Amazing Spider-Man Classics
The X-Men Blog -- Tales of Suspense 49

Today on the X-Men Blog we are taking our first detour away from our main title, The X-Men, and catching a guest-star appearance of the Angel in Tales of Suspense 49.  For those who don't know, Tales of Suspense was an anthology book that Marvel had been publishing since 1958.  The first issue featured such suspenseful (hehe!) tales as "I Dared to Explore the Unknown Emptiness!" and "Prisoner of the Satellites".  But with superheroes on the rise again in Marvel's repertoire, Stan Lee decided in late 1963 to test a new idea as the lead strip in Tales of Suspense.  Six months earlier, he'd done the same with Thor in Journey into Mystery and the Ant Man in Tales to Astonish.  Now, we had the Iron Man, an excellent example of a superhero with a pretty cool gimmick and intriguing origin, whose stories ended up being very uneven in quality.  With the rise of Iron Man popularity since 2008, I think it's important to point out that if you take a look at his whole history, the character has seldom been good and only rarely been great.  But this was 1963.  Everything Marvel did turned to gold, and so people were reading Tales of Suspense because, even though it wasn't as awesome as The Fantastic Four or Amazing Spider-Man, many found it more interesting than the other companies' books.

So, history lesson over.  The punchline is that Marvel wanted to use the popularity of Tales of Suspense to promote their new book The X-Men.  (One might wonder if it weren't the reverse, with the Angel's apperance meant to increase Tales of Suspense sales, but when Stan Lee was writing this book, the first issue of the X-Men hadn't even hit stands yet.)  Hence, we have issue 49 of that book with Iron Man going up against the Angel.

I find the cover kinda amusing.  Here, the Angel has just walloped Iron Man, who is now falling, presumably to his doom.  Can you imagine this happening in the next Iron Man film?  A guy with wings, clocking armor-clad Robert Downey?  He'd bust his hand!

Open up to the opening splash, and the change from Kirby cover to Ditko interiors is a little jarring.  It's the same concept but different execution, and frankly I prefer the cover, no offense to Mr. Ditko.  We get a sales advertisement for The X-Men on both, and the splash also mentions The Avengers, which had debuted at the same time as The X-Men.

Our title is "The New Iron Man Meets the Angel!"  Notice the word "new".  Last month had debuted Tony Stark's new streamlined red-trimmed costume.  Obviously, Lee and Ditko are still excited about this.

(page 2-4) The Angel is flying over a Stark factory, on his way to wherever, when Iron Man looks up and sees him.  Iron Man tries to warn the Angel away because there's about to be a nuclear explosion, but the Angel thinks he's saying, "Hi!"  So he goes down to be friendly and they're both caught in the blast.  This has the effect of turning the Angel EVIL, so when Iron Man's power gives out, the Angel does nothing to save him.  Iron Man is only able to land safely because of magnetic repellers in his ass.  He goes off to his lab to recharge.

So here we have another excellent example of retarded uses of radiation as a comic plot device.  Instead of KILLING HIM!!, as radiation ought to do... or even turning him into a mutated hulk or something, the effects of vicinity to an atomic explosion are ... basically an attitude adjustment.  And a tendency to rant about EVIL MUTANTS, which is gonna get really annoying here in a minute.  And the topper here is that Iron Man says the effects are "just as he suspected".  How was vilifying radiation in your plans, Tony?

Also, why the hell is there an atomic explosion going on in the Stark factory?  That's definitely not a good thing!  Maybe there's some story there about a meltdown that Stark couldn't stop, so he just evacuated everyone as Iron Man, and now he's about to get out of there himself.

And someone help me out here.  I haven't read a lot of Iron Man.  Most of the recent Fraction stuff, and his first 60 or so stories in Tales of Suspense, and that's it.  But I never got the impression that he was able to withstand an atomic explosion.  Is this just Lee and Ditko neglecting the impact of what nuclear blasts really do?  Or is this an ability that manifests again later, when storytelling is a bit less ignorant of this sort of thing?

If there's one thing that a bad guy can do that will turn me off is rant about how EVIL he is, which is what the Angel starts to do here.  A believable villain is going to believe he's doing something for a legitimate reason.  Maybe the reason is as simple as self-gain at the expense of the rest of the world, but it's a reason.  No person honestly thinks of himself as "evil".  And so when the Angel gets on this kick, I sigh.

Oh, and gotta love the days when Stark was always having to get back to his Lantern to charge his ring, right?

(page 5-8) At Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, the Angel is telling the other X-Men that he's leaving.  They first try to talk him out out of it, then they try to fight him down until the Professor can get there, but the Angel gets away.  (During this, cut away for two panels to show Tony removing his armor.)  Xavier arrives and tries to mentally call the Angel back, but A is having none of it.  Xavier is dismayed that he has failed, but decides they must stop the Angel and orders Cyclops to contact the Avengers.

Some random thoughts here.  The Beast says that the Angel was one of the first X-Men and that they two started together.  This will be contradicted later by the "Origins of the X-Men" backup stories.  The first two X-Men were Cyclops and Iceman, and if you're only talking about a group of five, not being in the top two makes you not one of the first.

If we're gonna view this story partly as an advertisement for The X-Men, then I say giving each of the members a chance to show his powers is a pretty good idea.  Too bad the Angel bests each of his teammates without trying.

We see the rants about the evil mutants.  I'll show you what I mean:

"We're the good mutants! Haw...big deal! I'm gonna find the bad ones...the ones that wanna rule the Earth! The ones we're supposed to fight! ...and I'm gonna join up with them! That's where the action is!"

"But now the fun's over! The next time we meet, I'll be fighting on the side of the other mutants.. the ones who want to destroy mankind!"

