Thursday, January 13, 2011

103: Tales of Suspense #48

Tales of Suspense #48
September 10, 1963

  • Presenting, for the first time: Iron Man's new armor! And it's courtesy of Steve Ditko, who's still filling in on art for a spell. Although with any real thought, that should be a foregone conclusion; after all, recall that Spider-Man was originally going to be drawn by Kirby, but when he made the character more brawny and powerful than Stan wanted, the assignment was given to Ditko instead. Likewise here: As much as I love the clunkiness of the original armor, it was entirely bulky and cumbersome. So if you wanted to redesign the suit to emphasize its sleekness and gloss? Ditko would be the way to go!

    Of course we know Tony's not going to die.  But note how the staging,
    and the spinning perspective, increases the feeling of suspense.

  • But as to the villain of the piece, we have ... Mister Doll?? Seriously?! (Times like these, you wonder if there was truly no one at the bullpen to say, "Uh, Stan ... maybe not.") Supposedly he was going to be "Mister Pain", but the Comics Code objected and required a name change. But was this really the best alternative? And despite the cover proclaiming him to be "a truly different super-villain!", he's clearly just a brazen copy of the Fantastic Four's enemy the Puppet Master! When this character would eventually return, he would at least come with a more unique gimmick....

    Three pages they take, to show us all the ways in which this new armor moves.
    No simple cosmetic makeover, this!

  • All that's fine, though, because the villain is clearly just the perfunctory catalyst to give us the new red-and-gold armor - which is not only what makes this issue a landmark, but is the most interesting element in its pages as well. See, most of the time a superhero's new look debuts, it's just a simple surface change for no particular in-story reason. But here, Lee & Ditko take pains to point out that this is a full technological upgrade, specifically because the old model has become outdated. (The bulky iron of the first suit is said to weigh too much, requiring too much energy even to function, and leaving not enough energy to keep alive his heart.) So, just as with any technological advance, Tony gets back to work and makes it thinner, lighter, faster, more efficient. Although we saw him create the original suit during his very first adventure, this view of him as a constant tinkerer - always trying to improve upon the current model - really shows us, for the first time, Tony Stark as the inventor and problem-solver we will know him to be.

    Y'know, sometimes Tony Stark can be an arrogant, insensitive clod.
    This is one of those times.

  • It's been a while since the last time I've had to cite Goofy Silver Age Writing (and it was an Iron Man story last time as well), but the ridiculous scheme herein can't go unmentioned. Using his strange voodoo dolls, the bizarre Mister has been collecting the fortunes of millionaires, causing them untold amounts of pain until they sign over their businesses to him. Yes, they've all signed over their fortunes to "Mister Doll". The cops themselves point out how ludicrous this is, but still act though it's legal. Yet Stan had specifically shown us that it wasn't, back in Amazing Spider-Man #1!

    Man!  Even a guy as lame as Mister Doll can succeed where Peter Parker fails?
    Let's hope Spidey never hears of this.