Category Archives: Iron Man Issue

Project: Iron Man – Iron Man #28 The Controller Lives!


IM 28 Cover

This is a one-and-done issue and when I read issues like this I always ask myself if going through each issue is really the best plan for this project. The goal was to go through my collection and read them through and reconnect with the sentimental memories that are attached to them. Issues like #1 and #173 are easy because they are not only milestones in my collecting history, but are fond memories that I have with my Mom and Dad, but issues like this don’t rouse the same emotional response. I didn’t want this to just become me retelling Iron Man stories. That idea’s been done, and done very well, by Tom Katers and I don’t want to do a poor copy of that.* I considered taking a new tact with this project, of reading through each comic and then only writing about the ones that struck a chord, but that didn’t feel like it was in the spirit of what I set out to do. It felt like cheating. Then it occurred to me that this issue follows television show formula and that, even though I may not have strong memories of it, there’s still something to explore. Something to comment on beyond just rehashing the story in the pages. If this issue of Iron Man were on TV it would make for a good CW show.

IM 28 pg1

Here on our first page we have a girl running in the dark. There’s thunder and lightning, suddenly a foreboding shadow and… the monster is revealed! It is The Controller and he has found her! This opening scene wouldn’t out of place in an episode of Supernatural or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It even ends the page with the credits.

The more I read stories with The Controller the more it is clear to me that he is a good foil for Iron Man , especially at this point in Iron Man’s evolution.

  • Just like Tony, Basil Sandhurst is infirm without his armor.
  • In the opposite of Tony who uses his own brain power to make powerful armor, The Controller uses other people’s literal brain power to make his armor powerful.
  • He’s a very physically powerful villain, they make a big deal about that this issue, so he’s not someone that Tony can just overpower. Tony has to out think him.

As he makes more appearances he changes to fit with the times and by the time we get to Matt Fraction’s run in 2005 The Controller has an army of drone zombies… but we’re not quite there yet.

The Controller is trying to stop our young lady, who we will call Meredith McCall, from warning Tony Stark about something and pulls out and tosses a tree stump just to get to her and make her one if his mind slaves.

IM 28 Tossing tree stump

Where comic books have one-and-done issues that return to the status quo at the end of twenty-two pages and TV shows have their stand-alone episodes that do the same thing. This is one of those. Have we met Meredith McCall before? No, she is a special guest start if we are using TV vocabulary. Will anything be changed when we get to the end of this issue? No, but I’m getting ahead of myself. That tree stump does what all things thrown into the air must do – it comes down…

IM 28 Tree stump landing

…right in front of the car that is carrying Tony Stark and Jasper Sitwell.

Can we take a moment to talk about how strong someone has to be to pull a tree stump out of the ground? Rain and wet earth notwithstanding,  tree stumps are notoriously difficult to get out of the ground. It’s easy for city-slickers like myself to forget that there’s a reason why stump pulling has a shocking large return of results on Google search. Trees don’t want to be moved and anchor themselves down pretty good. The fact that The Controller can rip one out of the ground so casually really speaks to the strength he has.

Back to our story…

Tony and Jasper are on the rocks ever since the run in with The Minotaur and Jasper’s discovery that the love of his life, Whitney Frost a.k.a. Madame Masque, is in love with Tony. Tony mentions that he is just visiting an old friend and doesn’t need his S.H.I.E.L.D. escort, but Jasper is more cautious saying that a mysterious call from a young lady from Tony’s past seems suspicious.  The tree stump pretty much confirms that Jasper is right as does the scream from the woods. Jasper runs into the woods to help while Tony dons his armor from the secret compartment in his car. Side Note: I wish real cars had all the secret compartments like they do in comics and movies. I don’t know what I’d do with them, but I want them!

Iron Man, using his boot jets, finds Meredith before Jasper can (and The Controller runs off not ready to confront his old foe) which makes an emasculated Jasper Sitwell feel all the more useless.

IM 28 Jasper feeling useless

Tony has guilt about it, but also has to maintain his cover of being both Stark and Iron Man, so Iron Man lets Jasper get Meredith back to the car while he “searches” for Tony. They drive to the sanitarium where Meredith works and we get the popular television trope – the flashback!


IM 28 Young Love for Tony


Forbidden love – the sweetest of all fruits. Even though Tony and Meredith are all hot for each other that one summer, after their fathers make an effort to separate them the relationship fades just like so many do. The reach the Pinewood Sanitarium and mention that Meredith was worried that Basil Sandhurst – The Controller – was planning his revenge on Stark. The director of the facility laughs it off claiming that Basil is an invalid, even showing Jasper and Tony a sleeping Basil Sandhurst.

IM 28 Basil is an invalid

Jasper, still feeling useless, decides that Tony probably is safe and leaves, Tony sticks around to see to Meredith. Unfortunately it was all a trick! The Controller reveals himself and that he has built a new Absorbatron! In TV we’d call this an act break or a reveal – something big to bring you back after the commercials.

IM 28 New Absorbatron

Now The Controller wants Tony’s help building a new device that will make him even more powerful…

Meanwhile in the woods, Jasper can’t shake his suspicions and investigates the area where they found Meredith. There he finds a slave disc and rushes back to Pinewood.

IM 28 Jasper finds a slave disc and wong chu homage


Under the careful watch of The Controller, Tony builds the helmet Sandhurst designed. It focuses the mental energy of those attached to slave discs into powerful rays of destructive force.

