Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Precioussssss

Comic book matchups that had you scratching your head--
but still made you curious about how the fight would turn out.

Welcome to another installment in a series of posts we could only call:

I haven't yet read Sean Howe's book, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, so I'm not really clear on the mechanics of how a story at Marvel gets pitched or by whom, or if one is simply assigned to a book's resident writer. But let's say for the sake of argument that it's the writer who charts the book's direction (or at least contributes to it), and the editor then signs off on the story idea which the writer then works out with the artist. I'm sure that's way over-simplifying it, but let's stick with that for now.

So this is how I would imagine this story's concept being proposed by the writer of Invincible Iron Man at the time, Mike Friedrich, to editor Roy Thomas:
MF: I'd like to have Iron Man battle Princess Python.
RT: ...
MF: Roy?
RT: The snake charmer?
MF: Yeah!
RT: But--she doesn't have any powers. She just has her pet python.
MF: Um hmm, I know.
RT: So it'll basically be Iron Man vs. a python.
MF: And Princess Python, yeah.
RT: Iron Man. Pitting his armored might against a python.
MF: I can make it work, seriously! Think of it--Princess Python, going up against Iron Man!
I have to assume that Thomas had to take an important call at that moment and put this meeting on the back burner, because somehow this premise made it into production and appeared in Iron Man #50. Fifty issues of Iron Man, and we find him going up against foes like Princess Python. Whether you can count Iron Man to be a successful title at this point is a matter of perspective, I guess.

At any rate, let's do a fast-forward and show you the only climax we can expect from a threat to Iron Man by the Princess's python:

Except that the python is doing its best to crush Iron Man's armor--but unless that armor is crinkling, or bending, or weakening in any way (and it isn't), the man inside that armor isn't being crushed one bit. Not even tickled. And since it wouldn't do Iron Man's rep any good in villain circles if word got around that a python had the strength to damage his armor, we can assume that his armor weathered this "attack" with flying colors.

So that takes care of the python. What about any threat Princess Python brings to the table? Well, since she's usually operated with the Ringmaster's Circus of Crime, and since that was just a group of thieves, she's not about to change her stripes now. And since a ransom demand for the safe return of Tony Stark would represent a lot of money for her, she snatches him during an interview:

However, while Iron Man may have a problem with breaking a python's grip, it seems to be a snap for Tony Stark:

And after Stark ducks into some bushes and changes to Iron Man, the battle we've all been waiting for is finally joined. At least Princess Python has an idea of who is outmatched in this fight:

Give the Princess her props--she was putting "my precious" into circulation long before Gollum made it to the screen. And speaking of circulation, Iron Man is still afraid of losing his because he thinks his armor isn't strong enough to withstand a python's attack:

Tell me I didn't just hear Iron Man conclude that he'd need to use "all his strength" to free himself from this python's grip. At least we know that if Iron Man ever turns bad, all the military would have to do is send two or three trained pythons against him. I could even name the perfect Princess to head the task force.

After a brief accidental bath in some rocket fuel compounds, the python is rendered immune to Iron Man's repulsor blasts. And so the Princess sics it on him again, while Iron Man is hovering over a vat of acid--which brings us back to our beginning scene above. Now, as far as I can tell, there's no part of this snake that's affecting Iron Man's boot jets, so his life isn't in danger. But you'd never know it by how Iron Man makes an ultimate effort to triumph over this python, as if time were of the essence:

Wow, Iron Man has "conquered" a python.  I can see the ticker tape parades already.  Anyway, the python isn't equipped with boot jets, and we do have a vat of acid waiting below, so:

But Iron Man manages to save the Princess, and promises to get her some psychiatric care. Gosh, where will those doctors start? Her criminal history? Her fixation on large deadly snakes? But I know the big question that has to be on everyone's mind: hasn't Princess Python more than proven her ability to take the place of the Mandarin as Iron Man's arch enemy? Assuming she can lay her hands on another python.  Iron Man's other enemies may want one of their very own.

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