Friday, October 23, 2009

Hey! Tony Stark Used to be a Hero!!

Invincible Iron Man #60-61 (July-August 1973)
“Cry Marauder!” & “Death Knells Over Detroit!”Mike Friedrich-George Tuska/Mike Esposito

NOTE: This post was written around two weeks before we learned of the passing of George Tuska, on Friday, October 16, 2009. We would like to extend our condolences to Mr. Tuska's family and friends, and shout out a posthumous "thanks" for the many four-color memories George gave comics fans over the past 70 years. For information on Tuska's body of work, please see

Doug: Welcome to a Bronze Age look at that hero you love to hate (at least the way he’s portrayed these days) – Iron Man! In the whole scheme of Bronze Age Marvel Comics, this issue had some powerful contemporaries, as it was on the stands at the same time as Amazing Spider-Man #122, and about a month ahead of the first issue of FOOM!

Doug: Iron Man #60 was my first solo IM story, although I can’t really claim ownership. A buddy of mine, who was the ripe old age of 8 (I was a year his junior) had this comic. We used to get together to compare burgeoning collections – he must have made it to the grocery or drug store more frequently than did I, as he had a much broader variety of books. So it was always cool to go over to his house to not only see his stash of funny books, but to get some serious Mego-playing done as well! The cover to #60 features an iconic image of Iron Man by John Romita and Gaspar Saladino that has been used for Marvel's publicity and marketing purposes over the years.
Doug: Author Friedrich wastes no time in getting down to business, launching us full-on into the story with a scene in which the Masked Marauder, he of Daredevil’s rogues gallery, and a couple of heavies break into a hangar and steal an experimental space shuttle. Being around for the first launch of the space shuttle, I guess I was a little surprised to read the term and see a version of the vehicle in a comic from 1973. Upon doing a little research, however, I found that the space shuttle program had actually begun in the 1960’s, commissioned by Richard Nixon with VP Spiro Agnew chairing the committee.
Karen: Did you notice that the prototype space shuttle is named “Star Reach II”? Writer Friedrich was the publisher of “Star*Reach”, one of the first independently published comics. It premiered in 1974, a year after this IM issue.

Doug: As one might expect from an IM comic, there is a lot of technology and discussion thereof. Gadgets, different types of metal, various beams that can cut and/or destroy – you name it, it’s in this book.

Doug: We would be remiss if we did not discuss George Tuska’s art. Tuska’s body of work is impressive in volume, but I’ll confess that I’ve never really warmed to him. I’ve seen him on many different books (mostly Marvels), and he just doesn’t have a style that really grabs me. It is a distinctive style – of that there can be no doubt. His faces, some of the poses that almost become stock poses, etc. just scream his pencil is on the page. And I guess, though, that I can’t really pin one particular aspect of his style that I don’t like. He moves the story, but he doesn’t change camera angles very often and his panel layouts are very standard. Maybe that’s it.
Karen: I can’t say much here; I’ve never been a fan of Tuska. His style seemed sort of broad and uninteresting to me.

Doug: I’ll add that there was a nurse character in this story who was really caricatured – very cartoony. I thought she seemed out-of-place.

Karen: Yes, I was wondering if that was some sort of in-joke. Very odd.

Doug: I found the scenes where it appears that the marriage of Happy and Pepper is falling apart to be reminiscent of the scenes in the Iron Man movie where Tony and Pepper become nearly-romantically involved. Don’t know if this particular issue influenced Iron Man director Jon Favreau or not…

Karen: It’s kind of hilarious in retrospect. Friedrich is clearly trying to show that Pepper has grown, is becoming ‘liberated’, and yet he has her referencing going to “beauty school” as one of her accomplishments! But I guess 35 years of hindsight gives me a different take on things.
Karen: Another attempt at social awareness is when the second nurse makes a comment to Stark about the “Asian blood” his machines have spilled. Of course Stark had already shifted Stark Industries away from munitions but Marvel citizens have long memories it seems!

Doug: Did you think it was ever clear whether or not the Marauder and his minions were flying the shuttle when IM engaged them? I read over those pages a few times and couldn’t decide.

Karen: There was reference to them landing it early in the fight, so I don’t think they really engaged mid-air.

Doug: As is typical of IM comics really throughout time, IM has to fight a guy wearing a suit of armor. In this case, however, Tony’s adversary really proves to be second-rate.

