Wednesday

OMU: Iron Man -- Year One

Six weeks after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Marvel Comics introduced readers to Iron Man, their first superhero powered by applied technology rather than science run amok. Iron Man’s origin story was featured in the 39th issue of the anthology series Tales of Suspense, and promised an action-adventure serial that was unusual in its timeliness. Since the summer of that year, 1962, there had been a rapid expansion of the number of U.S. “military advisors” in Vietnam, and the situation in Southeast Asia was beginning to eclipse other parts of the globe in the American consciousness. Thus it is telling that we find the hero of the story, Tony Stark, in that war-torn part of the world demonstrating his inventions for the American military. Furthermore, the scientific wonders that Stark performed were credited to his use of transistors, a technology that had only in recent years left the laboratory and entered the awareness of consumers. Communist insurgents were responsible for the incident that led to Stark’s creation of his high-tech suit of armor, and Communist agents served as the villains in the majority of the character’s early stories. To a greater degree than any of Marvel’s other franchises, Iron Man drew upon and acknowledged the current state of the world, and thus his chronology lends itself particularly well to my timeline for the Original Marvel Universe.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


Now initiating… The True History of the Invincible Iron Man!


January 1962 – Anthony Stark begins his sixth year as head of Stark Industries, a Long Island-based contractor for the United States government that provides advanced technology to various agencies. The company’s main focus at this time is designing and building new weapons systems for the military, although they are also working on projects for the nascent intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D., including ongoing construction of the airborne command center dubbed the Helicarrier. When he’s not sleeping at the factory or in his luxurious penthouse apartment, Tony maintains a residence at his family’s mansion on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, overlooking Central Park, where he is catered to by a full staff of servants and his faithful butler Edwin Jarvis. Young, handsome, and extremely wealthy, Tony has cultivated a reputation as a ladies’ man, and is considered one of the most eligible bachelors in New York. However, while vacationing on the French Riviera, Tony meets a beautiful blonde named Joanna Nivena, who hails from Long Island also, from the tiny hamlet of Montauk. The more they talk, the more they find they have in common, and Tony begins to think he has found a woman he could spend his life with.

February 1962 – Tony follows with interest news reports of the Fantastic Four when they establish their headquarters in New York City and protect the metropolis from the menace of the Sub-Mariner. The leader of the new superhero team, Reed Richards, is a scientist and inventor whom Tony holds in high regard. After a whirlwind romance, Tony and Joanna get engaged, and begin planning a magnificent June wedding.

May 1962 – Tony travels to Vietnam to demonstrate a new weapons system for the military. After being greeted by his head of Asian operations, Toshi Kanada, Tony follows the American troops into the jungle to personally observe a test of his inventions against the Viet Cong. The attack is a success, but on the way out, Tony stumbles into a booby trap and is caught in an explosion. Shrapnel from the crude bomb lodges dangerously close to his heart. Toshi Kanada and Tony’s military escort are all killed in the blast, and three days later Tony awakens to find he has been taken prisoner by a local pro-Communist warlord named Wong-Chu.

Tony is forced to build a weapon for Wong-Chu in a makeshift laboratory in the warlord’s compound. Here, Tony meets another captive, the renowned physicist Ho Yinsen, whom the world believes dead. Rather than cooperating with the Communists, Tony and Yinsen build an ingenious suit of iron armor for Tony to wear, which will not only keep his injured heart beating, but should also enable them to escape. They soon begin referring to their work as “Project: Iron Man.” When the armor is complete, Tony puts it on and they begin charging its power cells. Unfortunately, Wong-Chu grows suspicious, but before he can interrupt them, the elderly Yinsen sacrifices himself to buy Tony time. Tony vows to avenge his friend’s death. Quickly mastering the clunky armor, Tony confronts Wong-Chu’s troops, sending them fleeing into the jungle. Not willing to let Wong-Chu escape, Tony blows up the camp’s ammo dump, killing the warlord in the process. Tony then dons a trench coat and flop hat and sets off into the jungle, hoping to find his way back to the American defense perimeter.

Half an hour later, Tony comes across a downed American helicopter and its pilot, Lt. James Rhodes of the United States Marine Corps. After saving “Rhodey,” as he prefers to be called, from a Viet Cong patrol, Tony recharges the power cells in his armor by draining the chopper’s batteries. Instinctively, Tony refuses to reveal his identity to Rhodes, introducing himself instead as the “Iron Man.” During their trek through the hostile jungle, the unlikely pair discovers a camouflaged Viet Cong rocket base. They fight their way to an enemy helicopter and make their escape, destroying the base in the same manner as Wong-Chu’s ammo dump. Once back in American-held territory, Rhodey drops Iron Man off at Stark’s local facility and then continues on to Saigon. Tony is terrified what effect news of his mortal wound would have on his personal life and his business, so he locks himself in the laboratory workshop and begins refining the design of his iron chest plate so that it can be better concealed beneath ordinary clothes. When Rhodey is released from the base hospital in Saigon several days later, Tony is sure to be there to meet him. Thanking Rhodey for saving his “friend” Iron Man, Tony offers the Marine a job when his tour of duty ends. Rhodey says he’ll keep the offer in mind.

