Balladeer’s Blog continues its Top Twenty Lists for 2020 while simultaneously providing another item for this superhero-hungry world. It’s the first 20 Iron Man stories, beginning in 1963.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #39 (March 1963)
Title: Iron Man Is Born
Villains: Wong Chu and his Red Guerillas
Synopsis: Tony Stark is living the dream. He’s a multi-millionaire, women consider him very handsome and he has all the inventive genius of a new Thomas Edison but without the litigiousness. He has multiplied the fortune he inherited from his parents many times over through the value of his tech and weapons creations instead of through the ruthless big business savvy shown by his late father.
After Tony demonstrates his latest inventions for the Defense Department to an audience of Generals he is flown to Vietnam to watch his devices in action in the field. This will help him refine them for the front-line troops.
While accompanying a squad of soldiers through the jungle, Stark accidentally triggers a Viet Cong booby trap and the subsequent explosion kills his soldier escorts. Tony himself is left with a piece of shrapnel lodged dangerously near his heart and inching closer by the day.
Wong Chu, the North Vietnamese Warlord, is holding the injured millionaire captive in the village he rules with an iron fist. Wong Chu knows that Tony Stark has only days to live but lies to him and tells him he will set him free if he devises a high-tech weapon for him and his VC forces.
Tony knows Wong Chu is lying but plays along, hoping to assemble a deadly invention that will let him take Wong Chu and his men with him when he dies. Assisted by his fellow prisoner, the brilliant physicist Professor Ho Yinsen, Stark devised a clunky suit of gray armor packing potent weaponry but as a bonus might artificially keep his heart pumping even after it was inevitably pierced by the shrapnel.
Just in time, Tony and Ho completed the high-tech armor but Wong Chu suspected something was amiss and sent men to kill Stark and Yinsen. The Professor gave his life delaying the Viet Cong soldiers just long enough for Tony to fully don this first suit of Iron Man armor.
Sobered by the way Professor Yinsen had sacrificed himself on his behalf, Stark used his armor’s incredible strength, invulnerability and ray-blasts to wipe out Wong Chu’s VC army AND kill Wong Chu himself. (But decades later Marvel Comics decided Wong Chu had survived and was back to menace Iron Man. Hell, even Bucky turned up alive so it shouldn’t surprise anyone.)
Clad in his armor, Tony Stark made it to safety and returned to the U.S. However, he was no longer leading his charmed life. Though keeping his new identity as Iron Man a secret, Tony had to wear the entire chest-piece of the armor in order to keep his heart artificially beating. (In the movies he could just wear that round segment in the middle of his chest but in the 60s and 70s Iron Man needed the entire torso unit just to stay alive.)
Tony’s life as a promiscuous playboy was effectively over (well, for a few decades, anyway) as he lived the secret sorrow of being bound in that iron chest piece, unable to oink and boink with a woman without giving away his secret identity. He still dated a long line of beautiful women for the sake of appearances, but conventional sex was out.
COMMENT: Marvel Comics of the 1960s had a certain jingoistic Cold War vibe, despite Stan Lee’s later attempts to pretend he was always too enlightened for that sort of thing. As we’ve just seen, Iron Man’s origin story alone was like a Vietnam War version of a Timely Comics World War Two tale, but with the North Vietnamese instead of Nazis or the Imperial Japanese.
In addition Thor fought the Communist Chinese Radioactive Man. Ant-Man – whose first wife was killed by Communists – fought Russian supervillains like Comrade X. The Fantastic Four gained their powers while trying to beat the Soviet Union to the Moon. Spider-Man took on the Communist spy called the Chameleon.
Getting back to Iron Man, many of his and the Hulk’s early villains were practically a “Commie of the Month Club.” That will become clear as we go along.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #40 (April 1963)
Title: Iron Man vs Gargantus
Synopsis: We join Tony Stark amid his active life of winning scientific awards, partying with the Jet Set and dating sexy women from all around the world. Secretly, however, he must periodically plug in his secret Iron Man armor’s chest piece to keep it running lest he die of heart failure. Plus the need to keep his predicament a secret limits his formerly freewheeling sex life.
While attending a circus with one of his ladies, named Marion, Tony must slip away to become Iron Man and recapture some escaped lions before they can maul anyone. (Stark would eventually claim Iron Man was his high-tech bodyguard as a half-decent excuse for why the armored superhero so often showed up at the same place as Tony Stark.)
Marion tells Tony that she feels Iron Man would look more like a 20th Century Knight if his armor was golden-colored instead of dull gray, so our hero takes her up on it, ushering in the first of many changes to Iron Man’s look.
The following Saturday night, when Tony is scheduled for another date with Marion, he learns she is stuck in the city of Granville, which has been completely shut off to the public. Sensing big trouble, Stark heads to Granville as Iron Man to investigate.
It turns out the National Guard has surrounded the city, which is being subjected to a reign of terror by a huge, caveman-like being who wields a club and is called Gargantus. After a Battle Royal, Iron Man destroys Gargantus, revealing him to be a massive robot. Our hero also exposes a cloud-concealed spaceship crewed by a still unnamed alien race.
We readers learn that the last time these space-faring beings visited Earth was during the time of the Neanderthals. They mistakenly assumed their Gargantus android would be able to subjugate the planet.
Iron Man flies back to New York and as Tony Stark he greets Marion at the airport when she can at last get out of Granville. He listens in rapt attention to her tale of how Iron Man defeated Gargantus.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #41 (May 1963)
Title: The Stronghold of Doctor Strange
Villain: Doctor Strange (NOT the later Master of the Mystic Arts, Dr Stephen Strange)
Synopsis: Doctor Carlo Strange was a mad scientist who was captured by U.S. Paratroopers who attacked his mountain lair when he was threatening America with his new laser weapons. While fighting off the troops, Strange and his ray-guns were hit by lightning, which supposedly increased his intellect to unearthly levels. (You know comic books)
Doctor Strange has been in prison for six months and is looking for a way out. Elsewhere, Tony Stark and another glamorous lady friend are at a charity fundraiser for a Children’s Hospital. Tony donates $100,000 and promises the children that “his friend” (later “bodyguard”) Iron Man will come by to entertain them the next day.
