Was Iron Maniac a Back Door for Civil War?

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Sentinel of Liberty - even if it means Civil War

There's no question that Civil War was a risk for Marvel. Fans can choose sides easily when it comes to "DC or Marvel," but when you ask fans to choose between favorite characters, that can get sticky, because it's taking a risk with your sales. On the one hand, Iron Man sides with the government, and while he's cool and all, he's a total jerk about the way he runs the non-compliant heroes down. On the other hand, Captain America, a government-made icon and American symbol of freedom, sides against the government, eventually dying for it. For Marvel, it was that one death that ran the risk of turning everybody against them. It's the death of a character that's pretty much universally loved. I mean, c'mon, cynicism aside for a minute, admit it: even if you don't consider yourself a fan of Steve Rogers/Cap, or hate his politics, you at least love the idea of a living American symbol, out there fighting for and inspiring us all. And it puts the leader of the opposition - Iron Man - in the position of looking like the villain that's ultimately responsible for it.

I think there's only two things that kept Marvel from taking a huge hit over Cap's death. One was The Confession, where Iron Man admits that the cost of the war (Cap's death) wasn't worth the victory. It kind of softened the blow a little bit, seeing the leader of the government forces admit that things didn't end like they should have - kind of admitting that he had Cap's blood on his hands. The other thing that kept it from being a huge blow to Marvel was us, the jaded readers, who yeah, were shocked, but then shrugged and said, "So how long before they bring him back?"

What if that hadn't been the case though? What if the death of Captain America had turned fans completely off towards Marvel? What if it had made them hate Iron Man? That simply could not be, and Marvel had to have been planning contingencies for that.

Red and gold government tool

Why? Because Iron Man had been heading towards a movie since 1990, and Cap since 1997. In late 2005, Marvel Studios regained the rights to both properties, and started on their way towards what became Iron Man (I) and Captain America: The First Avenger. The first issue of Civil War came out in May, 2006, which means it was in development months before that, which means Marvel Comics started on Civil War about the same time Marvel Studios started developing these two movies. They had to be thinking about the potential powder keg they could be igniting with fans, killing off Captain America as a result of Civil War, leaving Iron Man to look like a red and gold government tool.

Enter: Iron Maniac

So how do you plan for that possibility? How do you leave yourself open to publish Civil War, but undo it if necessary? This isn't 2005's House of M, happening in an alternate reality, and it's not the coming Secret Invasion of 2008, where everything you didn't like was done by a vile, nasty Skrull. This is 2006, with a super civil war happening on American soil, in regular continuity. My theory is: when in doubt, you go with an old standby, and one of the oldest standbys is the evil twin. Enter: Iron Maniac.

Or rather, "Re-Enter." Iron Maniac actually first appeared in Marvel Team-Up #2, in January 2005. From Earth-5012, Iron Maniac is an Iron Man in the position of Doctor Doom, trying to take over the world to save it from a power mad Reed Richards. He's defeated in the initial story arc, is imprisoned by SHIELD, and isn't seen again until Marvel Team-Up #22, September 2006 - the same month that Civil War #4 was released. Both titles would end three issues later, but Marvel Team-Up would take three months to release those three issues, while Civil War would take six. So MTU #25 came out in December 2006, while CW #7 came out February 2007.

Now, are all those numbers really necessary? Oh yeah. You see, Marvel Team-Up was one of the only titles not participating in Civil War. It was by itself, over on the side, developing it's final few issues, with this evil twin of Tony Stark as the villain. In that time, Tony Stark visits Anthony Stark/ Iron Maniac on the SHIELD Helicarrier, although Anthony is supposedly drugged into submission during that time, unaware of the visit. Anthony later escapes, having immunized himself against the gas being used to sedate him.

Remember: Civil War was a risk for Marvel. It came out monthly for the first three issues, but there was a month between each issue for the rest of the series. This gave time for the rest of the Marvel titles to get their CW tie-ins finished, certainly, but it also allowed Marvel to have time to gauge reader reactions to the events of Civil War. Had the prevailing mood been against them, they could have either tweaked the ending to the MTU series, or post-MTU, they could have retroactively found a way to say that Anthony Stark switched places with Tony Stark during that initial visit, with some explanation from between the panels of that story. They could have also said that the "Anthony" who later escaped was Tony, immune to the gas either because his 616 physiology wasn't quite the same as Anthony's 5012 physiology, or because he had designed the gas for SHIELD and immunized himself against it as a precaution. From there, they end the Civil War in much the same way, but reveal that it's Iron Maniac who did all the reprehensible things attributed to Iron Man, not Iron Man himself.

