- Rhodey's the only one I've told this to, but... I need to be honest about it. Especially with you. A while back, I erased my brain, and then digitally reinstalled it from a backup. And recently, I re-engineered my entire body, cell by cell. I think in doing that, something real in me might be gone. I don't know if... Do I still have a soul?
- -- Tony Stark
Appearing in "Self-Made Man: Part Three – Non-Player Character Assassination"
- Iron Man (Tony Stark) (Main story and flashback)
- Stark Unlimited (Main story and flashback)
- Jocasta Pym (Main story and flashback)
- Col. Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes (Only in flashback)
- Amanda Armstrong (Main story and flashback)
- Bethany Cabe (Main story and flashback) (Controlled by the Controller)
- Andy Bhang (Main story and flashback)
- Motherboard (Voice)
- Dr. Shapiro
- Numerous unidentified others (Main story and flashback)
- Alan Turing (Mentioned)
- God (Yahweh) (Invoked)
- Numerous unnamed New Yorkers (Only in flashback)
- U.S. Military (Mentioned) (Only in flashback)
- Chuck E. Cheese (Mentioned) (Topical reference) (Only in flashback)
- Unilimited Class Wrestling Federation (Construct)
- Dazzler (Alison Blaire) (Constructs)
- Rawhide Kid (Johnny Clay) (Avatar)
- Two-Gun Kid (Matthew Hawk) (Avatar)
- Numerous unnamed robots (Only in flashback)
- Mac (bartender) (First appearance) (Unnamed) (Only in flashback)
- H.E.R.B.I.E. (Cameo) (Only in flashback)
- Ka-Zar (Kevin Plunder) (Construct)
- Zabu (Construct)
- Ziggy Pig (Construct)
- Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) (Avatar)
- Adam Warlock (Avatar)
- Doctor Strange (Stephen Strange) (Avatar)
- Hela (Construct)
- Baron Mordo (Karl Mordo) (Construct)
- Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff) (Avatar)
- Clea (Avatar)
- Modred the Mystic (Avatar)
Races and Species:
- Robots (Main story and flashback)
- Humans (Main story and flashback)
- Rats (Mentioned) (Only in flashback)
- Mutants (Constructs)
- Dinosaurs (Constructs)
- Smilodon (Construct)
- Pigs (Construct)
- Human-Kree Hybrids (Avatar)
- Cosmic Beings (Avatar)
- Frost Giants (Construct)
- Faltine-Mhuruuk Hybrids (Avatar)
- Celestials (Construct)
- Earth (Main story and flashback)
- United States of America (Main story and flashback)
- New York (Main story and flashback)
- New Jersey (Behind the scenes)
- Cranbury (Behind the scenes)
- The Controller's secret base (Behind the scenes)
- Cranbury (Behind the scenes)
- United States of America (Main story and flashback)
- eScape (First appearance)
- Sport Zone (First appearance; construct)
- UCWF Stadium (First appearance; construct)
- Rockstar Arena (First appearance; construct)
- Wild West Town (First appearance; construct)
- Savage Land (First appearance; construct)
- Cartoon Corner (First appearance; construct)
- Cosmic Spaceway (First appearance; construct)
- Mystic Realm (First appearance; construct)
- Sport Zone (First appearance; construct)
- Hell (Invoked) (Main story and flashback)
- Image Inducer (Main story and flashback)
- Project eScape Interface (First appearance)
- Iron Man Armor (Constructs)
- Control Disk (Behind the scenes)
- Captain Marvel's Suit (Construct)
- Eye of Agamotto and Cloak of Levitation (Constructs)
Synopsis for "Self-Made Man: Part Three – Non-Player Character Assassination"
Jocasta becomes one of many people to take part of the beta testing for Stark Unlimited's newest platform, a virtual universe called the eScape. The purpose of the beta test is to tell apart non-player characters from real users. The trial is interrupted by Jocasta's boyfriend Aaron Stack, who opposes the eScape and deemed it an appropriation of robo-culture. He was faciliated access to the platform by Bethany Cabe, who remains under the Controller's influence, and wants to use Aaron as a scapegoat to cover his own tampering with the eScape.
Aaron endangers the integrity of the eScape's systems, shutting out both users and NPCs. Tony Stark tries to confront him, but fails. Being the last beta tester standing, Jocasta shuts herself out, concluding the beta test and logging out all remaining participants. Due to Aaron's actions, Jocasta breaks up with him and moves to the Stark Unlimited HQ. Aaron is successfully incriminated for Bethany's own data theft while under the Controller's influence. Tony decides to disclose with Jocasta the true purpose behind the eScape. He wanted to see if A.I.s and humans could interact on every level as equals, because due to the way he has tampered with his mind and body over the years, he fears that he doesn't have a soul anymore. Jocasta offers him solace telling him that she knows she has one. Jocasta ends up using the eScape again in order to log into the virtual world using her human disguise, and she goes to sleep.
