I SUPPORT BLACK SUPERHEROES [Belser-Verse, Part 13]: Built For War!

JaDarrell “The Belser”
@TheBelser

Everybody needs that one “ride or die” friend. That one person that stands by your side through thick and thin, for better or for worse. That friend for a multi-faceted superhero such as Tony Stark is James “Rhodey” Rhodes. That friend label has caused Rhodes to be relegated to background at times. However, Rhodey took his skills and strong will to establish his own identity and became a force to be reckoned with in his own right. On that day, Jim Rhodes became WAR MACHINE!

FIRST APPEARANCE / CREATION

Jim Rhodes was created by David Michelinie and John Byrne and first appeared in Iron Man #118 (January 1979)

ORIGIN

James Rupert “Rhodey” Rhodes was born in the South Philadelphia section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Rhodey leaves home to join the United States Marine Corps. He rises to the rank of lieutenant and served a number of tours in Southeast Asia. While in Vietnam as a combat pilot, his helicopter was shot down by rocket fire from the Viet Cong and he is left stranded in the jungle behind enemy lines.

It was in Vietnam that Rhodey first encounters Tony Stark, who had just made his prototype suit of powered armor and escaped the prison camp of the warlord Wong-Chu.

After destroying an enemy base using a stolen Viet Cong helicopter, Iron Man and Rhodey fly out of enemy territory and back to the American defense perimeter. After this adventure, Iron Man disappears and promises that his ‘benefactor’ Tony Stark will repay Rhodes for his help. 

True to his word, Tony Stark arrives at a base hospital in Saigon to thank Rhodes for his help with Iron Man’s escape and offers Rhodes a job as his personal pilot.

After the end of the Vietnam War, Rhodey takes on some mercenary work abroad. After a few years, Rhodes finally took Stark’s offer and became the newest employee of Stark Industries.

Rhodey soon becomes Stark’s personal pilot and the chief aviation engineer for Stark International. More importantly, he becomes Stark’s best friend and closest confidant.

THE NEW IRON MAN

After the machinations of Stark’s rival Obadiah Stane, Stark International began a rapid decline. Among the many discretions, Stark International loses their most lucrative foreign contracts and the company starts to go into heavy debt. Coupled with Stark’s personal life going into disarray, Tony Stark loses his resolve and relapses into alcoholism.

After an intoxicated Stark loses in a very public battle, Rhodey dons the Iron Man armor for the first time in Iron Man #170 (1983).  As Stark recovers, He asks Rhodey to take his place as Iron Man for the foreseeable future.
Becoming Iron Man takes an immense physical ( and mental ) toll on Rhodey

Rhodey serves as Iron Man for a number of years. As Iron Man, Rhodes fought villains such as the Mandarin, the Zodiac, and the Radioactive Man. Rhodey also fought with a collection of Earth’s greatest superheroes in the Beyonder’s “Secret Wars” and became a member of the West Coast Avengers. However, Rhodey starts to develop migraine headaches and displaying very aggressive behavior. The cause of this is discovered to be the Iron Man armor itself. The armor’s helmet was tailored to Stark’s brainwaves, not Rhodey’s. This eventually began causing a synaptic disfunction in Rhodey. 

Rhodes develops intense paranoia and  thinks that his friends want to take the armor away from him. Rhodes goes on a rampage to capture the villain Vibro and Stark was forced to take back the armor.

After this ordeal, Rhodey steps down and Stark takes on the role of Iron Man again, donning his newly completed “Silver Centurion” armor. Stark regains his personal fortune and builds a new corporation called Stark Enterprises with Rhodes remaining at Stark’s side.

THE BIRTH OF WAR MACHINE

The War Machine Armor ( also known as The Variable Threat Response Suit )debuts in Iron Man #282 (1992)  and was created by Len Kaminski and Kevin Hopgood.
Rhodes first wears the Variable Threat Response Battle Suit to team with Iron Man against battle droids programmed to kill Rhodes, After the adventure, Stark wants Rhodes to keep the suit, stating that the armor always belonged to Rhodes.
Rhodes eventually kept the armor and later adopted the name of War Machine, establishing his own identity as a superhero.
In the years since becoming War Machine, Rhodes has undergone a number of physical changes including being mortally wounded and becoming a cyborg.
His physical form was restored into a clone of his original body. Rhodes is presently in a relationship with the current Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers.