Captain America #25 - Death of Captain America

It's sort of a win-win for Marvel, because they get the shock ending of Cap's death, but also the shock reveal that Iron Man is not actually Iron Man. Also, much the same as fans were suddenly scrambling for copies of Captain America #25 to go with their Civil War issues, they may have created a similar fervor for the MTU issues that featured Iron Maniac. As far as sales are concerned, if Iron Maniac was a contingency plan for negative reaction to Civil War, Marvel had protected themselves, insuring that no matter what, they were going to make money somewhere. The possibility of Iron Maniac being the bad guy for Civil War would have also deflected any negative fan reaction to the character, further strengthening fan anticipation for the release of the Iron Man (I) movie in May of 2008.

Why didn't they go that route? Maybe because it would have made Tony seem like a weak victim to have been switched by Iron Maniac. One lesson Marvel should have learned by now is that their evil twins have an odd tendency to overshadow their heroes in popularity (see: Venom, Vengeance, Sabretooth, or Red Hulk). So maybe they didn't want to take the chance that Iron Maniac would eclipse Iron Man in popularity, just a year or so before the release of their first Iron Man movie. And if they had put him in that kind of spotlight - to say he had acted in Tony Stark's stead during Civil War - he very well may have. Maybe they equated low sales on Marvel Team-Up as unpopularity for the characters involved. If the reappearance of Iron Maniac couldn't save MTU from cancellation, then he couldn't save them if fan reaction to Civil War plummeted.

More likely, it was because they didn't need to. Fan reaction was great to Civil War (but negative to Cap's death not being in CW, instead being unannounced in the pages of Captain America). The Confession did kind of redeem Iron Man from being the jerk victor of Civil War, and the eventual return of Captain America made it a moot point anyway. And of course, Iron Man (I) and Captain America: The First Avenger were both smash hits in the theater. So in the end, Marvel won all the way around.

Still, it seems to me they had left themselves a back door, in the character of Iron Maniac. What do you think? Was he their scapegoat, in case fans turned against Civil War? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.

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8 Comments
8 Comments
Edited by cbishop

Btw, the info on the dates of production for the Iron Man movie, and CA: The First Avenger, was found on Wikipedia (but summarized, not quoted), and the release date for Iron Man was found on imdb. Credit where credit is due. ;)

Posted by kfhrfdu_89_76k

I kinda wish that they would`ve goed with that...

Posted by cbishop

@kfhrfdu_89_76k said:

I kinda wish that they would`ve goed with that...

I do too. It would've given a nice twist to Civil War, and it would've set Iron Man up with an awesome villain for future stories. Also, barring his finding a way back to his own universe, it would have been awesome to see what kind of conflict brewed between Iron Maniac and the 616 Doctor Doom. <sigh> Oh well.

Posted by kfhrfdu_89_76k

@cbishop:

Not because of that, but because Stark acted like an a-hole. Sure, it was interesting. But, I haven`t read Civil war. I don`t wanna.

They could`ve made Civil war happen in Ultimate-universe. Maybe.

Just saying. I mean, writing.

Posted by cbishop

@kfhrfdu_89_76k said:

@cbishop:

Not because of that, but because Stark acted like an a-hole. Sure, it was interesting. But, I haven`t read Civil war. I don`t wanna.

They could`ve made Civil war happen in Ultimate-universe. Maybe.

Just saying. I mean, writing.

<shrugs> I've sampled the Ultimate universe here and there, but overall, haven't really cared about it. To me, it's just taking the same characters and wiping out their history. Who wants that?

>_> @DC New 52.

Posted by kfhrfdu_89_76k

@cbishop:

The Ultimates (Avengers) were quite different from their 616-counterparts. More like anti-heroes.

Posted by cbishop

@kfhrfdu_89_76k said:

@cbishop: The Ultimates (Avengers) were quite different from their 616-counterparts. More like anti-heroes.

Yeah, and that was why I didn't care for it much. I read two Ultimates novels (I think it was 2), and saw the Ultimate Avengers animated movies, and those were okay, but I didn't mess with the comics much. I kept saying I was going to, but never really did.

The a-hole Tony Stark of Civil War didn't totally make sense to me. It seemed a little out of character. Not completely, but a little. It just would have made sense to me for it to be some sort of doppelganger.

Posted by kfhrfdu_89_76k

@cbishop:

Aha.

Exactly.