Tony then finally returns to New York, and is met at the airport by Joanna, his fiancée. He keeps her at arm’s length, however, afraid she’ll feel the chest plate concealed beneath his suit. She drives him to Stark Industries’ headquarters in Flushing, talking about wedding plans all the way, but Tony is distant and preoccupied and she becomes worried. In the days that follow, Tony tries vainly to settle into his old routine, but sinks into a profound depression as he broods on the strange twist of fate he has suffered. Believing himself to be a cripple unworthy of her love, Tony finally tells Joanna they shouldn’t see each other anymore.

June 1962 – Accepting that he needs his chest plate to stay alive, Tony decides to make the best of a bad situation and explore the armor’s commercial potential. He holds a press conference to unveil the second-generation suit, built entirely at Stark Industries, referring to it as “The Human Machine” and emphasizing its applications to the construction industry. However, Tony soon reconsiders marketing the technology after thieves attempt to steal the armor to use in a bank heist. He realizes he can’t take the chance that it could fall into the wrong hands. Later, Joanna returns to confront him about the end of their relationship, and, finding that he truly loves her, Tony agrees to tell her everything. Sympathetic to his ordeal, Joanna talks him into accompanying her to a tennis tournament in Forest Hills, Queens, to take his mind off his troubles. However, the match is disrupted by militant anti-war terrorists who threaten to detonate a bomb unless the U.S. agrees to withdraw from Vietnam. The crowd panics, but Joanna convinces Tony that the armor is their only chance. He slips below the grandstand, dons his armored suit, and defeats the terrorists. The crowd cheers him as a hero, and later, when the media picks up the story, Iron Man is lauded as a champion of the people. Tony’s depression begins to lift as he sees a new purpose to his life. However, Joanna has realized that Tony cannot be a hero and also give her the kind of life she needs, so she breaks off their relationship tearfully. Though he is heartbroken, Tony knows she is right.

Iron Man then continues his crusade to protect the public, whether it be from gun-toting gangsters or mad scientists with shrinking rays. Meanwhile, Tony not only resumes his hectic schedule at work, but also starts dating again, although he quickly realizes he can’t let women get too close to him without risking his secret. While escorting a young lady named Marion to the circus, Tony leaps into action when the lions and tigers suddenly break free and the crowd panics. However, after donning his armor, which he has managed to conceal in a specially-designed attaché case, Iron Man finds the children are as frightened of his bulky gray armor as they are of the big cats. Therefore, after the situation is resolved, Tony takes Marion’s suggestion and coats his armor with a gleaming gold paint.

After a quick trip to Africa, where his new golden armor makes its public debut, Tony attempts to pick Marion up at the airport for their latest date, only to learn that her hometown, Granville, NY, has walled itself off while he was out of the country. All contact with the inhabitants has been lost. Determined to investigate, Iron Man tunnels into the city, where he discovers the residents, including Marion, have been hypnotized into worshipping a giant Neanderthal man known as Gargantus. During the ensuing battle, Iron Man defeats Gargantus, who turns out to be a robot. With Gargantus destroyed, Iron Man reveals that the dark cloud looming over the town conceals a flying saucer from outer space. Once discovered, the craft quickly ascends to the stars and leaves Earth behind. Finally, Iron Man smashes a hole in the wall encircling the town, setting the residents free.

The following week, Iron Man assists the FBI in apprehending some Soviet spies. Later he prevents two ships from colliding with nothing more than his fantastic armored strength. Meanwhile, Tony continues to refine his armor’s design, replacing the pneumatic system in his boots with jets that allow for sustained high-altitude flight. He also continues testing new inventions for the Navy, the Army, NASA, and other governmental agencies.

July 1962 – At a Children’s Hospital Charity Dance in Washington, DC, Tony Stark announces to the crowd that he has convinced Iron Man to entertain the sick children the next day, and the event will be broadcast live on national television. As scheduled, Iron Man appears at the hospital and puts on an elaborate show, juggling seven cars in mid-air, catching cannonballs, and performing similar feats. However, after the exhibition ends, Tony’s mind is overcome by ultra-frequency waves that hypnotize him. Helplessly, Iron Man trundles to a nearby maximum-security prison, where he smashes in and frees the criminal mastermind Karel Stranczek, known in the press as “Dr. Strange, Master of Evil.” When Tony comes to, he has no memory of his actions under hypnosis. He is horrified to learn he has freed an arch-criminal and vows to redeem himself. However, that very evening, Stranczek detonates a 200-megaton nuclear bomb in high-earth orbit, and then hijacks all radio and TV transmissions to issue his demand to be made absolute dictator of earth. A full-scale nuclear strike on his stronghold in the Atlantic Ocean proves fruitless, due to its powerful force-field. However, Iron Man storms the villain’s fortress by burrowing up from below. During the attack, his armor’s power supply becomes dangerously depleted, but when the villain’s defiant daughter Carla assists Iron Man, Stranczek panics and flees, disappearing without a trace.

The following week, Iron Man again co-operates with the FBI to smash a spy ring run by a brutal Soviet general known as “The Red Barbarian.” This leads Tony into conflict with a master of disguise known only as the Actor, whom he intercepts behind the Iron Curtain after the Actor steals the plans for a new disintegrator ray. Leaving the Actor trapped in his mangled car, Iron Man delivers an empty briefcase to the Red Barbarian while posing as the Actor. He then returns to the Actor, sets him free, and makes tracks for friendly territory, counting on the Red Barbarian to deal with the Actor when he discovers he’s been tricked.

