Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Marvels: Tales of Suspense #40

"Iron Man versus Gargantus!" by Stan Lee, Robert Bernstein, Jack Kirby & Don Heck
(April 1963)

About half of this story is devoted to coming up with an in-canon explanation for changing Iron Man's armor. The real reason is simple: Stan Lee didn't like the colors from Iron Man's first story, when armor was lead-gray. After re-establishing the basics about Anthony Stark--millionaire, genius, scientist, playboy, but trapped in an iron chest plate that has to keep charged or else shrapnel trapped inside his body will reach his heart and kill him--the story goes on to show us that his gray suit scares people because it looks so creepy. After getting a bad reaction from the crowd when saving an animal trainer at the circus, Stark decides he's got to redesign the whole thing. At his date Marion's suggestion--she says if he looked more like "a knight in shining armor" he'd be less scary--he creates a new suit that's gold-colored.

("Leave it to a woman to figure out an attractive appearance" he says, in one of those lines that's meant to sound like a compliment but fails.)

That's really the major difference: it's gold. Well, whatever works. It does look better, but I'm just patiently waiting on what to me is the "real" Iron Man suit, the red and gold one. We'll see that in about 8 issues, I think.

The rest of the story proper deals with Iron Man liberating the town of Granville, which has been walled off by its citizens. They're all under the hypnotic thrall of a Neanderthal giant named Gargantus, who gives Iron Man a pretty decent run for his money. But Iron Man uses magnets to expose Gargantus as a robot, sent here as the vanguard for yet another misguided alien invasion. (This time, the aliens had assumed that Earthlings looked the same as they did 80,000 years ago, when the aliens first spied on us; I have to guess that if you don't get around to invading within 80,000, you've probably got better things to do than bother. Here, you know what I do? If I'm not sure I want to keep something, I put it in a box or a bag and leave it in a closet. If I haven't pulled it out a year later, I obviously don't need to keep it. Do that with your invasion plans, aliens.)

It's over pretty quickly. Not a thrilling story, but not a terrible one, either. They're still finding their way with Iron Man. They'll get there.

Stray notes:

:: Marion is Stark's love interest, but she doesn't know he's Iron Man. No one does yet.

:: Lots of new gadgets in this one, of course: boring tools (that's boring as in boring through earth and rock, not boring as in I'm being insulting), a loudspeaker, a monobeam searchlight and the miniature magnets. Transistors can magically do anything, as long as they have a scientifish explanation. Also, Stark keeps his Iron Man costume in a briefcase, because he can use transistors to fold the parts over many times. At this point, I'm not sure Marvel knows how transistors work, but whatever. It's convenient to the story. It already breaks up enough of the story to have him constantly attaching new bits to himself, so if he wants to carry the pieces in a briefcase, you got it.

(How that briefcase isn't heavy as hell, though, I don't know. Microscopic transistors, I guess. I think they're made of handwavium.)

:: Stark has to plug his chest plate into the wall to recharge it. If I were Tony, I wouldn't be making too many trips to places without rural electrification.

:: Stark's newest invention for the military is jet-powered skates for soldiers. The Iron Man armor has those eventually, too.

:: Is this the first time Iron Man uses his air-pressure jets to fly? (Or, at least, to leap?) I can't remember if he did that in the first issue or not.

:: This story's scripter is Robert Bernstein, going under the pen name "R. Berns" because he was also writing under his own name over at DC. He'd been in comics since the mid-40s, writing at EC, DC and Marvel, particularly war stories. He co-created Congorilla at DC, as well as Aqualad and Aquagirl. At this time, he was writing some of the really bizarre Silver Age Superman stories like "The Oldest Man in Metropolis."

I have to admit, I'm not much of a fan of his work over at Marvel. He'll script Iron Man for a while, and do some Thor stories (where's Larry Lieber? is he ok?), but they aren't among my favorites. (Granted, what he's got to work with isn't that great, either; Iron Man and Thor will later get re-tooled into something a little better, but that comes later in the year.)

:: The art in this issue is credited to Kirby and Heck, but it looks a lot more like Heck to me. Maybe Kirby just did the layouts and designed Gargantus? Gargantus is clearly one of his, particularly in this amazing splash page:

But for the most part, it's very Heck-like, except perhaps in the character poses, which is why I figure Kirby laid it out and then Heck finished it. I think Heck is a better artist for this series. Much like Ant-Man, he gives it a bit of a 60s secret agent spin that works for it.

Next time: Hypnotism! Drowning! Ant-Man.


Roger Owen Green said...

I like your Marvel reviews. Don't have much to SAY about them, but I read 'em just the same.

SamuraiFrog said...

I just appreciate that you read them!