Back when I did my last birthday post to pay tribute to Bob Layton I was heavily pimping the IRON MAN by David Micheline, Bob Layton & John Romita Jr Omnibus Hardcover and I hope all interested readers have gotten their copy in the meantime because - as I predicted - it´s not as cheap anymore and there´s a difference between 57 bucks and 75 bucks.
And that´s all the pimping I´m going to do. Let´s get down to business.
When I ended my last post about Iron Man I was talking about a new era of greatness that was just waiting around the corner and I´m not sure what I meant with that ( it was one year ago after all ) but I guess it had something to do with Tony´s new armor. Daddy got brand new threads.
The new armor and new penciler Mark D. Bright had just debuted in issue 200 but I didn´t get that issue so for me it all started with issue 201.
Back then I bought all my issues of american comics at the newsstand at the International Press newsstand at Stuttgart Grand Central which was one of the perks of doing your vocational education at the Deutsche Bundesbahn. A free ticket all year long. Anyway, like I have mentioned in previous posts you didn´t always get consecutive issues but with IRON MAN I was mostly lucky. And even if I didn´t get the anniversary issue I guess it was only the build up because with 201 you got the big resolution and everything old was new again. Before issue 200 Tony Stark had just recovered from his binge .... yes, there was a storyline besides the much lauded - and rightly so - DEMON IN A BOTTLE story which dealt with Tony becoming an alcoholic and it lasted from issue 169 to 182 which is the issue in which Tony first admitted that he had a problem and needed help.
So in issue 169 James Rhodes started wearing the armor and while Tony began dealing with his problems he still didn´t get back into the suit.
He started working again supplying tech and even donned some makeshift superhero costume to support Rhodey together with Hawkguy as Spare Parts Man ( or Nothing - In - Particular - Man, since Tony didn´t decide which name he liked best ) but Rhodey stayed in the role as Iron Man until issue 200 when Tony´s old enemy Obediah Stane ( yes, the one from the first Iron Man movie ) started his machinations to bring Tony down again and Rhodey was too injured to wear the new armor Tony was working on.
But for comic fans of my generation this was how we read comic books. For a number of issues the title had been doing what it always did, then came a new direction, or a new writer like Walter Simonson on THOR, started creating some buzz and you started picking up the book. Or it just was available. And if it was good you stayed with it like me on IRON MAN.
Issue 201 was probably not the best issue to ease into things and it most certainly was not what you call " reader friendly " or " a great jumping on point " because there were all kind of things happening. Tony had just defeated Obediah Stane and now he had to rescue his hostages, Madame Masque who had been in cahoots with Obediah ( at least until he dumped her ) may or may not have been captured / switched her identity with a woman to escape, Tigra, Mockingbird and Hawkguy came aid Tony who went up against Stane´s army and he got to show off all the new tricks the new armor had ( there were quite some new gadgets and weapons ).
So issue 201 was really a rollercoaster ride with a lot of action, subplots and a bit overwhelming for coming into the title. But it sure was fun.
Which was one of the main requirements for buying comics ( and keep buying them especially ) : anything but boring. You did not always get numbers in the right order or not even more than one issue of a title so the thing you were looking for was the highest possible entertainment. And IRON MAN was just what the doctor ordered. Tony Stark was back again in a brand new suit and while it looked a bit bulkier than previous models for the first time he wore something that looked like a real armor somebody could wear. With the broad neck part and the shoulder pads there might have been a manga reference there but it also had a nifty backpack where he could carry extra parts or plug in special equipment.
And in old Marvel TWO IN ONE manner you even got two Iron Men for the price of one in some issues with Tony Stark in the new armor and James Rhodes wearing Iron Man classic. Until James had an accident and almost was burned alive in the armor. You know, not that Tony Stark´s live had been a real picnic but Rhodey just had all kinds of bad luck when the Iron Man armor came into play. I know that the writers probably had to come up with a way to keep him out of the armor but when you just look at all the things that happened to him it is ridiculous. It is kind of strange that most of the time there was only one Iron Man since it would have gotten better results employing a full squad of iron law enforcers. And don´t tell me a wealthy man like Tony would have any problems to find qualified pilots. He just didn´t want to share the glory. But that´s just one example of wasted story potential. Anyway, even though we only got the double whammy with two Iron Men for a few issues James Rhodes later on adopted the War Machine identity so he kind of redeemed himself.
One thing that kind of bugs me is that typically, it´s the brother who almost gets fried. Not really a good idea. The same with making Johnny Storm a brother in the next movie. Even keeping aside the fact that Susan´s parents have some explaining to do why her brother is a brother when his sister is not a sister. But of all the team members you didn´t make the strong stone monster black, you didn´t make the smart guy black and you also didn´t make the hot babe that becomes invisible black.
Coming back to Bob Layton and IRON MAN, I said that I got " mostly " lucky because the next issue I got after IRON MAN 201 were issues 215 and 216 and from issue 219 I got the issues every month. Which might have been around the time when I got my first comic subscription from a real comicshop ( via mail order, using a catalogue because back then almost no comicshop had their own homepage ) or when my older brother started bringing me american comics from Nürtingen. With the erratic schedule the comics arrived in Stuttgart I used every opportunity I had to ride the train to Stuttgart Central Station and nagged the people at the newsstand until they finally gave me the address of the shop where they got their american comics from so I wouldn´t bother them anymore. I started with SHE HULK and AVENGERS WEST COAST which were both written and drawn by John Byrne and I was in comic heaven. Ah, the good old times. Of course my pull list expanded rapidly and when my brother started studying art in Nürtingen he wanted to get me to cancel my subscription with the shop I had used so far and order them all from Nürtingen because they had the issues earlier and they were cheaper.
