For Part One of these Iron Man 1970s classics click HERE.
IRON MAN Vol 1 #62 (September 1973)
Title: Whiplash Returns
Synopsis: We open a few weeks after the end of our previous installment. Tony Stark and Pepper Potts-Hogan have been at the Cincinnati Regional Headquarters of Stark International as part of Tony’s ongoing reorganization of Stark Industries’ projects and mission statement now that he has refused to do any more munition work.
Pepper, still working as Stark’s Executive Assistant, is trying to cope with her husband Harold “Happy” Hogan’s decision that he is through with their marriage since she refuses to leave her career and become a housewife.
Elsewhere in Cincinnati we see Iron Man’s old foe Whiplash, returning after his first clash with Iron Man back in Tales of Suspense #97-99 (January 1968-March 1968). Whiplash is in his secret laboratory in costume, using his high-tech metal whip which can even pierce Iron Man’s armor.
Whiplash is practicing by whipping to pieces steel statues of Iron Man while indulging in a Villain Rant about how he and our armored superhero got separated by chance after their previous battle on the cruise-ship sized seaborne HQ of the Maggia. (Marvel Comics’ fictional version of the Mafia.)
The villain also reflects on the improvements he has since made to his costume’s tech, making it capable of absorbing the energy from Iron Man’s repulsor rays and unleash it back on our hero with the next lash of his whip.
At the Stark Regional headquarters, Tony and Pepper arrive for another day there. As they go about their business, Tony is inwardly worried about Pepper and Happy’s marriage, since Happy used to be his chauffeur long ago and, in fact, is so close to Tony that he knows he is really Iron Man, while Pepper still does not.
Stark also thinks about how hung up he still is on Roxie Gilbert (at left) back in Detroit. She’s proving to be quite a challenge to Tony since she still dislikes him because of the weapons manufacturing his company used to do.
We readers get a surprise reveal that Whiplash is watching Tony and Pepper through an office window – because he is secretly Mark Scott (really Scarlotti), the Head of Research for Stark’s Cincinnati office.
NOTE: This is back during the years when Tony kept his identity as Iron Man a secret and publicly claimed the superhero was his high-tech bodyguard. Mark Scott even reflects on how he sought out a job with Stark Industries so he could someday attack Tony to flush out his “bodyguard” Iron Man to kill him.
Meanwhile, Tony and Pepper have been meeting with Vicki Snow, the first female head of a Stark Regional Headquarters. Mark Scott arrives, getting introduced to Tony and Pepper and we learn that Mark is a brilliant scientist who has had a meteoric rise to Head of Research. He’s also engaged to Vicki Snow.
Tony and Mark exchange compliments, little realizing they are deadly foes in their other identities. Tony even congratulates Mark on his engagement to Vicki and Mark says that Vicki will be stepping down from her job to become his stay-at-home wife once they’re married.
Vicki angrily says she will NOT step down and wants to pursue her career. As Mark and Vicki exchange a few tense remarks, Tony Stark figures Pepper is noting the similarity to her and Happy’s troubles. She is, wondering if this kind of conflict is a national epidemic. (It’s 1973, remember.)
After that awkward and unprofessional interlude, the conversation gets back on to the day’s agenda and an inspection of the progress on a special Stark project that the Cincinnati office is running. Vicki’s thoughts show us she hopes that Mark’s comment hasn’t made Tony Stark mentally rule her out for higher positions, while Mark’s thoughts reveal that he doesn’t really love Vicki, he just wanted to marry her to make way for himself to take over her current position.
Mark conjures up an excuse to slip away and don his Whiplash costume, while Vicki does a presentation to Tony and Pepper about the secret project – Cincinnati is working on an orbital space station. (Just like the Space Shuttle that Stark’s Detroit office was working on, this space station has also become reality since the 1970s.)
Tony does a little show and tell in return by flaunting the micro power cell that he finally perfected, which means that Cincinnati can now move along more quickly. Whiplash suddenly arrives and uses his whip to steal the micro power cell from Tony’s hands and taunts Stark to summon his bodyguard so they can take care of the unfinished business between them.
Whiplash also says that if Stark wants the power cell back he’ll have to make Iron Man TAKE it from him. Vicki Snow summons the Cinci office security, which Whiplash defeats easily, of course. While the villain is doing that, Tony tells Vicki and Pepper he will go summon Iron Man to save them all.
A few rooms down, Tony dons his armor and then attacks Whiplash. With his costume’s upgrades letting him just absorb the repulsor rays when Iron Man blasts him, Whiplash doesn’t have to dodge them like last time.
As the battle rages, our villain uses his whip to destroy each of Iron Man’s armored gloves, preventing him from blasting other objects with his repulsor rays, now. He nearly kills our hero at one point when he snares Tony with his whip and unleashes all the energy he absorbed throughout the battle.
Iron Man gets away and throws off his now-useless gloves, then returns to the fight. Vicki Snow, possessed by some bizarre “Captain going down with the ship” mentality, is still there and she is awed that the armored hero is willing to go into battle bare-handed.
