IRON MAN: 1970s CLASSICS 7 – THE MANDARIN, BLACK LAMA AND SUNFIRE

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

im 68IRON MAN Vol 1 #68 (June 1974)

Title: Night of the Rising Sun

Villains: The Mandarin, Sunfire and Unicorn

Synopsis: We pick up months after our previous installment. Tony Stark has been spending most of his time in the Far East managing the reorganization of the Stark Regional offices there now that his company no longer handles weapons manufacturing. All of that is just the excuse to justify frequently loaning out his “bodyguard” Iron Man to Roxie Gilbert’s combined humanitarian mission and hunt for Eddie March’s M.I.A. brother Marty.

mandarin pictureAs this issue opens, Iron Man is using his repulsor rays to blast a path through the jungle for Roxie, U.N. escorts and North Vietnamese escorts plus the joint armed forces and aid workers. The communist army officer is especially hostile, making it clear he’s not fond of having Americans like Roxie Gilbert and Iron Man on hand. He also vows to retake Saigon some day.

NOTE: This story is set after the last American troops withdrew but before Saigon had fallen and been renamed Ho Chi Minh City. Marvel’s editors must have been scrambling to keep their comic book stories in synch with real-world events.

To Iron Man’s surprise, they have reached the village of An Thoc, the Viet Cong-held village where Tony Stark was held captive and first became Iron Man. Marvel’s writers, apparently trying to walk a fine line between worldviews, balance out the jerky communist Vietnamese officer by having our hero go through some introspection and self-doubt.

He had driven the North Vietnamese out of An Thoc back then but they had retaken it in the years since, and it was most recently attacked by South Vietnamese forces. Surveying the damage and the casualties here at An Thoc, he again reproaches himself for the years he had his company doing munitions work.

roxieRoxie has a translator question the villagers about Marty March, as she has apparently done upon entering any new area. A mourning woman replies that a black man was staying at her relatives’ village recently and gives Roxie general directions to it.

Ms. Gilbert, as stubborn with the jerky and screaming communist Vietnamese officer as she is when dealing with Tony Stark, ignores that officer’s insistence that the expedition will NOT be allowed to go that way. She simply runs off in the direction indicated by the old woman.

Iron Man tries to calm the “Comrade Major” by saying he will go in search of Roxie and bring her back until they can get further diplomatic okay to proceed. The jerky Comrade Major has his men open fire on Iron Man, who is unharmed and simply breaks their guns before heading into the jungle after Roxie Gilbert.

While our hero searches for Roxie, the North Vietnamese officer makes the aid workers and the U.N. escorts follow him and his soldiers back to their District Command Office. Once back there, the major is still venting his rage over Roxie and Iron Man disregarding his commands.

He is soon joined by a guest he has been ordered to receive and offer help to, but this one he is willing to tolerate. It is the Japanese mutant supervillain Sunfire, known back then as a foe of the X-Men, Sub-Mariner and Captain America for his hostile attacks on the West.

NOTE: The following year, of course, Sunfire would reform a bit and temporarily join the new team of X-Men.

sunfireSunfire is visiting the major as part of his mission from the Japanese government to urge the North Vietnamese authorities to allow Japanese companies in to do rebuilding after the war. As the two confer, they decide that since Stark International is Japan’s greatest global competitor, a political AND P.R. coup can be had if Sunfire defeats Iron Man and drags him back to the major. And if Iron Man is killed in the battle, well, what can ya do?

NOTE: Yes, the Comrade Major is being shown in an unflattering light, but Marvel Comics also often showed gung-ho American officers behaving recklessly, so this, too, balanced out.

As Sunfire flies off in search of our hero, we cut to a high-tech undersea fortress on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. We readers see that it is one of the Mandarin’s many bases scattered around the world. The Mandarin’s mind is still trapped in the Unicorn’s dying body, with the Unicorn’s comatose mind inhabiting the Mandarin’s body, as happened a few installments back, during the most recent clash between Iron Man and the Mandarin.

