So I came across all four issues of Ironjaw recently for a couple of quid each, and forced myself to buy them, resenting every single penny.
I had to buy them to see if I'd still hate the series as much as I did when I was a kid. Besides, it was the complete set, and who can resist that.
What? You'd 've done the same, you know you would.
Back in The Bronze Age, Ironjaw #1 was the comic nobody in our gang wanted, and you couldn't swap it for anything. Yet we all had a copy. In fact, I probably had two, that's normally the way it went.
We all loved Neal Adams and we all loved Conan so of course we were going to buy it. But our enthusiasm for this new barbarian lasted as long as it took to read the first issue.
Re-reading it now after all these years, of course, it's really not as bad as it seemed. But what did we ( and me particularly ) loathe about Ironjaw so much that it sat at the absolute bottom of all our piles of comics, even below Modred The Mystic or anything with The Torpedo in it?
Well, in every single post on every single site that mentions this character, the blogger always draws attention to the 'World Of Ironjaw' page at the back of the book, where we're told that writer Michael Fleisher wanted to make Ironjaw: 'Unlike most other comic book characters' and 'a real human being. What he thinks, what he says, how he reacts are all gauged by what Mike feels a real man, placed in that same situation, would do'
So, in this first issue alone, Ironjaw is a thug, a braggart, very nearly a child murderer, and to top it off a rapist, twice, and his first victim ends up enjoying the experience.
He's 100% unlikeable and unheroic and I have no idea why Fleisher thought anybody would want this kind of character. To quote Bill Hicks: Mike, you havin' troubles at home, son?
Plus, to be vaguely serious for a second, this is obviously not what most men would do in this situation. If it was, we wouldn't have such a thing as society.
Later on in the series of course, this kind of mindset gets worse. In issue #2 Ironjaw is offered a kingdom of his own, and he refuses it because he'd rather 'Fight...steal...and worship the stars'. Or as you and I would say, go and live in poverty without a clue as to where our next meal's coming from. He even gives away his gold crown, the only thing he's got to show for his first big comic book appearance.
Then in issue #3, he goes to worship, and give all his gold to, The Great Machine. Which turns out to be a pre-holocaust washer / dryer. Something everyone else is aware of except him, it seems.
This guy's a moron, why are following his adventures again?
But all that is the adult's response. What was it that 'kid Pete' hated so much? Well, let's see.
There's three things I remember being annoyed by:
a) The artwork. Nowadays I can appreciate Mike Sekowsky's wonky stylings ( especially if softened by Dick Giordano's inks ), but at the time I couldn't bear it. Added to Jack Abel's bland, colourless inks was just visually dreadful and offputting. I have the utmost respect for both gentleman's accomplishments in the field, and have grown to admire both their work, but as a kid? Nope, hated it.
b) That bloody jaw. Look, it's really simple, great characters start with a great visual.
Conan looks cool. Daredevil looks cool. Major Eazy looks unspeakably cool. Ironjaw looks ugly, simple as that. Even Neal Adams on the cover can't make that design work.
c) It's supposed to be sword & sorcery, where are the monsters? Where are the wizards? Where are the lost kingdoms and demon haunted tombs? Again, as an adult, I can go, ok, It's a sword and sandal comic, that's interesting, a bit different. As a kid I just felt ripped off.
Go back to comic book limbo, Ironjaw, you ain't welcome round here no more.
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