Class war comics: Scrap Iron Man versus international capital

China Mieville's posted his rejected pitch for a six-issue comic called "Scrap Iron Man," a class-war response to Iron Man in which workers come together in the spirit of international solidarity to build mecha suits that are used to right economic injustice. I hope someone picks this up and China writes it, because I want to read it.
Dan smashes up a crack house, but while most of those within run, one stays and jeers at him, calls him a bully. Dan knows her: Louise was the union rep at his factory. He's ashamed: he always liked her. They get talking. 'You really want to do right by Flinton?' Louise says eventually. 'By all the other Flintons? Then quit messing with symptoms. It's time to take down the real villain.'

Louise has contacts. They gather together a group of laid-off workers, from all the fields and departments of the now-dead industry, who with their combined expertise add weapons, flight capability, computers to the armour. Over Dan's initial resistance, Louise even insists they contact some of the overseas workers where the plants have been relocated, to get up-to-date information, technology, and help, because, Louise insists, they're on the same side. They make the suit vastly more powerful.

Rejected pitch


  1. China Mieville should try and get funding through IndieGoGo or something. I’d give 20 euros to see that book published.

  2. The second Iron Man movie touches on these themes, but in a spirit of “O NOES, other countries than the US will get the Iron Man technology!”

    An even better treatment would have the tech being used by absolutely everyone against everyone else, as tech tends to be used: cf. guns and car bombs. Mieville’s Marxism would seem to preclude such a dark outcome: the true result of “fac[ing] down the sociopathic authoritarian fascist arms-dealing corporate billionaire responsible for so many countless deaths” being, not a socialist utopia erected on the ruins of financial centers, but ever so many more countless deaths. Oh well.

    1. I want to hate Tdawwg’s treatment of the story, but the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. If “Iron Man” technology could really exist, then it seems unlikely that any individual would be allowed to retain hold of it. The U.S. government would seize the Iron Man suit, put it into mass production, and then sell copies to countries like Libya. Armies of “Iron Men” would used for oppression the world over.

      1. I thought of it after suffering through Favreau 2: Bad Special Effects: I was like, “damn they need to do a Slumdog Iron Man“!

    2. “An even better treatment would have the tech being used by absolutely everyone against everyone else”

      They actually did a What If issue about that very scenario.

      What if Iron Man sold out?:

      It was a great issue. Iron Man armor used by the US military to win Vietnam. Technology leaks in the countries where the manufacturing is outsourced to and suddenly supervillains are all using armor instead of their spandex getups. And don’t think the Mutants led by Magneto won’t have anything to say about a world in which they are no longer necessarily the most powerful beings…

      Great read if you can find it.

    3. The second Iron Man movie is also basically a retelling of Atlas Shrugged with metal suits.

  3. I like the idea, and China’s existing work fits this mold perfectly. I can see this guy tearing a new path through New Crobuzon rising up from the dumps. oh yeah. I want to read this too.

  4. What makes this even more of a loss/shame is how the Marvel 60’s flowering that gave us Iron Man, the X-Men and such were books steeped in the language and movements of the time. Professor X was MLK Jr. to Magneto’s Malcolm X. Iron Man’s injuries were the result of injuries received in Vietnam.

    Taking those characters back to those socially aware roots would draw criticism and fear that the “IP” could be tarnished. You don’t get 250 million to make blockbusters while putting out open critiques of capitalism. Frankly, I’m often surprised what does get out there. Writers like Matt Fraction and Warren Ellis aren’t afrait to ask bigger questions using superheroes. No good creator should be.

  5. They should make more suits like that and then go into business selling them, and then have an IPO of their company.

  6. *In the lair of the brilliant but somewhat sinister Dr. Weber…*

    “Your critique of international capitalism is compelling ‘Scrap Iron Man’; it is, in some respects, not unlike my own. However, I must ask you: Is it perhaps possible that the suit you have constructed to fight it has become a stahlhartes Gehäuse from which even you will never escape?

    *Scrap Iron Man struggles in mute horror with his now utterly immobile armor. Maniacal laughter rings out and echoes through the cold, empty lair…*

  7. Marvel really flourished out of their socially aware beginnings, but they haven’t been that way since, I don’t know, maybe the mid 70’s!

    All of their greatest characters ame from the 60’s or earlier* when the characters and stories were really symbols for meaningful social commentary. They’ve gotten kinda lucky a few times since with new characters (Venom, Deadpool, X-Statix(R.I.P.)) but none of them have that richness of the original Marvel lineup.

    Ever since I’ve been reading comics (’93) Marvel has always been at such an advantage with the more interesting characters yet they shoot themselves in the foot with overexposing the same characters just for the $$$ and pretty crappy storylines. Vertigo single-handedly slaps the crap out of Marvel with consistently good writing and just a few memorable characters. Marvel needs to go back to their roots where quality was held over quantity. But now that they sold out to Disney, that may never happen.

    The Silver Age is long gone.

    *Giant-Size X-Men aside who debuted in spring of ’75

  8. I can’t wait for Scrap Iron Man’s next battle, against Iron Man’s puppetmaster Makro:

    “Your attempts to regain control of your lives by destroying Straw Man have failed! You are helpless before my minions – the Animal Spirits!”

    “Not so fast! To each according to their needs – and what YOU needs is a swift kick in the ass!”

    1. So much win in this comment. This comic so needs to be written. By the looks of things, if need be, they could just crowd source the writing to a Boing Boing comment thread.

