Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

X-amining Tales of Suspense #49

"The New Iron Man Meets the Angel"
January 1964

In a Nutshell
Iron Man fights Angel

Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Steve Ditko
Inker: Paul Reinman
Letterer: Sam Rosen

Plot
Angel is flying over a Stark facility just as it triggers an atomic explosion as part of a munitions test. The ensuing radiation brings out Angel's dark side, and when he returns to the X-Mansion, he easily bests his teammates before declaring his intent to join the evil mutants and flies off. Hoping to draw their attention, he goes on a rampage, and Professor X reaches out to the Avengers for help. Iron Man is the only one to respond, and he attempts to capture Angel. But Angel manages to evade and outfly Iron Man, so Iron Man resorts to a desperate gamble: depleting his power, sending him plummeting to the ground, in the hope that Angel's better nature will come to the surface. It does, and Angel rescues Iron Man, after which Iron Man meets the X-Men, and Professor Xavier promises to repay Iron Man for his help.

Firsts and Other Notables
On sale in the month between X-Men #2 and #3 (X-Men was bi-monthly at the time), this issue represents the X-Men's first appearance outside their own title.

The X-Men meet Iron Man for the first time at the end of this issue.


This issue ends with Professor X telling Iron Man he owes him a favor; Iron Man tries to collect in Avengers #3, contacting Professor X for help locating the Hulk, but receives a rather curt response (Xavier basically says they'll keep an eye out and holler if they see Hulk, like, thanks no thanks).


Occurring relatively early in the Marvel Universe, this is the tenth issue of Tales of Suspense to feature Iron Man (he first appeared in #39), and is the second issue to feature his upgraded, less bulky armor (hence the reference to the new Iron Man in the story's title).

This also takes place in the narrow window that Hulk is a member of the Avengers (before issue #3 of their series, which launched the same month as X-Men), as he is depicted as being a member.

Steve Ditko, co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, draws this issue. It is a rare (perhaps the only) chance to see him drawing the X-Men, as well as the original X-Men.

A Work in Progress
Beast calls Angel one of the first X-Men, saying they joined together; Angel was actually the third person to join the team, and was a member before Beast.


Professor X is worried that with his X-Men training, Angel would prove a tremendous threat as one of the evil mutants, because if there's anything that's going to prove too difficult to stop, it's apparently Angel's ability to fly through hoops on command.


Of course, once Iron Man snaps Angel out of it, Professor X credits his training.


The evil mutants Angel wants to join are never named (and this story predates the introduction of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, so at this point we're dealing with, essentially, Magneto & Vanisher as the only previously-established evil mutants).

Ah, the Silver Age 
The premise of this issue is so delightfully Silver Aged, with Angel being caught in an atomic blast (set off my Tony Stark as part of a test, because sure, why not sent off nuclear weapons in the city?) and the ensuing radiation turning him temporarily evil (as opposed to, say, killing him immediately or slowly via cancer).


Angel is able to flap his wings...fast enough to...melt ice?


Also, Marvel Girl's telekinesis is depicted as being a visible force which can be dodged.

Iron Man attempts to stop Angel from flying through a door by sealing with some hand-flung magnets, prompting Angel to...simply go out a different door nearby.


Thankfully, it's noted that Angel's radiation-fueled rampage didn't cause any damage.

We also get one of those nifty Silver Age cutaways to show how something (sort of) works.


Another patented Professor Xavier invention, the viewscope. enables the X-Men to watch the Angel/Iron Man fight.


Human/Mutant Relations
The X-Men are said to be a licensed organization, with a direct line to the Avengers.


Austin's Analysis
Of all the original X-Men, Angel is the one Stan Lee decided to single out as the chief antagonist of Iron Man (and feature on the cover) in this issue, which is an interesting decision - mainly because Angel has always seemed like the weakest of the original X-Men (aside from Marvel Girl, but that's more down to the writing; on paper, telekinesis > giant bird wings), but also because, while Iron Man is capable of flight, it's not really his chief feature (especially at this point in his history), making Angel an odd antagonist for him (to Lee's credit, Angel does outfly Iron Man, thus honoring the unwritten maxim that characters who can only do one thing really well should always beat characters who can do that thing along with other things aka "Why Flash is Faster Than Superman"). It seems like Iceman or Cyclops might have made for a more thematic match but, given the times, Angel probably just popped better on the cover.

