Category Archives: Iron Man

Iron Man’s Second Issue: Abandon All Logic Ye Reader!

Any girl who’d stand you up, darling, would have to be stark, raving ma-a-ad! – Marion

Journey Into Mystery – Part 86

Even Iron Man has to do the talk show rounds.

Even Iron Man has to do the talk show rounds.

Extremites, in Silver Age Marvel, reputation is everything. When the Fantastic Four were created they were thrust into fame. They had to navigate super villains and bank robbers but also fan mail and paparazzi. Iron Man, too, must navigate the dreary annoying world of public relations. Read the rest of this entry

Examining the Campy Propagandist Beginning of Iron Man

Journey Into Marvel – Part 78

There he is...

There he is…

Have you never seen an Iron Man before?! 

Extremites, with the loss of one hero, the Hulk, we gain another in Iron Man. Tony Stark is by no means the most important part of the Marvel Universe, nor is he even the most popular; he has been on the forefront of big changes at Marvel. His debut comes as the larger interconnected creative universe was designed. Iron Man, like all things comic, begins as propaganda.

Read the rest of this entry

Ben Kingsley’s Trevor and the Real Mandarin Will Be the Focus of Marvel’s “All Hail the King”. Stills from the Marvel One-Shot.

Killing Time

Trevor Slattery, Mandarin, All Hail the King, Ben Kingsley

Iron Man 3 had a lot of problems.  If you’d like to read my review click here, but the thing the film did that pushed me from frustrated to angry was the disrespect showed to the character of the Mandarin.  THE only good villain in Iron Man’s rogues gallery and you turn him into a drunk British actor?  That made me so mad that once that revelation came through, the rest of the movie was white noise to me.

Trevor Slattery, Mandarin, All Hail the King, Ben Kingsley

I don’t know if it is in response to blowback from people like me (I can’t imagine it is since the film was 2013’s highest-grossing movie), but there have long been rumblings that Ben Kingsley was working on another project with Marvel and that it would involve “the real Mandarin”.  Today we have confirmation and pictures from EW that the “All Hail the King” Marvel One-Shot on the Thor the…

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Inside the Villainy of Genius: Iron Man and Anton Vanko

Journey Into Marvel

By: Julian Munds

scan0037Many said after the end of World War II that there will never be another war, or more properly said, their should never be another war. Sadly, as that conflict ended, a much more threatening standoff began called the Cold War. Essentially, it was a nuclear standoff between the two major nuclear powers: the Soviet Union and the United States, and it would be behind most major conflicts for the next 45 years. As the two super powers staged an international pissing match, on the home front in both countries, a much more sinister evil was taking root. That evil was paranoia.

Nowadays, many will refer to it as ‘Red Paranoia’ as if this was a fear unique to Soviets individually or the fear of them internationally, but this is not accurate. It was shared by many Americans who often turned it inward. Unfortunately, this paranoia gave credence to the free persecution of intellectuals. If these intellectuals were Russian, then surely they were attempting to sublant the ruling government. If they were American, then they were brandished Soviet spies and therefore traitors. The Cold War is an extraordinarily absurd and convoluted moment in world history because its goals were unclear and I doubt anyone, who was involved in it, could explain its aims beyond topping the other guy. This period stirred a lot of critical thought and critical thought is dangerous to any government that wishes to remain infallible; as both the American and Soviet governments did.

Paranoia made its way into the Marvel Universe. Tony Stark and Anton Vanko are introduced in this issue as two of the greatest minds the world has ever seen. Tony, as we all know, is behind some of the greatest strides in science that Earth-616 (main Marvel continuity) sees. The invention of the first iron suit is its own little Kitty Hawk moment.

A fascinating aspect of Tony is while being such a prolific inventor he is also the head of the most important arms maker in the United States. This means he holds an extraordinary amount of power and clout. What he says, and does, would have far reaching impact in that country.

In the USSR, Anton Vanko is considered the greatest scientist behind the Iron Curtain. Nikita Krushchev calls him “the most brilliant mind,” but he also distrusts him.

Why is this?

Anton has developed a suit he calls The Crimson Dynamo, which controls electrical energy, in an effort to defeat Iron Man. He has created an important technological stride for the USSR, yet, Krushchev immediately calls into question his loyalty. Nikita claims that Vanko poses a threat to his rule. He hatches a plan to execute Vanko after he and his suit destroy the Iron Man. Krushchev has no reason to do this beyond the fact that Anton is clearly more intelligent and innovative then him.

