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Topic: Emphasis in the Wrong Place? (Topic Closed Topic Closed) Post ReplyPost New Topic
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John Byrne
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Posted: 02 December 2011 at 11:12am | IP Logged | 1  

Matt Hawes posted a link to some "animated" comicbook covers, one of which is from the Tony Stark alcoholism storyline in IRON MAN.

Looking at that cover, it struck me that it -- and the story it represented -- is a good (that is to say, bad!) example of where we have gone wrong in American superhero comics. Look back on the Lee/Kirby days at Marvel, or the Lee/Ditko days, or for that matter pretty much any of the years when Stan was either writing or editing the books. How many covers can you find that are dedicated to subplots? And in how many issues are the subplots the main thrust of the story?

Cuz, let's face it, that's what Stark's alcoholism should have been (if it was really necessary to do that story at all -- and I don't think it was). A subplot. Not the main point of the story. Certainly not the part that gives us the COVER SCENE.

No wonder we lost so much of our young audience! What kid would be inspired to pick up a comic with some guy on the cover having DTs?

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Matt Hawes
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Posted: 02 December 2011 at 11:30am | IP Logged | 2  

I do hate that one storyline, and a later follow-up, has branded Tony Stark as a drunk forever in comics and film. I hate it even more that one panel of a Hank Pym, who was being manipulated by Egghead and going through other turmoil at the time, lashing out at his wife and giving her a black eye has forever tainted his character as a wife-beater.
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Michael Penn
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Posted: 02 December 2011 at 11:45am | IP Logged | 3  

It's hard to think of a superhero whose private life figured more directly into his comicbook than Spider-Man... yet, just a quick peruse over the first 50 covers and you find covers that not only highlighted but, thanks to Ditko, virtually encapsulated the main thrust of every story. Here and there, you find a small circle or square added to feature a minor element, e.g., Peter and Flash boxing or a cameo of The Hulk or Aunt May gravely ill. But the emphasis is continually on Spider-Man the hero versus the villain.

When I first read that "Demon in a Bottle" issue, I had already started to rebel against where the storyline had been going previously. So, my initial reaction was that I was pleased to see it ultimately, seemingly wrapped up neatly in a single issue. Soon after, however, I started to consider alcoholics that I knew personally, and that's when the camel's back broke for me. Nothing is "neat" about alcoholism. This wasn't a demon in a bottle, but a genie let out of a bottle. Effectively ruined the Tony Stark I had grown up with, one of my very favorite characters.

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Robert White
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Posted: 02 December 2011 at 12:15pm | IP Logged | 4  

Demon in a Bottle was the first trade paperback I ever bought and read. This being the case, that was my first exposure to Iron Man. In retrospect I think the idea was a good one--add a new layer to an otherwise "vanilla" playboy character--but it should have been toned down. I do have a big problem with the idea of Tony Stark allowing himself to don his armor while drunk. That's the equivalent of a jet pilot getting hammered and then deciding to take an F16 out for a spin...x 10. 
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Peter Hicks
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Posted: 02 December 2011 at 12:15pm | IP Logged | 5  

I have always been a bit puzzled that the cover for Fantastic Four #50 has a splash of the Silver Sufer, and then an inset drawing of Johnny Storm in civvies, and a caption saying "and don't miss the Human Torch's first day at college!"  Kinda pulls the rug out from under any worries that this whole 3 part Galactus story line might end badly for mankind. 
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Robert White
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Posted: 02 December 2011 at 12:23pm | IP Logged | 6  

There is no rule that says that you can't start college and have your planet eaten by an immensely powerful cosmic entity on the same day, Peter!
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Kip Lewis
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Posted: 02 December 2011 at 12:35pm | IP Logged | 7  

But don't subplots often reach their climax as a main plot for an issue
or two? Sure some subplots could be resolved as a subplot, but
alcoholism? I don't think that could ever be resolved as one.

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Brad Krawchuk
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Posted: 02 December 2011 at 1:04pm | IP Logged | 8  

If they were going to do the alcoholism story, the least they could do was treat it with respect. Once an alcoholic, ALWAYS an alcoholic, even if you hop on the wagon and never drink another drop again. It's a lifelong thing, not something that wraps up in a few issues. Doing that disrespects the real people who have to go through it. 

In other words, they just shouldn't have done the story. Option A forever alters Tony's character. Option B treats alcoholism like a "curable" condition that can be fixed in a relatively short amount of time. Neither of those is good for ANYONE. 
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John Byrne
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Posted: 02 December 2011 at 2:15pm | IP Logged | 9  

If they were going to do the alcoholism story, the least they could do was treat it with respect. Once an alcoholic, ALWAYS an alcoholic, even if you hop on the wagon and never drink another drop again. It's a lifelong thing, not something that wraps up in a few issues. Doing that disrespects the real people who have to go through it.

In other words, they just shouldn't have done the story. Option A forever alters Tony's character. Option B treats alcoholism like a "curable" condition that can be fixed in a relatively short amount of time. Neither of those is good for ANYONE.

Denny O'Neil very much agreed with your first paragraph, which is why he revisited the alcoholism storyline -- unfortunately, in so doing emphasizing it as a major part of Stark's makeup.

My biggest problem in terms of doing the story was that Stark had to be knocked down in order to tell us about him getting up again. There was nothing at all in his portrayal up to that point that suggested he was an addictive personality of any kind, let alone an alcoholic. This was a guy who had been seen as a very low key social drinker at most -- something an alcoholic cannot be.

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Mark Waldman
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Posted: 02 December 2011 at 3:04pm | IP Logged | 10  

JB, I agree with your sentiment how Tony's alcoholism was out of left field. Wondering what your opinion is of the famous O'Neill/Adams Speedy on heroin story in GL/GA? Thanks in advance.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 02 December 2011 at 3:39pm | IP Logged | 11  

JB, I agree with your sentiment how Tony's alcoholism was out of left field. Wondering what your opinion is of the famous O'Neill/Adams Speedy on heroin story in GL/GA? Thanks in advance.

Altho the Speedy story had no more actual set-up than did the Stark story, at least it had some internal logic. It was possible to accept what had happened to Roy "off camera" while Ollie had been distracted by the turmoil of his own life. I was only a few years older than Roy, when I read that story, and I could see reflections of it in my own life (in friends, not in myself).

But the Stark story never for one moment felt anything other than writers deciding to do a particular storyline, and using the character they had in hand to do it. It's like I've said many a time before:

Good Writer thinks "Can I tell good Captain Fonebone stories?"

Less Good Writer thinks "Can I use Captain Fonebone to tell MY stories?"

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Joe S. Walker
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Posted: 02 December 2011 at 5:47pm | IP Logged | 12  

"In other words, they just shouldn't have done the story. Option A forever alters Tony's character. Option B treats alcoholism like a "curable" condition that can be fixed in a relatively short amount of time. Neither of those is good for ANYONE."

In fairness, Option B used to be a very common trope in popular fiction, especially TV - somebody needing a "life-saving operation" in one episode, or being shot or blinded and getting over it by the end of the show.
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