IRON MAN: 1970s CLASSICS 9 – THE CRIMSON DYNAMO, MODOK AND THE BLACK LAMA

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

im 73IRON MAN Vol 1 #73 (March 1975)

Title: Turnabout: A Most Foul Play

Villains: The Crimson Dynamo and Kuon Set

Synopsis: This issue picks up a week or so after the end of our previous story. Tony Stark is back in Manila at the Stark International Regional Headquarters in the Philippines. He is conferring with Pepper Potts-Hogan and her husband Happy, his Executive Assistant and his Security Chief respectively. Pepper has been informed that Tony is really Iron Man, so now both she and Happy know the secret.

Amid this relaxed setting Tony discusses Stark International’s new food processing plant in Manila, part of Tony’s ongoing reorganization of his company to leave his days as a weapons manufacturer behind him.

black lama standingThe married couple ask their boss about his recent trip to San Diego, and Tony tells them about his battle with Whiplash, the Melter and the Man-Bull as part of the Black Lama’s (at right) unfolding War of the Supervillains. Our hero also mentions returning to Stark International’s Headquarters on Long Island for a few days and his eyewitness account of seeing the Man-Thing in action.

NOTE: That refers to Tony Stark’s guest appearance as himself – NOT Iron Man – in Giant-Size Man-Thing #2.

Next, Tony shows Pepper for the first time how he dons his Iron Man armor which he carries around with him in segments in his briefcase. In a comic book coincidence, shortly after Tony becomes Iron Man an explosion rocks his Manila buildings.

Iron Man flies to the boiler room and manages to bring things under control before an even more destructive explosion can occur. Leaving Pepper and Happy to deal with the aftermath of this industrial accident, our hero tells them he is flying off to Vietnam to investigate Roxie Gilbert’s disappearance a few installments back.

Cut to the Hidden City concealed inside the Annamite Mountain Range in Vietnam, where Roxie and Marty March, Eddie March’s brother who went M.I.A. during the Vietnam War, are still being held prisoner by Kuon Set, the leader of the Hidden City.

Marty MarchOnce again Marty asks Kuon Set why he has imprisoned him and Roxie. After all, Marty used his engineering skills to help Kuon Set construct the high-tech Hidden City and Roxie came in search of him at the behest of his brother Eddie back in the U.S.

The villain replies that Eddie knows too much about the city itself and its powerful Dragonfire defensive system. Suddenly, Kuon Set’s niece Shara intrudes on the scene, catching her uncle by surprise and berating him about his treatment of Marty and Roxie.

We learn that she – a Vietnamese woman – and the black Marty March are a romantic couple and the Vietnamese Kuon Set disapproves of their interracial romance. As their angry argument continues, Kuon Set reveals to Shara, Marty and Roxie that he used Marty March as a pawn.

The villain confesses that he is really a North Vietnamese agent and that the Hidden City was NOT really constructed as a peaceful refuge for Vietnamese of all political persuasions. In truth, North Vietnam and its Communist Chinese benefactors secretly aided in the city’s construction in order to lure pacifists and non-communists into their clutches by pretending the city was a haven for them.

In closing, Kuon Set tells Marty his Comrade Leaders have ordered him to be executed now that he is of no further use, and has his niece Shara taken away, telling her he will have her executed as well for siding with the American Marty March.

crimson dynamoCut to a plush building in Hanoi, where the Crimson Dynamo has been serving as a super-powered operative for the Communist Vietnamese.

NOTE: This is during the time period when the Crimson Dynamo and his Soviet comrade the Titanium Man are serving under the Chinese supervillain Radioactive Man as the Titanic Three. Crimson Dynamo and Titanium Man are fugitives from the Soviet Union, where they face death sentences for their frequent failures against Iron Man. They sought political asylum with China and are currently on-hand with Radioactive Man in Vietnam.

An operative informs the Crimson Dynamo (Alex Niven, the 3rd Crimson Dynamo) about recent reports from Kuon Set about another American taken prisoner in the Hidden City – Roxie Gilbert. Alex realizes she is the heir to the Simon Gilbert fortune.

That means she has ties to the Dynamo’s enemies Tony Stark and his “bodyguard” Iron Man. Tony and the Crimson Dynamo still blame each other for the death of Tony’s beloved Janice Cord during one of their battles way back in Iron Man #22.