From a first person point of view, a woman opens a package lying on a desk which reads "eScape Interface," revealing a mask modeled after the Iron Man Armor face-plate. She puts on the mask, submerging in a computer interface with a table of terms and services appearing in front of her. A digital version of Tony Stark peeks out from her right. As he walks in front of the block of text, he thanks the user for taking part of the beta test of Stark Unlimited's newest platform, a virtual universe where its users can go anywhere, be anyone and do anything. He explains the purpose of the trial is to test the quality of the non-player characters within. Dozens of Stark Unlimited's friends and family are using their interfaces to play around in the virtual world, and the purpose of the beta testers is to tell them apart from the NPCs. As an incentive, Tony offers cash rewards for every human the user tags, with a special bonus if they can tap out Tony himself, who will also be hiding in the virtual world. The woman clicks on the "I agree" button below the terms of services, and as she's transported elsewhere, Tony's voice warns her that if she wants to find him, he shouldn't go looking for Iron Man, since he's not being Iron Man today. Instead, the user is. The user becomes encased in an Iron Man armor and finds herself flying through a digital technopolis together with countless of people dressed in different Iron Man suits. Tony's voice proclaims that everybody gets to be Iron Man, and welcomes the users to the eScape.
The day prior, at Washington Square Park, Tony was hanging out with his employees, including Jim Rhodes, Jocasta, Bethany Cabe, Amanda Armstrong and Andy Bhang. Going over the eScape again, Tony describes it as an amplification of the human experience, with brighter colors and crisper sounds than real life. However, Tony expresses that he feels the NPCs don't feel real to him, and suggests the idea of the beta test. In the meantime, Andy asks Amanda to sing him a vinyl of hers. Planning what will she do on the eScape, Amanda invites Andy to sign with her at a concert stadium to relive her glory days. Andy accepts the invitation delighted. Back to Tony, Rhodey asks him if the eScape has any potential military applications. Tony tells him that there isn't, arguing that the eScape is entirely hedonic. Rhodes lets Tony know he won't take part on it in that case. When Tony takes at jab at Rhodey, Jim quietly tells him that between the two of them, they know the true reason behind the eScape. Jocasta approaches Tony and asks him to take part in the test as well, even if it could defeat its purpose being an artificial intelligence herself. They're interrupted by Aaron Stack, who loudly calls the eScape a "fleshbag invasion of cyberspace." Embarrassed, Jocasta introduces Aaron as her boyfriend. Continuing to cause a scene, Aaron also accuses Tony of appropriating robo-culture since he supposedly dresses up as a robot, though Tony retorts that armor predates robots. Jocasta explains that Aaron has become militant with mecha-activism, the reason why he has also renounced using synthetic skin recently. Aaron and Jocasta start arguing as he tries to convince her that the eScape is an A.I. abomination. Jocasta reminds him that she has her own free will. They both leave, with Aaron grabbing Jocasta by the arm and continuing ranting.
Back in the present, the eScape tester is flying close to an Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation stadium. Wondering if there's a directory of places where she can go, the tester is greeted by the incorporeal Motherboard, the eScape A.I. interface, who guides her through the platform. The user notices another tester has engaged the wrestlers at the stadium, who accuses a construct of D-Man of being a actually a user. When this tester blasts D-Man, he disintegrates leaving a red cross. Motherboard informs the player that he did hit a NPC, which accounts for one strike, and he'll be ejected with two more. The point-of-view user flies into the Rockstar Arena, where an avatar of a young Amanda Armstrong is performing with a bassist, and the audience boos them. The user deduces only real humans could be that bad and blasts them, kicking them out and revealing that they were the real Amanda Armstrong and Andy Bhang. Motherboard awards the user two credits for tagging them. Amanda offers Andy to disconnect and get a burger in the real world, which he accepts.
The user flies into an area called Wild West Town, and Motherboard informs her that there are only eight other beta testers ahead of her. She decides to ask around for any recent disturbances, reasoning that any user wouldn't be disguised as regular townspeople. Suddenly, a warning signal appears in the sky and Motherboard alerts of an intruder warning. Machine Man appears from the sky, blasting users and logging them off, claiming that he will shut the entire system down because "cyberspace is for cyberpeople." Motherboard wonders how did Machine Main gain access to the eScape.
The previous night, at a secret robot bar called the Uncanny Valley, the patrons are spending the evening when they notice Aaron entering the bar looking bleak. A yellow robot approaches Aaron and hands him over a eScape Interface package, telling him it is what he needs. He opens the package and notices the interface is modeled after his old face. The robot explains that it's a one-of-a-kind skeleton key with which he can access anywhere in the eScape without Motherboard being able to stop him. Aaron asks the robot why is it doing this, and it claims to be an obsolete expendable robot built by Stark, and it wants Aaron to pester him in revenge. Aaron accepts the offer immediately. When the robot leaves the bar, it reveals itself to be Bethany Cabe using an image inducer while under the Controller's influence, who wants to use Aaron as a scapegoat.