Jasper rushes in and distracts The Controller just long enough for Tony to get into his Iron Man armor and there is a battle:

IM 28 Battle

I really like this battle scene. Iron Man is not as physically powerful as The Controller, Iron Man even mentions that only Hulk or Thor could really slug it out with him, and just like in a good TV show we need to see the hero overcome what looks like a hopeless battle. And brains win out over brawn. Knowing that he couldn’t directly sabotage the helmet, Tony made it so that it could only handle so much power:

IM 28 The Controller burns himself out

With the bad guy defeated we get our wrap-up where the status quo gets put back to normal (rather quickly as well):

  • Villain is out-of-action and his new tech is destroyed.
  • All of his victims are free and safe.
  • Jasper and Tony are friendly again.
  • As for Meredith and Tony’s lost romance? The final nail is hammered into that coffin when it is revealed that she is married. Stark don’t do married chicks.

IM 28 Tony don't date married chicks

I don’t think we see Meredith McCall again and the next time we see The Controller he is so different that this story is irrelevant, but just like good genre TV it filled a month and was fun to read.

See you next time!


*Seriously though, his podcasts called Tom vs. Comics are fantastic! Especially if you’re a DC Silver Age fanboy. I’m not but I listened to all of Tom vs. The Flash and I attribute it to being the main reasons why I’m enjoying The Flash television show so much right now. Yes the show is good on it’s own, but Tom and his retelling of the classic stories makes it so much better. Check it out!

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Project: Iron Man – Iron Man #27 “The Fury of Firebrand!”


This is an issue where it isn’t so remarkable how much I remember, but in how much I didn’t understand and what went over my head. The heyday of my Iron Man collecting, and therefore Iron Man reading, was ages 8-12. Ideas like Communism and The Civil Rights Movement existed as unrelatable ideas that were taught to us in history class. It was the mid to late 80’s. Yes The Cold War was still going strong, but it had been 20 years since the Cuban Missile Crisis and neither country was eager to repeat that mistake again. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an acknowledged hero of the Civil Rights movement, we got the day off from school and I had not yet witnessed anything close to real racism in my life. So when I read comic books from the 60’s and early 70’s the ideas in them were like ancient history. They were written for their time and thank God we weren’t like that anymore. Reading them now, however, opened my eyes to just how much issues like this one covered.

IM 27 Cover


Let’s start with the super villain in this story: Firebrand.

IM 27 pg1

When I was younger I had no idea what a “firebrand” was. I knew that this bad guy had fire related powers, but no idea that his name was also relevant to the story. Of course now we have the internet for instant definitions:

Firebrand: one that creates unrest or strife (as in aggressively promoting a cause) :agitator
 – from

And our character makes with the agitating right off the top. He helps some local protesters break into the construction site of a community center that the Iron Man Foundation is paying for. Even though the protesters are excited about their sit-in Firebrand makes it clear he’s looking for a fight and then takes off.

IM 27 Firebrand Agitating

Eddie March, who you may remember did a brief stint as Iron Man, is now out of the hospital and has been selected to be the director of the new community center since he is both a native son of Bay City and also has the popularity of being Iron Man for his short time. As they head to the site, Eddie marvels at the changes to the city, with the exception of the North Side which is just as bleak as he remembers it being when he was a kid.

IM 27 Eddie sees the city

He and Iron Man arrive at the construction site with the city councilman in charge of the community center, Lyle Bradshaw, to see that there is already a bit of trouble between the protesters (black) and police (white).

IM 27 Trouble at the site

There’s almost a Commedia dell’arte feel to the characters from this point. Not that they are directly from the Commedia tradition, but that there are archetypes that each character represents.  Iron Man is the unbiased moral “right” that wants what is best for all within the law. It is worth noting that Tony Stark appears very little in this issue. For 95% he is in his Iron Man guise – a superhero with no definable skin color. Eddie March is the biased “right” who can relate to the protesters more than Iron Man can. The protesters, all black, represent the civil struggle and members of it become the focus of different variations within that struggle. The police, all white, represent the white establishment defined by law without bigotry. Lyle Bradshaw represents exploitative greed and the white establishment defined by bigotry. These are some pretty heavy concepts to toss into what were called, at the time, “funny books.” My 9 year old brain saw them more as:

  • Iron Man = Awesome
  • Eddie March = Was Iron Man = Awesome
  • Firebrand = Bad guy with fire powers
  • Protesters = Poor and Suffering
  • Police = Police
  • Bradshaw = Jerk

So I saw the good guys versus the bad guys in the issue, but I missed all the nuance of how this applied to the times. It is also worth noting that reading this issue with today’s current events in mind, like Ferguson and “Black Lives Matter,” that as far as we’ve come, there is still a way to go.

Taking advantage of the unrest, Firebrand shows up and a riot starts.

IM 27 The riots start

There’s a super villain/super hero fight that happens, but that’s not the point of the issue. Instead, the poignant plot line is between Eddie March and a young woman he saves from the riot, Helene.

IM 27 Eddie saves Helene

After they escape, Helene takes Eddie through the city and they discuss what might actually help raise the community as opposed to just have a community center built for them.

IM 27 Eddie and Helene in the city

While this is happening we get some background into how Firebrand came to be.

IM 27 Firebrand Origin

And how he built his suit (a bit of unintentional foreshadowing to The Armor Wars and The Five Nightmares).

