Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Iron Man, Iron Man, Just a Guy in a Big Tin Can."

(Uhhh... Before I begin my Iron Man post: In comic-related news, the word is out on some of the cast of the new Spider-Man movie. Martin Sheen will play Uncle Ben, and Sally Field will play Aunt May. In the original Spider-Man titles, Aunt May and Uncle Ben were, like, old people. Really old people. And since I'm old enough to remember Martin Sheen as a struggling young actor, and Sally Field as the teenaged "Gidget" in the TV series of the same name... Lord, do I feel old now!)

Last time, I told how I "discovered" the Marvel Comics Group as a child in the early to mid-1960s. This time, I'm focusing on one of my favorite characters from their cast of characters, the "invincible" Iron Man!

I could go on and on a great length about Iron Man -- come on, fellow babies, you know I could -- but I'm going to try my best to keep this post filled with more Iron Man cover-scans than my own ramblings. You're welcome.

Iron Man first appeared in issue #39 of a Marvel comic called Tales of Suspense, a title which up until then had been devoted to science fiction and supernatural stories. Tony Stark (based on billionaire Howard Hughes) became Iron Man in Vietnam, after his heart had been severely damaged by an explosive device. Briefly, the chest plate of what was to become his Iron Man suit was what kept him alive.

In Iron Man's second appearance, the story began with Stark lamenting to one of his many girlfriends that people seemed afraid of this new superhero, Iron Man. She suggested it was due to the depressing grey color of his armor, and further opined that if he were to change it to gold, like a "knight in shining armor," people would react more favorably. Tony replied to the effect of, "You know, I wouldn't be surprised if Iron Man himself came up with the same idea." (Wink, wink.)

The covers I'm showcasing here, by the way, are -- so far -- from comics which I did not buy when they first came out. As explained last time, I was still immersed in the Batman and Superman titles published by DC Comics.

As a child (and even as an adult), I always enjoyed storylines which pitted "ol' shell-head" against other armored villains... such as the Communist super-villain, the Crimson Dynamo!

One of Iron Man's little quirks was to constantly improve his armor. Eventually, he ended up with as many variations on his original suit as Imelda Marcos had shoes!

Tales of Suspense #49 featured one of the earliest Marvel superheroes crossovers... a guest appearance by the Angel, a member of the X-Men!

Tales of Suspense #53 was actually the very first Iron Man story I read, the one that got me hooked on the series.

One night in 1964, my mom was going out to the pharmacy, and she asked me if I wanted anything. I asked her casually to get me some comic books, and she got me every single Marvel comic issued that month, except for the "girl" titles like Millie the Model! In that very same pile was The Avengers #5, which not only had Iron Man in the team, but also introduced me to a hero I grew to love even more, Captain America!

Having said that, imagine my surprise when Captain America guest-starred in Tales of Suspense #58. In that story, Iron Man fought his Avengers teammate thanks to some subterfuge by Spider-Man's old foe, the Chameleon!

Imagine my further surprise -- and excitement -- when Captain America won the back-up feature in Tales of Suspense in the very next issue. 

Another recurring plotline I liked -- similar to the ones where Iron Man fought other armored villains -- were the occasional stories where Iron Man got to fight other variations of his own armored self. Sometimes the villain wore the older suits, and other times Stark himself had to don an old costume when his modern version was stolen by a villain!

Another Iron Man foe in his own suit of armor, the Titanium Man.

The conclusion of the Titanium Man encounter left Iron Man's chauffeur and bodyguard "Happy" Hogan on the brink of death... and this was back in the days when almost nobody died in comics!

Usually, Iron Man fought someone who had no suit of armor, of course, and in this case, his antagonist -- the Marvel anti-hero, Sub-Mariner -- wore no suit at all... except a swimsuit!

In 1968, Marvel ended their Tales of Suspense title and gave both Captain America and Iron Man their own books. By that point, I was growing frustrated with Marvel's habit of continuing storylines... and by that, I'm not talking about sub-plots, I mean storylines that went on and on and on from issue to issue. It was hard to keep up in those days of spotty newsstand distribution (Comic shops as we know them today didn't even exist then, believe it or not!). And who had the money to subscribe to titles by mail?

At that point, I stopped reading several Marvel Comics titles, and Iron Man was one of them. Only occasionally would I read an issue, and even then it was usually a so-called "back issue." I didn't buy Iron Man as it came out for a long, long time.

Another issue where the "new" Iron Man fights the "old." I had to read that one, although I read it some time after it was first published.

The same goes for this issue, where Iron Man fights streamlined, updated versions of both the Crimson Dynamo and the Titanium Man.

This was the critically-acclaimed denouement of a storyline where Tony Stark faced alcoholism. Quite a radical departure from Iron Man's early "Commie-of-the-month" battles, eh?

Yet another armored enemy: The one and only Doctor Doom!

And last but not least, here's one more fight between the old and the new!

Now, in the words of Austin Powers... "I'm spent."

Thanks for your time.

P.S. ~~ Oh, and about today's title? Well, those of you who remember the theme song from the Spider-Man cartoon of the late 1960s may be interested to know that I "stole" that theme for a goofy Iron Man theme with my own lyrics. Maybe someday I'll share that with you, but... probably not.


  1. nice. iron man was cool...i liked the fact he was flawed actually...the battle with alcoholism...it was real you know...have not read any IM in ages...the movies have been ok as well...intersted in seeing the Avengers movie when it comes out...

  2. excellent memories, and those covers are great!

    i was a bit partial to the Archies, girl child that i was. and lois lane!

  3. Well, no wonder you liked Iron Man! He wears a mask! :)

    Hey, I had a voodoo doll made of me once...does that make me famous like IM? :)

    The best part of these covers is seeing the evolution of his iron suit!

    OK..don't tease us...you have to share your own lyrics to the IM tune! Please? ;)

  4. Wow...you have quite a variety of Iron Man covers. I find the price on the covers of 12 cents and 15 cents very cool. I have no idea how much a comic book sells for now.
    I loved Millie the Model! And I liked Archie..that evil Veronica always had her clutches in Archie and poor innocent Betty didn't stand a chance : )

  5. Have a very Happy Birthday, Silver Fox!

  6. HEY THERE! Stopping by TODAY, November 16th to wish YOU a wonderful birthday Silver! Have a wonderful day!

  7. Happy, happy day to you, Silver! xo

  8. Ah, yes, Archie Comics! As I was quoted in the third chapter of "My Island," the multi-parter serialized on my old David'Z RantZ blog, "F***ing girls always read Archies!" (Sorry, couldn't resist repeating the rantings of my 18-year-old self!)

    Thanks for your comments on this post, and thank you to all who've sent birthday wishes my way.

  9. Cool post, and enjoyable read. Came over from Betsy to wish the Silver Fox a Happy Birthday!!!

    I always enjoy your comments on Betsy's blog.

    Wanda from Brushstrokes


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