Our villain talks aloud to himself, letting us readers know that he has been resting here for months. He’s been trying to let the Unicorn’s dying body gain enough strength for one more attempt at powering up the machine that will transfer the Mandarin’s mind back to HIS OWN body and the comatose Unicorn’s mind back into his body.

Still laying out expository information for us readers, the Mandarin (in the Unicorn’s body) angrily reflects that this secondary laboratory lacks enough power to carry out the mind transfer. He also reflects aloud that he cannot yet return to his main castle and territory on mainland China.

That’s because the Marvel supervillain the Yellow Claw and his forces seized the Mandarin’s castle and he was unable to retake his home base because of how weak the dying Unicorn’s body is. The Claw made that move against the Mandarin at the behest of Iron Man’s old foe the Black Lama.

black lama picNOTE: No, you haven’t missed anything. This go-round deals with the opening of the War of the Supervillains that the mysterious Black Lama is instigating. (I TOLD you he would return.)

Back to our story, the Mandarin reflects that he MUST get back into his own body, in order to be ready for the potentially world-changing war that the Black Lama is in the process of unleashing among Earth’s supervillains. Suddenly, his computers detect a power source traced to Vietnam – a source strong enough to power the mind-transfer device.

We cut back to Vietnam, where Iron Man finally finds Roxie in the jungle and saves her from a tiger. The two bicker a bit as our hero tries to get her to see reason and return to the Comrade Major’s HQ until another diplomatic okay comes through. Before they can head back, Sunfire arrives and attacks them with the solar flames he shoots from his hands.

Iron Man takes to the sky and engages Sunfire in a figurative dogfight, all while periodically swooping down and saving the grounded Roxie from the occasional solar rays that Sunfire shoots at her. Eventually, the Mandarin, back at his undersea base, fixes on the power source – the X-Waves that emanate from Sunfire’s mutant brain.

Like the Super-Skrull and the Secret Empire after him, the Mandarin/ Unicorn plans to capture a mutant and use them as a human battery for his own ends. He has his technology teleport Sunfire from his battle with Iron Man to the undersea base. As the Mandarin planned, Sunfire materialized into high-tech bonds that will funnel any power that Sunfire releases into the mind-transfer device.

Meanwhile, the puzzled Iron Man quickly pieces together that the energy that surrounded Sunfire before he disappeared just now resembles the energy unleashed by his archenemy’s teleportation technology. His armor can trace the energy and he flies off, following its trail, tensing up about facing his nemesis yet again.

unicornIron Man follows the energy trail into the Pacific Ocean and eventually reaches the Mandarin’s undersea base. The Mandarin is prepping his transfer device but has not yet completed the transfer back into his own body. Still acting as the Unicorn, he unleashes an intensely powerful torpedo/ missile which damages Tony’s armor enough that he must return to the surface and effect repairs before he can die by drowning or from the pressure at the bottom of the ocean.

Reaching the surface, Iron Man flies to the Philippine HQ of Stark Industries. As Tony he gains access to a private lab and begins the latest upgrade to his armor. It takes a day or so, but our hero reflects that with the Mandarin back to endanger the entire world, Roxie will be on her own until he can get back to her.

While that’s been going on, the Mandarin regaled Sunfire with a Villain Rant about his ambitions and goaded him into unleashing enough solar energy to power the mind-transfer device. The villain triumphantly returns to his own body and the Unicorn’s body slumps to the floor, comatose. The infuriated Sunfire vows to try to free himself and get revenge on the Mandarin for using him like this.

Back with Tony Stark, he finishes his latest upgrades, including the often-mocked “nose” feature that his helmet had for a while. (Hey, it’s not nipples on the batsuit, but what can ya do?) Iron Man flies off and back under the sea, ready to take on his archenemy once again.

NOTE: Naturally, the Unicorn would turn up alive again a few years later. You know comic book writing.

im 69IRON MAN Vol 1 #69 (August 1974)

Title: Confrontation

Villains: The Mandarin and the Yellow Claw

Synopsis: Iron Man attacks the Mandarin’s undersea base, ultimately causing enough damage that seawater begins to leak into it. The captive Sunfire taunts the villain, but the Mandarin merely has his subaquatic base rise to the surface, where it floats like an enormous ship, ready for Iron Man’s next attack.

