). The columns also state that this is not going back in time to find Teen Tony but getting an alt.Tony from another universe, to minimize any further time tangles.

Wow, great article. The 90′s were definitely a throw it all away for sales era.

I was working at a comic book shop around this time and specifically remember some promotional material, maybe in Wizard magazine, stating that Marvel wanted to pull a “Hal Jordan” with one of their big characters turning evil and that storyline became the crossing. 15 years later, I would argue that DC would try to replicate the Iron Man movie with their Green Lantern film. The tail chasing between the big two never seems to end.

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