Jim Johnson reviews a few of his favorite Iron Man stories (this week’s spotlighted Avenger). There’s been a few missteps along the way, but these tales of Tony Stark make up for it!
JJ here, Back to the Past Pop Culture TV, and this week, in anticipation of the upcoming Avengers movie, I’m going to look at some of the most notable stories featuring the Red and Gold Avenger himself, Iron Man. Now, if you saw my column this week, you saw how I pointed at a number of the major missteps Marvel has taken with the character in the past. But thankfully, those missteps have been greatly outnumbered by many more notable runs on the title. So sit back for a few, and I will show you some of these noteworthy storylines.
In 1978, writer David Michelinie started a three year run on the title that also at times was co-written, as well as drawn, by fan-favorite Bob Layton, and also featured some of artist’s John Romita Jr’s earliest work. This was the run that introduced the idea that Tony Stark was an alcoholic; a pretty radical topic for comics at the time; and his heroic struggle against it. The run also later featured a fondly remembered story where Iron Man squares off against Doctor Doom but later teams up with him in ancient Camelot. Camelot? Camelot! Michelinie returned to the title in 1986 for another three year stint, the finale of which featured a sequel to that very same Camelot story.
In 1996, Iron Man was relaunched as part of Marvel’s Heroes Reborn event; an event that was widely maligned, mostly because of the involvement of Rob Liefeld. But amidst all of the talk about how bad the new Captain America and Avengers comics were, a lot of fans failed to notice, or have maybe forgotten, that Jim Lee, Scott Lobdell, and Whilce Portacio’s take on the Armored Avenger was actually pretty good. A tightly written story tied Iron Man’s new origin into that of another major Marvel character, namely the Incredible Hulk. That was a cool little twist that might be of interest to those anticipating the Avengers movie. And it was beautifully illustrated. Whatever was said about Heroes Reborn, diehard Iron Man fans back in the day were pretty grateful to see this relaunch after the New Teen Tony debacle and the other stories that preceded it.
And, in 2003, writer John Jackson Miller, known to fans currently as the writer of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic from Dark Horse, began his run on the title that featured Tony Stark becoming the U.S. Secretary of Defense in a storyline called Best Defense, a brilliant why-didn’t-I-think-of-that idea that gave the title a political, Tom Clancy-ish kind of feel that was unlike anything done prior. It was a clever idea that was off to a great start, but unfortunately ended up being truncated after only one year with the onset of Avengers Disassembled. But it did establish a tie between Tony Stark and the federal government, a link that played into Marvel’s Civil War event and beyond.
So with such a rich history, it seems pretty hard to believe now that Iron Man had been around for 45 years before that first movie was finally made. Of course, all of the members of the Avengers have pretty rich backgrounds, so next week, I will show you some of the history of another colorful Avenger, The Incredible Hulk; see you then! JJ, Back to the Past Pop Culture TV.