In Brightest Day: Tony Stark’s Alcoholism

I’ve been told that it’s a crime I haven’t seen Iron Man 3 yet. I’m waiting for the crowds to die down. I swear I’ll see it this weekend and write about Tony Stark’s problems for Saturday.

1662787-anthony_stark_4In the meantime, I feel like I need to lead into that post by talking about Tony’s comic book demons. Specifically, his alcoholism.

You see, in 1979, David Michelinie and Bob Layton penned a 9-issue story called “Demon in a Bottle.” The story is considered necessary reading if you enjoy the Iron Man comics.

demon in a bottleIn the story, Stark begins to drink himself into oblivion after the Iron Man suit begins to malfunction and Stark begins to lack confidence in himself.

Stark’s descent into the bottle was a new turn for comic books. Stark at the time was a high-profile guy in Marvel Comics. He was the leader of the Avengers. He was competing with Captain America as the face of Marvel.

And he was a drunk.

Tony Stark AAThe history of alcoholism is lengthy. Currently, the Americans with Disabilities Act recognizes alcoholism, and really all addictions, as a disease. But in the 1970s, society was just beginning to consider alcoholism as a problem (source). Until then, alcohol was an important part of business, and any problems you had controlling your alcohol consumption just meant you were a weak human being.

So, for Tony Stark to admit that he had a problem was a big deal. This was a tough guy, a superhero, painfully admitting he was simply human.

While “Demon in a Bottle” is over 30 years old, it still holds weight for what it did for both comic books and for Tony Stark’s character. There was even discussion of using “Demon in a Bottle” in Iron Man 3, but it was changed to something else, which I will tackle Saturday.

Tony-Stark-Bourbon-in-handFurthermore, Stark’s struggle with addiction has helped several people I know deal with their addictions. They weren’t afraid to admit their humanity because of the push they got from Stark getting help. A comic book story holding that kind of impact for so long is a big deal.