August 1962 – When a wind-tunnel experiment goes haywire, Tony claims that Iron Man just happens to be visiting the factory and will deal with the situation. After his armored alter-ego smashes the out-of-control equipment, Tony returns to the site of the accident to survey the wreckage. Suddenly, a large crystal materializes around Tony and carries him down through the ground into an enormous cavern, in which he finds a fantastic metropolis. He soon meets the cruel and imperious Queen Kala, who reveals that he has been brought to the Netherworld to devise a means of transporting their invasion forces to the surface. Kala tells Tony a bit about the history of the Netherworld, how it was part of the nation of Atlantis that sunk beneath the sea in the Great Cataclysm some 20,000 years ago. Tony readily agrees to help, claiming to be interested only in saving his own skin. However, he uses Kala’s facilities to build a replica of his Iron Man armor, with which he attacks and defeats Baxu, the leader of the Netherworld’s armed forces. Iron Man convinces Baxu to stage a coup and seize the throne for himself, then flies Kala to the surface, where exposure to the sun’s radiation causes her flesh to shrivel, giving her the appearance of an old woman. Horrified, Kala agrees to call off her invasion plans. Iron Man takes her back to the Netherworld, where the aging effect quickly wears off. He heads for home after Kala agrees to marry Baxu and share her throne with him.

Soon after, Tony learns that one of his competitors, Bruno Horgan, has been using inferior materials on his government contracts. When Tony informs the military, all Horgan’s contracts are cancelled and awarded to Stark Industries. Though Horgan is bankrupted, Tony feels he has not only scored a coup but done his patriotic duty in the process.

September 1962 – Tony Stark travels to Egypt to assist an old friend on an archeological dig, searching for the tomb of Hatap, known as “the Mad Pharaoh.” Tony offers the assistance of Iron Man, and the next day, uses his armor’s sophisticated probes to locate the tomb, where Hatap’s mummy lies inside his sarcophagus. Later, however, Hatap revives, revealing to Tony that he used sorcery to escape Cleopatra’s armies by entering a death-like sleep for two millennia. He then produces a golden charm, the magical Chariot of Time, and forces Tony to travel back into the past with him to use modern science against Cleopatra’s forces. Luckily, Tony takes his attaché case with him, and changes into Iron Man as soon as they have materialized in the past. He then tracks down Cleopatra, winning the trust of the Egyptians by routing the Roman legions that are attacking her palace. Tony is immediately smitten by Cleopatra’s great beauty. However, he resolves to seize the golden charm from Hatap and use it to return to the 20th century. Iron Man throws Hatap’s army into utter chaos, and the Mad Pharaoh dies when he falls on the sword of one of his own fallen soldiers. After returning to the present day, Tony and his friend discover Iron Man’s adventure immortalized in hieroglyphics.

Soon afterward, back at Stark Industries, one of the girls in the secretarial pool, Virginia “Pepper” Potts, discovers an accounting mistake made by Tony Stark himself, thus saving the company from making a major blunder. Impressed with Pepper’s spunk, Tony promotes her to become his personal Executive Secretary. They soon develop a playfully antagonistic relationship.

A couple of weeks later, a bored Tony Stark intercepts a radio message from the Teen Brigade asking for help in finding the green-skinned brute called the Hulk. Curious as to whether the Hulk is, in fact, real, Tony decides to investigate. Upon arrival at the Teen Brigade’s ramshackle headquarters in Quemado, New Mexico, Iron Man is joined by three other superheroes: Thor, Ant-Man, and the Wasp. Thor leaves suddenly, but Iron Man and Ant-Man agree to help the concerned teen-agers. They soon find the Hulk pretending to be a robot at a nearby circus, and Iron Man pursues him across the desert. However, the Hulk lands a solid punch that wrecks one of the batteries that power Iron Man’s boot jets. After quickly repairing his armor, Iron Man tracks the Hulk to an auto factory in Detroit, Michigan, where their battle continues. The fight is interrupted by Thor, who returns with his evil step-brother Loki in tow. Thor reveals that Loki had orchestrated the events that brought the four heroes into conflict with the Hulk, and will be returned to his prison in Asgard. Before the heroes go their separate ways, Ant-Man and the Wasp suggest that they band together as a permanent team. Intrigued by the possibilities of what such a powerful group could accomplish, Iron Man agrees to the proposal, and thus is born the Avengers.

A few days later, Tony tells his butler, Jarvis, to expect some unusual guests for dinner, as he has offered the mansion to the Avengers as a meeting place. Upon hearing that the Hulk is coming, the rest of the staff quits in an uproar, leaving the faithful Jarvis to prepare the meal alone. Even so, the meeting is a success, though Iron Man is somewhat frustrated when Ant-Man seems to be the only other member serious about discussing the team’s organizational structure and by-laws.

October 1962 – While Tony is driving in a celebrity race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the power supply in his chest plate begins to fail and he goes into cardiac arrest. His car spins out of control and crashes, catching fire. Tony is trapped in the wreckage and quickly realizes that, bereft of his Iron Man armor, he is doomed. However, a pugnacious stranger bursts from the crowd, wrenches the steering wheel away, and pulls Tony from the burning wreck just seconds before the gas tank explodes. Fading fast, Tony offers the man a fortune if he’ll take him back to his hotel room, no questions asked. Once alone in his room, Tony plugs his chest plate into a wall socket, and he is soon back on his feet. Then, in the cocktail lounge, Tony learns the name of his dour savior, Harold “Happy” Hogan, an ex-prizefighter. As a matter of principle, Hogan rips up the $50,000 check Tony has written to him and says the millionaire industrialist can better show his gratitude by offering him a job. Suitably impressed, Tony offers to hire Hogan as his chauffeur/bodyguard. He then writes a more modest check for relocation expenses, which Hogan takes with no complaints. Thus, the following Monday, Happy Hogan reports to work at Tony’s Fifth Avenue mansion and drives his new boss to work. Tony introduces Happy to Pepper Potts, with whom Happy is instantly smitten.