Karen: Especially when you consider that the guy’s head is totally unprotected! One iron fist to the noggin and it would be lights out!

Doug: The story concludes with a cliffhanger as the Marauder uses his main weapon, and that is his blinding visor-blast. After Tony is seeing stars, the Marauder lets him have it with another high-tech blast, felling him. He then proceeds to enter the shuttle, carrying our fallen warrior.

Doug: IM #61 picks up right where #60 left off, with Iron Man defeated at the hands of the Masked Marauder. Penciller George Tuska draws him in a heavy metal harness, but I have to say – the cover by Rich Buckler and Frank Giacoia shows a much, much more disabled Tony Stark. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say Buckler has a better imagination than Tuska – shoot, for all I know, these gadgets were Kirby’s (see our post involving Buckler-swipes at!

Doug: The concept of the space shuttle continues to amaze me. It’s been such a part of our lives for the past 25 years, that this 1973 depiction is just science fiction! Not only the look of the vehicle, but that Friedrich/Tuska envisioned it taking off like an airplane…

Karen: Well, there’s been talk of a space plane since the days of von Braun. But I don’t know if any of the proposed designs looked anything like the one Tuska came up with!
Doug: Well, to make a long review short, I didn’t care for this story. It was just fighting, with no real direction. I guess a reader could defend Friedrich by saying this was some awesome struggle on the part of Iron Man to be free from his captor and foil the plot to destroy Detroit. I interpreted it as almost some sort of filler. The only characterization involved two very short soap opera scenes that moved the Happy/Pepper/Tony love triangle toward resolution. I just didn’t find anything particularly interesting here…

Karen: Yeah, honestly, these two issues reminded me of why I was not a regular Iron Man reader in the 70s. It always seemed like so many of his stories were just dull. The villains here are clearly no match for Iron Man. I can’t understand why he would have any trouble with these goons at all. Big ‘blah’ for me.

Doug: It would be easier to criticize than laud. I was glad to see Friedrich explain that the thug (Steele – duh…) who took off IM’s glove would have a very limited residual power supply. Did you wonder why they would not have found a way to put Iron Man under, and remove his entire suit while he was constrained?

Doug: In the end, the Marauder is of course defeated, and somewhat easily in the whole scheme of things. He is a pretty weak villain – raving lunatic with technology-based powers, and a costume that’s not even all that menacing. Overall, a dud.

Doug: So in my future inspection of Silver/Bronze Age Iron Man comics, I think I will backtrack a bit further to the Gene Colan years. Hopefully they will prove more fulfilling than this rather pedestrian story.

Karen: Either that, or go forward to the Micheline-Layton stories. That’s when I finally started to like Iron Man!


Chris PV said...

See, when I first read this, all I could think was "Wait, he's a Daredevil villain with the power to blind people? Who on Earth thought that was a good idea?"

On the other hand, maybe he's not really that evil. Blinding people means they don't have to see that ludicrous costume. I'm sure that the Marauder caused more injuries by people seeing him and laughing so hard they fell over and hit their head than by any true villainy.

Karen said...

It's interesting how some villains can move on from decade to decade and others can't make that jump. The Marauder looks pretty lame nowadays, but he was a fairly regular Daredevil foe at one time. Or what about Diablo from the Fantastic Four? The Chameleon? Stiltman? I can't recall seeing any of them in recent years.Probably just as well!

Chris PV said...

Well, Diablo is a cool concept cursed with a hideous costume. Chameleon was fairly active for a while back in the early 2000s, but ever since One Day More there seems to be a concerted effort to not use any of Spidey's classic villains. Hence, Menace the slightly yellowish goblin and Mr. Negative. As for Stilt-Man, I do know what became of him. The Punisher started a new series, and to show how serious he is they had him kill off some z-list villains. High pockets was first on the list.

Doug said...

Perhaps we should do a post of villains dedicated to specific heroes. For example, while the much-maligned Stilt-Man could pose a problem for DD, he'd be nothing to Cyclops. Cyke would just shear him off at the knees and deck him one upside the head.

What do you think?


Chris PV said...

You could call that the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series. I love those games, but it is pretty funny seeing the Rhino giving Thor trouble, or seeing Daredevil take down Ulik.

In all seriousness, I would like to see something like that. It sounds quite groovy!

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