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 Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Super Heroes #28, Marvel Super-Heroes #29, Marvel Super-Heroes #30
Inbound References (14): 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.
Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2011 11:50 AM
Identification got dropped again!
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 3, 2011 11:51 AM
#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.
Posted by: haydn | June 2, 2012 2:20 AM
Note that the dialogue implies that Mandarin designed Ultimo but Ultimo is eventually revealed to be an alien robot.
Posted by: Michael | December 9, 2012 7:05 PM
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!
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 9, 2012 7:15 PM
@Michael, I've added another scan to reinforce that; the Mandarin definitely claims here that he created Ultimo.
Posted by: fnord12 | December 9, 2012 7:15 PM
the Mandarin's been working out
Posted by: min | June 6, 2013 8:39 AM
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)
Posted by: Kveto from Prague | June 6, 2013 2:47 PM
What an impressive change here with Conlan's art. It's almost like the 70's arrived early at Tales of Suspense.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 10, 2015 12:46 PM
Interesting early example here of the "multiple shots of agile superhero moving across a single panel", usually associated with Frank Miller Daredevil (and to a lesser extent 80s Spider-Man and Captain America). Never expected to see it in Iron Man...
Posted by: Jonathan | May 24, 2015 3:14 PM
Gene Colan has got to be the only artist capable of making the Mandarin's mask (sort of) look good.
Posted by: JP | May 28, 2015 5:09 PM
Now that Gene Colan is on this title, it suddenly becomes a whole lot more interesting. Still not a top tier book but much better than it was before. It was a tough slog for me to get through all the Heck issues but I breezed through these.
Posted by: Robert | February 15, 2016 8:30 PM
According to the intro Roy Thomas wrote for the Marvel Masterwork which reprinted Avengers 47-48, he says he intended to kill off the evil Black Knight to pave the way for the heroic version, so he wrote this issue wherein Nathan Garrett "dies". He says he deliberately didn't show Garrett's death here because he wanted the readers to wonder if he survived, and he said he suspected most people reading TOS 73 would just assume Garrett would show up a few months later in some Marvel mag saying he "landed on a truckload of pillows" or something. But it's interesting to me how this is one of the few cases where an ambiguous death was revealed to be an actual death.
Posted by: mikrolik | August 1, 2016 11:56 AM
I don't agree that killing off Nathan Garrett to introduce his heroic nephew is a poor trade. Although I liked the villainous Black Knight (and used him as a model for a character of my own called the Knave of Hearts), I do like Dane Whitman as a modern day Black Knight. The Mandarin did claim to create Ultimo but was obviously lying because it has been shown to be an alien superweapon left on Earth during its prehistory. I loved Colan's work on Iron Man but his work on Daredevil and Tomb of Dracula would be even better later on.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | November 4, 2016 7:46 PM
I think its remarkable how they couldnt find a better name to happys monster version than the freak. It also seems like tony knows that the worst case scenario is to become a freak. Real bizarre
Posted by: Roy Mattson | May 28, 2017 7:17 AM
The ending of the Black Knight story in TOS #73 is the same as his encounter with Shellhead in #59, namely that he is knocked off of his (flying) horse in mid-air.
Posted by: Mike Teague | November 11, 2017 5:00 AM
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