web stats

CSBG Archive

The Greatest Iron Man Stories Ever Told!

1 2
« Previous

5. “Extremis” Iron Man Volume 4 #1-6

Warren Ellis and Adi Granov revolutionized both Iron Man’s visuals (vis a vis Granov), his origin and the very concept of “Iron Man,” as Tony is forced to use an experimental technology that literally turns him more into a machine than a man. The look and feel of these issues were instrumental in the first Iron Man film.

4. “Iron Monger” Iron Man #190-200

This arc could theoretically go back as far as Iron Man #160, but that seems like a stretch for the rules of this feature, so I figured I’d go with the trade paperback plus a couple of issues beforehand. The concept of the story is that Obadiah Stane has stolen Tony Stark’s company. Tony felt into a pit of despair and self-pity but has finally fought his way back to sobriety. James Rhodes has taken over as Iron Man in Tony’s absence and Tony is fine with that. However, the suit was not MEANT to be worn by someone else for this long, so Rhodey is beginning to crack up a bit. Tony is forced to return to the role of Iron Man, first in an an obsolete armor and later in a brand-new look just in time to take on Stane for one last battle, under Stane’s new identity, the Iron Monger! Denny O’Neil is the writer. Luke McDonnell began the story as penciler (with inks by inking team Ian Akin and Brian Garvey) but the arc is filled with different pencilers, from Rick Buckler to Sal Buscema to Herb Trimpe to finally M.D. Bright, who took over as the regular artist with issue #200 (and stayed on the title for quite a while).

3. “Doomquest” Iron Man #149-150

It is fascinating to note that Doctor Doom and Iron Man, the two most famous men in armor in Marvel Comics, had barely interacted before this story. In any event, David Michelinie, Bob Layton and John Romita Jr. quickly corrected the miscarriage of justice by giving us this fanciful action-packed story where Doom and Iron Man are accidentally transported back in time to the days of Camelot. Iron Man finds himself fighting along side King Arthur while Doom ends up with Morgan Le Fay (who promised to help him in his quest to save his mother’s soul from Hell). After their battle, the two adversaries realize that they must join forces if they are ever to return to their own time. Layton and Michelinie returned to the story exactly a hundred issues later for a sequel.

2. “Armor Wars” Iron Man #225-232

The highlight of Bob Layton and David Michelinie’s return to Iron Man, Armor Wars finds Tony Stark irate that his armor has been used to power a bad guy’s armor. He decides then that NOone can have armor that uses his technology, even past uses that he had authorized (under the theory that he cannot trust anyone to keep his technology from a third party). This naturally puts him into conflict with friend and foe alike. His old pal Steve Rogers is especially angry at Tony when Tony’s attempts to shut down the Guardsmen at the supervillain prison The Vault results in a major prison break. Similarly, Iron Man’s actions lead to the Avengers expelling him from the team. Tony Stark also publicly “fires” Iron Man (he has provided a fake identity to provide to authorities trying to hunt Iron Man down). How far will Tony take his war? What will he do when the world believes Iron Man dead? Will he just let that become the truth? M.D. Bright finished out his run as Iron Man’s layout artist with this arc (Barry Windsor Smith drew the epilogue).

1. “Demon in a Bottle” Iron Man #120-128

This storyline is now best known for the way that it has Tony Stark confront his alcoholism. However, that is really only the end of the storyline. In fact, when this story was originally collected, it was called the rather generic “The Power of Iron Man,” not “Demon in a Bottle” (this was when collecting comic book storylines in a trade paperback was still quite novel, so the generic title made a lot of sense). The story begins with the introduction of one of David Michelinie and Bob Layton’s best new characters, the villainous Justin Hammer, who is sort of a super-villain franchiser. He provides the outfits and the bad guys give a cut of their take to him. He confronts Iron Man by first causing his armor to kill someone, making Tony Stark go on the run as a murderer. During this time, Tony learns hand to hand combat from Captain America himself, since he has to be on the run as himself. Tony eventually stops Hammer’s plot, but the stress of the affair leads him to a drinking binge that forces him to confront his alcoholism, along with the help of is girlfriend, Bethany Cabe. These were a great series of stories, even forgetting the excellent addition of alocholism to Tony’s characterization, which has been a major aspect of the character ever since. John Romita Jr. did a great job on layouts while Layton’s finishes dominated the visual appearance of the book.

That’s the list! Agree? Disagree? Let us know!

Also, as a note, when Iron Man 3 comes out, I’ll treat you all to the top TWENTY-FIVE vote-getters!

1 2
« Previous

96 Comments

Great list!!! I think Armor Wars II also deserves to be on here… some Len Kaminski stuff too. But overall I’m super impressed with this list!!! Really balanced. Gives big props to Layton and Michelinie. Plus it has Deliverance!! Awesome story.

joe the poor speller

April 2, 2013 at 6:13 am

dang, I missed this one. but this is almost my top 10. I would replace numbers 10 and 9 for war machine (IM 280-291) and hypervelocity.

