Customer Reviews: Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle
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on April 21, 2007
By the time these issues were originally published, Iron Man had been around for nearly 15 years, but for all his popularity-- sharing a book with Captain America in the 1960s, moving to his own title, and playing a major role in the Marvel title The Avengers-- he'd never quite made a mark as a character the way other heroes of the Marvel-verse had. Simply put, he felt more like a concept-- take a James Bond-like playboy named Tony Stark and merge him with the idea of the Knight in Shining Armor-- than a fully-fleshed out idea. It's a neat concept, but one that a long string of very talented writers and artists failed to develop. Even literally giving Iron Man a new heart-- to replace the shrapnel-damaged ticker that had spurred the invention of his life-giving armor in the first place-- failed to pump new blood into the character. He seemed destined to remain a second-tier figure, fun and visually striking, but lacking the pathos of such landmark heroes as Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four.

In 1978, that all changed. Writer/co-plotter David Michelinie and Artist/co-plotter Bob Layton have stated in numerous interviews that they see themselves as craftsmen at the service of the characters, and that they want readers to become absorbed in the storylines, rather than thinking about the creators behind the scenes. Fine, but their own landmark work on this title belies that modesty. Simply put, what was needed was not a new heart, or new armor, or a big-time supervillain, but two artists alert to the possibilities buried within the title, and especially the title character. For all intents and purposes, they re-invented Tony Stark/Iron Man, and gave Marvel a whole new hero to play with.

M&L's solution to the riddle that had bedeviled even Stan Lee was remarkably simple: what if we really took this guy seriously, and tried to tell some realistic stories about him? What if we made him a real character-- funny, fleshed-out, full of strengths and ego and very deep flaws-- and tested his grace under pressure? What if we surrounded him with a top-notch supporting cast? What if we gave him a real girlfriend, instead of the Harlequin robots that had populated the book in the past? What if we really explored what it meant to be a Cold Warrior, to think about the ethics and unforseen consequences of your actions and inventions? In other words, what if we emphasized the "man" in the title, rather than the "iron"?

What resulted was a run of 40 issues (#116-156, although Layton left after #153) that offered a gripping and very human arc, respecting the genre conventions of the superhero tale (the costumes, the action sequences, the patented marvel hero crossovers) while also asking them to grow up. This wasn't new to Marvel, but it was new to Iron Man, and M&L's run on the title heralded a renaissance at a company that had been in a downward creative spiral for the previous half-decade: in the wake of M&L would come Frank Miller's Daredevil, John Byrne and Chris Claremont's X-Men (and Byrne's even-better five-year run on the Fantastic Four), Walt Simonson's mythic look at Thor, and the classic Hobgoblin arc in Spider-Man (it's not a coincidence that these books followed editorial and business-side shake-ups that would lead to better conditions for writers and artists, and draw some of the best talent to the company. After all, treating people like human beings shouldn't only apply to fictional characters).

I emphasize that whole 40-issue arc because some people have complained that the storylines here are wrapped up too quickly and neatly. That's a fair complaint, but I think it's more an effect of the TPB form (which has to end *somewhere*, and gives a sometime-false impression of closure) than the stories themselves-- the issues and ideas raised here continue to be developed after the stories collected in the book. In fact, M&L do such a good job re-inventing the character that they haunt every creative team that followed them on the book, as new writers and artists either choose to emphasize the extremes of Stark's flaws (Denny O'Neill's often fascinating but misguided restaging of Stark's alcoholism in the early 80s is but one example, althoug it's so grippingly done that, for all its problems, it probably deserves its own TPB, too) or ignore M&L's innovations altogether choosing to revert Stark to his crass playboy persona of the 60s (the recent Civil War series is at least an attempt to do something unique with what M&L wrought). In the end, not even M&L could live up to their own legacy-- their much-anticipated return to the title in the mid-80s (partially collected as an "armor wars" TPB) started strong, but was eventually overwhelmed by its action sequences, which didn't flow in and out of their characters as gracefully as their first run had.

Which is why it's great this first run is now collected and back in print. Is it perfect? No. Is it occasionally nostalgic? Sure (check out those disco-era fashions). But none of that eradicates M&L's achievement-- in a genre that sometimes emphasizes mindless mechanical action and macho cliche, they managed to create a brief, shining moment of humanism. And that, in the end, is what superheroes are all about.
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As a long time Iron Man fan, I certainly appreciate the importance of the Demon in a Bottle storyline both to Iron Man as a character, and comics in general. However, I hesitate to call it the definitive Iron Man storyline.

