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The Marvel Artist Select Series: ‘Bob Layton’s Iron Man’ (review)

Written by David Michelinie
Illustrated by Bob Layton
Published by IDW Publishing/Marvel


Iron Man was one of my first Marvel favorites, beginning way back in 1966 when the character was still sharing Tales of Suspense issues with Captain America.

To this day, I still have about a dozen color crayon drawings I made of ol’ Shellhead and his enemies when I was seven and eight years old. By the time the character got his own book, however, I wasn’t really enjoying the title as much. For much of the next decade, I only bought Iron Man intermittently, just to keep in touch with my old friend.

I don’t recall what it was that got me to do it but at one point in the early 1980s, I decided to stock up and binge on about 20 or 30 issues I had missed.

I remember sitting up in bed just reading and really enjoying Iron Man for the rest of that Saturday!

Many of the issues that brought me back to Mr. Stark’s adventures that day and for years afterward are included in the new book in IDW/Marvel’s limited edition Artist Select Series, The Invincible Iron Man by Bob Layton.

Back in the ‘70s, I seemed to run into Bob Layton at just about every con I attended in the Midwest area. I knew him from his fan publications and from his inking for DC. Iron Man was my first experience with him on Marvel characters. Much of his Iron Man art here is done in conjunction with other artists, mainly John Romita, Jr., then still pretty new to the industry, but Bob ended up handling more and more of it over time, eventually taking it over.

In point of fact, he was pretty much the showrunner all along, as revealed in the long opening interview herein done in 2018. Right from the beginning, Layton is credited with co-plotting, along with writer David Michelinie (an excellent comics writer of the period who seems unjustly forgotten today). He’s also credited early on sometimes with “finished art” rather than just “inks.”

With guest appearances from Captain America, the Hulk, Ant-Man, Vision, Spider-Man, and Falcon, there’s a definite familiar vibe for folks who just know the Marvel heroes from the recent movies.

This splendid collection also includes the celebrated issue which featured Barry Windsor-Smith in a then-infrequent return to comics (inked by Layton) and the first of several now classic meetings pitting Marvel’s armored hero against Marvel’s armored villain, Doctor Doom.

I have to note that the artwork here more than holds up. If one is honest, that isn’t always the case for comics from this period, even from major artists. Here, though it just shines—especially the armor itself! Although he was always called “the Golden Avenger,” the limitations of comics printing and coloring generally made him the Yellow Avenger, not exactly something one wants to brag about. Here, the rich colors and better printing play a large part in making these entertaining stories, all distantly familiar, seem new again.

Booksteve recommends.


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