I was prepared to such results, but still… TWO arcs written by Matt Fraction made it into the Top 10. That hurts.

nice picks was hoping maybe worlds most wanted would make the cut . for the lengths tony goes through to try to fix his mistakes is crazy. though surprised demon in a bottle did not make the list again

Pros and cons of Fraction’s Iron Man run:

Pros:
1) Fraction better than he is on Thor or X-Men
2) World’s Most Wanted is one of the best event ties-in ever written
3) He did absolute wonders with Pepper Potts and Maria Hill, turning the former into an important player in the Marvel Universe and the latter into an actual character rather than just a Bendis Woman
4) The younger generation of villains–Tony shouldn’t be afraid of his peers, he should be afraid of the people rising up to replace him
5) It’s a story about a recovering addict written by a recovering addict, and is usually really powerful when it addresses Tony’s alcoholism
6) The whole thing tackles the “why hasn’t Reed Richards cured cancer” problem head on, with Tony making a genuine attempt to use his technology to solve the energy crisis

Cons:
1) Fraction worse than he is on HAWKGUY and Casanova
2) Larocca
3) Loses steam with the Fear Itself crossover that it never entirely regains
4) Larocca
5) Rebooting Tony’s brain so that he has no longer done Bad Things was stupid
6) Larocca

Not a big fan of the Iron Man book(s) so I did not play. I would like to get the Doom story and finish off the Armor Wars.

I will say you missed an opportunity posting on April Fools day, Mr Cronin. You could have given us a list with The Crossing at number 1, Iron Man Becomes Secretary of Defense at number 2, etc…

C’mon, really? Two Fraction arcs end up in the top ten of all Iron Man stories ever? A case can be made for World’s Most Wanted, but Five Nightmares was no better than any other Iron Man arc.

Two Larocca-drawn stories was already bad, but two stories from the deathly dull Denny O’Neil run? That hurt!

On the positive side, three of my faves on the top! The crown jewels of the still-definitive Michelinie/Layton runs! I put them on a different order (and mixed in the unfairly overlooked wonderful Hypervelocity mini), but they were at my top spots too.

@[MGW]Spike. People really have no sense of history anymore…

At last, “The Five Nightmares” is not that bad. But really, Len Kaminski is not on the list? That is really unfair…

Here’s my list:

#1 – Iron Man #225-#231 – “Armors Wars”

#2 – Iron Man #120-#128 – “Demon in a Bottle”

#3 – Iron Man #301-#306 – “Crash and Burn”

#4 – Iron Man #118 – “At the Mercy of My Foes Friends!”

#5 – Iron Man vol. 3 #73-#78 – “The Best Defence”

#6 – Iron Man #300 – “Appetite For Destruction!”

#7 – Iron Man #22 – “From the Conflict…Death!”

#8 – Tales of Suspense #60 – “Suspected Of Murder!”

#9 – Marvel Adventures: Iron Man #9 – “The Bunker”

#10 – Iron Man vol. 6 #01-#05 – “Believe”

kdu2814, both stories were collected a short time ago. Armor Wars is still in print, Doomquest isn’t, but it’s easy to find at a decent price in online dealers.

Of course, Doomquest IS available on the Michelinie/Layton Omnibus, but I understand that it is out of reach of most pockets (including mine, sadly).

@Elpie: Can’t agree about Larocca as a con. Yes, his faces can be bad, but he’s great with the tech stuff, which is a big plus.

The biggest con of that run for me is D’Armata’s colours

Darth Hatredz

April 2, 2013 at 8:15 am

Looking forward to checking out “The Beginning of the End”, and glad to see some of my favorites made the list.

1. Iron Man (VOL1) 117-128 “Demon in a Bottle” (Although 117, 118, 119 are unofficial- First appearances of Bethany Cabe, James Rhoads, and S.H.I.E.L.D takeover of Stark International).

2. Iron Man (VOL1) 219-221 First Appearance of the Ghost

3. Iron Man (VOL1) 182 “Deliverance”

4. Iron Man (VOL1) 191-200 Tony Stark’s rehabilitation and his reclaiming of Iron Man mantle.

5. Iron Man (VOL1) Annual 7 “When Giants walk the Earth”

6. Iron Man (VOL1) 149-150 “Doomquest”

7. Iron Man (VOL3) 1 “Looking Forward”

8. Iron Man (VOL1) 168 “The Iron Scream”

9. Tales of Suspense 39 “Iron Man is Born!”

10. Avengers (VOL3) Annual 2001 “House Cleaning”

Larocca’s art may have not been the best (and I have been heard bitching about it before) but after reading Kieron Gillen and Greg “I cant draw for shit” Land’s absolute garbage of a book for the past couple of months, I really miss Fraction’s book. And yes, Id prefer Laracca to Greg Land EVER FUCKING TIME.

Let’s not forget that the “Iron Monger” story is a big part of the first Iron Man movie also. I would have loved to see Stan blow his off in the end of the first Iron Man movie but that might have been too much for the average movie goer.

