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Retro Iron Man art by Adam Koford. Visit his site at www.adamkoford.com.
Original text copyright 1996-2007 Tim Rassbach.
Last revised: 10/25/07
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Many of the best IM stories haven't been made into collected trades (yet, anyway). But here’s a rundown of my favorite creator runs/arcs.Tales of Suspense/Early Iron Man
People often overlook the great early work of Stan Lee and Don Heck (especially the later Tales of Suspense issues) and the great stories from Archie Goodwin, who helped Iron Man launch his first volume. Along with artists like Gene Colan and George Tuska, Goodwin wrote some of the best IM tales—Whiplash and some great Controller appearances come to mind. And—and this is key—his stories still stand up today, where some others seem really dated, even hokey at times.
Some other early highlights:
The Controller is a very under-rated foe, and there’s some classic stories out there. I'm a sucker for anything with the Controller like Iron Man, Vol. I, issues 12 and 13, 28, and 90 and 91.
Ultimo’s a great foil. He’s big, he smashes crap, and he’s all but unstoppable. Some of his mighty appearances include: Tales of Suspense #76–77, Iron Man 70, 95, 96—but his best stuff is in Vol. I, issues 298–300 or Vol. III, 23–25.
Other great early stories are the Midas story arcs, which also feature doomed romance with Madame Masque (Vol. I, 17–19, and 103–107). The first Midas arc also contains twists and turns as Tony is replaced by an evil Life Model Decoy (a robot) of himself—that he built to help keep his identity a secret.Iron Man #100+
Most Iron fans believe that the David Michelinie/Bob Layton runs are the all-time best Iron Man stories. They had two long runs that are full of classic stories (116-157 and from 215-250), but not very much of their stuff is in trade form. (This is probably because the arcs were so long and well-developed, it's hard to break them into the six-issue block the market seems to prefer for trades . . . ) Bob and Dave introduced foes like Justin Hammer, had Iron Man battle Dr. Doom through time, and did the seminal Shellhead story arc: the Armor Wars (issues 225-232, which was just re-released in TPB).
Denny O'Neil's run (158–208, aside from a few here and there) from the early ’80s is a bit uneven, delivering the great Tony-descends-into-alcoholism stories, but also really lame villains like Vibro and Serpant Squad. That said, with the penciled panels of Luke McDonnell, O'Neil delivered an important chapter of Iron Man's life, starting around #161. Obidiah Stane starts wrecking Tony's life, the aforementioned alcoholic slide, Jim Rhodes in the armor, and Tony's triumphant return/revenge in the Silver Centurion Armor (courtesy of ace artist Mark Bright)!
John Byrne had a great run from 258–277. This included a Second Armor War (much different from the first, but still great) and a classic battle with the Mandarin. Byrne's arc is one of those old school, long developing arcs that just rocks. Each issue is great, and the payoff is there at the end.
After reading Byrne's run, I'd recommend going straight into the Len Kaminski/Kev Hopgood run. This ran from 278–318 (although for one or two issues one or the other might have skipped an issue here or there, and eventually Tom Morgan takes on the pencils full-time). Anyway, these are some of the best stories in Iron Man's history. Len captured the all sides of the character masterfully. We see Stark as the hero, the businessman, and the man of failing health. He knew the history of the character and took him into the future. There's some great twists and turns leading up to the massive 300th issue showdown with Ultimo. Then, things really get going. There's some good stories after that, combining Iron Man, the new War Machine, and one of the best Mandarin stories ever. The run ends with an awesome end of the Cold War showdown with Iron Man, Crimson Dynamo, and Titanium Man.
Fair warning: Stay away from the rest of the Vol. I Iron Man's after that. They get really bad. There's a teenage Tony running around, and the art really stinks.
This volume was an interesting arc in retrospect. In other words, when it was a re-launch of the character it was little hard to accept, but now, knowing that it's just an arc—not the "real" Iron Man—it's a pretty good arc. Jeph Loeb creates a Tony Stark that's dark and full of pathos, accentuating the alienation Stan Lee created in Stark; the man forced to live in an armored shell, keeping the world at bay.
