Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Marvels: Tales of Suspense #48

"The New Iron Man Battles... The Mysterious Mr. Doll!" by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko & Dick Ayers
(December 1963)

Boy, Iron Man really has some of the lamest villains in the Marvel Universe right now, doesn't he? This issue, he faces Mr. Doll, an off-brand Puppet Master who dresses in a homemade jester costume. He has the power to shape and reshape his clay doll into the likeness of another person, and when he does, that person feels whatever pain he wants them to. So, voodoo, basically, although no one throws that word around.

Iron Man runs into Mr. Doll at the castle-like home of a business associate, steel tycoon Charleston Carter. Tony Stark comes calling when Carter cancels a steel contract and sees this Ren Faire cosplayer wandering around the grounds. Capitalist playboy square Stark certainly doesn't like the looks of some kind of hippy wandering around a rich guy's house, so he changes into Iron Man and tries to assess the situation. Turns out Mr. Doll is using his powers to get Carter's entire fortune for himself. When Iron Man tries to intervene, Mr. Doll quickly changes the doll's features to look like Iron Man and starts inflicting pain on Iron Man.

In fact, the pain is so bad that Tony barely makes it back home in time to plug himself in to the wall. He's basically driving home in full cardiac arrest, then blacks out the second the recharge starts. He decides it's the suit that's to blame--it's too bulky, too heavy, and seems to need recharging more and more often, which puts a huge strain on his heart. He begins experimenting with metals and makes this issue's big change: a lighter, more efficient suit.

This is the Iron Man Mark III armor. It's introduced over three full pages, so you can tell Stan's excited about it. Steve Ditko designed it, and I like it much, much better than that Mark II armor he's been wearing since his second appearance. This is what I've been waiting for: a suit that's more form-fitting, more dashing, ultramodern. My biggest complaint, if you remember, about the Mark II was that too many artists (particularly Kirby) made it look like this gigantic trashcan that was too bulky to maneuver in. Don Heck was really the only artist that drew it so it looked more svelte, more like a suit of armor than a deep sea diving suit. The Mark III looks much more like a superhero and less like a guy doing an EVA in space.

The Mark III is more powerful and, because it's lighter, can carry more transistor attachments. The yellow bits over the arms and legs are form-fitting and have the strength of ductile iron. Interestingly, each part has its own back-up power battery in case the main unit fails. The boot jets are standard now. To me, the best part is that the bulky helmet is gone and now Tony has a face mask that gives him a fuller range of vision. He can turn his head! He also says that having more of his expression visible will give him an edge in fighting crime, but I don't know. Besides, whenever Ditko draws him, he always tries to give us glimpses of Tony's eyes through the suit, anyway.

Mr. Doll, having taken the fortunes of three of the richest men in New York, has his sights set now on Tony Stark, so when he attacks he finds Iron Man waiting for him. Mr. Doll once again inflicts pain on Iron Man, but since the new suit is lighter and has less of a strain on Tony's heart, Iron Man is better able to resist pain.

The battle that follows is mainly just Tony trying to resist the amount of pain he's in. He actually goes into another room and disconnects his chest plate in order to slow down his heart rate so the pain won't bother him as much. Then he whips up some device, reattaches the chest plate, faces down Mr. Doll, uses his device to change the shape of Mr. Doll's doll into Mr. Doll himself, and then Mr. Doll collapses in a heap of pain and agony.

It was really a story to introduce the new suit, and in order to do that, you have to create a villain capable of defeating Iron Man. Which they did, but Mr. Doll didn't seem like much of a menace beyond being able to inflict pain. And, in the end, I'm not sure the suit did much to turn the tide.

Mr. Doll can change his doll's features quickly each time he sees Iron Man. It's not a good thing for that to happen in our first outing with the Mark III. I've made this joke before about Tony hastily attaching things to his suit in order to fight villains, and how it either makes the villains look slow and inefficient or it makes Iron Man look kind of lame and slow. So we're given a full three-page build-up to this new, more powerful, lighter, faster, more efficient suit, and the first thing that happens is that Mr. Doll quickly reshapes his doll to look like the Mark III and starts inflicting pain. So, really, is the new suit just as slow as the old one, then, or...?

Sure looks cool, though. That is a cool-looking suit.

Stray observations:

:: There's some wacky business with Tony and Pepper Potts hiding out in what's basically Tony's panic room. She gets the idea that Tony's madly in love with her and throws herself at him in a way that she's going to be ashamed of later. Tony slips out through an escape hatch so he can get in the suit and fight Mr. Doll. And then he promptly forgets that she's locked in that room...

At least Happy's glad to see Pepper.

The Mark III gets a much better workout in next month's Avengers #3, which features the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner. Gee, after teasing that upcoming epic, I almost feel bad letting you know that our next Marvels is a Giant-Man story...

Next: Giant-Man and the Wasp face the Human Top.

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

Always HATED the costume prior to this one.