Also interesting in this issue is the X-Men's attempted communication with the Avengers, and the note that they're using a frequency shared by duly-authorized crime fighters, which, given the X-Men's later history and relationship with the authorities, seems like an odd scenario. It is, of course, just another example of Lee tossing something out there to satisfy the needs of the script right in front of him at the moment, but it also underlines how the innovation of the X-Men being mutants was originally less about what that meant in terms of their relationship to "regular" humans, and more about making it so Lee didn't have to come up with a specific origin for every super-powered hero going forward, with all the "feared and hated" stuff that would come to define them and set them apart from other teams coming later.

Next Issue
A minor Hulk antagonist makes his first appearance in Incredible Hulk #180-182.

13 comments:

  1. So it's been years since I did my (one and only) read of the full Iron Man/Tales of Suspense run (up until '90 or so) and I honestly don't even remember this issue. That said, in the 60s it was pretty obvious which comics Stan cared about putting effort into and which he didn't, and Iron Man was clearly one of the ones he didn't. Unlike most other major Marvel books of the era it didn't really have a classic silver age run, with the Lee/Colan run being the closest, and that's really more "pretty fun" than "classic." So what I'm trying to say is...uhh...I don't remember this issue but it's probably just ok?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I like this X-Men. They sound nice and reasonable. Professor X didn't erased anyone's memory either. Why they are douchebags in their own comics? Both are written by Stan Lee. Could it be Jack Kirby?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Professor X is a jerk in Avengers #3, when Iron Man tries to call in this favor, and that's Kirby too.

      Delete
  3. Oh wow, I didn't know about this X-Men appearance. If I hadn't of sold most of my collection this would have been in my Want List for sure. Thank you for covering it.

    ReplyDelete

  4. I read this story often as a kid in one of my very first comics, Giant-Size Iron Man #1. And somehow not until now, when I hit a page that was totally unfamiliar while reading the original issue’s version on Marvel Unlimited, did I know that the reprint was missing three pages’ worth of content. What a head-trip!

    // he easily bests his teammates //

    Far too easily, like you say later. I guess turning evil does give you an edge by genre rules, at least in Round One, before you have a rematch and the good guys inevitably take you down.

    // declaring his intent to join the evil mutants //

    The fact that Angel drops some TNT into New York Harbor “just in case some of the ‘bad guys’ are leaving for a cruise” is particularly funny because not too long after this Magneto, in his and the Brotherhood’s first appearances outside X-Men, will park his crazy submarine headquarters there.

    // Steve Ditko, co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, draws this issue. //

    Paul Reinman inks with a pretty heavy touch, stylistically. The smaller figures in the next-to-last panel you show, given their lack of detail, look much more like Ditko’s work than the details — faces in particular — of more, uh, detailed figures, who kinda resemble Kirby of the era if only because of Reinman’s relatively frequent inking of Kirby then (including on early X-Men).

    // Angel was actually the third person to join the team, and was a member before Beast //

    You can’t really fault Lee for not jibing with later retcons. 8^)

    // if there's anything that's going to prove too difficult to stop, it's apparently Angel's ability to fly through hoops on command //

    Hey! Sometimes it’s trapezoids!

    // We also get one of those nifty Silver Age cutaways //

    I love those.

    // The X-Men are said to be a licensed organization, with a direct line to the Avengers. //

    Odd as the caption is in retrospect, and just in terms of how square the scripting of Stan not-yet-“The Man” Lee could be, it also brings to mind how quickly — after the introductions of the genre-busting/blending Fantastic Four and Hulk — Lee steered the nascent Marvel Universe towards fairly traditional superhero conceits before it really came into its own. Soon the whole gestalt of flawed characters with personal problems who speak in relatable vernacular, often as outlaws or outcasts from society, would be brought to the fore across the line. Here, “I must always wear this chest plate” is merely lip service to soap-opera pathos on a par with such laments over at the Distinguished Competition as “I’m the sole survivor of a dead planet” or “my secret identity must never become known for fear my loved ones’ safety will be jeopardized” or “I wage a lonely war on criminals” (all of which had giant asterisks by the Silver Age, but that’s a whole ’nother topic). Which rather ties into your point about what X-Men’s addition of mutants to the Marvel landscape meant, and didn’t, for the feature at first.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a head-trip!

