Iron Man Reading Recommendations?

Like the companies want me to be, I was so jazzed after seeing the Iron Man movie that I wanted to read comics about him. But I want comics about the same character, cool sexy funny Tony Stark.

(Thanks to Ed, who made me realize that Iron Man combines the best parts of Batman and Superman — he’s got the astounding levels of power, but anyone can put on his suit of armor and be just as super. Plus, he avoids the childhood trauma issues and the split personality.)

Iron Man #1 Movie Variant cover

So what should I read? I suspect my best choice will be the new Invincible Iron Man comic, which debuts tomorrow. I think writer Matt Fraction, based on his work on Casanova, is a great choice for that kind of thing. To attract that audience, there’s even a movie photo cover, among the six variants possible.

In the meantime, there are always the Masterworks. Those stories won’t be modern, certainly, but they’ll be the original character concepts. Good thing we already own them — the first volume is out of print, so it’s going for triple cover price. What clever timing. The Omnibus, also due tomorrow, is likely intended as a replacement.

At least the DVD-ROM archive is still available. Which would be the best issues for me to look up there? KC said something about playboy Tony being best in the 70s – true?

32 Responses to “Iron Man Reading Recommendations?”

  1. Justin Says:

    We got the Peter David novel to keep “seeing” the movie. My wife read it first and loved it. As usual Peter David remained faithful to the screenplay while adding more than the movie. Invincible Iron Man is where we are going to next, I think.

    I think another problem is that the movie has taken all the great continuity, as well it should, that would take knowing decades of Iron Man to properly collect together, if possible.

    I was thinking Ultimates 2 (I got three issues or so into the first volume and didn’t care for it) I remembered enjoying volume 2 very much. I am not sure about the Ultimate Iron Man mini series though. I don’t know how they would compare to the movie. Oh, and Jon Favreau has that Viva Las Vegas Iron Man mini coming soon.

    It is hard, I have my wife and my son absolutely wanting all sorts of Iron Man. One wants a specific movie persona (as do I) and the other one needs an Iron Man geared towards the five year old crowd. The latter has been a bit harder since he of prefers cartoons. There is an age-appropriate Iron Man cartoon coming out in 2009…. understandably he doesn’t want to wait.

  2. Jeff Hebert Says:

    I read Iron Man in the early 80’s then sort of lost interest, but I have to say, I think the take on the character that comes closest to the movie version is Mark Millar’s “Ultimates”. I know, I know, a lot of people hate his stuff, but Ultimates really clicks (for me at least) and Tony is really well done in it.

  3. JD Says:

    Marvel Adventures Iron Man is quite good (it’s written by Fred Van Lente, of Action Philosophers! fame), and two digests are available. Of course, that means it’ll be cancelled in a couple of months.

  4. Ali Kokmen Says:

    I’m fond of the David Michelinie / Bob Layton runs on Iron Man. The first one in the late 70s/80s, included the classic “Demon in a Bottle” alcoholism story, a time-travel adventure with Dr. Doom, really neat specialized armors, and just a whole bunch of good Marvel superhero fun. The second run started in the late 80s and included the “Armor Wars” story, and the debut of a new, sleeker armor (between these two runs, Iron Man had gone to a red-and-silver, bulkier suit.)

    Also, since Michelinie and Layton created the James Rhodes character, their comics feature some of the best uses of that character, in the pre-War Machine days. Plus, I think Layton had a sleek art style that matched well with the high tech adventuring Shellhead had during this time. Of course, the less said about Tony’s late 80s hairstyle, the better…

  5. Marc-Oliver Frisch Says:

    The only time I really got the appeal of Iron Man – both as a character and as a concept – was IRON MAN: THE INEVITABLE by Joe Casey and Frazer Irving.

    That said, Casey’s take on Tony Stark in that book seems quite different from what I’ve heard about the film.

  6. david brothers Says:

    Iron Man: Hypervelocity by Adam Warren and Brian Denham.

    It’s tech-y, funny, and actually similar in tone to the Tony from the movie.

