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Tony Stark looks pretty good for a guy who’s been kicking around since his first appearance in 1963’s TALES OF SUSPENSE #39. That classic issue by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Don Heck introduces the world to the wealthy playboy weaponsmith who eventually proves himself as one of the greatest heroes in the galaxy!
Developing transistors to help the American government fight the Vietnam War, Stark thinks he’s helping out boys, but winds up in trouble himself after heading over to see his inventions in action. Little does Stark know that his trip to South Vietnam will lead him into a booby-trapped explosion that nearly kills him and the clutches of the evil General Wong-Chu.
Held by Wong-Chu and suffering from shrapnel all around his heart, Stark agrees to build a weapon for the villain. Realizing he’s nearing the end of his days, Tony instead plans to develop something to take his captors out. Soon joined by the dissident Professor Yinsen, a genius in the field of physics, the two scientists join forces and use transistor technology to create the armor that keeps the shrapnel from moving any closer to Tony’s heart.
To buy Stark time as the suit charges up, the professor fakes an escape attempt that leads to his death. Thanks to the sacrifice, the newly minted Iron Man uses a few spare moments to take the suit for a brief test spin before facing off against Wong-Chu and his soldiers.
In addition to his augmented strength, Iron Man also utilizes magnets, air pressure jets, suction cups, electrical interference, a mini buzz saw, and ultimately a flame gun to take out the enemy. He then frees his fellow prisoners and walks off into the jungle wondering, “As for Iron Man, that metallic hulk who once was Anthony Stark…who knows what destiny awaits him? Time alone will provide the answer! Time alone…”
Hacking the System
After reading the first appearance, it seems like the writers toyed with making it so that Tony Stark could not remove any parts of his gray armor and would be stuck in there for the foreseeable future. By the next issue of TALES OF SUSPENSE, though, we see that’s not the case as our hero returns to the States, heads out with just the chest plate on and even updates the suit with a nice gold paint job thanks to a suggestion by his lady friend Marion.
Tomorrow, follow Tony as he heads down his darkest path in the classic “Demon in A Bottle” story by David Michelinie, John Romita, Jr., Bob Layton, and Carmine Infantino.