  9. As I recall, Alton Brown did an episode of Good Eats a few years back as a parody of Iron Chef. He called it “Scrap Iron Chef.” And then later he became host of Iron Chef and regretted he ever did it.


  10. In this day and age, anyone who goes against Capital will not succeed. This comic would be a blast, but we’ll never see it.

  11. I want to read it too but I hardly expect any capitalist entity to publish it. Though Lenin did claim that capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.

  12. So what China Mieville is saying is that he doesn’t actually READ comics, particularly Iron Man, then?

    Matt Fractions current run on Iron Man has been one of the most tech savvy comics on the market. I’m not sure how Shart Tsung gets the idea Marvel stopped being socially aware. I may not LIKE what they’ve done, but Civil War was clearly all about the Patriot Act and individual freedoms versus public safety. Iron Man’s famous ‘demon in a bottle’ battle with alcoholism started in the 80s, not the 60s. Characters died of AIDS in the 90s. Stark fired executives for selling arms to terrorists. Marvel may not always be social paragons or handle topics delicately (do we really expect they would in a superhero comic?), but they haven’t ignored social issues.

    Fraction’s Iron Man features a now poor Tony Stark starting over (which is not new) by developing first a new car powered by his ‘repulsor technology’ and then proposing an entire city developed using it. It’s featured villains who used crowd-sourcing, an one villain who used unwitting smartphone app users to attack Iron Man. It’s been keenly aware of modern social trends, global trade and other issues. And it handles technology clearly better than Mieville, who’s idea that six people piloting one battlesuit is almost as hard to swallow as the idea that workers globally will rise up against their oppressors. And for the record, Stark has always been either a weapons company or later an electronics giant….trying to saddle the character with the burdens of the American auto-industry? Not so much.

    1. I agree that Civil War was a commentary on the Patriot Act but that event was an embarrassment. One of the worst major events that DC or Marvel has ever done. The end of that series made me want to never read Marvel again, it was that bad.

      The best things Marvel has done in recent years are Ultimate Spidey (Bendis), Marvel Zombies (Kirkman issues), Marvel 1602 (Neil Gaiman), and Silver Surfer: Requiem (Straczynski).

      I do think they are paying for writing again with Straczynski on Thor and the new Iron-Man stuff, but they are just realizing that they have to actually pay for writing now. For a while no good writers wanted to sign with Marvel cause they didn’t bother paying enough. Noone is buying 5 titles just because they have “Wolverine” in the title anymore.

    2. Miéville is an unashamed communist. He has a PhD in International Relations, with a thesis titled “Between Equal Rights: A Marxist Theory of International Law”. He has stood in local elections as a candidate for the Socialist Alliance. His writing often reflects his political views.

      Scrap Iron Man will clearly be so far from the cosy, capitalist paradigm prevalent in today’s Western societies (especially the US), that it will very likely never be funded by any large or even medium sized publisher.

      It would be kinda cool, and symbolic, if it got crowd-funded.

    3. What he’s saying is that Iron Man’s perspective is wrong; that it addresses issues only superficially without true awareness of the motivating forces. Which is why “Scrap Iron Man” is considered a response.

      I hope he finds a way to put this into print, although he might not be to do so without throwing out Tony Stark (which is fair, I think, as something called “Scrap Iron Man” already draws the comparison effectively)

  13. “Don’t fight the symptoms, fight the cause!”

    ::punches a different person::

    So this isn’t a parody, then?

  14. I’d agree with the call for Kickstarter, because that’s precisely what it’s for. Perhaps start off with a small run to prove viability, then take that evidence to someone who might be willing to invest in it only after being shown evidence that it is viable.

    Plus, it means early, valuable variants of the comics for those who Kickstarted it! I’d totally be up for that.

  15. I’d love to see a crowd-funding approach to this. I’d love to contribute. I would love to read it.

  16. For the proletariat to be free it is necessary to establish ownership of the means of destruction!

  17. I’d love to see a crowd-funding approach to this. I’d love to contribute. I would love to read it.

  18. So the shop steward is depicted as a crack whore. Remond me how is this supposed to put unions and the struggle for worker rights in a positive light?

    1. where does it say anything about her being a whore?
      also, this book wouldn’t be for you apparently

  19. It’s a lovely deconstruction. Iron Man gets popular credit for being a meritocratic hero, breaking free of the grip of privileged godlings that otherwise hold sway in ComicLand- except for that bit where he is using inherited money and inherited talent to execute one-man foreign policy… While I think the rise of the genius autoworkers might be a little forced, I really like the idea of a bottom up superhero created by a community. It both offers a different moral landscape than the lone righteous soul narrative that backs up most superhero stories, and is more realistic to boot- the business of your average superhero, complete with hunting out evil, training, recovering physically and mentally, and making gadgets, is simple not a one-man-and-a-butler job, and while Iron Man and Batman occasionally handwave around that point with gobs of money, focusing on that fact opens up all kinds of storytelling notions, bringing to the forefront, ala Watchmen, the notion that all superheroics would be inherently politically entangled.

    It doesn’t seem to be especially popular, but I personally really like the notion of the multitalented telepresence backup team. Batman wears a suit, but Iron Man is really a hollow robot, and there’s no reason why it can have only one operator that lives inside it. It’s as complicated as a spaceship- so why not give it a Mission Control? It opens up all kinds of dynamics- the brow-mopping tension amongst the stay at home crew, the conflict between the man in harm’s way and the people who aren’t, the hazards of dropped communications, the holographic teleoperation pods staffed with old hands and reckless newcomers…To hell with Iron Man, someone make a hero like that!

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