Monday, August 26, 2019

The Junior G-Man

OR: "Don't Yield... Back SHIELD!"

In what might be a precursor to the surprising discovery by the Avengers of Henry Peter Gyrich showing up and making a mockery of their security, a story from 1967 opens with Tony Stark and his security staff preparing to deal with the presence of an intruder on the grounds of his factory, one who has evaded capture and waits inside. In fact, not only are Stark and his men surprised to see him doing just that--but they can probably safely say that their quarry isn't at all what they were expecting.

Yes--Jasper Sitwell, the youthful, energetic, and ever-confident S.H.I.E.L.D. agent assigned to Stark as an extra measure of security to safeguard weaponry manufactured for Nick Fury's spy agency. We can only imagine the wry grin on Fury's face, knowing how Sitwell's go-getter, plucky attitude would likely needle a nose-to-the-grindstone man like Stark, especially with Sitwell sticking to Stark's side like glue. But Stark doesn't seem to be laughing.

As we can see, the character of Sitwell is tailor-made for writer Stan Lee's scripting style, which nicely plays off of Stark's attempt to keep Sitwell's gift of gab in check but utterly failing. Sitwell is definitely the type to speak up--and Stark finds to his dismay that a lack of frankness doesn't appear to be one of his problems.

Saved by the bell--or in this case, the deadly attack of the Grey Gargoyle, who, thanks to a newspaper story announcing it, is after Stark's new cobalt weapon which he hopes will help to defeat Thor and allow him to take possession of his hammer in the belief that it will give him the immortality he craves.

But while Stark appreciates Sitwell's intervention as far as it giving him the opportunity to suit up as Iron Man, he isn't as fond of the idea of Sitwell remaining in harm's way.

Realizing he's out of his league, Sitwell finally takes off in order to make an attempt to contact SHIELD (only to discover his transmitter has been damaged in the fight). Meanwhile, this is Iron Man's show--who has a more difficult time than you'd think against a foe who (let's face it) he could reduce to rubble with one punch. But Lee and artist Gene Colan obviously disagree, instead turning the battle's focus to Iron Man trying to avoid becoming the next victim of the Gargoyle's power. In fact, Colan rejects the notion that it's only the touch of the Gargoyle's hand which turns his victim to stone, and demonstrates that it's the touch of the Gargoyle period that does the deed.

And given that, the Gargoyle is able to make short work of his enemy.

Hurled off the roof, it looks like curtains for Iron Man. Fortunately, however, Jasper Sitwell is on the job--as are Lee and Colan, who practically pull a rescue out of their hat when it comes to being in the right place at the right time.

A comic book save if ever there was one, considering that only a moment ago we saw Sitwell standing near the building and pleading with the Gargoyle not to go through with what he'd planned. Normally, it would only take a matter of seconds for a man-sized object made of solid stone to hurtle to the ground, in which case Sitwell's only option is to scramble out of the way; yet even as Iron Man is tossed, Sitwell has sufficient time to race to a parked, full dump truck, lay his hands on the keys, turn the ignition, get it moving*, and be in position precisely before Iron Man would impact with the ground. Quick thinking on Sitwell's part, to be sure; but even had he been Quicksilver, our truck must still rely on its own mechanics.

*When was the last time you heard of a dump truck being touted for going from 0 to 60 in x number of seconds? Mack trucks aren't Lamborghinis, as any of us who have had the pleasure of being behind one at a red traffic light knows all too well.

Meanwhile, the Gargoyle has a task to complete--making his way to wherever the cobalt weapon is stored and seizing it. We can assume that's taken about an hour, since we next find Iron Man de-stoned and ready for Round Two with his determined foe.

Again, however, Sitwell joins in the battle, though he has no way of knowing what Iron Man plans for the Gargoyle. Yet despite Iron Man's objections, Sitwell has a point that he's earned the right to take a hand in this--and Iron Man sees for himself Sitwell's penchant for resourcefulness and thinking ahead.  (In fact, maybe it's Sitwell who should be calling the shots here, since Iron Man's plan for stopping the Gargoyle doesn't accomplish squat.)

While the dust settles, the Gargoyle has had the chance to make his way outside, making ready to depart with his prize. But Iron Man arrives in time and renews the struggle, having thought of a way to turn the cobalt weapon against its wielder. Regrettably, it means once more becoming debilitated due to his injured heart, a development we saw so much of during the character's time in Tales Of Suspense and Invincible Iron Man. On a positive note, the Gargoyle is rendered helpless by the gambit--and Sitwell is there to look after Iron Man, though he finds he must take action in order to help him.

You can see the results of Sitwell's administrations in a separate post; but suffice to say that Iron Man's secret identity as Tony Stark remains safe for now. But in awakening to face the tender mercies of Whiplash, Iron Man might be thinking he'd be better off back at his factory having his ear bent by Jasper Sitwell. Though it's admittedly a tough call.


Tiboldt said...

I think it must be emphasised - the Grey Gargoyle transmuted a repulsor beam into stone!

I first read this when I was young and it didn't make sense even then. He converted energy into matter? Could he do it with other energies? Did it revert back after an hour?

As for Jasper Sitwell, I always liked him. I thought he was a great character - but only during this period. Time and later writers diluted him until he was just another part of Iron Man's 'Scooby gang.' I've not seen much of him since but whenever he's popped up it's just to fill the role of generic SHIELD agent.

Anonymous said...

I like the part where Iron Man thinks "How do I fight someone who can turn anything to stone --?? Including me -- if he so much as touches me!!"
And then he touches the Grey Gargoyle with no problem two panels later!

"It all depends on speed !!" apparently, and Iron Man presumably moves quicker than a repulsor beam.
Possibly he might even be faster than that dump truck.


Comicsfan said...

Tiboldt, I quite agree that Jasper was fine as... well, Jasper. I wouldn't have wanted to see him on a regular basis, even though that looks like what Stan Lee had intended in this series--but in small doses, he would have taken the stuffiness out of SHIELD operations that dealt with super-powered characters. (For instance, interacting with the Thing--now there's an afternoon.)

Sean, stop, you've got my head spinning! :D But yes, no one is ever going to be able to pin down the Gargoyle's abilities and thus form a strategy as to how to handle him, as long as the specifics of those abilities are so in flux.

Anonymous said...

Good 'ol Jasper!
I forgot about that guy. I liked him too.
Who says a superhero can't sometimes benefit from a goofy sidekick?

As for the Grey Gargoyle, any fight doesn't end up with him getting accidently tangled up with a rocket and flung into space, he should count as a victory of sorts.
How many times did that happen to him, exactly? At least twice.


dangermash said...

Ah, Jasper. So annoying a character that they turned him into a villain in one of the films. The MCU version of Scrappy Doo.

Colin Jones said...

In Greek myth it was Medusa who could turn people into stone (by looking at them).

But in the Marvel universe the name Medusa was already taken :D

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