This is the first in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) of pieces looking at the wild world of comic book retcons (retcon being retroactive continuity, but as I will be using it here, pretty much any use of retroactive storytelling). ALL sorts of retcons will be discussed here, from minor ones to major ones, pretty much just whatever ones I feel like writing about.
We start with the curious history of Edwin Jarvis.
As we discussed in the most recent Top Five list, Edwin Jarvis made his debut in Tales of Suspense #59.
That sounds about right, as he was Tony Stark’s butler.
However, he did not debut in an Iron Man story! No, he debuted in that issue’s debut of the Captain America co-feature (a co-feature that ended up taking over the entire series with issue #100).
Yes, remarkably enough, this issue of Tales of Suspense came out in mid-1964 (cover date of November 1964), the same month that Avengers #10 came out and 20 issue after Tony Stark debuted in the pages of Tales of Suspense!
So Tony Stark and, as we see here, the Avengers’ butler, did not appear for some time before those characters had been around, and in fact, Jarvis debuted as the Avengers’ butler BEFORE we ever saw him as Tony’s butler!! Not only did he debut as the Avengers butler before he was Tony’s butler, he was the Avengers butler in another title well before he ever actually showed up IN the Avengers!
He first showed up in the pages of the Avengers in issue #16, in the famous scene where Hawkeye proves himself worthy to be an Avenger.
Note how everyone treats Jarvis – they don’t even call him by name!! Iron Man doesn’t even seem particularly concerned!
Jarvis shows up an issue or two later, but does not get named. That’s two issues of Avengers without him even being NAMED!
For awhile, Jarvis kept appearing in Tales of Suspense as an occasional background character for Cap. Note that he NEVER has any interaction with Tony Stark over in Tales of Suspense. He and Cap, though, have a nice relationship.
He doesn’t show up again in the Avengers for another 20 issues! Here he finally gets named in the pages of the Avengers and he gets his first piece of dialogue.
In the first Avengers Annual, Jarvis and Iron Man have their first interaction. It isn’t much.
It wouldn’t be for another year or so before Jarvis was FINALLY given a personality by Roy Thomas, who almost seemed to base his story on the very notion that Jarvis was just a total background character…
So here, more than 50 issues into the Avengers, THEN Jarvis actually becomes a major part of the book and he continues on in that capacity for the rest of the book’s run.
However, his relationship with Tony Stark is still quite distant.
Check out this page from Iron Man #17…
And here, check out how Jarvis thinks about Tony in these pages from an Iron Man in the #50s…
Jarvis did not even really have a full appearance in Iron Man again until the Demon in a Bottle storyline, and look at how Jarvis handles it…
It seems pretty clear that his relationship with Tony is a employer/employee one (and yes, this is THAT resignation letter that I dealt with in a previous edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed.
Heck, even in the super sentimental (but very good – I believe I’ve spotlighted it for a year of cool comics) issue of Avengers where Jarvis looks back upon his career on the Avengers while recuperating from his injuries he suffered during the Masters of Evil’s invasion, his interaction with Tony really isn’t anything but a friendly and admiring employer/employee relationship.
It was not until the Crossing, over 30 years after Jarvis first showed up, that suddenly the two had a close relationship. Here is future Jarvis proving to past Jarvis that future Jarvis is, well, Jarvis…
Then, after Tony Stark dies, check out his will…
So now, all of a sudden, they saw each other as a father/son or best friends? Pretty weird.
In any event, there you have it, the long, strange history of Edwin Jarvis on his road to Avengers stalwart and Tony Stark parental figure.