Steven R. Stahl made an interesting comment:
Steven R. Stahl has left a new comment on your post “A Gem of a Day“:
I’d be interested in an analysis of Iron Man, Mr. Shooter, mainly because I don’t think the character works well. He’s a combination of two characters: an inventor of a suit of armor and a millionaire playboy who has a vague desire to do good. There have been moments when the combination has done well, but not many, and Stark’s identity as a corporate chieftain is very thin. His various businesses have never existed in any substantive sense, except to cause trouble or to be attacked.
There’s also nowhere for Stark to go as a character if he doesn’t age. A playboy becomes repulsive if he ages to the point that he’s unattractive. Stark’s no exception.
I wouldn’t call Iron Man a failure as a character, given the movies’ successes, but he is a failure as a literary character. A novelist might separate him into two characters and then proceed.
I agree that Iron Man has rarely been handled well. There have been story problems and “literary” disasters in the portrayal, presentation and development of the character from the beginning. The ridiculous origin in Vietnam, is one. But I believe that the core of the character is solid. Genius, in fact. I believe Iron Man is not a failure as a literary character inherently, but far too often has been misunderstood, mishandled and misrepresented by comic book creative people.
It seems to me that some of the things about Iron Man that don’t work can easily be discarded or repaired. So, let’s assume a workable origin. Assume the weak or damaged heart and his means of dealing with it make sense given the current state of medical science as well as the super-science that is inherently part of the series. Assume that the armor is credible and works within context.
I haven’t researched it, but when I first read Iron Man in the 1960’s the idea of a non-super man empowered by the costume (in his case, armor) he wears was new to me. And I loved it. I still love it. The complexities of his character you mention (and others) and the conflicts that arise from them are unique and special. The dichotomies are not problems, but opportunities, in my way of thinking.
For instance, one of the keys to the character as established by Stan and Jack is compassion. Tony Stark has a heart. : ) In the Avengers issue wherein the Avengers battle the Hulk and Sub-Mariner (#3?) Iron Man keeps Sub-Mariner from falling into Thor’s hands because Thor is “too angry.” Tony won’t let even the bad guy get hurt if he can help it. That’s from memory, but I believe I’m correct. Incidents illustrating Stark’s compassion came along regularly.
|Here’s that panel. I found it in the Marvel Masterworks – JayJay|
However, Stark is a businessman, and pragmatic. He makes the tough decisions when he has to. One way I used that dichotomy was in an Avengers story Alan Weiss drew. When it seemed that the only way to save the world was to kill the momentarily helpless Molecule Man, other Avengers balked. Though I’d previously established his compassionate nature, Iron Man was ready to do what had to be done—however, Tigra found another way to save the day.
|I found the issue Jim referred to and I thought this two page sequence was interesting. – JayJay|
I’ll further explain my point of view when I do the review.
I bet we could think of lots of characters that have a brilliant concept, but quickly drifted away from it (and could be brought back to it).
The first example from ancient days that pops into my head is Silver Age Green Lantern. That drifted off-concept almost from the get-go, in my opinion. Test pilot Hal Jordan was the most fearless man in the world, therefore uniquely able to wield the greatest weapon in the universe, which ran on willpower, which is the ability to conquer fear. Within one issue he degraded to fighting menaces with giant green boxing gloves and household objects, no more mention of his core concept—his unique fearlessness. Said another way, the origin was all about Hal Jordan, the series ongoing was all about the “magic ring.” The nonsensical, trumped-up weakness against things colored yellow is proof to me that Julie and company lost it midway through the first story. They already had a limiting factor, willpower. No need for a silly “yellow peril” gimmick.
Also, I suspect we could name some characters who stumbled around in search of a concept for a while, then found one. The Hulk went through a number of concept changes (and one color change) in the first few issues. And it really wasn’t until the TV show came along and the TV writers clarified the concept that the right one stuck. Before the show, the intro box on the splash page said that Bruce Banner turned into the Hulk in “times of stress.” Len Wein and other writers played pretty fast and loose with that. Fear, pain, bad seafood, pretty much any “stress” turned Banner into the Hulk. Len once had a scene in which Banner was tied to a chair. In order to make himself become the Hulk, he hurt himself by tipping the chair over backwards so he’d thump his head on the floor.
