A day on the back issues connects my Defenders run with the forthcoming Essential Defenders 5 and gives me the last 5 Denny O'Neill Iron Man Issues I read. The Defenders issues can wait till that trade comes out but I feel a mamoth Iron Man re-read is imminent.
In other news the earliest Avengers story I'm missing is numbered in the 360s !
Inspired by the Iron Man: Iron Monger trade, I've dug out the back issues and ordered in to complete Denny O'Neill's run - I needed 6 at the start to give me the full run from 160. After all what's the point of having a back issue box if you don't read them occasionally ?
He sets out his stall from the word go with Stark having a dream about drinking and then a series of events over the next few issues manouveres him into a vunerable position where he starts drinking. I've got to the point where Jim Rhodes has put the armour on for the first time and it's starting to get real good now (c170)
So no sooner do we get a black guy in the Iron Man armour (170) then we get one of Marvel's major black super villains showing up (171). There isn't that many of them, but Thunderball is the most powerful by far. The wrecking ball makes him stand out from the rest of the Wrecking Crew a bit making him the most succesful of them solo - you see the Wrecker by himself every so often but it's rare Piledriver and Bulldozer get a solo appearance. This also gives Jim a foe based on Magic which he's got no idea how to deal with. We need more Thunderball appearances, he's great here having a strop cos his ex has got married.
By this point Jim's relying on Morley Irwin to explain the suit's function's for him. The plot necessitates his inclusion as Jim's not the technical genius Stark was. The issue also introduces his sister at an Electric plant. The Erwin's would be central to the Iron Man plots for the next few years and I was quite sad when they left the book.
You know given the later story where Cly's working for AIM you wonder if she's an AIM Agent here ? In which case what's she doing at the power plant ? Do AIM Plan to hold the plant to ransom ?
The next issue - a year into Denny O'Niell's run is pivotal issue. In 172 Stark Enterprises is going to the wall and the firm needs Stark 's signature on a bit of paper to fend off Obidiah Stane's take over bid. Stark's drinking himself silly down town and to help him find Stark, Rhodes calls in Tony's friend Captain America. At the same time Z list super villain Firebrand - yes, the same Firebrand who later organises the villain meet up where Scourge adds a new volume to the MU Book of the Dead - shows up and torches where Stark's staying leading Cap & Iron Man to have to choose between saving lives or getting Stark to the lawyers. They fight the fire, Stark Enterprises goes to the wall and in walks Stane at the end of the issue. Superb dramatic stuff.
Iron Man 172 is the first US comic I ever read in it's original format. Tiny bit of a soft spot, but it's still great stuff.
173 has Iron Man trying to "rescue" Stark's latest love, whose departure triggered his slide into drunkeness. IIRC not all is as it seems. Over this issue and the next few we have a stream of familiar Iron Man characters all giving their notice in to Stane which is quite a nice sight, as is the page where the dissenter - Vic Martinelli - explains why he's staying.
174 & 175 present a story where the spare Iron Man armours are put out of Stane (and SHIELD's) reach but inadvertantly end up with Warlord Krang. D'oh ! The solution to getting the Iron Man armours out of Stark's lab is quite a nice piece of internal continuity - Jim uses a tunneling device seen in the first appearance of the villain who returns in 169-170. Denny O'Neill's obviously read Marvel Team Up 110 as research for writing Iron Man.
Iron Man 176 features Rhodes & Irwin Morley turning their resignations in. Morley floats the idea of going into business together which leads Iron Man back to the kidnapper HQ from 172. 177 Crystalises the idea of the business brining Cly Morley in too - Jim tries to raise some money by renting out Iron Man's services - he goes to see Heroes for Hire who put a job his way which end up raising a lot of cash to kick star the business. His client, Regis Fuskey, take him into a warzone and a conflict with the Flying Tiger, who I thought Scourge got but apparently he's alive and well today. The issue ends with Jim having a blinding head ache - an important plot point for the next year and a bit. IM177 was one of the comics in the first big lot my father brought us home - the others are X-Men #176, Alpha Flight #5, Peter Parker the Spectacular Spiderman #85, Marvel Team Up #136, Power Man & Iron Fist #100, Incredible Hulk #290, Rom #49 & The Thing #6. And you know what ? Not a duff issue in that lot !
