Superhero Origins: War Machine

James Rupert Rhodes was a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. In the original Iron Man comics, he served a tour of duty in Southeast Asia as a combat pilot, before his helicopter was shot down by the Viet Cong. Trapped behind enemy lines, he met Tony Stark who had just escaped from a prison camp in his first prototype version of the Iron Man suit. Allowing Stark to drain the remaining power from his helicopter to recharge his armor, the two worked together to uncover and destroy a hidden enemy rocket base. In the years that followed the two men shared a complicated friendship and the responsibilities of being Iron Man, before the creation of the War Machine armor. Join WatchMojo.com as we explore the hero's creation and acceptance into the West-Coast Avengers.
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Superhero Origins: War Machine

He’s gone from personal assistant of Tony Stark, to successor, and member of the West-Coast Avengers. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we will explore the comic book origin of War Machine.

As with most comic book characters, there are often re-imaginations and different versions to a character’s past. We have chosen to primarily follow the storyline, which unfolded in Iron Man #144 (1979) and was expanded on in later Iron Man comics.

Born in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, James Rupert Rhodes was a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.

Serving his tour of duty in Southeast Asia as a combat pilot, his helicopter was shot down by the Viet Cong, trapping him behind enemy lines. While struggling to repair his vehicle, Tony Stark happened across Rhode’s location in his first prototype version of the Iron Man suit, having just escaped from a prison camp. Allowing Stark to drain the remaining power from his helicopter to recharge his armor, the two worked together to uncover and destroy a hidden enemy rocket base.

Before leaving Vietnam, Stark offered Rhodes a job as a pilot following the conclusion of his military service. Initially refusing and pursuing a career as a mercenary, he eventually returned to accept the officer, becoming Stark’s personal pilot and chief aviation engineer.

While working at Stark International, the two men became good friends and Rhodes stood behind Stark in his struggles against various opponents, such as the Roxxon Oil Company, fellow arms dealer Justin Hammer, and his dead father’s corrupt business partner Obadiah Stane.

However, Rhodes would eventually don the Iron Man armor when Tony fell into alcoholism. Offering to return the suit when he was done, he was instead asked to take on the responsibility full time.

Joining the newly formed West Coast Avengers under the guise of the original Iron Man, he proved his worth before revealing that he was a replacement.

Shortly afterwards, he became ill due to the suit’s cybernetics not having been calibrated to his unique brain waves. Making him erratic, aggressive and paranoid, Rhodes began to endanger the lives of innocents. This forced Tony to get sober and use his inferior ‘test bed’ armor to stop his friend’s rampage and reclaim his place as the true Iron Man.

Unable to use the technology, Rhodes decided to seek out the help of a mystic Shaman, who made it once again possible to operate Stark’s armor technology.

Staying on as Tony’s pilot, he was eventually given his own more heavily armed version meant for all-out warfare.

Finally taking on the role of the War Machine, the two friends would occasionally work together with S.H.I.E.L.D as Avengers to combat an array of super villains and threats.
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