James Rhodes 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 in a cave, 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 because the helmet was only calibrated for Stark during long-term 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 repulsor 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 to 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 a member of the Secret Avengers. In 2014 he took up the identity of Iron Patriot, paralleling Iron Man 3. However, both versions of Rhodey would return to the more iconic War Machine name not long after. Rhodey would later die in Civil War II.
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 Iron Man and Don Cheadle in all subsequent appearances.
- Iron Man: Rise of Technovore
- Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher
- Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers
- War Machine Vol. 1 (1994)
- U.S. War Machine (2001)
- U.S. War Machine 2.0 (2003)
- War Machine Vol. 2 (2009)
- Iron Man 2.0 (2011)
- Iron Patriot (2014)
- The Invincible Iron Man
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of the Superheroes
- Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes
- Marvel Ultimate Alliance (unlockable costume for Iron Man)
- Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (NPC)
- Marvel: Avengers Alliance
- Marvel Future Fight
- X-Men (two silent cameos)
- Spider-Man: The Animated Series (two episodes)
- Iron Man
- The Super Hero Squad Show
- Iron Man: Armored Adventures
- The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!
Tropes associated with War Machine include:
- A Friend in Need: In Secret Avengers, his military friend Phil Coulson, who's recently been recruited to SHIELD and is working as part of the Secret Avengers asks him to help them, despite what they're doing going beyond what's reasonable or right, citing that Rhodes never let them down when they were in the military. Rhodes replies that this is what he does, and tells Coulson to tell him where they need him.
- Ace Pilot: Whether it be a plane, jet, chopper, or a flying suit of armor.
- Anti-Hero: Traditionally a idealistic soldier, but was an Unscrupulous Hero in the past.
- Anti-Hero Substitute: Inverted as Tony wore the prototype of the Variable Threat Response Battle Suit first and that Rhodey wasn't any more Darker and Edgier when he wore the Iron Man suit. In fact, the suit was intentionally designed to MINIMIZE casualties and offer less-lethal options, since hitting a non-superhuman opponent with repulsor rays would splatter them worse than standard ordinance, according to the Iron Manual. Also inverted as Iron Patriot because he was definitely a saner and more straight-up hero than his predecessor, Norman Osborn.
- Ascended Extra: He started out as just another random pilot working for Tony, got upgraded to a supporting character after a few more appearances, and then ended up becoming a superhero himself.
- Badass Beard: Depending on the artist, he is drawn with one or clean-shaven.
- Badass Normal: Like Tony Stark, Rhodey can handle almost any threat until he can suit up. If anything, Rhodey is arguably better at this than Tony, in that he's ex-military and was a trained combatant long before he met Tony. He's repeatedly fought alongside Iron Man even without a suit of his own, using real-life weapons like guns and staffs.
- Black Best Friend: To Tony Stark. To a lesser extent, he's also this to his former West Coast Avengers teammates, especially Hawkeye and Mockingbird. He's notably disgusted by Maria Hill not only not informing the team that Mockingbird was stuck behind enemy territory, but that she also actively hid this fact from them, prompting him to quit the Secret Avengers team.
- Blood Knight: "Sometimes the world needs a war machine"
- Breakout Character: He went from being a Recurring Extra to Tony's best friend and eventually became a second new armored hero, even filling in Tony's place when he was out of commission on more than one occasion.
- Canon Immigrant: Not Rhodey himself, but him being Iron Patriot, was introduced in Iron Man 3, and in the comics he inherits the identity from Norman Osborn in 2014, taking up the Iron Patriot armor on behalf of the government.
- 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: His rank in the military is Colonel.
- Contagious Powers: Infected by Iron Man.
- Corporate-Sponsored Superhero: As Iron Man while working for Circuits Maximus and Stark Enterprises.
- Costume Copycat: After Rhodey retired from superheroics, the original War Machine armor was found by his old friend Parnell Jacobs. Jacobs used the armor and the War Machine name as a criminal mercenary for a while.
- Crapola Tech: The "Ex-Wife" bunker-buster warhead from Iron Man 2
- Cyborg: Around the time of the Civil War, but during the Dark Reign, his brain was put in a cloned body making him normal again.
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: Captain Marvel cradles Rhodey as he dies.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Rhodey acts as one to the Iron Patriot drones. Was one of the Initiative's commanders too.
- Faking the Dead: Prior to his third tenure as Iron Man, Rhodey sacrificed his War Machine armor so that the world would believe he was dead. Now that he was a dead man, he was free to fill in as the new Iron Man without anyone suspecting him.
- Five Rounds Rapid: In his origin story, Rhodey's first reaction to a strange metal man lumbering out of the Vietnamese undergrowth was to whip out a rifle and try and shoot it.
- Flying Firepower: Flight and "repulsor beams" (name varies), one of the few instances where the same capability allows for both flight and energy blasts. War Machine, like Iron Man, has all this, plus a good old fashioned minigun on the shoulder.
- 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 became 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.
- Just a few issues later, Rhodey is going nuts because he is starting to fear that Tony wants the armor back. It doesn't help that Tony has built a prototype suit, though Tony insists it is "therapy". At first, Tony thinks it is simply the suit's interface not being properly synched to Rhodey, but Rhodey's headaches keep coming back, and he finally goes on a rampage. Stark has to suit up in his outmatched prototype to try to calm him down, and manages to use everything he knows about the Iron Man suit to temporarily disable Rhodey's suit. Tony then takes off his suit, telling Rhodey that he doesn't want the job back, and unfreezes Rhodey's suit. Rhodey gets up... and shakes Tony's hand.
