Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Didjutal Comiks: IRON MAN #244

Digital comics are the future of comics, so says everyone on the Internet and everyone trying to justify their purchase of an iPad and leveraging that into a desperate attempt to generate content for their blogs and stuff. It is in this spirit that the management at Witless Prattle continues the following new, exciting, weirdly specific and slightly iconoclastic feature.

Iron Man #244

July 1989

"Yesterday . . .and Tomorrow"

Writer: David Michelenie & Bob Layton
Artists: Bob Layton (pencils) Bob Layton (inks)

In the wake of Kathy Dare shooting him through the spine and confining him to a wheelchair, Tony Stark has problems above and beyond his permed mullet--namely the typical "lead character gets crippled but doesn't want pity or anything so he acts like he has something to prove" cliche we've seen a million times.

Meanwhile, Roxxon decides this is an opportune time to mess with Stark Enterprises, so they send the Fixer to sabotage SE's latest project. Since Stark can't use the Iron Man armour, he asks Jim Rhodes to do it, but Rhodes bows out, citing his not-too-good history with the armour. This somehow trickles down to Carl Walker, the erstwhile Force, who got a new identity in the wake of his pre-Armor Wars arc we alluded to last time.

Meanwhile, Stark's still in his funk and decides now would be a good time to flash back to sometime in the recent past (or not, as the armour used in the flashback doesn't match the dialogue and it makes it hard to place in time) when he ran into an old but very close (so close we never heard about her until now!) flame, Joanna Niveneh, which leads into a further flashback, because this a double-sized issue and . . .y'know, I get the feeling there was a last-minute change here.

Anyways, we get Iron Man's origin recapped and add some to it--namely we see what happened when Stark returned from Vietnam (yes, it was Vietnam back then) and learned he couldn't get it on with Joanna, couldn't smoke, and got so tired of it he nearly killed himself when he threw the chestplate away.

So he elected to make the best of it--initially trying to mass-market the Iron Man armour, but when thieves try to break in and steal them, he gets cold feet, because he jolly well couldn't have it fall into the wrong hands, and so he decides to confide to Joanna and let her know what's going on. To cheer him up, she takes him to a tennis match . . .

. . .which is immediately attacked by terrorists. I would suggest that if you want to hijack a sports event to make a political statement, a sport wherein the spectators are actually awake would be a better choice, but oh well. Anyways, Iron Man beats their collective asses, and is called a hero, and at last the penny drops for him--this is a way to make the best of his condition. Joanna even says it's like an engineering project to him--being a hero, being Iron Man is like a technical problem, and he won't stop until he's perfected it, which is a pretty workable analysis of his character, I thought.

Anyways, Iron Man re-builds his armour so he can walk again and takes down the Fixer and the decks are cleared for the next story arc which will involve Madame Masque, the Hulk, and a cast of thousands of henchpeople.

I continue to think this issue was meant to be something else entirely. For one, it's a double-sized issue that doesn't really need to be, Bob Layton's penciling and inking and there are signs that some of it was done at the eleventh hour, and the whole thing is . . .very odd, really.

In fact, this whole late-period of Layton/Michelinie's second run is actually more interesting for the stuff that was happening behind the scenes than in the actual comic. For one thing--apparently there was substantial disagreement over how long Stark was going to stay in the wheelchair (I think it ended up being maybe five or six issues?) and a whole long arc had been planned wherein Stark would get addicted to being Iron Man because it was the only way he could walk, and then editorial got cold feet and it was rolled back.

The practical upshot of this is that ultimately Layton and Michelenie would soon pack up and leave for Valiant, although Layton was supposed to come back and write and ink the book, only he stayed at Valiant, and ultimately John Byrne took over and . . .yeah. We don't talk about that.

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