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Tales of Suspense #42: Review

Jun 1963
Robert Bernstein, Don Heck

Story Name:

Trapped by the Red Barbarian.

Review & Comments

3 stars

Tales of Suspense #42 Review by (February 29, 2012)
Review: It always seemed a bit odd that the primary foe of Communism in 1960s Marvel was not Captain America but Iron Man. And here we have a typical Cold War tale of Commie spies and their sadistic boss, plotting to get their hands on America’s newest weapons. Strange as it may seem, the era’s anti-Communist attitudes, which are now largely mocked as phony right-wing paranoia, were a serious concern at the time across the political spectrum—Democratic Presidents Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson were as strong in their opposition to Red dictators as Nixon and Reagan (and it was Nixon who famously went to China). Anyway, back to the story…. Stereotypical Commies and intrigue aside, I was always impressed at how the Actor finds electronic devices painted gold in Tony Stark’s filing cabinet and immediately concludes that Tony is Iron Man! What subsequent issues would show is that Tony himself thinks this is a reasonable assumption and keeps coming up with excuses for why Iron Man is spotted around Stark Industries. The obvious reason—that mechanical genius Stark built the armor for Iron Man and has him coming around for tests, modifications, and upgrades—never occurs to him. Instead he eventually “hires” Iron Man as his “bodyguard.” Just because Tony is smart in one area doesn’t mean he’s smart in all. If he’s that insecure why doesn’t he just hold a press conference and announce, “I am Iron Man.” (Wait…)

Comments: Second story: Text story with one illustration, reprinted from ASTONISHING #54.

Comments: It is not clear whether this Red Barbarian is the same person as the prison warden called the Red Barbarian in CAPTAIN AMERICA (2009) #616-619; if so it must set some sort of record for the longest an obscure character has lain in limbo before being revived. Kudos to anyone who can figure out why Iron Man bothered to visit the Red Barbarian since he had already recovered the briefcase with the plans. Curiosity?


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Tales of Suspense #42 Synopsis by T Vernon

One night at an East Coast dock, a band of Commie spies are loading a crate aboard their ship—a crate that contains America’s latest atom bomb which they have stolen and plan to deliver to their boss, the Red Barbarian. They open the crate to have another look at their prize—and Iron Man bursts out and subdues them by increasing the power of a magnetic crane. It picks them up by their guns and holds them at a perilous height; Iron Man is not affected because of the special alloy in his armor. He turns the captives over to the FBI and heads off to recharge his armor. Later as Tony Stark, he demonstrates to US military officials his new pocket-size disintegrator which fits into an ordinary flashlight case. The officials are impressed by the device and warn him that the Reds would love to get their hands on it….

Meanwhile, behind the Iron Curtain, the Red Barbarian is informed of Stark’s new invention; when the messengers tell him that the device would be difficult to steal he has them punished. He is interrupted by a startling visitor: Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev—who unmasks to reveal himself to be the Actor, a spy and master of disguise. Changing his face to become the exact image of Tony Stark, the Actor offers to steal the disintegrator—for a hefty fee.

Using a variety of guises to enter the USA unnoticed, the Actor decoys Tony to Washington for a phony meeting and arrives at Stark’s laboratory disguised as the millionaire inventor, accompanied by henchmen impersonating top Pentagon officials. While searching the office, the Actor discovers not only the plans for the disintegrator but evidence that Tony Stark is really Iron Man! He heads back to the Red Barbarian while his aides wait behind to assassinate the real Tony. When our hero arrives at the lab, the enemy agents shoot him but the bullets are deflected by his metal chest plate. This gives Tony enough time to douse the lights and change into Iron Man under cover of darkness. He subdues the baddies and forces them to reveal what has happened. Iron Man takes a military rocket behind the Iron Curtain and intercepts the Actor on the road. Iron Man seals the spy inside his car and suspends it from a tree and heads to his rendezvous with the Red Barbarian. Iron Man walks into the villain’s lair with the Actor’s briefcase (containing the plans) and claims to be the Actor disguised as the American hero. He spins a yarn for RB that the attaché case containing the plans for the disintegrator but is protected by a time lock using a miniature A-bomb (!). Iron Man takes the case and heads back to free the Actor, then jets to the nearest western country. The Actor rushes straight to the Red Barbarian with news of Iron Man’s secret identity but the fact that he no longer has the attaché case and denies having been there earlier leads the brutish RB to assume his agent is plotting against him and orders the Actor executed on the spot.

Writer: Unknown. Artist: Joe Maneely.
Synopsis: A yokel is given a magic candy bar to give him super strength and it works! Then he discovers he ate the wrong bar so where did his strength come from?

“I Speak of the Haunted House!”
Writer: Stan Lee. Art: Steve Ditko. Colors: ? Letters: Artie Simek.
Synopsis: A fellow takes a bet to spend the night in a haunted house and the next morning the house is gone—it was the ghost!

“Escape into Space”
Writer: Larry Lieber. Plot: Stan Lee. Pencils: Larry Lieber. Inks: Matt Fox. Colors: ? Letters: Artie Simek.
Synopsis: A convict being transported to a prison planet escapes during an emergency stopover—unaware that this is the prison planet and it is considered humane to let the prisoner think he’s free!

Don Heck
Don Heck


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)

Plus: Actor, Red Barbarian.

> Tales of Suspense: Book info and issue index

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