Iron Man Annual 6 slots in after this and is a tale more about the Eternals than Iron Man. Bar some introductory stuff it could have been Tony Stark in the armour - not sure Peter Gillis really got it.
178 is Assistant Editors month where in a spookily prescient move all the Gruenwald Books - edited by his Assistant Mike Carlin - adopt a look reminiscent of the classic DC cover dressing. First half is a tale about a group of kids with an Avengers club who chuck their Iron Man out cos his left the actual team. It's not half bad which is surprising cos Bob Harras wrote it ! In the second half the regular team tells a story about Stark taking a bet to stay sober for 12 hours, which introduces Gretl, a crucial character in the Stark Drunk story.
179 finds Fuskey putting some more business Rhodes' way which leads him to Hong Kong and then into China with issue 180 for a confrontation with the enslaved Radioactive Man and his master the Mandarin. Gretl meanwhile reveals she's pregnant which leads Stark on a trek round New York finding his funds sealed and homes confiscated while Gretl runs off into the coldest night for many years.... Iron Man faces the Mandarin and ends 180 under hynoptic control and about to slice open his own throat ! 180 was another issue I had as a child not knowing how the story began or ended !
Come Iron Man 181 a sudden attack of the painful headaches frees Jim from the Mandarin's control - A great example of "If you put the gun on the wall you must use the gun" A battle ensues which ends with Iron man returning to New York and taking his trip to the Secret Wars .....
182 is another key issue - Stark's hunting for the heavily pregnant Gretl in a snowstorm and his desire to keep the baby alive enables him to conquer his need for alcohol.
183 starts a trilogy of stories featuring the Zodiac. The Human Taurus - Van lunt - is having a spot of bother with the local Maggia who have hired the Android Taurus to kill him. Fortunately Van Lunt is using as a base a building owned by Regis Fuskey who calls Iron Man in - lovely scene where Fuskey rings Rhodes wanting to speak to Iron Man and Rhodes goes off and puts the helmet on before speaking in character. Another of the issues I owned as a youngster as is 185
184 is a lesson in "How to be a crap super villain" as three of the Zodiac try to kill Jim/Tony/Morley brethren as they move West to California. Aries is particularly rubbish ! But in 185 Aquarius does a much better job.... well for a while anyway.
This run of issues continues the running plot of Jim's headaches and introduces a new theme of him being jealous of Stark and wanting to keep the armour for himself.
Iron Man 186 & 187 concern a new Villain, Vibro. He's a bit of a loser to be honest, but a powerful one, imeadiately breaking out of the jail he ends up in for a second go. This is what leads to Rhodes getting Stark to fix the Repulsors even though he's having more and more problems with Tony. 185 & 186 were the only consecutive issues of the title I owned when younger. 186 worked much better for me then, now it's a bit "yeah...."
It's around here that the Jim Rhodes Iron Man joins the West Coast Avengers - they think he's the original and it's not till later in the original WCA LS that they find out who he is. In a neat cross sell Iron Man Annual 7 guest stars the WCA. A continuity fest of an issue has an old Spider Woman Villain turn the former Power Man - the villain, not Luke Cage - into the new Goliath. Iron Man 187's letter page tells you where this fits into the WCA LS and Iron Man while the Annual's letter page (!) tells you where all the obscure cast have appeared before. Top notch as extras. *AND* It's written by Bob Harras which makes me feel a little more hopeful about my up & coming Avengers 320+ read.... The only small slip up is the reveal of the name of the Stark/Irwin/Rhodes company in caption before it's debut in the next regular issue...