IM 27 Armor Wars foreshadow

Battle aside, Iron Man, Eddie, Helene and Councilman Bradshaw eventually all end up back at the councilman’s office and discuss what might be best for the community – which leads to an impasse. Naturally, Firebrand shows up, raises hell, and kidnaps Councilman Bradshaw.

IM 27 The impasseWe also find out that Bradshaw is completely corrupt and is profiting on the community center.

IM 27 Firebrand kidnaps the truth revealed

Normally, in a comic book, we’d expect to have everything wrap up all nice an clean, but it doesn’t. Firebrand escapes.  The riot is stopped, but so is construction of the community center. Eddie and Helene get jobs at the Iron Man Foundation. But the comic even mentions that it is a very slow matter to get back to healing and understanding.

IM 27 Last 2 pages

The last panels bring the whole thing home.

IM 27 Last Panels

I don’t know that we have the same kind of material created for children that addresses issues like this in the same way that they did back in the 70’s. It was a time for experimentation and breaking established rules and that lead to some great filmmaking, music, and storytelling. It’s also strange to me that a story this on the nose still found a way to get over my head. I guess there’s no stopping a pre-adolescent brain that’s obsessed more with the super hero than the stories that he is featured in. Regardless, it is very eye opening to re-read this now and get a whole new sense of meaning from it. Although not the original point of this project, it has been a very nice bonus.

See you next time.

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Project: Iron Man – Iron Man #26 Death in a Dark Dimension

IM 26 Cover

After having such a connected experience to the last issue, I hit the polar opposite with this issue. I have no memory of of Iron Man #26 Death (or Dual depending on whether you’re reading the cover or front page) in a Dark Dimension. However, looking at the cover, seeing the barbarian-like hero and his weapon being The Solar Sword, I am reminded of Thundarr the Barbarian:

That aside, this is a stand alone issue that tried to cram a lot of stuff into 22 pages. We open with Happy Hogan trying to beat up Tony as he armors up. This happens quite a bit over the course of the series.

IM 26 Pg1

Pepper has been kidnapped by the Collector to make Stark bring him The Freak – the monster that Happy turns into when exposed to Cobalt Rays. Happy can’t know that he was ever The Freak so Tony wants to save Pepper with the power of Iron Man.

IM 26 Happy Can't Know He's the Freak

As I mentioned above, the villain in this issue is The Collector in his second comic book appearance. The Collector you may recognize from the Guardians of the Galaxy movie:

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Poster-The-Collector screenrantDOTcom

Photo from

Here he makes a deal with Iron Man, bring him The Solar Sword or he turns Happy into The Freak and adds him to his zoo. Very basic, kind of a cartoon plot. Just an excuse to get everyone fighting. Definitely designed for younger minds from a more naive time.

IM 26 Cartoon Plot

So Shellhead is taken to the Dark Dimension where he is immediately set upon by shadow demons.

IM 26 Gargoyles Weeping Angels

I think they kinda’ look like the weeping angels from Doctor Who:

IM 26 Gargoyles Close UpWeepingAngels tardisDOTwikiaDOTcom

But Iron Man is rescued by Thor! Wait, no, that’s Val-Larr Champion of Light! He just looks like Thor with a big “V” on his chest.

IM 26 Thor I mean Val Larr


Together they fight off the shadow demons and the issue starts to feel like a backdoor pilot for this new hero. He’s in the Dark Dimension, which is a Marvel Mystic realm often visited by Dr. Strange. I wondered while reading this if Val-Larr ever showed up in Dr. Strange or any of the other Marvel Mystic books. A quick Google search showed that he does not seem to. He’s referenced again in Iron Man #33, but we’ll see that later. We get a quick history of the realm, the battle between light and shadow, and the origins of the Solar Sword that Val-Larr uses.

Comic Book Science: The Solar Sword is a weapon that can collect the ambient light and then use it to perform feats and powers including strobes of bright light that burns shadow demons and blasts of power. The full powers and limits of the Solar Sword are not known.

IM 26 Backdoor Pilot

Then Iron Man is taken to the last Citadel of Light – LUMINIA!


And now, after having fought alongside Val-Larr (like, his name is, literally “valor”) and making friends, Tony suddenly remembers, “oh yeah, kinda’ need to grab that sword because The Collector is coming” and he picks a fight.

IM 26 Iron Man picks a fight

My favorite part of that is Val-Larr’s response, “Wha?!?” If it were written today he’d be like, “Da faq?!!” Also this gave me a feeling of foreshadowing to a certain storyline in the future where Tony makes a dubious decision because he feels it’s the right thing to do…

Photo from

Photo from

…but we’ll get to that later.

Tony does get the sword back to The Collector and, surprise surprise, The Collector decides to keep the sword and abandon Tony, Pepper and Happy in the Dark Dimension… that is until the Solar Sword starts acting funny. Remember the comic book science thing? The Solar Sword was created in the Dark Dimension, where light is scarce. Suddenly brought into a place where light is prevalent the sword begins to overload – and it’s going to explode! So Shellhead picks up The Collector and flies him back into the Dark Dimension.

IM 26 The Solar Sword Wnts to Explode

Fortunately for Val-Larr and the residents of Luminia this coincides with Shar-Khan’s attack on Luminia.

IM 26 Last Pages Shar Khan

I actually really like the design of Shar-Khan. I would have liked to  have seen more of him. Just look at that creepy face!