What can I say: Kurt Busiek and Sean Chen re-launched Tony Stark and the Knight in Golden Armor. Their run is pretty good, but after them Marvel didn't seem to know what to do with ol' Shellhead. Plus, they couldn't (or didn't) keep a regular writer for any length of time, let alone an artist. Sweeping storylines never really panned out and there were some really bad pencilers in the later Volume III issues. Even veteran scribe Mike Grell didn't restore the luster to one of Marvel greatest heroes. He started out with some intriguing, more personal stories, but then he let Iron Man's secret identity out of the bag--and not only did he not know what to do with such a revelation, he left the book! And then Volume III just kind of petered out—more writer/artist juggling and bad art . . .
The Warren Ellis relaunch of the character was all hype, little substance. Stay away from the first six issues. Poor art combined with barely enough story for one issue, it's not worth your money.
With issue 7, a new creative team took over (the father-son duo of the Knaufs on the typewriter with Patrick Zircher handling the art chores). Their first run was well-crafted, if unoriginal (the whole Tony turns evil thing has been done to death). That said, the writing is good and the art is fantastic. Their run was held hostage first to the horrendous lateness of the Ellis/Granov run, then by the over-hyped "Civil War" saga. Let's see what happens when they get a chance to roll.
It's hard to say. Bob and Dave had a lot of cool armors during their runs, but I think my favorite is probably the Modular Armor from the Kaminski/Hopgood stories. Most of Shellhead's armors are just variations of the same—especially in recent years—but the Modular Armor looked crisp and revolutionary while maintaining the red and gold look. It was sleek and modern, and just the updating the book needed at the time. Many of the armors since just seem like recycled versions of the each other. The writers don't seem to treat the armor as anything more than a costume for Tony Stark—but it's not. The good writers know to treat the armor as a creative character with all kinds of possibilities. The Modular suit was unique. Plus, it was cool how IM could swap in the modules for whatever mission he had, adding or subtracting capabilities and weapons and such; the armor was always changing its abilities.
Given the artistic license often employed by writers, it’s hard to say precisely, but here’s my top five most powerful armors.
1. The War Machine Armor. Tony built it as a total weapon for all-out combat. It's a tough as any other armor and carries a heck of a lot more firepower. Iron Man really kicked butt in that suit.
2. The Oversize Red and Gold Armor Iron Man wore in the late '80s during John Byrne's run is another very powerful armor. First, it was supposed to be more powerful than the Silver Centurion Armor, which it replaced (see number 3 below), and, second, Tony had some pretty tough battles in it. He defeated Firepower, who mopped the floor with the Silver Centurion Armor; he lifted up a nuclear reactor—threw it into the air; fought alien dragons, the Mandarin, and so many others . . . Plus, by putting all his power into one punch, he knocked the Hulk clean out.
3. The Silver and Red/Silver Centurion Armor was revolutionary at the time, both in terms of style and in technology. It was very powerful too. It had the first pulse bolts, which were great weapons. The suit also allowed Tony to absorb massive amounts of energy from outside sources like nuclear reactors or enemy fire. And he never really lost a battle in it until Firepower came along.
4. It wasn't really a stand-alone armor, but as the ultimate module for the Modular Armor, the Hulkbuster Armor was Hulk-proof, which is saying a lot. And even though we didn't see much of it, it was certainly turbo-charged and built tough to tangle with the Green Goliath—so it's gotta be in the top five.
5.Next, I might have to say the Asgardian Armor. It channeled the power of Thor after all, so it was pretty mighty. But again, we didn't see it for very long so it's hard to say.
What about the Extremis Armor? At first glance, it would seem that the Extremis Armor Tony Stark wears in Vol. IV is the most powerful armor he’s ever had. A bio/nano-tech wonder, the suit repairs itself and allows Stark to jack into any electronic system or machine and control an army of his armor suits. At the same time, mere mortals are able to punch him out (see Cap in Civil War). What’s that about?
Lately, Iron Man has been very powerful, but his opponents still manage to shred his armor. So either he's not building 'em like he used to or his enemies are getting much stronger. His old, old suits sometimes seem stronger than the ones he wears in the current stories.
The best place to find the mid-90s Toy Biz line of figures (or any old Iron Man toy) is quite frankly, eBay. You can find a lot of the figures starting below $5.00, it's up to you to see how much you want to bid in the end.
Write down the ISBN number (found on my Iron Man Library page) for the books you want and try to order them from your local bookstore-Most comics shops won't be able or willing to track them down. Unfortunately, many of the books are out of print and hard to find, not to mention unavailable in some cases. I would also recommend searching the bigger on-line booksellers, or occasionally eBay.