The following day while the armored hero is showing the sick kids his abilities by literally JUGGLING CARS and grabbing cannonballs out of the air, Dr Strange uses a device he constructed out of spare radio parts at the prison radio shop (!) to seize remote control of Iron Man’s armor. He forces the hero to bust him out of prison, then slips away to parts unknown.
Months later, Strange is running a secret lair on an uncharted island in the Atlantic Ocean where he plots world domination with some subordinates. (Those subordinates go on to become Captain America’s foes called the Exiles.) The mad Doctor plans to conquer the world and turn it over to his daughter Carla as a gift.
To that end, Dr Strange shows the world’s governments the power of his S-Bomb, which he detonates out in space. A few S-Bombs set off on Earth would destroy the entire planet, and Strange threatens to do just that if the world’s leaders don’t surrender their sovereignty to him within 24 hours.
John F Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev make brief appearances in the story. The U.S. and Soviet Union have each traced Dr Strange’s broadcast to his secret island and unleash nukes on it. Strange has surrounded the island with an impenetrable force field which keeps him and his headquarters safe from the atomic missiles.
Iron Man, anxious to regain face after the way Dr Strange hijacked control of his armor a few months earlier, rides a submarine close to the villain’s island lair. He correctly presumes that the force field doesn’t extend all the way to the ocean bottom and begins blasting, burrowing and drilling his way up into Strange’s castle from underneath.
Reaching the island fortress’s sub-basements, Iron Man confronts Dr Strange and battles his vast arsenal of high-tech weaponry. Strange’s daughter turns against her father and insists she wants nothing to do with his mad ambitions. Our hero corrals all of the Doctor’s S-Bombs but Strange himself escapes.
Oddly for a Marvel villain, this Dr Strange NEVER showed up again, not even under another nom de guerre like so many other of their supervillains did.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #42 (June 1963)
Title: Trapped By The Red Barbarian
Villains: The Red Barbarian and the Actor
Synopsis: Once again, Marvel transferred their Golden Age approach to Nazi and Imperial Japanese villains to the Communist menaces of their Silver Age comics. Since we all know through hindsight that the Cold War ended without a nuclear war breaking out, it’s long past time for people to stop moping over the jingoistic feel of these stories and just enjoy them for what they are.
This tale’s opening teaser features a group of Communist Spies trying to smuggle stolen American atomic weapons out of the country on a ship. Iron Man thwarts their efforts and turns them all over to the FBI. (Marvel had not yet created their fictional organization S.H.I.E.L.D. so their superheroes often worked with the FBI back then.)
The next day Tony Stark demonstrates his new Disintegrator Ray for assorted military officials. He destroys a wall and a tank with it. Soviet spies get word of Stark’s new invention back to the Red Barbarian (Andre Rostov), a particularly brutal and bloodthirsty Communist military officer.
Rostov wants the Disintegrator Ray and dispatches his master of disguise spy called the Actor to get it. The Actor is really just a poor man’s version of Spider-Man’s Commie foe the Chameleon and he disguises himself as a prominent Senator to distract Tony Stark with a phony high-level meeting.
With Tony on that wild goose chase, the Actor impersonates Tony himself next and infiltrates Stark Industries. The villain studies our hero’s various papers and scientific equipment and deduces that Tony IS Iron Man. Like a pro spy would do, he decides to keep it to himself and provide that info along with the Disintegrator Ray plans to the Red Barbarian so Mother Russia can decide if they want to blackmail Stark or just expose him.
While the Actor heads back to the Soviet Union, Iron Man clobbers his spy ring, realizes that the Disintegrator plans have been stolen and sets out to get them back. He rides on an experimental rocket to the USSR, where he confronts the Red Barbarian, recovers the plans and engineers the Actor’s death before he can reveal to anyone that Tony Stark and Iron Man are one and the same.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #43 (July 1963)
Title: Kala, Queen of the Netherworld
Villainess: Queen Kala
Synopsis: An accident at a Stark Industries weapons testing facility causes a missile to smash into a mountain. Tony Stark dons his Iron Man armor and prevents any more damage, then slips away to become Tony Stark again.
While Tony is inspecting the damage, two of his employees get enveloped by separate large prisms from underground and sink beneath the surface. Stark himself is likewise encased and disappears into the ground. He and his two other employees wind up in a subterranean realm ruled by the beautiful (of course) Queen Kala.
The Queen calls her domain the Netherworld (later changed to Nethera) and tells Tony it used to be part of Atlantis before it sank beneath the Earth’s surface. Kala shows Stark her realm’s advanced technology. (Queen Kala’s domain would become a permanent part of the Marvel Universe, like the Mole Man’s Subterranea and other hidden kingdoms deep in the Earth.)
The only thing Kala is lacking is large-scale transportation for her army so they can launch an invasion to conquer the surface world. The Queen threatens to destroy the Earth by reversing its rotation on its axis unless Tony Stark uses his genius to devise military transports for Kala’s forces.
The other abducted Stark Industries employees – who were grabbed by mistake – consider Tony a traitor for pretending to cooperate with Queen Kala and refuse to help him in her lab facilities. Stark takes advantage of Kala’s science to create a duplicate of his armor and becomes Iron Man.