It was an American stereotype that Soviets distrusted their populace. One, that probably stems from stories of the Stalinist secret police. If this was so or was not so is not a debate I wish to wade into, but what I will say is, this is a highly sensationalist aspect of the story. This fear of the masses was also present across the Pacific in the highest echelons of Washington.

When Vanko, as the Crimson Dynamo, arrives in the US, his mission is to use his electric manipulation to sabotage the work of Stark Industries. After the destruction of many plants across the nation, Washington begins to wonder why Stark Industries is the only target. They arrive at the conclusion that Tony must be a spy because he is the only person able to sabotage his own work. This doesn’t make any logical sense. Why would Stark, who has proven himself, thus far, an ultimate patriot, want to destroy his own work. By Occam’s Razor, it should make sense that Stark is the victim of sabotage, not the perpetrator of it. However, Stark is a brilliant man and one who is free to make his own decisions. This makes him a loose cannon and a threat to the Government. Therefore, paranoia takes hold, making him a villain in the eyes of the military.

The Defection of Anton Vanko

The Defection of Anton Vanko

Vanko and Stark are both enemies through nothing but their abilities and the orders their governments place on them. It makes sense that Stark, in the guise of Iron Man, unknowingly to Vanko recruits the Russian to work for him. When Vanko defects to the US, he is not really defecting to the state, he’s defecting to Stark. Both men are warriors. Neither is evil or good, they are just on two separate sides of the same conflict. The real villainy here is persecution of critical thought. Both men are made outlaws because they are intelligent and this is a threat to a government that thrives economically on the Cold War.

Could this be another brilliant piece of political commentary from the increasingly satirical mind of Stan Lee?

Is the Silver Age Marvel Universe an exercise in Cold War trolling?

I am beginning to think so. Much like in later X-Mens, this issue is not a conflict of two people, but two ideologies.

The Story I Read:The Crimson Dynamo” (Tales of Suspense #46 Oct. 1963)

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

Pros: The political commentary, the final battle with Vanko, the demonstration of the Crimson Dynamo suit to Krushchev and finally, the realism.

Cons: The hasty and unexplained reasoning in how Stark finds out that Krushchev betrayed Vanko. The lack of explanation for the next actions of the US government.

Previous Review:The Coming of the Plantman” (Strange Tales #113 Oct. 1963)

Upcoming Review:Prisoners of the Pharaoh!” (Fantastic Four #19 Oct. 1963)

 

 

Saturday At The Movies – Iron Man 3

This was not a good adaptation because it abandoned all the source material. I think fans are sick of being told what they have devoted their lives too is somehow dumb by seeing adaptations that abandon the material they love because it “too nerdy,” as screen writer claimed This movie’s Mandarin had similarity in name only, Tony Stark was all over the place and this would not have been an issue had more comic been in this.

Biff Bam Pop!

iron man 3It started off with a bang – both Iron Man 3 and the 2013 summer movie season.  The third instalment in the Iron Man series hit the big time whether anyone thought it was good or not, but unlike a Black Friday line-up, it was worth the time and effort to fight the crowd to get in. Here’s a look back at what worked in the biggest movie of the year.

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Why Sidekicks Make or Break Iron Man

Story I Read: “The Icy Fingers of Jack Frost!” (Tales of Suspense #45 Sept 1963)

2678812-talesofsuspense45As each featured character in Marvel begins to find their legs, Iron Man has largely been left behind. Most of his Silver Age stories are small-minded, sloppy, and empty. This one is a change of pace and a glorious one at that.

Iron Man is not a solo publication, no matter what anyone claims. His is a publication with a brilliant cast of characters that make up a dynamic that is unmatched anywhere in the Marvel Universe. This issue introduces both Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts. It’s amazing how their presence changes Tony’s character.

Happy Hogan’s introduction turns the tables on Tony. Up until now, Tony has been largely indestructible. This indestructibility is surprising considering he has the terrible heart malady that could, and should, kill him were it not for the ‘inter magneto device.‘ Tony, at the top, is traveling, from capturing spies, to Indianapolis to join in a speed race. When he arrives at the track and hops into his racecar he has forgotten one very important piece of preparation: to recharge his chest. Tony goes into cardiac arrest and totals his car. Trapped under all that metal (ironic, I know), only a behemoth could save him. Luckily, Happy Hogan, a literal human behemoth, strolls by and ably lifts the car off   the swiftly dying Stark. All works out, Tony is recharged and Hogan is hired as a bodyguard. What makes Happy so charming is that he is so self deprecating. He does not want special recognition for his gesture, for he turns down a $100,000 cheque, he just wants a stable job. Humility is tough to come by in Silver Age Marvel, especially in Iron Man stories, and his presence adds a much needed balance to the egotistical often unpleasant Tony Stark. Hogan humanizes Stark. This is essentially a rehash of the Rick Jones model from Incredible Hulk, but executed far more gracefully, as there is nothing desperate about Hogan.

Pepper Potts’ introduction is much less powerful. When we first meet her it’s in passing. She is a light, not overly beautiful, freckled waif, placed behind a desk at Tony’s beck and call. She then espouses that classic Marvel female modicum: “I wish Tony Stark loved me.” Oh come on. Every woman in the universe seems to be secretly in love with the protagonist, but crippled by either propriety or shyness and can’t share this love with him. This is a tired caricature and it is beginning to grate at me.

I’m just about to throw in the towel, when Happy Hogan makes a pass at her. Pepper responds with a sardonic quip and strictly puts the ex-boxer in his place. Wonderful. No woman has done this yet. Clearly, there is something special about her even though she is still stuck in the zeitgeist writing of Stan Lee.

With two great character introductions, surely the villain at hand must be terrible, right?

Wrong.

Professor Shapanka is the perfect mirror opposite of Tony Stark. He is a down on his luck scientist who uses his new found cold process to create eternal youth. Shapanka also uses it to rob vaults. One of these vaults just happens to be Stark Industry’s and Iron Man happens to arrive upon the plot totally by accident. After the Iron-Man throws the Professor, who is on Stark’s payroll, out on the street, Shapanka, assumes the secret identity of the ice clad skinned Jack Frost and exacts revenge on his former place of employment. When Iron-Man’s fire goes up against Jack Frost’s ice, the battle is fantastic. Jack manages to freeze all Stark’s entourage and a massive amount of heat is required to melt them. This is the first time, thus far, that Stark actually shows worry for his friends, mind you, this is the first time Stark has any friends beyond one off starlets. It’s marvelous to see humanity in Tony and that the iron he wears doesn’t flow throughout his veins

Shapanka's Freezes Tony's Office.

Shapanka’s Freezes Tony’s Office.

After all that’s what the Iron Man storyline is all about: humanity. Iron Man, unlike all of his contemporaries (possibly Hank Pymn),  is a superhero by ingenuity. He creates all the skills he uses and this is why he’s special. As time goes on, his team of human partners, is what the story is about. When you think of it, Tony, is just the leader of a group of like minded humans with a certain set of skills. This is what makes him special and what makes his sidekicks so important.

A truly fantastic story.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5.

Pros: Happy Hogan, Pepper Potts, Jack Frost and Don Heck’s gourgeously detailed contoured art.

Cons: Stan Lee’s Zeitgeist Writing.

Preceding Review: “On The Trail The Amazing Spider-Man” (Strange Tales Annual #2 1963)

Upcoming review:Sub-Mariner vs. The Human Race” (The Fantastic Four Annual #1 Sept 1963)

Inside the Hierarchy of the Avengers

Journey Into Marvel

The Story I read: “The Coming of the Avengers” (The Avengers #1 Sept, 1963)

Even the cover seems reverential.

Even the cover seems reverential.

If there are checkpoints in this quest, the premiere of the Avengers would be the first. This is the moment that a loose knit group of ragtag characters became beings that inhabited a whole far reaching world. Sure, there had been crossovers before this, but they always seemed to be special events that were often hastily written exhibitions stemming from fan requests. This issue, however, is the moment that showed Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and the other Marvel creatives wanted to construct a vast comic gallery that would be able to compete with the massive and older DC counterpart. Reading this story felt almost like a religious moment; if comic fandom could be considered such.

This story reveals a glimpse into how the Silver Age Marvel world works. On the face of  this issue, it resembles a caper flick, not unlike The Dirty Dozen. A group of rag tag Superheros come together to defeat a common enemy.

Thus enters the Incredible Hulk. 

…Wait a minute. The antagonist is actually Loki. Never mind that, neither Ant-Man, Wasp, or Iron-Man can pose any threat to the trickster god so only Thor confronts him. The rest pursue the supposed villainous Hulk only to find out that he is not such a bad guy. He’s just a circus performing monster who was the victim of an Asgardian plot.

I wasted 20 pages on this?

This is the problem of Hulk and probably the reason for his lack of success in the period; he is too believable as the villain. He is a selfish, violent monster, who is out for his own survival. Not to mention he is a malady to Bruce Banner. Hulk is difficult to spin as a legitimate hero, for he lacks humanity and a moral code, the two prerequisites for a superhero. It is telling that the Disney Marvel film franchise has had such trouble translating the character to film, till Joss Whedon of course figured it out by making Jekyll and Hyde one: “I’m always angry.” – Says Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce.

In the Silver Age, Hulk was not the result of rage as depicted in modern Marvel but is a character that bares more resemblance to Jekyll/Hyde. Perhaps, it was the pages devoted to Thor’s solo adventure that hampered proper development for Big Green.

Thor’s contribution to this story bares more similarity to an issue of Journey Into Mystery then as a team up with the Avengers. The moment he found out that Loki had a plot to capture him he flew away to Asgard to fight. The three others duked it out on Earth. This is not the actions of a team mate. There is no group cohesion in this story and I blame it on haphazard writing. The group comes together out of happenstance which results in a themeless issue. This is not the case with the film, which was vaguely inspired by this plot, because of the creation of the S.H.I.E.L.D. assemblage.

I felt empty at the end of what should have been a fantastic experience.

I also wonder why it was these five characters that were chosen to be a part of the first Avengers crew. It makes sense that Dr. Strange is not included as he has only had two stories devoted to him, by this point, and, frankly, they were very odd. I doubt Stan Lee intended the good Doctor to be a common fixture. The Fantastic Four, though creatively mentioned in the story, have really nothing to do with the creation of the Avengers. This is strange as some time has been spent making the Four (particularly Jonny Storm) the flag ship line. Perhaps, their was a fear that the Four’s egos, the topic of my last review, would over power these less established characters. I for one would have enjoyed a Tony Stark comic lashing of Thing. I know it will come in the future.

Overall, this is a very messy issue with some really great action with Hulk, and some brilliant use of Ant-Man and Wasp, also some wonderful art by Kirby. Yet, there

The Teen Brigade gets bombarded by help.

The Teen Brigade gets bombarded by help.

is an absence of Iron-Man, wasted focus on Rick Jones and his Teen Brigade, and confusion as to the plot. I give this one a 3 out of 5. I flirted with a lower mark but it felt sacrilegious as this issue is so important and a gamble of an undertaking. This makes the endeavour as a whole, respectable.

<— Preceding Review: “A Skrull Walks Among Us!” (Fantastic Four #18, Sept 1963)

—>Upcoming Review: “Marked for Destruction by Dr. Doom” (The Amazing Spider-Man #5 Oct 1963)

How Richard Burton and Liz Taylor Influenced Iron Man

Journey Into Marvel

Story I Read: “The Mad Pharoah” (Tales of Suspense#44 Aug 1963)

Sitting through this melodramatic wankfest is far more worth doing, then reading this issue.

Sitting through this melodramatic wankfest is far more worth doing, then reading this issue.

In 1963, the world was Cleopatra and Ancient Egyptian mad. This madness was not because of some crazy dance move that reminded folks of Egyptians walking. No, it is because the King and Queen of Hollywood, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, were preparing to star as history’s most famous lovers in what would turn out to be one of the most expensive flops in history. That ill fated movie was Cleopatra and this film would spur an obsession with all things Coptic. This obsession even trickled its way into the Marvel Universe.

When I first saw the title page of the Iron Man story in Tales of Suspense #44 I nearly tossed the article away and moved on to, surely, what would be a more fulfilling story. Alas, my conscience got the better of me. I felt like I was violating some impossible code, I had sworn to myself, so I resigned to my sofa to plunge in. As the first few panels careened by, I enjoyed the charm of the story. Tony is whisked away to the sandy dunes of Egypt to join in on an archaeological dig , where ,he finds that things are really tough to see through a stone wall. Never fear, Iron Man happens to be on vacation in the Sahara so he stops by to use his laser cutters to get through the four thousand year old wall. Yes, this story once cost 12 cents.

With every passing issue the facade of Tony and Iron Man is getting weaker and weaker. Even the editors are beginning to notice, as one of the worst examples of strained dialogue occurs when Tony attempts to explain why Iron Man happens to be on the dark continent. There is certainly some meta humour here. I hope. It is reminiscent of the strained excuses Torch cooked up to his friends which were later proven to be futile. We are nearing the breaking point, I can feel it.

Sadly, these charming little quirks are the best part of the story. On page 5, Tony is waving goodbye to his doctor friend when suddenly Hatap appears and drags him 117788back in time. This happens out of nowhere and I had to reread it many times because the switch is so abrupt that I thought a panel was missing. Anyway,Tony gets sucked back in time to Ptolemaic Egypt to help Hatap defeat the siren of the Nile. This is where things get really confusing.

