With the Iron Man films breaking records since 2008, movie fans everywhere know who James “Rhodey” Rhodes is. Tony “Iron Man” Stark’s best buddy, the Air Force Colonel who went on to don his own suit of armor to become “War Machine”. Tony Stark’s first appearance was 1968 and while Jim Rhodes wasn’t introduced until eleven years later in Iron Man #118, Rhodey was retconned to be integral to the origin of Iron Man. It was later revealed that Rhodey himself was the man who helped Iron Man escape from Vietnam when the wounded Stark had just completed his first suit of armor (see Iron Man #144 for details). Long after that first meeting, but long before he went by the name War Machine, the man went by a different name. Not “Rhodey” or “Jim Rhodes”... for a time the name he went by was “Iron Man”.
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You can’t say for certain unless you check to make sure, but Joe Kubert’s career seems to span the entire history of comics. He appears at the very end of the Golden Age, makes a mile-deep impression on the Silver Age, then watches as both his sons Adam and Andy enter the industry, all will starting a school to teach the next of generations.
“Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” reads the inscription on Mjolnir, the hammer of, you guessed it, true believers, the Mighty Thor. The trick, as any Marvel fan can tell you, only Thor himself can pick said hammer up, no matter how strong they are. Or so we thought for the 21 years between Thor’s (Marvel canon) creation in 1962 and the year of 1983 when… well, somebody else held the hammer and immediately gained the power of Thor.
Can a character become a genre? During the ‘70s and ‘80s, publishing house DC’s main competitor, Marvel, had phenomenal success in that arena with characters like the Hulk, and particularly Wolverine. With a story setting that had Dr Bruce Banner (the Hulk’s alter ego) wandering the cultural landscape of ‘70s America, Incredible Hulk became the perfect platform for a wide array of genres—everything from romance to conspiracy theory to epimythic struggles against polluters or the politically corrupt. Wolverine was even more successful. Breaking away from his comparatively sedate life with the X-Men, Logan saw himself unleashed to his full feral potential in the pages of Wolverine.
In 1985, with flagging interest in the Old West, DC experimented in the same concept with the legendary scar-faced, Old West bounty hunter, Jonah Hex. The original 1985 book ends on a serious cliffhanger, one only resolved in the successor title Hex, which explained that Jonah Hex had in fact been rocketed into the distant future, there to begin his surly, steely-eyed, scar-faced search for justice all over again. But this time, among the stars and in the new genre of space opera. Hex failed to find its audience, and soon enough, found itself cancelled.
During the dying days of the Cold War (when were there Cold War days that didn’t involve American deaths, many of them secret and on a distant soil), the Suicide Squad appeared out of nowhere and presented a new kind of storytelling to mainstream comics. Maybe experiments of this kind wouldn’t have been possible without the direct market, but the raw premise of the book was this—forget heroes, even superheroes, and think about the murky of half-truths and hidden-mirrors and psych-ops, and the heavy price paid by nameless, faceless Cold Warriors.
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