In his armor, our hero claims to have “rescued” Tony Stark and sent him back to the surface, then battles Queen Kala’s futuristic army led by General Baxu. Iron Man kicks enough butt to convince Baxu to feel invading the surface world is pointless, but the Queen orders the rest of her army to keep attacking Iron Man.
Eventually, after he destroys more of the Netherworld’s high-tech tanks and other weapons, Iron Man seizes Kala and takes her to the surface to show her how numerous the Earth’s armies are. An unexpected result of exposing the Queen to fresh air on the surface is that her beauty starts to fade and her old age begins to show.
Queen Kala accepts the fact that she and her subjects cannot live on the surface without their incredible old age catching up with them, so Iron Man returns her to the Netherworld. The Queen’s youth and beauty are restored and she decides to just stay there and rule her realm the best way she can.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #44 (August 1963)
Title: The Menace of the Mad Pharaoh
Villain: The Mad Pharaoh
Synopsis: Tony Stark takes a plane to Egypt to visit his archaeologist friend Paul (no last name given). Paul is conducting a dig to find the tomb of the “Mad Pharaoh Hatap,” a rival of Cleopatra.
The archaeologist explains to Tony that it may take months to finish the excavation, so Stark offers the services of his “friend” (later “bodyguard”) Iron Man. Paul agrees to let Iron Man help, and soon the armored superhero has located and dug free the entrance to Hatap’s tomb.
Iron Man and Paul locate the Mad Pharaoh’s mummy, which is wrapped in odd mystical bandages of a type the archaeologist has never seen before. Our hero slips away and returns as Tony Stark, only to find a frantic Paul saying that the mummy has been stolen.
That night Stark is visited in his tent by the Mad Pharaoh himself, who has doffed his wrappings and is in his royal attire. Hatap explains to Tony that he was never really dead. Around 30 B.C. by our calendar he drank a magic potion that made him seem dead so he could avoid the wrath of his enemy Cleopatra.
Now that he has been revived he plans to mystically return to his own time period and defeat Cleopatra, but he wants the help of Tony and his “future science.” Stark refuses, so the Mad Pharaoh conjures up an ancient disease which infects Paul and his diggers.
Tony agrees to aid Hatap against Cleopatra so the villain eliminates the disease. The Mad Pharaoh summons a mystical chariot that takes him and our hero back to around 30 B.C. (Since magic is involved we can just assume that is how Tony can speak and understand the language back then.)
Once in the past, Stark slips away from Hatap and dons his armor. Over the next few days he aids Cleopatra – whose beauty has captivated him – against Roman Legions and the rebellious army of the Mad Pharaoh. Finally, it is down to just Iron Man versus Hatap and his magic, with our hero winning and the Mad Pharaoh accidentally dying from impalement.
Cleopatra tells Iron Man she wants him to stay with her and rule Egypt at her side, but he reluctantly refuses and uses the Mad Pharaoh’s amulet to return to his own time. Subsequently, Paul the archaeologist shows Tony Stark an odd piece of ancient artwork which seems to show Cleopatra with a man in Iron Man-style armor.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #45 (September 1963)
Title: The Icy Fingers of Jack Frost
Villain: Jack Frost (renamed Blizzard in the 1970s)
Synopsis: Iron Man is trying out his upgraded jet-skates by careening down the highway, only to be pursued by cops for speeding. He eludes the police, turns back into Tony Stark and drives his sports car to a race track where he is competing in a high-stakes auto race.
Several laps into the race he gets a heart seizure and crashes his Stark Special. He is still alive but is pinned in the car, which has caught fire and is about to explode. Former boxer Harold “Happy” Hogan, making his FIRST appearance, runs to drag Tony out of the car before it blows up.
The barely conscious Stark pleads with Happy to get him to his hotel room and not ask questions (don’t go there). Hogan obliges and while he waits in another room, Tony plugs in his chest-piece and recharges it, gradually returning his heartbeat to normal.
The tycoon then offers Happy Hogan a big reward but Hogan prefers a job offer so Tony makes him his chauffeur. At the Stark Industries offices, our hero introduces his new driver to his secretary, Pepper Potts, making HER first appearance, too. While Tony gets to work in his office, Happy and Pepper indulge in bickering.
Hogan owns up to the sexual tension between them and admits he finds Pepper attractive, but she insists she’s hoping to become Mrs Tony Stark. (But, as all Iron Man fans know, ultimately Pepper marries Happy years down the road.)
Tony’s work is interrupted by an alarm sounding. He switches to Iron Man and heads to the scene, where he catches Stark Industries employee Gregor Shapanka trying to rob a safe. Shapanka futilely shoots at Iron Man, then is captured and turned over to security guards.
As Tony Stark, our hero fires Shapanka and tells him that the only reason he’s not pressing charges is because of some of the brilliant technical work that Gregor turned out for Stark Industries over the years. Shapanka is escorted off the premises but vows revenge.
A few weeks later, while working privately on his attempts to chryogenically preserve human beings, Gregor realizes he can make a techno-suit which lets him lower temperatures around himself to freeze things and shoot ice-rays from his hands.
Soon, he puts on the suit to pull off a spectacular daytime bank robbery with his suit’s freezing powers letting him eliminate all opposition, including the police. The media dubs the mysterious new supervillain “Jack Frost.”
The next day, Jack Frost invades Stark Industries, overcoming all of Tony’s security staff. When the villain finally penetrates to Stark’s office, Happy Hogan grabs a rifle and tries to stop Jack Frost, only to be frozen solid.
Iron Man shows up and attacks Frost. After an epic battle, our hero triumphs and turns his defeated foe over to the police. Happy is defrosted alive and well, but wondering if being Tony’s chauffeur will be more dangerous than boxing.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #46 (October 1963)
Title: Iron Man Faces The Crimson Dynamo
Villain: The Crimson Dynamo (Anton Vanko)
Synopsis: In the Soviet Union, Premier Nikita Khrushchev attends a demonstration of scientist Anton Vanko’s Crimson Dynamo armor. Vanko has designed it to show the world the superiority of Soviet technology to America’s. Wearing the armor, Vanko defeats a robot duplicate of Iron Man and subdues a tank.
Khruschev assigns the Crimson Dynamo to go to America, sabotage Stark Industries defense projects and kill Iron Man.
Two weeks later, the Crimson Dynamo sabotages a Stark Industries missile test being attended by Tony Stark, Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts plus Defense Department brass. Iron Man intervenes to prevent loss of life, but the missile is proven to be too flawed to use.
In the days ahead the Crimson Dynamo preys on Stark facilities around the country, since Iron Man can’t protect all of them at the same time. The villain sabotages several projects and inflicts millions of dollars in damage, even razing some Stark buildings to the ground. (Since the supervillain’s ties to the Soviet Union are not yet exposed, the USSR has plausible deniability.)
In Washington D.C. the villainous Senator Harrington Byrd denounces Tony Stark and Iron Man for their failures to end the attacks and implies that Stark Industries should lose all their Defense Contracts. The sleazy Senator Byrd seems based on the real-life Democrat Senator Robert Byrd, an actual Ku Klux Klan member. (Disgustingly enough, Joe Biden spoke at Byrd’s funeral.)
Just as Spider-Man was plagued by J Jonah Jameson, the Hulk by General “Thunderbolt” Ross and the Thing by the Yancy Street Gang, Iron Man would be plagued by Senator Harrington Byrd over the years.
Finally, the Crimson Dynamo attacks Stark Industries’ Long Island headquarters at a time when he knows Tony Stark is there. Naturally, Tony switches to Iron Man and takes on the supervillain head-to-head.
After a massively destructive battle, Iron Man defeats the Crimson Dynamo and uses his tech to fake evidence that Premier Khrushchev plans to have Vanko killed if he returns to the Soviet Union. Vanko agrees to defect to the United States and is hired by Stark Industries itself.
For 20 real-life incidents of armed exchanges between the U.S. and the Communist world during the Cold War click HERE
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #47 (November 1963)
Title: Iron Man Battles The Melter
Villain: The Melter (Bruno Horgan)
Synopsis: A supervillain calling himself the Melter attacks during a ceremony in which Tony Stark is demonstrating his latest invention. After embarrassing Tony at that ceremony the Melter next gets the jump on Stark when he is inspecting his inventory.
Gloating over the fallen millionaire – and, of course, not realizing that Tony is really Iron Man – the Melter does a Villain Rant about his origin. He is really Bruno Horgan, a former competitor of Stark Industries until Tony exposed the corner cutting and slipshod work that Horgan’s company was doing.
Horgan lost his Defense Contracts, which went to Stark Industries, further fueling his anger. While cleaning out the warehouses he could no longer afford, Bruno discovered that one of his junky inventions, which was intended to DETECT iron ore, instead attacked the molecular structure of iron, melting it with virtually no heat.
The villain donned a costume and incorporated his iron-melting ray into the outfit’s weaponry. Knowing he could destroy iron he began a crusade against Stark Industries, figuring he could defeat Tony’s “bodyguard” Iron Man if he intervened.
Leaving the unconscious millionaire on the floor, since he does not yet plan on becoming a murderer, the Melter resumes sabotaging Stark’s Defense Projects to prevent them from being completed by deadline. Happy Hogan finds Tony and carries him to his office.
Once he’s alone, Stark plugs in and recharges his chestplate, then becomes Iron Man and heads off to fight the Melter. The battle quickly becomes a rout, with the Melter’s beam melting down one of Iron Man’s armpieces. Our hero fears that the villain will next melt his chestpiece, causing his heart to stop.
He blows open a steam-pipe, forcing the Melter to flee while he himself likewise retreats. The next day, while Tony is inspecting the damage, he is urgently summoned to Washington D.C. where Senator Harrington Byrd once again grills him. This time he implies Tony is just making up this “Melter” as an excuse for why he is late on his latest Defense Department contract.
The following day while Iron Man is helping to effect repairs to the sabotaged weapons projects, the Melter strikes again. This time Iron Man’s armor is impervious to the villain’s melting beam and the Melter is defeated, but manages to escape.
It turns out Tony had analyzed the damage to his armor from his previous battle with the Melter and realized the villain’s beam only affected iron. Today he was secretly wearing extruded aluminum armor instead of his iron suit. Since the beam only works on iron the Melter was taken by surprise.
NOTE: The Melter next appeared as a member of Baron Zemo’s Masters of Evil and took on the Avengers. Baron Zemo improved the Melter’s beam so that it would melt ALL metals, no longer just iron.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #48 (December 1963)
Title: The Mysterious Mister Doll
Villain: Mister Doll (Nathan Dolly)
Synopsis: Pepper Potts informs her boss Tony Stark that steel magnate Charleton Carter called to say he is backing out of their latest deal. Without Carter’s steel, Tony will be unable to complete many of his contracted projects.
Stark drives over to Carter’s mansion to talk to him personally, and spots a costumed supervillain lurking nearby. Donning his Iron Man armor, he investigates the situation. Inside the mansion, our hero sees the villain, called Mister Doll, poking a clay VooDoo doll shaped like Charleton Carter, who is writhing on the floor in agony.
Carter pleads with Mister Doll, saying he canceled the contract with Stark Industries like he said to, but the villain now wants a lot of money from his victim. Iron Man steps in, and Mister Doll quickly reshapes his doll to resemble the armored hero. He then begins squeezing it, causing Iron Man to be unable to move and to feel his armor being crushed.
