Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The History of Captain America vs. Iron Man (part 5 of 5)

For some years, Captain America and Iron Man were good friends. Perhaps not the sort of friends who would spend their days-off together, but quite chummy together as Avengers and frequently consulting each other about their problems as super heroes. Notably, when the Avengers fell apart in 2004 and were then rebuilt as a new team, Cap and Iron Man were the only name Avengers who returned to the team. Between Cap's leadership and Iron Man's finances, they remained the backbone of the Avengers. Until Civil War (2006).

Civil War began when the super-villain Nitro fought the New Warriors on a schoolyard and caused an explosion which killed hundreds of children (and the New Warriors). In the wake of this tragedy, some people demanded a higher degree of accountability for super heroes, which was not at all unreasonable - the Avengers had themselves been subject to oversight almost from their inception so ideally other super heroes would simply be expected to run their lives like the Avengers. Unfortunately, some people had an extreme hardline on this topic - notably S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill. It should be noted that the Maria Hill of the comics is nothing like her film counterpart - in the comics (especially in the era of Civil War) Hill would either a) harrass or b) obstruct super heroes whenever she met them.

As legislation for the Superhuman Registration Act was being mulled over, Hill summoned Captain America to a meeting for him to share intelligence with her about the super heroes. Under pressure, Cap admitted some heroes would surely oppose registration, making them true vigilantes. To this, Hill retorted, "So, nobody you can't handle?" Cap instantly took umbrage at the assumption he would help police an act he wasn't entirely in favour of, noting "Super heroes need to stay above that stuff or Washington starts telling us who the super-villains are," which was his basic same argument against returning to government service back in 1987. Hill then had her provactively-named Cape-Killers arm their weapons against Cap (yes, this legislation was not yet law and Hill was already preparing foot soldiers to murder super heroes). This finally turned Cap completely against her and he fought his way out of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s clutches, then started a resistance against the SHRA.

So do remember who started Civil War: it wasn't Iron Man; it wasn't Captain America. It was Maria Hill, because she's just the worst.

Iron Man took point on those heroes who supported the SHRA and battle lines began forming, but the SHRA passed midway through Civil War #2. Iron Man finally arranged a trap for Captain America's team in issue #3 so that he could attempt a peaceful solution (but first he tranquilized two of Cap's men - teleporters Wiccan & Cloak - so Cap had no escape route). Incensed at Tony for striking down two of his people, Cap attacked and both sides were committed in battle, until finally a cybernetic clone of Thor which Tony had created entered the battle scene and killed Goliath, long-time scientist, hero and best friend of Hank Pym. Cap and Iron Man's forces wouldn't fully meet again until the finale of Civil War in the brawl for it all, wherein Captain America surrendered after disheartedly seeing the public was on Iron Man's side. Cap would be killed while in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody en route to court. Tony Stark was then made director of S.H.I.E.L.D., which had the positive side effect of dethroning Maria Hill. Even though Hill had asked Tony to take her job for the gretaer good, his first act as director was to make her fetch coffee for him because Tony is a tiny, petty, twisted little nimrod.

Tony Stark joined Reed Richards and Hank Pym in devising various plans to improve the state of superhumans in the USA. Let's review what they accomplished!

  • A super hero team in every US state! (were immediately infiltrated by agents of the Mandarin and Skrulls)
  • A prison in the Negative Zone to incarcerate super heroes and super villains! (mixed prison population led to problems, basing the prison in the Negative Zone provoked attacks from Negative Zone's dominant powers)
  • New super heroes created through Stark, Pym & Richards' technology! (super hero elitism run amock; screening processes still failed to locate infiltrators such as the aforementioned Mandarin agent)
  • Thor was cloned! (and went on to kill many people)
  • Norman Osborn was controlled by nanites in an assassination attempt on an Atlantean ambassador to intentionally provoke a war with Atlantis! (the war did not emerge but tensions remained hot)
  • The Thunderbolts recruited super-villains into their ranks to become a state-sanctioned army of criminals! (rather than putting them in prison)
  • Psychotic killer Norman Osborn was made director of the Thunderbolts! (positioning him to replace Stark as head of the Initiative)

In short, by codifying and militarizing all the superhuman might of the USA, Stark, Richards and Pym (or rather, a Skrull impersonating Pym) had simply made it all the easier for the government to abuse its power over ordinary citizens. Maybe anti-vaxxers have a point: you can't trust smart people.

