Some people ask me why I gave up on current comics. I answer that I didn’t; current comics gave up on me.
Don’t misunderstand me; I don’t oppose change simply because it’s different from what I grew up with. What I don’t like is when established characters are given a 180-degree about face, made to act completely in opposition to the way they’d been written for decades before. I’ve always said that a good writer can make stories that fit established characters, while a sloppy writer will change characters to fit his stories.
Case in point: Iron Man. For a long time he was my favorite comics character, but not very popular overall. In recent years, Marvel has made him a top moneymaker—by removing almost all the qualities that made him my favorite. He has been presented as a power-mad puppet master; and not only is this a complete reversal of his established character, they have tried to make us believe that he has been like this all the time, with this “Illuminati” nonsense that has apparently been going on behind the scenes since right after the Kree-Skrull War. I call B.S. on that.
I don’t think any single story illustrates my point any better than <I>Iron Man</I> (Volume One) #148, cover-dated July 1981. Co-written by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, penciled by John Romita Jr. and inked by Layton, this story is, simply put, a masterpiece. It’s a self-contained story, begun and finished in a single issue (yes, kids, they really did used to do that!).
Tony Stark gets word that his plant in a South American country with the (perhaps unimaginative) name of Costa Diablo has been taken over by revolutionaries who have taken over the country. His first, and only, priority, is to get his employees out; he is not worried about loss of his property or his technology, but about people’s lives. At first he tries going through proper channels, but when the American government takes a wait-and-see attitude, he takes matters into his own hands. As Iron Man he rescues the Stark employees being held in a lab facility, being forced to work for the new regime.
He learns from them that Ricardo Pruz, the chief administrator of the plant, is being held at the headquarters of the regime. Pruz is not only a trusted employee, but someone Stark counts as a friend. After safely seeing the employees to a waiting jet piloted by Jim Rhodes, Iron Man heads to the regime headquarters. After easily wading through their defenses, he learns to his horror that Pruz is actually the brains behind the revolution. He leaves, after giving a short speech on the dangers of seeking power for its own sake. In the epilogue, we learn that shortly afterward, General Caligerra, the “puppet” leader of the revolution, had executed Pruz to obtain the true power for himself.
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