Friday, May 09, 2014

Marvels: Tales of Suspense #46

"Iron Man Faces the Crimson Dynamo!" by Stan Lee, Robert Bernstein & Don Heck
(October 1963)

I don't know much about the Crimson Dynamo. Is he Iron Man's arch-villain? (Remember, I've not read much in the way of Iron Man.) I ask because, throughout the 80s and 90s and onward, there seemed to always be talk of an Iron Man movie. (Remember back when Tom Cruise was going to play Iron Man?) Crimson Dynamo was the villain I most heard people bring up as the probable villain for the movie, after everyone dismissed the Mandarin for being too problematic.

So this is the first appearance of the Crimson Dynamo, the Soviet Union's answer to Iron Man. It's an interesting idea to give Tony Stark a villain who is basically the opposite version of Stark. (We know it's an interesting idea because each Iron Man movie did this--Obadiah Stane, Justin Hammer and Aldrich Killian were all like Tony with less brilliance and more greed.) This is Professor Anton Vanko, who has created an electric-powered version of the Iron Man suit and, after demonstrating its capabilities to the reader and to a very nervous, paranoid Nikita Khrushchev, heads to the US to begin sabotaging Stark Industries.

To make a short story shorter, Vanko does so great a job of secretly sabotaging Stark (for weeks, according to the narration) that rumors start in Washington, DC, that Stark is working with a communist spy ring to deliberately wreck America's defense experiments. Tony is certainly in danger of losing all of his government contracts. When he's at the end of his rope, the Crimson Dynamo drops in and, for the first time in the history of this character, it's armor vs. armor.

Unfortunately, the Crimson Dynamo's electrified armor sounds better than it is. If he wants to melt tanks and destroy rockets, it's great, but Iron Man counters it pretty simply with an electric force field and then simply dangles Dynamo over the water and threatens to drop him in. So, the Crimson Dynamo built a suit that could electrocute itself... imagine if it had rained!

Iron Man then plays a recording for Dynamo: it's Khrushchev, ordering Vanko's execution upon his return to the USSR. Then and there, Vanko agrees to defect to America and work for Stark. He doesn't even question the recording--which, it turns out, is merely Stark imitating Khrushchev's voice--"because he knows how treacherous communists are!"

The funny thing is, the story had already set up that Khrushchev was suspicious and wary of Vanko's power in the suit, and Vanko has thought that, as a national hero, he could perhaps replace Khrushchev as Soviet premier. So, those feelings were already there... but rather than play on those, Bernstein decides to go for pure jingoism and have Vanko realize the error of his ways.

It was 1963, man.

Stray notes:

:: Khrushchev isn't named, though he appears for four pages and in the final panel (vowing revenge on Iron Man). I did enjoy the way Bernstein's script asked if we recognized "the Mr. Big of the Iron Curtain."

Khrushchev is getting to be quite a fixture in the Marvel Universe.

:: Seriously, how do people not know that Tony Stark is Iron Man? The USSR wants Vanko to both destroy Iron Man and sabotage Stark Industries. Even in Russia, they're associating Stark and Iron Man. And after that business with the Actor, they probably have good reason to. When Vanko decides it's time to fight Iron Man, he goes right to Stark's main plant. Enough with the mystery.

:: Happy: "I gave up the ring because I didn't want to hurt anybody!" Pepper: "Anybody named Happy Hogan, you mean!"

:: According to Marvel Wiki, the unnamed politician who suspects Stark is a communist agent is Senator Harrington Byrd in his first appearance. That name doesn't register with me, but I suppose we'll see where this goes.

This was an alright issue. I mean, it's still not doing much for me, but I thought the cartoonish depiction of Khrushchev was funny and the Crimson Dynamo was interesting (and looked neat). There was a lot of potential there for a villain who was very similar to Iron Man himself, but I feel like this is another instance where giving Iron Man an entire issue rather than 13 pages would have really helped.

Next time: Ant-Man stops fighting scientists, geniuses, mystics, aliens, and thieves and finally gets a real super-villain.

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