Iron Man would eventually lose control of the Initiative after the events of Secret Invasion because Norman Osborn killed a Skrull, which proved that he was better suited to hold Iron Man's job (no, I don't get it either). While all the people who had trusted Tony and joined the Initiative found themselves completely under Osborn's thumb, Tony had bigger problems: looking out for himself. Er, wait, that sounds terrible. Tony had recorded all of the Initiative's data into his brain to keep it safe from Osborn, then wiped his own memory. Tony had his mind put back in order just in time for the crossover event Siege, but (oops!) Tony's back-up brain was copied prior to Civil War, so Tony didn't recall any of the terrible things he'd done.

But that's okay, because when he reviewed all of the data he concluded, "I am not sorry, and I'd do it all again." But hey, everything turned out fine - Captain America had even come back from the dead in a more-convoluted-than-usual-resurrection. In the end, no one was hurt. Oh, except for Goliath. And everyone killed under Osborn's watch. Any way, no one important was hurt.

And so I take my leave of you and hope you have enjoyed this brief look at Captain America & Iron Man's battles. I should perhaps mention they recently fought each other to the death in a story called Time Runs Out, but since that story wound up being written out-of-continuity almost immediately after publication, I don't think it matters.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The History of Captain America vs. Iron Man (part 4 of 5)

After nearly two years of deception, Tony Stark finally revealed he was the "new" Iron Man in Avengers West Coast #72 (1991). Enough time had passed since the Armor Wars that the other Avengers were not outraged by his circumvention of their procedures or the overall deception - they were simply quietly disappointed in him for deceiving them. Soon afterward the entire line of Avengers comics participated in a crossover called "Operation: Galactic Storm," wherein the two extraterrestrial powers of the Kree and the Shi'ar went to war, which was a problem because their fleets were passing through Earth's solar system and endangering its sun. Captain America and Iron Man served on the team of Avengers who went to confront the Kree in the hopes of finding a diplomatic solution. However, the Kree's leader, the Supreme Intelligence, had masterminded usurping control of the Nega Bomb weapon the Shi'ar had designed and he permitted it to detonate on the Kree homeworld. Although the population had been devastated, the Supreme Intelligence had been trying for ages to jumpstart the Kree's evolution and hoped the bomb's fallout would have that effect upon the survivors.

In the aftermath, the Avengers fell into disagreement in Avengers #347 (1992), some proposing they kill the Supreme Intelligence as retribution for his actions. Captain America flatly turned this down.

"The Supreme Intelligence is a sentient being... to kill him is.. unthinkable. Let the Kree survivors handle this. The war is over.. the stargates won't be used again. Earth is safe. There's nothing more we can do. Dear God, we can't bring back the dead."

Suddenly, Iron Man fired a repulsor ray at the ground before Captain America's feet, then declared, "I'm the only original Avenger present... and I'm pulling rank, Cap." This was unprecedented; Captain America, aside from being the team's leader at the time, had been considered to be equal in stature to the founding Avengers, having joined them in their fourth issue and been more consistently present than any other Avenger. This idea that Iron Man (or any other founder) had special privileges within the group was an invention in Tony's mind - an excuse to seize power. So doing, Iron Man led Vision, Hercules, Thor, Sersi, the Black Knight and Wonder Man in executing the Supreme Intelligence (at least, so they thought - being a quasi-computer, he uploaded his consciousness to another location only pages after the execution scene). Unlike some earlier infractions, the Avengers convened on the issue immediately after in Captain America #401 (1992). The team decided not to discipline the Avengers who participated in the execution and Cap offered his resignation; no one would accept it.

