Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Best Character Ever: Iceman

Art by Joe Madureira. Character owned by Marvel.
For a lot of kids the first superhero they fell in love with is Spider-Man or Superman or Batman. Maybe the Hulk. My earliest memory of superheroes probably was Richard Donner’s Superman, but he wasn’t my favorite hero from early childhood.

No, that was Iceman.

A lot of younger readers of this blog might be thinking, “What the hell is wrong with this guy?” But dear person, you clearly are unfamiliar with the joys of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends.

Title card from Spider-Man and His
Amazing Friends.
While most kids I knew watched the show because of Spider-Man it was the second half of the equation that I loved way more. Iceman and Firestar were incredibly cool to a three year old me. And while fire powers might have still been a little scary, ice powers were incredibly awesome.

I learned Bobby Drake’s origin (or a version of it, at least) from the show while also learning about the X-Men for the first time.

I barely knew what comics were at the time the show started, but I wanted Iceman stuff desperately. I remember getting a coloring book at some point with the Amazing Friends characters, but beyond that… well, nothing.

I wanted an Iceman comic, but it took three years after the debut of the show (until after the show ran out of new episodes, in fact) before Marvel thought giving Iceman a limited series was a good idea. The four issue series by J.M. DeMatteis (who also wrote the character in New Defenders at the time, unbeknownst to me) and Alan Kupperberg is not exactly what I would call good.

Iceman issue 1.
In those hallowed days, I just could not understand why a comic publisher would not have a series for a character they featured every week on Saturday morning. (Even today, I am often unsure why publishers do not attempt better media tie-ins for their comics. I’m looking at you New 52 title called Teen Titans, not Young Justice.)

It wasn’t until the late 80s and my brother’s love for the three books that comprised the X-Men corner of the universe that I found Iceman again. He was a featured player in X-Factor of course, though during that early Louise and Walter Simonson issues that I read, I often thought they didn’t care much about him. Even looking back for a good Simonson cover, barely any of them featured Iceman prominently. Outside the image above, only one with Bobby bound and at the mercy of Infectia features him prominently.

As I grew in to my teenage years, he gained a girlfriend, rejoined the X-Men and seemed poised to finally become a breakout hero under the direction of writer Scott Lobdell. Lobdell melded the character for a short time with Emma Frost and in the process showed Bobby that he was far more powerful than he could ever imagine. I was finally excited to see the big new direction Iceman would finally take.

And of course, like always, he seemed to end up as the ugly stepchild of the X-Men and his plotlines faded to obscurity. After a brief on the road fling with Rogue, he did very little.

To this day, I think it is a shame. I think few characters in the Marvel Universe could so easily be developed into a capable solo superhero as Iceman. Just because his 1984 and later 2001 limited series were garbage (sorry, DNA fans) does not mark him as bad. Just that he has been given to writers that fail to realize his potential .

Unfortunately, Marvel writers seem more ready to use him as an add-on, a guy there when he has convenient powers in a situation that calls for them. He’s Aquaman, but with ice instead of water.

But I know Iceman to be awesome. Director Bryan Singer seemed to get it as well with his X-Men movie franchise. Now if only the people that publish his monthly adventures would figure it out.

No comments:

Post a Comment