@Elpie–”Rebooting Tony’s brain so that he has no longer done Bad Things was stupid”–something needed to be done to fix the damage to the character done by Civil War. Otherwise Tony would have been basically destroyed as a hero. Reed’s actions were also character-damaging and have been forgotten, thankfully, but since Tony had the most front-and-center Cheneyesque villainy, something had to be done. Not as pure a repair as the glowing yellow bug for Green Lantern, but I can actually enjoy reading Tony’s adventures now.

“@Elpie–”Rebooting Tony’s brain so that he has no longer done Bad Things was stupid”–something needed to be done to fix the damage to the character done by Civil War. Otherwise Tony would have been basically destroyed as a hero. Reed’s actions were also character-damaging and have been forgotten, thankfully, but since Tony had the most front-and-center Cheneyesque villainy, something had to be done. Not as pure a repair as the glowing yellow bug for Green Lantern, but I can actually enjoy reading Tony’s adventures now.”

Not to mention that it didn’t absolve Tony of his sins. Everyone still remembers Civil War and many still hold some degree of a grudge against Tony. Just because he no longer remembers doing it doesn’t mean he didn’t.

” I was prepared to such results, but still… TWO arcs written by Matt Fraction made it into the Top 10. That hurts. ”

If my list were published, there’d be four, because he’s just that good.

I’ve tried to read Fraction’s Iron Man because I found IM in other titles interesting but kept zoning out reading them. My own listed was heavily weighted towards Micheline/Layon’s second run. Had Rhodey’s run counted, that would have also gotten a lot of votes.

I’m disappointed that Iron Man #178 story 2 didn’t make it. I actually consider that, not #182 the two start of Tony’s road to recovery. A cop bets him money that he can’t go a for a period without drinking. The cop actually thinks Tony can, but wants to get him in that headspace.

One other interesting thing about Armor Wars is that Tony accidentally murdered the Gremlin, a death that has yet to be reversed.

Nick is correct. Leaving Kaminski’s work off this list is borderline criminal. The “War Machine” arc is easily top ten material. It’ll be interesting to see where he ended up in the Top 25.

@Neil Kapit–”Not to mention that it didn’t absolve Tony of his sins. Everyone still remembers Civil War and many still hold some degree of a grudge against Tony. Just because he no longer remembers doing it doesn’t mean he didn’t.”

Yes, but I have to take what I can get. One reason I’m not too thrilled with Hickman’s Illuminati storyline is that it’s bringing up the same kind of crap (supposed heroes acting like the ends justify the means and such) we had before rather than letting the whole sorry mess be forgotten and consigned to the dustbin. Best case, of course, would be explaining it all away by mind-influence or mind control, but again, I’ll take what I can get.

I picked up Fraction’s first arc and was not impressed. Same with his Thor.

I don’t understand why everyone else loves him.

” I don’t understand why everyone else loves him. ”

What didn’t you like?

I haven’t checked out Fraction’s Iron Man run but if his current treatment of Reed in the AU FF issue is an example, well, yuck. But there’s a whole thread on that in the forums.

Glad to see the final list… I agree with about 3/4 of it.
Nothing against Matt Fraction (who I generally like) but I too feel those don’t belong on here. “America Most Wanted’ was a well done tie in, but it was still a tie in. 5 nightmares was a good re-boot, I don’t mind that one so much.

Totally agree Len Kaminski needs to be on here. Never in a million years would have put Extremis on here… the Warren Ellis stuff (for all I LOVE most of his work) was garbage, IMO.

For my money the O’neill run of 160 to c200 is the best Iron Man story ever and deserves to be traded in it’s entirety.

Love World’s Most Wanted too.

“Everyone still remembers Civil War”

Unfortunately. Many comics have used well established characters to tell “their” story. Civil War was one of the worst and it made Tony Stark, Reed Richards, and Steve Rogers look pretty foolish. My problem with Fraction’s run is that is should have been called Tony Stark since there were alot of early issues that he didn’t wear the armor.

I thought Denny O’Neill’s run was very underwhelming, like all his 1980s work at Marvel. I also didn’t like his Daredevil and Spider-Man very much. I always thought he was overshadowed by Michelinie in IM, by Stern in Spidey, and by Miller and Nocenti in DD. To me, he was always that guy that was not bad, but not as good as the other guy.

I didn’t vote for this one cause the only solo Iron Man I’ve read is Fraction and Laracca’s, and it seemed dumb to vote for 10 arcs from one run, especially against all of these beloved classics. I usually don’t read Iron Man solo, and my reading of Fraction’s run was more because of loyalty to the writer than to the character. Apparently people here have some reservations about the run, but I thought it was damn good superhero comics for the majority of the time, and Laracca’s art didn’t really bother me at all.

My list was as follows (HUGE Michelinie/Layton fan- as you can see):

1. Armor Wars (Vol. 1, 225-232)
2. Demon in a Bottle (Vol. 1, 120-128)
3 War Machine (Vol. 1, 281-291)
4. Dragon Seed Saga (Vol. 1, 267-275)
5. Iron Monger (Vol.1, 198-200)
6. Iron Man: The End (one-shot)
7. Space Monster (Vol. 1, 237)
8. Armor Wars II (Vol. 1, 256, 258-266)
9. Tony Stark Shot (Vol.1, 243-244)
10. The Party (Vol. 1, 222)

I hear what people are saying regarding Fraction being on this list twice…. but I think you gotta put it in perspective — up until the late 00s, Iron Man wasn’t really considered a top tier Marvel title among fans. In the mid-00s, it was a struggle to even keep one Iron Man series going.

But when the movie came out, everything changed. The character got crazy attention and Fraction was fortunate to be writing Tony at that time. So not only are Fraction’s runs more fresh in the collective memory, but they also have the advantage of being around during the character’s huge upswing in popularity.

So, yeah, Kaminski and Byrne and O’Neil did some really impressive stuff with Iron Man. Hell, I love what Tieri and Keron Grant did in the early 00s. But most people haven’t read those issues, let alone know that those runs even exist. So how are they gonna vote for them?

Agree with a lot of this list, esp. as a big fan of the Michelenie/Layton issues, as well as issue #200.

At a glance, the Mandarin isn’t involved in this list, is he? It’s weird that someone widely regarded as Iron Man’s arch enemy isn’t a part of his most popular stories.

Guess you could argue that Stane and Hammer were more personal, devastating adversaries (and you can’t knock Doom…)

Iron Man’s never really had an A-list arch-villain the way that most A-list superheroes have.

The fact that two of Fraction’s arcs are this list when none of Len Kaminski’s run nor Armor Wars 2 were is downright criminal. The number of noobs voting in these things is too damn high!

@ Neil

“What didn’t you like?”

Are you serious? I don’t think anyone has the time to go into it. Here’s the biggest con – NOTHING ever happens. Personally, I’ll always hate his UXM run the most, it’s that bad, definitely worse than Austen. But Iron Man isn’t that much better. It’s probably the most decompressed of any of his work, to the point that it borders on unintentional parody. Bendis looks at this guy’s run on IM and goes, “Dude, really? Couldn’t you have more stuff happen?”

@ Neil

“What didn’t you like?”

Are you serious? I don’t think anyone has the time to go into it. Here’s the biggest con – NOTHING ever happens. Personally, I’ll always hate his UXM run the most, it’s that bad, definitely worse than Austen. But Iron Man isn’t that much better. It’s probably the most decompressed of any of his work, to the point that it borders on unintentional parody. Bendis looks at this guy’s run on IM and goes, “Dude, really? Couldn’t you have more stuff happen?”

I probably would have voted for Kaminski’s run (I loved his JSA) but if memory serves his run occurred after I’d been away from reading Iron Man for a while and I think it might have also landed around when I hit financial difficulties. As such I only got a chance to read a few before he was gone, not enough for any story to fully stick in my mind. I think if I were to have read a collection before the voting I’d have included some of his stories in my votes.

I would have voted for a lot more of Denny O’Neil’s run, but most of that was Rhodey, which Brian said didn’t count.

I was a little surprised at both how closed the Iron Man cannon is and how little of it came from his first couple decades.

Iron Man has been a durable mid-lister forever and yet very little of that long history appears to have stuck.

I probably haven’t read enough to make this judgment, but what the hell, I’ll just say it: Iron Man is a pretty bad character all around. The things that make him stand out in the MU are features that he has in common with Batman, except in every one of these aspects, he’s much less interesting than Batman.

Fraction did an interesting thing by putting Iron Man on the run, and then switching the focus to the business side of Tony’s life after that, but as others have said, those comics are just so fucking slow that the pacing overshadows the quality of the ideas.

I read Extremis for the first time about a month ago. I’m wondering how many of the voters reread that story after it came out, because it is horrible in every regard, but I can see how it may have seemed awesome in 2004.

I don’t agree re Iron Man being a bad character, or just some sort of imperfect Batman clone. There are similarities to Batman but that’s all–Bruce’s public persona (wealthy womanizer who attends cocktail parties and the like) is a mask/distraction, but Tony’s is part of who he really is. Tony didn’t have a perfect childhood but he isn’t driven by the same things Bruce is. Tony’s also more focused on how his business works, what happens to the technology he develops, etc., which is perhaps potentially more interesting now than it was years ago, what with people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs (RIP). Bruce has more of a family approach to his close associates (Tim, Damian (RIP), Dick, Barbara, etc.) but is often otherwise “closed,” whereas Tony tends to be much more “open” to his colleagues in the Avengers and other friends. Bruce doesn’t have anyone really like Pepper or Rhodey (Dick comes closest but there’s still some of that paternal dynamic, I think, and Alfred has his own unique relationship that isn’t at all paralleled with, say, Jarvis), and Tony doesn’t have anyone really like the Robins. I think they’re both excellent characters when handled well.

[...] book resources just published their list of the 10 best Iron Man stories. I was looking forward to this list because I was given the Marvel [...]