Finally, Hawkeye took Steve out to a bar to try and help him work through his issues, to no avail (Steve not being much interested in drinking due to his alcoholic father). Fortunately, Tony Stark came to the bar to address he and Steve's troubled past (no small feat, given Tony's own alcoholism). The two men rehashed everything which had gone wrong between them since the Armor Wars. Tony finally apologized for not explaining himself during the Armor Wars and shirking his responsbility to his friends. Tony also offered his most heartfelt words about Steve to date:

"You're an inspiration to me, Steve. To a lot of us. We may not think like you or act like you -- but we still respect you and appreciate what you do and the way you do it. You're an idealist in a world that is far from ideal. I don't know how you can do it, Steve... how you can keep all the ugliness from getting to you... hardening you.. I can't. I'm not as perfect as you... forgive me."

Steve responded, "I appreciate how much courage it took to come here -- in a bar of all places -- and to level with me like you just did. I'm really sorry our ideological differences bent our friendship out of shape. I miss having you as my friend." And so, despite Iron Man's insubordinate and murderous behaviour, Steve and Tony came through this troubled time with their friendship stronger than it had been since the Armor Wars.

As time went on, they continued to be casually friendly with one another. In Iron Man #303 (1994) as Captain America was slowly deteriorating as his Super-Soldier Serum failed, he confided in his condition to Tony at a time when the other Avengers didn't know; it was a situation Tony could certainly respect, given his own past health troubles and need to keep secrets. Later, when Cap's health completely collapsed, Tony built a suit of armor so that Cap could continue to soldier on. Said armor was an eyesore, but it's the thought that counts.

Eventually, the Iron Man/Captain America tension had to make a comeback, this time in the Iron Man & Captain America 1998 Annual. In this story, Iron Man briefly gained access to the telepathic powers of Mentallo and decided to use it to erase his secret identity from the minds of everyone who had learned it, friends and foes alike. Afterward he went to the Avengers and unmasked before them, which instantly restored their previous memories of his secret identity. Of all the Avengers, Captain America was the one most upset by this extreme violation of people's psyche. Unfortunately, Cap voiced this displeasure primarily through bitchy, catty dialogue such as, "I decided to take him out myself. That is... if I haven't offended you by doing my own thinking." Still, they weren't allowed to be upset at each other outside of the pages of this annual. In the main plot, they discover a communal hivemind called Zenith City which Iron Man's foe MODOK is harnessing to enhance his psychic power. Iron Man resolves that the hivemind must be shut down, despite the wishes of its members. Conveniently, Iron Man's armor loses power before he can shut down the hivemind himself so Cap must perform the act. By doing so, Cap is put in Tony's shoes and reaffirms their friendship:

"I still think you overran your boundaries, Tony... that your ends didn't justify your means as neatly as you say they did... but I also think I tend to be a little judgmental sometimes... particularly when it comes to issues of independence and personal rights."

Cap's speech above neatly summarizes why the two are often in conflict; Tony's belief that the ends justify the means contrasted with Steve's belief in personal rights. Which is precisely what the Iron Man-Captain America brawl-for-it-all was about.

Tomorrow! Why is this man smiling?

Monday, May 2, 2016

The History of Captain America vs. Iron Man (part 3 of 5)

In Captain America #332 (1987), the US government suddenly realized the present Captain America was the same Steve Rogers who had served in World War II. This led to the Captain being summoned before the Commission on Superhuman Activities, who insisted the government owned his shield, codename and costume and if he wanted to remain using those three things, he would willingly return to the government's employ. Cap considered this overnight, then chose to surrender his costume and shield to the Commission and walked away (an outcome the Commission was in no way prepared for). To get around the government's claims to his costumed identity, Steve began calling himself "the Captain" and donned a costume with a different chest symbol and no colour blue. Still, he lacked a shield.

At the same time, Tony Stark had provided refuge for an armored super-villain named Force so that he could evade being killed by his employer Justin Hammer. As part of the deal, Force had to surrender his armor to Stark. While analyzing the armor, Tony was shocked to recognize circuitry which was supposed to be unique to his Iron Man armor. While putting his lawyer to work on the matter, Stark ran an illegal computer tap into Hammer's system and learned Hammer had only recently obtained the plans and begun selling them to criminals to improve their armors. Stark was mortified to think that criminals could be killing people with his technology as he'd deliberately given up weapons dealing on that very principle. Further, Stark's lawyer wouldn't be able to summon Hammer to court for years and all the evidence Stark had was illegal. To control the situation, Stark began hunting down the villains he'd identified in Hammer's data.

