Sunday, 22 July 2018

Iron Man: A Red and Yellow Future

IRON MAN'S GOLDEN ARMOURED RUN ENDED with the November 1963 issue of Tales of Suspense. Stan Lee had realised that his grand superhero adventure of the early Silver Age was in danger of foundering. He'd started drafting in some old Atlas alumni to (re)build to same sort of operation he'd presided over during the Atlas years. But the stories, by former Atlas and Charlton staff writer Ernie Hart and Atlas and DC scripter Robert Bernstein, seemed flat and lifeless compared to Stan's own writing efforts and they had to go.

Tales of Suspense 47 was the final outing for Iron Man's golden armour, a design pretty clunky even by 1963's standards. Even while Don Heck was trying to make the armour lighter and more manoeuvrable in the interior art, Kirby continued to draw the same clumsy tank-like armour on all the covers. Small wonder Lee brought in Ditko for the makeover (and mentioned it on the cover).
In taking over the writing of the Marvel b-titles, Stan also brought a little something extra to each book. In Strange Tales, he added Dr Strange as a regular feature; in Tales to Astonish, Stan changed Ant-Man to Giant Man; in Journey into Mystery he added Tales of Asgard as a secondary feature; and in Tales of Suspense, he had Ditko design Iron Man a new, red-and-yellow armour. He also added Tales of the Watcher as a back-up strip, but I barely even noticed that.

In anticipation of the changes he was planning on Iron Man, Stan needed Steve Ditko. I think he saw Don Heck as a capable storyteller, but not a designer. The Kirby look for Iron Man wasn't working - at least, not for Stan - so he went to his next best designer. He moved Don Heck temporarily off Iron Man onto Thor and suspended Strange Tales' Dr Strange for a couple of months to free up Ditko's time for Iron Man.

The Melter is an interesting foe for Iron Man, but I don't think Stan made it clear enough that the melting beam liquifies iron (and only iron) without raising the temperature. Also, I'm not seeing a great deal of Steve Ditko art here, as Heck's style is overtaking any Ditko pencils.
For "Iron Man Battles the Melter", it doesn't appear to me that Steve Ditko contributed more than the barest of layouts. I don't think Ditko was responsible for The Melter's costume either. It has the distinct look of a Heck design. And, of course, it was business as usual with the clunky yellow armour. Kirby's cover depicted Iron Man without a chin again, though in the interior art, Heck (presumably) has given the Golden Avenger's helmet a distinct curve into the neck. It does look better, but even as a kid, I wondered how Stark got the helmet over his head.

Though Kirby's "chinless" Iron Man looked more like a robot, it did make sense from a practical point of view. Don Heck's version, though sleeker and more modern-looking, does make you wonder how Stark got his head through the helmet's narrow neck hole.
There's some other nice touches in the story's art. Heck renders a couple of panels in silhouette. I'm pretty sure it was Heck, as I don't recall that was trick Ditko used in any of his Spider-Man or Dr Strange art.

Is Don Heck the inker just saving himself some time by blocking in the figures in Ditko's pencils in black ink? Or was this a deliberate design decision by Ditko. I'm leaning towards the former.
Also apparent in this issue is how Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts have a bit more to do. Stan gives them quite a few lines of dialogue and even begins to refine the relationship between them.

Compare and contrast: the introduction of Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts as scripted by Robert Bernstein in Tales of Suspense 45, and, on the right, Happy and Pepper as dialogued by Stan Lee in ToS47.
But best of all is Stan Lee's peppy script. The dialogue is just so much better here than it was in the Robert Bernstein issues. Stan's humour and grasp of characterisation shine through and though there isn't much to choose between the content of say, the Happy-Pepper verbal jousting, Stan just does the whole bickering schtick so much better, but also in a good-natured way.

Even at the end of this tale, Stan wasn't giving anything away about what lay ahead. But big changes were coming to Iron Man in the very next issue.