The fighting continues, with Whiplash even shattering Iron Man’s chestplate at one point to prevent him from firing his uni-beam. Eventually, our hero gets the upper hand and Whiplash knows he’s beaten.
To buy time to escape, he topples hundreds of pounds worth of machinery onto Iron Man, Vicki and Pepper. Our main character can’t let the ladies get crushed so he stays there to catch the falling wall of tech while Whiplash gets away.
Because he was without his gloves, the machinery pierced into his bare hands, injuring him. Vicki Snow says she grabbed the micro power cell – Whiplash dropped it during the battle. Iron Man is cold and curt with her and Pepper, to throw off suspicion that he’s really Tony.
Later, as Tony and Pepper are getting ready for a return trip to Detroit, he compliments Vicki on her earlier demonstration and says the space station project is in capable hands.
The next day, Vicki – still not suspecting that her fiancée is a supervillain – tells Mark that their engagement is off. She will not consider abandoning her career. Mark calls her dumb and says a man is better prepared for her job anyway. He also says he’s through taking orders from “a broad” and storms out as Vicki cries.
IRON MAN Vol 1 #63 (October 1973)
Title: Pawn of the Power Prism
Villain: Doctor Spectrum
Synopsis: Back in Detroit, an unknown number of days or weeks later. Tony Stark and Pepper have been trying to contact Happy but he has completely cut off communication. Pepper is dealing with it all as best she can.
Meanwhile, she and Tony continue their overhaul of Stark’s Detroit office.
Later that day, a sudden storm engulfs Detroit, causing parts of a plush building to shatter and fall toward innocent bystanders below. Iron Man arrives on the scene to save the people – one of whom, in a comic book coincidence – is Roxie Gilbert, the woman Tony is determined to woo.
The press shower attention on Iron Man for his heroics, making Roxie think he just saved her and the others for publicity reasons and she leaves. Iron Man turns back into Tony Stark in an alleyway and, as himself now, talks Roxie into sharing a cab with him back to her place.
Amid battle of the ideologies repartee, Tony tries once again to convince Roxie that Stark International will no longer be in the business of weaponry. She makes insulting remarks about businessmen like Tony and her late father. He replies by reminding her that her brother is the supervillain Firebrand, but he doesn’t represent all of Roxie’s generation, so she shouldn’t lump him in with all businessmen.
Ultimately, she tells Tony she hasn’t changed her mind about Stark International’s past, but she does agree to a date with Tony in the near future. Later, Tony, congratulating himself on finally making headway with Roxie, drops by Pepper’s hotel room to see if she’s okay.
Pepper pours out her feelings about her troubled marriage to Tony and blames Happy. Tony reminds her that Happy, who saved his life once, is also a dear friend and he feels caught in between the two of them. He says he wants them both to be happy. (But if Pepper is Happy, wouldn’t that make Happy Pepper? I’m kidding!)
The next morning, Happy Hogan shows up at the Long Island headquarters of Stark International and is angry when he’s told that Tony and Pepper are back in Detroit for another business trip. Happy leaves without saying hello to his fellow former boxer, the black man Eddie March, who now works for Stark International.
Eddie March has been working at a desk job since his doctors have warned him that another head injury could be fatal to him. A dignitary from an unnamed African nation, Kinji Obatu, shows up at the Long Island office with a mysterious “offer” for Tony Stark. He is disappointed when he learns Tony is out of town.
Suddenly, Obatu gets attacked by costumed thugs who say they want to kidnap him. Eddie March, ignoring his doctor’s orders, helps fight off the men, who disappear as suddenly as they appeared. Obatu engages Eddie in conversation and convinces him to try out a job as his bodyguard on a trip to Detroit to meet with Tony Stark. Eddie impetuously accepts and the pair ride off.
Back in Detroit, Tony is personally overseeing some improvements to the space shuttle, when suddenly, his old foe Doctor Spectrum attacks, using energy blasts from his Power Prism to attack the Detroit facility.
NOTE: Doctor Spectrum, whom I’m sure you’ve guessed is really Kinji Obatu, fought Iron Man once before in Avengers #69-70. Their battle was at the Taj Mahal as part of one of the Grandmaster’s (Jeff Goldblum in the movies) endless tournaments. The Grandmaster pitted the Avengers against the Squadron Sinister, whose villainous members were thinly-veiled versions of DC Comics’ Justice League.
Iron Man fought Dr Spectrum, who was a Green Lantern pastiche, but with a Power Prism instead of a Power Ring. Elsewhere around the world, Thor fought Hyperion, a Superman pastiche. Captain America fought the Batman pastiche Nighthawk and Goliath fought the Flash pastiche Whizzer. All of that was the Grandmaster’s doing.
Back to our story, Tony Stark does his usual bit of pretending to go summon his bodyguard Iron Man, dons his armor and then fights it out with Dr Spectrum. As the destructive fight goes on around Detroit, the alien intelligence that powers the Power Prism is still vying with the doctor for control of the human’s body.