Unfortunately, Stark didn't have a complete list - he was missing one person and thought it might be the hero Stingray, who was both an Avengers ally and a U.S. Coast Guard official. When Stingray refused to relinquish his armor, Iron Man knocked him unconscious, then discovered Stingray's suit had none of his technology. Stark had only one option now: he publicly declared Iron Man had gone rogue. Thus, Iron Man would continue the Armor Wars without implicating his other identity. In fact, Stark decided to expand the scope of his mission, targeting S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Mandroid armors as he didn't think he could continue to trust S.H.I.E.L.D. with his technology (pragmatic, considering S.H.I.E.L.D. had earlier attempted a hostile takeover of his company, then tried to confiscate his armors during his alcoholism; S.H.I.E.L.D. would be revealed as almost completely corrupt shortly afterward). But Iron Man's next target was the Vault, the maximum security prison for super-criminals in the US. Policing the Vault were a small army of Guardsmen, whose armors had all been built by Stark.

Re-enter the Captain. Steve asked Tony if he could build him a new shield. Tony agreed and fashioned one from Adamantium, insisting Steve take it for free as it would be good for his company's public relations. Secretly, Tony considered this a bribe as he knew Steve wouldn't approve of his next maneuver. Sure enough, as Tony and his friend James Rhodes were en route to the Vault, they were confronted by Steve in a diner. While Tony still claimed the Armor Wars were being fought by a rogue Iron Man, Steve knew better. Tony briefly called off the assault.

Of course, he couldn't be permanently deterred; using a knock-out gas through the Vault's filters, Tony knocked out most of the guards and began deactivating the Guardsmen armors. The final Guardsman was defended by the Captain himself, who had donned a gas mask. The Guardsman began to asphyxiate within his armor but refused to surrender to Iron Man. When the Captain turned his back to help the Guardsman, Tony took the opportunity to strike the Captain down from behind. As the stunned Captain lay helpless on the floor, watching as Iron Man wrecked the last armor (while removing the Guardsman's helmet so he wouldn't suffocate), the Captain shared a last look at Iron Man:

"No words are spoken; none are needed for both men know that a bond has been borken today... a bond as old as their friendship... as deep as their innermost thoughts. A dear and precious link... that may never be whole again."

Iron Man's actions caused a breakout of super-villains from the Vault, which was a pretty bleak bit of business considering Iron Man had been motivated by a desire to stop criminals - and now had been fighting heroes while enabling criminals! After helping to catch (most) of the escapees, the Captain returned to Stark; needless to say, he returned the shield (the Black Panther provided the Captain's new Vibranium shield). Shortly afterward, the Avengers ejected Iron Man from their membership. The Armor Wars finally ended with Iron Man's seeming death, when in reality Tony had survived and soon built a new Iron Man armor. As before, Tony claimed Iron Man was his employee and bodyguard and that this Iron Man was (obviously) a different person from the (supposedly dead) rogue Iron Man. In reality, Tony had gotten away with everything: he'd defeated his enemies, waged war against S.H.I.E.L.D. and federal law enforcement, knocked the Captain out from behind and even killed one of enemies (Titanium Man) and without any consequences.

Of course, Steve knew the Iron Man who knocked him out was Tony Stark and he seriously doubted Tony had given up being Iron Man since the Armor Wars. In Iron Man #238 (1989). Steve and Tony convened a meeting, but Tony still maintained he wasn't Iron Man. Tony wondered if their disputes would endanger other people when Captain America and Iron Man had to fight side-by-side. "I'm a practical man, Tony," Steve answered. "I like to think I'm a just one as well. If it comes to that, I'll lay my life on the line for Iron Man." Not long afterward, Iron Man rejoined the Avengers, still claiming to be a different person than the previous Iron Man. Most of the Avengers doubted this and constantly wondered at the truth. By deception, Tony had regained his position within the Avengers. Soon, he would abuse it.