Defying his teammates Titanium Man and Radioactive Man, Alex flies off to the Hidden City to use his superior rank to Kuon Set to make him use Roxie Gilbert in a plan to lure Stark and/or Iron Man into the Crimson Dynamo’s clutches.

roxie gilbert againA few hours later, the Dynamo is shown to Roxie’s cell at the Hidden City, where he promises to spare her life if she helps him smoke out Tony Stark. Roxie informs him that he’s out of date – she cashed out all of her inherited shares in Stark International and has been using her fortune for her humanitarian mission to Vietnam in search of Marty March.

She also asserts her pacifist principles once again, saying that she knows the Crimson Dynamo means nothing but violence against Tony and Iron Man, so she will not help him under any circumstances. The Dynamo leaves her cell, but has noted the emotion in her voice for Tony Stark, whom she has been engaged in a flirtatious relationship with.

The villain decides to use that to his advantage. Back in Kuon Set’s office, he orders him to set up a situation in which Roxie can be secretly allowed to escape. The Dynamo is confident that she will be able to call in Iron Man and, with his own power combined with the Hidden City’s weapons system Dragonfire, they will be able to kill the armored hero.

Soon, that plan is set in motion, and a guard instructed to let Roxie think she’s escaped on her own takes her out of the cavern city and into the jungle. He tells her it is time for her to be killed, prompting her to make a desperate escape attempt. She gets his gun away from him and, though tempted, remains true to her peaceful beliefs and refuses to kill him.

She runs further into the jungle and activates the miniature tracer that Iron Man gave her a while back when they were working together on the search for Marty March. She had not used it before now because she didn’t want Tony or Iron Man possibly ruining the Hidden City as a peaceful refuge, but now that she knows its real purpose she is fine with summoning Iron Man.

Iron Man, meanwhile, has arrived from the Philippines and has been flying above the jungles searching for Roxie. He detects the activated tracer signal and flies toward its source. Back in the Hidden City, the Crimson Dynamo and Kuon Set are delighted to see on the city’s high-tech sensors that Iron Man has taken the bait.

When our hero gets close to Roxie’s location, the Crimson Dynamo orders Dragonfire unleashed, and its multiple missiles are launched at Iron Man to soften him up. Tony outmaneuvers the missiles, one of which damages the nearest mountainside enough to expose the Hidden City within.

The two villains did not count on that, and are furious. Iron Man flies toward the city to explore this engineering marvel from which the missiles came.

Elsewhere, Shara manages to free Marty from his prison cell amid the chaos in the city over its exposure, like an ant colony in the ground. The two head off to find her uncle Kuon Set, not knowing that the Crimson Dynamo is also there.

crimson dynamo againThe Dynamo, meanwhile, orders Kuon Set to have his troops come forward with their shoulder-mounted weapons while he engages Iron Man in battle. And so, our hero and the Crimson Dynamo face each other in a dogfight above the Hidden City and the jungle below.

The villain points out that the Dragonfire weapons system is based on stolen Stark technology, inadvertently preying upon Tony’s guilt over his company’s past activities. While their battle continues, Roxie Gilbert has made her way back into the Hidden City to free Marty, but runs into him and Shara.

The three of them at last see Iron Man overhead fighting the Crimson Dynamo. At length, our hero knocks the Dynamo out of the sky and the two switch to battling on the streets of the city. Kuon Set’s troops arrive on the site with their shoulder-mounted Stark weaponry and the Crimson Dynamo seizes one of the weapons to use himself.

The weapon unleashes multiple explosive warheads which also deploy napalm, causing untold destruction to Iron Man AND the Hidden City as collateral damage and starting several fires. Amid the flames and panic, Iron Man saves as many people as he can, even though he knows it may make him vulnerable to a sneak attack from his opponent.

As for that opponent, the Crimson Dynamo knows he’ll be in trouble for the exposure AND destruction of the Hidden City so he flies off back to Hanoi, leaving Kuon Set as the fall guy. Meanwhile, Kuon Set runs into Marty, Roxie and Shara.

Marty chews out the villain for perverting the purpose of the Hidden City. Kuon Set flees Marty and Iron Man and winds up dying in a jungle trap left over from the Vietnam War.

Epilogue: The good guys compare notes on what happened and why on this eventful day. Marty tells our hero and the others that he intends to stay in Vietnam with Shara and try to make another Hidden City somewhere, one that really WILL be a peaceful refuge.

