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When Iron Man Became Too Intoxicated to Remain an Avenger

This is a feature called "Beg Steal or Borrow," which is about when comic book characters are abruptly pulled from one book to another. I'm not talking about when comic book characters simply migrate from one title to another (I spotlight examples of that in my feature, "Looks Like I'm Moving"). I mean examples where a writer has a character taken out of the book against their wishes. It almost always happens in team books, but sometimes it occurs in solo titles, as well.

Today, we look at when Iron Man was written out of the Avengers because of his drinking problem in his own series.

It all began in the historic "Demon in a Bottle" storyline by Bob Layton, David Michelinie and John Romita Jr. introduced during their run on Iron Man. In a truly bold decision for a comic book series of the era, Layton and Michelinie decided to have Tony Stark develop a drinking problem, which would come to a head in Iron Man #128...

The problem, though, is that while they were allowed to try a rather bold storyline for the time, it was still a BIT ahead of its time, so they had to resolve the story almost as soon as they started it. So while it was a strong idea and generally very well handled, it still had to end with Tony Stark being all, "Okay, I guess I'm just not going to drink anymore" and that being the end and that seemingly being that...

Obviously, that is not how alcoholism actually works. It's not like Layton and Michelinie didn't know that, but they were just working under a very specific framework when they wrote their story.

In any event, after their long run came to a close a couple of years later, Denny O'Neil took over writing duties on the book and Mark Gruenwald took over as the editor on both Iron Man AND the Avengers (this plays a role later).

In the first page of his first issue, O'Neil goes right into it by noting that even though Tony Stark hadn't had a drink in a year, he still constantly THINKS about drinking and what it could do to him...

But O'Neil plays it really slow (Luke McDonnell and Steve Mitchell took over as the new artists on the book around this time), with Tony getting some dramatic moments where he seems to still be over drinking...

He continues to refuse to drink even as a new guy in town, Obidiah Stane, keeps trying to tear Tony down...

O'Neil's take is basically there is no point where you're just "over" drinking.

So Tony is in a really bad spot and then someone (Stan, presumably) leaves a bottle in his room...

In the beginning of the next issue, though, Tony throws the bottle away...

But by the end of that issue, Tony's girlfriend at the time dumps him (she was working with Stane) and that's a bridge too far and Tony drinks...

Within a couple of issues, Tony is a total wreck until finally he feels he is too drunk to continue as Iron Man and he has his best friend, James Rhodes, take over from him...

Obviously, this means that some changes have to happen in the Avengers...

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