Tomorrow! Pulling rank.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The History of Captain America vs. Iron Man (Part 2 of 5)

We can credit Jim Shooter for developing the tense relationship which has come to characterize Captain America & Iron Man's interactions. Through the events of Shooter's "Korvac Saga" story, Captain America is nearly apoplectic about the state of Iron Man's leadership. Most of this tension came from the fact that Iron Man had not seen fit to share his secret identity as Tony Stark with any of the Avengers, Cap included. In Avengers #167 (1978), S.H.I.E.L.D. requests the Avengers' help in investigating a massive space facility (which proves to be the base of the Guardians of the Galaxy). Iron Man is late in arriving to join the team because as Tony Stark, he had been in conference with Nick Fury. Cap is boiling mad with Iron Man's tardiness: "You're sorry you're late? A hundred men might die up there and--" to which Iron Man sharply replies, "Then shut up and get into the ship!" The problem worsens when they reach the station and Cap instinctively assumes command, issuing orders to the others. Iron Man reflects, "It's no secret what Cap thinks of my leadership! I suspect his resentment is growing and getting personal!"

The very next issue, it exploded. The Avengers returned to their headquarters to find it invaded by one Henry Peter Gyrich, their new government liaison. Gyrich proceeded to read the Avengers the riot act for the many violations of government protocol they were guilty of. When Gyrich left, Cap finally unleashed what he'd been stewing upon:

"This team's been a pushover since you became leader! It's your fault... because you're treating your chairmanship like a part-time job! But that's what it is to you, isn't it? You're moonlighting as an Avenger, because you have a full-time job as Tony Stark's personal bodyguard!"

Iron Man began to respond cooly, answering that "all Avengers are guaranteed their personal privacy," to which Cap responded by punching him in his armor-plated face. "You low-life mercenary! Don't the Avengers pay enough for your services?" Now they were both angry, but before a real fight could begin the Scarlet Witch broke it off, shaming Cap by pointing out his own recent poor showings in battle. Cap sulked away.

Now that Shooter had turned up the tension, he almost immediately shut it back down. At the end of the day, Captain America and Iron Man were simply too reasonable to let this bickering continue. In Avengers #170 (1978), Iron Man confronted Cap in the Avengers gym and while Cap worked out, Iron Man confessed his own shortcomings: "I'm aware of my failings! I-I'll try harder, Cap... or, if you think I should, I'll step down! You can take over." Cap noted he'd "seen too many friends die in battle" and Iron Man was about to reveal his dual identity to Cap, but Cap cut him off: "Keep your secrets, Iron Man! You lead.. I'll follow -- that's enough!"

In Iron Man #125 (1979), Tony Stark came to Captain America for hand-to-hand combat training as he needed to go on a secret mission without his Iron Man armor. From Cap's perspective, he was simply helping the Avengers' financial backer, having no idea how much it meant to his fellow Avenger. Some time later in Avengers #216 (1982), Iron Man lost his armor while battling the Molecule Man, thus Cap and Thor both finally learned his identity. This knowledge almost immediately began changing Cap & Iron Man's relationship. In Avengers #224 (1982), Tony began dating the now-divorced Wasp. Wasp wasn't keeping a secret identity, but Tony went several dates without telling her the truth. After seeing them together in the tabloids, Cap confronted Tony, playing on his conscience. Cap noted her ex-husband Hank Pym was an old friend of his and it was unfair to do that to Hank - but likewise unfair for him date a teammate (also, Wasp was now the Avengers leaders) without her knowing it. Tony took the conversation to heart and gave up his secret identity to the Wasp; she immediately broke off the relationship.

Mere months later Tony succumbed to alcoholism and gave the Iron Man armor to James Rhodes. Cap and the Wasp tried to reason with him, but in his state that wasn't possible. He quit the Avengers, quit being Iron Man, quit running his company and soon lost his fortune. And despite all of this, Tony couldn't be reasoned with. In Iron Man #172 (1983), Cap found Tony living in a flophouse and tried to encourage him to return to his company before it was lost to Obadiah Stane, but Tony refused and ran away from both Cap and Rhodes, preferring to live in anonymity.

Eventually, Tony would reclaim his sobreity, reclaim his friends, reclaim his armor, reclaim his fortune and reclaim his company. Although Iron Man usually served on the Avengers' West Coast branch while Cap served in New York, the two remained good friends. That is, for a time.