Roxie is worried that Iron Man may report Marty as a deserter, but he assures her he will just leave his status as M.I.A. with American authorities, but WILL tell his brother Eddie about Marty’s true fate. Iron Man flies off carrying Roxie to safety.

The next day, as Roxie is on board a plane returning to America, she reflects again on her conflicted feelings for Tony and his unusual “bodyguard”. As for Iron Man, he reflects on how the Black Lama is still at large and no doubt planning to resume his War of the Supervillains sometime in the near future. 

im 74IRON MAN Vol 1 #74 (May 1975)

Title: The Modok Machine

Villains: Modok and A.I.M., the Mad Thinker and the Black Lama

NOTE: Iron Man’s sales have improved enough that the series will now be back to monthly publication instead of bi-monthly. The next issue will be dated June 1975 instead of July. 

Synopsis: This issue picks up an undisclosed number of weeks or months later. Iron Man is depicted flying off from the roof of Avengers Mansion while Thor, Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch and the Vision see him off. (Moon Dragon should be there, too, but her absence is just a minor continuity error.)

The narration tells us that the Avengers have just arrived back from the Pama Temple in Vietnam and the epic Celestial Madonna Saga, which multi-part story finally wrapped up in Giant-Size Avengers #4. Mantis has left the Avengers and is now the Celestial Madonna, plus the Vision and Scarlet Witch were married by Immortus in that concluding chapter after Kang, Dormammu and the Titanic Three were all defeated.

i mIron Man flies back to Stark International’s Long Island Headquarters, sighing with relief that the long, convoluted, “timey-wimey” Celestial Madonna business is finally over and the entire space/time continuum has been saved.

The next day, Tony starts getting caught up on business matters which have piled up during his absence. Pepper Potts-Hogan helps him through it, of course. Late in the afternoon he dons his Iron Man armor again and puts himself through a session in his own copycat version of the X-Men’s Danger Room.

After that training workout, Tony heads for the shower, pondering the way his conscience wouldn’t let him allow the Crimson Dynamo to die from the damage that Kang the Conqueror did to the Dynamo’s armor during the final battles in Giant-Size Avengers #4.

Tony’s mourning state over Janice Cord still makes that decision a haunting one, and as comfort he wonders how much trouble the Crimson Dynamo and the rest of the Titanic Three got in for the Hidden City debacle AND their defeat in Giant-Size Avengers #4.

Titanic ThreeCut to Vietnam, where the Titanic Three are placed under house arrest by the communist authorities, not to leave again unless the government authorizes it.

Now the story cuts to the headquarters of A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics), where the villainous outfit’s leader Modok is meeting with several of the group’s agents regarding the activities of the mysterious Black Lama. This allows for expository dialogue which updates new readers on the Lama and his ongoing War of the Supervillains, including the Mandarin’s death at the hands of the Yellow Claw.

As a bonus, the agents brief Modok on why some of the big-name villains have not entered that war to win the Golden Globe of Power. A Latverian agent explains how Doctor Doom bluntly refused the Black Lama’s offer, feeling no need of his Golden Globe. Another agent details how the Red Skull scoffed at the Lama and dismissed him, pursuing his own plan to destroy America.

modok on chairOn top of that, Modok (right) notes that Magneto is missing ever since being reduced to infancy by Alpha, the Ultimate Mutant, and the Hulk’s archenemy the Leader has been presumed dead since a battle with the Thing and the Hulk in the American Southwest.

Presently, the Black Lama teleports into A.I.M. headquarters on a follow-up visit to see if Modok has decided to enter the War of the Supervillains. Modok agrees to compete for the Golden Globe of Power and the Black Lama tells him to prepare for an imminent clash with his opponent, the Fantastic Four’s old foe the Mad Thinker.

Cut to the Himalayas and the Black Lama’s remote castle. He has arrived back after teleporting away from A.I.M. headquarters and we readers learn for the first time that this enigmatic villain is plagued by monstrous visions – the exact same monstrous visions that plagued Tony Stark’s psychic ex-fiance Marianne Rodgers, ultimately resulting in her confinement in an insane asylum. (Remember that? We’re finally getting back to it.)   

