IRON MAN: 1970s CLASSICS 6 – DOCTOR SPECTRUM, THOR AND THE FREAK

For Part One of these Iron Man 1970s classics click HERE.

im 65IRON MAN Vol 1 #65 (December 1973)

Title: The Cutting Edge of Death

Villain: Doctor Spectrum 

Synopsis: This issue picks up right where the last one left off: Near the wreckage of Roxie Gilbert’s health food store, caused by the destructive battle between Iron Man and Dr. Spectrum. The huge, energy-charged scimitar that the villain created via his power ring Power Prism is trying to slice through our hero’s armor to kill him.

Meanwhile, the exhausted Iron Man is barely able to use his repulsor rays to hold off the enormous energy-sword. Dr. Spectrum gets distracted by another argument with the alien intelligence inside his Power Prism AND by a blow to the face by Roxie Gilbert, who is briefly abandoning her pacifist principles to save Iron Man, who has saved HER multiple times in the recent past.

Dr. Spectrum easily smacks aside Roxie, who runs to a fellow bystander, the former boxer Eddie March. Roxie tells him Iron Man needs more help than normal human beings can provide and wants to call in the Avengers. Instead, Eddie says he has a quicker idea but we are not yet shown what that idea IS.

dr spec pictureWhile Iron Man and Dr. Spectrum continue their battle there in the streets of Detroit, at Pepper Potts-Hogan’s hotel room she and her husband Happy Hogan are talking out their differences. Happy still wants her to quit working and become a housewife.

Pepper points out again that since neither of them feels ready for children yet there is no need for her to stay at home. Another argument unfolds and, annoyed by Pepper’s insistence about how much more understanding her boss Tony Stark is toward her ambitions, Happy gets tired of her talking about Tony and Iron Man (whom she dislikes) as two different people.

Fueled by having caught Tony and Pepper kissing a few issues back, the jealous Mr. Hogan blurts out that Tony IS Iron Man, a secret he has been privy to for a few years now. Pepper refuses to believe it but Happy proves it by taking her to Tony’s hotel room and showing her the insides of Tony’s briefcase. Pepper sees the compartments for Iron Man’s armor when it is not being worn and she is shocked.

Back on the streets, Dr. Spectrum continues fighting our hero. The alien intelligence inside the Power Prism is still vying with the villain for control of his body. After Dr. Spectrum is sufficiently weakened from fighting both Iron Man AND the alien entity, that entity seems to have both our battered hero AND Dr. Spectrum right where it wants them.

The Power Prism does a villain rant, telling Iron Man its origin. A political criminal on its far-off homeworld, the disembodied alien was imprisoned within the Power Prism and set adrift in space. The Avengers’ foe the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum in the movies) saved it and gave it to the greedy and power-hungry Kinji Obatu.

Obatu was the finance minister of an unnamed African nation, and he wielded the Power Prism as Dr. Spectrum, battling Iron Man as one of the Grandmaster’s pawns while the other Avengers faced the other villainous members of the Squadron Sinister created by the Grandmaster.

Iron Man defeated Dr. Spectrum outside the Taj Mahal, but when Indian authorities arrested him, Obatu used his diplomatic immunity to be quietly freed and repatriated, with his secret identity intact. That led to his recent battles with Iron Man here in Detroit.

dr spec and iron manNext, Iron Man deduces that the alien intelligence plans on possessing HIM next, since Dr. Spectrum and it are forever feuding. He flees and the villain, with the Power Prism’s mind dominant, flies after Iron Man.

NOTE: To avoid confusion I will reveal right now Eddie March’s plan that he enacted with Roxie Gilbert. Eddie used the spare Iron Man armor that HE has always carried around with him as a memento that Tony Stark let him keep after he wore the armor in combat once years ago. (Iron Man #21-22 January and February 1970)

              Yes, it’s idiotic that Tony would have let a copy of his armor out loose in the world, but it’s just a comic book, so we’ll go with it. Anyway, while Tony repairs some of the damage that Dr. Spectrum did to his armor, he calls in Thor from New York by contacting his secret identity Dr. Donald Blake to deal with Spectrum while he effects those repairs.

Back to the story, Dr. Spectrum, rather than catch up to the REAL Iron Man, happens to come across the Iron Man that WE now know is really Eddie March and attacks him. The alien in the Power Prism lets this Iron Man knock out Dr. Spectrum, then uses its own power to “possess” the Eddie March Iron Man (who seemed to readers at the time to be the real Iron Man who had been fighting the villain all along.)

In control of Eddie March’s Iron Man armor, the alien installs the Power Prism in the armor’s chest-plate so that he now wields the powers of both Iron Man AND Dr. Spectrum. The possessed Iron Man runs amok in Detroit, when suddenly he gets clanged in the head by an unseen figure.

