Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Angel of Iron Man's Better Nature

For his first nine appearances, Iron Man sported powerful-looking but bulky, robot-like armor. In Tales of Suspense 48 (Dec. 1963), he got an upgrade to a lighter, more flexible red-and-gold armor.
The superheroic-looking armor was impressive, but the issue’s voodoo-ish villain, “Mister Doll,” not so much. The next issue, however, would be one of my favorites.
In Tales of Suspense 49 (Jan. 1964), Iron Man would use his new armor to withstand a nuclear explosion and rescue a member of the X-Men, the new team fighting the Blob in their third issue that same month.
“Oh, it makes perfect sense that Stan (Lee) would want to showcase his new title in another book and market them a bit more,” comics historian Don Alsafi noted. “But ... the Angel? I know the X-Men has only been around for a couple of issues so far, and hasn't had much of a chance to really develop the characters — and yet, the Angel isn’t the team member I would have thought to be most appealing or interesting. Really, in a setting as weird and wondrous as the Marvel world has rapidly become, the ability to fly is as unremarkable of a power as ... well, the ability to shrink. (Note that characters such as the Human Torch, Sub-Mariner and Iron Man all possess the power of flight, and in ways that are completely secondary to their main abilities.)”
Deranged by that all-purpose plot device radiation, the Angel embarks on a rampage that Iron Man halts with a particularly heroic strategy. Deliberately letting his boot jets flame out, Iron Man falls back toward earth into a fatal dive, reasoning that his plight will snap the Angel back to his normally heroic personality.
As when Daredevil fought the Sub-Mariner, this was another innovative example of a Marvel hero achieving a victory by “losing.” Tony Stark risked his life for someone who was essentially a stranger in a gamble that paid off.
I’m not sure 21st century audiences, long since jaded by the Lord of the Flies ethics of “reality TV,” would buy a superhero that altruistic. But it impressed the hell out of me when I was 9.

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