Tales of Suspense (Vol. 1) #63

Credits:

Cover Date: March 1965

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Frank Giacoia

“Somewhere Lurks the Phantom!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Don Heck

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Don Heck

Inker: Dick Ayers

“The Origin of Captain America!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Frank Giacoia (credited as Frank Ray)

What’s Going On?

Iron Man fights another saboteur at Stark Industries, and we Captain America’s Origin is re-told.

Details:

  • After several issues of not inventing something to solve his problem, Tony Stark finally invents something that will allow him to remove his Iron Man armor and still live!

  • Free to walk in public as himself again, Tony’s first act is to let Happy and Pepper know that he is safe. His excuse for disappearing? He has been hanging out with a debutante on a yacht, and didn’t want the attention of the press.
  • Not long after announcing the return of stony Stark, someone started sabotaging Stark Industries. The components used to make the bombs are Stark’s proprietary parts, which implies that the saboteur works for Tony!

  • After a few more sabotages, Tony starts getting pressured from his associates; the military can’t stand delays, the union can’t risk worker safety, and Congress can’t keep contracts with companies that don’t keep their promises.

  • The good news: Iron Man eventually tracks down and captures the saboteur. It was an employee that Tony had been ignoring, and Tony gives him a condescending speech before the guy goes to jail.

In the Captain America story:

  • We revisit Cap’s origin. In WWII, American scientists struggled to perfect a chemical formula to make the ultimate soldier. The sickly Steve Rogers was selected from a number of volunteers to be the test subject for Dr. Erskine’s formula.

  • And it worked! Before their eyes, Steve grew into a nearly perfect human specimen.

  • Sadly, a Nazi spy infiltrated the experiment and killed Dr. Erskine. The good doctor, afraid that Nazis might try to steal the secret of his formula, did not share his secret with anyone and did not write it down. When he died, the chemical formula to create super soldiers died with him.

  • Rogers was given the secret identity Captain America, which he used to fight the Nazis. But to keep anyone from learning Cap’s secret identity, Steve made sure to be the clumsiest and worst soldier he could be, to deflect suspicion.

  • One night, as he prepared to go into the field as Captain America, the camp mascot, Bucky Barnes walked in on him getting dressed. At Bucky’s request, Cap mentors the boy and makes him his partner.

  • And that’s how Captain America and Bucky came to be!

Is It Good?

Not especially. On the one hand, I’m glad to see the “Tony is stuck in his Iron Man suit” subplot over. It’s annoying that the solution was “Tony invents something to fix this problem as soon as Stan Lee got bored with the subplot,” but I suppose that was inevitable. And, if him lying about his engagement ends the Tony-Pepper-Happy love triangle, I am all for that. But the Iron Man story, aside from resetting the status quo, was pretty dull.

Cap’s origin story is better, but it’s a barely updated version of what was shown in Captain America Comics #1. It’s kind of cool to see and recognize the difference in Kirby’s artwork over a 20+ year period, but the story is a quick overview —- not something that readers can actually get invested in.

It’s interesting that Cap’s feature will be set in WWII going forward. The past few months have felt like Stan and Jack we’re struggling with a direction for Cap’s stories, and it looks like they finally found one.

Continuity:

  • The public now knows that Tony Stark is alive! He was believed to be dead after the Mandarin blew up his house in Tales of Suspense #61. Tony’s excuse for letting people think he was dead is that he was busy romancing an unnamed rich woman, and now they are engaged. I’m sure that won’t come back to haunt him.
  • Tony Stark no longer has to wear his Iron Man armor at all times to live. This wraps up a subplot that began in Tales of Suspense #59.
  • This is the first appearance of Dr. Donald Birch, the Phantom. He is largely forgotten as a character, aside from a 2011 miniseries that briefly featured him.

  • Beginning with this issue, the Captain America feature will shift away from telling modern Cap stories, and instead focus on World War II adventures.
  • This is the first retelling of Captain America’s origin in the Silver Age. His origin was originally told in 1941’s Captain America Comics #1.
  • The secret program to create American super-soldiers, Operation: Rebirth, is named for the first time.
  • This is the first appearance of Undersecretary Homer Simms, although he is not named in this issue. He is one of the military higher-ups involved in Operation: Rebirth. His inclusion is a slight retcon of Cap’s Golden Age origin story, as he wasn’t in the original story.
  • This is the first appearance of Doctor Murray Anderson. He is one of the lead scientists for Operation: Rebirth. He, also, was not part of the original Golden Age story.
  • The Marvel Wikia credits this as the first appearance of Cynthia Glass; she is Agent R in this story, the woman guarding the entrance to Erskine’s lab. However, there is an identical character called X-13 in the original origin story, so I’m not so sure. See for yourself.  Agent R is on the left, X-13 is on the right.
  • This is the first Silver Age appearance of General Phillips (part of Operation: Rebirth) and Sgt. Mike Duffy (Steve’s Sergeant at the base).
  • This is the first Silver Age appearance of Doctor Erskine (the creator of the super-soldier formula) and Heinz Kruger. Both are shown dying in this issue, too.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • The goal of this scene is to show Tony removing his Iron Man armor and not dying. I think it succeeds in the second part, but…shouldn’t it look like he is no longer wearing the armor? It looks like he just removed his leggings.

  • First off, Happy has had a crush on Pepper since his debut in Tales of Suspense #45 —- and Tony has definitely known this since Tales of Suspense #57 at the latest. This is no surprise for Tony. Second, does he really think a fake engagement to an imaginary girlfriend is the solution to anything?

  • This is clearly just a simple mistake, but I really like the two-star general being colored to look like a beat cop here.

  • Interesting side note: Stark Industries is unionized. Maybe the Reds shouldn’t be so hard on Tony!
  • You know, you’d probably be quieter if you used your roller skates, Iron Man.

  • Is there ever a situation that is not improved by a Scooby-Doo mask?

  • “If this was the Third Reich, I’d have to shoot you to keep my secret safe! [long sigh] But we don’t do things that way 😦 “

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • Somebody sit this kid down and talk to him about offensive language.

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