Once I shied away from superhero titles, but now I’m on a quest to stretch my comic book budget further… (for a summary of that journey see this post.)
I had looked for Iron Man lots on ebay for several weeks, but each auction was going for about $2/issue. While I wouldn’t object to paying that much, I pursued other bargains.
And then came a local comic book and toy convention. One stand was selling 15 comics for $10 and there was a large run of Iron Man. I took the 15 oldest titles they had and called it a day.
Not quite the 50 cent per issue standard that I seem to have settled on, but the fact that I considered the market value to be $2/issue made me feel like it was a good purchase. Plus, its still under $1/issue which is respectable… in certain circles. There are plenty of people in plenty of circles who would think any amount on comic books is a waste.
The run of 15 issues was from 197 – 216, with only one issue gaps. With current comic book prices, I would have only gotten 2 issues by spending the same amount on brand new titles.
My Familiarity With the Title
Mostly through Avengers titles that I acquired in my bargain hunting. In the issues where he was present, Tony Stark had developed a drinking problem and someone else (I presumed Rhodey) was in the Iron Man armor.
How were the Issues?
First off, they physically stunk. The moment I cracked the plastic I realized why they sold at such a bargain. Fortunately, it wasn’t a cigarette stench. Just musty. Probably the result of a previous owner storing them in a basement. I researched how to get rid of the smell and was relieved that there were a few techniques. What ultimately wound up working is that I switched their bags & boards. (Note this wasn’t even a technique I had found in my research).
Onto the stories… they were kind of all over the place. The run had some of the elements I love about comic books and plenty of the elements that were marks of lazy storytelling. What was especially surprising was that one issue consolidated both those extremes into one issue. I’m looking at you #202! I’m hoping to detail that emotional roller coaster in a different post.
But then there was issues #216, the last one in the run and wow was it one to end on! I refer to this as the issue of “No Ways”, because each time I turned a page to another plot twist I said “No Way!”
Not only was I lucky that I ended at #216, but in order to enjoy it I was lucky to start where I did. My run covered almost a two year time span in terms of publishing, and many of the story elements that build to #216 began around #175 from what I can tell from my (very lazy) internet research.
I found myself thinking that to get the amazing finale in 216 when it was released someone would have had to read the title for 2+ years!? No wonder story arcs are so much shorter now. With single issues priced as high as they are right now, no one has that type of patience. Then again, issues were written to take into account that many of the readers did not read consecutive issues. So there is a reasonable amount of retracing the story (admirably, not using flashbacks or making such light use of them that I cannot recall them). That is generally something that is lacking in the writing styles of current issues.
Some of the things that I felt detracted from the storytelling were:
- The amount of time it took to read an issue. While I wasn’t timing myself, these definitely were close to 30 minutes. That’s fine. But a 30 minute comic book read needs to be flawless, and that just wasn’t the case.
- The way Tony’s alcoholism was referenced. The characters reference this self destructive phase a lot, but in weird ways. The one that comes to mind is something like “back when I was pickling my brain with my alcohol problem.” I think another one could have been “drowning in cuckoo juice” or something to that effect. The point is that it trivializes the problem. This was pretty common in 1980’s storytelling across several formats. Sit-coms frequently had one episode dedicated to where a main character dealt with the demons of alcoholism for all of one episode. In TV time that might have been a week (the exception being Cheers whose introduced it’s main character as an alcoholic who owned a bar). Iron Man also borrows the idea that alcoholism is similar to nicotine addiction. It’s not. Neither are good, but alcoholism is far more complicated.
- The various dialects in Rhodey’s dialogue are inconsistent and frequently cringe worthy.
Ultimately, I’m not sure I’ll be reading these again or even keeping them.
Will I read it to my children?
I’ve offered, but they weren’t interested. Which is funny, because Iron Man is the favorite of at least one of my boys.
At some point in my bargain reading I started taking pictures of panels that I thought I could sneak into a Facebook comment or two and look totally hip. Here are the panels I’m saving for the right occasion. (but I’m leaving out one from issue from 216 because its a spoiler).