” Are you serious? I don’t think anyone has the time to go into it. Here’s the biggest con – NOTHING ever happens. Personally, I’ll always hate his UXM run the most, it’s that bad, definitely worse than Austen. But Iron Man isn’t that much better. It’s probably the most decompressed of any of his work, to the point that it borders on unintentional parody. Bendis looks at this guy’s run on IM and goes, “Dude, really? Couldn’t you have more stuff happen?” ”

The complete destruction of Stark Industries, Tony deleting his brain bit by bit while destroying his entire armory, Pepper becoming Rescue and realizing her own toxic dependence on Tony, Tony starting a new company without a dime of his military-industrial blood-money fortune and creating something that lasts beyond his name, the rebooting of the Mandarin as a Kim Jong Il-style egomaniac (as well as an excellent dark future story), Tony’s planned relapse and the consequences thereof, Tony confronting a god and managing to arrange the undoing of the destruction of Paris, Tony being a POW in Mandarin’s prison and helping rehabilitate his arch-enemy’s son, thorough deconstruction of the concept of Iron Man, and a finale that has Tony using his company’s civilian cellular network as a weapon to destroy a hostile alien race. If it was dragged out, that’s because it needed the space to give this story the dramatic space it needed.

” But when the movie came out, everything changed. The character got crazy attention and Fraction was fortunate to be writing Tony at that time. So not only are Fraction’s runs more fresh in the collective memory, but they also have the advantage of being around during the character’s huge upswing in popularity. ”

Also the fact that the character was basically a competent B-Lister until recent years. Even the best pre-Extremis runs aren’t as timeless or legendary as, say, Claremont/Byrne X-Men, Frank Miller Daredevil, or Simonson Thor.

The important aspects of Batman and Iron Man are completely different. The similarities are purely superficial.

I’ve never liked Michelinie’s work on this title (actually, on ANY title), and his puns are godawful and should be reason enough to keep him off any top 10 list, but I must admit I’d give him a slot in this top 10 just for introducing Rhodey.

But Brian, “Morgan Stark, Tony’s douchebag cousin”, was in none of those!

–B

@ T. It was Denny O’Neil who really made Rhodey a great character; he was an affable but ultimately superfluous sidekick in his original appearances.

This is a pretty good list, with many entries hard to argue against, though both Kaminski’s and Byrne’s best surpass anything by Fraction.

I’d also like to, with Carter Hall, add a shout out for #237, Space Monster, as one of the best single issues in the ouvre. Very highly recommended and (I’d guess) available fairly cheaply.

As for that origin story, let us not forget the famous sequence where Iron Man is defeated by a fat bald guy who pushes a small filing cabinet on top of him. To be fair, the drawers were “filled with rocks” for some inexplicable reason.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2032/2227921767_89b13a6536_o.jpg

Was never that into Iron Man, but I’m glad to see three or four of the older runs on here, like the meeting with Doom.

I’ll give another shout-out to the Hypervelocity mini, as a couple of other people said. The sentient Iron Man armor in the mini, now THAT would make a great AI Avenger!

I’ve only read a couple of these; Iron Man is one of those characters who I’m familiar with, but haven’t read extensively. The longest I’ve stuck with an Iron Man comic was the first 30 issues or so of the Heroes Return series. A few of these look interesting enough that I think I’ll do some hunting so I can check ‘em out.

I’m the only one who would have voted for the Sabbath song, huh?

But Brian, “Morgan Stark, Tony’s douchebag cousin”, was in none of those!

Oh, but he was! He was part of the plot to steal Tony’s fortune in “The Beginning of the End” before the Life Model Decoy made him superfluous.

Ok let’s set the record straight as I consider myself an Iron Man aficionado. I own every single issue if IM and TOS he appeared in, and every issue of Avenger he appeared in. First of all Len Kaminski’s entire run was just garbage. He did not know Tony nor Rodey as characters. Kevin Hopgood’s art during that
Run also sucked, and the War Machine Armor was just a reaction to the popularity
Of characters like Punisher at that time. It happened to catch fire a bit, but nothing
Else happened in that run. Warren Ellis’s Extremis ruined the character. Byrne’s run
Wasn’t anything special. In Armor Wars II nothing happened, but the Dragon Seed saga wasn’t
Bad. However when you compare it to Byrne’s FF4, Xmen, Superman runs you can tell
He had no passion for the character. I just finished re-reading Denny O’Neal’s run 160-200 and it is pretty darn good. I also liked Kurt Buisek Heroes Return as it is better than anything Fraction did. Fraction’s
Run is OK, but didn’t blow my skirt up. Micheline and Layton nailed the Character & the top 10
IM stories are mostly theirs. The ones already mentioned are great, but my favorites are IM 131-133
Where he fights and beats the Hulk… But at what cost? IM 152-153 is a nearly a perfect 2 part story where We are introduced to the Stealth Armor, international intrigue featuring a great battle with an overloading Living Laser, and Tony loses Bethany Cabe forever… Powerful stuff. Also, IM #237 is my favorite Stand alone IM story ever. The reason there aren’t more great IM stories is because most writers can’t relate to a CEO who is both a hero & a successful Capitalist. Lets face it most capitalists in comics are the bad guy because being successful is “evil”. Those comparing IM to Batman don’t know what they are talking about. In Batman’s universe Batman is the real character and Bruce Wayne is the made up persona. In Iron Man Tony Stark is the real character and IM is the made up persona. Only Micheline, Layton & Stan Lee seemed to “get” the character of Tony Stark right Speaking of Stan I cannot believe TOS #69-71 IM’s first battle w/ the Titanium Man isn’t in the top ten. This was during the height of the Cold War, American Vs. Communist Russia. Titanium Man issues a challenge for IM to fight him to the death on live TV in front of the whole world while Happy Hogan’s life is in the balance! Cool stuff by Stan the man and Don Heck…and a 3-parter back when that simply wasn’t done in Comics.

