Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Score One More for Capitalist Decadence


Sifting through the battles between the Titanium Man and his western counterpart, Iron Man, it becomes clear how trapped the former character seems to be in his own profile. Outside of the stabs he's taken at independence with his associations with the Titanic Three and, to an extent, Half-Face, his loyalties have remained with his homeland and the communist party; and when he falls out of favor with them, his goal is to win his way back into their good graces. So it comes as little surprise when he makes yet another high-profile attack on Iron Man, sounding almost like a broken record:



We've come full-circle with the Titanium Man--and if you've followed this series of posts every step of the way, you're probably wondering as much as I am what's been accomplished with him. And that's mainly been the point--to see if I could understand why this villain has lasted as long as he has, only to go basically nowhere. Iron Man, as well as Captain America, are also products of their backgrounds and times, and both had to evolve from those confines if they were to survive as contemporary super-beings. Cap, for instance, had to cease being the steadfast carrier of the flag and instead shift his "mission" to fighting for the American dream, which put him more in touch with the people he was fighting for. Iron Man, the virtual poster boy for Stark Industries, a weapons manufacturer and supporter of the war in Vietnam, had to discard that image in favor of scientific and engineering initiatives designed to make the world a better place. By contrast, the Titanium Man's tired dogma of party loyalty and capitalist derision haven't budged one iota in the fifteen years since his first appearance.

And so once more, he meets Iron Man in battle, in the hopes of letting his superiors in Moscow see that he still has what it takes to be their top operative--and this time, he'll punctuate that message by destroying New York City, as well. How ironic that this all started as an arranged match where the stakes were just in terms of a propaganda victory, with the countries of both participants willingly endorsing the fight; yet now, with the Titanium Man's unilateral plan to cause such death and destruction, those in power in Russia are probably scrambling to disavow any knowledge of his actions, since a victory on his part could mean the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and most likely take both countries to the brink of war if the U.S. government believes he's still acting on orders.



It seems only fitting that we're reintroduced to the man who has spent so many years of his life chasing a dream of ambition which never materialized--Boris Bullski, whom we see here in a rare moment of self-reflection that, while humanizing him to a certain extent, makes it clear to us that the Titanium Man has been battling his way all these years to a dead end:



That "plan" is basically a variation on the same theme: smashing Iron Man, and then New York. It doesn't occur to Bullski that a government operative never draws attention to himself or his superiors. And I'd say that invading New York is bloody well drawing attention to yourself:



(No, I don't know how a gargantuan armor-clad villain who can hoist police cars in the air like barbells can still fit in a chair to look at pictures of his family. That's some artistic license.)

But Iron Man is making a comeback himself, in a way--beating a manufactured murder rap and working to regain the favor of the people he fights for. So in effect, each of these men is striving for something important to them, making this battle one that will go down in the record books. Yet there is only one hero here--and he acts quickly to protect the innocents that his foe would crush:



And check out this nice touch--the Titanium Man's stasis beam, which he used in his second battle with Iron Man. I don't know how long ago these two fought in Marvel time, but it's been long enough for Shellhead to have gone through a refit or three:



Of course, the Titanium Man has an advantage very basic to his makeup, should he get the chance to use it--his great, armor-enhanced strength. In fact, he's tried employing it against Iron Man several times, though his smaller foe has usually managed to check that advantage. In this battle, Iron Man has the strategy of Captain America to help him:



But this is the Titanium Man, folks, and this isn't going to be a battle between athletes:



In a way, the fight reminds me of Superman II, where the hero finds that the battle taking place in such a populated area can be used against him. And what's good enough for Ursa and Non is good enough for Boris Bullski:



Though it beats me why General Zod never thought of doing something like this:




But whose story is this, anyway? Though his caped fellow crime-fighter would probably follow Iron Man's lead here, which just begs for some John Williams fanfare:



With Iron Man now on his power reserves, he realizes that he has to bring this fight to an end quickly, or not at all. And in a sense of symmetry, his fifth battle with the Titanium Man comes to a close in another arena of sorts, in front of a crowd of onlookers:



You'd think after all this time, the Titanium Man would relocate that darned control center of his to somewhere less vulnerable--like, say, his big toe. Or how about booby-trapping his helmet, like Iron Man's? Or maybe keeping your foe out of arm's reach of your most vital component while you're trying to crush him? But since Bullski didn't hire me as his consultant, Iron Man ends up taking advantage of the "opening" he's given and hands him yet another defeat:




And while those in power in Moscow are either breathing a sigh of relief or fuming, Iron Man receives a much more meaningful response:



As for the Titanium Man, we'll now leave him as we found him--defaced and once again at loose ends. For what it's worth, he'll be back in the employ of Moscow soon enough, this time with the KGB; and he had one or two more dealings with both Tony Stark and Iron Man. But this is where he made his last stand, as far as I'm concerned, both against Iron Man and as a character.  I'll always regard him as one of Iron Man's classic villains--even though it's probably safe to say that the only impact he ever really made was when he hit the ground.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Despite being a Bronze-Age of comics junkie, I was never a big fan of Iron Man, although I'm not sure why, exactly. His rogue's gallery, I thought, was less than compelling, his motivations contrived and it seemed to me that ol' Shellhead worked better in the team concept of the Avengers.
As for Boris, apparently those hormone treatments worked a little to well, and its interesting to see how the character was viewed differently in the 70's and 80's than the 60's, when he was characterized as just another in a long line of craven communist bullies.
Steve Gerber and Steve Engleheart both addressed the paradoxes that patriotic Russian superheroes might have dealt with during that time; I thought that the female Red Guardian was a great character in a lot ways.

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