Tales of Suspense #57 (September 1964)(cover by Don Heck)
"Hawkeye, the Marksman!"
Stan Lee-Don Heck
NOTE: Whenever I try to convert art from one of the Gitcorp dvd-roms to .jpg files, the full-page images frequently come out distorted. Apologies from the start for our less than stellar outcomes today on the visuals! -- Doug
Doug: Welcome to the BAB, post-"Secret Empire"! I think everyone got some degree of satisfaction out of our long tour through that pivotal tale in the life of Captain America. And since Cap always puts most of us in an Avengering mood, Karen and I thought it would be cool to finish the month of April with our own "Marvel Firsts" geared toward the Kooky Quartet era of "Earth's Mightiest Heroes". Today we're obviously kicking things off with everyone's favorite loud-mouthed bowslinger. Next week we'll check in on the debut of the Maximoff twins (on display... oh wait -- that's for Wednesday's FULLY SPOILED Captain America post!), and then we'll conclude with a minor (haha -- is anything minor when the Son of Zeus is involved?) tussle between Thor and Hercules! So buckle in -- there's quite a bit of Silver Age fun winging your way over the next few weeks.
Karen: We probably haven't spent enough time on the Silver Age, really. Sure, we're the Bronze Age Babies, but the Silver Age is our foundation!
Doug: You have my agreement. I have really had a blast the times I've reviewed some of the Silver Age Avengers that are my favorites, and of course we could hardly contain ourselves when we both took a look at Silver Surfer #4. I enjoyed this on my first read a few weeks ago, as I'm not sure I'd ever read the entire story before! Wow -- does this take us back to a simpler time in Marvel history, when each hero's Achilles heel still stood out and influenced the stories month-to-month and individual personalities were still being honed by the creators. Oh, and the soap opera aspect... this one, as they say, has it all!
Karen: You got it right when you said that the "personalities were still being honed by the creators." It was only 1964 after all, for this tale and next week's Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch debut. The characters, as we know them, were not quite there yet.
Doug: Not quite. But when we get to Hercules... Boy, did Stan and Jack get it right the first time with the Lion of Olympus! So we open at one of Tony Stark's factories, where Iron Man saves one of Stark's laborers from a quite precarious situation. But while Iron Man settles everyone down and receives thanks from the assemblage of workers, Happy Hogan comes by and asks for a minute alone with Iron Man. The Golden Avenger fears that something is wrong elsewhere, but Happy tells him that he only wants a favor: since Iron Man is so close to Mr. Stark, couldn't Iron Man ask Mr. Stark to help him out in getting a date with Pepper Potts. We quickly scene shift to Stark's office where he puts his regular clothes over his chestplate. You knew I wasn't going to last long in evading the "rubber mask" conundrum we BABers always complain about. C'mon -- the chestplate must have some serious rigidity to it -- does Stan Lee mean to tell me that no one ever playfully gave him a punch to the midsection? And what of the light on Iron Man's chest? Not exactly a smooth contour on that thing, either. But anyway... I suppose it's not quite as bad as Cap's shield "hidden" under his shirt.
Karen: I'm struck by how un-armorlike Iron Man's suit looks! It's just so soft and round, like the Mego doll. But yes, the idea of a man wearing an iron breastplate under his shirt going undetected seems ludicrous, just like carrying around said armor in a briefcase, but it was a different age.
Doug: I never did wrap my mind around that whole flexible armor deal as a child. And then when Nova came out, we were told that his helmet became like tissue paper when removed from his head. Yeah, whatever.
Doug: So Tony, being loyal to Happy, approaches Pepper about "a date". Well, Stupid, what did you think she was going to hear? And poor Happy, standing just off to the side while Pepper leaps into Stark's surprised arms. Happy sort of tucks his tail and leaves the room, while Stark has to quickly figure out an idea for a date he really doesn't want to go on. Well, maybe I should say a date he shouldn't go on. Of course we're subjected to the Silver Age trope of "I love the girl, but I could never... (fill in the blank depending on the hero)". Heck yes, Stark wants to pursue Pepper, but with the heart thing, the Iron Man thing, the fact that Happy also loves her thing. You know, superheroing stinks -- really it does. So Tony takes Pepper to the boardwalk, mostly in hopes that she'll think he's a schmuck and he won't have to worry about their love for each other becoming openly known. While checking out the various attractions, they pass by a booth wherein toils Hawkeye, the World's Greatest Marksman. However, trouble's brewing elsewhere on one of the rides.
Karen: This whole sequence is so bizarre - such a contrived situation. Stark loves her, but has to keep her away, and he wants to drive her towards Happy, so he takes her on a terrible date... it's weird.
