Tuesday, September 21, 2010

78: Tales of Suspense #45

Tales of Suspense #45
June 11, 1963

  • Hey hey! Iron Man finally gets a supporting cast, after a half-dozen adventures on his own. And, just as when they graduated solo character Hank Pym to a partnership with The Wasp, likewise does Marvel here grace Tony Stark with a feature-length story for the occasion, allocating him 18 pages instead of the usual 13. (The issue is then bolstered by a single 5-page backup story, as opposed to the usual allotment of two 5-page stories and a 2-page text story.) It's about time, too; by this point, every other Marvel hero had his own supporting cast, even if they didn't always add much to the stories. I would hope that this added element might inject new life into the often humdrum capers Iron Man usually finds himself in; unfortunately, I've been warned that this is not to be....

    "Let's see... Keys: Check.  Wallet: Check.  Anything else? Guess I'm good to go!"

  • First up: Harry "Happy" Hogan. When Stark enters himself as a race car driver in the 500-Mile Speedway Classic (an event lifted for the 2010 film), his car goes out of control. Seeing the accident from the sidelines, Hogan pulls Tony from the flaming wreck, and then drives him to a motel where Stark can recharge his metal chest plate. And with that, Happy has earned himself a job as Stark's chauffeur and bodyguard! Odd note though: As presented here, Happy seems in appearance almost a thug, and his name is one of those ironic misnomers: "Happy" because he never smiles, you see. This wouldn't last, however, and Happy would soon come to be known for his steadfast, genial nature.

    Ignoring the ham-fisted dialogue, doesn't Pepper seem rather dowdy?
    That's a surprise, coming from the pen of Don Heck....

  • Next up: "Pepper" Potts! (God, what is up with all these silly nicknames?) Before coming under the employ of Tony Stark, she-- Well, we don't know. In fact, in frustrating fashion typical for the times, Pepper fails to receive the kind of origin we've just seen for Happy; as far as we and the characters are aware, she's always been a secretary for Tony Stark - or near enough, anyway. And who cares about girls, right? (Sigh.) Of course, having introduced both these characters, we also get a fully-formed love triangle, with Happy instantly smitten with Pepper, who only has eyes for Stark. But at least this is a step up from the typical superhero love triangle with the guy being in love with the girl, who is only fixated on his super alter-ego. (Cf. Superman & Lois Lane, or Jane Foster & Thor.)

    Oh, man!  I totally want a secret underground labyrinth!!
    Seriously.  I'm not joking here.  Make it happen.

  • Finally, the villain for this piece is one Jack Frost, who is an interesting example of a neat idea almost immediately abandoned. Sullen scientist Professor Shapanka is obsessed with immortality, and specifically the use of cryogenics to preserve someone forever. However, wishing to avoid the downside of being asleep in a block of ice - what use is immortality if you're not around to enjoy it? - he instead creates a suit to simulate the effect while staying awake and about. This is all well and good, and a pretty compelling origin for a villain ... but once he's created the suit, the whole motivation goes out the window, and he starts using his ice powers to freeze everything in sight, rob banks, etc. In other words, he's just become yet another boring, costumed criminal, and the immortality angle is never mentioned again.

    You have a what?!?
    Uh. Yeah. Sure is "lucky"...!