The cover gives away the big surprise inside this issue ... Iron Man gets new-look armour. It's one of the few times the two versions of the armour have appeared in the same comic and on the same cover.
Tales of Suspense 48 (Dec 1963) was quite a landmark issue. Not for the first time, Stan overturned a Kirby design that wasn't, for whatever reason, working for Stan. In my view, Lee was right to get rid of the heavy, lumbering Kirby-designed golden armour. It was a 1959 Cadillac for a 1963 world - big and heavy and energy-inefficient. Having Steve Ditko do the work made sense. He'd redesigned Kirby's original drawings for Spider-Man to make the character sleeker and less bulky, it made sense to see if he could do the same thing for Iron Man.

The New Iron Man Battles the Mysterious Mr Pain - Stark's newest foe is a classic piece of eccentric Ditko design, looking more like a Dr Strange villain than someone Iron Man should be fighting. What is the point of the pointy head-dress?
The villain, Mr Doll, has taken some flack from fan circles for being anything but "a truly different super-villain". Some have compared him to The Fantastic Four's Puppet Master, but in fact the two have quite different powers. The Puppet Master uses his puppets to mind-control his victims while Mr Doll - originally called "Mr Pain" - uses his doll to cause harm to his victims in much the same way as a Voodoo houngan. He's not the best supervillain Stan's ever come up with, but he's not the worst either. Mr Doll would probably have been more interesting as Mr Pain. It's a much darker idea, and there has been some speculation that the name change was enforced by the Comics Code, though there's no confirmation of that which I could find.

Only Steve Ditko would spread a scene of Iron Man putting on his armour over three pages ... and only Ditko could make it work. Despite the slightly unsuitable inking of Dick Ayers, this is still a milestone moment in the development of Marvel Comics. And this version of the armour is still my favourite.
But the key reason to use a villain who's powers depend on using the hero's likeness against him is to catalyse the change in Stark's Iron Man armour. Stark reasons that if he alters his Iron Man appearance, Mr Doll's powers won't work against him. It's pretty flawed as far as the logic goes. Stark has already seen Mr Doll alter his magic doll to switch the pain from millionaire victim Charleston Carter to Iron Man. Nevertheless, the side benefit is that the new armour is lighter, stronger and, most importantly, far more modern-looking than the golden version. This armour, with its distinctive hinged faceplate with pointy "bat-ears", is easily my favourite of the red-and-yellow armours. Just why Stan allowed it to be changed just a few issues later is anyone's guess.

Jack Kirby doesn't quite get Ditko's design for Iron Man's new armour. Here, the hinged faceplate is drawn as though it's actually part of the  headpiece, again begging the question, how would Tony Stark put the Iron Man helmet on?
Stan used Tales of Suspense 49 (Jan 1964, on sale 8 Oct 1963) to showcase Iron Man's new abilities and give a high-profile plug to his new team book The Uncanny X-Men. In fact, he gives The X-Men the lion's share of the action, devoting a third of the story's 18 pages to Professor X and his band of merry mutants. The trigger for the tale is The X-Men's Angel flying into a danger zone above one of Stark's factories where a nuclear explosion is about to detonate. Quite why he wants to detonate an atomic device in one of his own weapons facilities isn't explained. 

Flying along, minding his own business, The X-Man Angel blunders into Tony Stark's atomic explosion. But the biggest mystery for me isn't, "Why is Tony Stark carrying out nuclear tests in a built-up area?" but rather, "How does Iron Man know The Angel's a youngster?"
Because radiation is the cause of everything in these early Marvel stories, this time the nuclear energy turns The Angel bad, at least temporarily. So Iron Man spends the rest of the issue chasing Warren Worthington around the skies over upstate New York. And when The Angel quits the X-Men to go join the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (who wouldn't appear in The X-Men for another two months), Professor X doesn't seem able to discover what The Angel's problem is, despite his not-inconsiderable telepathic powers.

Who's bad? It's funny what a bit of exposure to radiation can do: give you super-powers, take your super-powers away, make you evil ... the list is endless.
Iron Man finally has to engineer a death plunge from several miles up in order to snap The Angel out of his evilness. The story ends with The Angel recovering from his bout of bad behaviour and saving Iron Man at the last second. Everyone parts friends with The Angel assuring Iron Man that "if you even need help ... no matter how deadly the trouble ... call on me ... call on The X-Men". Yet, when The Avengers desperately needed to find the Hulk  later the same month in Avengers 3 (Jan 1964), Professor X - unchallenged by the Angel - is curtly dismissive of Iron Man's request for help.