Multimedia Appearances:

TV

Iron Man (1994) / Incredible Hulk (1994)

Rhodey was voiced by James Avery ( ‘Uncle Phil’ from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air) for most of season one. Actor Dorian Harewood ( ‘Full Metal Jacket’) took over for the remainder of the series. Both actors took turns as the primary voice of War Machine in most of the character’s animated appearances in the 90’s.

War Machine’s first multimedia appearance was in the 1994 Iron Man animated series on UPN. During the first season, Jim Rhodes shown to be a member of Iron Man’s “Force Works” team including Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Woman and Century. After the team disbands in the season two’s opener “The Beast Within“, Rhodes remains with Iron Man as mostly tech support and as an occasional backup. This version of Rhodes develops claustrophobia after an incident that had him almost drowning in the War Machine armor.

The character even had a four episode story arc in which he avoids the armor altogether. War Machine was featured in a crossover with one of UPN’s other Marvel animated series, The Incredible Hulk. Voiced again by Dorian Harewood, Rhodey appeared in the Hulk episode “Helping Hand, Iron Fist.

X-Men (1992)


War Machine made a couple of cameo appearances in the X-Men animated series on Fox Kids. He was seen during season two’s “Time Fugitives Saga” and in season three’s “Phoenix Saga”. The character had no lines in either appearance.

Spider-Man (1994)


War Machine appeared in the Spider-Man animated series on Fox Kids. Voiced by James Avery, Rhodey is seen in the episodes “Venom Returns” and “Carnage”.  The dark lord Dormammu orders Venom to steal the Time Dilation Accelerator from Stark Enterprises, which is capable of releasing Dormammu from his own far-off dimension. Venom is quickly defeated by the duo of Spider-Man and War Machine. However, Venom gets help from Carnage and they steal the machine, Rhodey is wounded in the battle and too hurt to continue fighting. Iron Man steps in to team up with Spider-Man and stop the Symbiotes and prevent Dormammu from leaving his dimension.

Iron Man:  Armored Adventures (2009)

A teenage incarnation of Rhodey was one of the main characters in the animated series Iron Man: Armored Adventures on Disney XD. Voiced by actor Daniel Bacon, Rhodey and his family act as a foster family for Tony Stark after Howard Stark’s supposed death. He is also Tony’s classmate and best friend at the Tomorrow Academy, a science-intensive high school.

After Iron Man’s first appearance, Rhodey acts as Iron Man’s tactical aide and Tony’s voice of reason.  Rhodey finally gets his War Machine armor in the season one finale “Tales of Suspense”.

The Super Hero Squad Show (2009)


War Machine appears in The Super Hero Squad Show on Cartoon Network. Voiced by actor LeVar Burton (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Rhodey appeared in the episode “Tales of Suspense”. Not much is known of the character other than Rhodey is secretly dating Squirrel Girl.

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (2010)


Rhodey appears in The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on Disney XD. Voiced by actor Bumper Robinson (The Jacksons: An American Dream, A Different World), Rhodey is shown to be a current member of the United States Military and constantly wears his uniform. He is best friends with Tony Stark and, along with Pepper Potts, he is very worried about Tony’s maverick heroics as Iron Man. Rhodey thinks Tony can’t shoulder all the burden alone and wants to help him but Tony plays it off.

Rhodey first appears in the first-season episode “Iron Man is Born! and finally dons the War Machine armor in the second-season episodes “Alone Against AIM”, “New Avengers” and “Avengers Assemble”.

MCU

James “Rhodey” Rhodes was first played in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by Oscar nominated actor Terrence Howard (‘ Hustle And Flow’, ‘Empire’). However, a contract dispute between Howard and Marvel Studios led to Howard being replaced by another Oscar nominated actor Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda, Black Monday). Cheadle has portrayed the character for all of his MCU appearances since ‘Iron Man 2’.

Iron Man (2008)

Rhodey first appears in the film Iron Man. This version of Rhodey holds the rank of lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force and acts as the military’s chief liaison to Stark Industries’ weapons division. Prior to the film’s climax, a scene shows Rhodey eyeing the Iron Man Mark 2 armor and saying to himself ‘Next time, baby’.