Tomorrow! Iron Man goes to war!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The History of Captain America vs. Iron Man (Part 1 of 5)

The motion picture Captain America: Civil War will soon be upon us and will treat viewers to a cinematic tale in which Captain America and Iron Man are pit against each other. It may be known to some film fans that this story is partially based upon the series Civil War, but perhaps some might benefit from learning more about the past conflicts of Captain America and Iron Man. In this quick series, I'll lead you through the history of Iron Man & Captain America's friendship.

Captain America joined the proper Marvel Universe in the pages of Avengers #4 (1964), in which the Avengers (Thor, Iron Man, Giant-Man & Wasp) found him frozen in ice and revived him. By the end of the issue, Captain America had become a member of the team. At the time, the other four all appeared in titles of their own, but Captain America's home series was the Avengers for awhile. The five heroes would comprise the Avengers cast until issue #16 (1965), when Iron Man, Giant-Man, Wasp & Thor would depart, leaving Cap to lead three reformed villains (Hawkeye, Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch) as the new team.

Although Iron Man was right there in the midst of Cap's revival, the two characters didn't have a dynamic at the time. In fact, the Avengers as a team didn't have a dynamic. Although they would occasionally make reference to their rotating leadership, there was no lasting conflict between the ranks (not since the Hulk left in issue #2). Even though Marvel's Fantastic Four had made great hay out of the cast having interpersonal dynamics, that element was lacking in the Avengers. It was only after #16 that the team finally became interesting as real conflict emerged (mainly because of Hawkeye's belligerence). Likewise, Captain America was no longer amongst his peers (the four who had revived him in issue #4) and so became the senior member of the Avengers and obvious team leader. Although Cap would come and go from the Avengers over the years, he became almost the "default" leader of the team.

One unusual thing about the Avengers for several years (through writers Stan Lee & Roy Thomas) is that when characters left the team, they nearly always remained gone. Giant-Man & Wasp did return as regular members, but only because their own series had ended. Thor, Iron Man and (by issue #47, 1967) Captain America left the team and mostly stayed away, returning on special occasions such as inducting a new member to the team or battling an exceptionally powerful villain. This was how Captain America, Thor & Iron Man would become known as the Avengers' "Big Three" - not because of their personal interactions, but because any time they entered a story (such as "the Kree-Skrull War") it meant the team were up against something bigger than usual. Thus, it was a long time before Iron Man and Captain America had a chance to appear side-by-side.

After losing his faith in the "American Dream," Captain America was confronted by several Avengers - including Iron Man - in Captain America #176 (1974) as they attempted to persuade him to avoid giving up on his costumed identity. However, Iron Man didn't really speak to Cap on a personal level, simply recalling their past adventures as an ally. The Avengers failed to re-inspire him and Steve Rogers gave up being Captain America for a time.

And there came a day...

It began in an unassuming way. In Avengers #164 (1977), the Avengers made a poor showing against their old foe Whirlwind. Captain America was quick to comment, "this whole team's been falling short of its rep, lately." It sounds like a small matter, but it wasn't; you see, Cap wasn't the Avengers leader at the time: Iron Man was.

Tomorrow! Who threw the first punch?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

RIP: Arthur Anderson

Yet another stalwart from the days of old-time radio has passed away; aged 93 years, he's beloved by many OTR fans for his work as a child actor on the children's program Let's Pretend. Of all his roles he's most widely-known as the voice of Lucky the Leprechaun for Lucky Charms cereal. But what I'll remember him best for is his work with Orson Welles.

As a teen, he was privileged enough to perform with Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre, both in stage and on the radio. Most notably, he appeared on the 2nd broadcast of the Mercury Theatre on the Air in the lead role of Jim Hawkins in Welles' adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, and it wasn't easy to top Welles on his own show. Treasure Island is one of the best episodes of what was one of OTR's finest shows. Anderson also performed opposite Welles in a quick adaptation of Clarence Day's Life with Father.

Check out Treasure Island and Life with Father at archive.org if you'd like to sample Anderson at his dramatic best. He was more than merely a leprechaun!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Creator Credits Roundup

I have now created a page to house my ongoing data collection of appearancecs of elements from Marvel Comics in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Everything is grouped together by creator, from the one who has contributed the most to the least. Going forward, I will be updating the MCU page every time I post a new MCU creator credits blog entry.