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Monday, May 02, 2016 

This pseudo-columnist wants the uninitiated to dislike Tony Stark

Arcamax published a sugary Tribune News Service column about the upcoming Captain America: Civil War movie, which, lest we forget, draws from the politicized 2006 crossover, and what the writer has to say about Iron Man is quite insulting:
"Captain America: Civil War," premiering May 6, pits Iron Man against Captain America, two characters that the movies have established as having both philosophical and personal differences. But surely, you say, that wasn't true in the comics, where squared-jawed heroes are always best buds!

Annnnnnd: No. Iron Man and Captain America have been teammates off and on going back to 1964, when the Living Legend of World War II was thawed out of his iceberg and joined the Avengers. But they haven't always gotten along. In fact, they've often come to blows -- sometimes by mistake, but more often because ...

Tony Stark is a jerk.

Yes, it's true! He's always been an arrogant, laws-are-for-little-people elitist
! Even in his early days, he did pretty much whatever he wanted, like dating Russian spies and making tons of money off defense contracts and creating international incidents. And when U.S. senators got all up in his business, he'd tell them to go swallow a repulsor ray.
Somebody should tell the jerk who wrote this stupid article to quit writing about comics if he can't keep himself from being so belittling. Does he actually want Tony to be a jerk, a term better applied to himself? First off, it's the fault of whomever wrote Tony in his own adventures and other books for IM allegedly being jerky. Second, I may not have read every IM story put out since 1962, but I've never gotten the impression Stan Lee and company set out to make him as idiotic as what the propagandist who slapped them in the face wants the news audience to think. They make it sound like Tony was never depicted as kindly to anybody. And is the jerk who wrote the piece trying to make it sound like Tony was some kind of a warmongering profiteer? Hardly that. Why, there was even a story written in the late 70s or early 80s where he stopped his defense contracts after he felt they were being used by other sources like the government just to prolong wars in foreign countries rather than end them.

And if he believes Tony was arrogant, does he think the same about Bruce Wayne over in the DCU? On which note, after the Dark Knight Returns, the editors began pushing successive writers to depict Batman as arrogant and controlling, even to the point where he may not have been very kindly to anybody, starting with his partners in crimefighting. This even brings to mind one of the biggest flubs post-Crisis that doesn't seem to register on Batfans' radars: in the late 80s, a retcon was written where Batman fired(!) Dick Grayson as Robin simply because he fouled up on one crimefighting job, and that, according to the editors in charge, was the reason Jason Todd was appointed the new Boy Wonder. Anybody who thinks it impossible to goof badly with Batman would be advised to consider that idiotic storyline.
Talk about wish fulfillment! Flying and heat vision are all well and good, but rich, famous and above the law are the super-powers we'd probably rather have.
Maybe, but we'd rather not have the power of arrogance, and this article doesn't do well in discussing what they think amounted to an arrogant personality for Tony Stark. Who would truly appreciate a guy who's arrogant, something several comics creators I've talked about in the past have proven guilty of?
Now, in light of "Civil War," it should be noted that whenever someone in the comics called Stark on his behavior, it was almost always Captain America. I don't think there was any master plan; I think they were just such polar opposites that many writers on many books over many decades all arrived at the same idea, to create drama by having Winghead and Shellhead explore their philosophical differences in a deep and meaningful way.

Which, in superhero terms, means punching each other in the face a lot.

And it always works! It's ultimate man vs. ultimate machine! Greatest Generation vs. Me Generation! High-minded morality vs. situational ethics!

Also, it's really glitzy to look at. It's a battle of the primary colors, between a guy in mostly blue and a guy in red and yellow. Man, that's comics all over!
No, it's not. And it doesn't always work either. It certainly didn't work in Civil War, where Tony was depicted taking up an overwrought position favoring superhero registration with the government. That's when arrogant personalities really became galling as applied to a superhero. And just how polarized were Cap and Shellhead, truly? Whether they favored government or not, they certainly weren't depicted favoring violent crime and racism. "Polar opposites", isn't clearly defined, I'm afraid.

The writer goes on to list stories featuring rivalry between Cap and IM. Some of them, however, don't exactly support what he's claiming, like the following:
1978: Back in the days when everyone thought Iron Man was Tony Stark's bodyguard, Cap became irritated that the Golden Avenger -- despite being chairman at the time -- was often absent or delayed on Avengers missions. Irritated enough, evidently, to "KANG!" him right in his armored face. "You low-life mercenary!" Cap shouts. "Don't the Avengers pay enough for your services?" Ouch.
Wow, who's being depicted arrogantly, again? Here it's decidedly the Star-Spangled Avenger. And the columnist is probably being paid way too much for his cynical propaganda.

