Comic Book Addictions – Part 3 – Iron Man
Alcohol: The Demon in a Bottle
While this title may seem unnecessarily vilifying, it is nonetheless the title of one of the most famous comic-book series ever written. Iron Man, AKA Anthony (Tony) Stark, was once the victim of his own demise through excessive, and boy do we mean excessive, drinking. Throughout the Iron Man comics, Stark has always struggled with a drinking problem. Even the movies made famous by Robert Downey Jr. briefly touch on Stark’s constant drinking.
We see this the most in Iron Man 2 when Stark is completely wasted in his Iron Man suit, in his house, hosting a massive birthday party for himself. He even tinkles in his suit to explain how great the filtration system he installed is. But the movies did deliberately avoid using alcoholism as Stark’s primary crutch due to controversy, which is why the comics are always a better source.
Rock Bottom for the Billionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist
It all starts somewhere, and Stark’s first drink came from his abusive, alcoholic father, Howard Stark, who forced him to have his first drink while he was in High School. Flash forward to Stark’s adulthood to where he is in his armor, helmet off, chugging liquor. A solo-narration is given by Stark as he weighs the chaos of his two lives; he contemplates abandoning his civilian name in order to become Iron Man full time.
After several more drinks, Stark dons his helmet and flies out of his office, shattering the window he thought was open on his way out.
In this same storyline, Stark, clad in his armor, attempts to help police remove a gas tanker. Instead of helping, Stark accidentally drops the tanker and releasing the gas, making matters worse and nearly killing dozens. Stark also drunkenly berates his butler, Edwin Jarvis, who resigns afterward.
To make matters worse, even S.H.I.E.L.D. decides to step in and attempts a forced seizure of all Stark Industries assets. This attempt at a hostile takeover was due to many reasons, one of which being Stark’s reckless behavior while intoxicated.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
This storyline was incredibly daunting. Despite the fact that he drank, Stark represented the pinnacle of American Capitalism as well as industrial accomplishment. All of Stark’s villains were designed to be representative of America’s greatest enemies at the time. Most well-known of these being the plethora of communist Russian villains and, of course, the Mandarin. The Mandarin represented eastern mysticism and communist China, while Iron Man was industrial strength and American virtues.
So even with his drinking problem, Stark was an American icon, a hero, and a staple of the Marvel Universe. This particular storyline brought Stark to his knees in a way that none of his incredibly powerful villains could even dream of, showing us how terrible addiction can be. Even the most powerful man in the world, with limitless finances, limitless technology, and a mind to match the greatest scientists of all time, alcoholism and addiction can still be crippling.
Fortunately, there is a promising and optimistic ending. At rock bottom, Stark had both Jarvis and a woman named Bethany Cabe, who lost her husband to drug overdose, to help him. Cabe had tried to help Stark to not drink several times in this story, but it wasn’t until everything had hit the fan that she and Jarvis found Stark at the Avenger’s mansion getting ready to drink again. After everything that had happened, everything that had gone wrong, and losing almost all of the stock in his own company, Stark is looking to escape. But a hopeful pair of friends urge him not to destroy his life any farther.
Stark recaps the bottle and finally admits that his drinking is a problem. Cabe offers to help him quit drinking and with his withdrawal, drawing a heartfelt apology from Stark and asks Jarvis to come back to work.
Despite this being a very short storyline, it is an impactful, intense storyline. Again, Stark is brought to his knees by a liquid in a way that none of his opponents have ever been able to accomplish. Addiction is a powerful disease, merciless in its intent. The moral of this story, however, is incredibly uplifting.
A powerful man, with a powerful position and company, crumbles in the face of both a psychological and physiological addiction. Hitting rock bottom by making matters worse with his armor, losing an old friend/associate, and nearly losing his company, all because he could not put the bottle down. But with the help of friends, their persistence, love, compassion, and care, Stark admitted to his problem and got help. Since then, Stark has continued to enjoy a drink or two, but his alcoholism, his personal demon, has yet to resurface in the same manner. Simply proving that everyone needs help with some things, and it is never too late to get help.