Marvel Action Hour Featuring Iron Man #5
Marvel Comics (March, 1995)“Origins” part 1: “Iron Man Is Born” The comic claims to be freely adapted from the two part episode “The Origin Of Iron Man” by Ron Friedman, but it’s so far off that isn’t an adaptation at all. WRITER: Eric Fein PENCILER: Anthony Williams INKER: John Nyberg COLORIST: Sam Parsons LETTERER: Dave Sharpe EDITOR: Tom Daning
The project with the Grim Reaper is the latest in a series of problems Tony’s been facing, worried that being Iron Man has taken time away from the company. Admiral Younger hints that having Iron Man investigate the Valley Of The Spirits, where a team investigating a weird power reading disappeared, may help improve Stark Enterprises’ standing with the government, so he goes. Along the way he thinks back to his origin before arriving, as the Mandarin’s spy camera watches.
As for Iron Man’s origin, it is nothing like the television version, outside of the Mandarin now being involved, and not much like the original, either. Tony was a high-tech genius but his father wanted him to just run the company. When an explosion killed his father and his mother died later, Tony ends up in charge of the company, but an explosion left shrapnel damaging his spine. With the help of therapist Veronica Benning he regains the ability to walk. At a party in China, a man named Zhang Chan, otherwise known as the Mandarin, wants Tony to invent some stuff for him. Tony refuses, while Hammer gets chummy with Chan. On the way home, Tony is captured and brought to Vietnam as warlord Wong Chu (under Mandarin’s orders) tries to force Tony to make weapons for him, and pairs him with another scientist, Professor Yinsen. Secretly they build a powerful armor that allows Tony to escape but as he adjusts to the system that allows his brain to control the armor, Wong Chu breaks in and Yinsen sacrifices himself to allow Tony the time he needs. Tony escapes, gets some payback, and that’s how he became Iron Man in this continuity.
What they got right: The tone is closer to season two even though this came out in season one. While different from the original origin, and the version from the cartoon it’s adapting (allegedly; I’ll get back to that), it’s still a rather good origin, bypassing the heart problems for the spine issues I believe he had around this time.
What they got wrong: This whole “freely adapted” thing, even though some of the stories were actually better, still requires you to actually use something from the story you’re adapting. Outside of Iron Man going alone to the Valley Of The Spirits there is nothing, not even the origin, that matches the episode allegedly being adapted. Just call it an original story and divorce it from the Marvel Action Hour by this point because Fein was creating something completely different and the editor didn’t even seem to care, if he bothered to check the episode at all.
Recommendation: I still pushing the comic over season one and it’s actually an interesting alternate origin for Iron Man. I still say give it a look.