Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle (4 stars)

David Michelinie, Bob Layton & John Romita Jr

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The Invincible Iron Man

(Marvel)

SUPERHERO

In the world of comics Iron Man is one of the main players in the Marvel Universe. As provisional leader of the Avengers for many, many years, he’s helped shape the fictional world more than most.

However Iron Man hasn’t crossed into the public consciousness in the same way as Spider-Man, The Hulk or Batman. He may not be as iconic as these heroes but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had some fantastic fictional exploits. And with the release of the new Iron Man blockbuster it’s a great opportunity to look back at some of his comic book adventures since his first appearance in Tales of Suspense No 39 back in 1963 (created by the immortal team of Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck and Jack Kirby).

Iron Man’s alter-ego Tony Stark is a mega-rich industrialist; he has no superhuman powers but a high tech battle suit that gives him superhuman strength, the power of flight, repulsor rays and various other gadgets. But it’s a double edged sword: due to an accident during the Vietnam War the suit also keeps him alive. Arrogant at times he revels in his playboy lifestyle, but as this story proves, that can also be his downfall.

Demon in a Bottle (1979) is the quintessential Iron Man story, showcasing Marvel’s strengths in flawed heroes with real world problems. Here the foe is far more deadly than any supervillian, being Tony Stark’s battle with alcoholism. The tale chronicles the events that led to Tony Stark turning to drink for comfort, then ending with his climatic struggle with alcohol. It reeks of the 70s (but that’s half its charm); it’s a brave move in comics that invests the character with real humanity, a story that still has implications for Tony Stark to this day.

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