That figure is Thor (but readers of the time did not know yet that Tony himself called him in). Thor and the possessed Iron Man prepare to do battle.

im 66IRON MAN Vol 1 #66 (February 1974)

Title: Battle Royal

Villain: The Power Prism

NOTE: Due to falling sales numbers at the time, Iron Man had just gone back to being published every OTHER month instead of every month. 

Synopsis: Thor and the possessed Iron Man fight it out in the streets. As a refreshing change of pace for a comic book story, Thor quickly deduces that Iron Man is being controlled by someone else and does NOT think his close friend has gone bad. Soon, Thor defeats this Iron Man/ Power Prism threat and knocks out the body inside the armor.

Thor then leans in and opens up Iron Man’s helmet (as Tony himself would have taught him to since they knew each other’s secret identities) and is shocked at the face he sees inside the helmet. That face is not shown as yet. 

Readers at the time would have thought that it might be Happy Hogan inside the armor but the narrator takes us back about an hour to when Happy and Pepper were still arguing at the hotel. Pepper accuses Happy of lying about Tony being Iron Man just to get back at her and him.

Happy counters that argument by showing Pepper the hiding place of the spare suit of Iron Man armor that Tony always takes with him when he is staying for long periods in other cities. The news interrupts them with its broadcast about the (then) ongoing battle between Iron Man and Dr. Spectrum.

With Tony in danger, that clarifies things for Happy, who decides he must don the armor and go help his friend, but now Pepper, also having an epiphany, realizes she doesn’t want Happy to risk getting killed. She is mind-blown from learning Tony has been keeping his dual identity a secret from her all these years but at least realizes now that she can’t bear losing her husband.

She tearfully pleads with Happy not to fly off in the Iron Man armor and he feels torn between the woman he loves and going to help his old friend Tony. He ponders what to do. 

chris thorWe cut back to the present moment and the streets of Detroit. Thor is still surprised to see that it wasn’t Tony in the armor but – we readers are now shown – it was the black former boxer Eddie March. Roxie Gilbert rushes over to Thor and explains Eddie’s ploy to Thor.

The cops are taking the now-conscious Dr. Spectrum away in handcuffs but they bring him too close to the fallen form of the Eddie March Iron Man. The costumed Obatu takes advantage of the nearness to summon the Power Prism from Eddie March’s chest-plate TO him.

Spectrum then frees himself from his cuffs and tries to fly off but Thor engages him in battle. While they fight, Eddie March weakly whispers several things to Roxie Gilbert, who is kneeling beside him.

The REAL Iron Man now returns, having used the Detroit offices of Stark International to repair his armor. He discretely lets Thor know that HE will settle things with Dr. Spectrum while he switches to his secret identity of Dr. Donald Blake, whose surgical skills will be needed to try to save Eddie March’s life from the blood clot in his brain and the injuries he suffered against Dr. Spectrum.

While that goes on and the world-renowned Dr. Blake rides along in an ambulance with the fallen Eddie March, Happy and Pepper arrive on the scene and identify Eddie to Dr. Blake. (Yes, Happy chose his wife’s pleas over his concern for Tony. “Forsaking all others” and all that.)

Tony has resumed the battle with Dr. Spectrum. Even more of Detroit gets heavily damaged as the fight takes them all over the city from the skies to the streets.

iron man dr specAt length, Iron Man overcomes the villain, crushes the Power Prism to pieces and turns Dr. Spectrum over to the police. Already, Obatu has pulled back his mask and is shouting about how his diplomatic immunity will protect him like it did in India.

And so this issue ends with Eddie March’s life on the line for his hazardous stunt of impersonating Iron Man once again.

NOTE: In the future, the Defenders’ foe Nebulon would reconstruct the Power Prism and remove its troubling alien intelligence. Nebulon would then return it to Dr. Spectrum because he was reuniting the entire Squadron Sinister to use them against the Defenders.  

im 67IRON MAN Vol 1 #67 (April 1974)

Title: Return of the Freak

Villain: Freak 2

Synopsis: We pick up two days later. It’s still touch and go for Eddie March as Dr. Donald Blake struggles to keep him alive at a hospital in Detroit. Flying around the city to soothe his nerves from worry over Eddie’s fate, Iron Man saves the lives of several employees of Stark’s business rivals at Gaines Motors.

An industrial-sized main air conditioning unit was being hauled into place several stories up and the cables broke. Our hero catches the huge piece of machinery and then poses for a few requested photos with the workers whose lives he saved. They hail Tony Stark for letting his “bodyguard” Iron Man help out even his competitors in the Motor City.

