Iron Man #219-221
Issue(s): Iron Man #219, Iron Man #220, Iron Man #221
Look at that grin. That is a guy that enjoys being a wealthy CEO.
Personally i don't need Tony Stark to be quite so built. After overhearing the ladies on the beach, Stark thinks to himself that he gets all the workouts that he needs as Iron Man. But i like to think the suit does most of the work, and Stark shouldn't have a physique that Olympic athletes would be jealous of. But Bob Layton (who only draws issue #219) of this arc obviously disagrees.
These issues have a nice focus on the corporate aspect of Stark's life. His company is acquiring another company called Accutech, that has developed a Beta Particle Generator. Roxxon also bid on the company, but Accutech's owners refused to sell to them for ethical reasons. So Roxxon employs a new villain, called the Ghost, to sabotage Accutech and, by extension, Stark, who has extended his fortunes putting his company back together and had to go into debt to acquire Accutech. And he even has to sell his body to get that loan.
The Ghost is first described as a "hacker's tale" that might not actually exist, but at least one employee of Accutech, Abraham Zimmer, had seen him before.
Accutech assumed that the over-60 Zimmer was getting senile and blaming the Ghost for his own age-based senility, but the existence of the Ghost exonerates him and he'll become a recurring character. This arc also introduces Stark's lawyer, Bert Hindel.
But the main new character of interest is of course the Ghost.
He's presented as a former executive that now has an anti-corporate agenda, and while he's working for Roxxon at the moment, he wouldn't mind seeing them fall apart either.
The Ghost's powers include invisibility (even to ultraviolet and infrared light, but not to sonics), and intangibility. Iron Man can also walk through walls, albeit in a more destructive fashion.
The Ghost will much later become a member of the Thunderbolts, and at that point he's depicted as somewhat touched in the head and his anti-capitalist agenda is much more pronounced. At this point he's more or less rational, although you get the occasional glimpse at what he'll become in his thought bubbles ("I.... neeeeeeeded to")...
...and the fact that he lives in a garbage dump, and says he would be trying to destroy these corporations even if he wasn't getting paid.
One aspect of the story that is interesting is that fact that, since he can infiltrate any security system and he's threatened to kill Tony Stark, Stark has taken to remaining in his armor full time and become a little paranoid.
One thing in Stark's favor, though, is the fact that after the Ghost's initial failure, Roxxon decides to cut him loose and bring in the Spymaster to take care of him. So Spymaster winds up being a decoy for Stark.
The real Stark had in the meantime removed his armor to make some improvements, so he has to fight Spymaster out of costume to prevent Spymaster from killing the Ghost.
I like the use of Roxxon in this story. Just a mundane board of corporate suits. No one sitting on a throne of skulls or petting tigers. We won't even see any of these characters again, as far as i know.
Stark is supposed to be just holding the super-villains off until Rhodey can show up in the old armor, but Rhodey finds that he can't put the suit back on after his recent injuries.
So he winds up giving the old suit to Stark instead.
And then the Ghost winds up tricking the Spymaster into thinking that he's helping him escape, and instead partially phases him into a wall, killing him.
This really was meant to be the death of the original Spymaster, which smacks to me of "creators kill off an established villain to show how cool their new villain is". It's especially annoying because the Spymaster has always been a cool villain that had enough near wins and getaways that he wasn't yet in that category of villains that have appeared and lost so many times that they seem like losers. That said, as we'll see, it's easy enough to introduce a new guy called the Spymaster. And eventually, in a Dark Reign: Made Men oneshot, it'll be revealed that the guy appearing in this story is a dupe and the real Spymaster has still been alive all this time. As wrong as i think it was to kill off the Spymaster here, it seems equally weird to, 22 years later, reveal that he was still alive all along. But i guess that's a topic for another day.