Avengers 3: When the superteam have to find The Hulk, Iron Man approaches each of the other Marvel superheroes looking for aid. Despite The Angel's promise in Tales of Suspense 49, The X-Men are no help at all. (Thanks to George Chambers for the heads-up.)
That promise was a distant memory by the next time Iron Man encountered the mutant team, in X-Men 9 (Jan 1965), but at this point in Marvel history, Stan and Jack weren't letting pesky continuity get in the way of a good superteam battle.

X-Men 9 (Jan 1965): Not only does The Angel forget his promise to Iron Man provide help whenever asked, he doesn't seem to remember Iron Man either - though in all fairness, Iron Man doesn't seem to remember The Angel. They all just want to have a Kirby scrap, for no apparent reason.
All's well that ends well, and everything was safely back to normal in time for X-Men 3 (Jan 1964, on sale 5 Nov 1963) and for Tales of Suspense 50 (Jan 1964, on sale 12 Nov 1963), which featured a brand-new villain.

In the back-end of Tales of Suspense 49 was another Marvel cross-over, unheralded on the cover. Stan began framing some of his old-school fantasy tales with a narration by The Watcher ("by special arrangement with the Fantastic Four magazine.") What seems especially strange is that Stan had prefaced the Iron Man story in this issue with the editorial message, "The Angel and The X-Men appear in this story through the courtesy of the editors of The X-Men magazine! The Avengers are depicted briefly on these pages by the spacial arrangement with the copyright owners of The Avengers magazine!" So what was Stan's point here? He's making it seem as though The X-Men and The Avengers are published by different companies, despite the fact that by this point all Marvel Comics were labelled as "Marvel Comics" in the cover corner box. So he wasn't fooling the readers. It's an odd conceit, and I cannot fathom a reason for it.

Omnipotent intergalactic demi-god The Watcher waves cheerily to the reader before relating an inconsequential tale of the passive conquering of the human race by aliens called the Sneepers. He then breaks his own code of non-interference by urging the humans not to allow this avoidable disaster to come to pass. I think I'd have preferred "Tales of Happy Hogan".
The first Watcher tale, "The Saga of the Sneepers" is barely distinguishable from the pre-hero five-pagers Stan was filling Tales of Suspense with before Iron Man and, back in the 1960s, I'd gloss over these with barely a second glance. This one has a plot by Stan and script and pencils by Larry Leiber, with George Roussos (as "G. Bell") finishing up on inks.

The first of Iron Man's truly memorable opponents was The Mandarin, a bargain basement imitator of Fu Manchu, The Mandarin followed in the footsteps of such knock offs as Wu Fang and Marvel's own Yellow Claw.
Tales of Suspense 50's "Caught in the Clutches of The Hands of the Mandarin" - despite being one of the more tautological story titles of the period - did introduce an enduring villain to the Iron Man cast. Okay, he was a low-rent Fu Manchu, but the gimmick of the rings was pretty cool. Where DC's Green Lantern had one all-powerful ring, The Mandarin had ten! I mean, what chance would Iron Man have against that?

Despite being seriously out-gunned by The Mandarin, Iron Man somehow manages to temporarily disable the warlord and escape China with his life. There would be other, more challenging battles ahead.
Iron Man gets involved when the CIA asks him to investigate a Chinese warlord The Manadarin, who is feared even by the Red Chinese government. Without really knowing what he's up against, Stark blunders straight in and is almost immediately at the mercy of the self-styled descendant of Genghis Khan. Overall the battle is inconclusive and though Iron Man temporarily defeats The Mandarin, he barely manages to escape in time to rendezvous with his CIA pickup plane and the irritated Mandarin lives to fight another day.

The tale runs a shortened 13 pages and I have to wonder if there was a reason for that, since the Iron Man stories had been 18 pages since issue 47. Certainly by ending the story in such an inconclusive way, it seems Stan had designs on bringing the Mandarin back, even at this early stage. And, of course, that would turn out to be the case. And it's great to see the great Don Heck back on pencils and inks, as the story looks once more like classic Iron Man. Certainly Ditko's input on the previous issues was invaluable, but I don't think I'd have liked to see him continue on the title.