Iron Man 2 (2010)

In Iron Man 2, Rhodes is under pressure to convince Tony Stark to relinquish control of the Iron Man armor over to the U.S. government (It was really Hydra but that’s another story). At a party, an erratic Tony Stark drunkenly endangers civilian lives while wearing the Iron Man armor. Rhodes is forced to don Iron Man’s Mark 2 suit to stop him. During the confrontation, Tony says the line “You wanna be the War Machine, take your shot” to Rhodes. After a stalemate, Rhodes takes the Mark 2 armor to the US government and it is subsequently retrofitted with various weapons by Stark’s rival, Justin Hammer.

During a presentation of the finished product at the Stark Expo, the War Machine armor itself is taken over by the villain Ivan Vanko and used to attack Iron Man and destroy the Stark Expo. Pepper Potts and Black Widow break the control and Rhodes fights alongside Iron Man to defeat Vanko. In the end, Rhodes leaves with the new armor and flies off into the night sky. Stark jokingly protests but allows him to keep it as he trusts Rhodey with it. The movie ends with Rhodes receiving a Distinguished Service award along with Tony Stark. 

Iron Man 3 (2013)

In Iron Man 3, Rhodes is promoted to full colonel and made the designated guardian of the President. Rhodes states that the U.S. government deemed “War Machine” to be too militaristic and has been rebranded as “Iron Patriot“. The suit’s new red, white and blue color scheme tested well with focus groups and was seen as more patriotic. However, his armor is stolen and used by mercenary Eric Savin to abduct President Matthew Ellis on behalf of the villainous Aldrich Killian. Rhodes uses his military skills to help Tony stop Killian and save the President.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Rhodes is first shown at the Avengers party, regaling party guests with stories of his exploits as a superhero. The Avengers themselves were not so impressed with his stories as they do similar feats on a regular basis. Rhodey returns to operating the black and silver War Machine armor and is officially referred to as “War Machine” for the first time.

The movie ends with War Machine joining the Avengers led by Captain America and Black Widow along with the other new recruits Vision, Falcon and Scarlet Witch.

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

In Captain America: Civil War, The Avengers are presented with the Sokovia Accords by U.S. Secretary of State Thunderbolt‘ Ross for the government to regulate their actions. The Accords divides the team into two camps (one camp for regulation led by Tony Stark, the other against it led by Steve Rogers).  Rhodes sides with Stark and is one of the heroes that sign the accords. Rhodes even helps apprehend Steve Rogers, the Winter Soldier, Falcon and Black Panther.

When Captain America’s faction attempt to leave for Siberia to pursue Helmut Zemo, War Machine is among Iron Man’s team that confronts and fights them. Captain America and Winter Soldier escape on a Quinjet with Iron Man, War Machine and Falcon who tries to protect Rogers from the former two trailing. In the escape, Falcon evades a blast from Vision, which hits War Machine  and incapacitates his suit, causing him to fall mid-flight. Iron Man and Falcon are unable to catch him and he lands hard on the ground. He survives the fall but his spinal column is fractured and he is left paralyzed. He is given bionic support by special leg braces created by Stark as he undergoes physical therapy. Stark expresses guilt over the whole situation but Rhodey lets Stark know that he does not regret his decision on siding with his friend.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Sometime between Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Rhodey has a change of heart and now stands against the Sokovia Accords and allies with Captain America’s fugitive group. He leaves with the team to help defend Vision in Wakanda and battles the Outriders. After ‘The Snap‘, Rhodey is one of the few heroes left alive after Thanos wipes out half of the universe.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

In Avengers: Endgame, Rhodes is with the surviving Avengers as they travel through time on a mission to obtain the Infinity Stones to undo Thanos’s actions. Rhodey and Nebula travel to Morag in 2014 to obtain the Power Stone before Star-Lord’s theft in Guardians of the Galaxy. Rhodey later assists the Avengers in the final battle against Thanos.

Rhodey is the first one to respond to the mortally injured Tony Stark after he uses the Infinity Stones to stop Thanos and his army. He tearfully stands next to Stark as he dies along with Pepper Potts, Spider-Man, Thor and Captain America . He is last seen watching Stark’s goodbye video message and attends Stark’s funeral along with all the other Avengers. 

LEGACY

In 2012, War Machine was ranked 31st in IGN’s list of “The Top 50 Avengers“.

-JaDarrel Belser

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