First Published: April 2008
Contents: Iron Man #12 (April 1969) to #38 (June 1971); and Daredevil #73 (February 1971)
Key Creator Credits: Archie Goodwin, George Tuska, Gerry Conway, Don Heck, Allyn Brodsky, and others
Key First Appearances: Controller, Crimson Dynamo (III), Madame Masque, Eddie March, Firebrand, Kevin O’Brien, Spymaster, Marianne Rodgers
Story Continues In: Essential Iron Man Vol. 2
Story Continues In: Essential Iron Man Vol. 4
Overview: Every hero has to have a weakness, right? Over at DC Comics, Superman must avoid Kryptonite, Green Lantern is useless against anything yellow, and Aquaman cannot be away from water for very long. At Marvel, Iron Man comes to mind, as Tony Stark has been living on borrowed time with his damaged heart. His armor has kept his heart beating for years. But for all of his money and genius, Stark has never been able to fully repair his heart – until NOW! So let’s dive into Essential Iron Man Vol. 3.
Tony Stark finally decides to scale back his Iron Man life and to live more outside of the armor. He has met the (current) love of his life, Janice Cord, and wants to spend as much of his time with her as possible. That means he is finally ready for that heart transplant, so he doesn’t have to be tied down to the armor so much. The transplant is a success, but circumstances always force Stark back into the armor. Shortly after his surgery, Iron Man has to face off against the Titanium Man and the new Crimson Dynamo. During that battle, Janice Cord is fatally injured, once again throwing Tony’s life into chaos.
Some new faces come into Tony Stark’s life, some more important than others. Boxer Eddie March becomes the next man to wear the Iron Man armor. His run is short-lived, but he will return in later Essential volumes in a freaky appearance. Whitney Frost, whom we met in the last Essential, is injured and forced to hide her scars behind a face plate, becoming Madame Masque. The villain Firebrand shows up for the first time, but he will have a longer (and more important) story arc in the next collection. And Kevin O’Brien is hired on at Stark Industries; in the next collection, he will don a green version of Stark’s armor and will be called Guardsman.
Perhaps the most significant addition would be Marianne Rodgers, who becomes the new romantic interest for Tony. While her first appearance is listed as Iron Man #36, some people believe that she is the “Marion” character from Tales of Suspense #40, who suggested that Iron Man paint his armor some other color besides battleship gray. When she appears in Iron Man #36, it’s implied in the story that they already know each other, Tony starts referring to her as “Honey” within three pages.
What makes this Essential?: I liked this volume, but I am struggling to give this a strong endorsement. Archie Goodwin and George Tuska dominate the first half of this book, and those are good stories. Allyn Brodsky and Gerry Conway take over the writing duties, with art by Don Heck, and I can’t really complain about that. But I keep looking through the book and I can’t imagine wanting to read this again. If I was more of an Iron Man fan, I could envision wanting to get back into these issues. So what to do, what to do….. Definitely, read this if you are a fan of Iron Man. There are some key character introductions that will play important roles in the years to come. For the casual Marvel fan, maybe just flip through this on the side.
Footnotes: Iron Man #35 & #36 and Daredevil #73 are also collected in Essential Daredevil Vol. 3.
If you like this volume, try: reading Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle story by David Michelinie, Bob Layton, and John Romita, Jr. Collecting Iron Man #120 to #128 from 1979, Iron Man is besieged by numerous foes, with someone attempting to take over his armor. As the pressures increase, Tony Stark turns to alcohol. Unfortunately, Stark’s compulsive personality leads him further and further down a dark path. He is forced to turn over his armor to the police, and he must step down as leader of the Avengers. Stark finally bottoms out and recognizes his problem. With the help of Bethany Cabe, Tony goes through a withdrawal and begins the long, slow climb to sobriety. At the time this was created, this wasn’t necessarily written as a long storyline; they were just attempting to tell a good story month after month. It was only after the fact that people began to refer to this story arc as “Demon in the Bottle” (which was the issue name for the final issue in Iron Man #128) In 1984, this was one of the first stories that Marvel ever collected in a trade paperback. It has been reprinted multiple times in multiple formats, and should be easy to find.