Tales of Suspense (Vol. 1) #61

Credits:

Cover Date: January 1965

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Chic Stone

“The Death of Tony Stark!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Don Heck

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Don Heck

Inker: Dick Ayers

“The Strength of the Sumo!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Chic Stone

What’s Going On?

In the Iron Man story, Tony Stark’s home is destroyed by a powerful laser, and Iron Man knows that only the Mandarin could be responsible!

In the Captain America story, Cap journeys to Vietnam to save a soldier and fight a sumo wrestler.

Details:

In the Iron Man story:

  • Tony Stark has not been seen in over a month (because he has to stay inside his Iron Man armor to live), and his most loyal employees, Happy and Pepper, are quitting. They believe Iron Man has something to do with their boss’ disappearance.

  • The police also suspect Iron Man, and the press is making a stink about it.

  • Happy decided to investigate, and sneaks into Tony’s house. Tony managed to cover his Iron Man armor by covering himself with blankets and feigning illness.

  • Despite allowing Pepper and the police in his home to interview him in bed, Tony hasn’t dispelled everyone’s curiosity. Pepper and Happy still suspect that Iron Man is up to no good.

  • But Tony has bigger problems on his hands. His invalid status was leaked to the press, so anyone that wanted to know exactly where Tony Stark had the information they needed. The Mandarin fired a laser from a satellite at Tony’s bedroom, and only Iron Man’s sensors kept Tony from being destroyed by the blast.

  • Iron Man figured out that the Mandarin was behind the laser blast, so he flew to China to fight him. The Mandarin was ready, though, and defeated the hero. To be continued next issue!

In the Captain America story:

  • The story opens with Captain America breaking through Viet Công lines in Vietnam. He immediately surrenders, asking to speak to the general in charge.

  • Cap is there to work out the release of an American POW.
  • Before he can plead his case to the general, Cap must defeat some tough guys. He does so with ease.

  • Cap and his POW friend, Jim Baker, are taken to meet the general. The general turns out to be a giant sumo wrestler, yearning for a physical challenge. His size gives him an advantage over Cap, but not an insurmountable one.

  • Cap and Jim are able to escape without much more hassle. The end.

Is It Good?

No, it’s not. It’s just happenstance that both heroes trek to Asia in the same issue, but it is an unfortunate coincidence.  Honestly, I’m surprised that this issue doesn’t have more offensive racial stereotypes; there are some, but not nearly as many as I feared when I saw that this issue would have two Asian villains.

The Iron Man story continues the obnoxious “Tony is MIA in public because he’s stuck in his armor” plot, and I’m already tired of it. I did like that the Mandarin attacked Tony’s house because the press broadcast where he was, but the rest of the story was either bland or slightly obnoxious.

The Captain America story is pretty dumb, too, but at least it has Jack Kirby art and extended fight sequences to keep it somewhat interesting. One of these days, though, they’re going to have to try to come up with an actual story for Cap, instead of long fight scenes every couple of pages.

Continuity:

  • The Mandarin last appeared in Tales of Suspense #55.
  • This is the first time Tony articulates why he can’t go public as Iron Man.

  • The Tony-Pepper-Happy love triangle continues, with Happy mourning Tony but still seeing a silver lining.

  • Let’s update our knowledge of the Mandarin’s rings and their powers! In this issue, the Mandarin only uses his rings to control his complicated machines. It isn’t clear if the rings are a power source, or if they are acting like a remote control. The official list of ring powers shown to date are: Black Light Beam, Disintegration Beam, Force/Impact Beam, Paralysis Beam, Sound Beam, and whatever we want to call him controlling machines.

  • We have a pin-up from Don Heck:

  • Avengers #12, which also has a January 1965 cover date, didn’t mention the presumed death of Tony Stark.  Instead, they mourned him in the previous issue.  Either Avengers is a month ahead with its continuity, or they choose odd times to mourn.
  • This is Captain America’s first appearance in Vietnam.
  • Jim Baker’s brother saved Cap’s life in Europe during WWII. I don’t think we ever see him again or learn the story about his brother.

  • This is the first appearance of Sumo (AKA General Wo). He won’t be seen again for about 30 years.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • Using your shield to blind someone would make a lot more sense if the art or dialogue explained what bright light was being reflected.

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • It’d be great if Stan Lee could refrain from Asian stereotypes in his dialogue. To be fair, he’s not mixing L’s and R’s any more, but there’s still a long way to go.

  • I understand that sumo wrestling has fans outside of Japan, but it is a weird choice to make a Viet Công villain a sumo wrestler, right?

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