There's also 2 stories spoken of here that probably won't impress the crowd who think Superman and Batman shouldn't kill:
1988: Tony Stark discovers that some of his technology has been stolen and is being used by various peacekeepers and criminals around the world. Amazingly, Stark decides he has the right to take it all back from everyone by force in a storyline titled "Armor Wars," breaking all kinds of U.S. and international laws, even accidentally killing a couple of people along the way (one of whom was Soviet supervillain Crimson Dynamo, but still). Somewhere in the middle of this he battles Steve Rogers, who is protecting innocent prison guards wearing Stark armor. That was pretty much it for the two being pals, according to the omniscient (and florid) narrator: "No words are spoken, none are needed. For both men know that a bond has been broken today ... a bond as old as their friendship ... a dear and precious link that may never be whole again." Sniff.

1992: After defeating the Kree Empire in "Operation: Galactic Storm" (well, with some interstellar help), the Avengers capture the creature behind it all, the Kree's Supreme Intelligence, a conglomeration of the greatest Kree minds. Several Avengers want to kill it/him. Captain America, who is moral man, says no. Iron Man, who tends to ignore the word "no," does it anyway. (That resulted in Iron Man leaving the team and forming his own for a while, with the almost too on-the-nose name "Force Works.")
Whether those stories were kept in canon in the years following, it's clear there was a time when he was depicted killing, and however successfully or not it was pulled off, the PC advocates don't seem particularly concerned about that. No doubt because they were just looking to create drama by bellyaching.
1998: After Cap and Iron Man defeat a telepath who uses a satellite network to control minds, Stark 'fesses up to Rogers that he used the network before dismantling it to make everyone on Earth forget Iron Man's secret ID. An outraged Cap tries, and fails, to explain to an uncomprehending Iron Man why this is wrong. They agree to disagree.
I'm not sure who wrote that story (it may or may not have been Busiek), but here's one involving memory loss to protect a secret identity, and a tale that, while it may not have been as awful as Identity Crisis, might still have been overwrought. Years before, Doctor Strange sometimes erased people's memories to protect his own semi-secret ID, and Green Lantern sometimes did too, yet nobody made such a fuss over it, acting as though it were throughly unjustified or wasn't an understandable belief from a sci-fi POV.
2006: The comics version of "Civil War" is different in a variety of ways, but the bottom line is that Cap and Iron Man not only beat the ever-living snot out of each other for months, they recruit other heroes to beat each other up, too. The Star-Spangled Avenger actually wins the fight in the end, but surrenders when he realizes how dopey and irresponsible it all is. Better late than never, I guess.
Just as I figured, he could offer no critique on why the whole mess was a pure waste of tree trunks. Not even a comment on how it served as a lead-in to one of the worst Spider-Man stories of all time, One More Day. And when they reference the neo-Secret Wars premise of recent, they say:
2014: Remember how Iron Man doesn't understand that mind-control is wrong? In the "Time Runs Out" storyline, Captain America finds out that he has been mind-controlled by Iron Man and his "Illuminati" allies to forget that they've been blowing up alternate-dimension Earths to prevent our Earth from blowing up. (No, I'm not going to explain that.) At the end of "Time Runs Out," Stark and Rogers are crushed by a helicarrier from a parallel world while in mid-combat. And, while I'm not explaining that, either, I will note that they get better.
Of all stories where Tony could be characterized very, VERY badly, the above had to be one of the worst. As is the premise that alternate dimensions also had to be demolished to save our own. Yet this goes by with nary a critique on how poor the rendition was just for the sake of nasty tension between Cap and IM. Why, there isn't even any complaints about how Marvel went out of their way to retcon Howard and Maria Stark so they'd no longer be Tony's parents. That was pretty stupid, but thanks to all these phonies in the press, it gets a free pass without protest.

And as far as I'm concerned, no news writer who makes Tony Stark out to sound irredeemably arrogant and doesn't criticize the scriptwriters' efforts could possibly be an Iron Fan.

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Stark was portrayed as a playboy in the early Silver Age, and it was explained once on a "FAQ"-type page that it was because he knew (with his heart condition) that he was on borrowed time. I wouldn't say he was portrayed as an arrogant jerk, but he sometimes deliberately projected a cold, aloof image, to keep Pepper Potts from getting too close to him.

Captain America and Bucky sometimes killed Nazi villains (when necessary) in the Golden Age. 1960's and '70's comics were less violent, but Cap still killed enemies when he had to. In Tales of Suspense #64, in a story set during WWII, he and Bucky blew up a German submarine. And in Invaders #21, he shot down a Nazi bomber.

In Captain America #321-322, he had to shoot a terrorist to save hostages. A caption claimed that it was the first time he ever used a firearm or killed anyone. But another WWII flashback in Avengers: Endless War showed him shooting down an enemy aircraft. And Wolverine ridiculed the idea that Cap (or Private Steve Rogers) could have fought through WWII without ever killing anyone.

In his first appearance, in Suspense #39, Iron Man blew up the communist villain Wong Chu. And in Suspense #91, he used a gravity device to destroy the Crusher.

That 1978 conflict was resolved peaceably in Avengers #170, with Cap and IM talking it over and Cap agreeing to have Iron Man lead the team ("You lead, I'll follow.")



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