Electric Shadow

Comic Shack #28 Reading List: Men of Iron and Steel

I'm amazed that I found a good pair of shots that feature both Iron Man and Superman.

The following represent a small sampling of Iron Man and Superman comic reading recommendations for new/returning/lapsed fans of either character who have enjoyed (or will soon enjoy) either (but more probably both) of them in this summer's big ol' movies full of explosions.

Always check with your Friendly Local Comic Shop first (if possible) to see if they can get you trade paperbacks, Omnibus hardcovers, or even the original single issues. Support local businesses so that we don't have to live in a dystopian future.

The following were all recommended during episode 28 of The Comic Shack, "Men of Iron and Steel".


Demon in a Bottle
(Iron Man Vol. 1 #120-128) 

TPB: $20
ComiXology: $16 

We didn't delve too much into this, but John brought it up and it's always worthy of mention. One of the darkest chapters in Iron Man lore, this story finds Tony Stark grappling with and finally accepting his alcoholism. A little of this was touched on in the movie Iron Man 2, but it didn't go full-bore into the source material. It really is a good thing that now, one of the most recognizable heroes in the world has a very public substance abuse problem. I hope that reading this story might help people steer themselves out of a downward spiral, or help those suffering (whether they know it or not) find the courage to admit something is wrong and ask for help.


Iron Man by Michelinie, Layton, & Romita Jr. Omnibus
(Iron Man Vol. 1 #115-157)

Hardcover: $70

This relatively new Omnibus collects a ton of the best early Iron Man, including Demon in a Bottle. It includes a great range of stories, from the super-serious (Demon) to the goofier time travel stuff (fighting Dr. Doom in the Middle Ages) to introducing important new suit tech (the space and stealth suits, which have seen more variants since). These big, bad books do go out of print after a while, and even though they carry a hefty price tag, keep in mind that the Demon TPB above costs around $20 for nine issues of story versus over four times that amount of content for less than four times the price. If you're investing in Iron Man stuff for your shelf, this is a better buy.


Armor Wars Prologue
(Iron Man Vol. 1 #215-224)

TPB: $12 

These ten issues run you just over a dollar each, and are essential reading as part of Armor Wars. I'm guessing that this is a separate volume because otherwise, their price for an Armor Wars TPB would hang at around $35-40, which isn't reasonable for retailers. Unfortunately, I'm completely unreasonable and am telling you that you've gotta grab both to really get the whole experience.


Armor Wars
(Iron Man Vol. 1 #225-232)

TPB: $23
ComiXology: $15

Armor Wars is one of the most-lauded Iron Man stories in the character's history, loads of which has been re-appropriated for movies (Iron Man 2), cartoons (Iron Man: The Animated Series and Armored Adventures), and future storylines (Armor Wars II, which isn't as good). The story concerns a bunch of other people wanting their own version of Iron Man tech, and a host of people doing everything in their power to steal it from Stark. It's like the weaponized cyber-suit version of the mobile platform wars we see playing out as we speak.


(Iron Man [2005] #1-6)

TPB: $11

The primary basis for box office titan Iron Man 3, one of Warren Ellis' greatest gifts to mainstream comics really is that good. A rogue biotech weapon called Extremis re-wires your DNA and makes you super-formidable, but the technology is still unstable. If you only grab one thing, and you want it to have something directly to do with this movie, this is the obvious pick.


Extremis Motion Comic

Amazon Prime members: Free to stream
DVD: $9
Blu-ray double feature with Spider-Woman: $22 

Another way to experience the exact same story, these are, like Extremis, a rewiring of the DNA of a few things into one chimera of mostly-entertaining diversion: cartoon, radio theatre, and comic book. Amazon Prime members can watch it for free on Amazon Instant as linked above.


Invincible Iron Man Vol. 4 (Matt Fraction & Salvador Larocca)

The Five Nightmares TPB (Invincible Iron Man Vol. 4 #1-6): $14
The Five Nightmares ComiXology Collected Edition: $13
Omnibus Vol. 1 (Invincible Iron Man Vol. 4 #1-19): $30
Omnibus Vol. 2 (Invincible Iron Man Vol. 4 #20-33): $23
ComiXology Collected Editions 1-10 and Fear Itself: between $7-13 each

I don't think my feelings about Matt Fraction's writing are anything resembling a secret anymore. His 64-issues-long run on Invincible Iron Man with the great Salvador Larocca, which began back in 2008 (prior to Secret Invasion). The whole thing is really well-written, both inside and outside of big crossover events, and it's one of the reasons he seems like such a big deal over at Marvel (because he is). The first six-issue run, "The Five Nightmares", plays in some of the same thematic areas as Ellis' "Extremis", even in its opening pages. Tony Stark is Director of SHIELD, and he is very quickly disoriented and between a rock and a hard place, similar to the way Iron Man 3 opens.

I've listed the two currently available Omnibus collections because, as above, they are a better value for the money if you're lining shelves with physical Iron Man books. If you're a digital-only type, ComiXology has the entire 64-issue run in collected editions that total $109.