Alan Woollcombe

April 3, 2013 at 3:34 am

I’m saddened that, with the exception of the origin story, there has been only one mention of a Stan Lee story. Yet Stan created the character and the basic set-up and introduced Pepper Potts, the Mandarin, Hawkeye and the Black Widow all in his run on Tales Of Suspense, Iron Man’s first series. And some of it was drawn by Gene Colan, arguably the best ever artist on Iron Man.

So from one of the best Marvel Silver Age series, my vote would be for Lee-Colan’s three-parter TOS 84-86 against the Mandarin, with other stories from their run as worthy runners-up (the ones reprinted in Iron Man Masterworks volumes 3 and 4). For my money that’s the best Iron Man story ever.

Just curious–did anyone else vote for “Hands of the Mandarin”? I’m enough of a Modular Armor fan that it was my #2 choice. I’m still amazed that “War Machine” and “Dragon Seed Saga” didn’t make it.

Iron Man was very unlucky througout most of its run. Stan Lee did a competent Marvel-style origin (you know the drill: Guy is at the top of the world, gets brought down hard, finds heroism inside and becomes a super-hero after the experience. Lee did that for every Marvel hero! No complaints here, it’s a winning formula!), but it was bogged down by the Vietnam War elements (later retconned away, thankfully), so it’s not as timeless as, say, the Spider-Man or Daredevil origins.

However, Lee was unable to do really interesting stories after that. Iron Man spent his time hunting commies at a time when the manicheist 50s worldview was going out of fashion. That’s why Iron Man hasn’t a classic 60s run like, say, Thor or Daredevil, other heroes that started slow but quickly got their act together,

Archie Goodwin improved things, but even he made the mistake of dumping the original support cast and creating an entirely new (short-lived…) one. WAY too many Iron Man creators did that after him – and that made Iron Man a book without a recognizable supporting cast (even Happy and Pepper ony started to appear regularly again in Kurt Busiek’s late 90s run!). That is quite bad, since a strong supporting cast is a essential for a series’ sucess. Just ask Spider-Man.

Also, most of his early villians were uninteresting. Either an endless parade of commies (Crimson Dynamo, Titanium Man, Black Widow, Unicorn…) or outdated Yellow Peril villain Mandarin. I like the Mandarin myself (and I’m a chinese descendant!), but that’s not an awe-inspiring set of villians like those from Batman or Fantastic Four.

To add insult to injury, pretty much NONE of the character’s early artists was good at drawing… High-tech! Don Heck, Gene Colan (as great as he was), George Tuska and co. were all old-style artists that couldn’t make the character and his world look as futuristic as he deserved. Here is a Marvel series that positively begged for a long Jack Kirby or John Buscema run, but didn’t get it.

The writers that replaced Goodwin in the 70s were mostly uninspiring as well. which didn’t help matters.

That’s why the Michilinie/Layton runs are remember and (justly) get all the top spots. THEY did the classic run the character deserved, but hadn’t got yet. Besides doing great stories (and modern-looking artwork), they created a large supporting cast with at last one longstanding character (Rhodey), developed Tony Stark as a character more than any previous team and, in my opinion, SAVED the character from becoming one of those Marvel heroes that only has regular books in occasion (like, say, Dr. Strange or Silver Surfer). The movie version owes everything to them as well. As do almost all Iron Man comic runs that followed. Only Busiek used measurable earlier Iron Man element on his run, all others looked no further than Michelinie/Layton.

Not to say that all Iron Man runs afterward were good. No way! But it became a character with good and bad runs like the other Marvel heroes, while before it was consistently weak.

Tony Stark isn’t a bad character. It was just badly used for the early part of its career.

I never read the Kaminski run, Doug, it wasn’t published in Brazil where I lived at the time. But I do think that the John Byrne run was seriously underrated. I know he is one of the most unloved creators out there, but either Armor Wars II or Dragon Seed Saga deserved a spot here.

Hypervelocity’s absence I can understand because it sold very little. Only Adam Warren fans and Iron Man completists seem to have read it (sadly!). But the John Byrne run sold like gangbusters at the time and was reprinted recently. People should be at least aware of it!

I agree with you about most of what you said, Pedro.

