Iron Man is a Dry-Drunk Fascist

Whose side are you on?

Yeah, as they say in The Wire, I’m back on that stuff.

I should have recognized it when I went to the library to return some “books” a month ago. The things I checked out were late, and when I was handing everything over, I asked the librarian how much I owed.

“Oh, not that much, Mr. Marsh. Most of these items are from the teen section.”

Ouch.

I had checked out a couple Marvel comics compilations. Two volumes: one a collection of old Spider Mans and a collection of The New Avengers.

It was a junkie’s first spike after a two decade layoff.

I haven’t been into comic books since the mid-’80s. I was into Spider Man, and Captain America, and Iron Man. When my dad gave me a ride to get my allergy shots, he would soothe me with post-anaphylactic trips to Shinder’s Maplewood outlet. My geek peak was probably in ’84-’85, when I was ten-years-old, and Marvel’s Secret Wars mini-series–where a team of heroes fought a team of super villians on an alien planet–was as important to me as Star Wars, GI Joe, and the Transformers. But as I got older, I realized that that stuff was for nerds, so I somewhat desperately channeled all my male energy into sports. I renounced Peter Parker for Larry Bird. It still didn’t help with the ladies, but I felt better about myself, and was better able to look my father in the eye.

I never really gave it up though. I read “graphic novels.” I talked about “Chris Ware’s genius.” I overpaid for an out-of-print copy of McSweeney’s 13. And I snuck the occasional peek at Frank Miller and Alan Moore’s superhero stuff in the name of cultural awareness. But when my girlfriend admitted a crush on Wolverine, I used it as an excuse to dabble once again in the dork arts. I bought her a Chris Claremont collection at Dreamhaven for Christmas and read the whole thing before wrapping it.

After that Dreamhaven trip, I started to get the sweats. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have picked a worse time to become a loser again–because Marvel is fan-fucking-tastic. These comic books are clearly aimed right at pasty 30-somethings, with sexual innuendo and political allegory (and ads for “Classic WWF” figurines–I mean, what kid remembers Ravishing Rick Rude?). These cartoons are making me doubt the relevance of rock and roll or contemporary fiction. I honestly believe the only popular art forms that even attempt to reflect what’s going on on the streets of our post-9/11 world are hip hop and comic books. This new Civil War storyline is incredible, amazing, spectacular…pick your favorite superhero hyperbole. The super-villian Nitro blows up 700 kids in Stamford, Connecticut on a reality-TV show and Congress passes “The Registration Act” compelling every superhero to register his or her secret identity with the government or become a fugitive from the law. Iron Man and his “cape hunters” are on the security side and Captain America and his “secret Avengers” are on the personal freedom side. The mini-series has a kind of pro-Iron Man bent, but there’s a companion series, Frontline, that’s very conspiracy-theory-rich. And the Civil War’s aftermath is just as intriguing. They assassinated Captain America! A brainwashed blonde did it (figures, right?). I’m sure you heard about it on CNN, but did you get a call from Dreamhaven informing you that your reserved copy of Captain America #25 (which is already going for more than $20 on the internet) is being held safely behind the counter for you?

Yeah, I know I’m losing it. I have what my dorky new buddies down at Nostalgia Zone refer to as “the fever.” I’m a super hero guy again. Fine. I’m not ashamed. And don’t worry too much about me. Sure, I’m a 1950’s menace–I read comic books and smoke dope–but I’ve buttressed my intellectual defensiveness with close readings of both Fagles’ new translation of The Aeneid, and that New York Times Magazine cover story about our Darwinian compulsion to believe in God…I guess what I’m saying is when I want to get lost in a Keanu-esque “WHOA!” mind-fuck, I do it right.

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4 Responses

  1. I like that you also buttress it with reading exclamatory comments from Tolstoy out loud.

  2. 10 or 11 years old? Around the same time that you were delving into the New York Dolls and Velvet Underground?

  3. Same thing happened to me about 5 years ago. Be sure to check out the Ultimates, a second-take on the Avengers that Marvel publishes under its Ultimate line of re-vamped classic titles. The team is put in fascist service to SHIELD and the USA. It’s all completely believable in its ridiculous way. Tony Stark is still a lush, Captain America has a tough time adapting to life in the present, and Thor is a extreme environmentalist who everyone believes is a lunatic for considering himself an Asgardian god. Credible writing and outstanding art.

  4. does the fact that you’ve stated that the web has shortened the distance “between artist and asshole” mean that you no longer posting on the usual sites? on behalf of the assholes, we miss you.

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