|"Oh, that's right, Rachel Ray did a $40 A Day:Best Eats in Town episode here that one time."|
One of the intriguing questions to try to answer in regards to Atlas Comics (I should say “Atlas-Seaboard,” for clarity’s sake) involves trying to determine which one of their stable of weirdos and knockoffs was intended to be their flagship character. From the advertising, you can pick up a few likely candidates, including (but not limited to) unlikely choices like the horror-based Tarantula and Devilina, or the slightly Spider-Manly Tiger-Man. Just as likely, though, it may’ve been Ironjaw – the sister-humping, bear-murdering Conan knockoff that came with a built-in bottle opener.
IronJaw debuted at a special time in American history, when we as a culture seemed inordinately fascinated by half-naked and unwashed longhaired illiterates – or at least to judge by comics. Robert E.Howard’s Conan was enjoying a new lease on life via the four-color medium, and sword-and-sorcery comics were much in vogue. Given Atlas-Seaboard’s tendency to liberally swipe from multiple sources to make mulligatawny stew out of any handful of good ideas, naturally this would come together in a sort-of orthodontic Gor novel.
|Or, more precisely, |
Created by Michael Fleischer, Ironjaw was set in a distant, post-apocalyptic future where humanity had resorted to barbarism while the few remaining machines were regarded as spooky-ooky mystical god creatures and yet only occasionally even featured into the plot. Some gods, sheesh.
While Ironjaw’s world and unfortunate attitude towards women (keep reading) are fully the product of Fleischer, his origin comes by way of Gary Friedrich in his fourth – and final – issue. Originally a handsome young (and apparently steroid-popping) travelling minstrel, IronJaw (or, as he’s know these days, “RegularJaw”) makes it a habit to pal around with his local community’s barbarian horde. Unfortunately for him, however, the horde’s CEO becomes increasingly frustrated with the magnetic effect the minstrel is having on the women of the tribe, and becomes the target of the brutish leader’s wrath. I guess the horde’s leader was just the bass player or something.
In short order, the minstrel is mugged, roughed up, crucified and has his jaw cut off, which is still a punishment for busking without a license in seventeen states. Now called AbsentJaw, his legend spreads across th – no, hold it, I skipped ahead. Dying by inches, the jawless minstrel is rescued by a weird old witch who binds his traumatic wounds and, by way of healing him, grafts a hideous knife-toothed jaw to his head! Thanks ma’am!
Naturally, the minstrel responds the only way he could be expected to – he dies from shock. No, wait, actually he becomes a wandering cutthroat and warrior, selling his strong sword-arm for profit and demeaning all those whom he meets. Holding everyone "weaker" than himself in scorn, IronJaw muses on the infirmities of age ("Your father was too old … that is why he died running as a coward dies."), royalty ("To be a king is to be a toothless old woman!") and, of course, women.
|"Well, now I hate it here again."|
After all, having had every kindness in his life shown to him by women, the newly christened IronJaw naturally becomes … a he-man woman hater! In what might surely be an actual metaphor, once Ironjaw’s worldview changes from the pursuit of comfort and becomes allabout reaffirming his masculinity, it’s not his fellow men who suffer his wrath so much as it is absolutely every single woman he ever sees, meets or even suspects might exist. To Ironjaw, all women are stupid, pliable or evil. Observe the wit and wisdom of IronJaw’s Advice For The Lovelorn:
- "The fighter dies young who heeds the counsel of women.”
- "…you are a woman, and so you will tell, because women are unable to keep silent!"
- "The women in this god-forsaken kingdom are the same as women everywhere! First they offer themselves to you on a platter, and then they … what's this?" (This last one he muses upon after attempting to rape his own sister, as a fine how-do-ya-do).
Lest you imagine that IronJaw’s girl-hatin’ frustrations are possibly satirical, a text feature provides a glimpse into the writer’s intent. "IronJaw,” it explains, “Unlike most other comic book characters, is a real human being. What he thinks, what he says, how he reacts are all gauged by what Mike (Fleischer) feels a real man, placed in that same situation, would do."
Which implies that, in a post-apocalyptic world, former musicians with crippling deformities would naturally be muscle-flexing, woman-hating, thick-headed buffoons.
In a Conan vein, IronJaw becomes King of a prosperous land only to abandon the crown because he disdains the life of luxury and ease. After all, that's what a real individual would do living in an apocalyptic wasteland where food is scarce, enemies are plentiful and one must kill or be killed to survive. Comfort, safety, food, shelter – who needs it? Just keep up a steady supply of women to berate and loathe and this guy’ll be just fine.
|Oh yeah, I forgot, he's also secretly the son of the king. Who cares.|