Later that day, Tony fires one of his own scientists, Professor Gregor Shapanka, when Iron Man discovers him trying to break into Tony’s private vault with an acetylene torch. Shapanka’s ravings show him to be seriously disturbed, and so Tony decides to be lenient. Rather than calling the police, he merely has Shapanka escorted off the grounds. Tony realizes it is growing increasingly difficult to account for Iron Man’s frequent appearances at Stark Industries. Nevertheless, Iron Man is present a few days later for the test of an experimental manned missile. Moments after launch, the missile’s electrical system goes haywire and the craft spins out of control. Iron Man intercepts it in mid-air and brings it safely to the ground. Examining the craft later, Tony and his engineers are baffled by what went wrong.

The Avengers return to the Stark mansion for their next weekly meeting, where Iron Man and Ant-Man continue to hammer out the details of the team’s charter. The bad-tempered Hulk and his teenage pal, Rick Jones, are little more than an annoyance. The Wasp flirts incessantly with Thor, whose pronounced mood swings give the others pause. Tony begins to worry whether such volatile personalities can be forged into an effective team.

In the days that follow, Stark Industries falls victim to a string of acts of sabotage, with over a dozen plants across the nation experiencing massive electrical failures. Some installations are all but destroyed by massive explosions. Unable to stop the attacks, Tony finds himself in danger of losing his government contracts. Worse, Tony receives word that there are rumblings on Capitol Hill that his loyalty to his country may be called into question, for certain senators are speculating that if Tony were a communist agent, he might have caused the crisis himself.

Following a well-publicized crime spree, the sub-zero scourge known in the media as “Jack Frost” storms into Stark Industries and traps Happy, Pepper, and several security guards inside big blocks of ice before bursting into Tony Stark’s office. Iron Man is waiting for him, and immediately recognizes the villain’s voice as that of Gregor Shapanka. The battle is brief, as Iron Man produces a powerful heating element that thaws Shapanka’s frozen form, destroying Tony’s executive office in the process. Later, Tony claims Iron Man just happened to be having a secret conference with him when Jack Frost attacked, but nasty rumors begin to circulate that Tony may be slipping the armored hero some money to protect his industrial complex.

Days later, the mysterious saboteur finally shows himself, and proves to be a Soviet agent called “The Crimson Dynamo,” whose suit of armor grants him electricity-based powers. He identifies himself as Russian scientist Anton Vanko, and says his mission is to destroy Iron Man. Unable to best the Crimson Dynamo directly, Iron Man instead convinces Vanko to defect to the West before his masters in the Kremlin decide he is too dangerous and try to liquidate him. Disaffected with the Soviet system, Vanko agrees to cooperate with the FBI, and Tony offers him a lucrative position as head of his electrical research department.

The defection of Anton Vanko is a coup that gives Iron Man leverage in negotiating with the government for the Avengers’ security clearance, bolstered by Ant-Man’s own record of defeating Soviet agents. In the end, the government agrees to give the superhero team its full cooperation. The five members finalize their charter and by-laws and Iron Man accepts the honor of being the team’s first chairman. They hold a press conference to announce the coming of the Avengers to the world.

November 1962 – Stark Industries comes under attack by another high-tech saboteur, this one calling himself “The Melter” due to his chest-mounted energy ray, which instantly liquefies anything made of iron. Unfortunately, the ray proves all too effective on Iron Man’s armor, and his entire left-arm assembly melts away, leaving Tony’s flesh exposed. Realizing he needs a better strategy before his identity is exposed, Iron Man retreats, managing to drive off the Melter by rupturing the power plant’s main steam pipe. Unfortunately, the next morning, Tony is called to appear before a special congressional committee and must travel to Washington, DC. Once there, the senators threaten to revoke all his government contracts unless he can defend his plants against sabotage. Returning to his Long Island factory, Tony tells his beleaguered maintenance crew that Iron Man will lend a hand, which merely reinforces people’s belief that Tony is paying the armored hero for his services. Shortly after Iron Man begins work, however, the Melter returns, storms the plant, and challenges Iron Man directly. However, having deduced the Melter’s limitations, Tony had quickly constructed a suit of armor out of extruded aluminum. Although lacking most of the standard offensive weaponry, the armor is good enough to cause the confused Melter to beat a hasty retreat. Tony resolves to devise some way to protect his real armor from the Melter’s energy beam.

