Monday, November 9, 2009

Why Can't We Be Friends? Part Two

Iron Man #25 (May 1970)
“This Doomed Land – This Dying Sea!”
Archie Goodwin-Johnny Craig/Sam Grainger

Doug: We’re back again with that “hey, can’t we all just get along?” feeling. Yep, it’s time for another superhero tussle! This time ‘round it’s the Avenging Son vs. ol’ Shellhead. How about that swell cover by Marie Severin?

Karen: These two guys have never gotten along! It’s kind of nice to see that even today, although I can’t stand a lot of what’s going on at Marvel, Iron Man and Namor are still like oil and water…no pun intended.

Doug: Scribe Archie Goodwin wastes no time in setting this tome up as an environmental sermon. From the splash page, when Iron Man states, “An atmosphere so polluted, so befouled, we can no longer breathe it… and live!” the readers knows that this will be a tale of the negative externalities of industry.

Karen: Things really changed for the Iron Man strip in the 70s. The anti-business, anti-war, and ecology movements made Stark a less sympathetic character than he’d been in the 60s. So of course we got Stark moving from a munitions maker to a more generic tech wizard.

Doug: Johnny Craig is of course famous for his work for EC in the 1950’s. While he moves the story well, his figure- and face work looks like it’s stuck in the ‘50’s. I think this would be an example of the Iron Man book being down the pecking order for artistic talent. Part of Marvel’s recent expansion of titles, there is no doubt that the company was spread creatively thin.

Karen: I completely agree about Craig’s art. It’s not awful, but it sure doesn’t have that dynamic Marvel style.

Doug: One more comment, and I guess it concerns the writer, artists, and the letterer – what the heck was going on with word balloon placements in this book??

Karen: I have to say, this book seemed overly wordy. The panels are just crowded with word balloons.

Doug: The story begins with a morality play in the form of a film featuring Iron Man, decrying the ills of pollution. Tony Stark is making a presentation to fellow magnates, urging them to basically clean up their acts. When they scoff at Stark’s methods, he tells them a tale that recently accentuated his concerns.

Doug: In these days the Sub-Mariner was often written as somewhat of an environmental crusader, albeit in a quite-standoffish way. Namor takes on that role in this story as well. Pollution is seeping into the sea from a pipeline, that eventually gets traced back to an island owned by Stark Industries.

Doug: Namor attacks the base, with the intent to destroy it. As fate would have it, Stark was there for an inspection. The inevitable fisticuffs ensue.

Doug: All of the typical elements of both an Iron Man fight and a battle involving Namor are here – Iron Man’s worries about his technology failing, Namor invincible in the water and vulnerable out of it.

Karen: It’s funny how Namor’s dependence on water seems to have disappeared over the years. Back in the old days, it was an essential part of his background –that he got weaker the longer he was away from water. It was practically the only way he got beaten. But I can’t even recall the last time I saw that mentioned in a comic featuring Namor.

Doug: Goodwin saves his best moralizing for the end of the story. One can almost imagine Stark playing the role of that environmental champion, Al Gore, while the world turns a deaf ear.
Karen: I wish Stark had gone that route, instead of becoming a petty dictator!

1 comment:

Matthew Bradley said...

Just read this issue for Marvel University, and although I've been largely impressed with Goodwin's long run on the strip (dating back to the final days of SUSPENSE), I agree with you about this issue's being too wordy. It's a failing that has crept into his last few stories, suggesting that perhaps he was ready for a change, but for whatever reason, his current stint on IRON MAN would end with #28.

It's interesting that when it comes to the super-hero stuff, IRON MAN is the ONLY book not being written by either Stan or Roy at this point. Gary Friedrich and DC vet Arnold Drake had done some truly terrible work on X-MEN, CAPTAIN MARVEL, and NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D., but by now had either left or switched temporarily to other genres.

Eagerly awaiting the influx of new writing talent that will come with the Bronze Age, which arguably begins with Kirby's departure a few months from now.

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