Silver Age Saturdays: Tales of Suspense Issues #87-88, featuring Iron Man.

Tales of Suspense featuring Iron Man, Issue #87: “Crisis – At the Earth’s Core!”

Written by Stan Lee; Penciled by Gene Colan; Inked by Frank Giacoia. Cover Art also penciled by Gene Colan and inked by Frank Giacoia.


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Our first look at the Golden Avenger brings us solidly into 1967. Gene Colan has been doing the pencils for a handful of issues at this point, and his artwork is a good step above Don Heck – his predecessor. Sadly, the ensuing two-issue run is under par…

Tony Stark has been working on a new invention: The Earth Borer. It’s supposed to be like a bathysphere but for exploring the crust of the earth as opposed to underwater. As the machine is quite unstable, he orders his factory evacuated during it’s activation. Stark dons his Iron Man gear and proceeds to test out this immense creation, causing the earth around the factory to tremor slightly.

Outside, the populace has heard that Stark is testing out some potentially devastating technology and has gathered as sheep always do. Some are there hoping to glimpse some hint of Stark’s newest invention, while others are incensed that they have no say when dangerous experiments are taking place in their neighbourhood. I enjoyed this touch of realism, and hope that it doesn’t go forgotten. I believe that this is the first real instance of public wariness in regards to Tony Stark.

Unbeknownst to all excepting those of us who have seen the cover of this magazine, the Mole Man is up to some sneaky tricks. He has received word of Stark’s new contraption and seeks to get his own hands on it, as it would undoubtedly help his nefarious goals. We last saw the Mole Man and his Subterraneans at war with another underground empire and I’m certain this is fairly common down there, so this is a good enough excuse in my books for Ol’ Thick-Shades to make another attack on the surface.

He does so by once again targeting an area of the surface and creating a seemingly bottomless sinkhole to appear and swallow up anything resting above. It takes him three tries to bring Stark’s factory down to his realm – first was a gated community home, and then an entire multistory building from town.

While this is taking place, two thing of note happen. First, the massed public start to become enraged and decry Tony Stark for apparently creating these tremors while testing his invention. Second, a group of common gangsters decide that since Stark’s factory is currently evacuated and all of the fuss what with the disappearing buildings, now would be a great time to break in and steal some expensive loot from it.

The goons are actually brave enough to face Iron Man when they discover him, and get their asses handed to them very easily as would be expected. As they flee, the factory collapses into the earth, the final victim and true goal of the Mole Man’s plot.

Down in Mole Man’s territory, the ugly little villain is quick to pounce on the opportunity to target the dazed Iron Man with a warhead. The explosion creates an avalanche that buries Shellhead.

Tales of Suspense featuring Iron Man, Issue #88: “Beyond All Rescue!”

Written by Stan Lee; Penciled by Gene Colan; Inked by Frank Giacoia.

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So… Pepper Potts apparently sneaked into Tony Stark’s factory before it was swallowed into the depths of the earth’s crust by the Mole Man. It doesn’t take long for the villain’s Subterraneans to dig through the rock slide that trapped Iron Man at the end of last issue, and they aren’t willing to negotiate with the two surface dwellers.

The Mole Man states here his intentions of ruling the surface world. He is after Tony Stark’s new atomic earth digger so that he can excavate numerous tunnels for his Subterraneans to use as a means of ambush during his conquest. He also states that these Subterraneans are “virtually brainless, blindly-obedient subterranean slaves” and that he intends to use them as his army.

I feel like the Mole Man already has a pretty accurate means of access to the surface world with all of the sinkholes, and am disappointed that his intentions are still to rule above ground as opposed to securing the caves beneath the surface. Maybe he is homesick? Maybe Tyrannus is winning and Mole Man seeks an escape route? It will be interested to see this guys developing story. We’ve seen him enough to start picking him and his goals apart, since we know he’s a villain who survives the tests of time and is here to stay.

Anyway, as Iron Man is taking on the Mole Man’s hordes – who Iron Man surmises must not feel pain in addition to their other qualities – the Mole Man pulls out a concussion ray that does a lot of damage to Iron Man. After a quick exchange, Iron Man manages to escape with Pepper after causing another cave-in to cover their retreat.

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At this point, it dawns on Iron Man that the powers upstairs will most likely be sending technicians and military down the holes that have swallowed one of their most important military factories. He solves this problem by using his built in radio… I’m not going to get into the science of radio waves here, just let’s keep in mind that Iron Man is “an unimaginable distance below” the ground and that it’s 1967. Regardless, the golden avenger sends a message to the coast guard up above, warning them that sending any forces down here would be a bad idea because Subterraneans.

Meanwhile, the Mole Man is chortling and bragging to his brainless minions as he manipulates a giant science machine that was hidden behind a hidden wall panel. From here, he unleashes a giant mechanical fire-breathing dragon on Iron Man and Ms. Potts.

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Iron Man takes this monstrous gimmick down with an explosive pellet after a page of fighting, but Pepper Potts is abducted by the Subterraneans during the shenanigans and Shellhead is forced to head deeper into the caves in order to rescue her. Luckily, he has a Cheesy Stan Lee Plan!

You guessed it. Iron Man ‘fake surrender,’ promising to tell the Mole Man how to operate the earth digger if Pepper and himself live. The Mole Man is feeling merciful, agreeing to let them live to see his invasion of the surface become a reality. Pepper, for her part is aghast and shouts her disagreement during the entire conversation. All is for naught however, as Iron Man was just kidding. The earth digger is an unstable atomic creation, and as the Mole Man starts manipulating it in his ignorance it starts to implode. Iron Man easily casts the Subterraneans that were detaining Pepper aside and flies away as Tony Stark’s factory explodes with the Mole Man inside of it.

My Thoughts

I’ll quote Pepper Potts from up above: “I prefer the dragon to the mole man!”

I’m also going to be keeping a lookout for Mole Man’s concussion ray; it seems to be quite powerful and I want to see if it stays around.

Below average comic book right hurr. Gene Colan’s pencils are the only thing that kept this away from a rating of 1.

2/5.

Next Up

My next goal is a pretty small one in terms of comic book reading. A single issue and our first glimpse of the Uncanny X-Men! They’ll be going up against Calvin Rankin – the Mimic – for a second round.

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