The Lama notes that the visions have plagued him ever since he came to this place long ago. (Presumably at the same time they started plaguing Marianne Rodgers.) The mysterious concept of psycho-feedback is mentioned as the story moves elsewhere.

mad thinkerCut to a Michigan prison for supervillains. The Mad Thinker, whose abilities involve constructing sophisticated androids and plotting strategy through wild theoretical calculations like a Mentat from the Dune novels.

He is planning his escape to join in the Black Lama’s war that he has agreed to enter, but suddenly, he gets a psychic visitation from Marianne Rodgers herself, whose beautiful face fills an entire wall of his cell. She informs him to be ready to escape when the Black Lama causes a meteor to strike the prison at precisely 2:43AM.

At the appointed time, the Lama does indeed strike the prison with a meteor, leaving a hole in the Mad Thinker’s cell and other damage. While the guards hustle to deal with the catastrophe, the Thinker escapes, followed by another supervillain escaping from the damaged cell above him – Gary Gilbert, Roxie’s evil brother Firebrand.

The pair split up after covering a lot of ground, with Firebrand mentioning he intends to kill Iron Man and Tony Stark. The Mad Thinker heads to one of his hidden subterranean labs and, inspired by Firebrand’s mention of Iron Man, hits upon a plan to use the hero against his assigned foe Modok.

firebrand picture in armorCut to a day or so later. Gary Gilbert has reached the home of his sister Roxie, who, out of family obligation, has secretly been keeping his spare Firebrand armor for him. As Gary dons it and thanks her, she says she should have destroyed it, since it has brought him nothing but trouble.

The two engage in one of their usual arguments, and Gary notices Roxie’s photo of Tony Stark signed Love, Tony. He is furious, and mocks her oft-proclaimed pacifist principles yet now she’s involved with “the guy who practically invented the Vietnam War!”

Roxie replies that they haven’t become fully involved yet, it’s just that Tony keeps pursuing her and she is not yet sure how she feels about him. Firebrand leaves in a huff saying that Tony Stark won’t be alive much longer anyway.

In tears, Roxie picks up the phone and calls Tony on Long Island, warning him about her brother’s murderous plans. Tony thanks her, dons his armor and flies off to search for Firebrand. The Mad Thinker, meanwhile, has finished his tech that will let him remotely control Iron Man’s armor.

The villain seizes control of that armor, and via audio link boasts to Iron Man who he is and what he has done. He informs him that he wants him to take down Modok and A.I.M. for him. When his flight has taken him to A.I.M. headquarters he will release his control over his armor so that he can fight with top efficiency. However, he will retake control if he suspects our hero of trying to double-cross him.

The controlled Iron Man bursts into A.I.M.’s hidden lair, then is freed to battle A.I.M. troops and Modok himself. Tony reflects to himself that he has no idea why the Mad Thinker is at war with Modok, but since authorities around the world have warrants out on A.I.M. and its monstrous leader, he’ll play along for now.

modok giant bodyAfter Iron Man defeats a large group of A.I.M. soldiers, he is attacked by Modok himself, with his enlarged head now resting in the giant mechanical body he once used to fight the Hulk. As the battle between our hero and Modok goes on, Modok reveals that the Black Lama has set him and the Mad Thinker against each other.

Tony is resentful to once again be caught up in the Lama’s War of the Supervillains but does his best to defeat Modok. The villain’s enormous high-tech body can even fly and the aerial combat between Iron Man and Modok makes the Thinker suspicious that our hero is trying to lead Modok TO him.

Iron Man tells the villain that he swears he is not double-crossing him but the Mad Thinker doesn’t buy it and retakes control of our hero’s armor. This makes him a sitting duck for Modok, who seizes him in one gigantic hand, blasts him unconscious and then follows the transmission trail of the waves controlling Iron Mans’ armor back to the Mad Thinker’s underground lab. 

Modok bursts in, shows the Thinker the defeated Iron Man and vows to kill the Mad Thinker and then the Yellow Claw to become the leader in the War of the Supervillains. The Golden Globe of Power will enable him to take over the world. 

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 MY LOOK AT THE FIRST TWENTY DOCTOR STRANGE STORIES IN THE 1960s 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.      

   

2 Comments

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2 responses to “IRON MAN: 1970s CLASSICS 9 – THE CRIMSON DYNAMO, MODOK AND THE BLACK LAMA

  1. I truly enjoy reading on this website , it contains excellent blog posts. “Beauty in things exist in the mind which contemplates them.” by David Hume.

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