To be sure, Demon in a Bottle has its high points, the obvious one being Tony Stark's struggle with alcoholism. While this kind of story wouldn't make much of an impact today, 25 years ago it was quite a big deal. It definitely added a new dimension to the character, and emphasized the "man" in Iron Man. I also thought the introduction of Justin Hammer as a corporate rival and SHIELD's attempt to take over Tony's company were very interesting developments. The artwork is another high point. While the pencils provided by John Romita Jr. hardly resemble his later, more popular work, they are still quite solid, and are supported by outstanding finishing and inking by Bob Layton, who I will readily acknowledge is the definitive Iron Man artist.

That said, the book is not without a few flaws. The major emphasis, at least for the first 75% of the book, is on the standard superhero fare rather than Tony's alcoholism. This would be fine if it were handled well, but the various battles are relatively mundane, and the dialogue is downright awful during those fight scenes. Justin Hammer's floating island and private army (who could pass for an early prototype of G.I. Joe's enemy COBRA) are a bit silly as well. Plus, Tony apparently resolving his alcohol problem in one issue seemed way too easy. Still, these are relatively minor gripes against what is an otherwise good storyline.

Overall I'd rate Demon in a Bottle at 4 stars. It gets 5 stars for the importance of the subject and the depth it gave my favorite Marvel character, and 3/3.5 stars for the actual execution. Is it one of the most important Iron Man stories? Absolutely. Is it the definitive Iron Man story? Probably not. My money is on either the classic Iron Man: Armor Wars saga, or the recent Iron Man Vol. 1: Extremis story, both of which do a better job at getting to the heart of what Iron Man is all about.
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on January 28, 2014
When I was a kid, I had read a bunch of Iron Man issues that had a huge story arc where Tony Stark is practically a bum in the gutter, due to his intense addiction to alcohol. The stories went on to show Rhodey taking over the Iron Man armor and flying around doing good deeds, all the while suffering from things like severe migraines because the armor was not calibrated to his brainwaves. It was an awesome story arc and it made me really love the series more than ever, even as a kid. So, when I saw the title of this book, I thought for sure it'd be about that time period.

It is not.

Apparently, there was a story arc that was literally referred to as "Demon in a Bottle." And, i guess it was it's own story arc that spanned a very short about of issues. I wasn't crazy about reading this, because this graphic novel takes forever to get to the alcoholic part, and then it concludes faster than you can blink.

In essence, I guess if you liked this particular story line, it's a great buy. Seriously. But, if you're like me and were expecting the much more fleshed out story arc that should've been in book form instead, then this isn't for you. I'm rating it 4 stars for what it is, not for what I wanted it to be.
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on July 5, 2016
Literature is the window to the human condition. Whether coming in a 400-page novel or a 26-page comic book, the words on the page are just as powerful. However, sometimes the medium of comics is able to offer a more poignant glimpse with the pictures that provide an additional peek into the soul’s of the characters. Such is the case with the seminal IRON MAN story,DEMON IN A BOTTLE, by David Micheline, Bob Layton and John Romita, Jr.

Demon in a Bottle is probably the moment when the Jim Shooter era truly arrived as at Marvel Comics, as Shooter was appointed Editor-in-Chief the previous year to succeed Archie Goodwin. The Micheline-Layton story really set the bar for what would be an era of ground-breaking storytelling from Marvel Comics, storytelling that seemed to be the modus operandi under Shooter’s leadership.

With the Comics Code firmly in place, Demon in a Bottle was not necessarily a slam-dunk concept. Generally heroes took on real villains, people that is, not ideas such as alcoholism. While Micheline and Layton have both been quoted as saying their intention was to just produce the next issue of Iron Man, the legacy and impact of this storyline still reverberate through the comics today.

A nine-issue arc, launching in March 1979, Demon in a Bottle began as a slow build to its eventual climactic finish with issue #120, which featured the Sub-Mariner and continued to introduce the character of Bethany Cabe to readers. Issue #120 also sets the arc’s other wheels in motion, introducing Justin Hammer (who would go on to become one of Iron Man’s 2 antagonist in the form of actor Sam Rockwell) and his ploy to unseat Stark Industries as the Marvel Universe’s go-to manufacturer.