After that, Iron Man flies to the hospital to check on Eddie. Meanwhile, Roxie Gilbert has decided that, since the repairs to her health food store will take a long time, she will use even more of her inherited wealth to pass that time in southeast Asia, where Eddie March’s secret message to her will be looked into.

We readers aren’t told yet what that secret is, but we will be at the end of this issue. At the hospital, Iron Man turns back into Tony Stark and heads inside, contemplating hitting on a few nurses if he has time. He learns that Eddie has once again had to be rushed into an operating theater for additional surgery. Tony watches from the seats on the other side of the glass while Dr. Blake operates.

After the hours-long surgery, Tony and Blake confer. The doctor makes it clear to Tony that he’s doing everything he can, but Eddie’s body was damaged not just by the blood clot in his brain causing problems but also from injuries inflicted by Dr. Spectrum.

When Blake mentions that Eddie’s body at present lacks the necessary strength to stay alive long enough to heal from the surgeries, Tony then tells Dr. Blake that they might want to risk using his invention called an Enervator.

That invention can give seriously injured people additional bodily strength but he’s only used it once, to save Happy Hogan’s life years ago. That’s because the Enervator accidentally fed too much power into Hogan’s system and temporarily turned him into the monstrous, super-powerful, Juggernaut-sized creature called the Freak. (Tales of Suspense #74-75 February and March 1966)

Because this is a comic book, Tony and Donald decide to try using the Enervator on Eddie March and, as Thor and Iron Man, they fly to Stark International’s Long Island headquarters to get it. After they have flown it to Detroit, they switch back to their civilian identities and Tony Stark rigs up the Enervator to the hospital’s power.

After a moderate dose of the Enervator’s rays give Eddie’s unconscious body enough strength that his vitals have stabilized, Dr. Blake tells Tony to shut it off. However, even the dosage of E-Rays that Eddie March was exposed to has started the metabolic reaction which transforms him into a large version of the Freak, with darker skin this time.

Tony and Dr. Blake try to switch to the setting which allows the Enervator to siphon back some of the energies it saturated the patient with, but this puts too much of a strain on the hospital’s power grid and backup generators, causing a blackout.

The Eddie March version of the Freak goes on a rampage, causing a roof collapse that buries Donald Blake’s cane, thus preventing him from being able to use it to turn himself back into Thor and the cane itself back into his hammer Mjolnir.

tony stark rdjWhile Blake struggles to find his cane in the darkness and debris, Tony dons his armor and battles the Freak. Their fight eventually shatters a wall of the hospital and once again Detroit’s streets are subjected to the kind of superhero/ supervillain destruction that New York City is used to.

Eventually, Iron Man begins to try shepherding the mindless Freak back toward the hospital through periodic bursts of his repulsor rays and other “carrot and stick” incentives. When they get back to the hospital, the power is back on but the Freak attacks Iron Man and nearly knocks it back out again.

Ultimately, Iron Man wins, knocking out the Freak. Soon, Donald Blake, who has found his cane, uses the Enervator’s siphon function on the Freak, who then transforms back into Eddie March. At least the Enervator left him with enough strength to survive another round of surgery so Dr. Blake and some nurses operate on him again.

Hours later, Blake is done. He informs the waiting Tony Stark that Eddie will live, but the injuries inflicted by Dr. Spectrum will leave him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Tony deals with the sadness of that and reminds himself of how dangerous the superhero life can be.

EPILOGUE: Happy and Pepper have made up and have reached a compromise for the moment to save their marriage. He will stop asking Pepper to quit if she at least lets one of Tony’s other executive assistants handle the road trips with the boss instead of her. Pepper does not yet tell Tony that she now knows that he is Iron Man.

Tony Stark and Roxie Gilbert agree to a joint mission to southeast Asia in regard to Eddie March’s whispered pleas to her last issue. He wants to do whatever can be done to find his M.I.A. brother in Vietnam. Tony and Roxie will split the expenses for a combined fact-finding and humanitarian aid expedition to southeast Asia to investigate. They are prepared for it to take months if need be. 

FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT CLICK HERE.

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.     

3 Comments

Filed under Superheroes

3 responses to “IRON MAN: 1970s CLASSICS 6 – DOCTOR SPECTRUM, THOR AND THE FREAK

  1. garrya-91199

    Took me time to check out all the notes in parentheses, but I really enjoyed the post. It cleared up a lot about what was going on with the Eddie March thing. Was Eddie March the first African American to be a regular supporting character in Iron Man?

  2. Thank you a lot for your interesting text. I have been looking for such message for a very long time. Not everything is fully easy to understand to me, even though it is definitely interesting and worth reading.

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