Superman: Last Son of Krypton
(Action Comics #844-846, #851, 866-870, Action Comics Annual #11)

TPB: $16
ComiXology: individual issues

John brought this up early in the episode, since DC reprinted the first part of this pair of inter-related stories in their Free Comic Book Day issue. John hasn't read all of it, but just from what he has read, he thinks it's reasonable for brand-new or lapsed readers to jump in without any prerequisites. I agree there, and likewise that this may not be the best way to dig into Superman for the very first time. Even though it seems to share some parallels in the story told and the general theme of the upcoming Man of Steel (a Super-man trying to find himself), it's an odd way to discover the character. Co-written with Richard Donner, this collection includes the two storylines "Last Son" and "Brainiac", the latter being part of the basis for the brand-new DCU Animated feature Superman Unbound (which I enjoyed very, very much).


DC Universe by Alan Moore
(Batman: The Killing Joke, Action Comics #584, Batman Annual #11, DC Comics Presents #85, Detective Comics #549-550, Green Lantern #188, The Omega Men #26-27,  Secret Origins #10, Superman #423, Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 & 3, Superman Annual #11 and Vigilante #17-18) 

TPB: $17

Freshly reprinted just weeks before I write this, I now have a go-to Alan Moore TPB recommendation. John recommended this for its inclusion of Moore's Superman stories "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" and "For the Man Who Has Everything", the last two major stories before DC tried to reboot their multiverse with Crisis on Infinite Earths (which would be a good future episode topic). A personal non-Superman favorite in here is the Green Lantern one-and-done that's all about Mogo, the planet who is a member of the Green Lantern Corps. Yes, I'm serious. This Wikipedia article runs down synopses of all the stories contained here.


Kingdom Come
(Kingdom Come #1-4) 

TPB: $13
ComiXology: $8 total (individual issues)

John recommends this story that some may think of more as a "big DC event thing" than a Superman story. Superman is still grieving the death of Lois Lane years after the fact, and the Justice League has been disbanded for a long while. Something awful happens that calls the JL back together, and Wonder Woman has to convince Superman to pull the tights back on. This was one of the first stories drawn by Alex Ross that I read as a kid, and not only is his art gorgeous, but it's some of the best work he's ever done. The old heroes face the new upstarts that intend to take the throne from the old pantheon. The scope is that of grand mythic epic, and I still hope it somehow gets made as a movie (most likely an animated one, to be honest). This also happens to be some of Mark Waid's best writing, and he's been consistently great throughout his career.


Superman/Batman Vol. 2: Supergirl
(Superman/Batman Vol. 2 #8-13) 

TPB: $11
ComiXology : $12 total (individual issues)

Batman has discovered something strange on the bottom of Gotham Bay which leads him to a mysterious and powerful teenaged girl who's bent on destroying Gotham City! What's her connection to Superman? Why does Wonder Woman want to hide her from the outside world? Will Darkseid succeed in recruiting her into doing his bidding? This volume also includes an introduction by Loeb as well as a Kryptonian language translation key


Superman for All Seasons (Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale)
(Superman for All Seasons #1-4) 

TPB: $15
ComiXology: $12 total (individual issues)

After Loeb and Sale's massive success with Batman: The Long Halloween, they moved to a Superman story told over the course of a few seasons. This is as close to a full-on retelling of his origin story as we recommended, and this forms the basis for what would become the premise for the TV show Smallville. this is a solid, reasonably quick read that speaks to the humanity imbued in the god among men who would go on to protect his adopted home planet.


All-Star Superman (Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely)
(All-Star Superman #1-12) 

TPB: $21
ComiXology: $24 total (individual issues)

I loved seeing Morrison ply outside of the dark, occult-shrouded place he likes to live most of the time. In what John called a great take on the "warmth" of Superman as a character, Morrison puts Superman through his own set of twelve labors, to mirror those of Hercules (in structure, at least). Starting with Superman saving the first manned mission to the sun, the source of his power, he comes back with a new power: he can transfer his abilities to others. The cover of issue #3 "spoils" a choice he makes in that regard. A true modern classic Superman story, it has been adapted as one of the various DCU Animated movies. While it's good, I recommend avoiding the movie until you've read this first. Once you have grab the Blu-ray of the movie so you don't miss an opportunity to see Morrison interviewed.


Max Fleischer's Superman

Streaming in HD on Warner Bros.' YouTube Channel
DVD: $10
Blu-ray: Do not buy this

These cartoons were my first exposure to Superman in filmed form. They're now in the public domain, and loads of highway robbers would love to take your money by selling you awful DVD sets of them. I've written a piece exclusively about how terrible Gaiam Entertainment's 2012 Blu-ray release is (it should be recalled). The good news is that Warner Bros. recently uploaded them to their YouTube channel (in HD, no less). You can still buy the 2009 DVD they released, which used the original film masters as their source. Even though there is no major restoration work done on these, and they show dirt and other damage, they look better than I'd seen them until I looked at the HD versions on YouTube.


It's Superman! (Tom De Haven)

2005 hardcover edition: $0.21-9.00
2006 paperback edition: $0.98-19.00

This novel (the kind without pictures) was recommended to both John and I by our friend Drew McWeeny. It is one of the few (and best) concentrations of the spirit found in the old Fleischer cartoons on any printed page, and not hard to come by at local bookstores of both the comic book and non-comic-book varieties.