IM 26 Shar Khan Close Up

So, as you may have guessed, the good guys win. The bad guys lose. Happy and Pepper go off to live without Happy discovering that he was ever The Freak. It’s a stand alone issue and it’s interesting to think that this issue is very similar to the issue that features the first appearance of Thanos… but that’s still to come. I think that these were pretty typical issues in the 60’s through the early 70’s. New characters were always being introduced, just like the Golden Age. Some stuck, some didn’t, and Val-Larr was one of the latter. The next issue features the first appearance of Firebrand and dips a toe in how Iron Man as a comic book starts to look at social issues. That’s a character we see a bit more often.

IM 27 Cover

Bit of a non sequitur: this issue’s Stan’s Soapbox, the “newsletter” section of the comic, includes an audience survey. It asks about what kinds of stories you like and what you don’t. It uses some fantastic 70’s vernacular. It gave me the impression of how fandom used to work before the internet. Everything still happened: surveys, complaints, discussions; but they all worked via the mail or telephones or conventions/meet-ups. Just another example of ‘the more things change…”

IM 26 Stans Soapbox

See you next time.

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Project: Iron Man – Iron Man Issue #25 This Doomed Land – This Dying Sea!


This issue is a perfect example of why I wanted to do this project! I have such strong memories associated with this issue and, surprisingly, there are elements of this issue that affected my beliefs on our environment and corporate policies.

The opening page, for me, is some of the best evidence that the more things change the more they stay the same. It’s been known that pollution is a problem for decades and, while big strides have truly been made (the air and water now are far better off than they were in 1970 when this was written) there’s still so much farther to go. When I was a kid I remember being struck by this notion that “saving the Earth’ wasn’t a new idea and here it was, subtle as a hammer, on page one of this issue of Iron Man.

IM 25 Pg 1

So, there’s Shellhead, carrying the corpse of a young woman poisoned by the very air she breathed. We are relieved to discover that this is just a film created by Tony to help convince other business owners to take environmental protection seriously. They respond in a stereotypical “businessman” fashion… which leads Tony to tell of a recent adventure he had with Iron Man.

IM 25 Tony to the Businessmen

We move to Namor the Submariner swimming through the ocean angry and brooding. He comes on a pipe spewing pollution – look at the plumes of black and deep purple – killing all the local fish. This, naturally, sends him into a rage and, like any good Silver/Bronze Age comic book character, he destroys the object of his anger… and then follows the pipe back to kick the ass of the surface dweller that put it there.

IM 25 Namor discovers the pollution

Now we flash to the surface, where the pipe originated from, where Tony Stark is visiting the supervisor of the Meridian Island facility, Blaine. Blaine is a douche. Archie Goodman leaves very little room for negotiation on this fact. He’s overly casual with the CEO of his company, cuts corners on safety and environmental equipment and siphoned budgeted funds to pay for his off-the-books pet project, a solar generator, that has some pretty gnarly side effects. Blaine’s fiance, June, comes running in to tell him that all of filters and pumping equipment are shutting down and that the island is starting to fill up with toxic gas. (Point of note, Mr. Goodwin makes sure that we know that Tony is a responsible business owner by having him mention that there should be special filtration units that should be taking care of these fumes.)

IM 25 Meet Baline the douche

Tony is just getting his head wrapped around all of this when Namor shows up to beat things with his fists – which includes a building or two. Stark sends Blaine to get his employees to safety and then Namor and Iron Man fight for, like, a long time.

IM 25 Namor shows up

It’s pages of punches, but those are not as important as the core of the story so let’s jump right to the end where Iron Man wins (natch) and we get back to Blaine the douche denying that there’s any trouble even though all the air around them is inky with noxious fumes. Turns out Blaine’s solar generator is helping to cause this smog (fuzzy late 60’s pseudoscience here) and needs to be destroyed. Well, Blaine just won’t have that and puts up a fight until his fiance passes out from lack of oxygen.

IM 25 IM Wins and June passes out

With June down Blaine is suddenly willing to listen to Iron Man and ol’ Shellhead lands a verbal bitchslap.

IM 25 Verbal Bitch Slap

Then we get the “team-up” section of the book where Iron Man helps Submariner escape and then they work together to destroy the solar converter…

IM 25 The Team Up

…By dropping a giant rock in the ocean and tidal waving the island clean. Oh, and Blaine the Douche died trying to fix his mistake – TOO LITTLE TOO LATE, DOUCHE!

IM 25 Tital Wave

In the end the businessmen that Tony was trying to convince to join him in better environmental practices blow him off saying that changes cost money and that they have stock holders to answer to. They leave and we’re left with much the same reaction you’d see in modern business.

IM 25 Last Page

The funny thing is, Tony quotes that, “…the same thing could happen on a global scale in ten to thirty years!” And it kind of is. Maybe not to the extreme of this story, but it is over thirty years later and climate change is constantly in the news, animals are constantly threatened with extinction, and rainforest is still being cut down by the hundreds of acres a day… If nothing had changed Archie Goodwin probably wouldn’t have been wrong.

The nice thing is the effects of the Clean Air Act of 1963 were starting to show effects and the Clean Water Act of 1972 helped to clean up and save some of the most important waterways. The combination of the two have definitely kept us from the kind of apocalyptic scenario presented on page one of this comic. The conversations generated in the 70’s also helped to change the culture as far as the popularity of environmentalism. I grew up in the late 80’s/early 90’s and I remember the environment being part of the core conversation in school and in general. Earth Day was recognized at school and we’d do events to prep for and celebrate it, Star Trek 4 had a “save the whales” message and was a big hit, and recycling became such a thing in california that suddenly there were different trash cans depending on whether what you were throwing out was recyclable or not.