      That's funny! I was worried reading this for review on Marvel Unlimited that maybe something was cut from the main story (since they cut out the unrelated back up stories). Good to know (for me, at least) there was a cut-down version of this floating around that they didn't use.

      You can’t really fault Lee for not jibing with later retcons. 8^)

      Nah, of course not. Especially ones not written by Lee himself.

      Lee steered the nascent Marvel Universe towards fairly traditional superhero conceits before it really came into its own.

      That's a really great point, and not something I've ever really given much thought. But this early, raw Marvel Universe does have a lot more in common with the Distinguished Competition that what we traditionally think of when we think of the heyday of 60s Marvel.

      Now that I'm thinking about it, I wonder how closely that transition charts to the change in Thor from "A random guy who turns into Thor" to "He's just Thor, who can disguise himself as a mortal", since the former always smacked of the more traditional secret ID status quo used by DC, whereas just having Thor being one of the Marvel superheroes seems very Marvel.

      Delete
  5. Angel nearly beat Iron Man and the rest of the original X-Men. That baffles me.

    I suppose him evading Jean could be explained nowadays as moving faster than her eye can follow, and since this was pre-telepathy Jean she can't lock on to his mind (bringing up a whole new question about why Xavier couldn't detect something wrong with Warren's mind and fix the problem...but we'll chalk that up to 'because the plot needed it' and leave it at that).

    The 'flap fast enough to melt ice' thing...yeah, I got nothing. It's true that that kind of physical exertion would give off a lot of heat, expecially in a guy with the rough biology of a bird, but hot enough to melt ice? I mean, Angel's fast, probably still one of the fastest fliers on the X-Men to this day (I'd pay to see an aerial track meet between the flying X-Men and see if I'm right), but that's some Flash-level physics-buggery.

    TL;DR: the Silver Age is endearingly corny.

    All told though, at its core, the story of a guy's better nature winning out against whatever momentary dark impulses are driving him is a good one, and this actually ties in nicely to later character beats that Warren's going to revisit again...and again...and again...as his story progresses.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Angel nearly beat Iron Man and the rest of the original X-Men. That baffles me.

      Right? Though in Iron Man's defense, this is really early Iron Man (I don't even think he has repulsor rays, his chief offensive weapon, yet), so he's it's a lot more "he's protected by armor, but otherwise, he just has to use/throw gadgets to fight people" with some flight thrown in, than in later years when the armor is much more a full-fledged offensive weapon in its own right.

      suppose him evading Jean could be explained nowadays as moving faster than her eye can follow, and since this was pre-telepathy Jean she can't lock on to his mind

      That's a good explanation - it's less about him evading her "beam" as it is him just being tough to grab, whether the grabbing is being done physically or mentally.

      TL;DR: the Silver Age is endearingly corny.

      It certainly is. :) It was fun to revisit it for this post.

      Delete
  6. Funny as the "secret wavelength" is, Claremont's X-Men will be facetime-calling Avengers and other superheroes on various occasions in pre-#200 issues. Maybe they're not themselves licensed per se, but Fred Duncan has leaked the needed info to Xavier for this kind of purposes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, my eyebrows were less raised by the notion of the X-Men contacting the Avengers, as they were by the narration that stated they were using some kind of universal channel given to all official superhero teams, thus making the X-Men one such team.

      The idea that the X-Men can contact the Avengers is fine; that they do so because they're part of some duly-authorized organization of heroes seems odd.

      Delete
  7. That was the best title Stan could come up with? It's kinda bland. Within a few years, he probably would've called this one something like "LO, THERE SHALL COME -- AN ANGEL!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. THE WINGS AND THE WARRIOR!

      Delete
    2. Yeah, Stan's still coming into his own at this point. And I don't think he ever really loved Iron Man as much as some of the other characters.

      Delete

Comment. Please. Love it? Hate it? Am mildly indifferent to it? Let us know!