Iron Man, his heart beginning to fail, tries to escape and winds up falling from Carter’s balcony into the Atlantic Ocean below. Assuming Iron Man is dead, Mister Doll reshapes his doll to resemble Carter again and extorts money from him.
Iron Man barely manages to pull himself out of the ocean and return to his office. He plugs his chest unit in and sleeps for hours while it recharges. The next day he resolves to upgrade his armor to make it less bulky, since it almost caused him to drown in the ocean.
In the days ahead, while Tony Stark labors away at improving his armor, Mister Doll continues preying on the wealthy, ruining business deals and threatening them with death via his VooDoo Doll if they don’t give in to his demands. The news is filled with the way that several millionaires are turning their fortunes over to the “entertainer” Mister Doll.
At length, the villain figures Tony Stark is the next tycoon on his list. Meanwhile, our hero has perfected his Mark II Armor, the familiar red and yellow design. Mister Doll arrives at Stark Industries, demanding a meeting with Tony Stark.
Tony tells Pepper he is slipping away to “call” Iron Man, then again dons his new armor. He attacks Mister Doll, who quickly refashions his clay doll to resemble the new-look Iron Man. Again, he squeezes on the doll, causing our hero intense pain. In a Villain Rant, he reveals how he stole this enchanted doll from a sorceror in Africa so he could use it for his own ends.
The suffering Iron Man revises his tech on the fly and perfects a way of using his armor’s repulsor rays to let him remotely sculpt Mister Doll’s clay doll. He sculpts it to resemble the villain himself, and the panicked thug drops it. When the doll hits the ground it knocks out Mister Doll. Iron Man turns the villain over to the authorities so his victims can reclaim their fortunes and get justice.
NOTE: In the 1970s, Nathan Dolly would die in prison, but transfer his soul into two separate man-sized creations of his own. As the Brothers Grimm, those animated husks would fight Spider Woman several times.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #49 (January 1964)
Title: Iron Man Meets The Angel
Villain: The Angel (Warren Worthington III)
Synopsis: Iron Man is guarding a Stark Industries test of a new type of radiation bomb. The X-Men member called Angel happened to be passing by and flew too close to the test and exposure to the experimental radiation altered his personality, turning him into a villain. (It’s a comic book, just go with it.)
Iron Man offers to help Angel to get medical help from his exposure to the radiation, but the now-evil figure angrily refuses, then manages to outfly and escape Iron Man.
Angel returns to the X-Men’s headquarters in Upstate New York, where he tells them he is quitting the team to join up with Magneto’s Mutant Brotherhood instead since “That’s where the action is!” Cyclops, Iceman, Beast, Marvel Girl and Professor X try to stop him but the renegade X-Man escapes and flies back to New York City.
Professor X tries to contact the Avengers to help them look for Angel but Iron Man is the only one available. Feeling responsible for Angel’s condition he sets out alone to subdue the mutant. Iron Man finds Angel tossing dynamite sticks around New York City from the air in hopes of attracting the Mutant Brotherhood to recruit him.
Iron Man tries to bring down the winged X-Man but is inhibited by his desire not to hurt him. The evil Angel has no such compunctions. Eventually though, our hero talks Angel back into his normal self. The X-Men arrive and thank Iron Man for his efforts.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #50 (February 1964)
Title: The Hands of the Mandarin
Villain: The Mandarin
NOTE: This story marks the FIRST appearance of the villain who would become Iron Man’s archenemy. Unfortunately the movie Iron Man 3 distorted him and turned him into comic relief so he has yet to be captured on the big screen in his full menacing grandeur.
The Mandarin is sort of a hybrid of Doctor Doom, Fu Manchu and Chiang Kai-shek. As his nom de guerre would suggest, he wanted to return China to its glory days under the old imperial dynasties. He opposed the Communist Chinese and had carved out a little territory of his own on the mainland, as opposed to the island of Formosa used by the Taiwan government.
This villain’s powers came from his ten power rings which he took from a crashed Makluan spaceship. Each ring has specific powers. He uses other elements of reverse-engineered Makluan technology in his schemes for world conquest.
Synopsis: At the Mandarin’s castle, staffed by countless minions, some Red Chinese officers and officials have gotten an audience with the Mandarin. They humbly propose a truce during which they can all join forces against China’s external enemies. They also want to share in the secrets of the Mandarin’s technology. He sneeringly refuses and orders them to leave.
Back in the U.S. Iron Man is at a Pentagon briefing. The Joint Chiefs of Staff plus the CIA want our hero to undertake a secret reconnaissance mission inside Red China to obtain information on the Mandarin, a mysterious and powerful new player inside the country. Iron Man agrees.
Arriving back in New York as Tony Stark, our main character tells Pepper Potts to inform Stark employees that he won’t be able to attend the annual Employee Dinner like he usually does. “Bill,” one of the event’s organizers, implies Tony doesn’t want to spend time with the little people, angering Happy Hogan, who punches Bill. Tony settles everybody down.
Later, Iron Man dives out of a U.S. military jet as it flies over mainland China. To avoid radar detection he freefalls all the way to just above ground level before igniting his boot-jets. With additions to his armor taking film footage of all he encounters, Iron Man reaches the Mandarin’s Castle.
The villain’s security forces attack our hero but he defeats them and draws closer to the castle. The Mandarin is watching him on his viewscreens by now and unleashes several high-tech weapons on him, but Iron Man overcomes them all.
Finally the Mandarin attacks him directly and a monumental battle takes place with the villain’s power rings against our hero’s armor. At one point the Mandarin’s ring-rays succeed in completely paralyzing Iron Man.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S. Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan agree to go to that night’s employee dinner together.
Back at the Mandarin’s castle, Iron Man at last manages to free himself from the paralysis and as the battle winds down he temporarily disables the villain and escapes.
