Tales of Suspense (Vol. 1) #42

Credits:

“Trapped By the Red Barbarian”

Cover Date: June 1963

Plotter: Stan Lee

Scripter: Robert Bernstein (credited as R. Berns)

Penciller: Don Heck

Inker: Don Heck

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Don Heck

What’s Going On?

The Communist spymaster/General, the Red Barbarian, wants the plans to Tony Stark’s newest invention, so he sends The Actor, a master of disguise, to steal them. When The Actor outsmarts Stark’s security, it is up to Iron Man to intercept the stolen plans before they fall into the wrong hands.

Is It Good?

Nope! We get a Chameleon knock-off in this issue (and the Chameleon was also a Soviet spy, so why not just reuse him?) and an implausible ending. There’s not much worth seeing here.

Sub-Plots:

  • Tony Stark’s valuable invention is a miniature disintegration ray.

  • The Actor gets this assignment by disguising himself as Nikita Khrushchev and walking into the Red Barbarian’s office.

  • The Actor impersonates Tony Stark to gain access to his lab. There, he finds the disintegration ray blueprints, and he also deduces that Stark is Iron Man.
  • Iron Man gets to the Soviet Union before The Actor, and he steals the blueprints from The Actor. Having succeeded in his goal, Iron Man then leaves the country.

Continuity:

  • This is the first appearance of the Red Barbarian. I don’t think he makes another Silver Age appearance, but he shows up in some of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America under his given name, Andre Rostov.
  • Iron Man’s armor is not magnetic. Tony also refers to the armor as his “metal clothing.”

  • This is the first time someone has learned that Tony Stark is Iron Man.

  • Iron Man can fly, but that ability seems to be limited. He uses a rope swing for transportation early in the issue, and uses an intercontinental missile to get to the Soviet Union quickly later in the issue.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • Who holds onto their weapons this firmly?

  • How bizarre is it that the hero of this story is the one building weapons that can “wipe out…a great metropolis” in a split-second? That’s some mad scientist stuff, right there.

  • Iron Man can fly (and does so, later in the issue), but opts to swing on a rope here.

  • The Red Barbarian knocks out an underling with a Flinstones-sized hunk of meat.

  • After stealing back the blueprints, Iron Man enters the Red Barbarian’s base, posing as The Actor, disguised as Iron Man. He tells the Red Barbarian that there is a time lock on the suitcase with the blueprints, and that he will return with the briefcase in a few hours, when they will open the briefcase together. Iron Man then leaves the country. The actual Actor arrives in the Red Barbarian’s base soon afterward without the briefcase, but the Red Barbarian does not believe his tale; The Actor is executed before he can tell anyone that Tony Stark is Iron Man. My question here is this: why did Tony bother visiting the Red Barbarian at all? Why not just leave the country immediately? Why add the theatrics?

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