Monday, October 5, 2020

Marvel Immersion Project: Iron Man #127-128 and Daredevil #158-161

My Recent Reads

Iron Man #127
Originally Published October 10, 1979
Writer: David Michelinie
Artist: John Romita Jr.
  • Iron Man defeats Justin Hammer's Super-Army of baddies and the Monaco Police finally arrives with Jim Rhodes.  Hammer escapes.
  • Back in New York, Iron Man is acquitted of the murder of Sergei Kotznin, the judiciary committee convinced that the armor was being controlled by someone remotely (flimsy alibi in the real world but actually the truth here).
  • Unfortunately, on other fronts, Tony Stark's problems are just beginning:
    • Stark Industries is still in trouble.
    • A little girl reacts to Iron Man in fear.
    • On the brink of fixing things with Bethany, he manages to make them even worse.
    • He yells at an undeserving Jarvis, who subsequently resigns.
    • Worst of all (and of course, a major factor in much of the above), he's drinking.  A lot.

Iron Man #128
November 1, 1979
  • In the final issue of the arc, Tony Stark's alcoholism takes center stage.  It is because of this confrontation that the Demon in a Bottle story is a big deal.  Knowing that, I was expecting it to become more of a factor sooner.  No matter.  We're here now.
  • It's Bethany Cabe who intervenes.  Finding Stark in rough shape, she tells him of her deceased husband and his own battle with pill addiction.  She stays with Stark for several days, forcing him to dry out.
  • Thank goodness, Jarvis comes back in the end, too.
  • Apparently, Michelinie never intended the story as an in-depth, realistic story about addiction.  He approached alcoholism as just another villain for Iron Man to conquer.  As a result, the mammoth task of overcoming the illness is brutally over-simplified.  What Bethany accomplishes in a few days in reality takes months, years, a lifetime and typically involves considerable professional assistance.  Obviously, since I'm moving on to a different series, I don't have the benefit of knowing the aftermath.  That said, I couldn't help feeling a little disappointed.
  • My buddy Mock offered a different perspective.  He read the comic when it first came out in 1979 and it was something he'd never seen before.  40+ years later, addiction is a far more open topic and as such, a comparable story now would undoubtedly be more sophisticated.  Someone had to break the taboo first.

Daredevil #158
May 1, 1979
Roger Mckenzie/Frank Miller
  • My first extended visit with Daredevil, alias Matt Murdock.  DD is blind but highly acrobatic and his other senses are significantly heightened.  Matt Murdock is a talented lawyer.
  • #158 is a big deal because it's Frank Miller's debut with the series.  Frank Miller is a big name in the comic book industry.  Because of his subsequent work in film, he's one of the few creators who can challenge Stan Lee in name recognition beyond the medium.
  • I've written about the impact of artists before, the value in the high quality supplied by the likes of Kirby, Ditko and Byrne.  Miller is different.  The quality is still top-notch but his work signals more significant stylistic departures.  
    • For starters, Miller's work is darker, literally.  Preferring a richer, more deeply saturated palette in general, he uses a lot of black in particular.  More night scenes and shadows? Certainly.  There are also a lot more black shadows on the character images themselves, a bold move for a medium that had always cast its heroes in bright primary colors, suitable for proud display on bedroom posters and school lunchboxes.  Miller's art isn't intended to make you feel comfortable.  A superhero's work is dirty business.
      • Worth noting: the lead artist's job on a comic book is the pencil work.  Someone else fills in the colors - George Roussos on #158 - though presumably the lead has significant say in the choices.  The emphasis on black suggests that Miller was submitting heavier pencil marking to begin with.
    • Miller draws character outlines differently.  In basically every comic I've explored to this point, one sees a line of uniform thickness around a character such as Daredevil.  These are clearly defined, dependably static characters and the art should reflect that, gosh darn it!  Miller's lines are more dynamic - thinner here, thicker there, occasionally disappearing altogether.  The changes are subtle in #158 but by #161, they're more obvious.
  • Right, back to the story.
Cat-Man via Marvel Fandom

  • The villain is Death-Stalker.  His henchmen are the Unholy Three, also known as the Ani-Men: Ape-Man, Cat-Man and Bird-Man.  They kidnap Murdock.
  • Black Widow - Daredevil's partner and girlfriend at this point - sets off to rescue him.
Foggy Nelson via Marvel Database

  • We meet others in Matt Murdock's supporting cast (BW is the only one who knows he's also DD): Becky Blake, Foggy Nelson, Heather Glenn and Deborah Harris.

Daredevil #159
July 1, 1979
  • Villain: Bullseye.  
  • My first encounter with a couple of other Daredevil regulars:
    • Ben Urich is an investigative journalist out to dig up dirt on Matt Murdock, suspecting, but not yet knowing, that Murdock is Daredevil.
    • Turk Barrett is a small-time crook based in Hell's Kitchen, Murdock's neighborhood.  In this story, he's one of Bullseye's team, by way of crime boss Eric Slaughter.

Daredevil #160
September 1, 1979
  • Bullseye kidnaps Black Widow and Daredevil must rescue her.

Daredevil #161
November 1, 1979
  • Daredevil defeats Bullseye and rescues Black Widow.


  1. Great to hear Mock is still hanging out with Spidey, 😅 but seriously Black Widow looks great and I thought there was only one Matt Murdock then I remembered that was Mad Murdock, never would have figured Iron Man would get done for murder,oh I wish I had these to read.

  2. These sure open up unknown ground, for me.

    Frank Miller is brilliant.

    1. He certainly is. It's been fun learning more about him.

  3. The fact that Marvel even touched the alcoholism story is amazing in and of itself. Not that they didn't have precedent with their Harry Osborn drug story, but he was just a side character. To give one of their heroes such am arc was a BIG deal, even if it was too brief.

    Miller changed comics as we know them.
    I think I have the full Miller Daredevil run.

    1. Yes, I get it. However, I would say I prefer the Osborn story. TASM is much better at developing sympathetic characters, even among the supporting cast. It makes a difference in a story like this.

    2. I don't disagree. Amazing has always been my favorite.

      Did you catch part three to the story from last Thursday and Friday?