Naturally I made the switch when I frequented the Free Art Academy myself, so that might have been an influence in me getting the issues more regularly which was right on scedule. Because after going up against The Ghost and Justin Hammer henchmen Force, Blizzard, Blacklash and Beetle one of Iron Man´s most famous stories started : ARMOR WARS.
The gist of the story was that somebody had stolen technology from Tony Stark and sold it all over the world ( without Tony Stark getting a profit out of it ) to every armor wearing two bit villain in the Marvel universe.
And being the egomaniac control freak that he is instead of filing a useless lawsuit Tony just took his intellectual property back no matter who´s head he had to bash in : Titanium Man and The Crimson Dynamo, S.H.I.E.L.D.´s mandroids - even Avengers Stingray and Captain America.
You know, Iron Man and Captain America have tussled so often over the last few decades that I have the theory that Tony just needs to smack the boy scout around a bit from time to time to feel superior. I bet he even does the Church Lady´s superior dance afterwards. Anyway, this story was sadly the final opus of the silver centurion armor as it was sent out to greener pastures. I´m not entirely sure what the reasoning for this was.
Maybe it didn´t go well with the readers ( which I doubt ) or maybe the artist wanted more royalties by creating a new armor. In the story Tony Stark goes breaking more and more rules and laws until the public ( which has no idea why he´s doing all this ) thinks Iron Man has finally gone off the deep end. So to prevent any financial loss for his company because of his own actions Tony has no other option than to officially fire his hired bodyguard Iron Man who is seemingly killed in action soon afterwards. As the silver centurion armor is associated with the killing Iron Man ( yes, read the story to find out how that happens ) Tony decides to retire the armor for good and in later issues they also add the information that the armor had some experimental technology that was bad for his health. But you can´t keep a dedicated man down and Tony is not quite finished with his vendetta, his STARK WARS. Which is how the story was first called in the comics but I guess because of the pressure from a movie company that has since been bought by Disney they changed it to the title under which it´s now known for. So for the final showdown against walking tank Firepower he comes up with a really horrendously ugly armor and that´s the last time we see the best armor there ever was in the comic book.
Or was it ?
Because it seems somebody at Marvel also was very fond of the silver and red armor so we got issue 232 in which Tony has a nightmare confronting him one more time with the demons that have plagued him lately. And to make it a special farewell the art is by the great Barry Windsor Smith.
Now originally I wanted to end the post with a DEJA VUE section of Bob Layton but I think instead I´ll just add more pages from IRON MAN 232.
So that´s it for this post about Bob Layton´s IRON MAN and in our next post - which may well be next year again - there will be a lot of returns. The return of one of my favorite artists, John Romita Jr., the return of ARMOR WARS and even the return of certain characters from the dead.
Which brings us to the topic of our next post. Death. As a follow up to the post about Namorita I wanted to talk a bit about death in comics since I´m not so sure I made my point why she should be resurrected. There are some deaths in comics that just have the purpose to serve a story and are badly written so I thought it would be a good idea to mention a few iconic ones that I found exceptionally well executed ( pun intended ).
Originally I just wanted to write something about death in comics in general but after I had collected all the necessary material for the post the whole day ( and most of the night ) was gone and since Today was Bob Layton´s birthday I couldn´t do it Today. But our next post will be about death in comics - or our next posts since I could bring it down to ten I want to talk about and I don´t think there will be any surprises there.
I noticed that it´s difficult to come up with comics that have nothing to do with death. Some characters like Swamp Thing become super heroes after death, some heroes like Batman are motivated by death and some characters like Barry Allen became much more important after death than they had ever been in their lifetime. So maybe that will be a whole thing.
So, time to come to an end. But wait, don´t go. We are not finished yet !
Barry Windsor Smith´s own website provided the black and white cover recreation of IRON MAN 232 , TRI - STATE ORIGINAL ART has more black and white pages from that issue, THE MARVEL AGE OF COMICS has one black and white page, you can find more pages from that issue - along with much more art by Barry - on the COLLECTED EDITIONS DISCUSSION FORUM and finally PENCIL INK also provided one of the color pages.
MARVEL COMICS OF THE 1980s celebrates Iron Man 3 week with a selection of their favorite splash pages from the 1980s and CBR´s WHEN WE FIRST MET series has a post on all of Iron Man´s armors.
My spanish readers might want to check out EL NORTE ESTA LLENO DE FRIO which has a very long post about Iron Man´s entire career and two shorter ones about CRISIS and FF by Matt Fraction and Mike Allred .
Thanks again, all your hard work is appreciated. Now on the video part I want to start with an interview from SLICE TV with artist Bob Layton.
Since you can never watch enough cartoons here´s ARMOR WARS.
Now I thought I had already posted this last video when I was doing the cosplay posts. I have to get back to that very soon as all the innovative costumes inspire me. Check out how the water bending is incorporated.
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