At the Avengers’ first meeting for the month, an argument between Thor and the Hulk is cut short by the arrival of the Wasp and her partner, now calling himself Giant-Man. After the Hulk volunteers to deal with an intruder in the mansion, he returns more hostile than ever. Fed up with the green goliath’s attitude, Iron Man decides to put him in his place. However, the Hulk merely smashes through the wall and stalks off into the city. Tony is furious that he now must call in a crew to repair the damage to his house. Not long after, Tony is informed that the Hulk has stolen a new weapon right off the testing platform. And so, Iron Man soon intercepts the Hulk in the skies over Flushing and a battle ensues. Giant-Man and the Wasp appear on the scene and try to stop the fight. However, the Avengers quickly discover that they are being plagued by an alien who calls himself the Space Phantom, for he can assume any of their forms by sending the originals into the dimension of Limbo. The interplanetary plunderer then becomes Giant-Man and battles Iron Man and the Hulk, using Stark’s experimental equipment as makeshift weapons. Soon, Iron Man, too, is cast into Limbo, where he lies insensate for a time. But when he returns to Earth, Thor informs Iron Man that the Space Phantom has been defeated, cast into Limbo himself when he tried to assume Thor’s godly form. Disgusted with the way the others have treated him, the Hulk angrily quits the team, but Tony is not sorry to see him go.

When one of Stark’s main steel suppliers suddenly cancels his contracts, Tony drives out to meet with the company’s CEO, Charleton Carter, at his coastal estate. However, he finds Carter being menaced by a costumed man who calls himself “Mister Doll.” Iron Man attacks, only to be suddenly overcome by intense agony as the crook fashions a small clay doll he is holding into Iron Man’s image. Wracked with pain, Iron Man stumbles backwards off a balcony and tumbles into the surf below. Regaining consciousness hours later, Iron Man barely manages to make it back to Stark Industries before collapsing to the floor. He finally comes to the next morning, and decides to do a radical redesign of his armor, to make it more powerful while putting less strain on his injured heart. The result is a streamlined, more dynamic red-and-gold Iron Man. Mister Doll soon arrives, intending to force Tony Stark to sign over his fortune, and Iron Man finds that his more lightweight armor allows him to better withstand the pain that Mister Doll causes him with his magical talisman. With this advantage, he is finally able to defeat his foe. Iron Man summons the guards and orders them to turn Mister Doll over to the police, though Happy Hogan is incensed at being ordered around by the armored Avenger.

The next day, Tony decides to deal once and for all with the public perception of his relationship with Iron Man, to explain the hero’s too-frequent appearances at Stark Industries and to end the rumors of payoffs that are tarnishing Iron Man’s reputation. He issues a press release stating that Iron Man is, in fact, a full-time employee of Stark Industries, whose true identity must remain a secret for security purposes, and is his personal bodyguard. Tony also officially announces that he is bankrolling the Avengers in the interests of the greater good and has donated his family residence on Fifth Avenue to the team to serve as their permanent headquarters, which will henceforth be known as Avengers Mansion.

A few days later, Iron Man meets the mysterious team of adventurers known as the X-Men, when an accident over Stark Industries causes the Angel to become deranged. Feeling responsible, Iron Man determines to save the Angel himself. He discovers the winged mutant dropping sticks of dynamite around the city from high in the air and confronts him. Unable to outmaneuver the Angel, Iron Man takes a desperate gamble and allows his boot jets to exhaust themselves high in the sky. As Iron Man begins falling back to earth, the Angel realizes that he can’t let a man die, and rescues Iron Man in the nick of time. The other four X-Men (Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, and the Beast) meet them on the ground and express their gratitude to Iron Man for bringing Angel back to his senses. Before leaving, Angel offers the X-Men’s help to Iron Man should he ever need it. As Iron Man flies back to Stark Industries, he receives a telepathic message from the X-Men’s mysterious leader, Professor X, expressing his thanks.

Iron Man convinces the Avengers that the Hulk is too dangerous to be allowed to run around loose. To initiate the search for their erstwhile teammate, Iron Man contacts the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and the X-Men in turn, but none of his fellow heroes have any news of the Hulk’s whereabouts. Thor suggests they merely contact Rick Jones in New Mexico and ask for his help. Rick agrees to conduct a search, and the next morning, Tony receives a call from Rick with the Hulk’s location. After alerting the rest of the team, Iron Man heads for the desert outside Quemado, where the Hulk immediately attacks him. Even the arrival of the rest of the Avengers barely slows the Hulk down, and he soon makes his escape after dealing them an ignominious defeat. After a fruitless search, the Avengers return to New York, where they receive a radio message from Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, claiming that he and the Hulk have joined forces to challenge the Avengers to a showdown at the Rock of Gibraltar. Thus, the Avengers are soon making their way across the Atlantic Ocean in an experimental Stark Industries submarine. As soon as the heroes enter the network of caves and tunnels under the promontory, they are attacked by the misanthropic duo. While Thor goes off after the Hulk, Iron Man and Giant-Man engage the Sub-Mariner in pitched battle. Unfortunately, the Sub-Mariner damages Iron Man’s chest plate, forcing Tony to abandon the battle while he affects repairs to his life-support system. Luckily, the Hulk disappears as well, and the outnumbered Sub-Mariner retreats to the ocean depths. Thor and Giant-Man agree to let him go, but Iron Man fears they may live to regret that decision.

