Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Slashing Assault of... Whiplash!

When we first meet him, the villain known as Whiplash is in the employ of the criminal organization known as the Maggia, under the leadership of (I swear I'm not making this up) the "Big M," whose name no doubt struck terror into the hearts of, well, a lot of people. It's surprising we never saw any sort of rivalry between the Big M and the Big Man, another crime boss who had (what else?) big ambitions of his own as far as muscling his way into heading the crime syndicate. Who, indeed, would have proven to be (yes, I'll say it) the bigger man?? "Fool! I'm bigger than you!" "Wrong, clod! I'm bigger than YOU!" "Preposterous! I'm WAY bigger than..."

But Whiplash is on the way to forging a reputation of his own--especially where Tony Stark's no-good cousin, Morgan, is concerned. Because Whiplash gets quite the build-up in his premiere story, when Morgan's sizable gambling debt brings him to the Big M's attention and Morgan seems to be in line for a whipping, if you catch my drift.

But Morgan's in luck, when news reports broadcast the plight of the disabled Iron Man following his battle with the Grey Gargoyle--and Morgan, seeing the interest of the Big M and his associates wishing to take advantage of Iron Man's helplessness, offers to deliver the Avenger to their waiting hands in exchange for cancelling his gambling debt. Nick Fury later describes Morgan as "a full-time, yella-bellied heel who'd sell out his own gran'ma for a set of bottle tops"--and while Morgan's S.H.I.E.L.D. file probably puts his description a little more tactfully, it seems clear a little session with Whiplash would be just what Morgan deserves.

Unfortunately, it appears Iron Man is due to take his place, as Morgan and the Big M's men successfully slip him away from the scene of his fall and return with him to the Big M's underwater vessel, docked underneath his gambling yacht. Since this story takes place during Iron Man's feature in Tales Of Suspense, you may have already guessed that his confrontation with Whiplash will be yet another battle when Iron Man is far from his fighting peak--though for Whiplash, whose slashing weapon can shred steel like paper, it doesn't seem like he would care one way or the other.

And so we get our first look at a villain who's packing a not-uninteresting gimmick that's good for show, and who would get quite a lot of mileage as well as a film deal during his time at Marvel. But first he has to get past Iron Man. (Though in all honesty, it looks like it's the other way around!)

In Iron Man's current state, Whiplash has the ideal weapon for taking the offensive while holding his helpless opponent at bay--while Iron Man, with no energy to fire his weapons or use his boot jets, and no strength to slug it out even he he could get close enough, is lucky that Whiplash so far views him as a pretty worthless opponent and is content to toy with him. Nor is his armor much of an asset, given the power of the weapon being used against him as well as Whiplash's skill with it.

As often as Iron Man finds his power waning in these TOS battles, it's a wonder that he doesn't have more weapons on hand to fall back on in these kinds of situations--even small weapons that have minimal functionality. (For instance, I'd bet a tranquilizer dart would come in pretty handy for him right now.) As it is, he falls back on his image device, which produces projections of himself in order to take the bullseye off of him while his foe sorts out which is the real Iron Man.

Under normal circumstances, the image device would provide a few seconds' distraction in order to allow Iron Man to take advantage of the situation and regain the initiative in a fight--but in this case, it only amounts to a stalling tactic at best. Luckily, Whiplash, despite his arrogance, is so incredibly clueless that the device keeps him guessing for over five minutes, before he finally figures out that Iron Man hasn't smuggled in four other Iron Men--who all happen to be striking the same pose and holding the same device. What a dope.

With Iron Man's last-ditch delaying tactic played out, he has no choice but to go on the offensive; but to do that, he'll need power, and the only source available to him lies in a dedicated supply that exists only to keep him alive. The gambit works--but success leads to defeat, as Iron Man crumbles to the floor along with his foe.

And so when Whiplash awakes, Iron Man lies before him even more helpless than when he was captured, a state which Whiplash has no qualms whatsoever about taking advantage of. It's only through the intervention of the Big M that Iron Man survives--and we're forced to call this first battle between Iron Man and Whiplash a draw.

Big M only gets so far in salvaging Iron Man's armor, since the Maggia vessel comes under attack by the forces of A.I.M., and Iron Man falls into their clutches, as well. But Iron Man survives to fight another day, and a good thing, too--because Whiplash will be waiting, with one heck of a grudge.

Whiplash returns--and he's sleeping with the enemy!
(In a manner of speaking!)

When Iron Man is in peril, that means Tony Stark is missing--and even Jasper Sitwell, stalwart agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., is unprepared to face the consequences!


Anonymous said...

The British Prime-Minister, Theresa May, is known as "The Big M" - she rules over us with an iron fist and fear stalks this land :D

Comicsfan said...

Well, Colin, on the bright side, she doesn't have an enforcer like Whiplash at her beck and call. (Or at least let's hope not!)

The Prowler said...

I believe that Margaret Thatcher was the original "Big M", an "Iron Lady" who's two fisted approach to governance left fear across the land.

I remember a few times where Iron Man used his built in skates to not only get somewhere but charge his armor. Why couldn't he have popped the old skates, took a couple of laps around the room and BAMM, drop the ol' hammer on Whiplash!?!

George Chambers said...

The first Iron Man comic I ever read, and the beautiful art made me a fan - despite the weakening of the hero which came off as forced to me, even at the time (I was seven or eight.) Whiplash had a weapon which, while undoubtedly effective, was good only at one range, so it always seemed odd to me that a hero who could fly and strike at any range would struggle so much against him. Locking IM in a room with Whiplash while out of power made Whippy a viable threat this first time, but under normal circumstances, he's less of a threat than say, the Melter.

Comicsfan said...

Prowler, it may be more accurate to say that Iron Man's jet skates simply use less power than his boot jets, which may be why he at times chooses to use them when he's not battling some super-menace (see the splash page to IM #56, for instance). Those skates still need power to deploy and operate, which in this instance was in short supply. (Though do correct me if I'm mistaken.)

George, as Iron Man will discover next time, Whiplash has upped the ante in terms of dealing with him when his power isn't so depleted. One dose of repulsor rays isn't going to (sorry) cut it this time!

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Anonymous said...

What would a classic rogues gallery for Iron Man look like? I guess you could put Whiplash in there; a weird Russian version of him showed up in a movie.
The Mandarin and Titanium Man, obviously.
The Controller? The Melter or the Unicorn? The Blizzard? Those guys aren't really first-raters. That Hammer guy, I guess.


Comicsfan said...

That's an intriguing question, M.P. I'd probably leave Blizzard off the list, but I'd keep the Melter and the Unicorn--as well as the Controller, since he dates back far enough and yet continued to make his mark in IM as well as other titles. I'd also probably add the Sub-Mariner, Midas, Firebrand, the Crimson Dynamo, the Black Knight, and, heaven help me, the Freak. Ultimo should be on the list as well, even though he's really lumped in with the Mandarin.

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