Stan and Don also contrive to change Pepper Potts' appearance to make her more of a glamour girl than she was when first introduced. It's not beyond possibility that this was Heck's idea, as the artist was especially known for drawing attractive women characters.
Also in this story, Stan gets Don Heck to give Pepper Potts a makeover, making her far prettier. I suppose this was to make for a more convincing love triangle between Stark, Pepper and Happy ... not that it was ever convincing in the first place. Because of the shorter Iron Man story, the issue is rounded out with two fantasy tales; "Them!", a fourth wall tale in which a man believes he's being hounded by fictional characters, but turns out to be a fictional character himself, and a Tales of the Watcher "Journey's End" in which a nerd finds paradise on a hidden alien planet.

It's strange that Stan chose his two best sellers to advertise in Tales of Suspense 50. Wouldn't it have made more sense to try to bolster the lower-selling anthology titles like Journey into Mystery?
Also included for the first time, two full-page Marvel house ads for Amazing Spider-Man 9 and Fantastic Four 23 (both Feb 1964, on sale 12 Nov 1963), titles that were selling significantly better than Tales of Suspense's 188,000 copies a month average.

"The Scarecrow! What strange power does he possess?" shouts Stan's cover line for Tales of Suspense 51.  The answer is, "None!" Unlike Batman's eponymous foe over at DC Comics, this Scarecrow doesn't actually scare anyone, being an escape artist turned cat-burglar with no actual power at all.
Tales of Suspense 51 (Mar 1964) featured a decidedly unmemorable villain, especially when compared to The Mandarin. The Scarecrow is a bottom-of-the-bill vaudeville escape artist (did they still even have vaudeville by 1964?), Ebenezer Laughton (using the stage name "Uncanny Umberto"), who gets a great idea to turn to crime. So he steals a costume and three trained crows and sets himself up as a costumed second-story man. What isn't explained is how Laughton manages to contact the Communist Cuban authorities in order to sell them the secret plans he's stolen from Tony Stark.

A genuinely forgettable story, and mercifully brief at 13 pages ... with one bright spot, where Pepper Potts gets rid of one of Stark's snooty girlfriends, with a view to landing a date with Stark herself.

Stan's characterisation of Pepper Potts is straight out of a 1963 coffee commercial, but at least he was making an effort to portray a feisty, strong female character, even if he wasn't quite there yet.
It's probably not terribly politically correct by today's standards, and Stan's handling of the character is a little condescending, and owes more to Millie the Model than it does to the mainstream Marvel superhero style of storytelling, but these tales are a product of their era and should be taken within that context.

The issue is rounded out with another Tales of the Watcher and a five-page fantasy tale, also written and drawn by Larry Lieber and embellished by the decidedly eccentric Matt Fox.

Tales of Suspense 51 was Matt Fox's last inking job for Marvel, working over Larry Lieber pencils. He dropped away as the fantasy tales were phased out of the fantasy titles. His style would have been especially unsuitable for the kind of superhero stories Stan was publishing.


Matthew Fox was born in 1906, making him one of the older artists working for Marvel's predecessor Atlas Comics during the 1950s. Fox had earlier enjoyed a stint as a cover artist on the classic pulp magazine Weird Tales, from 1943 to 1951. 

It wasn't just Fox's comic art that was eccentric, his cover paintings for the legendary Weird Tales also featured some extremely odd-looking aliens.
By the end of the 1940s Weird Tales was struggling and Fox was getting fewer cover painting commissions, so he found other work, starting with a five-page strip for the Atlas title, Adventures into Weird Worlds 10 (Sep 1952). He also contributed some Weird Tales style covers to Chilling Tales (Youthful Comics) before concentrating most of his efforts on Atlas.