Iron Man bursts through a wall and, for the umpteenth time over the years, it’s Tony and his armor against the Mandarin and his Makluan power rings, each of the ten capable of wielding different energies. As talkative as all Marvel villains are, the Mandarin does a Villain Rant which clues in Iron Man to the War of the Supervillains that the long-absent Black Lama is unleashing.

The titanic battle goes on and on, and presently, the Mandarin’s secondary base is damaged enough from the ongoing struggle that it sinks beneath the waves while Iron Man and his archfoe take to the sky. However, Tony realizes that the bound Sunfire couldn’t join them and is in danger of drowning in the sinking fortress, so he heads after him beneath the waves.

Cut to the Long Island headquarters of Stark International. Pepper Potts-Hogan is running many of the operations for Tony in his absence. The now wheelchair-bound Eddie March approaches her desk and Pepper is thrilled to see that he is getting out and about after his physical therapy of the past few months.

Pepper updates Eddie on the progress of the joint Roxie Gilbert/ Tony Stark humanitarian mission/ fact-finding tour. Suddenly, Happy Hogan enters the scene. He and Pepper worked out a temporary compromise to save their marriage last time around, and Happy (Harold) now shows Pepper a mysterious document which apparently will affect their compromise.

Cut to Vietnam’s jungles, where Roxie has discovered the M.I.A. Marty March, Eddie’s soldier brother. Marty has lost an arm, but is otherwise okay. He and Roxie keep each other alive as Marty guides them toward his hideaway.

Back to our hero in the depths of the Pacific Ocean, he bursts back into the rapidly sinking fortress, frees Sunfire from his bonds and takes him to the surface along with a hunk of wreckage that the mutant can rest on until he recovers from his near-drowning.

mandarin picThe Mandarin attacks Iron Man again and the battle resumes. At length, the villain inflicts so much punishment on Tony’s armor that it carries through to his body inside. The attack is so intense that Tony’s transplanted heart, which SEEMED to be fine in recent months, begins failing him again.

In the kind of moment that makes archenemy stories so memorable, the Mandarin taunts Tony about how his flailing movements indicate that his heart is plaguing him again and redoubles the attack. Soon, Tony is having a full-blown coronary and the Mandarin sends his armor off into space, where he assumes our hero will eventually die. 

Cut to the Mandarin’s castle in China. The usurping Yellow Claw is still ruling the roost, having his forces plunder the Mandarin’s reverse engineered Makluan technology and weaponry. The Claw reflects on his loss a few months back to Captain America and the Falcon, who thwarted his years-long master plan and left him nearly dead.

The Yellow Claw’s reverie is broken by his top aide Loc Do calling his attention to a development on the grounds surrounding the captured castle. The Mandarin has arrived and, from magma deposits beneath the Earth, has summoned up his old – and kaiju-sized – Makluan android Ultimo.

While the Yellow Claw and his troops concentrate the castle’s weaponry on the attacking android, we are shown Iron Man far above the Earth. For this issue’s cliffhanger, we see that he is now unconscious inside his armor, still hurling helplessly into space.

im 70IRON MAN Vol 1 #70 (September 1974)

Title: Who Will Stop … Ultimo?

Villains: The Mandarin, the Yellow Claw, the Black Lama and Ultimo

Synopsis: We pick up right where the previous issue left off. Iron Man is reaching orbital altitude and his erratic course has led him steadily westward, nearing the Soviet Union.

Back at the Mandarin’s castle, the Yellow Claw is barking angrier and angrier orders at his underlings, including Loc Do, as Ultimo is gradually fighting its way through all the castle’s defenses. Suddenly, Sunfire flies onto the scene, having recovered and set out on the Mandarin’s trail for revenge.

Meanwhile the Mandarin himself is using Ultimo’s diversionary attack to reenter his castle via a secret underground tunnel, hoping to take the Yellow Claw by surprise.