Doug: I was glad in the films when they just said to heck with it and it was pretty obvious that Pepper and Tony were lovers. Maybe angst doesn't play in the 21st century? Iron Man makes short work of the near-catastrophe at the "flying pinwheel" ride, and of course the assemblage of carnival goers cheers widely. And in the first example of a character trait we'll see run through those early appearances in the Avengers, Hawkeye watches from afar, feeling quite inferior. He's actually pretty put out that folks dropped what they were doing to watch Shellhead in action. So Hawkeye (no Clint Barton in this story, and not for a long time if memory serves) stalks off to his workshop where he sets about crafting some trick arrows and designing a costume. And I'll declare, he designs a keeper -- it's one of the Marvel Comics costumes that's stood the test of time with only minor alterations here and there.
Karen: Did the situation with Iron Man inside the spokes of the pinwheel remind you at all of the Avengers film, with Iron Man inside the helicarrier's rotor? It's a pretty slim impetus for Hawkeye's origin -pure envy. But I guess it's as good as any, and certainly that aspect of his personality -the underdog always trying to prove himself -has been consistent. What made me chuckle a bit was some of Hawkeye's dialog here, where he says stuff such as, "Let Iron Man and every costumed adventurer look to his laurels! For Hawkeye is about to make them all look sick!" and "I feel as though the destiny of the entire city below me is in my powerful gloved hands!" Doesn't quite sound like the bowslinger we know, does it?
Doug: The new-and-improved Hawkeye then sets out to reinforce his belief that he's pretty darned good. It's also for our benefit, so we see just what this cat can do. Hawk fires off an arrow with a rope for swinging, which he uses to Spidey-it around town. But very soon he comes across a robbery in progress. Playing hero, Hawkeye uses a conventional arrow to pin the robber's jacket to a phone pole. But the creep's able to wriggle free, and beats it on foot. Hawkeye drops to the ground to inspect the guy's booty (haha - as Winwood sang, when you see a chance, take it) and finds that the heist had included a whole bunch of precious gemstones. But as fate would have it, two cops on a beat happen upon the scene and deduce -- you guessed it -- that Hawkeye is the thief. But since he's not, now he starts running. And he about gets hit, because he runs right out in front of a car driven by -- Madame Natasha, the Black Widow!
Karen: It would be easy to forget that Madame Natasha had started out as a brunette. And of course, she was not a costumed character yet, just a femme fatale Soviet spy. But she was pretty potent in that role. But what a happy coincidence, huh, she's just driving by when this all goes down?
Doug: Natasha, sans costume as you stated, takes Hawkeye to her secret lair. Of course we know the character Clint Barton will become, and his weaker attributes are on full display here -- namely, the fact that he can't resist a pretty skirt! The Widow reads this right away and exploits Hawkeye's infatuation. She tells him that she has an enemy she'd like defeated -- the Invincible Iron Man! But, she cautions, his employer Tony Stark must not be harmed. Hawkeye takes both halves of the command as a challenge, and sets his mind toward winning the heart of his new Russian flame. Meanwhile, we visit Stark in his factory lab, all ablaze with passion for Pepper Potts. Stark's so smitten by her, he about walks out of his lab half-dressed in his armor! It's unclear where the next few panels take place -- in the firm's offices, or perhaps at Pepper's place? Anyway, Happy is there and he's mustered his courage to ask Pepper for a date. Stark walks in, and Pepper decides to play him. Right when Happy feels he's about to get rejected again, Pepper agrees to a date! Stark takes it in stride... this is one odd love triangle here.
Karen: I never read a lot of Tales of Suspense or early Iron Man issues to know if Stark ever really had a relationship with Pepper. I think by the time I started reading it, she was already with Happy. But the whole thing just seems very uncomfortable.
Doug: All of the dodging of potential significant others that played out in most superhero mags really makes you appreciate Barry Allen and Iris West, doesn't it? At least Barry was trying. But I'm no Flash fan or reader, so don't quote me on that.
Doug: Outside of Stark's factory Hawkeye begins his assault. He launches a suction-tipped arrow across a divide, then cables to the building. Scaling the wall, he avoids guards and a vehicle in the process. Now ready to set off his full attack, he fires a blast arrow that creates an explosion. Security comes running, but outpacing them is the Golden Avenger. Hawkeye waits in the shadows, readying the perfect shot to take out his target. This scene is well-written by Stan Lee, and quite formative. Hawkeye had perfected arrows tipped with various chemicals, and once Iron Man was in range he was pelted with several projectiles that released a solution that caused I.M.'s armor to... rust! OK, seriously? You don't think Stark would have taken his get-up to the local Ziebart dealer? Apparently not, because he starts to go all Tin Man on us. He scrambles for a hiding place, finding one in the rafters. He peels off the affected pieces, and thinks that he must get to his extra armors, stashed around the factory grounds (I got a real Norman Osborn vibe out of this).
