Iron Man and his father

Iron Man is dead.  At least in this point in the comics.  It allows War Machine to take over the title for a few issues, but it mainly consists of James Rhodes angrily stomping his feet in frustration at every single situation that comes his way.  Seriously, for starring in his own superhero comic for these precious few issues, Rhodes has more angst than Spider-Man’s worst day.  Anyway, in Iron Man #285-288, written by Len Kaminski and drawn by Kevin Hopgood & Barry Kitson – Iron Man obviously not “dead” dead – our hero hallucinates about his past.  Mainly about his relationship with his father. Nowadays in current continuity, Tony Stark’s dad acts much like Batman’s dad: a paragon of the community and a role model for our superhero to aspire to be.  But not in these four issues.  Let’s meet a very different Howard Stark.

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Iron Man has been sober for about a hundred issues or so.  But all that previous alcohol fried his brain enough for him to repress all those awful memories of the domestic abuse committed by his boozy father.  We know this story as a constant theme in comics — terrible parents force the prodigal son to begin his never-ending quest seeking the approval of people who will never give it to him.  But this story factors so much into Iron Man’s personality: his love of machines, his superhero fantasies, his maniacal self-improvement, and his relentless drive; everything pretty much goes back to his father being a dick.

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I know he’s called Iron Man and his first two armors were made of iron, but let’s chalk his father’s proclamation up to a coincidence.  By the way, is it just me or is it weird to see Tony Stark without his mustache?  Even as a child.  That ten year-old needs to be rocking that pencil-thin mustache for me to be completely comfortable with this flashback.

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You see what happens when you let kids be exposed to fantasy?  They become billionaire playboy superheroes who gain the whole world’s adoration and love.  Off topic, but I do hold a firm belief that superheroes are America’s King Arthur.  Britain has their fictional greater-than-life heroes, complete with adventures and so on.  We Americans created our own fictional greater-than-life heroes, just with spandex and who punch mobsters as opposed to slaying dragons.  Though, if I can shamelessly plug, Green Arrow has totally slayed a dragon, so take that Lancelot or whoever.

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You should feel bad for Iron Man, and not because he lost his parents.  No, y’see, Iron Man is so amazing that nothing is difficult.  He’s good at everything.  He has no weaknesses.  He’s a god among men.  So shed your tears now, my friends.  Can we all take a minute and proclaim what a genius Stan Lee is?  He created Iron Man, a superhero literally no one can identify with (except maybe Elon Musk), injected into him the ego of an entire professional sports league, gave him everything the readers weren’t getting (like girls), and then somehow made this man a comic book superstar.

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You know what happens next.  Terrorists kidnap him or Vietcong or whatever’s the current group Iron Man first gets kidnapped by.  I know nowadays his superhero origin relies on an abduction somewhere in the Middle East, but that changes depending on what decade the Iron Man story takes place in.  But that incident propelled him to become a good person, warrior of justice, etc.  May we all hope that our own physical, mental, or emotional transformation doesn’t involve building a suit of armor to blow up terrorists.  But we should definitely hope that we can one day we could wear a pencil-thin mustache and still be called cool.  That’d be a decent enough transformation, I guess.

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Iron Man’s back to life!  On Monday, get ready for a surprise (because I don’t know what we’ll be reading at).

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