The Man of Iron
Being a comic writer I get asked a lot what my favorite comic is or was. To date, one of my favorite characters and comic books is Iron Man. My favorite storyline has to be, hands down, Demon in the Bottle. To understand why this story is branded into my childhood memories you have to understand the main character of this drama.
Iron Man is one of those heroes who show his true colors when you beat him into the ground. However, when he is face down in the dirt, fate tends to kick him a few times and ends up planting a firm boot on the back of Tony Stark’s neck to keep his face down in said dirt. His origin is a prime example of this train of thought. Stark created the armor so that he could live and fight another day. And fight he did right up to his five hundredth issue.
Now up until this story Tony Stark always had problems with his heart, keeping the armor power long enough to live another day. They never really start to hammer on the emotions of the man inside the armor. They just picked at his weakness and see how they could get him to overcome it. It got a little tiresome after some time.
Now comes along Demon in the Bottle and what that did was bring some of Tony’s fears to life. One of those fears involves what happens when you lose control of the things that define you. Stark not only loses control of his armor, his spot on the Avengers, and his butler, but he also loses controlling shares of his company to SHIELD.
How do you come back from that? Really a lesser human would be face down in an alleyway somewhere. Nope not good old Tony Stark because he has friends that help him through the booze problem, Iron Man ends up sinking Justin Hammer’s floating, he mended ways with the butler, and well he’ll think up something to beat SHIELD.
Now, this whole storyline ran nine issues. You don’t see that kind of writing these days. The cover shot of Tony Stark’s horrified reflection in the mirror alone gave the reader some idea of how badly Tony had fallen. Nine issues that Tony was beaten on and came back from, at the time, the worst ditch he dug for himself. These nine issues have been called the “quintessential Iron Man story” and they serve today as the stepping stone for stories to come. Most editors would demand that this kind of story be crammed into five issues because people’s attention span has greatly shortened. I can also include myself in that last state…….oh shiny!
Demon in the Bottle was written in 1979. Thirty-two years ago! And they still use elements from this story in recent storylines like the second Iron Man movie and countless other areas of the Iron Man storylines. This story not only stands the test of time, but it has also become a building block for anyone who wants to be a writer in the comic book world. Hey, it inspired me and I can hope that I write something that will be remembered in two years let alone thirty-two years.