As the opening of Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR looms closer and closer, the comment I hear most from friends when talking about the film is “but I don’t want Tony and Steve to fight!” Which, considering that both characters were pretty well unknown to average moviegoers a few years ago, is a testament to everyone involved in the making of these films, that even the thought of these characters at odds with each other is distressing.
However, for comics readers, it’s far from the first time we’ve seen Cap and Shellhead at each others’ throats. One of my favorites came back in 1987, in the pages of IRON MAN #228, when both Tony Stark and Steve Rogers were going through some serious changes.
Steve Rogers had refused to give up his independence and work directly as a government agent full time, and as a result had been forced to give up his identity, uniform and shield, which explains his cool black threads seen here. Tony Stark, meanwhile had discovered that his proprietary armor technology had been stolen years earlier, and as a result nearly every armored hero and villain in the Marvel Universe was operating with his tech, and he was engaging in a one-man vigilante campaign to destroy it all.
At this point in their respective stories, Steve Rogers has just begun forging a new superhero career for himself as “The Captain,” and has come to his old friend Stark to ask for a replacement shield, while Stark is planning his most dangerous and illegal assault yet, deactivating the armored suits of the Guardsmen, the armored prison guards at The Vault, the government’s top-secret supervillain prison.
Stark is happy to comply with Steve’s request, as we learn, for his own less-than-noble purposes:
However, Steve Rogers is nobody’s fool, and soon anticipates Stark’s next target:
Stark invades The Vault and makes short work of most of the Guardsmen, thanks to some help from Rhodey, who sneaks in with Iron Man and sabotages most of the Guardsman armored suits while Iron Man is busy gassing the place with knockout gas. However, a couple of the Guardaman have remained on duty, and just as Stark is about to take care of the last one, Steve arrives:
When Steve is faced with a choice of taking in Stark and saving a Guardsman from suffocating in his armor, he makes a choice, and Stark takes advantage:
And as it turns out, Stark’s assault on The Vault resulted not only in the dismantling of the Guardsman armor, but a mass escape of supervillains. And Steve Rogers isn’t happy.
First, he gives Stark back the shield:
Then, he lets Stark know about the escape he caused.
Stark manages to get to his armor, and the two begin to tussle.
Cap puts up a surprisingly good fight against Tony’s armor, at least for a while…
But eventually, Stark gets the drop on Cap, who’s at a distinct disadvantage with no shield.
With Cap down, Stark makes a run for it, leaving behind a conflicted Steve Rogers.
A short but tense clash from writers David Michelinie and Mark Gruenwald and artists Mark Bright and Kieron Dwyer, and just a taste of some of the serious Cap/Iron Man divides to come. But at the time, in a Marvel Universe that had never really seen these two at serious odds, it had some impact.