War Machine Comin’ At You: Rhodey’s 1st Appearance

by Don Y

Screen-Shot-2021-01-23-at-11.27.06-PM-195x300 War Machine Comin' At You: Rhodey's 1st AppearanceWe know little about Disney+’s new Armor Wars show, but we know it’ll feature a lot of “War Machine comin’ at you.” Just as Falcon will likely take the torch from Captain America in the upcoming Falcon & The Winter Soldier series, War Machine will do so for Iron Man in Armor Wars.

We all associate War Machine with James “Rhodey” Rhodes; however, identifying War Machine’s first full appearance as a character isn’t a straightforward exercise. We discuss some possibilities below.

Iron Man #118: Just a Cameo Appearance?

Screen-Shot-2021-01-23-at-11.26.37-PM-193x300 War Machine Comin' At You: Rhodey's 1st AppearanceAlthough several sources identify Iron Man #118 as the first appearance of Rhodes, it’s really a cameo appearance. Rhodey appears only on two panels in his civilian clothes and doesn’t appear on the comic’s cover. Nonetheless, this book is steadily rising in value; over the past three years, the value of a CGC 9.8 copy has risen about 26%. Could this issue be a red herring?

Rhodey appears again on a single page in Iron Man #120 (sort of a second cameo appearance), but it isn’t until Iron Man #121 that he has a major role in a comic’s story and not until Iron Man #125 that he appears on an Iron Man cover. It isn’t until several years later in Iron Man #170 that he dons Tony’s armor for the first time.

You could make the case that Iron Man #121 is the first full appearance of Rhodey; raw mid-grade copies of this book have recently sold on eBay for just 99 cents. To me, that’s a comic flying under the radar.

Iron Man #282

Iron Man #282 contains the first full appearance of the classic War Machine armor, but Tony wears the armor here, not Rhodey. Although the War Machine armor makes a cameo appearance on the final page of Iron Man #281, Iron Man #282 complies with the general rule about first appearances because the issue prominently features the “character” in both (1) the story, and (2) on the comic’s cover. Iron Man #282 has an iconic cover that displays the heavily militarized armor and with “War Machine” replacing “Iron Man” as the comic’s title. For good reason, this comic’s value has risen by 47% over the past three years with a CGC 9.8 copy selling for just under $300 about a month ago. This is still affordable for a key first appearance; however, because Rhodey doesn’t serve as the armor’s pilot here, there’s good value to be found in the comics discussed below.

Iron Man #284 (1992)

Screen-Shot-2021-01-23-at-11.28.11-PM-192x300 War Machine Comin' At You: Rhodey's 1st AppearanceYou could also make the case that Iron Man #284 is the first appearance as War Machine. After deliberating throughout the comic, Rhodey decides to wear the War Machine armor for the first time in this issue (although he calls himself “Iron Man”). He also appears as a dramatic silhouette on the issue’s cover. Although still very affordable, this book’s value has been rising with a CGC 9.8 copy selling for $70 on eBay back in October 2020.

Avengers West Coast  #94 (1993)

Screen-Shot-2021-01-23-at-11.28.53-PM-198x300 War Machine Comin' At You: Rhodey's 1st AppearanceIn Avengers West Coast #94, Rhodey’s full transformation into War Machine as his own superhero is complete. By calling himself “War Machine” for the first time, he steps outside of Iron Man’s shadow. On pg. 4, he tells the West Coast Avengers (his new team), “I’ve got a new name now. Call me — War Machine!” Avengers West Coast #94 also has the kind of cover often associated with first appearances, with War Machine prominently featured. Raw, high-grade copies of this book have sold for $20 or less on eBay.

Closing Thoughts

In most cases, determining which issue serves as a character’s first appearance is an easy one. However, the calculus is a bit more complex. Which issue is War Machine’s first appearance? Tell us your opinion in the comments below!

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