Except that I’m not sure that fighting commies was going out of style. James Bond was a extremely sucessful movie franchise. But it did cause IM’s villains to have a certain sameness.

I also wouldn’t call the 1960s Daredevil stories a “classic”. IMO, they remained weak throughout the 1960s, maybe they even got worse, because the first stories at least had Bill Everett and Wally Wood.

Except for that, I agree with what you say.

joe the poor speller

April 3, 2013 at 7:00 am

Pedro Bouça
April 3, 2013 at 4:59 am

I never read the Kaminski run, Doug, it wasn’t published in Brazil where I lived at the time.

little from that run (fewer than 15 issues) were published in brazil. the o’neil run suffered the same.

Rene, you will notice that movie Bond mostly fought (and fights) megalomaniacals, not the communist agents that original Bond used to fight. In the 60s, in particular, almost all of his movies put him against SPECTRE.

Let’s make a list, shall we?

Dr. No – megalomaniacal/SPECTRE
From Russia with Love – commies/SPECTRE
Goldfinger – megalomaniacal
Thunderball – megalomaniacal/SPECTRE
You Only Live Twice – megalomaniacal/SPECTRE (they want to start a World War, but the russians are as victims here as the West)
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – megalomaniacal/SPECTRE

Of the 60s Bond movies, the ONLY one where Bond fought commies was the second one – and they were being manipulated by SPECTRE. Reagan-era Timothy Dalton fought far more soviets in one movie than Sean Connery in all of his Bond films!

So, yes, fighting commies WAS going out of style…

joe the poor speller

April 3, 2013 at 7:02 am

*was

Joe,

And thankfully they cut half of O’Neil’s run! It was slow-moving and dull even after that, the full experience must be akin to reading Bendis comics…

I do have everything (and the Kaminski run) on the GITCorp DVD, but never found the time to read it all. Not to mention that the Luke McDonnell art on O’Neil’s and the Typical 90s Art on Kaminski’s just drive me away.

Maybe on my next vacations I’ll read it all. What goes does me to have (almost) all Iron Man comics if I have yet to read them?

I meant what GOOD does me…

joe the poor speller

April 3, 2013 at 7:35 am

pedro, do you really think that the o’neil run is slow-moving and dull? I can see where the ‘slow-moving’ comes from, but I find it very well crafted and well written. I just love tony’s lengthy journey, from his fall to rock bottom through his long way back to the top. for me, it’s one of the most underrated marvel runs ever.

Yellow Peril villain Mandarin

Out of all of the things wrong with this post, THIS is the part that jumped out at me the most. Are you sure you even know what “yellow peril” means? Hint: There’s a difference between “chinese villain archetype” and an actual “stereotype”, especially when the former is commonplace in actual chinese fiction.

I should add that I’m well aware of how un-PC the character was, but “yellow peril” does not mean “politically incorrect portrayal of chinese dudes”. There’s a difference between The Mandarin and WWII-era actual “yellow peril” characters even if they may or may not share certain cosmetic similarities at certain times.

I think it’s BS too, but for the hypersensitive US society, it IS considered stereotypical villain. Just look at all the changes they did to put it on the movie…

Just so you don’t think I’m pulling that out of my ass, he is mentioned a few times here:
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/YellowPeril

So, the popular view is that he IS a “Yellow Peril” villain. Go complain to american society, not me.

Pedro, I think you’re right. Still, reading with the eyes of now, those red scare stories had a certain charm to me. Yes, they “dated” the stories, but I am of the opinion that they should have let the Marvel characters be tied to real world time.

I wouldn’t call tvtropes a valid source for anything ever under any circumstances.

” pedro, do you really think that the o’neil run is slow-moving and dull? I can see where the ‘slow-moving’ comes from, but I find it very well crafted and well written. I just love tony’s lengthy journey, from his fall to rock bottom through his long way back to the top. for me, it’s one of the most underrated marvel runs ever. ”

I agree, and it holds up really well (especially with Luke McDonnel’s superb art). O’Neil’s story was really ahead of his time.

I wouldn’t call tvtropes a valid source for anything ever under any circumstances.

Any particular reason?

@ T. Do you really think a guy with the screenname Turd Burglar would have anything resembling reason?

That’s a damn good point Neil.

The list is mostly fine, the top four are hard to argue with. A few commenters mentioned issue 237, which didn’t make the list, but I agree with them that it is one of the all-time best self-contained single issue Iron Man stories.

Using tvtropes as a source for something is worse than wikipedia. There is no justification for even defending that website. You might as well just say “I heard it from some guy once” because it basically amounts to the same thing except in this case “some guy” is a teenager with asperger’s and too much time on their hands.

I heard it from some guy once that I shouldn’t use TVTropes as a source, but I didn’t believe him.

Looking forward to the top 25 stories list after the movie comes out.

Hypervelocity was the only one in my top 6 that didn’t make it
Have to wait to see if that or my lower 4 (including Facades and Resilient) made the next 15

What about Comics Journal critic Tucker Stone calling the Mandarin a Yellow Peril villain then? Is it good enough?

