Tales of Suspense (Vol. 1) #66

Credits:

Cover Date: June 1965

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Frank Giacoia

“If I Fail, a World is Lost!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Don Heck

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Don Heck

Inker: Mike Esposito (credited as Mickey Demeo)

“The Fantastic Origin of the Red Skull!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Chic Stone

What’s Going On?

Iron Man takes on the mighty Attuma, for the fate of the surface world.

Back in Word War II, Captain America learns the origin of the evil Red Skull.

Details:

In the Iron Man story:

  • Iron Man is demonstrating a new Stark Industries mini-submarine for the US government.

  • Happy Hogan, frustrated by Pepper’s obvious crush on Tony Stark and his own vague job responsibilities, wants to pilot the test submarine. Tony refuses, and Happy quits on the spot.

  • During the test, someone took a shot at the sub. Iron Man parked the submarine and pressed forward, finding a band of Atlanteans assembling a gigantic underwater gun.

  • Iron Man overhears the villainous Attuma’s plan for the gun: they will fire a mortar shell made of the rare element Nautilum into the atmosphere. This will result in Atlanteans being able to breathe on the surface, and normal humans would not be able to.

  • Naturally, Iron Man decides to destroy the gun. He is able to handle Attuma’s underlings easily enough…

  • …but Attuma is tough enough to stand up to Iron Man’s attacks.
  • Eventually, Attuma lures Iron Man into a makeshift prison; this will buy the villain enough time to fire the gun and (maybe) ruin the surface world!

  • Iron Man frees himself pretty quickly, but his armor is running out of oxygen, so he must return to the experimental Stark submarine he parked earlier. Low on power and oxygen, Iron Man decides to crash the sub into the gun to save the day.

  • Back on the surface, Iron Man informs the government officials that the mini-submarine was defective. This may threaten Stark’s lucrative government contracts, but I guess we’ll find out about that (maybe) next issue.

In the Captain America story:

  • Captured by Nazis, Captain America finds himself a prisoner of the Red Skull! The villain takes this opportunity to tell his origin to Cap. In a nutshell, Red Skull grew up unloved and weak, filled with hatred. Cap is not exactly sympathetic.

  • Working as a lowly bellboy, the future Red Skull waited on Adolf Hitler, who abruptly decided to take him under his wing. Hitler wanted to see the bellboy made into the perfect Nazi.

  • When his training was complete, the bellboy was given a costume and a mask. He was now Red Skull, the supreme Nazi, answerable only to Hitler himself!

  • Red Skull’s thirst for power was stronger than his loyalty, though. He quickly consolidated power, to the point where even Hitler feared the Red Skull.

  • At this point, Captain America is tired of listening to the Red Skull’s monologue. He tries to fight the villain, but feels surprisingly weak.

  • Red Skull has been talking to Cap to kill time as a chemical worked its way through Cap’s body. Now, Captain America is under the mental control of the evil Red Skull!

  • To be continued…!

Is It Good?

The Captain America story was pretty good. I like how Lee and Kirby have no qualms painting the Nazis as flat-out evil, and the Red Skull as evil personified. I don’t understand why they felt the need to retcon last issue’s Red Skull into being an impostor, but whatever.

The Iron Man story was not great. I’m just not interested in Attuma, and his master plan sounded dumb. I also did not appreciate the way this plot was assembled. Tony Stark is the world-renowned and celebrated genius behind a ton of fantastic military weapons, and we’re supposed to accept that a single US Senator is able to threaten Tony’s military contracts? And that Tony would accommodate this grumpy Senator to the point where he wouldn’t stop Happy Hogan from quitting his job? Tony just doesn’t feel like he’s got a consistent personality in this title.

Continuity:

  • Attuma last appeared in Tales to Astonish #64.
  • This is the first time Iron Man and Attuma have met.
  • Senator Harrington Byrd last appeared in Tales of Suspense #47. I think Don Heck forgot what character Senator Byrd was in his last appearance. On the left is Byrd in this issue. On the right is Byrd in his last appearance. The only things that are the same are the cigar and the distaste for Tony Stark.
  • Iron Man still needs to charge his armor, despite having a backup generator and the more efficient transistor he designed in Tales of Suspense #63.

  • Happy Hogan has been receiving a gradual makeover from Don Heck over the last several issues. On the left is Happy in this issue: relatively handsome, even if he never smiles. On the right is Happy circa Tales of Suspense #55; notice the larger jaw and the more prevalent bags under the eyes. Happy was originally introduced as a former boxer, with a mean mug to prove it, but it seems like Heck is prettying him up for the Tony-Pepper-Happy love triangle.
  • This is the debut of Iron Man’s newest armor upgrade. Rather than the riveted faceplate he has been sporting since Tales of Suspense #54, Tony’s faceplate now has a more streamlined look. The Marvel Wiki refers to this as the first appearance of the Iron Man Mark III armor, but there is no mention of any other upgrades, so we’ll see. By my count, Tony has used 5 armors to date: the original (which was later spray-painted gold), the aluminum version of his original armor (Tales of Suspense #47), the “horned” red-and-yellow armor (Tales of Suspense #48), the rivet helmet, and now this.

  • This is the first original Captain America solo story since this feature shifted to telling World War II stories. The past three issues have had updated adaptations of previously published work.
  • This is the official first appearance of the Red Skull in the Silver Age. It is revealed that the Red Skull we met in Tales of Suspense #65 was an impostor.

  • The Red Skull is tough, but he does not appear to have any super-powers. His “skull” is just a mask at this point.
  • This is the first time Captain America is controlled by a villain (in the Silver Age, at least).

Comics Are Goofy:

  • Attuma thinks that humidity is enough to conquer the surface world. Apparently, he’s never spent time in Georgia.

  • Using refraction to dissipate radiation is more than a “long shot,” Iron Man.

  • “No one would ever believe” that Atlanteans were planning to attack the surface world? Why not? Namor threatened New York City as recently as two months ago, in Daredevil #7. There must be tons of wreckage he could salvage as proof, too. Iron Man is dumb sometimes.

  • Stan and Jack pull no punches about Nazis, and I love it.

  • A couple of notes about this retcon. First, Captain America didn’t catch the Red Skull in Tales of Suspense #65; the villain escaped. Second, it was revealed in that issue that the Red Skull in that story was impersonating Maxon. Why even bother doing a retcon a single issue later, especially if you’re misremembering what happened in that story?

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