Rejoining our hero, his rapidly hurling form is getting mistaken for a missile and answering missiles are fired up at him. At long last, Tony’s armor picks up on the heart attack he had and reactivates his long-unused life support functions, keeping his heart beating.

Tony regains consciousness in time to avoid the nuclear missiles and flies back toward China. Back at the castle, Ultimo has shot down Sunfire, who is dazed but not dead. The Yellow Claw recalls how the Black Lama approached him recently when he was at his lowest point.

His long-laid plans had failed but the Lama offered him his Golden Globe of Power, able to grant its owner enough power to conquer the entire Earth. The globe would be awarded only to whichever supervillain was still standing at the end of a globe-spanning war among them. The Yellow Claw struck the first blow by seizing the Mandarin’s castle, as seen above.

Meanwhile, back with Roxie Gilbert and Marty March, she is shocked to learn that he has no desire to return to the United States. He says he has found new purpose here in southeast Asia, as a pioneer in the Hidden City of Peace, where he and assorted Asians are building a peaceful society. Roxie gasps at the sight of this underground cavern settlement as she and Marty at last come upon it.

Cut to the Long Island HQ of Stark International. We see that the document that Happy showed Pepper and Eddie last time around is his own resume and application to become the new Head of Security at Stark International. He’s been running his own security company since leaving Tony’s company and if he gets the position, this would be the ideal situation for their marriage as they each pursue their careers at Stark International. Pepper and Happy share a long kiss.

Back in China, in the underground tunnel beneath his castle, the Mandarin realizes the Yellow Claw had found this not-so-secret passageway after he runs into a mob of several of the Yellow Claw’s biological constructs – in this case an enormous goblinoid, an equally huge owl-mutate and a giant snake-raven hybrid.

Yellow ClawUsing his rings, the Mandarin defeats them all. Next, he penetrates through to one of his underground laboratories where he attacks the Yellow Claw himself. Their battle rises to the next level, as the Yellow Claw uses some of the Mandarin’s own Makluan technology against him, temporarily draining all ten of his rings of their power.

The furious Mandarin resorts to his martial arts skill as they now fight it out man to man. The Mandarin strikes what he assumes will be the death-blow, but it turns out the “Yellow Claw” he’s fighting with is the robot duplicate that the Claw plundered from S.H.I.E.L.D. back when he was facing Captain America and the Falcon.

A viewscreen comes on, and the Yellow Claw mocks the Mandarin about this from the safety of the next room. Even worse, the destroyed robot version of the Claw now explodes as planned, mortally wounding the Mandarin. As he dies, the Yellow Claw acknowledges that he knew the Mandarin far outpowered him, so he resorted to cunning to defeat him.

The Yellow Claw enters the lab to make sure the Mandarin is really dead, and, seeing that he is, he orders his aide Loc Do to dispose of the villain’s corpse while he returns above to continue overseeing the battle against Ultimo.

Iron Man finally returns to the scene and, with Sunfire now fighting at his side out of gratitude for saving his life last issue, battles Ultimo, distracting him from the castle’s high-tech defenses. After the fight goes on and on for a while, Ultimo is rendered inert again thanks to teamwork between Tony and Sunfire.

sunfire picThe Japanese mutant updates Tony on everything he learned in captivity from the Mandarin’s rants about the Black Lama’s War of the Supervillains and the Golden Globe of Power he will bestow upon the war’s winner.

Iron Man invites Sunfire to join him in now attacking the Yellow Claw inside the Mandarin’s castle, but the mutant declines the offer, feeling his honor has been restored by repaying our hero for saving him from a watery death. As Sunfire flies off for Japan, Iron Man flies toward the castle for his next fight.    

NOTE: Naturally, the Mandarin is not really dead. (You know comic books.) In 1977 readers learned that the Mandarin transferred his mind into his rings with his last act. Through his rings he took control of Loc Do’s body when the ambitious fool at last put them on months after this battle, in a fit of pique against his master the Yellow Claw. The Mandarin resumed his villainy in his new body in time for Iron Man # 95-100. 

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.                     

Leave a comment

Filed under Superheroes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s