TV writers crystallized the concept: anger brought out the Hulk. Perfect. “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
The other thing was that Banner always managed to become the Hulk when it was convenient, and becoming the Hulk always solved the problem. The TV show made a stab at the idea that it wasn’t convenient sometimes, that the Hulk was dangerous, unpredictable and not the answer to the problem sometimes. In fact, the Hulk increased the danger-ante. They, too, however, eventually lapsed into having Banner change at convenient times.
Meeting Gary Gygax On a Manhattan street I often traversed there was a store that sold nothing but role playing games. It was in the 50’s, not too far west of Fifth Avenue. 56th? 59th? Oh, I don’t know. It was called the Complete Strategist, I think, but I could be wrong about that, too. Obviously, the games they sold were designed so you and an opponent could re-fight, say, World War II, or Waterloo, or whatever. Someone who knew about such games explained a lot about them to me. I think it was Mike Barr.
Sometime during the first couple of years of my term as Editor in Chief of Marvel, I met and dated a brilliant, beautiful Canadian woman named Karen for as long as she could stand me.
Karen played this crazy thing with a rule book as thick as the Yellow Pages called Dungeons & Dragons. I never played with her and her D&D friends—it would have taken way to long for me to get up to speed—but I watched a few times.
So, I knew who Gary Gygax was. And I was very pleased to receive this memo from Vince Karp, one of Marvel’s agents.
Gygax, I figured, must be a very cool guy. Here’s the Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Gygax
Here’s Vince’s follow-up memo:
At the appointed time, Gary Gygax showed up with several executives of his company, TSR, Inc. I don’t remember their names or all their exact roles, but one was the Chief Financial Officer and the others were V.P.’s of this or that.
We met in Mike Hobson’s office, which, for those keeping score had previously been Stan’s office. I’ve described it somewhere along the way. Anyway, it was spacious and accommodating.
Present from the Marvel side were Vince Karp, Mike, me, and three people from upstairs—the President, Jim Galton and the directors of domestic and international licensing (later they each became V.P.’s).
Gary and his troops talked about what they did. Gary struck me as a brilliant, clever and creative guy.
I was also impressed that his top executives, suit-and-tie business people types who wouldn’t look out of place at MetLife, all knew the game and played the game. They clearly loved D&D.
Then it was our turn to talk about what we did. Galton and the licensing people made it clear that they were far too dignified and sophisticated as human beings to ever read a comic book. They joked about not knowing anything about the comics.
I have to believe the TSR people had to be a little insulted. If Marvel’s execs thought that proper adult business people worried only about dollars and deals, that actually reading the books would be somehow embarrassing, then what might they be thinking of TSR’s game-playing execs?
At least Mike had a fair idea of what D&D was, and of course, Vince did. I tried to show that I was familiar, too, and talk about the comics positively. Gygax and I had common ground when it came to the value of story.
If Alice Donenfeld, our wonderful, super-smart V.P. of Business Affairs had been there, I guarantee she would have done her homework, and that might have balanced things a bit, but no such luck.
We all went to lunch. The Marvel people wanted to talk numbers, units, dollars and deals. I wanted to talk more with Gygax about his own story and his creative vision. We got a few exchanges in, not many. I liked the guy.
Nothing ever came of that meeting. I think it was because the attitude of our brass turned the TSR people off.
However, a couple of years later, Marvel Productions co-produced a D&D animated show. I guess Vince and or his successors kept after the TSR people and eventually made that happen.
I ran into Gary Gygax several times after that at trade shows and such. We never had much time to talk. Too bad.
Items of Interest
Another DC newsstand sales figures memo:
We’ve spoken a lot about Steve Ditko here recently. Here’s a great little periodical about Steve and things Ditko that Rob Imes sends me. Thanks again, Rob. You can see how to get in touch with him on the indicia page below:
NEXT: Surprising Sinnott and More Items of Interest
JayJay here. Jim recently mentioned the Spider-Man Wedding party that Marvel threw at the Tunnel. I ran across the invitation yesterday: