Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Defunct!

For anyone who is inexplicably waiting for more posts on this blog: wait no more!  I'm still quietly cataloging Marvel's silver age comics, but instead of funneling that effort into the blog I am working on a series of books.  So, alas, this blog is no more.  I'll still leave it up for posterity; where else will you find indexes of the early Ant-Man stories?  There won't be any more posts, though.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tales of Suspense #39


Cover Date: March 1963
Release Date: December 10th, 1962
Cover Price: $0.12 US

Pages: 32 (25 story pages)
Format: Colour comic book on newsprint

FIRST STORY TITLE:

Iron Man is Born! (13 pages)

CREDITS:

Plot: Stan Lee
Script: Larry Lieber
Art: Don Heck
Lettering: Art Simek

NOTE: The front cover was pencilled by Jack Kirby, inked by Don Heck and lettered by Artie Simek. Stan Lee was the editor.

SYNOPSIS:

While demonstrating his wares in Vietnam, arms dealer Tony Stark is caught in a booby trap that leaves him with shrapnel embedded in his chest. He is captured by guerrilla warlord Wong-Chu, who forces Tony to build him some weapons before the shrapnel kills him. Instead, with aid of fellow captive Professor Yinsen, Tony develops the Iron Man armour, which keeps him alive and allows him to destroy Wong-Chu and his army.

FLASHBACKS:

There’s a short flashback that depicts what Tony’s life was like before his fateful trip to Vietnam. He is seen being admired by women on the beach, taking another woman to dinner, and working in his lab.

CONTINUITY:

As this is the first appearance of Iron Man, it should go without saying that this takes place before Avengers #1.

TRIVIA:

This is the first appearance of Iron Man, one of the most important characters in the Marvel Universe. Besides his run in Tales of Suspense, that lasts until its transformation into Captain America with issue #100, Iron Man has had a solo series running continuously since 1968 (not to mention all of the spin-off series and one shots). He is a mainstay and founder of the Avengers, and spent a good year or so in 2008 in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D., running the lives of every super hero in the Marvel Universe. He has also been the star of two hit movies and a couple of cartoon series, and is one of the relatively few Marvel heroes with a profile amongst the general public.

Iron Man’s armour is completely grey in this story. This lasts until Tales of Suspense #40, in which he paints his armour gold. The same basic clunky design (known as the Mark I armour) lasts until Tales of Suspense #48, in which it is replaced with a sleeker red-and-gold model.

This is the first appearance of Wong-Chu, the communist guerrilla tyrant who likes to wrestle his opponents. He is killed in this story, but it is revealed in Iron Man #267 that he was a pawn of the Mandarin. He shows up alive again in Iron Man Annual 2000, and is killed off for good in that story.

Professor Ho Yinsen makes his first appearance here.  He dies in this story, but much later in Iron Man v3 #46-48 a group of his disciples try to resurrect him by placing his brain into a suit of Iron Man armour.  His past is also retconned when Iron Man's origin is moved to Afghanistan.  His son shows up in Iron Man v4 #7-12, where he uses a mind-control device that Yinsen supposedly planted in Tony Stark during Tales of Suspense #39.

The details of this story have probably been messed around with more so than the origin of any other Marvel hero. This is a necessity, given the way Marvel time works; the character cannot exist as a young man in the present while having been a part of the Vietnam War. The war in question was later changed to a generic war in ‘south-east Asia’, and then much later to Afghanistan in an extensive retcon in Iron Man v4 #1-6.

Tony Stark makes a big deal about the power of transistors in this story, and indeed for the majority of the 1960s most of his powers are transistor-based. Nowadays the transistor is one of the most basic building blocks of our everyday electronic devices, but in 1963 they had only been around commercially for about a decade. It may sound strange now for Iron Man to be waxing philosophic about the awesome power of his transistors, but in 1962 it probably sounded very futuristic indeed.

This story is set during the early stages of the USA's involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1962, the USA had about 11,000 troops in Vietnam, with General Paul Harkins, the commander of the US forces in South Vietnam, confident that they would be victorious by the end of 1963. It makes some sense that they would have Tony Stark showing them inventions that would help them win as quickly as possible.

CHARACTERS APPEARING:

Feature Character: Iron Man
Villains: Wong-Chu and his army
Other Characters: American soldiers, a US general, another officer, women on the beach (in flashback), Tony’s date (in flashback), chauffeur (in flashback), Vietnamese villagers, Wong-Chu’s surgeon, Professor Yinsen

*


SECOND STORY TITLE:

The Treasure (2 text pages)

REPRINT:

This story was reprinted from Uncanny Tales #36.

*

THIRD STORY TITLE:

“The Last Rocket!” (5 pages)

CREDITS:

None

NOTE: There are no credits in the story itself, but according to www.comics.org it was probably plotted by Stan Lee, scripted by Larry Lieber, pencilled and inked by Gene Colan, and lettered by Ray Holloway.

SYNOPSIS:

When scientists discover that the sun is burning out, the human race starts evacuating the planet in rockets. Only two nature loving people remain, but when the last of the other people have left a new sun appears. The two, named Adam and Eve, decide to rename the planet as Earth and repopulate the human race.

FLASHBACKS:

There are no flashbacks in this story.

CONTINUITY:

Given the presence of a fully functional 20th century society on Earth in prehistoric times, I’m inclined to say that this story is set in an alternate reality. It could probably be squeezed into the Marvel Universe with some effort, but it seems unlikely that any Marvel writer will ever do so.

TRIVIA:

This story is a retelling of "I Am the Last Man on Earth!" from Strange Worlds #1.

CHARACTERS APPEARING:

Feature Characters: Adam, Eve
Other Characters: Golfers, oil rig workers, scientists, various citizens, rocket builders, rocket passengers

*


FOURTH STORY TITLE:

Gundar! (5 pages)

CREDITS:

Script: Stan Lee
Art: Steve Ditko
Lettering: Art Simek

SYNOPSIS:

A castaway is washed up on an island where he meets a tribe of centuries-old Vikings who were cursed into eternal exile by their captain Gundar. Only Gundar can set them free, so they have remained there all this time. But they now disappear, as the castaway is Gundar’s descendent, and they have been released from the curse.

FLASHBACKS:

There is a flashback to a time centuries ago, that depicts Gundar cursing his insubordinate crew members.

CONTINUITY:

There’s nothing in this story that specifically places it in Marvel continuity, although Odin makes a cameo appearance.

TRIVIA:

Odin makes a one-panel appearance in this story to enact Gundar’s curse. He had already been appearing in the Thor stories in Journey into Mystery by this point, but this appearance is set centuries ago, and significantly predates those appearances.

CHARACTERS APPEARING:

Feature Characters: Gundar (Viking captain, in flashback), Gundar (his descendant)
Other Characters: Vikings, Odin (in flashback)

*


BEHIND THE SCENES:

Stan Lee on the creation of Iron Man:

"I think I gave myself a dare. It was the height of the Cold War. The readers, the young readers, if there was one thing they hated, it was war, it was the military ... So I got a hero who represented that to the hundredth degree. He was a weapons manufacturer, he was providing weapons for the Army, he was rich, he was an industrialist ... I thought it would be fun to take the kind of character that nobody would like, none of our readers would like, and shove him down their throats and make them like him ... And he became very popular.”
Stan Lee on basing Tony Stark on Howard Hughes:

"Howard Hughes was one of the most colorful men of our time. He was an inventor, an adventurer, a multi-billionaire, a ladies' man and finally a nutcase"…"Without being crazy, he was Howard Hughes," Lee said.
Don Heck on Iron Man’s design:

"He designed the costume," Heck said of Kirby, "because he was doing the cover. The covers were always done first. But I created the look of the characters, like Tony Stark and his secretary Pepper Potts.”
EXTRA MATERIAL:

There’s no extra material in this issue.

IN THE ADS:

There’s nothing of interest in the ads in this issue.

ON THE LETTERS PAGE:

This issue doesn’t have a letters page.

REVIEW:

I’m not sure what to make of the origin of Iron Man. On the one hand, I really enjoy all of the material to do with Tony Stark. His character is pretty well established in a short time. The set-up with the shrapnel in his chest, and the armour being invented to keep him alive, is something I have always loved. And the armour comes across quite impressively when we first see it in action. But Wong-Chu is a seriously poor Comm/Yellow Peril villain. I guess he serves adequately enough as a stock villain, one who allows Tony Stark and Iron Man to be the main focus of the story, but he is dragging things down a bit. It’s also interesting to see that Iron Man kills him outright here, setting him up as a morally grey character from the outset. (It’s not an aspect of his character that will be much explored for a few decades yet.)

“The Last Rocket!” has a swerve at the end that is just so bizarre and out of nowhere that I just had to love it. “Gundar!” was a little down on Ditko’s usual quality, though he does do some surprisingly awesome viking battles.

Last Issue - Next Issue

Monday, March 14, 2011

Yet more Tales to Astonish edits

I'm plaugging along here, trying to get my Tales to Astonish entries up-to-date by including the back-up strips.  Here are the links to what I've done recently:

Tales to Astonish #39
Tales to Astonish #40
Tales to Astonish #41
Tales to Astonish #42
Tales to Astonish #43
Tales to Astonish #44

In addition to the above updates, I have included some information on the creation of Ant-Man that recently came to light in the depositions for the Kirby Family vs. Marvel lawsuit.  You can see that here:

Tales to Astonish #35

Monday, December 13, 2010

More Tales to Astonish edits

Things have been pretty quiet around here lately.  I've been focusing more on my other comic-related blog, over at comicsodyssey.blogspot.com, where I'm reading every comic I can get my hands on starting from 1935 and moving forward in time.  The only thing I've updated here recently is an update of the indexes for Tales to Astonish #27 and #38

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tales to Astonish Edit

Today I made some edits to the index for Tales to Astonish #37.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tales to Astonish edits

I've managed to get a hold of the back-up stories in Tales to Astonish, so I'm going back and adding them to the indexes I've already done.  Today I updated Tales to Astonish #36, if you want to go and take a look.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tales to Astonish #53

Cover Date: March 1964
Release Date: December 2nd, 1963
Cover Price: $0.12 US

Pages: 32 (25 story pages)
Format: Colour comic book on newsprint

FIRST STORY TITLE:

Giant-Man and the Wonderful Wasp!  “Trapped by the Porcupine!”  (18 pages)

CREDITS:

Story by: Daring Stan Lee
Art by: Dazzling Dick Ayers
Lettering by: Dynamic S. Rosen

NOTE: S. Rosen’s first name is Sam.  The front cover was pencilled by Jack Kirby and inked by Sol Brodsky.  Stan Lee was the editor.

SYNOPSIS:

The Porcupine plots his revenge on Giant-Man.  During their first confrontation he kidnaps the Wasp, then releases her so that he can track her back to Giant-Man’s home.  He attacks, and manages to steal what he thinks are Giant-Man’s growth capsules.  But he took the shrinking capsules by mistake, and when he takes them all he shrinks away into nothingness.

FLASHBACKS:

The Porcupine is shown flying away from a successful robbery, a scene that probably happened between panels of the Ant-Man story in Tales to Astonish #48.

The Porcupine’s defeat from that same story is also depicted.  Some of the dialogue is altered, but otherwise the scenes haven’t changed.

The Wasp’s capture during this story is also depicted in flashback.

CONTINUITY:

There are no clues in this story to place it in relation to other Marvel comics.

TRIVIA:

Ant-Man’s still living in New Jersey, which is consistent with his previous appearances.  There’s even a map of the area on which the approximate location of Giant-Man’s house is shown.

The Giant-Man fan club appear here, with many of its members dressed up as Giant-Man’s villains.  Among the costumes shown are the Black Knight (from Tales to Astonish #52), the Human Top (from Tales to Astonish #50-51), Egghead (from Tales to Astonish #38 and #45), Doctor Doom (from Ant-Man's guest-starring role in Fantastic Four #16), the Living Eraser (from Tales to Astonish #49), and Trago the evil jazz trumpeter (from Tales to Astonish #47).

CHARACTERS APPEARING:

Feature Characters: Giant-Man, Wasp
Villains: Porcupine
Other Characters: Citizens of New York, police officers (in flashback), the Giant-Man fan club (Charlie named), ants

*

SECOND STORY TITLE: The Clock (2 text pages)

*

THIRD STORY TITLE: The Wonderful Wasp Tells a Tale  “When Wakes the Colossus!”  (5 pages)

CREDITS:

Story Plot: Stan Lee
Script & Art: Larry Lieber
Inking: D. Heck
Lettering: R. Holloway

NOTE: D. Heck’s first name is Don.  R. Holloway’s first name is Ray.

SYNOPSIS:

The Wasp tells Henry Pym the story that she’s planning to tell at the local veteran’s hospital.  It’s about an evil warlord named Mingo who uses his enemies’ superstitions against them.  To crush the thought of rebellion, he has a massive statue built, and says that it will come to life and seek vengeance on anyone who revolts against him.  Eventually there is a rebellion, and the statue does come to life, but instead of attacking the rebels it destroys Mingo’s palace and drives him out.  The Wasp is annoyed that Henry did not pay attention to her story.

FLASHBACKS:

There are no flashbacks in this story.

CONTINUITY:

There are no clues in this story to place it in relation to other Marvel comics.

TRIVIA:

There’s no trivia to write about in this story.

CHARACTERS APPEARING:

Feature Character: Wasp
Regular Character: Giant-Man
Fictional Characters: Warlord Mingo, his guards and soldiers, various oppressed people, the colossus statue

*

BEHIND THE SCENES:

Nothing of interest happened behind the scenes regarding this comic, so far as I know.

EXTRA MATERIAL:

There is no extra material in this issue.

IN THE ADS:

I don’t have access to the ads in this issue.

ON THE LETTERS PAGE:

This issue doesn’t have a letters page.

REVIEW:

I wasn’t expecting much from this issue, given the less than stellar debut of the Porcupine in issue #48.  Perhaps it’s just that I am setting my expectations so low, but I found this to be a quite enjoyable cat-and-mouse battle between Porcupine and Giant-Man.  That Porcupine actually discovered Pym’s home raised the stakes a bit, but he is of course summarily dispatched and unable to act on that information by the story’s end.  And I think the Giant-Man Fan Club is completely rad.  Yes, its members have picked one of the worst super-heroes as their inspiration, but let’s be honest, if Giant-Man showed up in the real world he’d be pretty fucking impressive.  I’m kind of hoping they show up in the Avengers story where Pym has his breakdown.  Lee and Ayers aren’t setting the world alight with this serial, and I really doubt anyone could with such a bland character, but they are making some dependable super-hero comics.

What is there to say about the Wasp back-up?  The story she tells is okay, but again I fail to see the point of the framing sequence.  Although I do wonder if the Wasp’s fondness for telling sci-fi stories has ever been brought up since this series ended.

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