Day 4 of 28 Days of Black Super Heroes, this time we’re talking about the Marvel Comics’ character War Machine.
WHO IS HE?
War Machine is James “Rhodey” Rhodes, the best friend of well known Marvel hero Iron-Man. Most of you already knew this from suffering through the latest, and frankly pretty awful, Iron-Man 2 movie.
In the comics, Rhodey was the pilot who helped Tony escape the Viet-Cong (they were the enemy when Iron-Man was created) when he first assembled his original suit of armor.
But I first met Rhodey way before the War Machine days, when he actually was Iron-Man.
See, Tony Stark’s business was under siege from a commercial (and criminal) enemy, Obadiah Stane, and because of this pressure, he succumbed to his alcholism.
He got his ass kicked one night, and who did he go to drag his sorry butt out of the fire?
Yeah. The brotha.
The cover looked pretty awesome to me, so I picked it up. I wasn’t really an Iron-Man fan, but I thought, damn, the black dude is out there kicking ass and taking names!
Well, actually, he spent the first several issues getting his butt kicked, too. Tony was too drunk most of the time to show him how to use the armor. Baby steps, though.
I just had to show my dad. I said: “Look dad, there’s a black guy starring in the comic!”
Then my dad looked at the comic and he said: “60 cents!! What?!? These things used to be a NICKEL!”
Oh well, not everyone is a comic fan.
THINGS WENT SOUTH
So Rhodey actually was Iron-man for about 30 issues, culminating in Tony’s dramatic return in issue 200.
In between that time, Rhodey kind of went off the rails a bit, and he actually started getting these headaches and getting paranoid.
Actually the man went batshit crazy and tried to kill Tony and all that. Damn, man. It’s like that? So he gave up being Iron-Man.
However, before that all went down he managed to get in on some extremely important events in the Marvel Universe, two big ones were:
Man this series was so awesome. Wait, actually the writing was awful and the art left a lot to be desired, but hey I was 10 years old, and all my favorite heroes were together.
A quick recap of Secret Wars: An all-powerful alien being abducted the worlds heroes and villains and set the to fight each other on a far away world pretty much at the end of the universe. This went on for 12 issues.
The effects of this series are still felt today, most notably with Spider-Man’s enemy Venom, who originated from that title.
So back to Rhodey, he was Iron-Man at the time, so he was abducted along with the other heroes. He fought valiantly, but the one thing that always stuck with me was how Rhodey tried to put the moves on Monica Rambeau, aka the Black Captain Marvel.
The way it was written he kind of made this crass come-on that she was offended by. Now, not everyone is a smooth playa such as myself, but damn, they couldn’t have Rhodey do better than that? Oh, well…
This was a pivotal moment in Marvel history. Traditionally, everything took place in New York, but then current team leader The Vision decided to form a new team based in L.A. Awesome!
Never mind that The Vision was himself batshit crazy at the time…
It didn’t matter, though. I have so many fond memories of coming home from school, opening my mailbox and getting my West Coast Avengers subscription in the brown paper wrapping.
I’d sit there and read about Rhodey’s adventures with the team. Alas he didn’t stick around long. Tony Stark actually came back as Iron-Man when Rhodey gave up the armor.
Still it was a very cool concept, and Rhodey was right there.
Incidentally, DC Comics later stole this idea and one-upped marvel by creating Justice League Europe.
Actually, when I really think about it, I believe making John Stewart the black Green Lantern was either a response to Marvel setting up Rhodey as Iron-Man, or it was vice-versa. I need to look that up…
Well let’s get to the War Machine
I had taken a break from comics for awhile (poor college students can’t afford comics), and when I came back, West Coast Avengers had been renamed Avengers: West Coast, and Rhodey was there, in a kind of lackluster gray suit and he was called War Machine now.
After a failed mission teaming up with the X-Men, the West Coast team was actually disbanded! Cripes!
From what I read, I could see there was a lot of bad blood between Tony Stark and Rhodey, but I didn’t know why.
Checking up on it now, I see Stark faked his own death and left Rhodey out of the loop. Man, I hate when my friends do that!
For those of you who haven’t figured it out, Tony Stark in the comics is NOTHING like his on-screen Robert Downey, Jr. persona. That guy is cool, but in the comics, Tony Stark is an extreme douchebag.
So Rhodes was understandably upset, but things got worse from there.
Bad, Rhodey! BAD!!
I pick up the X-Men event Decimation (Marvel really has no entry on this in their Wiki??), and who is there herding the Mutants and trying to arrest Storm and the Black Panther but James Rhodes???
COME ON, MAN!!! (Oh by the way, Tony Stark, the rest of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four and guys like that just sat back and let the X-Men be herded and corralled by the government like concentration camp prisoners without lifting finger one to help them. Nice.).
So that wasn’t a great moment for Rhodey, there. I lost a lot of respect for the character.
Then, the next time I see him, it’s in his own title, and he’s HALF-MACHINE. Actually, “half” is being conservative. I think he only had half of his face left, the rest was all machine.
I only read a few issues, but it was kind of boring so I dropped it like it was hot.
After that I see War Machine show up in an issue of Iron-Man, where he proceeded to kick Tony Stark’s ass around the sky for about 15 of the 22 pages.
See Marvel was pretty savvy. They had turned Iron-Man into such a tremendous douchebag that everyone wanted to see him getting his tin can kicked. Well, they provided that with a storyline that consisted of issue after issue of other heroes and villains just beating down on Tony. Good times.
Finally, I read some more of the Iron-Man recent issues, and then I see Rhodey all put back together as a normal human. Ok, so what happened? Hell, I don’t know, check the Wikipedia. Do I have to do everything around here?
The Wrap Up
Further reading: War Machine Vol 1-2
|I wouldn’t go so far as to say I recommend these, but if you’re interested in picking up more on Rhodey, see these trades and current issues of Iron-Man|
Well, to bring this to a close, War Machine is a character I have fond memories of, but that I really don’t want too much to do with now in the present day, unless he gets somebody writing him that can bring back the fun stuff.
Until that time, I’ll just avoid it and re-read my West Coast Avengers issues.
Anyway so that’s all for this War Machine article, and here’s a look at the raw pencil art I drew. Stay tuned until tomorrow!