ASSEMBLING: Iron Man
I've often debated with myself who is my favorite comic book character. I don't think I have a favorite, but a group of characters that switch back and forth being my favorite for a stretch of time and then moving out of the way for one of the others to take the spot for a while, and the cycle continues. So, who are in the group? I'll slowly reveal that list as I move throughout these "Assembling" features. One of those characters is fairly obvious - look at the title of this piece...
Yep. The Invincible Iron Man.
In preparing for this piece I had to think back to what was the first issue of INVINCIBLE IRON MAN I had read and what was the first issue I actually bought. I can't remember what was the first issue I read because I think it was a random issue when I first started reading comics and started to just pick up random issues of characters I recognized, so we're talking an issue that hit the shelves 1985 or 1986. I do remember picking up IRON MAN #225, the first part of the "Stark Wars" or better known as "Armor Wars". This is a classic story arc that I feel everyone who's read any volume of IRON MAN for more than a few issues should pick up and read. This story arc hooked me in and I didn't look back. Well, that's not true, I looked back and started buying up back issues on a fairly regular basis. I've claimed to have owned the entire series prior to selling all of my comics during "The Great Purge", but I don't think I had all of them. I had picked up INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #1 for a brief couple of months before I sold it. It wasn't in the best condition. I think the grade was something in the GD to GD+ range. It wasn't the condition I was so concerned about, beyond the book being complete from cover to cover, it was the fact I owned a copy. Sure, we all want those uncirculated near mint copies of the key books for our collections. At the end of the day, when I'm collecting comics, I just want to own a whole copy.
I continued to collect this first volume of IRON MAN until #332, the last issue of this volume. By this point in my collecting I had graduated high school, gone to college, conducted "The Great Purge", and moved back home. Iron Man was not at the top of my list of "favorite" characters at the time because I felt the series had just been left to die while "Heroes Reborn" was being announced and gearing up. As a big fan of founders of Image Comics, I was really excited to see how Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld were going to breathe new life into all of the Avengers and Fantastic Four characters.
By the time "Heroes Reborn" rolled around I was working in Chapel Hill, NC and shopping at a local comic book store called Cards and Comics. The shop was a small store, but the people there were great. This was the first time I had gotten invested in a local comic book shop to the point I went there almost every day for lunch just to hang out and talk comics. I'd eventually start to work there, and co-manage the store - sort of. I was handed the responsibility of the pull lists and ordering comics every month from Diamond. "Heroes Reborn" was the first major release I had to order for and it wasn't easy for a newbie at all of this, but it was educational. It also gave me access to see those "special deals" that Diamond had with Marvel and DC, and to some extent Dynamic Forces. I ordered signed IRON MAN comics and gold embossed signatures. It was a great gig while it lasted. Working at the shop gave me first dibs on a lot of IRON MAN back issues, so rebuilding a collection I had previously sold was attainable to some degree. I did manage to buy a lot of back issues over the 2-3 years I worked at Cards and Comics.
After "Heroes Reborn" fizzled away, I was extremely excited to see IRON MAN get a new volume with Kurt Busiek writing and Sean Chen drawing. "Heroes Reborn" left a bad taste in my mouth, but the specifics I can't remember. I haven't read that 13-issue IRON MAN series since that time, and really haven't even thought about the series until I started to write this piece. "Heroes Return" was an initiative at Marvel I was very excited to see because it meant that the characters in the IRON MAN series I had grown up reading were back. This new volume started off great, and continued to be a lot of fun. There were dips, but nothing that had me ever consider dropping the series. There were great writers on board like Busiek, Joe Quesada, Frank Tieri, Chuck Dixon, Mike Grell, and others. John Jackson Miller had the privilege of ending the series the "Avengers Disassemble" crossover. The final issue for this volume of IRON MAN was #89. I felt this volume was a pretty strong run of issues, and I collected every single issue.
