Iron Man Lawsuit: A Dubious Case

The Avengers sequel opens in North America this week, so of course it’s time for an Iron Man lawsuit.

Radix (Horizon Comics) and Iron Man 3 (Marvel): Image provided by Deadline

Horizon Comics and its owners, Ben and Ray Lai, are claiming that Marvel lifted the look of Iron Man for his movie appearances from a character they began publishing in 2001 called Radix. They make a big deal out of the poster for Iron Man 3, a shot of a kneeling armored Iron Man that’s similar to an old Radix cover.

The Iron Man lawsuit further claims that, prior to the existence of Radix, that Iron Man wore a “spandex-like” outfit with “minimal armor.” Because it makes perfect sense that a character called “Iron Man” would wear spandex instead of iron.

There are so many things wrong with the Iron Man lawsuit.

First, Radix, which the Iron Man lawsuit claims to have inspired the movie look for Iron Man, is hardly an example of striking originality. Characters with elaborate armor were commonplace in ‘90s comics. It was the hallmark of many of the Image creators (see: WildCATS, StormWatch, CyberForce, Youngblood and WetWorks as a starting point). Marvel embraced the trend itself. Half of the characters that popped up in the X-books of the ‘90s sported some kind of elaborate armor (notably Cable, Apocalypse and various Weapon X characters). The Iron Man lawsuit implication that the Lais created this aesthetic in 2001 is ludicrous. Radix sports an entirely derivative look.

Second, basing anything on the comparison between the poses used in the Iron Man 3 poster and the Radix cover is a non-starter. The Lais did not create the “kneeling hero” pose. It’s a classic comic book image. Variations on that pose go back to the Golden Age of comics, circa World War II. Beyond that, the “posing hero” was common in ancient art. Check out your local antiquities museum, you’ll see that pose in a variety of statues and pottery shards. It’s also central in religious iconography. The Iron Man lawsuit suggestion that the Lais have some sort of proprietorship to that pose smacks of ignorance of thousands of years of art and culture.

But the biggest problem with the Iron Man lawsuit is its attempt to suggest that Iron Man never wore armor before the Lais produced Radix in 2001. It’s a ridiculous and easily disproved assertion.

Here’s Iron Man’s first appearance in Tales of Suspense #39, published in 1963. He’s sporting a suit that’s clearly gray metal. It would be recolored yellow beginning with the character’s second adventure.

Image provided by Marvel

A year later, Iron Man adopted his classic red-and-yellow armor, in Tales of Suspense #48 (1964). This would be the character’s main look for the next 20 years.

Image provided by Marvel

Here are other depictions of the classic armor. First, Tales of Suspense #95 (1967) and Iron Man, volume 1, #69 (1974).

Image provided by Marvel
Image provided by Marvel

Also Iron Man, volume 1, #134 (1980). Artists varied in how explicitly they rendered the metallic gleam of the armor. But it was always clear that it was armor, a suit of metal. The character never looked like he was wearing spandex or any other kind of cloth.

Image provided by Marvel

Iron Man, volume 1, #200 (1985) debuted a look the character would sport for several years. It’s gleaming red and silver; clearly metallic armor.

Image provided by Marvel

After a few years, the character went back to red-and-yellow armor. The following variations show the evolution that led to the Iron Man movie armor. First, Iron Man, volume 1, #231 (1988), then #241 (1990), #291 (1993) and #303 (1994). All of these suits are clearly armor and chart the evolution of Iron Man’s look.

Image provided by Marvel
Image provided by Marvel
Image provided by Marvel
Image provided by Marvel

The first issue of Iron Man, volume 2, from 1996 is especially interesting. A full five years before Radix, many elements in this look are echoed in the Radix armor. It bears out how derivative the Lais’ creation was.

Image provided by Marvel

From Iron Man, volume 3, the first issue (1998) and the 26th issue (2000) show Iron Man in what is unmistakably armor. The evolution toward the movie armor is apparent. All before Radix debuted.

Image provided by Marvel
Image provided by Marvel

The Lais must think that Marvel might pay them nuisance money to go away. If nothing else, the Iron Man lawsuit certainly generates significant publicity for Horizon Comics and Radix.

But it’s cheap. The Iron Man lawsuit betrays so much ignorance of Iron Man in particular and comic books in general as to be offensive. Basing a lawsuit on assertions that can be disproven in 20 minutes on the internet is mindboggling in its wrongheadedness.

Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on April 27, 2015.

Author (Grievous Angels) and pop culture gadabout #amwriting

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