History teaches us that Cleopatra and Marcus Antonius staged an outright revolution against the ruling Caesar Augustus which caused them to be besieged by Roman forces. This revolution culminated in the sea battle of Actium and the deaths of the couple. In Iron Man’s history, however, the Romans seem to be besieging Cleopatra in her palace.  This never occurred. She was involved in a civil war with her brother but this was aided by the Romans under the command of Julius Caesar and she was only a young girl. She’s a full grown woman here. It’s almost as if the writers (Stan Lee again) had not the most basic knowledge of one of the most well known stories in history. This invented history frustrated me to no end because when Iron Man ultimately weighs the battle in her favor it happens in a situation that never occurred. Yes, I accept that this is fantasy, I mean time travel and all, but it frustrates me because it is so far from history. There was a great possibility here of a fantastic time travel yarn that could have far reaching effects on the future Marvel universe, but it turns out to be a weak, pointless, unintelligible story.

Stan should have gone to the theatres to see how he got an extremely well known story way off. Cleopatra would have sold one more badly needed ticket. What a wasted issue. 1 out of 5.

Iron Man races through Ancient on the Chariot of Hatap.

Iron Man races through Ancient on the Chariot of Hatap.

<— Previous Review: “Defeated by Doctor Doom” (Fantastic Four #17 Aug 1963)

—> Upcoming Review:  “Nothing Can Stop The Sandman” (The Amazing Spider-Man #4 Sept 1963)

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‘Women Can’t Lead, Young Marvelites. They Need A Man.’ – Says Silver Age Iron Man

Journey Into Marvel – Part IV

The Story I Read:  Iron Man Vs Kala, Queen of the Netherworld– Tales of Suspense#43

The Spandex Iron Man

Does this look like iron to you?

When reading through the Silver Age establishment of the Marvel universe you get to see both the very illuminating stories that set up beloved characters and the utterly atrocious, politically backward hogwash, which permeated the comics of the period. This Iron Man story is the latter.

Before jumping into the negatives of this story, let’s examine the one positive: the Atlanteans make their first appearance. They are, in later arcs, subterranean threats that are in many ways apocalyptic. Here, though, their motives are flat and really not examined thoroughly. They want to take over Earth because they are angry that a geological event sank their empire: let’s get revenge on humanity which runs volcanos or something. I don’t know. Even the one positive makes little sense. This story is a mess. Not only because it espouses backwards Sixties morals but because it has no story arc.

The story begins at Stark Industries in the middle of a wind tunnel test. The tunnel stops working and turns the station into a veritable hurricane. Stark calls down and explains  by happenstance Iron Man is visiting the factory so he can save the windblown scientists. It is flimsy excuses like this that no doubt caused Stan Lee to strip the facade in future issues. It’s an excessively obvious and convenient piece of writing; so unintelligent a moment that it doesn’t even pass as charming camp.

After this minor incident of blowhardism at the wind tunnel, Tony climbs into his spandex iron suit and gets sucked into the center of the Earth.

Sidebar: The iron suit is depicted as a spandex body suit. It’s stupidity like this that shows you Jack “I don’t care for plausibility” Kirby is back at the artistic helm.

Kala. The vain leader of the Netherworld.

Kala. The vain leader of the Netherworld.

When Tony arrives in the centre of the Earth, he and his spandex iron suit are embroiled in a hastily thought out thousand year old plan to take over the surface. We soon find out that Supreme General Blaxu resents taking orders from the female ruler Kala. Tony concurs with Blaxu and he flies her off to the surface where she sees her complexion age in seconds. Iron Man tells her that if she wants her beauty she should stay underground. She does for “what is a women without her beauty.” (pg. 13 Tales of Suspense #43)

This story is disgusting. A female leader that cares so much for her looks that she abandons her long held goal has to be the grossest example of female stereotype I have seen yet in this Journey. Just to nail another peg into the chauvinist coffin Tony tells Baxu to marry Kala so that she has proper guidance.

Women can’t lead, young Marvelites. They need a man.

No wonder Sue Storm can’t get a shred of decent dialogue.

I know chauvinism has always been a part of Tony Stark, as he is a millionaire playboy with the face of Errol Flynn after all, but in later stories he is usually offset with a strong female to take him to task. It also may be unfair of me to judge a story written in a vastly different time by the ethics of today, but the sad thing is, that even under all the sexism this story is poorly constructed and frankly worthless. Nothing feels connected and no character really sticks out as vital or interesting. It feels like hastily written filler.

At least Jack Kirby has started to draw backgrounds. That’s a plus.

0 out of 5.

<— Preceeding Review: “Face to Face with the Magic of Baron Mordo” (Strange Tales #111 Aug 1963)

—->Upcoming Review: “The Demon Duplicators” (Journey Into Mystery#95 Aug 1963)

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