Tuesday, November 23, 2010

88: Tales of Suspense #46

Tales of Suspense #46
July 9, 1963

  • In this issue we meet Professor Vanko, the Crimson Dynamo. Yes, that's "crimson" as in another "red" enemy. The Cold War was in full swing, and the threat of communist invasion is one we've seen in these early Marvels time and time again. And yet, despite having an origin and creation that's neither original nor creative, he would be the first Iron Man villain who would really last, and would plague Tony Stark in one form or another for decades - even outlasting the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union which spawned him.

  • Though I've read the words "The Crimson Dynamo" for years, it never occurred to me to wonder about his name. And that's because in later incarnations he's as much a guy in an armored suit which can seemingly do anything - fly, fire weapons, heighten the wearer's strength, etc - as later versions of the Iron Man will be. In these more limited early models, however, it's interesting to find that this new villain was named as such because the suit has the power of an electrical dynamo. (Impressively, this is even conveyed in the artistic design itself, whereby the ridges on the suit imply the coils found on such a generator!) So while the armor does protect the wearer from harm, its main use is in manipulating electrical components - which he makes use of by sabotaging Tony Stark's various arms development plants around the country. And suddenly, Stark finds the American government threatening to pull all his contracts if he can't deliver, and even wondering if Tony is a Red himself!

  • In an surprising turn of events, at the end of the tale the Crimson Dynamo defects to the US. See, in a canny move, Stark manufactured evidence for Vanko to indicate that his Soviet leaders saw his power as too great a threat to their own, and planned to have him killed immediately upon his return. (Oddly enough, this development actually weakens the story somewhat, as earlier scenes showed that Vanko's superiors did in fact plan that very thing; so having Tony whip up a completely false bit of evidence to that regard seems a backward way of revisiting that plot point.) Having thus seen the light - y'know, that Communists are all lying, treacherous baddies - the professor instantly turns his back on the USSR and gratefully agrees to come work for Stark instead. But though Vanko had turned, this would be far from the end of his legacy....

    I think we can safely pinpoint the moment his leader decided to off him.