So when I read this in 19… something-or-other I was really surprised that these ideas, that felt really young, were actually much older than I was – as was the corporate attitude of “money before responsibility” that is the stale cliche/truth of big business.

It’s funny how things like this can stick with you.  Having read this again, decades after reading it the first time, my memory of it was very accurate and it’s amazing to me that the message can still be relevant.

Has anything stuck with you like that? Let me know in the comments.

See you next time!

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Project: Iron Man – Iron Man Issue 20

I won’t spend a lot of time talking about about how long it’s been between posts, we’ve all noticed and I’m not proud of it. So I’m just going to go right into this…

Invincible Iron Man #20 is a stand alone issue that follows the very dramatic events of the “Death of Tony Stark” arc, when he received his heart surgery that made it so that he was no longer dependent on wearing his armor’s chest plate.

It was actually nice to take some time off and come back to reading this issue, I was able to see it through fresh eyes. One of the things that made Marvel Comics so popular in the 60’s was that the stories were more about real problems and real social issues. They treated their super-heroes like regular people with regular people problems. This is one of those issues where the regular person is actually the star of the issue. Iron Man is in the issue, but it actually focuses on a disgruntled security guard and his frustrations as he reaches a mid-life crisis. I watched Twilight Zone episodes today as I was reading this issue and I noticed that the storytelling in the book was very similar to what I saw in the Twilight Zone episodes, highly dramatic and with grave stakes.

Things start out appropriately bombastic – with a literal bomb!

This is all well and good but it’s the security guard, Charlie, who’s really stewing in this issue.

See, he misses his glory days and resents his family; and the fact that Iron Man gets so much attention just drives him nuts! I have been very fortunate in that I have always had a good support system around me and I had a pretty good career from a young age…
…but now that I’m getting older I’m starting to understand where he’s coming from. Now I’m far from being the angry wretch that Charlie is, but things aren’t as easy to accomplish as they used to be. Some of the hurdles come from financial things beyond my control (thanks economic meltdown!) but some things I definitely could have made better choices about. As the years keep piling on, I have started to feel like instead of “the future being laid out before me” there’s more of a “the future is NOW!” feeling where I have far less room to make mistakes and need to do whatever it is I’m going to do before I get too old to do it. As far as it relates to Charlie, there but for the grace of God go I. It’s easy to get bitter when it feels like your life and your dreams are passing you by. Hell, I’m essentially “living the dream” but it can still feel like things are getting away from me!

So Charlie takes a stroll and his bitterness and rage attracts the attention of X-Men villain Lucifer!

Lucifer has all kinds of powers, but he’s been trapped in a prison dimension and wants Charlie’s help to escape. Naturally Tony Stark has the device Lucifer needs, so he finds someone bitter at the Stark company and Iron Man to do his bidding. Through the magic of comic book science Charlie is granted the power of Lucifer:

And immediately starts flaunting his power and beating people up, even (unintentionally) his wife who is concerned about him and looking for him.

Naturally Iron Man comes to the rescue, but it’s actually Charlie’s wife who saves the day. She reminds Charlie of all the good things in his life, like his family and their marriage, and reminds him that he doesn’t need “false glory” and if he does he isn’t the man she married. Seriously, she lets him have it. Check out the panel where she’s wagging her finger and crying.

So Charlie gives up the power, Lucifer is defeated and they all live happily ever after. Once Charlie realizes that the grass isn’t always greener and leaves with his wife even Iron Man can’t help but be effected. In the last panel he starts to wonder if he should still be Iron Man with his heart repaired.

Seeing at how there are at least 500 issues to go I’m pretty sure you can tell what he decides, but check out the next issue!

See you next time!

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Project Iron Man: Iron Man Issues 17, 18 & 19 –

Sorry for the long delay. As many of you know I was away in Oregon training for a new job and it was difficult to blog while I was gone. But now I’m back and it’s time to get back into the world of Iron Man!

This three issue arc shows the strength of Tony Stark, that it’s not just the armor but the man inside of it that makes Iron Man…

…and it also introduces the Madam Masque that we all know and love and the villain Midas (and possibly Tony’s cousin Morgan Stark, but I’m not sure that this is his first appearance).

Frankly, this story has quite a few twists going for it:

  • The LMD (Life Model Decoy) that Stark used to trick the Mandarin a few issues ago gains sentience and takes over Tony’s life (a storyline that is re-used in the late 90’s, early 2000’s).
  • Since everyone thinks the real Tony Stark is a fake he is kidnapped by Madam Masque to impersonate himself for Midas – confusing, I know, but hang in there.
  • Tony plays along with Masque and Midas so that he can gain access to his company again and defeat the LMD.
  • It works, Tony and Madam Masque fall in love, and Midas is defeated.
  • Oh, and while we’re at it all of Tony’s friends turn on him, including the Avengers, and he dies, kinda’.
This is a motif that will be played and replayed in the issues of Iron Man over and over again whether it’s business rivals or inventions gone evil, someone is always gunning for Tony’s company and/or inventions. Sometimes they win, but only for a while until Stark can re-group and overcome.
But the story isn’t what I want to focus on with these issues. See I remember a Christmas many years ago when my parents got me almost all of the back issues I was missing. It was boxes and boxes filled with bagged newsprint and I remember specifically that they used a large clothes basket to hold a majority of them. It was the package under the tree that had me completely stumped and when I tore it open it was like looking in Marselleus Wallace’s brief case.