Matt Fox's comics career was patchy. Considering how little work he actually did for Atlas/Marvel and other publishers, he wouldn't have been able to live on so few jobs. It's been said that he also worked in advertising, but I haven't been able to uncover any further details on that.
At Atlas, he provided finishing art for just 21 stories between 1951 and 1958, his final Atlas tale appearing in Journey into Mystery 49 (Nov 1958). He dropped out of sight for a few years, returning to Marvel with art for the story, "The Man Who Wouldn't Die" in Journey into Mystery 93 (Jun 1963). He would ink another 16 short fantasy tales for early 1960s Marvel anthology titles, his last work appearing in Tales of Suspense 51 (Mar 1964).

While Matt Fox may have had his fans, by virtue of the sheer quirkiness of his work, Larry Lieber - whose pencils Fox often inked - wasn't one of them. "I hated his stuff because I struggled with drawing," Lieber told Roy Thomas in an interview for Alter Ego, "and I was trying to make the drawings look as real as humanly possible, and I had a tough time. I remember I once had Don Heck inking me on a five-page western, and I remember saying, 'My God, he's good at making my stuff look better than it is,' and he was. Matt Fox - if my stuff was a little stiff, he made it even stiffer; he made it look like wood cuttings!"

Matt Fox died in 1988.


Tales of Suspense 52 (Apr 1964) was a considerable improvement over issue 51, featuring the return of one of my favourites, The Crimson Dynamo, and the introduction of an important Marvel character who would go on to enjoy a long career and a fascinating backstory - The Black Widow.
How can this be? Didn't The Crimson Dynamo reform at the end of his last appearance and count Tony Stark as a friend and ally? All is not what it seems in this issue of Tales of Suspense.
It was established at the end of Tales of Suspense 46 that Ivan Vanko, The Crimson Dynamo and former Soviet saboteur, switches sides and goes to work for Tony Stark. And that would have worked out just fine if the Russians hadn't decided to assign notorious spy The Black Widow to assassinate Venko for daring to defect. And while they're at it, they can just take out Tony Stark and his "bodyguard" Iron Man, as well.

There's a lot of sound an fury in this story, but essentially, we meet the Black Widow who fails to destroy the defector Ivan (The Crimson Dynamo) Venko, and is forced to flee for her life, hunted by both the American and Russian authorities.
With her ox-like "assistant" Boris, Madame Natasha fetches up at Stark's factory and manages to bluff her way into a meeting with Stark. Oddly, Stark doesn't seem in the slightest bit suspicious of this unknown Russian woman who looks like a movie star. In fact, Stark acts a little bit creepy around her, uttering howlers like, "If there's a moon out, lady, you'll find out how I feel about you, too!" Meanwhile, as Tony acts like an amorous schoolboy, Boris snoops around the factory and finds Venko. He quickly subdues the defector and delivers him to a nearby Soviet submarine, then returns to the factory and puts on Venko's armour. His disguise fools Iron Man and Boris is able to defeat the Golden Avenger and also bring him to the Russian submarine. But Iron Man revives and rescues Venko. There's a final showdown at the factory, and Venko sacrifices himself to defeat The Boris Dynamo. The Black Widow, having failed her communist masters, escapes to an uncertain future in the confusion.

Stan Lee must have liked the idea of The Black Widow quite a lot, because she returned the month following her initial appearance to menace Iron Man and Tony Stark anew, this time with a stolen anti-gravity device. Also, Stan had the masthead altered to reduce the size of "Tales of Suspense" and enlarge the Iron Man lettering. Perhaps with a view to changing the title of the book at some point?
The next issue of Tales of Suspense, 53 (May 1964), is pretty much Part Two of the story, "The Black Widow Strikes Again!", this time scripted by veteran Atlas editor Don Rico, probably helping Stan out of a deadline crunch.

We know Madame Natasha - The Black Widow - is a bad girl, because she smokes ... with a long cigarette holder! And Tony Stark becomes as dumb as a rock around her.
The story is every bit as chaotic as the last one, but that's not a negative. There's loads going on in just 13 pages, but the central plot revolves around Madame Natasha trying to redeem herself with the Soviet government by stealing Tony Stark's anti-gravity device. Little does she know that the treacherous Russians have no intention of forgiving her. Much floating hardware later, the device is deactivated by Iron Man's "Proton Gun" and poor Natasha is back to square one.

