Thursday, May 01, 2008

Iron-Clad Memories

Last week was my birthday, and one of my birthday presents from my

wife (besides the dinner at Lawry's Prime Rib -- I got to enjoy two extremely important dishes to natives of Southeastern Washington, prime rib and shrimp cocktail) was a pair of advance tickets to a showing of the IRON MAN movie tomorrow night, at The Bridge Cinemas.

With Iron Man on my mind lately, thanks to the media blitz accompanying the movie, my memories harked back to the very first Iron Man comic I read, the cover of which looked, well, exactly like this:

I recently picked up a copy on Ebay (where memories can be had for the right bid). When I read it, most of the story (written by Mike Friedrich, drawn by veteran artists George Tuska [who celebrated his 92nd birthday last month!] and Vince Colletta) was unfamiliar to me, which indicates to me that most of the tale either went right over my seven-year-old head or eluded my nascent reading skills. About the only scenes that rang a bell to me were the cover scene (where Shellhead's armor is melting like candlewax -- as he thinks, "My armor -- melting like candlewax!") and a bit where Tony Stark hears about trouble at one of his plants while out driving with his fiancee, and then changes into the Iron Man armor in front of her. The fiancee sighs, and thinks, "It's like being married to a doctor!" (I don't know if I was more surprised by Stark changing into his secret identity in front of the young woman -- a startling concept to one who was used to the idea of inviolate secret identities -- or by a man dressing in front of a woman to whom he wasn't married. Hey, I was seven.)

The story itself is heady stuff. It's written in the second person, which is practically a guarantee that the prose will be purple. Stark distinguishes himself with Type A behavior throughout the issue: He wrests control of his company back from a renegade board of directors through ham-fisted tactics that send the stock plunging; he swills down cocktails at a party and then goes tearing around dark country roads while his fiancee panics. And as a reminder that the story takes place in the early seventies, the bad guy, Firebrand, is a student radical turned armored supervillain. That fist insignia on his chest is no accident. And true to his name, Firebrand cannot stop giving incidiary speeches.

Ah, the comics of our past -- the ones that imprint themselves upon us, and shape our perceptions of all of the stories we will read in the future

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