Stark eventually lures the Ghost into a trap where a corporate presentation turns out to be a room full of security agents, and while the Ghost manages to kill one of the agents, he eventually (seemingly) kills himself in a suicide run. Stark has put an energy field around the Beta Particle Generator, and, faced with the decision of letting the Ghost destroy it or letting the Ghost touch the energy field and die, he chooses the latter.
That's pretty cold, but as Stark says, the Ghost knew what he was doing (and the Ghost will appear again, and sooner than poor Spymaster).
It's a cool story. The corporate espionage angle is always a good way to pit Iron Man against super-villains while keeping it from feeling like a generic super-hero story, and similarly having Stark deal with mergers and acquisitions is a good way to keep his book differentiated.
There is a weird distraction in issue #221 where we meet a health food fanatic named Flex.
Iron Man shows us what he thinks about those natural food people.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: There is a gap of "weeks" before page 3 of issue #222, but i still think Tony Stark is occupied with the Ghost and Accutech (and, well, Flex!) during this period and wouldn't be working with the West Coast Avengers. The MCP places this entire arc before the West Coast Avengers' appearance in Mephisto vs.... #4.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
This Ghost is too reminiscent of the late 1960s Charlton Comics Ghost(which Layton definitely knew about--he was half responsible for a fairly well known Charlton fanzine.)
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 31, 2014 9:44 PM
Are you sure you have the right character and company? I'm not familiar with any character called Ghost from Charlton.
Ghost had a really strong debut. He'd end up becoming my favourite Marvel character during the Andy Diggle Thunderbolts run.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | March 31, 2014 11:16 PM
This was a great arc. To me, this is one of those definitive Iron Man stories - corporate espionage, intrigue, technothriller super action. Just superb. I was really sad to see Spymaster go too. My only previous experience with the character was IM# 210, but I really liked his look and style. Sorry to see him go.
Ghost was a great villain too, but I didn't mind him killing Spymaster at his first at bat. Unlike many other creations, he SOLD it from the get go. Very similar to the Phantom from ToS #63.
I like his vague anti-corporation persona. Iron Man needs a villain like that, especially since Firebrand is no longer around.
Posted by: Chris | April 1, 2014 12:24 AM
I loved Spymaster--his speech patterns, at least as they would be developed outside of his original appearances, were great too--they reminded me a little of how Gruenwald originally scripted Crossbones. I really have no idea why Spymaster became typed as an Iron Man villain aside from the fact he was usually hired by corporate bad guys. He would be a fine Captain America villain (and could have appeared anywhere--if you can fight IM, you can fight most heroes).
Posted by: MikeCheyne | April 1, 2014 11:14 AM
I agree, a cool arc. The Ghost is one of my favourite villains ever. Cool powers and although i disagree with his tactics i understand his motivation and kind of agree with him (other political villains in this catergory are Firebrand and flag smasher, also in my top 5 villains). A great foe for uber-businessman stark and powers that can stymie him. In fact id call him the last great villain marvel created.
Posted by: kveto from prague | April 1, 2014 3:12 PM
Stark had more than wealth and power, but he was portrayed as cross between Howard Hughes and Errol Flynn. Both were very successful with the ladies, but neither was a body builder.
I don't think Downey portrayed Stark correctly from the comics, but I thought he did a good job at recreating the character in terms of "given the vital aspects of Stark's personality, how would the character be envisioned today"? So he's a cocky Steve Jobs/Larry Ellison instead of Howard Hughes.
Posted by: Chris | April 1, 2014 10:14 PM
I always remember Stark's appearance from these comics. Those drawings of him looking like Tom Selleck. It's pretty funny to look back on.
The Tony Stark in the movies was based more on the Ultimate Universe version.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | April 1, 2014 10:59 PM
Note how much red and gold armor we've seen since Michelinie and Layton's return. Rhodey wears it to escape from the space station, the undersea armor isn't the classic Mk V red and gold, but uses its colors, and now Stark dons the armor again, briefly.