A few days later, Iron Man is summoned to a high-level meeting at the Pentagon, where he is asked to find out all he can about a mysterious Chinese menace known only as “The Mandarin.” Iron Man agrees to investigate, and soon leaves for his mission deep inside Red China. A U.S. spy plane takes him into China’s interior, where Iron Man storms the Mandarin’s fortress, overcomes his defenses, and meets the despot face-to-face. However, the golden Avenger realizes he may be in for more than he bargained for when he discovers the Mandarin wears ten ornate rings, each of which is a lethal weapon. Nevertheless, the Mandarin first attempts to humiliate his armored foe in hand-to-hand combat, demonstrating his martial arts prowess. Despite a malfunction in his systems, Iron Man is able to turn the force of the Mandarin’s blows back on him, knocking him out. Iron Man then retreats, making his rendezvous with the spy plane for a ride back to America.

Returning to his penthouse apartment one evening, Tony discovers his place has been ransacked. Then he and Happy Hogan find the perpetrator attempting to break into the wall safe. Happy attacks the crook, who is dressed up as a scarecrow, while Tony slips into another room to change into Iron Man. However, “The Scarecrow” proves to be a slippery opponent, and he outfoxes the golden Avenger, escaping with some vital blueprints. Later, the Scarecrow phones Tony and offers him the chance to buy back his stolen plans for a small fortune. After installing a fail-safe device in the briefcase he’s using for the ransom, Tony meets with the Scarecrow. The criminal takes the briefcase but refuses to surrender the plans, and makes his getaway in a speedboat. Iron Man pursues him to his rendezvous with a Cuban gunboat. Unfortunately, the Scarecrow escapes, but Iron Man manages to retrieve the blueprints, sink the gunboat, and leave the Cubans to be rescued by the Coast Guard.

The following week, Iron Man joins the Avengers as they search the North Atlantic Ocean for the Sub-Mariner, who has been terrorizing coastal areas since his defeat at the Rock of Gibraltar. Near the Gulf Stream, the team discovers the body of a man in tattered Army fatigues drifting in the open ocean. Bringing the soldier aboard their submarine, the Avengers make a startling discovery: the man is alive, albeit in suspended animation, and beneath his rotted uniform is a colorful costume that identifies him as Captain America, the lost hero of World War II. Revived from his comatose state, the disoriented Cap reacts violently and scuffles with his rescuers. The Avengers are baffled, but Captain America convinces them he is the genuine article. They piece together what happened to him in the winter of 1945 and how he came to be preserved in ice for almost 18 years.

Docking at a pier in New York, the Avengers are met by a crowd of reporters, who are looking for a scoop about Namor. Suddenly, however, there is a blinding flash and everything goes black. The next thing Iron Man knows, he is in a warehouse facing Captain America and a green-hued extraterrestrial, who had turned the Avengers to stone as part of a deal with the Sub-Mariner. The Avengers agree to help the alien salvage his spaceship from the bottom of the ocean with no strings attached. They soon reach a small rocky island in the Atlantic, from which they raise the sunken ship. However, they are then attacked by the Sub-Mariner and his elite guard. Iron Man takes on Namor in single combat while Thor battles his troops. When Namor reveals he is holding Rick Jones hostage, Captain America finally joins the fray. The battle comes to a sudden stop when the launching spaceship causes a massive shockwave that rocks the island. Namor leads his forces back to the sea, convinced his enemies will perish when the island sinks. But the island is not completely destroyed, and as the dust settles, the Avengers invite Captain America to join the team. Cap accepts the offer, and they return to New York and the ensuing media frenzy.

For his first official team mission, the Avengers take Captain America out to New Mexico to investigate sightings of the Hulk, but even with the help of Rick Jones, the trail is cold. Hearing news reports that the Hulk is now on a rampage in New York City, the Avengers race back to their Fifth Avenue headquarters. The Fantastic Four have failed to stop the Hulk’s rampage, and the green-skinned brute arrives at the mansion to confront his former teammates. Believing they have betrayed him, the Hulk attacks the entire team at once. The brawl only ends when the Hulk grabs Rick and smashes out of the building. The Avengers and the Fantastic Four converge on the Hulk down the street, but the two teams only trip each other up, allowing the Hulk to get away with Rick. Setting aside their pride, Iron Man and Mister Fantastic agree their two teams should work together, and so they pursue the Hulk to a construction site on East 63rd Street. The half-finished skyscraper is demolished in the battle, but despite the best efforts of the assembled heroes, the Hulk manages to dive into the river and escape. Though disappointed, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four part on friendly terms. Iron Man returns with his teammates to their headquarters to inspect the damage, and then they all go their separate ways. After removing his armor, Tony sees to having the mansion repaired.

December 1962 – Over a week later, Tony receives two visitors from the Soviet Union, the beautiful Madame Natasha and a man she claims is her brother Boris. Smitten with her, Tony takes Natasha to a swanky dinner club while Boris gets a tour of the factory. However, their dinner is interrupted by an urgent call from Happy Hogan, telling Tony a raging fire has broken out in Anton Vanko’s lab and has spread rapidly. Returning to Stark Industries, he leaves Natasha at the perimeter of the complex, then dons his Iron Man armor and enters the burning building, where he finds the Crimson Dynamo, apparently attempting to save an experimental laser device. Iron Man lends a hand, only to be betrayed by the Dynamo and shot in the back. The golden Avenger comes to sometime later and finds himself aboard a Russian submarine. After recharging his armor, he smashes out of his cell and finds Vanko being held prisoner as well. While flying him back to the factory, Iron Man learns from Vanko that Boris and Natasha are KGB assassins, and it was Boris who was wearing the Crimson Dynamo armor earlier. Unfortunately, Iron Man once again fails to overcome the Crimson Dynamo armor, but Vanko uses the laser device to stop Boris. The prototype weapon blows up, killing both men. Tony is disheartened by Vanko’s death, and he learns later that Madame Natasha, who escaped in the confusion, is the notorious spy known as the Black Widow.