My only real quibble with this issue is the way Tony Stark acts out-of-character towards Madame Natasha. It's already been well-established that Stark allows only the shallowest relationships with the women he dates because of his critical heart condition (and probably also because he has to wear a metal chest plate that would raise questions the moment he took his shirt off). Yet here he is, his tongue hanging out like a randy labrador just because The Black Widow is beautiful? I don't buy it.

Stan might have made it work if he'd explained, perhaps in some thought balloons, that Stark was especially drawn to her by some factor other than her looks. But that probably wasn't his intention, as he'd later give Madame Natasha a different love interest that would be instrumental in her changing the course of her life.

But that's a story for next time, when I cover the remainder of the Iron Man red-and-yellow solo stories.

Next: Move Over Iron Man!


  1. As to how Stark got his mask on in the original design of the suit (regardless of whether it was the Kirby bullet-head or the Heck chin-head), the armour was collapsible and pliable and didn't set into shape until in place on the wearer and 'turned on' by the electrical power source that operated it. Kirby made the armour look bulky, so if Heck was inking Jack's pencils, it still looked bulky (though Don gave the mask a chin), but if Heck had been allowed to portray the character as he had in IM's origin, then the redesign would probably have been unnecessary as the suit was more streamlined. I suspect that Stan wanted to add a stronger colour to the armour and a redesign was the best way to do it.

    Incidentally, Stan's story of Kirby's Spider-Man being too muscular and heroic for what Stan wanted is likely apocryphal, invented after the fact to spare Jack's feelings and avoid any implied suggestion that his version wasn't good enough. The fact is that Steve Ditko saw Jack's pages and informed Stan that it was nothing more than a reworked version of Simon & Kirby's The Fly, which had sprung from an idea for a character called The Silver Spider. (Which, if I remember correctly, was originally an idea for a hero called 'Spiderman' (no hyphen). Or maybe it was the other way around, I'll have to check. When Stan heard this, eager to avoid any litigation from the publishers of The Fly, he nixed Jack's pages, decided to start from scratch, and turned the whole thing over to Ditko to draw.

    As for how Iron Man knew The Angel was a youngster - well, he had a close-up view of the lower half of his face and heard his youthful voice, so that would have been a bit of a giveaway. And as for Tony flirting with Natasha (which, I believe, should be more accurately spelt 'Natasia' - same pronunciation), well, the definition of flirtation is attention without intention, so maybe Stark was just playing up to his playboy image and enjoying flirting with a beautiful woman for the sake of it. I've been known to flirt with beautiful women myself from time to time, Al, even though I know they're out of my league and that I haven't got a chance in hell. I also couldn't risk them seeing me with my shirt off and thereby exposing the fact that I have moobs and a saggy gut - but hell, I still flirt with them even though it's never going to go anywhere.

    Interesting article as usual.

    1. Thanks for the additional input, Mr R ... though I do think there was something other than flirting going on between Stark and Natasha, the way Stan wrote it. It was almost like Stark was drawn to her by some unnatural force (as opposed to the perfectly natural one of flirting), but Stan didn't have room to make it clear. I do still think that it was out-of-character for Tony, given his flibbertigibbet history.

    2. I've just noticed what you were referring to when you questioned how Stark knew The Angel was a youngster. I assumed (without looking at the pages) that he'd called him a 'youngster' in a close up encounter, but, of course, he called him a 'young fool' from a distance. However, wasn't it generally known by the public that the feared X-Men were teenagers? Failing that, I'll try the 'No Prize' approach. Stark was looking at Warren through the telescopic facility in his mask's 'eyeholes', and could see he was young. (Phew!)

  2. Iron Man did call in the Angel's favor, in AVENGERS #3. I agree though that X-MEN #9 would have been better if Iron Man and Angel had at least acknowledged each other. As you said, Lee and Kirby just wanted to get the punch-up started.

