Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Tony Stark Makes you feel...

Yes, that's the opening line to the original 1960s cartoon of Iron man - is that showing my age a bit?

Not as much as my first american comic book purchase - which was brought with my very first pay cheque back in 1984

This was the first time I had actually seen American comics for sale and a couple of things struck me straight away (being british) :- How small they where (having grown up reading magazine sized publications which is even what Marvel UK did) and how beautiful glossy and colourful the covers where and yes full colour on the inside every page, it was a treat on every level

Having no previous knowledge of any of the comics or even most of the characters within them, I had to judge by the cover and by the contents..

The comic that I brought (eventually) was -

Iron Man volume 1, issue 179, February, 1984


It was in part the beautiful cover by Luke McDonnell and Steve Mitchell that swung it, the "all-new" part helped as well as I wanted to get something where I could just start reading...

And this comic as well as leading me to a lot more American and other comics in general also helped establish Iron Man as my favourite hero, which still remains to this day

If asked, I always say it is the closeness to reality that a man in a powered armoured suit represents that dictates my choice as it is certainly a whole lot closer to reality than being exposed to gamma rays, bitten by a radioactive spider, exposed to Cosmic radiation or being a direct relative of Nordic gods who all just so happen to be real - It doesn't take a large leap of faith to imagine the concept of Iron Man as being possible,  real or happening very soon

Iron Man then is one of the few characters who is not only very human (as all Marvel characters where) but also in his powers as well

Iron man also represents technology and hope for the future - the armour itself changing with the times and the situation all being perfectly logical extensions

Tony Stark himself started off modelled after none other than Howard Hughes,  these days one might imagine him as kind of like being a combination of Steve Jobs and a rock star

But where it gets interesting is in the stories that take the character to its limit and possibly even beyond and actually dare to change things - something that is not handled with any degree of concrete reality  in comics - especially these days

179 turned out to be 9 issues after James Rhodes had assumed the Mantle of Iron Man from Tony Stark who was literally on the streets and drunk a complete alcoholic having lost everything, his company, his fortune and most of his friends

Dennis O' Neil's (in my mind) definitive run on the title from 160 - 200 completely broke and remade Tony Stark with some of the most harrowing and brilliantly written stories ever

with issue 182 being the turning point (the cover copy says it all):-


In the story Tony Stark has completely given up after fruitlessly searching in the cold and snow of a blizzard for Gretl,  a  fellow alcoholic who is with child and literally just sits down ready to give up and die - when Gretl finds Tony and they have a conversation where he thinks about the armour he made

In his own words the armour being built to keep things out and to keep him in, how that shut him out from the world and how he thought part of him had died inside that metal shell, while part of him was screaming in pain - and that was why he was drinking...


Not long after this Gretl goes into labour and recollections and drink both get thrown to the floor, the baby makes it okay, but Gretl doesn't  -she dies in childbirth.

All Tony Stark can do in the middle of the blizzard is try and keep the baby warm by keeping it wrapped up inside his jacket (he had sold his coat earlier in the story to buy the drink) and made a vow that the baby would not die

The next day he is found by the cops and taken straight to the hospital and he survives and comes to realise the value of his life, if it was important to save the baby then it was equally important to save himself

That marks the first step to recovery, but Tony Stark never drinks again

To my knowledge this story has never been printed as a graphic novel which is a shame as Denny's entire run comes highly recommended

The other thing which made me decide to get 179 was the splash page which features a beautifully rendered drawing of Iron man being hit by 2 bolts of lightning - which I have attempted to reproduce below,  maybe you can see why I think Luke McDonnell and Steve Mitchell must be one of the most underrated team of artists going


and yes, you will also see why I prefer not to do hand lettering!

Tomorrow - I will cover David Michelinie & Bob Layton

Douglas - tune in on Friday!

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