It really is Hammer’s deliberate attempts to frame Iron Man that lead to Stark’s eventual spiral into the bottle. These machinations begin with slightly minor annoyances as the Iron Man armor experiences momentary and inopportune glitches and eventually lead to Stark having no control of his armor and seemingly murder an innocent ambassador at the United Nations in front of a stunned audience in issue #124.

While Stark eventually manages to win the day, his drinking continues to the point where he can no longer function in the suit, putting lives at risk as he attempts to utilize the armor while inebriated. It’s the character of Bethany that really shines in this issue as she refuses to give up on Stark, even after he seemingly blew her off (a result of another intoxicated evening). In fact, Stark’s boorish and angry behavior also resulted in the resignation of longtime Avengers butler Jarvis as well.

Whether they meant to or not, Micheline and Layton did not just provide a cautionary tale of the dangers of overindulgence in alcohol, but they also provided a commentary on the power of family and friends. It is Bethany’s refusal to allow Stark to wallow in self-misery that truly provides the heart of this story.
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HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon September 3, 2007
One of the most important moments in Iron Man's history occurs in Demon in a Bottle, which makes it worth picking up for nostalgia's sake if nothing else. While villain Justin Hammer rears his ugly head, Tony "Iron Man" Stark takes on his toughest opponent: alcoholism. While David Michelinie (who's run on the title is the closest thing Iron Man ever had to a definitive writer) attempts to give a powerful/human story here, the issue gets resolved way too quickly for anyone to consider it believable. Not to mention that the book comes off as quite dated thanks to the atrocious dialogue and overall lame conflict and storyline. Despite that though, Demon in a Bottle marks a historic moment in the Iron Man mythos, and the artwork from Bob Layton and John Romita Jr. isn't bad either. All in all, Demon in a Bottle is worth picking up for nostalgia's sake alone for Iron Man fans, but all others should proceed with caution.
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on May 24, 2013
The Demon in a Bottle storyline creeps in the background of most of the first two-thirds of this book, but comes to the forefront when Tony's drinking becomes problematic. Originally published in 1979, these comics seem a tad dated in tone and characterization, but I think that just adds to the charm of this book. Recommended even for casual fans who can dive right in without the background of other Iron Man comics.
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VINE VOICEon February 22, 2007
In the age when we lose track of older comics, Marvel has reprinted this classic Iron Man collection (issues 120-128)

The collection is called Demon in a Bottle, however it is really devoloped in one full issue in this collection. The situation of being Alcoholic shirted the Comic Code as Spiderman's Drug issues did, but it does seem rush in hinesight.

The reprint is done on a nice stock of paper, not that gloss cxrap that usually reprints use or the news print like paper stock that DC showcase and some Marvel Archieves uses. The color separation are also good. And one issue does recap ole Shell head's origin

I remember buying this years ago in the same format. David Michelnie's work is the reason to get this collection. I just wish DC and Marvel would stop reprinting stories from the 80 and 90'sd and start raiding the archieves and make affordable rare comics

However, buy this now and save the rush for those getting this when the new Iron man Film comes

Bennet Pomerantz AUDIOWORLD
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on January 17, 2016
For the reference of reviewers reviewing my review ahaha, I am one who never got to read these origin stories when they were new. I have started the Iron Man journey all the way at the beginning so theses issues were new to me and I loved them. I love Tony Stark so this one was sweet but soo short. I say short because I like the "Epic Collections" that package more issues inside. This was a very frustrating time for Tony and I love to see him struggle with his weaknesses and act up.
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on March 16, 2014
It's a good
story, but it is lacking, as far as Iron Man being an alcoholic, I could tell that the writer didn't know much about alcoholism, But it does introduce the thought of all that power and it being operated by a mind that is "under the influence",,,

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on November 8, 2010
David Michelinie, Bob Layton and John Romita, Jr. tackled a very serious issue for comic books, substance abuse, and they did it in a sensitive, but often times painful, presentation. Iron Man may be invincible, Tony Stark may be the cool exec everyone wants to know, but he isn't quite as invincible.

As a side note, years later, after Denny O'Neill had him relapse, writer Len Kaminski and artist Tom Morgan sort of revisited Tony's alcoholism when Tony's mind was thrown into the internet and an AI computer took over his body. Yes he drank, and Tony still took responsibility when he got back into his body (and fought both War Machine, made up, then joined forces with WM and Force Works to find an all-powerful Mandarin) and went to a meeting. The cover of issue 313 (vol. 1) is just fantastic: The "spirit" of Iron Man putting his hand on Tony, stopping him from drinking.
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