Tape: Yes.You can get the one hour premier episode of Marvel Action Hour: Iron Man wherever tapes are sold.
DVD: Not yet, but stay tuned. After the hit Fantastic Four movie of 2005, they released the FF's MAH episodes on DVD.
The Iron Man movie is moving full speed ahead under the guiding hands of director Jon Favreau. Scheduled release date: May 2, 2008.
1. Will IM be a guy in a suit or CGI? Favreau said that he hopes to integrate motion-capture and CGI. He's hoping to combine the best of both worlds.
2. Who's starring? Several big names have been cast to date.
Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark
Terrence Howard is James Rhodes
Gwyneth Paltrow is Pepper Potts
Jeff Bridges is Obadiah Stane
3. Origin story? "We're gonna have it take place in the present day, but there will be an origin story that has the old, gray Iron Man suit; eventually it will progress into more of the modern look," Favreau told MTV. "That's the fun of doing the first one."
4. Which armor will he wear? See the earlier answer.
5. Will he drink or not? Favreau talks about the alcoholism stories being a later development in Tony's life, saying, "I think we're going to lay the groundwork for it, but the first one's going to explore him taking on this alter ego of Iron Man, and developing the suit, and what happens politically within the Stark Corporation."
6. Ultimate or regular? From all his statements, Jon definitely seems to dig the classic Tony. Chances are we'll get a very recognizable, classic Tony Stark, playboy, inventor, businessman.
7. When does filming start? As things stand now, Iron Man will begin production in early 2007.
Here's a brief summary of the past: When the film was at New Line, director Nick Cassavetes was supposed to be attached, but his version went nowhere. Tom Cruise was rumored to be interested in starring--but that, too, has seemed to pass. Various drafts from Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (Smallville), Tim McCanlies (Iron Giant), and Stan Lee and another writer are apparently dead. X-Men scribe David Hayter also had a version that went nowhere. At times various big names, including Joss Whedon, George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic, and Nicholas Cage have expressed and interest in bringing Iron Man to the big screen. We'll see.
I don't have the time to look up the value of issues for the general public. You should go to your local bookstore and get a comics pricing guide, or go to a website, such as Milehighcomics.com, that has a lot of back issues to get a pretty good idea of the market value. Note: A comic shop will rip you off unless you have something very rare. Your best bet to sell your issues, or entire collection, is to sell it to other fans. On-line auctions are a good place to sell to comic collectors.
Generally, I think the last few years have been very confusing for Iron Man fans. The character's been all over the place, and now with Civil War, it's hard to say what's going to happen. That said, I would recommend picking up Joe Casey's Iron Man: Inevitable. Pick up the individual issues or get a hold of the trade paperback.(Inevitable is a self-contained mini-series, so you don't have to know what's going on in the current stories.) Casey has a real feel for the classic IM, while still bringing the character into today. Personally, I thought his IM was better than Ellis's. (BTW, I've got an interview and a cool writer's commentary from Casey in the Creator's Corner.)
You should also check out the trade of Dan and Charlie Knaufs Iron Man: Execute Program (art by Pat Zircher). This picks up the IM story directly following Extremis, collecting issues 7-12. The story itself is a little cliché (we've seen this happen to IM before), but the Knaufs are good writers. (Does it make sense to say that I didn't dig the story, but thought it was well done?) If you're newer to IM, the story won't seem like a re-run, so enjoy it. It's got some good fights, plenty of IM armors--all told with real nice art by Zircher. You should then pick up the issues or trades from IM #15 on. The post-Civil War IM seems pretty interesting. I don't know how Tony's going to be a super hero and director of SHIELD, but the Knaufs writing is good.
I enjoyed some of Civil War, but I thought the whole thing was contrived and ended without much bang so I'm not going to recommend any of that to you. But if you want to read more of the modern IM stuff, check out Bendis's New Avengers from the beginning. I know they've collected big chunks of it. Bendis writes Tony well (along with the other Avengers), and Stark plays a huge part in the New Avengers.
For some more classic IM tales, check out my other FAQs where I list some of the great IM runs. Obviously Layton/Michelinie did some awesome work, but also check out Kaminski and Hopgood and others. A lot of this older stuff isn't collected in trades, but you can easily find back issues on eBay or milehighcomics.com or mycomicstore, etc. They're worth the search.
Probably not--I've got every Iron Man issue. Your best bet is to sell it to other fans, not the local comic book shop. On-line auctions are a good place to sell to comic collectors.