It’s memories like that that make it very difficult to seriously consider selling the collection. Even just revisiting these first couple dozen issues brings me back to all of the good memories that go along with the years I spent building the collection up. It wasn’t just me, it was my Mom and Dad and relatives. Something really simple that that made powerful emotional memories. I don’t want to put too fine a point on it or make it seem like it was an overwhelming experience – it was, and still is, a very simple pleasure. It’s just nice to feel sentimental about it.

Next Time:

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Project: Iron Man – Iron Man #15 & #16 or Unicorn’s Back & He’s Got A Red Ghost

This is it.

This is the two issue stretch that gave me nuthin’.

I found nothing inspirational about these two issues nor do I have any strong memories attached to them.

I was so unmotivated that I looked at issue #17 just to see if I could tie it in with these two and fill out this blog post more, but that’s not going to work out.

It’s not that they are bad issues, they just aren’t special issues.

Plot summary:

  • Unicorn didn’t die in issue #4, his boot jets saved him.
  • Red Ghost is using Unicorn to steal the Cosmic Ray device from tony Stark so he can get his own powers back.
  • Unicorn steals the device.
  • Red Ghost uses it and betrays Unicorn.
  • Unicorn and Iron Man team-up to beat Red Ghost.
  • Red Ghost’s Super Apes actually save the day.
I thought I could write about how the hero and the villain must overcome their differences to succeed, but they don’t actually overcome much of anything.
I thought I could write about the relationship between man and animals, but that plot point kinda’ gets thrown in at the end without a lot of build up and Red Ghost uses apes again later so no lessons really carry on past this issue in regards to that.

Instead we get Stark flying in a funny looking ship instead of an airplane.


I really hope this isn’t the start of a trend.
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Project: Iron Man – Iron Man #14 Is The Industrialist the Environmentalist or is it Voodoo?

Is it environmentalism if you only want to save the environment for personal gain?

Is it spoiling the environment if you help develop the economy of a country?

Is Voodoo responsible for all of it?

These are the questions raised in Iron Man #14, but only the third is answered – place your bets now about how that turns out.

The beginning of this issue feels like a throw-back to the monster comics that Marvel and other comic book companies used to make where the monster was the star and everything is explained in narration. Here’s the first couple pages:

Now here’s an example of another Marvel horror book:

Similar, right? This book was released in 1969, many years after the height of Marvel’s horror books, but I like to think writer Archie Goodwin was nostalgic for the old days.

This is a fill-in issue between two story arcs, also called a one-and-done story, and for all the cover space the bad guy gets and how he graces the open page you’d think we’d see this guy again… but we never do.
EDIT: That’s not true! Turns out we do see him later in the mid-40’s! It’s a statement on how memorable the character is that I completely forgot about that. By the time we get to the mid 40’s you’ll probably forget as well.

Stark is visiting his facility on a small Caribbean island (no name is given) because it has been blown up by the rumored voodoo monster the Night Phantom! By no small chance it coincides with Janice Cord also being on the small unnamed island visiting a friend of her late father.  There is an author named Travis Hoyt who has made his home on the island and he’s very upset at Stark because, “[Starks’] projects and ‘progress’ are destroying [the island’s] natural beauty and primitive charm!”

It is also an important plot point to know that Hoyt was injured in a plane crash and is confined to a wheel chair. So Tony and the police inspector go out to the work site to investigate the accident. It’s bad and Tony’s Geiger counter in his watch goes off  – the site is radioactive! Suddenly it doesn’t look like the voodoo monster is powered as much by voodoo as it is lethal radioactivity. Also, Hoyt is watching them with his telescope and apparently has really good hearing. As the inspector and Stark are getting ready to leave the voodoo drums start and they are attacked by the Night Phantom!

Stark wakes up to Janice. She brought him back to her father’s friend’s home – none other than Travis Hoyt! They argue and Tony leaves to find the inspector.

Oh and to put on the Iron Man armor. The Vario beam (that circle on his chest) can pick up the residual radioactivity so he uses that to find the Night Phantom and hopefully the inspector as well! Back at Hoyt’s house things get a little “rape-y”…

Hoyt’s not really crippled. He has a radioactive pool under his house that healed him and made him very strong, but it also scarred him horribly so he dresses up in the Night Phantom gear.

Quick real world note here, for what it’s worth. I bring it up because it just happened in a recent issue of Iron Man as well (#516) where the bad guy takes off his human disguise to reveal the super-villain mask underneath.

So I’m supposed to believe that you walk around all day with two masks on? All day every day? And no one notices? Every time you OPEN YOUR MOUTH there should be a problem since your other mask would be exposed!!! Hell, Spy Master there in #516 was in a romantic relationship! There was kissing and eating and stuff, how’d that work? My rational brain knows that this is a pointless rant, but I had to get it off my chest. Now I did. I feel better. Thank you.

So Iron Man follows the radioactivity to the cave where everyone else has ended up. Turns out the voodoo drums are on P.A. speakers – very loud P.A. speakers.

Hoyt wants to dip Janice in the pool so she can be with him, but Iron Man takes exception to that and wails on him right before reaching to pull Janice back up from the pool.

