MAN OF IRON
#9 - 12 (Man of Iron, parts 1 to 4.)
Collected Comics #3 (Man of Iron) (Reprint.)
#33 + 34 (Man of Iron, parts 1 to 4) (Reprint.)
On a quick side note, though the basic content is the same in these three printings of this story there is one huge difference between them. Colour.
The original version of Man of Iron was printed in the UK and coloured beautifully, but only half of the pages of each of the four parts were coloured, the others were printed in black and white. When this story was printed in the US comics as filler material Nel Yomtov recoloured the stories as poorly as he could, so that they could be printed using the US comic's much lower printing standards. The best version of Man of Iron in terms of colour is the Collected Comics version. Here the Black and White segments were coloured in glorious UK-colour, and it was all printed at high quality.
Actually, to be fair to Nel Yomtov, he used the UK colours as a specific guide when colouring this story, making this some of his best colouring for the Transformers US comic.
None, he never had any speaking dialogue.
The Man of Iron was the second Obscure Transformer to ever appear. (The first being Hauler and the third being The Navigator from TF:UK issue #12.)
To put into perspective just how early the Man of Iron is, consider that the first Obscure Transformer to appear in the cartoon after Hauler was Moonracer, in season 2's episode "The Search For Alpha Trion". In the US comics the first Obscure Transformer to appear was Scrounge in issue 17. To put that into perspective, issue 17 was reprinted as UK issues 66 and 67, a good 57 issues after Man of Iron's appearance in issue 9.
Okay, so we've established that the Man of Iron was an early Transformer. So what? What did he do?! What was his purpose?!
Man of Iron was not just a story foil, as most Obscures are. The Man of Iron
WAS the story. The story existed because he existed. He wasn't a plot point,
he was the plot. (A thin plot, but the plot all the same.) He was part of a
story which conveyed the alienness and strangeness of the Transformers. It
showed how unreal an encounter with these giant robots might seem.
An undisclosed number of centuries ago (at least 4 centuries ago, possibly as much as 4 milllion years ago) the Autobots on Cybertron sent out a rescue ship in search of those Transformers lost on Earth.
The rescue ship's crew consisted of a Navigator and a guardsman. The Guardsman would later come to be known as the Man of Iron.
For unknown reasons (it was never revealed in the story) the ship never managed a rescue, instead it crash-landed on Earth in what would become Southern England. The site where the ship crashed was to become inhabited, a castle being built there. Over the centuries the inhabitants of the castle were visited several times, seemingly at random, by a strange visitor they dubbed the Man of Iron.
Every few years (decades, centuries, whatever), the Guardsman would emerge from the crashed rescue ship, seemingly at random, and with no motive. He would wander around (probably to make sure everything was safe) then go back underground into the ship. Sometimes the native humans would find themselves on the wrong end of his laser-rifle, presumably because he felt they were a danger.
All through this time the rescue ship continued to send out a homing beacon, hoping to attract the attention of the Autobots they were trying to rescue. When, 4 million years after they went missing, the Autobots did come looking for the crashed rescue ship, so did the Decepticons.
The Decepticons sought out the rescue ship, shooting a probe into the mound where it was buried. These actions caused the humans living there to realise there might be something under the castle and they started digging. They discovered the rescue craft and the Man of Iron surfaced to drive them off.
Unfortunately when he surfaced Skywarp teleported in and blasted him into oblivion. This was the end of the Man of Iron.
(On a side note; in the US version Skywarp is coloured as Starscream, making the humans' dialogue about him appearing from nowhere totally nonsensical.)
He never spoke, so one can't talk for his intelligence. He never showed many signs of skill, and his firepower was never used on another Transformer, so again it's hard to say.
When attacked by Skywarp he absolutely fell apart on the spot, so one figures neither his speed or endurance were very high. Then again, characters were falling apart in one shot all over the shop in this story, so maybe that's not a good guide.
Ironically, if the Man of Iron is compared to the relatively bland Floro Dery designs used for the Transformers cartoon, he looks pretty good as an Obscure Transformer. He hasn't got an insignia or alt mode features, but he has a certain amount of robotic detailing, a very Jazz-like head and a relatively boxy design, like the cartoon models for Transformers.
Sadly for the Man of Iron, he wasn't drawn in a story with the Dery designs. He was drawn in a story with Transformers who were very closely based on the Transformers toys. Very closely based. They were detailed, and not boxy like the Dery designs. Standing next to such detailed toy-based Transformers it was painfully obvious that the Man of Iron was just made up by the artists. It was also painfully obvious that there was no way this guy could possibly have been made into a toy.
A side note, when I say the 'Dery Designs', what I mean is that Floro Dery was hired, in the early days, to design the character models for the Transformers cartoon. He was the artist behind the basic aesthetic of the Transformers as they appeared in the cartoon and later the comics. (In the first few issues, however, Frank Springer drew very toy-based Transformers, and even when the Dery models became standard certain Transformers were drawn very differently in the comics. Shockwave and Blaster, for example.) When he adapted the characters for animation (seemingly from the box art), they were given a generic style, devoid of many of the shapes and features of the toys. This style is now what a lot of people imagine when you ask what a Transformer looks like.
Ahhh, Man of Iron. Man of Iron was an interesting story. It is, in fact, unlike any other Transformers story ever. Here we have a story in which the Transformers are confusing, strange, almost mystical and seemingly do things without motive. The story is told from a human's perspective, which is why the Transformers are so confusing. This is the first and only story where the coming of the Transformers really feels like an alien encounter.
The story is frustrating in places because the storyline is thin, and a lot of it doesn't make sense. But this story is about atmosphere first and foremost, and that it has in spades.
The Man of Iron himself is not much of a Transformer really. He dies easy, and he's relatively unconvincing in terms of his appearance. Still, he is the first UK obscure, so that counts for something. Plus here we have a Transformer who has become a part of human mythology! Wow!
Collected Comics #3: Man of Iron.
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