"You don't scare me anymore, mister! The only ones I'll be taking orders from, from now on, are the other mutants...those you call the evil ones!"

And Professor X doesn't help:

"But before we make any such decision, we must finish the job at hand! We must stop the Angel! For if he joins the evil mutants, bringing with him his X-Men training, we may find they are too powerful even for us to challenge!"

So yeah.  Lots of evil mutant rants.  Very annoying.

Xavier is kinda touching with his worrying about his ability as a teacher if the Angel could have gone this far off the rails.  Evidently, there's nothing in the Angel's thoughts the Professor saw to indicate this is an artificially-induced state of mind.

(page 8,9) The call goes out to the Avengers.  But everyone's too busy to answer but Tony.

This is a short scene, but I thought it worth mentioning by itself.  For those who don't know the early Avengers chronology, the Hulk was a part of the team for the end of the first issue and most of the second.  He took off at the end of the second issue because he didn't feel he had the trust of the rest of the team.  And that issue had hit a month earlier.  So I'm not sure why he's included here.  Maybe Lee didn't realize exactly where the Hulk's role on the team was headed when he wrote this.  Actually that seems very likely.  You know and I know that the Hulk didn't rejoin the team, but that doesn't mean Stan knew that would be the outcome at this time.

Thor is being Don Blake.  I wonder how that's going to work in the movie.  That's the part of the movie I'm most curious about -- how they're going to integrate the mortal identity into the swords 'n' sorcery tale they're spinning.

Hank Pym is out with his teenage sidekick, being a dirty old man.

And that leaves good old Tony Stark.  We also see some cute Happy/Pepper banter here.  The early versions of these characters crack me up.  Soooo different to who they will become later.  Well, Happy's dead now, and Pepper's practically a cyborg, so...

Iron Man's armor is so cute here.  The yellow parts seem to be basically a fine wire mesh.  They just fold down like cloth sleeves, but pop into place with magnets in the joints.  Very clever.  Very 60s! but very clever.

Another interesing point.  The narration says that Cyclops is using "a secret wavelength used only by the X-Men and other specially licensed crime-fighting organizations".  Sooo, the X-Men are licensed here?  I mean, we know that Xavier has a contact in the FBI, but we also know that's kept on the down low.  The mutants were allowed to help with the Vanisher problem, so maybe they've made contacts with someone.  But I really have to think that if the various superteams had a special wavelength like this, they would use it more often to communicate and have parties and not get into fights every time they meet, y'know?

(page 10-18) The last half of the story is basically one act.  The Angel explodes some TNT in the air, and some more near a cruiseboat, and soe more near a bridge, trying to get the attention of the evil mutants, but it doesn't work because the evil mutants see that it's the Angel doing this and suspect a trap.  Iron Man shows on the scene and convinces the police to hold off their efforts until he's had a chance to bring down the Angel.  They tussle in the air, and Iron Man gets locked in a hangar but gets free.  Then Iron Man carries the Angel high up into the air until his transistors cut out.  As the Angel sees Iron Man falling to his death, his brain kicks in and he saves Iron Man.  Then Angel is normal again so he goes back to the X-Men and everyone is happy.

So, if I wanted to get the attention of evil mutants, I'm not sure exploding TNT in various places would be the best way.  It's not exactly very communicative.  And you're just as likely to attract the attention of the authorities, or any number of other good and bad guys.  The funny thing is that the narration tells us he actually does succeed in getting the attention of some certain "evil mutants" somewhere but that they know who the Angel is, so they don't come out because they think there's a trap.

I just wanna mention at this point that we *will* be meeting the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants shortly, in The X-Men 4.  It's obvious as blood writing on the wall that Stan Lee is playing with the ideas that will lead to that group's introduction.  He's a little too blatant about it, and it's the sort of foreshadowing you'd expect to see in The X-Men, not in another book's guest feature.

I don't have a lot to say about the actual fight, so skipping to the final air scene, Iron Man is retarded.  He gets the notion that this state of mind of the Angel is reversible.  And further, that his falling to his doom is going to be the trigger to snap the Angel back to his normal self.  I'm so glad he knew that would work, because obviously it worked so well for him back on page 4, right?  I mean, I guess....since Iron Man says the explosion was the result of a test, I guess we can say by some crazy comic book Stan Lee logic that Tony knew more about the nature of the blast than I've been giving him credit for so far as its effects and their durability and reversibility.  I guess.  But I don't really want to.

Also, does Iron Man have some of the absolute weakest armor at this point, or what?  I mean, he just recharged before this fight, and tussling with the Angel was enough to drain his power?  Really?  Wow, I hope you don't have to fight Ultimo tomorrow or anything, Iron Man.

More adorable Xavier with his "So I did not fail! My X-Men training program is successful!"  It's so nice to feel validated, isn't it?  You keep training mutant children to fight bad guys, ok?

Iron Man makes the comment to the Angel that they might fight side-by-side someday rather than as enemies.  And I wanted to be all cool and clever and say, "As a matter of fact, yes! And it happens in such and such issue!"  Only I have no idea when they fight together for the first time.  There are some stories coming up that have them both in the story, but not fighting together or against each other as far as I know.  I don't know when their first team-up is.

So, that basically wraps up this issue.  There are a couple more stories, one with the Watcher and a text story.  You might think you want to know about them, but I promise they're not worth your time.


So, that's it!  I think I mentioned last time that The X-Men 3 is coming up soon, with the Blob, but I actually have one other I want to do first.  So we're gonna hit The Avengers 3 for a short post, and then I'll have The X-Men 3 coverage.  See you then!  Please leave a comment below if you read!  (My ego needs feeding.)


Category:X-Men blog -- posted at: 8:06pm EDT