Once back in America, Tony Stark is able to make that night’s Stark Industries Employee Dinner after all.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #51 (March 1964)
Title: The Sinister Scarecrow
Villain: The Scarecrow (Ebenezer Laughton)
Synopsis: Contortionist Ebenezer Laughton decides to combine his abilities with the trained crows of a colleague and become the costumed villain called the Scarecrow.
At Stark International, Pepper Potts abuses her position as Tony Stark’s secretary to cancel the date Tony had with the glamorous Veronica Vogue. Happy Hogan drives Tony to his penthouse apartment in Manhattan.
As it happens, that apartment complex for the uber-wealthy is that night’s target for the Scarecrow. Happy and Tony walk in on the villain rummaging through Tony’s apartment safe. Happy attacks but the Scarecrow’s agility alone lets him defeat Happy without even needing to call on the trained crows.
Meanwhile, Tony has changed into his Iron Man armor and he takes on the Scarecrow. The villain uses the trained crows to surround and confuse Iron Man to the point where it looks like the Scarecrow escaped. Iron Man flies off into the night in search of the crook.
The Scarecrow fooled him, however, and helps himself to weapons system plans in Stark’s safe. The next day he proposes to ransom the plans back to Tony Stark. Scarecrow double-crosses Tony, taking the ransom money but departing on a ship for Cuba so he can sell the plans to the vile dictator Fidel Castro.
Via a transistor device mixed in with the ransom money, Iron Man traces the Scarecrow to his motorboat just as he has rendezvoused with a Cuban gunboat. Our hero recovers the plans and ransom money, outfights and sinks the gunboat, but the Scarecrow succeeds in swimming ashore to Cuba.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #52 (April 1964)
Title: The Crimson Dynamo Strikes Again
Villains: The Black Widow (FIRST APPEARANCE) and the Crimson Dynamo II (Boris – last name not yet revealed)
Synopsis: At Stark Industries, the original Crimson Dynamo (Anton Vanko) continues using his armor to help him test the devices he invents for Tony’s company. A mistake nearly costs him his life, but he is saved by Tony Stark, who recommends improvements Vanko can make to his invention.
In Moscow, Khrushchev, still resenting Vanko’s defection, gives two Soviet agents – the Black Widow (Natasha Romanov) and her muscular aide Boris their next mission.
They are to go to America, find and capture Vanko, retrieve his Crimson Dynamo armor, then kill Iron Man. The pair of agents arrive in New York via submarine.
Natasha uses her cover identity as a supposed descendant of wealthy White Russian exiles (anti-Communist, pro-Tsarist Russians who were on the losing side of the Russian Civil War and lived in exile in western nations). Natasha Romanov fascinates New York Society and captivates Tony Stark in particular.
Natasha claims Boris is her brother, a scientist who would love a tour of Stark Industries. Tony arranges for the tour and takes Natasha to dinner while Boris is being shown around Stark’s company.
At one point, Boris slips away from his tour guide and uses a concealed spray that dissolves doors to enter some laboratories. He finds Vanko, paralyzes him with another spray and dons Vanko’s Crimson Dynamo armor himself. Next he rampages through Stark Industries, causing all manner of destruction.
Tony is called away from his date with Natasha when explosions are reported at Stark Industries. Romanov insists on accompanying him and is internally pleased that Boris is obviously having such success.
At his company, Tony becomes Iron Man and finds the Crimson Dynamo at large. Mistakenly assuming it is still Vanko in the armor, he lets his guard down and nearly pays for it with his life.
In the end, Anton Vanko sacrifices his own life destroying this second Crimson Dynamo and Natasha Romanov is exposed as the Black Widow. She takes it on the run here in the U.S.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #53 (May 1964)
Title: The Black Widow Strikes Again
Villainess: The Black Widow
Synopsis: Tony Stark is in his lab struggling to get his anti-gravity device to work. He has been working on it for months now and manages to get it functioning through a fluke.
Though it works, he must try to learn how the fix happened, so he tries reverse-engineering his own product.
Foolishly, Tony goes through with demonstrating the anti-gravity device at the Pentagon the next day, despite the fact that he still can’t replicate it or mass-produce it.
Word leaks out about the device having been used in a test at the Pentagon and the fugitive Black Widow feels that if she can steal the anti-gravity invention it might put her back in Khrushchev’s favor. She feels out Tony Stark, trying to make him feel sorry for her plight. He suspects she’s up to something but still underestimates her.
The Black Widow uses a paralyzing gas on Tony and steals the anti-grav device. She quickly uses the invention to steal some jewelry to finance her continued life on the run. Eventually she contacts Khrushchev and he claims all is forgiven if she brings him the anti-gravity weapon.
While waiting to rendezvous with the KGB Agents that the Soviet Premier sends to exfiltrate the Black Widow, she uses the anti-grav device to stage hit and run raids on assorted Stark Industries facilities around the U.S. Meanwhile Senator Harrington Byrd publicly blasts Tony Stark for near-criminal negligence in letting the invention be stolen and even hints that Tony himself may secretly be working for the Soviets.
While Iron Man desperately tries to track down the Black Widow, the KGB Agents dispatched to find her arrive. She orders them to help her in a plan to loot much of the gold from Fort Knox. Our hero locates the villains and corrals the KGB Agents but the Black Widow escapes, using the anti-grav to bury Iron Man under tons of wreckage.
Natasha tries robbing Fort Knox herself but Iron Man arrives to stop her. After another fight with the Black Widow with her mercilessly exploiting the anti-grav, Iron Man is forced to destroy the irreplaceable device.
Our hero must save the lives of people caught up in the battle between him and the Black Widow while Natasha makes her escape. Some military officials thank Iron Man for “rectifying Tony Stark’s bumbling mistakes.”