The Silver Centurion suit is findly remembered by fans today, but my recollection from the time was that most of us hated it and couldn't wait for IM to get back to his true colors. Not sure if Micheleinie and Layton (who designed the silver armor) felt the same way or were responding to fan pressure, but we've seen a lot of reminders during their run so far of how IM used to look.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 2, 2014 12:50 AM
Yeah, I couldn't stand the silver and red outfit, and I don't have fond memories of the stories when Stark was wearing that suit. The Ghost issues were the only ones I remember really liking.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | April 2, 2014 1:14 AM
I hated the silver and red outfit almost as much as the "rocketpack" Wonder Man outfit.
Posted by: clyde | April 2, 2014 10:54 AM
I loved the Silver & Red armor. I thought it was new and refreshing at the time. I also loved MD Bright's and Layton's art, too. I must admit I think Stark is way too muscular but didn't notice it at the time (probably too young to care).
Posted by: jsfan | April 2, 2014 11:23 AM
I was refering to Robert Downey's body type as more realistic body for an inventor/businessman, not the muscleman drawn in the comic. But just about every character started get muscles by the 90s, even "slim"Summers.
Stark also had the charm that comes with inherited wealth and confidence. He was originally portrayed as the man who had everything to the public, but his heart condition made him unable to enjoy it.
Posted by: kveto from prague | April 2, 2014 2:55 PM
I didn't grow up with the Silver Centari armor but I sure do like it. It looks like Iron Man but with some nifty changes, love the shoulders.
Posted by: David Banes | April 2, 2014 3:17 PM
Amazing Heroes #115 joke listing for #221: "When special guest star Lucille Ball dons Iron Man's armor, things get wild and wacky at Stark Enterprises!"---Michelinie/Bright/Layton
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 13, 2014 5:16 PM
You don't have Spymaster listed as a character appearing.
Posted by: MegaSpiderMan | March 10, 2015 7:26 PM
That's because, as mentioned above, this isn't the real Spymaster. (Although you'd think Tony and Rhodey wou ld be a bit suspicious about an impostor looking different from Spymaster since they saw Spymaster unmasked in issue 210- sure,they might have assumed Spymaster had plastic surgery but still...)
Posted by: Michael | March 10, 2015 7:59 PM
Simon and Kirby did a couple of stories about a ghost called Mr Zimmer for Harvey's BLACK CAT. Perhaps Michelinie and Layton meant to reveal the Ghost was Abe's son or grandson.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | August 12, 2015 8:48 AM
The Charlton Comics Ghost was a villain with a phasing/teleportation gimmick, the archfoe of Captain Atom; he's a Steve Ditko creation. Interestingly,he's a lot like the Ditko-era version of the Green Goblin concept: a ruthless, rational criminal with a secret identity as a wealthy man. He was reinvented along with Captain Atom when Atom got his DC series, andhas been reduced to "face in the crowd of villains" appearances following the end of Captain Atom's 1980s series.
You can see some images of him here.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 22, 2015 3:50 PM
Am I the only one who can't read Spymaster's death without seeing it as a total rip-off of Death-Stalker's practically identical fate in Frank Miller's first Daredevil issue?
Posted by: AF | April 1, 2016 12:56 PM
Yes, that was the first thing I thought when seeing this. Well, the second thing. The first thing was "poor Spymaster".
But yeah, those were great issues. If I had to pick 10 Iron Man stories as "all-time true Iron Man stories" this one would be in there.
Posted by: Nate Wolf | November 5, 2016 4:36 PM
The way Ghost kills Spymaster is brutal!
Posted by: JSfan | November 5, 2016 5:02 PM
Was is an ersatz Spymaster from the beginning? If so, that guy was still a badass.
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | June 29, 2017 10:35 AM
The first scan/splash page has Tony Stark looking like a cross between Charles Bronson and a Gold's Gym trainer.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | April 1, 2018 1:25 AM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|