188 introduces the new Brothers Grimm. So so stuff but during it the Rhodes antagonism towards Stark builds up to a climax with Rhodes admitting to himself he hates Stark. Meanwhile Tony has started work on some ideas using armour..... The story seems to have flatlined a bit since Stark got sober and we moved west. I'm not liking the resentment that Jim Rhodes is showing, that's not working well for me even though I know it's a vital cog in the plot that will move things forward in a few issues time.
I've modified my reading strategy of five issues at a time to bring me to the point where 192 is the end of a chunk ....
189 introduces the Termite, a Mutant thug who's doing lots of damage to firms in California. Turns out he's on the payroll of Obidiah Stane, unseen for a good year in the comic. Jim's loosing it more and more through this issue and 190 - he's not happy when he finds out Tony's building new armour. Tony solves the Termite problem by getting the Scarlet Witch to obtain - from Gyrich - Forge's Mutant Neutraliser gun (X-Men 185) which they use to rob the termite of his powers and Jim destoys in a fit of pique.
This leads into a big confrontation between the two of them in 191 & 192. Some legal idiot has brought Vibro back to California for trial and Jim behaves recklessly confronting him in a public place forcing Tony to reluctantly don the other Iron Man armour to stop him. Jim is jealousy of Tony who he thinks wants the Iron Man armour back when to Tony it's the last thing on his mind ! The issue ends with the two having made up. 192 was another issue I had when younger.
Now I get to switch to Trades for the first time in this run !
I've talked about the Iron Man: Iron Monger trade that collects these issues before. The themes running here are that Stark doesn't want to be Iron Man and Jim's trying to solve the issue of the headaches.
Following their battle Jim goes to seek help in 193 while Stark goes to see Hawkeye to turn in Jim's resignation from the West Coast Avengers. This is after the WCA limited series finished and during the 190s Iron Man is almost a surrogate WCA title with most of the cast appearing at some point. Here Tigra gets attacked by a "name removed for copyright reasons" monster being manipulated by Doctor Demonicus. Hawkeye & Mockingbird go looking for her with Stark who despite all his statements ends up involved in the battle and carting off the monster out to the ocean .....
where in 194 the power in the armour fails, and we get a very symbolic scene where he sheds the armour so he doesn't sink. Jim meanwhile goes to see Hank Pym on Stark's recomendation - very clever this as it moves Pym back onto the playing field and places him on the West Coast ahead of WCA (ongoing) #1. He and his assitant Alice Nugent (later Doctor Spectrum) are working on something involving the dimension connected to the shrinking powers which - thanks to the intervention of a criminal - Pym gets trapped in leading Iron Man to rescue him ! 194 is famous as the Enforcer - hired by Stane's as yet unrevealed female associate to kill the Termite - becomes the first victim of the Scourge of the Underworld.
Looking at it now this issue seems to have little function other than to bring Pym back especially as in 195 Jim's trapped in another dimension again, this time with the help of Alpha Flight's Shaman who finally sorts out the cause of the headache problem albeit leaving the gold armour behind in the process !
So at the start of 196 neither Tony nor Jim have armour - though Tony is building a replacement set at the WCA compound. However Doctor Demonicus has found the discarded silver set and decides to use it to gain revenge on the Avengers while the gold set is found by an extra dimensional being who decides to bring it back to it's owner. Both sets end up fighting with Stark donning some parts of the new armour with a costume to intervene. It always struck me as odd that they didn't make the extra dimensional being the Beyonder as he comes to Earth at precisely this time - indeed between this issue and the next Jim will face him in Secret Wars II #1. This is the last issue of Iron Man my Dad brought me home from work when I was young.
Through all this the menace of Stane's being built up again. Just a page here and there, a TV appearance criticising Iron Man (the possessed gold suit caused some damage on it's way back to Jim). It's obvious a confrontation is coming soon.