Karen: It does seem rather silly now to see Iron Man defeated by rust -particularly seeing him crawling around with bare arms and legs! All of the Marvel characters seemed far more human, far more fallible in these early years. In this issue, Hawkeye is a convincing challenge for Iron Man, but as the years went on, the gap in their power levels would expand dramatically. I doubt anyone today would consider Hawkeye to be in Iron Man's league.
Doug: Hawkeye comes across the discarded pieces of Iron Man's armor and figures that anyone able to discern their properties could become quite powerful himself. So as he packs up his "finders-keepers", Stark makes it to a spare attache' case. He quickly replaces the damaged segments of his armor. However, he's missing a right boot; without that, he figures he's no match for Hawkeye without full mobility. Remembering that he'd needed to repair it in another part of the factory, but had to hide it at the time, Stark finally gets himself together and is ready to face the marksman. Trouble now is, Hawkeye's beaten it out of Dodge. So Shellhead takes to the air in pursuit. It doesn't take long before he finds a lone car, speeding in the direction away from the factory. Now I'm no Sherlock Holmes, and I'll bet Tony Stark isn't either. I mean, would you just assume that because the car is doing what you think Hawkeye's car would be doing that it would be OK to open fire on it? Well, Iron Man does just that. Hawkeye was indeed in it, and emerges from the crash ready for battle. But this time Iron Man has the advantage.
Karen: He really blows the crap out of that car!
Doug: Aye, that he does! And then... and then the story get ridiculous. Iron Man and Hawkeye tussle in an open area near some docks. Hawkeye launches an arrow that releases a net of nylon strands, but Iron Man is able to break loose before it constricts. Hawkeye's maneuvered onto a pier. Now I don't know how many of you have been by a river/lake/pond/ocean with a pier. But if you haven't, I have to tell you, kids -- there isn't any fulcrum in the set-up! But you wouldn't know that here, as Iron Man rises high in the sky, only to plummet like a missile onto the end of the pier opposite his nemesis. Yup -- Hawkeye is launched up and off the pier as if he'd been on a see saw. And then... it gets more ridiculous. Hawkeye lands on a tall pile, clinging to it with both arms and both legs. Iron Man swoops in and grabs the top of the pile... and pulls it like you'd pull a toy catapult -- whiplashing our archer right off and far away! Iron Man follows him and pulls him out of the drink, unconscious.
Karen: The action here was cartoonlike. I almost wonder if they were running out of space and had to wrap the fight up quickly.
Doug: To be honest, I had it set in my mind that this was a split book, so I felt like there were at least two codas to the action! Watching from afar was the Black Widow, who'd arrived by boat to pick up Hawkeye after his victory. But unbeknownst to her, a set of circumstances was shaping up that would prove the endgame here. Iron Man moved away from his unconscious charge, and as he walked away, Hawkeye reached into his arsenal and pulled out the head of the "demolition arrow" -- a little warhead he'd cooked up with Natasha's help. Righting himself, Hawkeye let 'er rip. But he hadn't calculated the power of Iron Man's armor -- and that it would deflect the arrow straight toward the Widow. Knocked unconscious by the blow. Now crazed with fear, Hawkeye scoops up his would-be lover and makes tracks for her vessel. Iron Man, still staggered from the force of the demolition arrow, tries to follow. However, he pulls back immediately as an airplane taking off from nearby LaGuardia Airport buzzes him. Hawkeye gets away.
Karen: I like the way Heck drew the sequence with Hawkeye getting up and then firing the arrow at Iron Man. That had a real sense of suspense and excitement. The melodrama here could be cut with a knife, as Hawkeye professes that Natasha is the only one he's ever loved -he just met her!
Doug: What a wonderful slice of early Marvel Universe life this one is, huh? It has all the hallmarks of a Stan Lee Silver Age yarn, what with the romantic angst, the Communist threat, an anti-hero, and some cool tech. And this is the Don Heck that I like, before rigor mortis hit his figurework. I thought Hawkeye appeared pretty much fully-formed, with no trouble at all recognizing him from his later appearances as a member of Cap's Kooky Quartet. Solid effort all the way around, here.
Doug: Bonus! This comic book was one of the lucky ones that was adapted (converted?) into an episode of the 1966 series Marvel Super-Heroes. So, if you're so inclined, you can "watch along" and then come back for a re-read of our review! Enjoy!