Tales Of Suspense #39
Issue(s): Tales Of Suspense #39
This story is racist, politically wrong, and poorly written, although it is kind of neat seeing how primitive Iron Man's weapon arsenal is.
At one point he has to pull out a big horsehoe magnet, fiddle with some transistors (i have no idea what he's supposed to be doing and neither did the writers), and then attach it to his hand in order to push away some VC bazookas.
It is surprising (to me) that the Vietnam war was a pop culture topic in late 1963. "Americanization" of the war had not yet begun (The Gulf of Tonkin phantom attack was not until August of 64). Wikipedia has a quote from Stan Lee taken from the Iron Man movie DVD:
I think I gave myself a dare. It was the height of the Cold War. The readers, the young readers, if there was one thing they hated, it was war, it was the military....So I got a hero who represented that to the hundredth degree. He was a weapons manufacturer, he was providing weapons for the Army, he was rich, he was an industrialist....I thought it would be fun to take the kind of character that nobody would like, none of our readers would like, and shove him down their throats and make them like him....And he became very popular.
I call BS on that. First of all, as i mention, it's a bit too early for the general public to be all that politicized. Second, in the Son of Origins Of intro, Stan Lee practically apologizes for the Viet Nam setting:
The next pictorial production that you're about to passionately peruse is set against the background of the war in Vietnam. For the purposes of the story, there's a North Vietnamese general who's the very epitome of a comic-book bad guy. The good guy is a noble American helping the noble Vietnamese battle the sinister Commies from the North.
As you can tell by the alliteration, this was definitely intended for Marvel readers, so maybe even in 1975 Lee secretly was hoping that all these hippies would fall in love with Stark the arms dealer. But that seems unlikely. Stan seems to have a habit of making up stories on the fly to replace missing memories, and may be susceptible to prompting. In any event, this issue is an interesting cultural artifact even beyond the first appearance of a major super-hero.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Milestones Edition: Tales Of Suspense #39
I give this a 3/5 (or C+ if you like). Not a bad origin story, and far better than most of the subsequent Stan Lee Iron Man-Tales of Suspense stories.
Posted by: Dave B | January 17, 2013 9:15 AM
By 1963 Eisenhower had already sent a few hundred Green Beret "advisors" into Vietnam, and Kennedy increased that deployment to somewhere around 15,000 or so troops for "training" and "military assistance". Meanwhile, the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis had fired a lot of opinions about the importance of the Cold War in general (and as a part of that, the value of proxy wars and keeping the Communists in check to prevent "The Domino Effect").
While I'd say that while the US involvement in the war wasn't yet as massive as it would later become (and most people tend to think of it more as "Johnson's War" than anything), US presence was already significant in the region. It would have made perfect sense for someone like Stark to be there - and more importantly, for someone like Stan or Kirby to be aware of/interested in the growing situation enough to write about it.
Considering both men had been in WWII and just lived through the Korean War, it's entirely possible they could see at least some of the writing on the war in regards to American escalation in the region. And the more "jingoistic" feel of early Iron Man makes perfect sense in a pre-Hippy, pre-backlash era. Strong opposition to the war didn't really start in earnest until a few years later.
Posted by: ParanoidObsessive | July 23, 2014 1:08 AM
I've always thought this was a fairly effective origin story, though a cartoonish villain even for 1963 - looking back at all the Communist villains is so painful.
But who would have thought that an Iron Man movie would take so long that things would come around and they could go with a completely different conflict that worked so well for the same origin story?
I remember reading this in Son of Origins, for a long time the only early Iron Man story I had read.
Posted by: Erik Beck | December 5, 2014 3:51 PM
I think it's worth noting that Iron Man just straight-up kills Wong-Chu in this story, and not in self-defense. He goes to fairly elaborate lengths to blow the guy up.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 16, 2015 8:37 PM
I hate that "I think it's worth noting" phrasing; I used it without thinking about it, but it sounds like I'm asking fnord to add it to the entry. Not my intention at all.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 16, 2015 8:38 PM
Thanks for being considerate, Omar, but no worries. I appreciate when people add things i've left out, since i'm bound to not cover everything, and to me the comments are very much part of the entry, so i don't feel the need to add everything that someone "notes".
Posted by: fnord12 | October 17, 2015 10:59 AM
I placed Tales of Suspense#39-41 before Strange Tales#110 because the villain in #41 is a Dr. Strange! So I thought that had to be before the Dr. Strange series began to appear.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | October 23, 2016 4:56 PM
Depends: SMM has Strange appearing prior to F4 #1, which makes sense with the idea of him as one of those "mystical heroes hiding in the shadows" like Dr. Droom/Druid. Could say that Strange's earliest stories occur prior to F4 #1 and he couldn't really reveal himself to society proper with losers like Iron Man's Dr. Strange running amuck.
Posted by: Ataru320 | October 23, 2016 5:29 PM
Doesn't matter how many re-telllings this tale has had,I still love it.
Posted by: Will Gillies | December 16, 2017 10:04 PM
Comments are now closed.
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