Then Hoyt jumps in the pool to power up but, low and behold, all the construction by Stark has made small cracks in the base of the pool (hence why Hoyt was all angry at him in the first place) and the voodoo drum noise from the speakers made the damage worse so Hoyt is sucked away into the Earth… and Tony and Janice jet off to have more adventures in Captain Marvel #14.

Let’s get down to the biscuits.

The thing in this story that stuck out the most to me, especially in our polarized political times, is that our bad guy, Travis Hoyt, seems to be an environmentalist – even if it’s for selfish reasons and he’s kind of elitist about the whole thing – and Tony and the inspector stand for developing industry – although to be fair it is mentioned that it is benefiting the people of the small unnamed island. There’s even a heavy handed mention that the security guard who was attacked at the very beginning of the issue was just a kid working his way through school.

I got a good dose of “industry as job creators” when reading this and found it unsettling that a political issue that is so prominent today existed in some form enough to make it into a comic book back in the late 60’s. To be fair, and not to try and make too big a deal out of this, Stark factories, as you’ll see in coming issues, are know for how environmentally sound they are and, really, Hoyt was a douche-nozzle, but industry versus environment is a long standing dichotomy none the less.

If only all “job creators” were as responsible and well intention-ed as a fictional Tony Stark.

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Project: Iron Man – Iron Man 12 & 13 Brain Power vs. Brain Power

Tony Stark is one of the smartest characters in the Marvel Universe. He was a child genius who went to MIT when he was a teenager and inherited a major corporation at the age of 21 complete with major government contracts that did not go away once he was in charge. He has built super weapons, discovered and put into use new sources of energy and, of course, designed the Iron Man armor that he is famous for.

Tony Stark is a smart guy.

I imagine when Archie Goodwin wrote the two-part story “The Coming of the Controller” he may have thought, “Someone with that much brain power clearly needs to battle a villain of equal brain power!” That would make sense, Reed Richards is always best when he battles Doctor Doom, The Doctor when he battles The Master, but there’s a twist…

OK, let’s back track just a little. Remember Janice Cord’s lawyer and how I thought he might be related to the Controller back in THIS POST? Well he totally is and this story-line wraps that all up. Also, we get to see Jasper Sitwell looking for Whitney Frost’s after the hovercraft she escaped in crashed – which happened off-screen I guess cuz I just looked back and she seemed to get away scott free. I even have the page in THAT SAME POST.

Also we spend some more pages making sure that the secret identity that we spent two issues trying to protect stays protected. Seriously, why? Go HERE for more on secret identities and here’s the three pages that finally wrap the identity drama. Pay special attention to how he lays the ground work for never being able to do this again. Don’t worry, in about a decade LMDs become so common it’s a wonder anyone in the Marvel Universe isn’t just a robot.

So let’s get back to the Controller! Here’s the Controller’s Wikipedia page for the full breakdown of his super-villain career, but the origin is right here in this book. Basil Sandhurst not only is a mad scientist of the highest caliber but he also has some rage issues. And his lawyer brother is a bit of a prick too. So when a lack of ethics gets Basil fired from every job he’s ever had (he has been working on how to harness the power of the human brain) his brother gets him a job at Drexel Cord’s factory. Problem is Basil is not happy about having to do the work of simpletons – so he loses his shit.Vincent tries to get him under control, but that goes poorly too and things explode and Vincent, being a caring brother, leaves Basil for dead.

But he’s not dead, see, so out of guilt Vincent builds Basil a super modern home and lab with robotic arms and stuff so Basil can continue his experiments, but those experiments are how to use the human brain to power an exoskeleton that gives Basil not only his mobility back but the combined strength of any people under his control!

See that’s the twist – Tony Stark has brain power, but Controller has “brain power,” or more to the point a brain powered exoskeleton.

So Controller enslaves the town, kidnaps Janice since her dad humiliated him and naturally Iron Man isn’t happy about this so they fight until Shellhead gets taken down and they are taken to the Mental-Wave Absorbatron!

Silly name aside, this device is the is a weird metaphor for the strength of the mind. I know sometimes I sound snarky when I do the plot re-caps, but there really is quite a bit of thought that went into these stories that were intended for children. The Controller ends up being a frightening villain mostly because he can enslave, and in doing so steal the strength from, anyone. And the more people he enslaves with his control disks the more powerful he gets. Iron Man is all about using power to do good for people and the Controller is all about using people as power. Kind of a screwed up super-villain version of democracy, but instead of power to the people it’s power from the people. When we get into the modern era of Iron Man there’s an issue where Maria Hill has to face the Controller and it was actually a bit frightening, but we have a bit before that.

So the Controller gets them back to his place and starts adding them to the mental-wave absorbatron…

…but Iron Man was faking! Fight is on!

Iron Man has roller skates (these come back is surprising regularity)!

Iron Man loses!

Controller steals a train and loads the mental-wave absorbatron on it (I should have probably mentioned that   he needs to be in range of it to maintain his powers)!

S.H.I.E.L.D. has an ESP unit!