197 is a return bout with Thundersword (from Secret Wars II #1) Ever noticed that Thundersword's winged horse is Bormoir as opposed to the Valkyrie's Aragorn ? It's at this point that Stane starts kidnapping Stark's former friends - Bethany Cabe gets snatched here.
198 is the Stane origin issue - partially reprinted in the UK Secret Wars comic. The silver armour gets slagged in this issue.
199 more kidnappings .... and a bomb opened at Circuits Maximus. But who dies ? I remember reading this in my Local Comic Shop when it came out and hoping it wasn't James Rhodes.
And so to 200. I think this had been the entire focus of the O'Neill run - let's tear Stark down and put him back in armour for the big numbered issue. And as a bonus let's redesign Iron Man. I liked the new Iron Man design at the time but thought - as I still do - that the enlarged helmet looks very odd and think they should have stuck to a design similar to the previous suit. I can see why they brought in new Armour, everyone was changing their look at this stage of the 80s. Of course this is the start of the Iron Man Fashion wars between artists - every 20-30 issues a new artist will redesign the armour with increasingly temporary and dated results. Go back to the version that served during the later sixties, the seventies and early 80s - it's a timeless classic. The comic's logo changes this issue loosing the iron like look with rivets and becoming a generic comics logo. Of course we get lots of action showing off the new armour and a big fight with Stane but essentially this issue is a huge reset button putting Stark back in the Armour - compare this to the developments in X-Men 200 on sale a month later. It doesn't help that the 2 big reveals in this issue had been spoiled a month or so earlier with the release of West Coast Avengers (ongoing) 1 which shows Tony Stark in the new armour ! D'oh ! Hold off a month or so on publishing or exclude Iron Man from the first few issues. Deary Me. At the time I was "ooooh, new Iron Man armour" which I think was the desired effect. Now this issue isn't so good in my eyes being the end of Jim Rhodes' run in the armour and - as I said above - virtually a huge reset button.
A shadow of what's gone before unfortunately,just conventional comic run around.
So overall for the O'Neill run: starts superbly but trails off after Stark stops drinking and from there on each milestone - the Stark/Rhodes fight and 200 - signals a big downturn. The sooner the earlier issues in the run are traded - 160 - 183 the better.
I'm going to push on with Iron Man though - I have an urge to read Armour Wars again and might as welll read on.
I've just bought the last 2 Chris Claremont New Mutants I needed. Lord knows why I never got round to them before.
I also bought the Marvel Team Up Annual 6 having seen it listed on Bullpen Bulletins in a back issues - I read the checklist each month and tot up how many I own - I think the record is 22 ! It's Spider Man, Cloak & Dagger and the New Mutants - it's post Karma and pre Magma so there's only 4 of them. This issue gets referred to loads and I'd never read it - it's almost a surprise it's not in the New Mutants Classic trade as Claremont uses the events within in New Mutants 23, 24 & 25 Do you need a further recomendation ? OK it's got the words on it which are the late 70s/early 80s seal of Marvel Quality: "Writer: Bill Mantlo"
I noticed Denny O'Neill had done a single Iron Man issue - as a fill in ? - 2 months before his run started. Iron Man 158 is quite an interesting "done in one" tale about an abusive son harnessing his Mother's latent powers to drain energy. Iron Man spends a lot of this issue wandering around with his helmet off and it's a surprise neither Mother or Son recognises him as the famous Tony Stark. Art by Carmine Infantino
I mention the art because the next issue 159 (written by Roger McKenzie and bridging the O'Niell one off and the start of his run which I also bought cos I can't stand gaps in my collection) has some stunning early Paul Smith art. Like his Uncanny X-Men ? Same stuff. And Diablo's in this issue. RESULT !
Phil - Mostly Superman Meets... comics (though I have kept SUPERMAN MEETS HE-MAN and SUPERMAN MEETS SANTA CLAUS), Action Comics, JLE, Green Lantern, stuff like that. There is some Alan Moore Swamp Thing, I seem to remember, but those issues are quite battered