Thursday, 26 May 2011

Demon in a Bottle / Armour Wars

Continuing our brief excursion into why I like Iron Man the best as a hero - (the short version is I think a man in powered armour is not that far from reality) I can not possibly go without mentioning what I and a legion of fans think as the definitive writer / artist team of Iron Man

and that is of course David Michelinie and Bob Layton

Dave and Bob brought a literal breath and fresh air and completely redefined the character into something exciting and real, with a particular focus on  the reality of Tony Stark as a person under pressure (imagine being a millionaire running a massive electronics company as well as being a full time hero!) and the reality of the Iron Man armour as being a highly specialised tool a real technological achievement as opposed to just a suit that kind of makes you fly etc

That also introduced layered story telling and sub plots within plots with stories foreshadowing each other, exactly the kind of thing Chris Claremont did in his original run on X-Men

But they never lost focus on entertainment or drama they managed to balance everything together perfectly and gelled so well as a team - they have retuned to iron man a number of times

But the main thing they brought to the table is that their stories always had long lasting and game changing consequences and they never walked away or watered those consequences down

Their first run is possibly their best known work collected in the ground breaking "Demon in a bottle" story line

In this story line Dave and Bob have the unique idea of having a ruthless business rival Justin Hammer stealthily sabotage Iron mans reputation by remote controlling his armour, starting with small glitches and steadily working up to causing Iron Man to kill an ambassador by remotely firing his replusor at a crucial moment

this and many other things push Tony Stark over the edge - a man who has a need to do as much as he can himself trying to take on far too much and it almost breaks him and he turns to alcohol for escape and release from his situation only to make it worse with Tony Stark teetering on the edge and forced to make a choice between the drink or his dream for his future

This story of course sets the ground for Dennis O Neil's run, but by itself it is a fantastic story and Dave and Bob constantly sell themselves short on it!

Dave and bob's second run on Iron Man is best known as the "Armour Wars" where Tony Stark finds that components he invented had been stolen and was being used in the armour of countless criminals and in a unique twist a number of good guys as well

Tony has to face a almost never ending series of terrible and soul destroying decisions as taking down criminals is one thing but he also has no choice but to destroy Armour used for good purposes as if the technology is out there in any form then it could be stolen again

The story builds in intensity and the bridges burnt as it goes on, with Nick Fury being faked out as Iron polishes off the Mandroids he built for SHEILD, Iron man has to take down Captain America in order to destroy the Guardsmen protecting a high security prison for super powered villains and finally Iron Man accidentally murders the titanium man while fighting him and the crimson dynamo in russia

Tony Stark has to fire Iron Man to be able to stay in business and eventually the heat gets so hot that he is forced to quit the Avengers

The story culminates in the US Government built and sponsored Firepower armour which also has some of Tony Starks stolen technology not only soundly beating Iron man (to the extent that his ribs are caved in) but actually totally destroying the "silver centurion' armour with a nuclear weapon (I kid not!)

Tony Stark manages to survive and turn things around - but at a price

In issue 232 Tony Stark has to face the reality via a hideous nightmare that the thing he was trying to fight - was in fact himself and that the only he can win is to accept the things he has done wrong (creating the technology ("weapons") in the first place) and learn from them and that by fighting he was giving his inner demon strength - its a shockingly powerful story - helped by having none other than Barry Winsdor-Smith as guest penciller

there are no half measures or easy answers here

Both story-lines come as you expected highly recommended - if I had to chose one issue, I would chose 230 as it pushed the envelope as far as was possible in terms of destroying Iron Man as a hero - it was not until the next issue that anyone knew that Tony Stark had even survived

I was hoping to be able to include my attempt at the cover of 230 here, but it's only partly done

Hopefully I will have that finished tomorrow

UPDATE:- Here is the finished drawing, its not too bad - I suppose!

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