Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Iron Jaw #1

Iron Jaw #1, January 1975, Atlas Comics
writer: Michael Fleisher
penciller: Mike Sekowski
inker: Jack Abel
letterer: Alan Kupperberg
editor: Jeff Roven

"Iron jaw" isn't the unfortunate consequence of a regretful night in Amsterdam. Iron Jaw is the most macho comic book I've ever read. I'm not talking about tough guy macho, as I've recently analyzed in Cobb and The Fist of God, but barbarian macho -- the rare combination of strength and confidence one could only find in the heart of a warrior from a post-apocalyptic future. Meet Iron Jaw. He'll rescue your village from plunderers for the thrill of the battle and expect your women to thank him accordingly. He is the future of mankind.

In the spirit of The Mighty Samson, Iron Jaw takes place on a future Earth nearly destroyed by the recklessness of humanity. Tyrants rule with an iron fist, challenged by a band of rebels with steely resolve. Iron Jaw is in a class of his own, and from the first act of this introductory issue, in which he rescues a woman and her elderly father (who promptly dies anyway) from a band of marauders, one of whom escapes and tells his king of the warrior's skill, not to mention his distinctive birthmark that indicates his hidden royal lineage. When a young shepherd finds Iron Jaw and his new wench secluded in a cave, the kid reports the rebels' location to the king, who puts a bounty on their heads and soon sees them captured. Iron Jaw's sister visits him, and unaware of his origins, believes her to be a "last meal," and although she rejects his Luke/Leia-like advances, she leaves him a knife and he effortlessly escapes. Outside the castle walls, Iron Jaw remembers, "I knew I forgot something! My blond-haired wench is still imprisoned inside that dungeon! She is far too lovely for me to let her go so easily! I shall have to reenter the castle . . . and get her back!" Aw. What a hero, right?

Honestly, Iron Jaw #1 contains some of the best lines I've read in a comic book in a long time, and by "best" I mean "hard to believe they were ever really written." Dripping with savage hubris, seasoned with the kind of sexism that would only be acceptable in a future where survival trumps respect, Iron Jaw is a veritable fount of quotable wisdom, truly the stuff Seduction of the Innocent tried to dissuade. Here are a few of my favorite examples:

"It's a good thing I slew a deer this morning and ate its bloody heart . . . Nothing is as strong medicine for a warrior as the heart of a fresh-killed deer!"

WOMAN: D-Don't you even want to know why those soldiers were after us?
IRON JAW: No! But you are a woman, and so you will tell, because women are unable to keep silent!

"Freedom is a word used to recruit soldiers by those who have no gold to pay!"

"You are just like all women, never knowing what you really want!"

Finally, when sold out by the shepherd boy his woman's encouraged him to let live, "It is not your fault! It is mine! The fighter dies young who heeds the counsel of women!"

Yes! Obviously, the sharpest part of our hero's mouth is really is tongue! This guy would give even Dr. Phil a run for his money. "Man Camp" my iron jaw!

Seriously, this issue is attractively packaged as an inaugural Atlas Comic, with a beautiful cover by Neil Adams, fluid page layouts and art, and an informative pair of supplemental essays bringing up the rear, one about the future of Atlas and the other about Iron Jaw's future world. With big names like Adams, Mike Kaluta, Larry Hama, Klaus Janson, Steve Ditko, and Larry Leiber listed as contributors to the company, I wonder if Atlas preceded Image as the first Marvel splinter group, the publisher that sought its own identity on the backs of creators that carried other publishers for so long. Obviously, Atlas isn't around anymore -- perhaps the weight of the world was too much for them to handle -- but if Iron Jaw is any indication, they certainly tackled the effort like a man.

If you're going to bite off more than you can chew, you're going to need an iron jaw to do it.


RobbieC said...

I have that comic ha ha I know what you mean about the one liners!! I found it in a box of my old stuff the other weekend while visiting my mum

Anonymous said...

Great review. I included a quote from it and linked to it from my review of Ironjaw #1, which I just posted today. I swear, Ironjaw has more quotables per issue than perhaps any other character in comics!


Maverick said...

great comic, when I saw the first time this comic i though that was Iron Man, however after take my Generic Viagra I notice that really was Iron Jaw, jajajajaja I forgot my glasses.