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Elliott Serrano Presents:


Continuity and being dead just don’t mean what they used to…

‘Tony Stark is an uptight G-Man who needs to either get his ass kicked by Wolverine, or get laid, or both. Seriously.’
Avi B. via e-mail

And so went one of the responses I got to my question last week: What’s the deal with Iron Man?

For those who are just tuning in: after the end of the Marvel Civil War which resulted in, among other things, the splintering of the Avengers into two teams – The New Avengers and the Mighty Avengers – as well as the death of Captain America, Tony Stark’s been taking it on the chin. He was appointed as the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and head of The Initiative, a project aimed at providing superhero teams in all 50 states in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

(And just what for? As anyone who reads Marvel comics knows, super-villains almost NEVER strike outside of New York City. Hey, the so-called World War Hulk took place on Manhattan Island alone! Think New Yorkers are starting to believe they’re the center of the universe again? Oh yeah, they never stopped.)

Then the poo-poo started hitting the fan for ol’ Shellhead. First, in Captain America, it’s revealed that the Red Skull (wasn’t he dead?) has had a mole working in S.H.I.E.L.D. for some time, in the form of Dr. Faustus (wasn’t he dead, too?). It’s revealed that he’s been doing the Skull’s bidding by infiltrating the MU’s premiere spy organization as the agency’s psychiatrist, gaining access to all sorts of delicate intelligence and compromising S.H.I.E.L.D.’s security big-time.

(Here’s where Stewie Griffin steps in: Uh, gee Tony, after how many Avenger run-ins with telepaths and mind-controllers, you never thought to do a little background check on your folks? Too busy locking up all the non-registered heroes in your little Negative Zone Gitmo? Didn’t think getting the secret identity of every superhero in the United States would cause such a security hazard? Really thought you had the necessary safeguards in place to protect such valuable information? Didn’t think a low-level hood like, uh, The Hood would get a hold of a piece of that? And use it against you? Like against Tigra? Who he beat up in her own home? Really?)

In addition, he’s also got to contend with The Winter Soldier who’s out to assassinate him. For those of you who don’t read Captain America, The Winter Soldier is actually Cap’s former side-kick, Bucky, who…

Wait for it…


That’s right folks, Bucky ‘No-I’m-Not-Dead-Because-I-Live-In-The-Marvel-Universe’ Barnes. The same Bucky Barnes that once defined being truly dead in the Marvel U. Used to be when a character died in the MU you asked ‘are they Jean Grey dead?’ - as in: dead-but-not-for-long - or ‘Bucky Dead’ - as in: dead-as-a-door-post-and-not-coming-back. Well, now ‘Bucky Dead’ means, ‘used-to-be-dead-but-dammit-if-DC-can-bring-back-Jason-Todd!’


Meanwhile, in his own title Iron Man, Tony has to contend with a newly resurrected Mandarin (Whah? Wasn’t he dead, too? What the F***!) and the machinations of officials in the Department of State who want to hijack the Extremis drug for their own purposes. This is the drug that has given Tony Stark near limitless control of all technology and is apparently making him go a little batty, causing him to have hallucinations and act very Howard Hughes-like. He keeps having visions of Steve Rogers going all A Christmas Carol on him. Oh yeah, and he hasn’t taken his armor off in, like, forever.

Over in Mighty Avengers, affectionately referred to as the Republican Avengers on the ‘internets,’ Tony Stark hits on Carol Danvers (AKA Ms. Marvel), pretty much saying he’d like to tap that @$$, makes her team leader and then goes out and gets killed while the team is fighting the newest version of Ultron. Yeah, that’s right. HE GETS KILLED! (I know, I know, it’s the Marvel U. It won’t last.)

So, to summarize: Tony Stark is a buffoon in Captain America, a nutjob in Iron Man, and DEAD in Mighty Avengers. Pretty much runs the gamut for a character, don’t you think?

