Every comic book reader has their memories of stories they’ve read that have stuck with them forever. I’m not talking about the obvious huge moments like Jean Grey’s death (Her FIRST one!) or the Joker beating Jason Todd to death with a crowbar (Ugh!) I’m talking about more off-the-beaten path sort of moments. These are the classic moments that are remembered fondly but aren’t always talked about. Having read comic books since I was around eight years old and having read through that second Golden Age of comics now commonly referred to as the Bronze Age (I’m talking the late 70’s through the mid 80’s) I’ve racked up quite a few of these memories.
I was there when Batman quit the Justice League of America and then formed his own team, the Outsiders. I was there when the planet Lexor was accidentally destroyed during a cosmic battle between Superman and Lex Luthor clad in his brand new battle suit. I’ll never forget Ray Palmer, DC’s the Atom, catching his wife, Jean Loring, cheating on him. I’ll always remember the X-Men giving Rogue a hard time when she first came to them for help. Not having read any of the team’s previous history with her, I didn’t fully understand why they had a chip on their shoulder about her other than she was …albeit formerly…a bad guy. There are a lot of memories like this that may not have been big earth-shaking “nothing-will-ever-be-the-same-again” moments but they were memorable and special just because I read them and I read them when I was a kid. And when you’re a kid, you’re ripe to take in moments like this. It’s that old joke… “When was the Golden Age of comics?” “When you’re twelve!”
When it came to Iron Man, I’ll always remember vividly Iron Man #174. I’d only been reading Iron Man for just a few issues. I’d gotten most of my Iron Man fix from his appearances in the Avengers. As it happened, I’d just jumped onto Iron Man at a very special time. Poor ol’ Tony Stark had fallen off the wagon again. I’m pretty sure this was his second time going over the bend but this was going to be a bad one (and looking back, it was a bender that dragged on just a little two long!) Tony had lost his business to evil rival Obadiah Stane and he was in no shape to fly around as Iron Man. When trouble showed up, Tony’s best friend and his personal pilot, Jim Rhodes, stepped up, got in the armor, and became the new Iron Man. Somewhat reluctantly, Rhodes would remain Iron Man for the next two years or so until the book’s 200th issue when Tony resumed the role complete with a brand new suit of armor, his now classic red and silver design.
I was along for the whole ride and although as I said, Tony as a homeless drunk went on a bit too long, it was largely a very satisfying run. One of those memories I was talking about happened very early on during Rhodey’s tenure. Here’s the set-up… Obadiah Stane had taken over Stark International. He, and SHIELD, were eager to get their hands on Tony’s suits of Iron Man armor and they knew he kept them locked up in his lab at Stark International. Rhodes knew that he couldn’t let SHIELD and certainly not Stane get their hands on Tony’s old suits. Tony was sloshed but he was coherent enough to help Rhodey rig up a remote control system where Tony’s old suits would automatically follow Rhodey. While Stane and SHIELD attempted to pick the lock on the lab’s door, Rhodey escaped with a parade of Tony’s old suits flying behind him. Spoiler alert!! Eventually, Rhodey led the suits out to sea where he destroyed them and sank the remains to the bottom of the ocean. We weren’t as environmentally conscious back in those days.
The iconic cover to Iron Man #174 featured Rhodey flying in front of a wagon train of Tony’s old suits. Here is that classic cover by the solid Luke McDonnell:
The piece posted up top is my homage to this vividly memorable cover. I did, of course, take a few liberties with some of the suits I included. Tony hadn’t yet designed the two suits at the upper left at the time of the events of this issue. I also included the Space armor and the hydro armor even though they didn’t make the original cover. This was a fun one for me and Iron Man’s classic armor is always fun to draw. Incidentally, I’ve mentioned this before but my own personal favorite armor is that first red and gold armor designed by Steve Ditko with the peaked horns on the helmet and the grill on the mouth. That one’s always fun to draw.
What other often remembered but seldomly talked about comic book memories are out there? Let me know your favorite memories in the Comments below!
Thanks for looking, Everybody!