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War Machine is a Marvel Comics character created by David Michelinie and Bob Layton first appearing in Iron Man #118 (March, 1979). Stationed in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, then Marine combat pilot Lt. Col. James Rupert Rhodes first met Iron Man after his helicopter was shot down by Viet Cong rocket fire during one of his tours of duty. Iron Man himself, fresh off escaping his captors with a suit of armor made with a box of scraps, encounters Rhodes. Together, they defeat the Viet Cong and fly to safety in a stolen helicopter.
After the war, playboy billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, who secretly was Iron Man all along, thanks Rhodes for saving Iron Man and offers him a job as Stark's personal pilot. Rhodes initially declines, but after trying other career options, including being a mercenary, he eventually takes Tony up on the offer. He also becomes the chief aviation officer.
Tony and Rhodes become close friends to the point where he becomes one of Tony's/Iron Man's secret keepers and given the nickname "Rhodey". When Tony was battling Obadiah Stane for control of his company as well as his own issues with alcoholism, Rhodey became Iron Man for a brief time. As the shellhead he successfully battled against Iron Man's Rogues Gallery and became a founding members of the West Coast Avengers (though they thought it was Stark at the time). Issues including headaches caused by the armor’s helmet's neuralink control interface not being properly calibrated for Rhodes for longterm use and being gravely injured in a bomb attack by Stane forced Rhodey to give up being Iron Man.
He became Iron Man a couple more times during his time at Tony's new company, Stark Enterprises but only temporarily. When Stark seemingly dies, Rhodey takes over running Stark Enterprises and becomes Iron Man once again. This time he uses the Variable Threat Response Battle Suit, a silver and black suit with a mix of laser guided munitions, ballistic weaponry, a flame thrower and respulor and unibeam technology used in other versions of Stark's armor. Designed for all-out warfare, the armor was nicknamed "War Machine". After discovering Tony faked his death, Rhodey quit the company. Tony told Rhodey to keep the "War Machine" armor stating that the armor always belonged to him (with it properly attuned to Rhodey's brain patterns of course). After which, he decided just to call himself War Machine while he wore the armor.
Rhodey and Stark would make-up and break up several more times with the former sometimes going solo or joining a separate cause from the latter. Eventually he would rejoin the West Coast Avengers, this time as himself using the War Machine armor. He would also join the Secret Defenders and Force Works (A reorganizing of the West Coast Avengers). He would also retire, only join up with The Crew--without Power Armor at his disposal--after his sister was killed by a powerful street gang. Eventually, he returns to superheroics and is currently he is a member of the Secret Avengers.
Ever since he started wearing the Variable Threat Response Battle Suit, War Machine has been featured in media outside of the comics. His most notable appearances were in the Iron Man films, played by Terrence Howard in the first in 2008 and Don Cheadle in the second in 2010. Prior to the movies, he appeared in the Iron Man Animated Series in 1994. He also appeared in Iron Man: Armored Adventures and made guest appearances in The Superhero Squad Show and season 2 of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
In terms of Video Games, War Machine was a playable character in Marvel vs. Capcom Clash of the Superheroes, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Marvel Super Hero Squad Online and the video game version of Iron Man 2.
Tropes associated with War Machine include:
- Ace Pilot: Whether it be a plane, jet, chopper or a flying suit of armor.
- Anti-Hero: Traditionally a Type III idealistic soldier, but was a Type IV in the past.
- Badass Normal: Like Tony Stark, Rhodey can handle almost any threat until he can suit up.
- Black Best Friend: To Tony Stark
- Blood Knight: "Sometimes the world needs a war machine"
- Clothes Make the Maniac: Whenever he (or Kevin O'Brien) wore Tony's armor for too long due to the armor's neural-interface controls were only calibrated for Tony Stark's brainwaves.
- Colonel Badass
- Contagious Powers: Infected by Iron Man.
- Corporate-Sponsored Superhero: As Iron Man while working for Circuits Maximus and Stark Enterprises.
- Costume Copycat: When he replaced Tony Stark as Iron Man.
- Crapola Tech: The "Ex-Wife" bunker-buster warhead from Iron Man 2
- Cyborg: Around the time of the Civil War, but during the Secret Invasion, his brain was put in a cloned body making him normal again.
- Flying Brick/Lightning Bruiser
- Flying Firepower
- Friendship Moment: In Iron Man issue 184, James Rhodes and two other guys were working on creating their own tech company, they were getting ready to leave for California. Tony Stark came up asking for a job. In the past few months he had lost his company, lost access to his money, gave up being Iron Man and is homeless. Not only that but he had only spent a week being sober. Tony was afraid that he would be rejected for what happened. But Rhodey and the others promptly accepted him.
- Gatling Good: A gatling gun on his armor's left shoulder as a default. When he had the Stanetech Armor he can add more way more.
- Genre Savvy
- Hand Blast: Whether it is coming from a repulsor blast from his palms or bullets from the guns on his wrists.
- Hyperspace Arsenal: He can create an endless amount of weapons and ammunition from his armor.
- In-Series Nickname: Rhodey and in the first season of the '90s Iron Man cartoon, Jimmy.
- Jet Pack: More like Jet Boots but, thrusters and repulsors of the armor allow him to fly really long distances.
- Legacy Character: To Iron Man. Took the War Machine identity some time after Tony resumed the Iron Man role.
- Military Superhero
- More Dakka
- More Hero Than Thou: At least one issue of Iron Man where Rhodey knocks Tony out and wears the armor himself. Sort of subverted in that when Tony wakes up, he immediately goes out in a spare suit and arrives just in time to save Rhodey's massively outclassed butt.
- Bear in mind, Tony had been using remote-control armor because he didn't want Rhodey to have to face down the Mandarin, not to mention Fin Fang Foom and his Makluan dragon buddies; while Rhodey didn't want Tony to get himself killed in battle, since his nervous system was rapidly deteriorating at the time. In the end, the two of them end up working together with the Mandarin to stop the dragons.
- Muggle Best Friend: To Tony (who is a Mutant somewhat) in the Ultimate Marvel universe.
- Private Military Contractors: Before he worked for Stark Industries but after his last tour in Vietnam. Also when he was Iron Man working for Circuits Maximus.
- Powered Armor
- Ryu and Ken: Tony and Rhodey, when they are at "work." This is more obvious in the video games.
- Semper Fi
- Scary Black Man: Sure, you can't see the actual pilot of the suit, but you do NOT want to piss Rhoades off. Ever.
- Shoulders of Doom
- Sidekick Graduations Stick: From non-superhero ally to Iron Man replacement to his own hero identity.
- Spandex, Latex, or Leather: None, powered armor!
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Due to legal issues, Iron Man was unavailable for Marvel vs. Capcom Clash of the Superheroes, so War Machine was selected in his stead (for all intents and purposes, he's a Palette Swap of Iron Man). As a result, his theme in this game is based off of Iron Man's Marvel Super Heroes theme.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: He's able to add more weapons to his armor so it has come to this. He's the trope's image for a reason.
- Unusual Weapon Mounting
- Walking Armory
- When All You Have Is a Hammer: In his case, it's "When all you have is an electric minigun, a missile box and a crapload of other guns".
- The Worf Barrage: The "Ex-Wife" against Whiplash. It was a dud.