Soon after, Iron Man finds himself back in Vietnam, to oversee a secret test of a new artillery launcher Stark has developed. The test goes awry when the unit is attacked by the Viet Cong. Iron Man is knocked out by multiple explosions, and when he comes to, he finds all the American troops have been slaughtered. A single VC soldier shoots at him, but when Iron Man attacks his assailant, he discovers it is only a boy, who is totally blind. Iron Man decides to carry the boy back through the jungle to his encampment, but when they arrive, he finds everyone there has been killed by Stark’s new weapon. Sickened by the carnage, Iron Man blasts a mass grave into the ground. Finally, with a heart full of grief, the armored Avenger carries the blind boy to the nearest American base. On the long flight home, Tony Stark begins a difficult process of soul-searching, questioning his dual role as a manufacturer of weapons and as a superhero.

The following week, the Avengers return to New Mexico to investigate a series of disasters caused by powerful sound waves. There they discover a gigantic rock slowly rising out of the ground. Iron Man tunnels down to find the source of the monolith, and discovers an advancing army of Lava Men, bent on invading the surface world. Thor attacks the legions of Lava Men while Iron Man returns to the surface to guard the mouth of the tunnel while they try to figure out a way to safely destroy the monolith. However, the team is suddenly attacked by the revenge-seeking Hulk. The Avengers turn the situation to their advantage by maneuvering the Hulk into the right spot to destroy the monolith before its sonic blasts can do any more damage. The resulting implosion stuns the Avengers, and when they recover, they find the ground where the monolith stood has been transmuted into a sheet of glass. With the threat ended and the Hulk nowhere to be found, the Avengers head for home.

The Avengers are soon called to arms again when New York City is menaced by a squad of super-villains calling themselves the Masters of Evil, including the Melter, the Radioactive Man, and the Black Knight. The villains wreak havoc by spraying Adhesive X, a super-strong glue, all around town. The Avengers are helpless until they obtain an extremely powerful solvent from an incarcerated criminal known as Paste-Pot Pete; then they initiate a bold plan with the help of Rick Jones’ Teen Brigade. Captain America is convinced that the mastermind behind the rampage is an old adversary from the Second World War, the Nazi scientist Baron Heinrich Zemo. Cap formulates a strategy that sends Iron Man into battle with the Radioactive Man, whom he traps in an anti-radiation device intended for use in atomic research labs. However, the golden Avenger is then attacked by the Melter, but he tricks his old foe into turning his beam upon a fire hydrant. The Melter is knocked out by the resulting high-pressure jet of water, and Iron Man turns the criminals over to the police. Rejoining his teammates, Iron Man witnesses Baron Zemo’s airship fleeing the scene. However, thanks to Cap’s quick thinking, Zemo has mistakenly taken a canister of tear gas rather than the solvent he was after. As a result, Zemo loses control of his ship and is forced to make an emergency landing. Unfortunately, the war criminal still manages to escape capture.

A week or so later, Iron Man organizes the Avengers’ first annual Christmas charity benefit, which garners the team some good press. After the party, Iron Man steps down as Avengers chairman, and Giant-Man is elected to take over those responsibilities. Enjoying a drink at home later, Tony Stark muses to himself that, despite everything that’s happened to him in the last year, his life is pretty amazing.


Notes:

January 1962 – Tony Stark is seen vacationing on the Riviera in Tales of Suspense #39. Joanna Nivena was introduced in Iron Man #244, in an extended flashback that added her relationship with Tony to the established origin story. Curiously, Jarvis almost never appears in tellings of Iron Man’s origin, even though it has been stated that he was Tony’s butler prior to the formation of the Avengers. I can only assume that Tony spent very little time at the mansion due to his busy schedule.

May 1962 – Iron Man’s origin is presented in Tales of Suspense #39, and revisited in Iron Man #267–268. Toshi Kanada is introduced in the later version, which also reveals that Wong-Chu was a servant of the Mandarin, who watched these events from afar. Tony’s first meeting with Rhodey was chronicled in Iron Man #144. Evidence suggests that in the Marvel Universe, the Vietnam War heated up a few years earlier than it did in the real world, and certainly may have escalated significantly once the Secret Empire’s Number One became President of the United States.

June 1962 – Iron Man’s career as a superhero is launched in Tales of Suspense #40, and continues in all subsequent issues. I’m curious whether the trip to Africa Tony mentions in that issue was in fact a mission to Wakanda to obtain samples of vibranium. If so, there may be an Untold Tale of the Original Marvel Universe featuring Iron Man’s first meeting with the Black Panther.

July 1962 – The villainous Dr. Strange appeared a couple of months before the sorcerer of the same name debuted in Strange Tales #110, and was, understandably, never seen again. The real name of this criminal genius was never revealed in any canonical story, so I fashioned this one for my own convenience. I assumed his name was similar enough to “Strange” to inspire the newspaper editors to call him that, and Stranczek, a Czech name, works perfectly. Karel I derived from his daughter’s name, Carla, figuring that such a megalomaniac would surely have named his offspring after himself, regardless of the sex. It is also, incidentally, the name of the Czech writer who coined the term “robot,” Karel Čapek.

