Tales Of Suspense #73-78 (Iron Man)
Issue(s): Tales Of Suspense #73, Tales Of Suspense #74, Tales Of Suspense #75, Tales Of Suspense #76, Tales Of Suspense #77, Tales Of Suspense #78 (Iron Man stories only)
Colan's style is a major shift from Don Heck's. It looks realistic and has a lot of depth and atmosphere. It is very nice.
Iron Man rushes to the hospital after his fight with Titanium Man to visit Happy, who was wounded in the fight. However, Happy has been kidnapped. Iron Man realizes that it was probably the Black Knight who kidnapped him, but he doesn't tell the police who are demanding that he work with them. Instead he follows the Knight's trail to a castle near Washington and enters even though he realizes it is probably a trap.
Eventually he faces the Black Knight.
He takes a lot of damage in the fight but in the end knocks the Black Knight off his Pegasus.
We will learn in Avengers #47 that the Knight was mortally wounded in the fall and died soon after passing his legacy on to his nephew Dane Whitman.
Iron Man manages to summon an ambulance for Happy, but he himself remains wounded and dying.
He makes an emergency call to his lab and luckily Pepper is around to hear it.
You can see a major difference in the art based on how non-superpowered people are depicted. Compared to earlier issues, it's a major advancement.
She drags him home and plugs him into a power source, realizing that she is in love with Iron Man now that she sees what a playboy Tony Stark is.
This is a little hard to reconcile with Busiek's Iron Age story where Pepper learns to see past Stark's playboy persona, but people's opinions and feelings do change. However, falling in love with Iron Man seems a bit much.
Soon Iron Man learns that the hospital is using one of Stark's experimental gadgets (the "Enervator") to keep Happy alive while they operate on him. He knows it's not safe to use on humans yet so he rushes to the hospital on half-power (another really nice, semi-abstract shot set of panels here, something we'd never see with Heck)...
...just as Happy turns into some sort of Frankenstein monster.
Meanwhile, Senator Byrd is determined to learn Iron Man's secret identity.
Iron Man fights the "Freak" for all of Tales of Suspense #75 and some of #76 before Happy is finally restored to normal.
Since i've been gushing a bit about Gene Colan, i will mention that the extended fight sequence shows one of his weaknesses: his fights aren't very dynamic. That's OK against a lurching gooney like the Freak, but it'll be a problem more generally.
Tony gives his poor, physically traumatized employee a final smack for good measure when it's all over.
With that all over with, Senator Byrd bursts in with a subpoena requiring Stark to return with him to Washington. Stark complies but on their way there, they are blasted with a ray of light. When things clear up, Stark is gone. Byrd assumes he's fled, but in truth he is now a captive of the Mandarin.
The Mandarin was actually trying to capture Iron Man, but when he couldn't find him, he grabbed Stark instead. Later stories have indicated that the Mandarin actually suspected Iron Man's secret identity. If so, he's not letting on about it here.
The Mandarin has built a giant robot called Ultimo.
We're reminded that the Mandarin has no love of the Chinese communists.
Mandarin casually tosses Stark down a flight of stairs...
...thinking it'll kill him. But Stark's chestplate saves him, and then he transforms into Iron Man (the rest of his armor was in his suitcase, luckily).
After another battle...
...Iron Man is able to defeat Ultimo by luring him into a volcano, and then he steals a Chinese plane and heads home. When he arrives, he finds that his factory has been closed by the government.
Ultimo will be a repeat threat, and even the Enervator will be used again, so there are events of significance here. And Colan's atmospheric art is very nice (you'll have to get over the Mandarin's overbite to agree).
On the downside, it's a string of unrelated stories that run together so the pacing is a bit off.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: This long arc begins soon after the end of Suspense #72.
Continuity Implant? N
Reprinted In: Marvel Super Heroes #28, Marvel Super-Heroes #29, Marvel Super-Heroes #30
Inbound References (11): show
Gary Michaels is a pseudonym for Jack Abel.
Gene Colan had previously been doing lots of war stories for DC, and he started his comics career at Timely/Atlas around 1948.
Identification got dropped again!
#73 was Roy Thomas's first superhero script for Marvel. In an Alter Ego interview (if memory serves), Roy acknowledges that Stan Lee rewrote over half of it, probably contributing to the deadline pressures. Given staff secretary Flo Steinberg's plot assist, and lettering that appears to be half by Artie Simek, and half by an uncredited Ben Oda, I can easily imagine a 3-hour lunch where everyone available pitched in to get the story out on time.
Note that the dialogue implies that Mandarin designed Ultimo but Ultimo is eventually revealed to be an alien robot.
Why does the Black Knight have a light bulb on his chest?
As we later found out in a late 1970s Amazing Spider-Man letters page, "enervate" actually means "to lose energy". Bad name for a life support device!
@Michael, I've added another scan to reinforce that; the Mandarin definitely claims here that he created Ultimo.
the Mandarin's been working out
the thing I remember about this one was that it was very clear this was not intended to be the death of the black knight. H fell and disaapearred like any thousands of villains before or since. If you read the IM issue you get no sense of finality. It only became his "real death" when they decided to create the heroic Black Knight. (A poor exchange IMO)
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