Moving to the next IRON MAN volume in 2005, my interest to read another "new" volume of a character I once couldn't wait for the next issue was dying out. Sure, I was a huge Warren Ellis fan at the time and there was some curiosity of what he could do with Iron Man as a character. I think "Extremis" delivered on all accounts for me as a fan. I've recently picked up most of that six issue arc and looking for the missing issues so I can read it again, but back then something was missing, and I decided after this arc to take a break from reading and collecting IRON MAN. I did come back a couple years later to read the "Director of SHIELD" arc, but I had definitely lost my love of the character at this point and was reading only out of habit.
I would come back to read INVINCIBLE IRON MAN from time to time, but it would be in trades. My son would pick up trades at our local library and I'd read them. There were some good issues. I was especially fond of the "World's Most Wanted" arc by Matt Fraction, but I never picked up any single issues. I was so far gone that I didn't pick up INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #500 when it hit the shelves. I don't even remember paying any attention to the series at that point which is why I probably ignored the milestone. I wouldn't pick up an Iron Man series until 2015, almost 10 years since I had last regularly bought IRON MAN.
What brought me back to the character? Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez brought me back with their take on Tony Stark. I had no plans on keeping up with the series. I did want to give this new creative team a chance, so I picked up the first issue and immediately fell in love with it. It was very different from what I had read in the past, and Tony had changed a lot, but there was something I really enjoyed about this issue and so I stuck with it. My disappointment for the series was to discover it was just leading up to CIVIL WAR II, and I wanted nothing to do with it. I dropped the series after the open arc and ignored CIVIL WAR II entirely, but then entered RiRi Williams and my feeling that there was something special with her character and the direction Bendis wanted to take her and really make the Iron Man mantle her own. I'm all about the legacy characters leave behind, and if Marvel wanted to "kill" Tony Stark for while - RiRi Williams was a good character to pick up the mantle, but even that didn't last long.
Now, we're over 1300 words into this piece and I've given you a lot of background on the various IRON MAN titles over the years and if I picked them up or not. I didn't want to start talking about collecting the various IRON MAN series without providing all of you, and even myself, a measuring stick to show you that I have some background with collecting comics about this character and I'm not doing it because it's something "cool" to do or because I've got an itch that will eventually go away a few months from now. I've been wanting to say, "now's the time" for a year or two but I've just been a little worried to pull the trigger and start because I didn't want to start and fizzle out. I'm not looking to complete this collection any time soon. I'm thinking it could take 4-5 years at the earliest.
OK. Let's take a look at what I'm planning on collecting and keeping up with here at the site:
IRON MAN (1968) #1-332
IRON MAN (1996) #1-13 (#333-345)
IRON MAN (1998) #1-89 (#346-434)
IRON MAN (2005) #1-16 (#435-450)
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN (2017) #17-28 (#451-462)
IRON MAN: DIRECTOR OF S.H.I.E.L.D. (2008) #29-35 (#463-469)
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN (2008) #1-33, 500-527 (#470-530)
IRON MAN (2013) #1-28 (#531-558)
SUPERIOR IRON MAN (2015) #1-9 (#559-567)
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN (2015) #1-14 (#568-581)
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN (2017) #1-11 (#582-600)
INTERNATIONAL IRON MAN (2016) #1-7
INFAMOUS IRON MAN (2016) #1-12
I have been picking up the new series, TONY STARK: IRON MAN, since it started which is why I'm not including it in the the list. I'm picking up IRONHEART since it launched, as well. I look at IRONHEART as a spin-off series that adds value to the current ongoing series. Why wouldn't you look at it that way?
And that's it. That's my background and the plan. I ran a little longer than I had planned, but I felt I needed to lay it all out there so my future articles can just reference all of the info stated here.
I appreciate all of you who made it to the end. If you're an Iron Man fan, either old school like me or brand new or somewhere in between - let me know. Tweet me @ChrisPartin or email me at comicbookaddict[at]gmail[dot]com.