August 1962 – The unscrupulous Bruno Horgan will soon return to menace Stark Industries as the Melter, as seen in Tales of Suspense #47.

September 1962 – Iron Man debuts in his second regular feature in Avengers #1, at which point he becomes a major player in the superhero community. The team’s first official meeting is shown in flashback in Avengers #280.

October 1962 – Chronological analysis of Iron Man’s encounters with Jack Frost and the Crimson Dynamo, presented in Tales of Suspense #45–46, reveals that these stories interweave in a very complex manner.

November 1962 – Earth’s Mightiest Heroes encounter the Space Phantom in Avengers #2. Iron Man’s time in Limbo, during which he was unconscious, can be seen in Avengers #267–268, due to the timeless nature of that mysterious realm. Iron Man’s first red-and-gold suit of armor makes its debut in Tales of Suspense #48. Mister Doll was apparently supposed to be called Mister Pain, but for some reason the comic book censors took issue with that moniker, and it had to be changed at the last minute. The epic battle between the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and the Hulk was presented in Fantastic Four #25–26.

December 1962 – Iron Man’s return trip to Vietnam is shown in flashback in Iron Man #78. This brings us up to Tales of Suspense #52 and Avengers #6.


OMU Note: Iron Man’s final canonical appearance is in Avengers #339.





Tuesday

Wolverine Illustrated

As I stated in a previous post, I have my own ideas about certain visual elements of the Original Marvel Universe, and this holds as true for the later period as it does for the early years. Due to factors such as artistic license, variations in drawing styles, editorial mandates, industry trends, and technical limitations, the actual comics Marvel produced between 1961 and 1991 do not always present a true and accurate depiction of what “really” occurred in the OMU reality. The printed page serves as a guide; the actual story takes place in my imagination. It is there that the characters live, move, and speak in a vivid three-dimensional world. And in my mind’s eye, irregularities are smoothed out, errors are corrected, and bad decisions are reversed. As an active reader, I have that right. I am not a slave to the text. Now, this may lead to the occasional drastic revision, when the overall thrust of the OMU leads me in a different direction than an individual issue is trying to make me go. A case in point is Wolverine #50, the last canonical issue of that title, and the final appearance of the OMU Wolverine.

In the issue, written by Larry Hama with art by Marc Silvestri & Dan Green, Wolverine is investigating the mysteries of his own past and the false memories that were implanted in his brain during the Weapon X project, and he comes closer than ever before to finding the people responsible for his adamantium skeleton and claws. For some reason that is not really adequately explained, Wolverine resumes wearing his old yellow-and-blue costume, which hadn’t been seen for about 12 years at that point. There’s something to the effect that he is regressing mentally to a more savage state as a result of recent emotional traumas. The real reason was that Marvel simply wanted to get him back into his yellow-and-blue costume; it did not grow organically from the storyline, it was imposed from outside. Well, I take issue with this decision.

At the time the story was published, Marvel was in the process of undoing much of the character development that had occurred over the previous decade and returning their characters—or more appropriately, their properties—essentially to square one. The editors feared Marvel’s bankable characters had strayed too far from their initial conceptions, and so Wolverine, for example, was to revert to the unpredictable berserker and emotionally-stunted loner he had been in the late 1970s. In essence, they were building the much-derided Second Marvel Universe, which quietly replaced the original one. Another factor in the decision to change Wolverine’s costume may have simply been a desire on the part of Jim Lee and/or Marc Silvestri to draw the character the way he looked when they themselves were young fans. That seems a bit selfish to me, and not a very good reason to move a character backwards instead of forwards.

That said, I have no problem with Wolverine getting a new costume at that point in his life, but I prefer to see something more in keeping with the natural evolution of the character. So I designed one myself.

Wolverine’s seldom-seen original costume, shown here, was provided to him by the Canadian government when he worked for their superhero program Department H. He wore it on his first major mission, when he took on both the Hulk and the Wendigo in the woods of northern Quebec. It was quite colorful, and with the cute whisker motif on what looks basically like a ski mask, it does seem like a superhero costume designed by a government committee.



Wolverine didn’t care for that mask, apparently, for he adopted a different one shortly before he joined the X-Men several months later.



He wore this second version, perhaps his best-known look, from the time he joined the X-Men until the death of Phoenix. Wolverine had fallen in love with that version of Jean Grey, and he took her death quite hard. Since his costume had been destroyed during the battle to save her, Wolverine took the opportunity to make a change.

He adopted a modified costume with a new, more somber color scheme, seen here. 



He wore this costume for several years, though after the X-Men’s supposed deaths in Dallas, Texas during the “Fall of the Mutants” storyline, he would often forego wearing this costume in favor of other attire. After he started spending a great deal of time on the island of Madripoor (in the early issues of his own series), he sometimes went into action wearing an all-black sleeveless outfit with wrist-length leather gloves and no mask. But after the world learned the X-Men were still alive, Wolverine was more likely to wear his costume in public.

Wolverine was clearly moving into darker territory, both emotionally and sartorially. So I decided to create his new costume by combining elements of his two most recent looks, trying to make it stylish and masculine while keeping it dark and instantly recognizable as Wolverine. Here it is:



I maintain that Wolverine adopted this look prior to his battle with the Shiva robot and wore it in the years following the cessation of OMU stories until his eventual retirement from the X-Men. After that, who knows?