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #54 (June 1964)
Title: The Mandarin’s Revenge
Villain: The Mandarin
Synopsis: Iron Man is out subjecting his armor to further tests when he is contacted by Pepper Potts. She asks him to locate “their boss” Tony Stark, since he is required to attend an emergency Pentagon meeting.
As Tony, he shows up at the office, then leaves for the Pentagon, sending Happy on an inspection tour of some Stark facilities to try to prevent a romance between him and Pepper while he’s gone.
At the Pentagon, Tony Stark is informed that his latest Observer Missiles being used by the U.S. in Vietnam have begun disappearing on their flights. He promises that he and Iron Man will investigate and piggy-backs a ride on an ICBM to Asia.
As Tony Stark he inspects the remaining Observer Missiles and finds they are just fine. He uses a telescope to watch the next launch of an Observer Missile and sees it plucked from the air by a tractor beam and pulled down into China.
Our hero is convinced it must be the work of the Mandarin and, as Iron Man, he invades the villain’s castle to retrieve the stolen missiles before their tech can be figured out. He once again penetrates the castle’s defenses and takes on the Mandarin one-on-one.
While their battle continues, the baddie is enraged by our hero’s sense of humor. You know the trope. The Mandarin keeps the battle going so long that Iron Man’s power supply is nearly exhausted. With the armored figure weakening, the Mandarin sets him up and is about to administer the coup de grace.
Believing he is about to die, Tony regrets meddling between Happy and Pepper.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #55 (July 1964)
Title: No One Escapes The Mandarin
Villain: The Mandarin
Synopsis: Moments before the Mandarin can kill Iron Man, our hero tries a desperate bluff. Because his archenemy does not know that Tony Stark and Iron Man are one and the same person he reminds the Mandarin that Tony is still at large in his castle. (Last issue Tony snuck into the Mandarin’s territory as himself at first, apparently just to set up this stupid way of surviving.)
Instead of sensibly finishing off Iron Man and THEN looking for Tony Stark, the Mandarin leaves the armored superhero presumably helpless and mounts a search for Tony immediately. (If only real-life villains were this stupid.)
While the Mandarin and his minions scour the castle for any sign of Stark, Iron Man has his new built-in generator recharge his armor. Eventually he breaks free of the high-tech bonds the Mandarin left him in and sets out to take on the villain once more.
Before Iron Man can find the Mandarin in the enormous, sprawling castle, an alarm goes off, signaling that the Americans in Vietnam have launched another Observer Missile. The Mandarin is apparently obsessed with collecting them all, so he returns to his reverse-engineered Makluan machines and, with Iron Man secretly watching, uses his tractor beam to snare another one.
Iron Man flies out of the castle, frees the Observer Missile from the tractor beam so that it can resume its flight, but gets snared by the tractor beam himself. Making a virtue out of necessity he stops fighting the tractor beam and instead flies at the Mandarin’s castle at full speed, bursting in and resuming the Battle Royal with his archfoe.
That titanic struggle takes place on several floors of the Mandarin’s lair until, at long last, Iron Man gets a brief upper hand and flies off back to the room where his stolen Observer Missiles are being kept.
By the time the stunned and shaken Mandarin arrives at that chamber he sees that Iron Man must have reprogrammed the navigation units of the missiles and sent them flying back toward the American lines in Vietnam. The villain smugly prepares to use the tractor beam to once again snare the missiles but as soon as he tries the machine blows up, having been sabotaged by Iron Man.
The missiles land as smoothly as airplanes back in Vietnam and it turns out Tony Stark hid in the storage unit of one of the missiles and hid his armor. He credits Iron Man with saving the day, retrieving the Observer Missiles and ensuring the Mandarin can’t hijack them anymore with the Makluan machine totaled.
When Tony Stark is met at the airport back in New York by Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts, Chauffeur Happy is peeved to see Tony and Pepper sitting so close together in the back seat.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #56 (August 1964)
Title: The Uncanny Unicorn
Villain: The Unicorn (Milos Masaryk)
Synopsis: The story opens with Iron Man in his lab. He’s indulging in some Peter Parker-level self pity and trashes the lab while saying “I’m sick of being Iron Man! Sick of having to wear an electronic chest plate 24 hours a day! Sick of living on borrowed time… Never knowing which moment will be my last!”
Deciding to lose himself in Tony Stark’s social life, he goes on a dinner date with “Pamela” a beautiful blonde. Meanwhile, the Unicorn, a super-powered Soviet agent who has been inflicting damage on America’s defense facilities, attacks Stark Industries next.
Amid his attack he injures Happy Hogan and abducts Pepper Potts since she is Tony Stark’s personal secretary. Happy is taken to the hospital and Tony is paged at the restaurant to be informed of all these developments. He rushes off. (He had already accidentally addressed Pamela as if she was Pepper so things weren’t going well anyway.)
Tony inspects this latest round of damage at Stark Industries and dons his Iron Man armor. He realizes that the Unicorn’s Power Horn leaves a distinctive energy signature that he can trace.
Meanwhile, at a vacant mansion on Long Island, the Unicorn is holding Pepper as a potential hostage against Stark and/or Iron Man. He tells Potts his origin: he is a highly trained Soviet Agent and his armor plus Power Horn were designed by the original Crimson Dynamo years earlier.
Iron Man arrives, breaking through a wall and, after a destructive battle, he flies off with Pepper. The Unicorn recovers quickly and flies in pursuit, catching up with our hero and Pepper back at Stark Industries. The villain reveals he planted a bomb which will be going off soon, killing all the employees, unless Iron Man surrenders to him and gets on a plane with him to the Soviet Union.