- 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.
- Guilt Complex: The real cause of Rhodey's headaches when he was Iron Man. He'd enjoyed being a hero and didn't want to lose that, but deep down he felt that he had stolen the identity from Tony and this conflicted with his loyalty to him; the ensuing headaches created a sense of paranoia expressed in rage toward Tony. Once Rhodey demonstrated he was willing to give up being Iron Man, the headaches ceased. Of course, he did have to go on an Interdimensional Vision Quest to learn this about himself.
- Hand Blast: Whether it is coming from a repulsor blast from his palms or bullets from the guns on his wrists.
- The Hero Dies: Civil War II is kicked off by Rhodey's death. Tony brings him Back from the Dead in Invincible Iron Man issue #600 with rather little fanfare, even after becoming a regular in the next series.
- Hyperspace Arsenal: He can create an endless amount of weapons and ammunition from his armor.
- Identity Impersonator: When he replaced Tony Stark as Iron Man. During the Armor Wars, he impersonated Electro briefly as well.
- 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, though he's temporarily take up the mantle again in 2012. He temporarily took over the identity of Iron Patriot from Norman Osborn in 2014. And in 2017 it was announced that Frank Castle, who is now an anti-villain Hydra agent, will be taking up the mantle of War Machine.
- Affirmative Action Legacy: During the Secret Wars, Reed Richards got to see the man under the armour while repairing it. Jim asked him if he was surprised that the man under the armour was black; Reed just said that he knew that 'there was a man in there', reacting more along the lines of 'what's race got to do with anything?', being as unconcerned about the race of who was in the armor as he's always been about everyone else.
- Man on Fire: After donning the old red-and-gold armor to escape an AIM-infected space station (Iron Man issues 215-216), Rhodey discovers the hard way that the armor's seals have been damaged as he and Tony reenter the atmosphere. Tony has to cradle Rhodey and use his own Silver Centurion suit as a heat shield to keep Rhodey from being killed, and Tony is able to get Rhodey medical attention as soon as they reach civilization. Rhodey managed to recover from his burns, but the incident left him unable to don the armor again for a long time.
- Military Superhero: Personnel of the US Air Force and War Machine.
- Mini-Mecha: His armor in the Ultimate Marvel line is a huge behemoth that can transform into a sports car. His suit in Iron Man: Armored Adventures is similarly big.
- More Dakka: War Machine has been adding more and more guns to his armor. For an illustration of the result, check out the picture for the There Is No Kill Like Overkill trope. For a while, Rhodey's armor had the capability to magnetically lock any piece of machinery to itself, meaning he could repurpose any weapon he found from downed enemies or destroyed vehicles. Even at his current, normal weapon loadout, he's more heavily armed than pretty much any Marvel hero.
- 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.
- Moveset Clone: Tony and Rhodey in the Capcom vs. Whatever video games. (In the sprite-based games, it's not uncommon for War Machine to be a straight recolor of Tony's Modular Armor.)
- 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: James Rhodes has used Stark armor many times, either taking up the Iron Man mantle while Tony was incapacitated or presumed dead, or working independently as War Machine.
- Rage Quit: Rhodey's reaction to Tony Faking the Dead.
- Ret-Canon: To tie into Iron Man 3, Rhodey has recently taken up Norman Osborn's old Iron Patriot identity.
- Retired Badass: Though it didn't last.
- The Rival: Parnell Jacobs, who stole a set of War Machine armor and became a mercenary. Eventually became a friendly rivalry.
- Scary Black Man: Sure, you can't see the actual pilot of the suit, but you do NOT want to piss Rhodes off. Ever. This is a guy that's taken out Hulk villains with a standard firearm on more than one occasion.
- Shoulder Cannon: Typically in the form of a Gatling gun on one shoulder and a missile launcher on the other.
- Sidekick Graduations Stick: From non-superhero ally to Iron Man replacement to his own hero identity.
- Spandex, Latex, or Leather: None, powered armor!
- Superhero Packing Heat: A rather grotesque understatement.
- 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.
- Tonight, Someone Dies: Rhodey himself! He's killed by Thanos in a Free Comic Book Day Special and it's his death that kicks off Civil War II.
- Trauma Button: After being resurrected from his latest death in Civil War II, he develops a PTSD response to combat in armor after years of accruing trauma from dying in it. He can handle piloting a heavily armed ship much better.
- Walking Armory: War Machine is a Powered Armor version of this trope (as especially seen in the film version). Note that the regular Iron Man armor is already stuffed with miniaturized weapons; the War Machine suit is overflowing with them...and some of them are not so miniaturized; the iconic feature of War Machine is a shoulder-mounted Gatling gun. Many versions of the War Machine armor also have a second turret on the other shoulder with a multiple missile launcher on it. The same is also true of his incarnation from Iron Man: Armored Adventures, if not moreso.
- 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". Slightly inverted, in that the suit is designed to have MORE options for combat than the standard Iron Man armor.
- Where Da White Women At?: Rhodey has had two important interracial relationships: the first was with Rae LaCoste (which was broken up by his parents), and the second is with Carol Danvers (the current Captain Marvel). It ended with Rhodey's death, which ended up motivating Carol's actions in Civil War II.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Rhodey develops claustrophobia as a side effect of his resurrection. Because of that, he can't wear the War Machine armor and opts for his own Humongous Mecha.
- The Worf Barrage: The "Ex-Wife" against Whiplash. It was a dud.