John Dunbar re-reads Iron Man (Tales of Suspense 39-99)

He's Tony Stark, a cool exec with a heart of steel.  He's a founding Avenger, often called the Golden Avenger.  He debuted in Tales of Suspense 39, cover-dated March 1963.  Today he's arguably considered an A-lister, largely thanks to the trilogy of Iron Man movies starring Robert Downey Junior, as well as being a major part of the two Avengers movies (Avengers 2: Age of Ultron in theatres now - shameless plugs dept.).  In the comics themselves, he may not have been the biggest star, but he's consistently been a cornerstone of the Marvel Universe for decades.

This reading project will cover the Iron Man stories featured in Tales of Suspense 39-99.

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I've not read this one. By the sounds of it Dr Strange and Carla may have been modelled after the Yellow Claw and Suwan. In your description their relationship comes across as an interesting one. Carla sounds more assertive than Suwan was.

Other pairs are the Puppet Master and Alicia, and the Imperial Hydra and Laura Brown. The Puppet Master is an interesting contrast, as in his early appearances he showed no affection for Alicia at all.

Another parallel is Drexel and Janice Cord in Iron Man #2.

One might also compare the Yellow Claw/Suwan/Jimmy Woo triangle to R'as al Ghul/Talia/Batman. I've not noticed that before. Another such triangle is Count Nefaria/Madame Masque/Iron Man.

Some other things I noticed:

- There's no connection between Tony Stark and Iron Man yet, no mention of him being Stark's employee

- The authorities trust Iron Man so much that they guess immediately he is being mind controlled and there's never an accusation he's in cahoots with Strange.  As a long-time Spider-Man fan, that's practically refreshing.

- The kids IM entertains are patients of the children's ward in the first part of the story, later they are referred to as orphans.  They could be both, I suppose, but it feels like something the editor missed.

- It's really jarring when the TV announcer says the only person who could equal Iron Man's feats - juggling cars, crushing a cannonball - is Strange.  I thought, what about the Thing?  Thor?  The Hulk?  This is the early period where the Marvel Universe doesn't overlap much - the FF have met Spidey and the Hulk, and I believe that's the extent of the interaction up to this point.  There's a sea change coming in a few months, starting with the formation of the Avengers, and by the time of Reed and Sue's wedding two years later, everybody knows everybody.  But often those early stories read as if each hero exists in their own universe, with no other heroes in that reality.

I think there's a bit where Thor entertains hospitalised children in one of his early stories.

Dr. Strange is like the mad scientist of the previous issue. Strange is already in jail and already hates Iron Man, implying they've fought before but we've never seen that story, and is never seen again, even though Iron Man is presumably going to go after him. So did he put him in jail and never bother to mention it? Did he kill him? Has he never to this day been able to find him? Did Strange flee to Tibet and become a wizard?

Don't remember this story too well but I've read a couple of his allies look like Exiles that later worked for the Red Skull.

Both Tony Stark and Iron Man have a girl in this story, but neither shows up again. So far they seem to be trying to avoid a supporting cast. A villain's daughter as a love interest might have been interesting (he'll actually do this years later with Count Nefaria's daughter, but that's another story for another thread.)

It would have been a nice touch if Iron Man had said in Avengers#115 that he once fought a guy named Dr. Strange, and wondered if they were the same person. But few people would have gotten it.

Strange is in jail because he was captured by U.S. paratroopers six months before this story takes place.  I didn't see anything implying he hated Iron Man, held a grudge for something or they fought before,

Good catch on the Exiles, I forgot to mention that.  From "The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe" website:

The Exiles (from Captain America I#104, et al) were never specifically identified as his allies. The group was only described as "the most cunning scientists and power-mad military men on Earth." The group looks like the Exiles, and they are identified as such in The Marvel Comics Index I#8A, December 1979.

He builds a machine to control Iron Man. Usually this means knowing something about the character. It's not like Puppet Master or Mr. Doll where all he has to do is make a figure that looks like him, he's got to zero in on either Iron Man's armor or Tony Stark's brain. Difficult to do unless he's familiar with one or the other.

Interestingly before he meets Thor and Hulk, Iron Man seems about at their strength level. The Official Guide to the Marvel Universe puts him at a bit below Spider-Man's. Of course, in FF#18 we're told the Thing has never been observed lifting over five tons, but this would mean Thor, Hulk, and Thing have all had huge power boosts since 1963, while Iron Man hadn't until fairly recently. Stan later explains the new suit is much less powerful than the clunky old model, but Archie Goodwin (I think) still later says that's no longer true.

He builds a machine to control Iron Man. Usually this means knowing something about the character. It's not like Puppet Master or Mr. Doll where all he has to do is make a figure that looks like him, he's got to zero in on either Iron Man's armor or Tony Stark's brain. Difficult to do unless he's familiar with one or the other.

OK, that's certainly plausible.  I read it as the device could have enslaved anyone and he chose IM as the best bet to bust him out of jail, but on the other hand he does seem to know more about Iron Man than a reader would expect him to know if this was a first time encounter.

Considering the shrinking guy in the last story and Marion acting as if she's been seeing Iron Man for awhile now and can't stand how scary he looks grey, and now Dr. Strange and the police assuming Iron Man was mind controlled and hadn't run amok and asking him to perform at a hospital, it really looks like an attempt was made to make it look like he'd been around a lot longer than a couple of months, say, as long as the other fantasy books had a superhero. Reading #40 and #41 I had the feeling I'd missed a couple of issues.

Perhaps it had to be Iron Man as the device reached his brain through his cyber control system.

But that suggests Dr. Strange was fairly familiar with his cyber control system.

Or this really is Dr. Strange but he's evil until Steve Ditko gets ahold of him.

On page 3 some of Tony's weapons are pretty scary, especially the atomic cannons.

John Dunbar (the mod of maple) said:

He turns on his invention, which emits ultra-frequency waves allowing him to mentally enslave Iron Man's brain, and he commands IM to free him from prison, which he easily does.

How does Strange figure out how to use his "ultra-frequency waves" to interfere with Iron Man's armor and then his brain? As you say later it implies some knowledge of Iron Man. I think it's just sloppy writing.

Strange gloats as he stands over a helpless Iron Man, saying his power could be restored by one electrical spark, but there's none left anywhere.

Again, how does he know this? It's really poorly written.

Iron Man comforts Carla, and asks her if he can do anything for her. She tells him to find her father before he can menace mankind again.

Somewhere on the Board it was said that they seemed to be setting Carla up as a possible love interest.

Luke Blanchard said:

Other pairs are the Puppet Master and Alicia, and the Imperial Hydra and Laura Brown. The Puppet Master is an interesting contrast, as in his early appearances he showed no affection for Alicia at all.

One of the things that made the Puppet Master so despicable was that he felt he was stuck with his step-daughter and further resented her handicap.

I think there's a bit where Thor entertains hospitalised children in one of his early stories.

Perhaps another story by "R. Berns?"

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