Our hero at first resists, using his armor’s sensors to seek out the bomb all over Stark Industries, but with 60 seconds left on the Unicorn’s countdown he surrenders. The Unicorn goes to the bomb and disables it, then he and Iron Man rendezvous with a jet plane crewed by the Soviet military.
Iron Man makes his move once airborne, since, as anyone would have realized, he agreed to surrender and get on the plane, not go all the way behind the Iron Curtain. The battle between him and Unicorn trashes the plane, but the crew escape in parachutes before it explodes.
The crew is rounded up and turned in to the authorities but the Unicorn escapes by flying away. Tony and Pepper visit Happy in the hospital and Tony reflects that Pepper may be better off with Hogan since he himself can never again lead a normal life.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #57 (September 1964)
Title: Hawkeye, The Marksman
Villains: Hawkeye (Clint Barton) and the Black Widow
Synopsis: Happy Hogan asks his “fellow employee” Iron Man to talk Tony Stark into helping him get a date with Pepper. In a sitcom-level misunderstanding, Tony tries, but Pepper thinks HE is asking her out on a date and the angry Hogan leaves before the situation can be corrected.
Tony takes Pepper to Coney Island since it’s not exactly a quiet, intimate spot and he is still hoping she’ll go for Happy Hogan. (How has Marvel NOT marketed “Happy Hogan Hoagies” by this point?) While they are there, a pinwheel ride goes out of control, so Tony slips away and becomes Iron Man, who shows up and saves several lives by setting things straight.
The trick-shooting archer on duty at Coney Island, Clint Barton, is jealous of all the attention and acclaim that Iron Man just received from the crowd for his heroics. He makes a costume for himself, fixes up some gimmick arrows and sets out to fight crime as Hawkeye, the marksman.
Hawkeye finally spots a man robbing a jewel shop and takes action. The robber escapes in the following fight, but drops his bag of loot. With Spider-Man level bad luck, Hawkeye is checking out the bag when cops arrive and assume HE is the one who robbed the jewelry store.
While he is fleeing the police, Hawkeye is saved by the Black Widow, who picks him up in her car. She saw him in action and recruits him to work for her – and by extension the Soviet Union. She shows Hawkeye her latest hideout, a fairly plush home and a basement equipped with lots of weaponry that he could rig up to his arrows, vastly increasing the threat he poses.
As Natasha and Hawkeye start to fall in love with each other, he agrees to take on Iron Man for her.
The next day, at Stark Industries, Tony Stark resolves to ask Pepper out on a REAL date next, only to see her accepting a date with Happy Hogan instead. Pepper is doing it just to spite Tony for their not-so-romantic Coney Island date. (I’ve seen high schoolers more sophisticated about relationships than this bunch.)
Using his stealth and agility in conjunction with his now-upgraded arrows, Hawkeye gets onto the grounds at Stark Industries. Per the Black Widow’s instructions he starts firing off explosive arrows at Stark buildings to draw out Iron Man. It works like a charm and once the armored superhero attacks him, Hawkeye shoots him with chemical arrows which induce instant rusting on his armor.
Iron Man sheds the affected parts of his armor to prevent the rust from spreading to his chest plate and flies off. Hawkeye rounds up the discarded bits of armor so Natasha can have the armor analyzed.
Tony, meanwhile, reaches one of his spare suits of armor and flies off looking for Hawkeye. He catches up to him in a car he (Hawkeye) commandeered and through aerial attacks eventually drives Hawkeye off the road. Hawkeye and Iron Man go at each other but the villain is out of rust-arrows so he is unable to drive our hero away this time.
At length, Hawkeye snares Iron Man with an arrow which burst open with a high-strength nylon net. This slows the figure down long enough for Hawkeye to make off with the rusted armor parts from earlier.
Ultimately Iron Man once again tracks Hawkeye down to a pier near LaGuardia Airport where they fight again. The Black Widow is there waiting for Hawkeye in a speedboat as the archer hits Iron Man with a demolition warhead arrow, the explosion of which is much greater than he anticipated.
Not only is Iron Man left stunned for awhile but the Black Widow was also injured in the blast. Hawkeye carries her to safety and they escape in their boat. Iron Man recovers but cannot take to the air to search for the villains since it is now evening with fog rolling in and he doesn’t want to endanger planes taking off and landing at the airport.
Iron Man returns to Stark Industries, changes back to Tony Stark, then walks the beach, glumly reflecting that Happy and Pepper must be out on their date right now.
TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #58 (October 1964)
Title: In Mortal Combat With Captain America
Villains: The Chameleon (Dmitri Smerdyakov) and Kraven the Hunter (Sergei Kravinoff)
Synopsis: Iron Man tests his armor’s new underwater breathing feature while simultaneously driving some killer sharks away from the Long Island area. On a boat nearby, the Soviet spy called the Chameleon and his half-brother Kraven the Hunter are trying to smuggle themselves back into the country after their most recent defeat by Spider-Man.
When Iron Man flies out of the water he catches sight of Kraven but not the Chameleon. He easily takes down Kraven and flies him off to prison while the Chameleon escapes inland.
The next day at Stark Industries, an exhausted and seemingly injured Captain America bursts in, demanding to see his fellow Avenger Iron Man. When Iron Man arrives, Cap tells him that the Chameleon ambushed him and stole his shield and other items so he could break into Avengers Mansion while impersonating him.
Captain America slumps into unconsciousness and Iron Man flies off to Avengers Mansion where he idiotically attacks the Captain America he finds there. The Cap back at Stark Industries is really the Chameleon and he now leaves the area to watch the Captain America vs Iron Man fight.
Ultimately that fight winds up in a New York City factory, where Giant Man and the Wasp show up to stop the battle between the two superheroes. The Chameleon was captured watching the fight from a skylight. Cap and Iron Man make up and this fairly pointless story ends.
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