Back in the eScape, Machine Man continues wrecking havoc, shutting out users and fellow A.I.s alike, claiming that they're being used as slaves. The beta tester follows him through Cartoon Corner and the Cosmic Spaceway, and Motherboard informs her that Tony Stark is mounting a last stand in the eScape's Mystic Realm. When the user reaches this area, she sees an avatar of Doctor Strange ordering all beta testers to fall back while he commands fellow magic users to follow his lead. Machine Man gloats he can't be stopped with magic, but he's being attacked with bands of code; thousands of lines of codes being programmed on the fly. Declaring that it's impossible, the Doctor Strange avatar clarifies that that's not the case for the eScape's "Source-Coder Supreme." The beta user singles him out as the avatar of the real Tony Stark. Tony congratulates her for finding him out, but urges her not to tag him since he's the only person who can save the eScape. Machine Man lunges at Tony, using his connection with the cyberspace to gain access to Tony's own mind, and sets out to dig out the secret reason behind the eScape's purpose. The beta tester suggests shooting Tony to take him out of the system, but he warns her that the connection is too strong and it would tear him apart. Being the last beta tester, the woman blasts herself in the face, deducing that if she loses, the program closes since the beta test concludes. All three are kicked out, and Aaron wonders who is the woman that ruined his plan. Tony and the woman reveal to Aaron that she is Jocasta, who had been using her human inducer all this time to look like her identity of "Joelle."
Later on, in the real world, Jocasta is packing her things up to move away from Aaron's apartment while scolding him. He defends himself, arguing that he didn't realize Jocasta was also inside eScape because she thought she was human. Jocasta takes it as a compliment, and announces that she's leaving him. She reassures Aaron that Tony won't press charges, since he's thankful Aaron actually helped getting all the bugs out.
Back at the Stark Unlimited HQ, Tony and Bethany go over the incident, and mistakenly conclude that Aaron was responsible for the recent data theft. Tony comments that following Bethany's sign-off and his fixes to everything Aaron broke, he'll be declaring the eScape ready for public release. Tony notices Jocasta walking down the facility, and approaches her to thank her for her work. He discloses with her the reason he created the eScape: to see if A.I.s and humans could interact on every level as equals. He informs her about the time he erased his brain and digitally reinstalled it from a backup, and how most recently he re-engineered his entire body, cell by cell. He fears that in doing all of that, everything real in him might be gone, and wonders if he still has a soul. Jocasta tries to offer him solace, telling him that she knows she has one. Jocasta walks away, and Tony asks him if she'll be heading home today. She replies that she's alrady home. While opening her locker, Jocasta notices an eScape Interface lying on a table. She uses it to open a program called "J Zero One: Dream House," and is logged into the eScape with her human appearance. Motherboard asks her if she plans to do anything, but Jocasta simply tells her good night and goes to sleep.
NON-PLAYER CHARACTER ASSASSINATION!
• What is MACHINE MAN’S problem with (our) IRON MAN of 2018?
• When TONY STARK unveils his latest innovation, the Great eScape, AARON STACK realizes what it will mean for all the artificial life-forms of the Marvel Universe... blue checks or DEATH!
• Also in this issue: A new development for JOCASTA. ANDY dates a single mom (no, really, this is important). And that classic Iron Man villain you’ve been talking about since the first issue? Theyyyyy’re back. Mwahaha!
- Twice in this issue, Jocasta mentions the Turing test, which is a type of experiment designed to test a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.
- Tony Stark informs Jocasta about the time he erased his brain and digitally reinstalled it from a backup. Tony erased his own mind after being succeeded by Norman Osborn as director of S.H.I.E.L.D., since his brain contained the last backup of the Superhuman Registration Act database, and he wanted to prevent Osborn from getting his hands on it. After becoming braindead, he rebooted himself with help from his allies. These events unfolded between Invincible Iron Man (Vol. 2) #8-24.
- Tony additionally tells Jocasta that he recently re-engineered his entire body, cell by cell. This happened when Tony woke up from a coma he went into in Civil War II #8. He woke up from the coma in Invincible Iron Man #593, and explained what happened to him in Invincible Iron Man #599.
- When visiting the Wild West Town area of the eScape, Jocasta quips if Tony doesn't get HBO, claiming that everyone knows that "if you make a virtual Wild West... chances are the NPCs will start killing everybody." She is referencing Westworld, a TV series which revolves around a Wild-West-themed amusement park populated by androids programmed to fulfill every desire of their guests.
- This issue's solicit text mentions makes the question "What is MACHINE MAN’S problem with (our) IRON MAN of 2018?," which is most likely a reference to the shared history between Machine Man and Arno Stark in the alternate timeline of Earth-8410, in which Arno Stark is the Iron Man of 2020 AD.
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