Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The House Of Recycled Ideas

If you were a reader of Tales of Suspense, the co-feature title where Iron Man shared the book with Captain America, you may have raised an eyebrow when you saw a copy of Invincible Iron Man #92 on the racks and felt a sense of déjà vu at the cover image.

At times you and I will come across artwork or story elements that give a tip of the hat to prior work, which can be fun when it strikes such a note of familiarity and makes you scratch your head and wonder where you've seen it before. Take this scene from a 1969 X-Men story, and its counterpart appearing just over a decade later:

But it's only on rare occasion when you'll see a hat being tipped to such a degree that most of a new story will ring familiar--as when writer Gerry Conway appeared to pay homage to an Iron Man story published nine years earlier in Tales of Suspense #90:

Oh, caught the near-match in issue numbers, did you?

In the original story, Tony Stark is literally under the gun as Iron Man's nemesis, the Melter, forces him to redesign his weapon to produce a smaller model. At this point in time, the Melter is a deadly enemy to Iron Man, since Stark had not yet developed a defense against the intense heat beams the Melter could produce which made him the natural enemy of a man suited in armor.

Stark, having no real choice here, complies--and while the Melter still isn't satisfied as far as the size of the new unit, it will have to do, as the police have arrived in force to take him on. Though who's actually holding the upper hand in this confrontation seems to be up for debate!

Meanwhile, Stark has deemed it too risky to his secret identity to try to retrieve his present-day armor, and so he opts to suit up in the only armor at hand:

Iron Man's battle against the Melter goes about as well as you'd expect using a suit of unsophisticated armor, though, all things considered, Iron Man puts up a pretty decent fight. Fortunately, Stark laid a little groundwork for the Melter's defeat when he was tinkering with the villain's new weapon.

In Conway's later story, Iron Man encounters the Melter attacking a military convoy and attempting to make off with a nuclear weapon. And since Iron Man's "thermocouple" had been conveniently damaged in a prior incident at Stark Industries involving sabotage, he's once again only so much target practice for the Melter.

Stark manages to avoid drowning by dumping his armor (what's left of it) in New York Bay and being picked up by a tugboat. And before you know it, an eerily familiar Round Two begins, though with a twist:

Hoodwinked and caught off-guard, the Melter is justifiably furious at being played--but Iron Man's deception has done its work, distracting the Melter sufficiently to allow Iron Man to move in and take him out before he has a chance to resort to his melting weapon. And in the process, Conway closes the circle with Stan Lee's original story.

Conway's attempt to replay the "golden ghost" angle is unfortunately handled in such a way that it's halted before it can succeed, since it would have required the Melter to completely go off the deep end as the headless golden suit of armor continued to advance on him--and perhaps that was Conway's original intent. Yet the pretense falls away when the Melter realizes he's been had by a trick of technology; and so his later refusal to accept that the suit was indeed a robot, as well as his mind unhinging and his belief that his attacker was a ghost, makes no sense as a result. This isn't the first time the Melter has been outmaneuvered--he's savvy enough to understand the trick that Iron Man has used to gain the advantage, and his going down for the count is really no more complex than that.

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