Here it is:
http://www.tcj.com/family-meeting/

Who cares what some guy on the internet says?

I know I sound like a total noob, but didn’t the first arc of Bendis’s Dark Avengers spin out of Doomquest?

The greatest Iron Man stories are largely from volume 1? That’s: A.) Not true and B.) Indicates too many old people respond to these things.

I love the first volume and all but if you’re recommending a crapton of stories from that era you’re suggesting he’s been poorly written over the past 20 years and that’s weird.

I’m sure the Yellow Claw, Fu Manchu, the Claw and Egg Fu will be pleased to hear that they aren’t “Yellow Peril” villains either. If the Mandarin isn’t one, there must be no such thing.

@SageShinigami –

Yes it is true.

@buttler –

You don’t know what that term means. It isn’t just “any asian villain”.

Apparently it means whatever some guy on the internet named after poop says it means.

“Yellow Peril” is a term and cultural stereotype much, much older than World War II, which is a very small chapter in its history. It goes back at least as far as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and M.P Shiel’s 1898 series called–you guessed it–”Yellow Peril,” featuring a villain very much like Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu–and subsequent villains that imitated Fu Manchu such as the Yellow Claw and, yes, the Mandarin. So now, it doesn’t refer to “any Asian villain,” it refers to Asian villains of this exact type.

Fixating on WWII as the only valid use of the term is ludicrous and entirely wrong. Small wonder you don’t cite any sources for your narrow definition of the term and dismiss out of hand any sources anyone else cites–because your opinion is based on nothing at all.

“Yellow Peril” is a term and cultural stereotype much, much older than World War II, which is a very small chapter in its history. It goes back at least as far as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and M.P Shiel’s 1898 series called–you guessed it–”Yellow Peril,” featuring a villain very much like Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu–and subsequent villains that imitated Fu Manchu such as the Yellow Claw and, yes, the Mandarin. So no, it doesn’t refer to “any Asian villain,” it refers to Asian villains of this exact type.

Fixating on WWII as the only valid use of the term is ludicrous and entirely wrong. Small wonder you don’t cite any sources for your narrow definition of the term and dismiss out of hand any sources anyone else cites–because your opinion is based on nothing at all.

“Yellow peril” refers to a very specific type of characterization, NOT to a “stereotype”, regardless of what you seem to have read on some assclown’s “blog” or heard in your “social science” class.

Charlie Chan is a “yellow peril” character. The Mandarin is not. There’s really nothing to debate here.

If The Mandarin were counted as a “yellow peril” character then shitloads of characters from actual asian media would have to be counted as well just because they share superficial visual similarities. What you don’t seem to understand is that the concept has NOTHING to do with appearance.

I thought yellow peril characters had to be villains. Charlie Chan was not a villain.

That also seems to be the assumption that buttler is making.

Don’t confuse the issue with sources, buttler. Or the notion that “peril” implies villainy. Jeez.

I’d say the Mandarin is straight out of Fu Manchu knock-off territory, though one of the more memorable ones.

Pedro, both Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice show “Red” China as the villains working with SPECTRE so anti-Communism was hardly dead in the 1960s.

It’s my understanding that “yellow peril” was originally about the notion of Chinese armies attacking the west
“yellow” because of the racist description of Chinese skin colouration
and “peril” because of the threat posed by the Chinese military/

This was expanded to include the threat of Chinese criminal activity and secret societies in works such as those written by “Sax Rohmer” who called Fu Manchu “the yellow peril incarnate” (or something like that). He apparently regretted this and only used the term once more in the series in the book “The Golden Scorpion” (1919) where the term is laughed at and the ignorant racism of it’s origins pointed out. Fu Manchu went on to a variety of schemes including trying to prevent the second world war and threatening to render the gold in Fort Knox worthless to blackmail America into helping him remove the Communists from power to restore Imperial China. Many villains have since been inspired by his style of vilainry including Ras Al Ghul (and possibly Doctor Doom).

Charlie Chan may be enough of a racial steryotype to be considered “yellow” but solving mysteries and bringing criminals to justice do not make him a “peril”

Rohmer’s Fu Manchu books during the run-up to WW II are quite fascinating, as he has to explain why a Chinese patriot isn’t driving the Japanese out of Manchuria. So Dr. Fu Manchu explains he’s conducting a cut-off-the-head-and-the-body-dies approach to ending the war, for example by assassinating what’s obviously Hitler. Then in a later book he dismisses the kill-Hitler book as anti-Axis propaganda churned out by Britain.

However, while Rohmer doesn’t use “yellow peril” later, it’s still in the subtext. In one of the later ones (Island of Fu Manchu, IIRC) archfoe Sir Denis tells his team that if Fu Manchu wins, it will end the dominance of the white race forever (which would have been much more inflammatory for readers then that it is now).

@Double H – You pretty much said it all.

And to the ongoing- there’s a fine line between something being “yellow peril” and saying “you can’t have Asian villains” …which generally means you can’t have any minority characters who aren’t completely boring.

Or you end up with the mess Iron Man 3 becomes…

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives