Monday, January 11, 2016

Iron Man--Recharged and Rebooted!

When writer Mike Friedrich came aboard Invincible Iron Man in mid-1972 to begin his 3½-year run, his first order of business was to CLEAN HOUSE in terms of getting Tony Stark's life back on track. In comic book terms, that meant making Stark less of a doormat who carries around a bum rap for manufacturing munitions and whose heart condition has him turning to his identity as Iron Man to have a sense of animation and thrill that he appears to lack in his personal life. Of course, it was his life as Iron Man, with his lousy suit of armor frequently malfunctioning or running out of power, which tended to exacerbate Stark's heart condition and sideline him to the point of being regarded as an invalid in the first place. Heck, just ask Bridget, Stark's stalwart cook:

(Jeez, I'd say you can just forget about that Christmas bonus, Bridget!)

So after the death of his close friend, Kevin O'Brien, and following a period of reflection that had him questioning whether he wanted to continue as Iron Man, Stark blurts out three words that he's probably been wanting to say for a lonnnnng time:

(Don't you love the symbolism of the Stark Industries logo happening to also bear a resemblance to the dollar sign? Who do you think you're fooling, Tony?)

Stark's first stop is his feisty Board of Directors, who aren't feeling so feisty when Stark calls their bluff and moves to regain personal control of his company.

(Oh, don't worry, Marianne Rodgers--you don't know it yet, but you'll also find yourself on Stark's hit list soon enough!)

The Board's Chairman, the power-hungry Simon Gilbert, has aggressively maneuvered himself (and the other Board members) into the position of capitalizing on Stark's difficulties, and now feels that Stark's embarrassment over the Guardsman debacle will effectively tie his hands as far as having any sort of clout to overcome the Board's show of strength. But the simple truth of the matter is that the Board is up this creek without a paddle, and, truthfully, always has been, since Stark owns controlling interest in his company. As long as that's the case, there can be only one way that this is going to go down.

Gilbert may be grumbling now, but his planning comes to naught when he meets his death trying to sabotage the factory after his hireling, Firebrand, fails to overcome Iron Man.

Next up: Stark takes his first steps towards shifting S.I. from a manufacturer of weapons of war to focusing on R&D and the tools of progress and peace.

Then there's Marianne, whom Stark is still in love with but whose powers of ExtraSensory Perception (which was getting all sorts of press around this time, if memory serves) have now suddenly included visions of the near-future--one of which involves Iron Man meeting his death at the hands of a monstrous figure when she is present at the scene. Unfortunately, when she arrives at Avengers Mansion in response to an "ESPer" flash that tells her that Stark needs her...

...her vision manifests in front of her eyes, which she takes as a sign that her presence will spell disaster for Iron Man if she stays with him.

(No, I don't know how Marianne can go charging in and out of Avengers Mansion as if she had her own membership card. Then again, this was well before Henry Gyrich stormed in and beefed up the mansion's security, so maybe she simply picked the lock.)

Thank goodness Stark pays the mansion's power bills, because Stark is resourceful enough to find a wall electrical socket (which you or I could never have done) and save himself. But the disaster that Marianne feared will turn out to be her own, if Stark's mood is any indication.

It's quite an abrupt end that Friedrich will bring to the relationship of Stark and Marianne, considering how long it's been going on in the pages of Iron Man and how only just recently Stark proposed to her. Why would Stark just slam the door on his commitment to his fiancée without first hearing the circumstances that led to an apparent betrayal on her part? Particularly when her ESP ability has otherwise been an advantage to him on more than one occasion? But just watch the whirlwind reasoning that Friedrich supplies Iron Man with to drop Marianne like a hot iron.

And so it comes to pass:

Wow! I wouldn't be surprised at this point if Stark phoned down to Security to have her escorted from the premises.

So, that takes care of:

☑ Putting Stark back in charge of his company;
☑ Choosing and implementing a new direction for Stark Industries;
☑ Severing ties with the last character remaining from the old days.

What does that leave? Oh, yeah--the armor!

Well, elation at a successful test run aside, Iron Man should never say "never" when it comes to his heart. Friedrich is obviously under the mistaken impression that Stark's heart is a transplant--though Friedrich is the new kid on this block, so he can be cut a little slack, especially when other writers like Gerry Conway have put forth the same misconception. Regardless, future writers would have Stark grabbing his chest again in no time. At any rate, the armor looks good to go!  (As long as there's a wall socket somewhere nearby.)


david_b said...

Much like the pre-Miller DD days, I really love the soap-opera'ness of these storylines. Don't know why. I did have a problem with the cover masthead boldly yelling 'THE INVINCIBLE IRONMAN' yet the covers were two-bit villains, protesters throwing acid, what have you...

Didn't **really** seem all that 'INVINCIBLE' to me. Glad to see Tony's complications inside the issues as well, with Stark Industries and love interests.

Great early-Bronze Marvel..!!

Anonymous said...

How about "The Irascible Iron Man"?
Naw...I guess not. I got nuthin'.

Comicsfan said...

The thing that always got me, david, is that Iron Man generally gave the impression that his reputation for coming out on top was something his foes might want to keep in mind when tackling him--that he was schooling those he went up against in how he's known for putting the smack-down on his challengers. Usually, heroes don't need to be their own press agent--nor do they need to depend on their girlfriends to drag them to a wall socket when their foe has pushed them beyond the limit of their endurance.

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