Most definitely. The Armor Wars is the definitive Iron Man story. Written by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, this excellent arc portrays Tony Stark going after the whole world to reclaim his stolen technology. How far will he go?
The original Michelinie/Layton Armor Wars unfolds in issues 225-231. A second Armor Wars takes place in issues 258-266.
No real Iron Man fan should miss out, but Rhodey's own magazine is not very good. Read the War Machine section of my page for more info. Unless you are a Rhodes/Iron Man fanatic, my summary is probably all you'll need to know.
I get this one a lot. Right now, Iron Man is possibly the most powerful character (emphasis on the "right now" part). I think Tom B. and others have stated that with the Extremis Enhancile, which has transformed Stark, his power is virtually limitless, and he's darn near indestructable. This, of course, means that Tony's in for a big fall. And I think his friends and allies are going to get creeped out by his abilities. But on to the fights.
Let me know what you think.
Who would win? Iron Man Vs. Doctor Doom
I'd love to see this one as the two have never really gone at it full-out. Both have cool armor suits and both are geniuses. I'd like to think that Tony would win at the very end, but Doom would certainly be able to really hurt him. I think they'd both inflict heavy damage on each other, then Doom would use some secret weapon and all but kill Tony. Remember, Doom also uses magic. Tony hates magic--and doesn't really have any defenses for it. So I think Doom would almost kill Tony, but then Doom, and this is his weakness, would get cocky. He'd assume he's won, and let down his guard. That's when Iron Man would pull out some little trick and beat Doom.
Who would win? Iron Man Vs. Spider Man
Yes, Spidey has that awesome spider-sense, but I don't think it would do him much good under an all-out assault from Iron Man. In theory, especially with his new seemingly unlimited Extremis powers, Iron Man could just bombard Spidey with repulsors, lasers, rockets, you name it. Yes, at close quarters, Spidey might get in some good shots with his amazing strength, but IM's armor can withstand that, and at close range Spidey loses his ability to move around. Not to sound like too much of an Iron fan, but I have to say Iron Man would be able to handle Spidey fairly easily despite the one-sided outcome shown in the recent "One More Day" storyline.
Who would win? Iron Man Vs. Sentry
This one's hard. Sentry is so new... They make him out to be like Superman, so on paper, if he really was trying to take out Iron Man, he probably could. But because Iron Man has so much experience both in fighting and in strategy, I think Iron Man could find a way to beat him. Plus Sentry has been shown to be mentally unstable. Tony could exploit that and would. (But like I said, if Sentry really is a Superman-level threat, he'd take out Iron Man.)
Who would win? Iron Man Vs. Hulk
Well, way back in the day, Iron Man showed that he could K.O. the Hulk wearing nothing but his standard armor. Sure, it caused him to use up all of his energy, but his standard armor could handle the Hulk. Now that Tony's got Extremis, I'd say he's even more prepared for the Hulk: (1) Extremis lets him do just about anything. Tony can create whatever weapons he needs or use exsisting ones (Why not just use some government space lasers to hit Hulk or call in robot drones?); (2) Extremis allows Tony to heal. So, if Hulk does hit him, Tony should be able to recover quickly. In the end, though, all Tony has to do is take Hulk in to space, where, with no gravity, Hulk is powerless--he'd have no leverage. (The battle in World War Hulk was more the result of Tony getting his comeuppance than about realistically writing a fight between the two. Taking into account past fights and Tony's upgrade with Extremis, the Hulk isn't that much of a threat to Iron Man now.)
Who would win? Iron Man Vs. Thor
Full disclosure: Thor's one of those characters I've never really gotten into. He's supposed to be a god, so he's got immense power (but he's never done much for me as a character...). Potentially he's the strongest, if you buy into all that Norse mythology--I've just never seen it. At the same time, Tony's Extremis armor gives him god-like powers, so I don't know. I do know people would argue vigorously for Thor though . . .
Who would win? Iron Man Vs. Silver SurferHmm? I've never really read much Silver Surfer. I don't see what all the fuss is about. He's never really done it for me as a character. He's got the power cosmic and all that, so he should be very powerful. In theory, he should be able to take out IM. But then remember that Doom has taken out the Surfer in the past (even channeling the power cosmic through his armor). If IM can beat Doom, then he might be able to beat the Surfer. But I don't know enough about him to make a call.
Original text copyright 1996-2007 Tim Rassbach.