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Note to Marvel Comics continuity nerds.

Just picked up Iron Man #171 (Vol. 1); this is the June 1983 issue, written by Denny O'Neil, pencilled by Luke McDonnell and inked by Steve Mitchell, and is the second issue featuring Tony Stark's pilot and friend, James Rhodes ("Rhodey"), as Iron Man, since Tony was determined at this point to stay off the wagon after Marvel's answer to Lex Luthor, Obadiah (oblah-dee, oblah-dah, whoooooaa...) Stane, pushed him off. Rhodey fights one of the Wrecker's Wrecking Crew, Thunderball (supposedly the intelligent member of the group, though you'd be hard pressed to tell by the way he acts here...), in this one.

Never was a huge fan of Denny O'Neil's work, but I liked his run on Iron Man better than I did his stint on Daredevil. I liked his tenure on IM enough to pick up a couple of issues he'd scripted when I spotted them at a comic shop for a nice price.

Got a real shock when I read this one, though. No, not that Tony Stark was busily pickling his brains for the second (and more realistic) time. Not that Rhodey was still struggling to master the Iron Man suit with the help of a nerdy new hire at Stark International, Morley Erwin. Not even that Morley had an even brainier, and much better looking, big sister named Clytemnestra ("Cly") Erwin, who makes her first appearance here, or that Thunderball's diction was uncharacteristically no more elevated than that of his erstwhile partners in the Wrecking Crew.

No. The real shock for this recovering Marvel Zombie is the fact that Tony Stark hooked up, for this one issue only, with Heather Glenn.

Yes, Heather Glenn: the ditzy, zany, perky, and incredibly annoying Heather Glenn introduced by Marv Wolfman when he wrote Daredevil as one of ol' Hornhead's love interests; the Heather Glenn whose industrialist daddy Maxwell Glenn was controlled by the Purple Man, jugged for nefarious corporate misdeeds, and ordered to commit suicide so that the cops (and Daredevil) couldn't walk the cat back to purple puss's lair, when Jim Shooter wrote DD; the Heather Glenn whom Frank Miller dumbed down and sexed (and boozed) up during his first run on the title as writer and penciller, and who finally committed suicide under Denny O'Neil's watch since Miller had Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Heather had learned DD's true identity when Jim Shooter wrote the comic) destroy her financial independence and her sense of worth on a whim while fending off another old flame, an especially hot-to-trot Black Widow, and trying to prevent a band of evil ninjas called The Hand from resurrecting another paramour, the (then) very much deceased Elektra. Heather Glenn: the bob-haired minx who once told a roomful of would-be suitors: "At ease, men. I'm a flirt, not a gymnast."

That Heather Glenn.

Talk about your toxic relationships....

I was reading Daredevil at the time, even if I'd begged off of Iron Man for almost a year. (I dropped IM from #169 -- Tony's last stint as Shellhead for a couple dozen issues or so -- until #179 -- the start of Rhodey's first fight with the Mandarin -- partly due to difficulty getting to a store to buy the new issues but also partly because I wasn't too jazzed with where Denny O'Neil was taking the book. I had a subscription to DD at the time [DD Vol. 1, #195 hit the stands the same time that IM Vol. 1, #171 did], but let it lapse before the 200th issue [which featured the return of Bullseye, all souped up with adamantium-laced bones, á la Wolverine].) But, man, I sure don't remember Heather mentioning that she'd had a highland fling with Tony Stark, the "cool exec with a heart of steel."

Tony and Heather. Oh, let me count the ways in which that was not such a good idea for either one of them....


( 4 monkeys shocked! — shock the monkey! )
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 29th, 2006 04:24 pm (UTC)
No, that would've been Gretl, a homeless alcoholic lady with strawberry blonde hair whom Stark took up with (she called him "Tones"). She ended up giving birth on a stoop during a terrible blizzard and dying, and Stark nearly died himself, but he managed to keep the baby warm with his body heat. That was IM #182 ("Deliverance"), and Denny O'Neil ended with a quote from Buddha ("Work out your salvation with diligence"). This was also the issue that Rhodey came back from the Secret Wars with his armor jury-rigged with a bunch of alien tech (plus stuff cannibalized from Hawkeye's arrows and some gizmos of Reed Richards', IIRC), but he didn't find out that it didn't work so hot on Earth until the next issue. (That's why he ended up facing the android Taurus without benefit of gloves equipped with repulsor rays; he had to go to Machine Man's mechanic buddy Gears Garvin to get flexible metal gauntlets, sans weaponry, so he wouldn't be running around with his hands hanging out.)