    1. That's a really good point, George. I'll amend the above text accordingly ...

  3. The writing might have improved but the storytelling still wasn't yet up to scratch.

    The ways in which Iron Man defeats Mr Doll (using repulsors from the other side of the room to resculpt the doll in Mr Doll's hand into something that looks like Mr Doll) and the Mandarin (doing a trigonometry calc using the slide rule in his arm to work out the angle to place his arm at so that Mandy's karate chop hurts him more than Iron Man, all this in the time it takes for the karate chop to come down) are ludicrous. Ludicrous!

    1. ... but fun, eh? I also took issue with the idea that The Mandarin, a Chinese person, would consider studying Karate (which is Japanese). Why isn't he master of one of the many styles of kung-fu native to China, from which Karate is derived? (Yes, I know that's actually Stan not being able to tell the difference, and that no one had heard of kung-fu in 1964).

    2. Or maybe the Mandarin already knew kung fu and was studying karate to learn what, if anything, the Japanese had to add.

  4. Another good one. These are well worth the wait. When I read Tales of Suspense 49 for the first time. I was also confused about "the copyright between the publishers of the Avengers and the X-Men", and I have a No Prize answer: Stan Lee has clones of himself to edit and write the expanding line of Marvel Comics, for example OG Stan does Spider Man and Fantastic 4, One does the anthology titles (ToS, TtA, ST, and JiM), one does the Avengers and the X-Men, and one does Millie the Model and Patsy and Hedy. Every week they had a press conference to make up summaries to tell the artists. When Roy Thomas and other writers came along, Stan decided to use the clones for pubicilty events and Marvel Studios cameos while he enjoys a long retirement

    1. That is certainly the most plausible explanation I've ever heard. Brilliant! It should be entered on WIKIpedia as the official version of Marvel History.

  5. I’m a comparative newcomer to blogs and I’m not sure how to comment but my computational equipment seems to have assigned me a name so here goes – hope you get this.
    First of all thanks for the wonderful blog. I love reading it. I think we must have fallen in love with Marvel at round about the same time – those were heady days!
    Tales of Suspense 51 was my very first Marvel comic, I bought it along with Spiderman 10 from one of the little men who sold comics out of suitcases in Leicester market, Tales of Suspense was the first one I read as I loved the dramatic blurb laden cover. It was my first exposure to the Marvel style and it seemed so relaxed, open, colourful, fun and exciting compared to the cinched in style I had grown accustomed to at DC. I enjoyed everything about it the jokey credits, the quirky supporting cast, the loose flowing quality of the action and of course the golden avenger himself from my first sight of him casually flying over the theatre to the dramatic finale where he grabs for the Scarecrow and Don Heck zooms in on his metal gloved hands and eyes showing he means business. Okay I admit that it’s not on anybody’s list of Marvel’s greatest masterpieces but it was when I first fell in love with Marvel and it will always have a place in my heart.
    Incidentally I use the Scarecrow to illustrate rule 3 in my Top Tips for Vile Villains “Always be more powerful than your hero!” – he was an acrobat with some (borrowed) trained crows, the poor guy never stood a chance!
    Thanks again

    1. Welcome on board, Tony. And thanks for sharing your memories of your first Marvel Comic ... I also remember picking up second-hand comics in all sorts of unlikely places, which I wrote about in the early posts in this blog. Back then you paid the same price for Daredevil 1 as you did for Superman 192, and condition didn't seem to matter. Hope you can find some time to go back and read some of my earlier posts ...

  6. Just a note on that Matt Fox guy. I remember seeing his work and thinking this guy is the worst fit ever for a Marvel artist. He literally ruined the art.
    "Nuff said

  7. "Next best designer"? Ditko could design rings around Kirby. Spider-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Blue Beetle, The Hawk and the Dove, etc. are all examples of his superior ability to create a memorable and stylish look for superheroes. Kirby...yeah, can't think of any good costumes he created. Captain America is Joe Simon's design.

    1. Not "The next best designer", Matt ... "Stan's next best designer" More than once Stan called in Ditko to "fix up" what he saw as flaws in Kirby's designs or concepts. Notably, at the end of the original run on Incredible Hulk. Why didn't Stan go to Ditko in the first place? I couldn't say, but I do think Stan had been trying to position Kirby as a replacement for his friend and go-to artist, Joe Maneely.