This brings me to my fangirl friend’s comment. Now while I can’t deny the remarkable healing properties of her suggestion (the getting laid part, not the ass-kicking) what I think Tony really needs is a bit more serious:

He needs the editors over at Marvel to GET SOME FREAKIN’ CONTROL! We’re talking about the central character in the Marvel Universe right now and you’ve got him going in all different directions. Just what’s the overall vision for this character? What direction is he going in and just who’s determining it? You’ve got three different books with three different takes on Tony Stark. There are some significant (although some may say, petty) plot differences that have occurred between the Iron Man and Captain America titles, both involving Stark and that illustrate my point. In Iron Man, Deputy Director Maria Hill comments how she thinks Tony’s losing his grip on things and points to the fact that she’s never seen him out of his armor. Meanwhile, over in Captain America, all you see Tony wear is a shirt and tie and a downtrodden look on his face, all the while talking about the total FUBAR that has become the current security situation at S.H.I.E.L.D. to – yeah, you guessed it – Deputy Director Maria Hill. In one case, we’re talking about Stark being observed as somewhat imbalanced and in the other, just beat.

Oh god.

It’s happened.

I’ve become the one thing I swore I’d never be.

I’ve become a CONTINUITY FREAK! (Somebody help me, please! I need to kiss a girl, stat!)

But c’mon, is it really too much to ask? Is it too much to ask the writers who are using Tony Stark in their books to all agree on the direction the character is going in and try to stay consistent? I mean, jeez, we’re not talking about running FEMA here! We’re talking about comic books!

I guess it is too much to ask when you consider that the trend towards crossovers is back and I mean big time.

Civil War. Identity Crisis. World War Hulk. Countdown. Secret Invasion. Each an ‘event’ designed to get as many of my hard-earned dollars as possible. Mercenary? Of course. But even Joe Quesada has been quoted as saying (and I paraphrase) ‘people complain about crossovers but the reality is that they sell.’

And don’t tell me that I don’t have to buy every issue because by God it’s Countdown-to-the-Secret-Invasion-Crisis and now the issues are numbered backwards and there are going to be ramifications that will be felt for years to come and we’re also going to have Paul Jenkins write the companion book that’ll come out on time while the main book is late.

(Breathe, Elliott, breathe.)

And with crossovers you have to coordinate titles more, which means more plates spinning in the air. And with so many plates in the air, one or two of them are bound to fall. And Brubaker wants to build up to Tony wearing the armor in Captain America, while the Knauf brothers are writing Iron Man and can’t get him to take it off, and f*** it, Bendis just KILLS him in Avengers to avoid any of these complications.

Forget Tony, I need to get laid.

Aw, whatever. In Hollywood, the actors want to be directors and in comics the editors want to be writers. Because editing the book is easy enough, why not just write it? Works over at Top Cow, right?

Sniff-sniff. I think I smell bridges burning. Oops.

I’m going to go read Spiderman: One More Day now and see how they undo all the damage they did to Spidey by making him unmask in Civil War. That is, until the next mini that has ‘serious long-term implications’ for him.

Oh yeah, and I hear they’re killing Batman next. I’ve got a pool going as to how long that will last. (And if he’ll stay dead longer than Steve Rogers.)


Coming Up: the founding of the Comic Culture Warrior Nation and the prelude to the CCWN Manifesto. If you thought these ramblings were a bit maniacal, wait till you see what’s next. Until then, drop me a line by clicking on my name at the bottom of the page and let me know how you feel about the current goings-on in the Marvel U. (We’ll get to the DCU soon enough.) I’ll be on the look out.

Be well everyone!

E. Ruben Serrano is a writer/columnist/graphic designer who really does admire the folks over at Top Cow comics, especially the editorial staff. He also admires the editorial staff at Marvel and DC who he knows work very hard at their jobs and can handle as many spinning plates as they want. Just don’t let the monkey on the tiny tricycle knock them over.

E.R. Serrano

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