I bring up the ESP unit for two reasons:

  1. It’s on theme. ESP, extrasensory perception, was very popular in the 60’s and dealt with the human brain having powers beyond what was understood. In a time when minds were being expanded with the use of mind altering drugs and human potential was being tested it made sense to think that maybe there was power there to be unlocked. In the Marvel Universe they did and it became a thing that S.H.I.E.L.D. used. Now S.H.I.E.L.D. uses telepaths, but that’s not really important right now. Also, when dealing with the genius brain power of Tony Stark and the brain powered exoskeleton of the Controller it’s kind of a brain trifecta to have the ESP unit show up. Go human brain!
  2. Janice Cord is going to come down with ESP pretty soon.
In the end Iron Man wins by separating the mental-wave absorbatron car from the rest of the train. The Controller, weak without the power of his slaves, gets knocked out and there ya’ go. And Stark gets all emo on Janice.
I really enjoyed the (probably) unintentional metaphor about the power of the human mind in this set of issues. I remember when I was a kid thinking that the Controller was kinda’ lame because I saw him first in a re-print of a Captain Marvel comic where he was working with Thanos and I thought they were brothers because they looked similar to me. I appreciate him now a lot more. We’ll be seeing more of Mr. Sandhurst soon, but first…
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Project: Iron Man – Iron Man #10 & Iron Man #11

Secret Identities.

The superhero trope of superhero tropes.

Clark Kent and Superman

Bruce Wayne and Batman

Peter Parker and Spider-Man

We are all very familiar with the idea that superheroes disguise their real identities to either have or protect their personal lives.

There are very few exceptions to this, the most prominent that I can think of being Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. Sure he has the superhero name, Mr. Fantastic, but he and the whole Fantastic four are publicly known, celebrities even.

In current Marvel continuity and the Marvel movies Tony Stark is known to be Iron Man, but back in the 60’s (hell, well into the new millennium) Tony Stark maintained his secret identity where Iron Man was employed as Stark’s body guard, the reasons for which will be deliberated complained about later. The stories of Iron Man 10 and 11 focus on how Stark deals with the fact that The Mandarin has discovered his secret identity.

The short answer: he tricks Mandy into thinking that Stark and Iron Man really are two different people with the clever use of masks and a Life Model Decoy. In other words, it’s not really dealt with at all, it’s just needless manipulation all the while Stark factories are sitting idle and the whole country is busy thinking Stark is a pinko commie.

Fantastic plan, Stark.

Of course, because this is a comic book, Stark’s plan to save his identity works out perfectly:

  • Mandarin is convinced that he’s not Iron Man.
  • The LMD distracts the press and, during Shellhead’s battle with Mandy, they hear how Mandarin planned the whole thing and faked the pictures that started the whole mess in the first place.
  • Oh and the Mandarin’s betrothed totally turns on him because he doesn’t believe in love… but that’s not really related to secret identities.
  • Oh and we found out why he made a Hulk robot in issue 9 – turns out Hulk destroyed his castle in China and Mandy wanted to tarnish Hulk’s name… which is a bit redundant for Hulk but there you go.
  • Mandarin seemingly blows up at the end, but even Iron Man says he’ll be back, eliminating the drama of that moment.


But all issue specific plot points aside, the risk of people discovering secret identities for comic book heroes is a go-to story to write. There’s always going to be a story like this one where someone who shouldn’t know the secret learns it and  tries to use it to their advantage. There’s the opposite story where the hero reveals their identity to show how much they trust someone. In all the stories where there’s a secret identity time always has to be taken to show how they keep that secret when they change into the requisite super-suit, i.e. the proverbial “phone booth” or janitorial closet. If this were real life how many lives would be at risk while Spider-Man finds a suitable alley way to change his clothes?
That’s why I don’t understand the reason for Tony Stark to even have a secret identity. When I was a kid I never questioned it – superheroes had secret identities and that’s how it worked – but reading these stories now, older and having Stark be secret identity-less for over a decade, it feels contrived.
I get it for Spider-Man, he’s got an old aunt and the public is not always on his side. I get it for Batman, he is a violent vigilante, it’s important that Gotham’s finest don’t show up on Bruce Wayne’s door. I get it for Superman – he’s a freaking alien who’s so powerful if his identity was revealed he’d never have a moment to himself! But Tony stark is a public figure, like Reed Richards, he’s a playboy anyway who enjoys attention and his business, especially in the 60’s, is weapon design. A lot of the things that exist for Stark just because of his civilian life eliminate the need for a secret identity.
Taking a look at typical reasons to have a secret identity, let’s see how Stark’s life already handles the problems:
  • Protecting people he loves – Tony Stark is a public figure, a target for foreign enemy nations, so his loved ones are already targets. Publicly being Iron Man might actually help in this case.
  • Protecting his privacy/private life – Again, public figure so there is no privacy. If anything he’s under a microscope so really shouldn’t the question be how bad are the journalists in the Marvel Universe that they couldn’t figure out his identity? Also, he owns a major business so there are existing security measures in place to protect him and his factories.
  • The legality of actually being a superhero – This one’s tricky, but the fact that Stark helped to create SHIELD and equips them and is, like, totes BFF with Nick Fury gives his a pass on this in my opinion.
  • Being able to hold down a job – Again, he owns it. It’s hard to get fired from your own company (even though that totally happens but not for a while…).
Clearly modern writers and I are on the same page since he hasn’t had a secret identity for a very long time, but it makes me wonder why it was so important for about forty years? There were times when it was defended for story purposes, but for the writers in the 60’s through the 90’s why was that identity so important? There had to be a reason because it was no problem writing it away when they did. Maybe it was cultural, a sign of the times? I don’t have the answer, at least not today, but I want to revisit this concept later, hopefully be able to cite more examples from issues.
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