Project: Iron Man – Issues 21 & 22 Fandom & Obsession Leads to Misunderstandings & Tragedy

Being a fanboy is nothing new to me, as I’m sure you’ve noticed if you’ve read these entries at all, and it’s fitting to have the next story line in Project: Iron Man focus on being a fan… along with a tale about unrequited love and some of the fantasies that go along with both of those things.

The Iron Man cover for issue 21 continues the streak of red herrings that are so typical for this time period. The dramatic, “I QUIT!” along with the image of Tony Stark throwing his Iron Man helmet to the ground. Yes this is another issue where Tony gives up being Iron Man, but he’s not nearly so upset about it and it also isn’t a very long retirement.

Take our opening page here:

Is Iron Man fighting a boxer and losing??!?!?

No, of course not. We’re inside the mind of Eddie “Iron Man” March. Iron Man is Eddie’s favorite superhero and a huge influence in his life. And in the end his admiration of Iron Man helps Eddie win the fight!

Eddie March is the placeholder for the reader – albeit he happens to be a world class boxer – and his wish to be Iron Man mirrors our own. When I was a kid I played Iron Man all the time. Because I grew up in the middle period between the Secret Wars figures (which I would eventually get in several forms) and the Toy Biz release I re-painted and re-purposed other action figures to be Iron Man. 
Shellhead would regularly battle my M.U.S.C.L.E. men and Lord Dread from Captain Power.

Lord Dread was actually a really cool figure. Since he didn’t have much characterization in his own show (he sat in a chair and said “evil” things) having a cyborg in a cape with a laser sword made for a good recurring enemy. In my adventures he was an evil genius of Doctor Doom caliber. Very nasty indeed!

But back to Eddie…

Due to his years in the ring we find out that he has a brain condition and needs to quit fighting.

But as one dream dies another is about to come true. Tony Stark, now that he has a repaired heart, has been holding back in his battles with Iron Man because he doesn’t have the “I’m going to die anyway” confidence that he once had. In a battle with the new Crimson Dynamo he decides to pass the mantle of Iron Man on.

Naturally – because we only have about twenty pages to tell this story – both Tony and Happy Hogan (Tony’s confidant for the uninitiated) agree that Eddie March is the man for the job! Talk about wish fulfillment! This played right into the the very thing I wanted as a kid (and would still be pretty cool, quite frankly) getting trained to be Iron Man with your very own set of Iron Man armor!

He even does pretty well for himself in his first fight:

But reality (or what passes for it in a comic book universe) rears its ugly head. The blood clot in his brain is still there and, even though the Iron Man armor can take some hard impacts, fighting the Crimson Dynamo is enough to take Eddie down.

At the beginning of issue 22 things are looking bad for Eddie and suddenly being a superhero for real isn’t looking so great for the reader, but Tony makes it in time to get Eddie to the hospital.

Because of Eddie’s willingness to sacrifice himself for the honor of being Iron Man Tony resolves that no one else should have to carry the burden and decides to remain Iron Man – although that changes when he becomes a drunk, but that’s about 100 issues away.
And by page three our story turns from wish fulfillment to a tale of broken hearts and misunderstandings. How often has this happened to you? You defect from your country, change your name and go into hiding from the KGB, get hired by the rival of the person you hate the most, fall in love with the owner of that company and then use a super suit of your own design to not only beat down the symbol of your rival’s company but also impress the girl you love? All the time, right? Well for Alex Niven, the new Crimson Dynamo, that’s exactly what’s going on.
The problem here is that the KGB in the Marvel Universe, unlike the real world, can send the Titanium Man to come get you when they find you.

Titanium Man is bad news. Ten feet tall in a battle armor that is comparable to Iron Man and piloted by a guy who is losing his humanity. Not good. Alex saves Janice, but Shellhead shows up assuming that he is stealing her away – classic comic book misunderstanding.

Janice tries to tell Iron Man that the Crimson Dynamo is helping, but he doesn’t listen. Originally I was going to point out that this is a mildly misogynistic trope from the 60’s, but then I thought about all the times Rene has said, “Why don’t you listen to me?” and it made me realize that, apparently, men just don’t listen to women. Since no one is listening, and there’s a Titanium Man rampaging about, people get hurt.

Alex, fearing the worst and wearing a damaged armor, runs away. Iron Man puts down Titanium Man and finds Janice near death. Which just goes to show that jealousy + super powerful battle armor = dead girlfriend.

Although the example is extreme, I can see with hindsight how jealousy and pointless bravado led to similar no win situations in my own life – especially in my teens. As much as an adolescent boy may think girls will like the 12 year old comic book action hero it rarely turns out to be true. Maybe if I had paid more attention to the life lessons in my comic books I could have avoided some of that (probably not).

See you next time!

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