Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Marvels: Tales of Suspense #51

"The Sinister Scarecrow" by Stan Lee & Don Heck
(March 1964)

I can't decide if the Scarecrow has real potential, or if he's a buffoon with a ridiculous concept.

We first meet the man as the Uncanny Umberto, an escape artist and contortionist who helps Iron Man catch a thief when their fight spills into the theater where Umberto is performing. Iron Man is grateful and pays Umberto an empty compliment. It goes something like this.

Iron Man: "Good skills! Glad you're on our side!"

Umberto: "You're right, I should become a super villain!"

That is the whole level of reasoning. That's all it takes for Umberto to decide, that second, to just quit and become a bad guy. He steals a Halloween costume on the way home, steals, er, trained crows from another act, and just decides to become the Scarecrow, master thief.

And the first person he robs? Tony Stark. Tony and Happy Hogan actually walk in on the Scarecrow ransacking the apartment, and poor Happy gets Worfed. The guy's gonna keep getting Worfed, isn't he? (The reference here is from TV Tropes, "The Worf Effect," where the new villain easily throws the toughest guy in the room to establish what a threat he is; when it's used too much, you end up with Worf, who is apparently a badass, but who can be perceived as a weakling because we mostly see him getting his ass handed to him by every villain who needs his physical prowess shorthanded.) As if that weren't insulting enough, Iron Man is easily defeated by three trained crows, some cord, and a curtain.

The Scarecrow makes off with some defense plans, then offers by phone to meet Tony at the harbor and let him buy the plans back. Predictably, the Scarecrow double crosses Tony, taking the money and the plans, and heading off to a rendezvous with a Cuban gunboat with the plans and the intent to defect. Tony has the briefcase full of money bugged, and Iron Man follows the Scarecrow out to sea, there's a brief fight, and Iron Man uses a drill attachment to sink the Cuban boat.

Scarecrow, amazingly, gets away... I can't describe it, you need to see it.

Those are some powerful crows. Of course, given what the Scarecrow does physically in this story, he's apparently got no bones and weighs approximately nothing pounds. Or he's just made of liquid, I don't know.

Anyway, Tony's recovered the plans and just calls it a draw.

Stray notes:

:: The Uncanny Umberto stops that thief early on by rolling himself into a ball and bowling the guy over. Then he says, triumphantly: "Strrrrike three! You're out!" It just seems like a weird time to use a baseball phrase when he's just acted like a bowling ball. Come on, man, you sound stupid.

:: There's a whole subplot in here where Pepper Potts tells a couple of lies to keep Tony from being able to date a blonde woman called Veronica Vogue. She gets her comeuppance, I guess, when Tony gives Pepper the Broadway tickets he had for his date and tells her and Happy to have a good time. I kind of hate that Happy Hogan, who seems like a decent guy, is treated like the booby prize just because he's not rich and hunky and glamorous. And can there be something--one thing--anything--more to Pepper than just being jealous and desperate for Tony Stark?

And speaking of Tony and women, he's not a cad in a cute way, although Stan Lee thinks he is. Tony knows right away that Pepper sent Veronica packing, but it's not big loss, because "she was becoming a bore, anyway!" So, not only are women disposable to Tony, he also sets Pepper and Happy up to teach her a lesson. Haha, now you have to date Happy, he's horrible! Ugh.

Well, that issue was kind of fun in its silliness. The Scarecrow isn't the Mandarin, but he's kind of fun in that bad Saturday morning cartoon sort of way. We'll see if we see this guy again.

Next Marvels: speaking of cheesy villains, the Porcupine is back.

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