Eventually, Dr Spectrum manages to bring down a vacated building on Iron Man and assumes he’s dead. (Fictional villains are so stupid.) He flies off, bragging about how he’s killed Iron Man. Tony, who got the worst of the fight, flies back to his hotel room and takes off his armor, hoping to do better against Dr Spectrum the next time they clash.
He drops in on Pepper, who is trashing her hotel room in her rage. She and Tony talk about her anger toward Happy and he again reminds her they are both his friends. Pepper points out that Tony has no problem with career women and he says that’s because he and Happy have had entirely different lives.
As expected, the latent attraction that still lingers between Tony and Pepper resurfaces and they give in to a kiss. In true Soap Opera fashion, just as they are kissing, Happy walks in, having come to Detroit to talk things over with Pepper. He is furious and assumes Pepper and Tony are having an affair.
IRON MAN Vol 1 #64 (November 1973)
Title: Rokk Cometh
Villains: Dr Spectrum and Rokk
Synopsis: Happy refuses to listen to explanations from either Tony or Pepper and vows to go all the way to a divorce now. He leaves, and Tony and Pepper part company to ponder this whole mess.
Cut to the next day. Tony Stark has been wowing the politicians of Detroit with Stark International’s proposed way of clearing out slums and replacing them with modular housing for low-income residents instead. The new structures will be safer. As a PR coup, Tony “has” Iron Man clear a ghetto building and construct one of the new modular buildings over the course of just a couple days.
Iron Man accepts congratulations from the Mayor, who says Detroit is impressed with the demonstration and will go along with the Stark International housing plans. Dr Spectrum suddenly attacks, having heard news reports that his enemy was still alive after all.
We get another destructive battle, and this time Iron Man notices how much time the supervillain now has to spend arguing with his intelligent Power Prism. Our hero gains too much of an upper hand and Dr Spectrum flees, flying off.
Tony goes back to his hotel room and doffs his armor. Happy shows up at his room and the two argue. Happy says that if it wasn’t for Tony’s heart he’d belt him. Tony defiantly updates Happy on how his new heart has been accepted by his body and he no longer needs the Iron Man chestplate to keep his heart beating. (Remember, Happy already knew Tony was Iron Man.)
The two start fist-fighting, when Pepper shows up and chews them out for their behavior. (Hey, who trashed their hotel room last time, Pepper?)
Before long, Tony Stark meets with Kinji Obatu, still unaware that he is really Dr Spectrum. Obatu, accompanied by Eddie March, lays out his “offer.” He wants to pay Tony to let Iron Man be his bodyguard for a time, because a supervillain is after him for unknown reasons.
Suddenly, the alleged villain bursts in and attacks. It is a huge monstrous humanoid who calls itself Rokk. (No, I don’t know how it conveyed the stylized spelling since he simply said his name out loud. I’m kidding!)
Happy knows that Tony needs time to slip away to become Iron Man so he shepherds Pepper, Obatu and Eddie March to safety, telling them Tony will “call in Iron Man.” Rokk taunts our hero that he will destroy the woman he loves, provoking him into thinking about who that is at the present.
Tony thinks of Roxie Gilbert, NOT Pepper, which convinces himself that he really is not trying to have an affair with her. Now that Rokk got Tony to think of Roxie in a “don’t think of an elephant” type of trick, he uses his telepathic powers to extract Roxie’s info from Tony’s mind. Rokk grabs the fleeing Obatu and flies off to kill Roxie.
NOTE: To avoid confusion, Rokk is just an energy construct of Dr Spectrum’s
ring Power Prism, and he had the monster attack him in his secret identity of Kinji Obatu and used his own mind-reading ability from the prism to get the info about Roxie.
We cut ahead to Roxie’s health food store (in case you needed even MORE 1970s kitsch) where Rokk attacks her and her customers, but Iron Man shows up in time to attack Rokk. When Rokk at last has Iron Man down and pretty much beaten, Dr Spectrum appears and makes it clear he was using Rokk to wear out his foe and will now deliver the coup de grace for our cliffhanger.
I’LL POST THE NEXT INSTALLMENT SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO MY REVIEW OF SPIDER-MAN 1970s CLASSICS CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO MY REVIEW OF CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON 1970s CLASSICS CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS IN THE AVENGERS/ MANTIS/ KANG/ CELESTIAL MADONNA STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR A LOOK AT “IRON MAN & SUB-MARINER” # 1 and ONLY, CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS IN THE AVENGERS/ KREE-SKRULL WAR STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR THE FIRST SEVERAL IRON FIST STORIES CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO THE 1970s ADAM WARLOCK/ GAMORA/ THANOS/ MAGUS STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR THE EARLY GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY STORIES CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO THE 1970s BLACK PANTHER VS KILLMONGER STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR DC FANS, CHAPTER LINKS TO MY REVIEWS OF WORLD WAR TWO ERA JUSTICE SOCIETY STORIES. CLICK HERE.