  7. Adam Says:

    “Plus, he avoids the childhood trauma issues and the split personality”

    …and he likes a bit of drink too…

  8. Ralf Haring Says:

    Here is a list of IM collections:

    Out of those, I think Armor Wars is one that holds up pretty well. Tony learns that his tech was compromised and used in other characters’ armors. So he goes on a quest to neutralize them all. You will need to ignore the curly perm.

    Inevitable was a recent miniseries by Joe Casey and Frazer Irving that told a nice little standalone tale.

  9. Nick Piers Says:

    One that is rarely mentioned for Iron Man stories is a Mask in the Iron Man, written by Joe Quesada.

    The basic gist is that his armor gains sentience. It’s one of the few Iron Man stories I’ve ever read, but it made me a fan of the character instantly.

  10. chris w. Says:

    On the DVD-rom, try the two runs by David Michelene and Bob Layton from the late 70s-early 80s (with young John Romita Jr.) and then their mid-late 80’s run with Mark Bright.

    Layton and Micheline captured the character perfectly. They came up with the alcoholic Stark on top of the playboy Stark, they brought us the Obediah Stane storyline as well as various stories where Stark tries to regain stolen technology.

    Plus Bob Layton’s Iron Man, even when it’s inks only, is the definitive look for the character IMO.

  11. Justin Boatwright Says:

    Joe Casey seems to have a good handle on the character lately. Along with The Inevitable there is also his recently concluded mini Enter The Mandarin with some amazing art from Eric Canete. From what I remember Casey also wrote a decent IM in his Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes mini (I didn’t read the second one).

    I also appreciate the recommendations of others on here. This was the rare superhero movie that made me more of a fan of the character than I was beforehand so I will definitely be checking out the classics I have thus far neglected like Demon in a Bottle and Armor Wars.

  12. Paul Sizer Says:

    I’ll toss in my votes for looking at ULTIMATES 1 and 2 for the closest to Tony in the movie, at least in essence. With the spoiler at the end of the movie, it’s where this franchise is going to head, which is fine by me!

  13. Alan Sepinwall Says:

    Chris, I think Denny O’Neill came up with Obadiah Stane, who was the chief villain for the bulk of his run. When Michelinie and Layton returned to the character in the ’80s, they undid a good chunk of what O’Neill had done (ditching the red-and-silver armor, putting Stark back in charge of a multi-national conglomerate, turning a member of the supporting cast evil so they could write that person out, having Rhodey decide he never wanted to wear the armor again, etc.)

  14. patrick Says:

    it’s advantageous that the comic books give a lot more insight into the development of Tony Stark and his gadgets

  15. Johanna Says:

    Oh, wow, it never even crossed my mind that there might be a novelization. I don’t wanna read the Ultimates… although I suspect it is the closest portrayal, so maybe I’ll give it another look.

    I’m going to have to look up this hair thing, because people keep mentioning it. Thanks very much for all the suggestions!

  16. Dwight Williams Says:

    Alan’s right: like al Ghul for Batman, Obadiah Stane was one of O’Neil’s co-creations. Not surprising that Matt would be interested in seeing what Obadiah left behind…or perhaps, whom.

  17. Garrie Burr Says:

    Everyone talks about the Micheline/Layton and while they’re all well and good…

    The -best- run for me was Archie Goodwin’s take in the original Tales of Suspense through the beginning of the original Iron Man title. Goodwin was the first to really get the character ‘right’. Better than Lee. All available now in the cheap Essentials now.

    Bill Mantlo’s run brings fond memories to mind — he was one of the first to re-examine the Goodwin issues if I recall correctly. Probably not reprinted yet.

    Busiek’s run after the Heroes Reborn thing began pretty well. Roger Stern had a hand in there at the time too, to good results.

    Thought Ellis’ Extremis storyline was great, marred at the time only by a very slow artist.

  18. Bill D. Says:

    The extended period from the late 160s up to 200 is great reading. Tony’s relapse into alcoholism literally costs him everything, to the point where he even gives up being Iron Man. He hits rock bottom and has to rebuild his life, while things don’t always go so well for his replacement either. The last 10 issues or so get really good.

