Thursday, May 20, 2010

53: Tales of Suspense #41

Tales of Suspense #41
February 12, 1963

  • The first thing most comic readers will notice from the cover is that this foe isn't the Master of the Mystic Arts they're familiar with. And it's true: while he may share the name of Dr. Strange with the soon-to-be-seen Sorcerer Supreme, it's otherwise an entirely different character. This isn't too strange for the time - the conventional wisdom of the day was that kids were into comics for a relatively short period, just a few years - and thus reusing plots, or character names, was seen as fair game. After all, who would be likely to remember? What is unusual is the surprisingly short amount of time in this particular case, as the mystic Doctor Strange would make his heroic debut just two months later.

  • Carrying on from last issue, we get another couple of pages fleshing out the character of Tony Stark, both in and out of his Iron Man suit. What's so impressive about these rapid-fire vignettes - three or four per page - is how many of them seemingly could have been stories in their own right, as we see Iron Man battling gangsters, stopping Commie spies, and frightening off alien invaders. And when Tony's latest flame asks him about settling down, he explains that he could never be an attentive husband due to all his scientific contributions: upgrading the artillery on naval battleships, developing an instantaneous flesh-healing serum for use in surgeries, or inventing a new alloy to strengthen the radiation shielding needed for space exploration. In addition to being a hell of a way to dodge commitment issues, it really is admirable to see a Marvel hero using his talents not just to battle fantastic foes, but to benefit all mankind. Of the many times we've seen The Fantastic Four's Reed Richards use his enormous intellect, we've rarely seen occurrences like this!

  • In this story, Stan & co. set up something of a foil for Tony Stark, in that Strange is another scientific genius - albeit one who uses his talents for personal gain and the ambition of world conquest. He invents 200-megaton bombs with which he threatens the world leaders, a force field to protect the base containing him and his followers, and an electronic frequency which can control Iron Man himself. And he's even been given a daughter, Carla: sweet, sympathetic to Iron Man, and saddened at the direction her father's life has turned. So why, despite the deliberate choice of having the villain get away at the end, is he never seen again...?

    Tony Stark:  The only superhero to be saved by a couple of D-cells.