Yeah, funny about Stark's kid: David Micheline seemed rather eager to jettison most of O'Neil's innovations (Rhodey's jealous, insecure rage at giving up the armor; Stark's ambivalence about resuming wearing it; Clytemnestra Erwin as a possible love interest for Stark, and a rather unique one in that she saw him nearly at his worst before she began to see what was so great about him; Stark without a globe-spanning corporation; etc.) when he resumed scripting chores, and not even Byrne mentioned him when he wrote IM for twenty-odd issues or so. What ever did happen to Stark's love child?

Micheline's issues wear thin after re-reading a dozen of them or so at a pop, but I find myself pulling them out a lot more often than the O'Neil ones; guess I don't like my Iron Man too realistic at that. That said, I rather liked Len Kaminsky's stint, even though I have quibbles about the level of rage he depicted Rhodey as having and, more seriously, his ret-conning a buddy-buddy relationship between Natasha Romanova and Boris Bullsky (the first Titanium Man), after Bill Mantlo in The Champions made it pretty clear that they weren't kissing cousins. (Loved the "Boris & Natasha" crack that Stark made at the end of that arc, though, and the fact that she went to a lingerie shop in Moscow to cobble together a version of her first Black Widow costume just for him. *Sniff* I didn't know she cared...)

Jan. 29th, 2006 12:53 pm (UTC)
May I recommend Joe Casey & Frazer Irving's IRON MAN: THE INEVITABLE mini-series, on stands now? It's actually good in a way that the core book has not been in a long time -- Irving's art has a moody Art Deco vibe. I would also advise staying far away from Warren Ellis's limp, heartless trademark-service in the main book, but, again, this is only my opinion.
Jan. 29th, 2006 04:33 pm (UTC)
Honestly, I don't know if I can stomach Marvel again; I finally bailed after the double-barreled bollocks of the "Heroes Reborn" and "Avengers: The Crossing" storylines, and have only dipped my toe in the Marvel waters again occasionally for a couple of Fantastic Four mini series (Grant Morrison's interesting but, on the whole, unsuccessful Fantastic Four 1-2-3-4 and the "real world FF" of Unstable Molecules), Marvel Universe, Lost Generation, X-Men: The Hidden Years, Pete Milligan's X-Factor/X-Statix, Morrison's New X-Men, and the first three or four issues of Namor-as-a-pubescent).

Have to admit that I came very close to picking up IM again when Roger Stern wrote it, but I was afraid of references to the horrible "Teen Stark" days after "Heroes Reborn" and "The Crossing."

My discernment is pretty funny considering that IM went through some significant periods of suckage in the 1970s, when I first got into him. *Shrug*
Jan. 30th, 2006 06:44 am (UTC)
Point taken -- I, too, would just as soon pretend that Teen Tony had never happened. Really, Iron Man is one of those long-running characters who seems to be more often mishandled than done correctly, yet we all carry around this platonic ideal of The Perfect Iron Man Story in our heads as if it could be willed into being (paging Matt Rossi?) while gritting our teeth at the subpar ones that are typically ladled out. I guess I'm liking INEVITABLE so much because Casey is doing more or less what I would do if I were a comic book writer; keeping references to past continuity light (although he throws in some choice Easter eggs for longtime fans, and Tony's disastrous stint as SecDef and resultant lack of credibility in claiming that he is no longer wearing the armor is a plot point) and focusing on the core elements of corporate skulduggery, tech-based villains, and Tony's complex character and private demons (is he really trying to rehabilitate the Living Laser out of pure altruism, or is something else up?).

To the extent that I am capable of making that judgment, I'd say it's a good jumping-on point for a new reader; you don't need to know that Spymaster and the Ghost are leftovers from a late-'80s Michelinie/Layton plot to enjoy it, although there's an added frisson if you do. Trust me, no Teen Tony references here. Anyway, I'll quit with the street-teaming; it's just that it's been years and years since I read a good Iron Man story and I think Casey deserves recognition for delivering one. Four issues left to go, so I guess it could still all go pear-shaped.

Meanwhile, over in the main IM title, Ellis is making Tony into a "nanotech cyborg" who stores his armor in the hollows of his bones. Gah.

Bit off-topic, but if you enjoyed Force/Statix, Milligan has a new Dead Girl mini out; best Dr. Strange characterization in ages. It seems like the mini-seriatim and not the main titles are the best bets at Marvel these days . . .
( 4 monkeys shocked! — shock the monkey! )


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