  19. odessa steps magazine Says:

    In addition to everything already mentioned (Micheline/Layton, Denny, Kurt, Roger Stern), I will throw some love to the classic TOS stuff. While very Silver Agey in their simplicity, I love all the Cold War villains. Plus, it’s fun to see Hawkeye as a bad guy.

  20. chris w. Says:

    I stand corrected on the Stane origin, thanks.

    I also liked O’Neil’s run, even though some say that he was directed to “up the alcoholism” by editorial fiat. It still gave us Rhodey in the armor and some excellent tales of Stark rebuilding his life and company. O’Neil’s Iron Man was consistently good as well.

  21. Dave Says:

    I quite enjoyed the Busiek/Stern run that went about 25 issues following Heroes Reborn. It’s been a few years and I have changed so I don’t know how it will hold up but maybe I’ll dig it out.

    I’ll throw THIS out there, though: I saw it last night with my brother-in-law who’s read a lot more comics that I have and what we came away with was this: Not only is this arguably the best superhero movie we’ve ever seen, but neither of us could think of an Iron Man comic we’d enjoyed more than the movie! And can anyone honestly say THAT about any other superhero movie?

  22. Dwight Williams Says:

    I’ll be interested to see Mr. O’Neil’s attention directed here with an eye towards answering the “up the alcoholism directive” question. He’s got a message board at and a column at, last I checked.

  23. James Schee Says:

    I’m glad to see you do this post Johanna, as I’ve been wondering about what IM stories to try as well. (doubt I’d like the Civil War version)

    I’ve been thinking of looking at the Marvel Age Iron Man. Especially since they have them in the big magazine size digests at Target again.

  24. Johanna Says:

    I’m sure the Marvel Age are good, but I suspect they don’t have that bad-boy snap I’m looking for, given the target age group. :)

  25. Jim Perreault Says:

    I second (or third) the first David Michelinie / Bob Layton run on the book. That’s probably my favorite run. There’s a very appropriate reference to it in one of the Civil War offshoots, with Captain America training Tony Stark how to fight.

    I find the early Lee stuff almost unreadable. The cold war stuff is too dated and the science is awefull.

    The O’neil run is good, but it doesn’t sound like it is what Johanna is looking for.

  26. Dave Says:

    “and the science is awefull”

    I dig the (unintended?) typo. Awefull ~ Awe + full = full of awe?

    Powered by….. Transistors!


  27. Charles RB Says:

    I keep hearing good things about the Knauf’s run on Iron Man (the current one after Extremis), which is currently all in trade form.

  28. Ralf Haring Says:

    I’m quite pleased with the Knaufs’ run, but it is tied heavily into his status in and after Civil War so I didn’t think it met with Johanna’s prerequisites.

  29. Vic Vega Says:

    I’d like to second Adam Warren’s Hypervelocity.

    Also try the Warren Ellis/Adi Granov Extrimis.

    They are both very similar in tone to the feel of the movie.

  30. Kurt Busiek Says:

    Johanna —

    Starting with the earliest stories is a good idea. There’s a lot of the spirit and ideas of them in the movie. If you like ‘em, just keep rolling all the way through the SUSPENSE run and up to IRON MAN #28. Stop there, though (seriously, the book becomes awful for a long time and doesn’t really recover until after #100, but that run’s derivative of the Goodwin run, so it’s skippable), and jump ahead to the first Michelinie run, which has a lot of the breeziness of the movie, and is where most of the movie’s ideas and spirit that Stan Lee and Don Heck didn’t create came from.

    If by the time you get to #150, you still want to keep going, I’d jump to the second Michelinie run, and pick up again there. And after that, well, maybe my run — I’ve read reviews of the movie that say there’s a lot of what I did in the movie, but I think it’s largely coincidence, since I was trying to do a modernized take on what’s fun about the early stories and the Michelinie run, and I think the movie folks were working from the same influences. [Tony’s “smart house,” though, I’ll call dibs on that…]

    That’s about 185 issues, so you’ll probably have had your fill somewhere in there…


  31. Johanna Says:

    I am so bummed that I am getting all of these great recommendations and I have no time right now to dive into them! Thank you very much, everyone — I’ll definitely be coming back to this.

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