Monday, April 19, 2021

Be A Good Fellow And Die, Won't You?


Name This Marvel Villain??
Readers of Invincible Iron Man circa 1979 no doubt remember a new villain who was brought in to be a threat to Tony Stark on two fronts--as a business competitor, naturally, but also as a man whose resources allowed him to acquire the means to challenge the interference of Iron Man. And combined with the savvy to not only avoid captivity but also to distance himself from any evidence that would indicate his complicity in shady operations, the tenacity of Justin Hammer to remove any threat to his plans is something that Stark has grown to be wary of.

Introduced in the book during the writing tenure of David Michelinie, Hammer doesn't possess the dark tone that was given to Obadiah Stane--a similar character who came on the scene around 1983 but who ended up taking Stark's company away from him, though both men share the distinction of being able to take advantage of Stark's troubles with alcoholism. (Stane would also demonstrate greater staying power in the book.) We began seeing Hammer's hand in the affairs of Stark and Iron Man when he managed to take control of Iron Man's armor to nearly drown his foe during a battle with the Sub-Mariner--and again, later, in order to frame the Avenger for murder. That led to Stark confronting Hammer on the man's floating island villa, followed by one heck of a battle with a host of super-villains in Hammer's employ.

Yet Hammer's reach can be more understated, though no less deadly--one example being a story from the tail end of 1980 where Stark and a handful of his employees and friends have retreated to his own island villa in the Caribbean for some well-deserved R&R, only to be swept up in an illicit operation put in motion by Hammer and carried out by a super-villain whose assignment is to purloin and commandeer yachts that are in the area. One such yacht, purely by coincidence, happens to belong to Stark, who is deep-sea diving with his friend Jim Rhodes--while on the boat waits Stark's lady, Bethany Cabe, who has the dubious honor of greeting the ship's new owner.

Force has already been given his own treatment in the PPC, though obviously he's found lucrative employment with Hammer while benefiting from upgrades to his force-field capabilities. Unfortunately, he discovers the hard way Beth's reply to his "offer"; but Force's response gives her cause to worry about the safety of the men down below who are oblivious to what's going on above.

Below, Stark is saved from serious injury by Rhodey--but thanks to Beth's foresight, he finds he has the chance to gain the initiative in this situation, though Force's reception committee will add another question mark to whatever is going on here.

Regrettably, Iron Man finds that the yacht, and Beth, have disappeared from sight, while a subsequent search yields nothing. (Nor is Mr. Michelinie helpful in that regard, completely elbowing out of the way the fact that Iron Man has a number of thrashed bad guys that he can gather and question.)

Beth, however, learns quite a bit, when she comes face to face with the architect of this scheme and realizes the extent of his reach with both Stark and Iron Man.

As to his current plan, why would Hammer bother with hijacking yachts? It turns out that among Hammer's many interests is a talent for accommodating other businessmen who wish their activities to be beneath the scrutiny of law enforcement--though Beth's regard for the man plummets even further after learning the lengths he'll go to in order to achieve his ends.

Meanwhile, reasoning that his foe must be operating beneath the waves in some capacity, Stark outfits his armor with a special scanning device and homes in on the area. But Hammer's precautions prove to be prudent, and Force and his team are already in place to provide a suitable welcome--an attack which is bolstered by the power of Force, himself.

As we can see, the contest between these two technologists, whose abilities in their respective fighting gear at first glance appear to be balanced, finally comes down to (heh) Force against force. Of course, with the Iron Man armor having gone through decades of upgrades since this time, it might seem that this classic suit of armor may not be up to the challenge, considering its problems in the past--but Michelinie and co-plotter Bob Layton have been diligent about not depicting an Iron Man hampered by weakness, and it's gratifying to see that demonstrated once again as this fight reaches its climax.

Reaching Hammer's ship and siphoning power for himself from the craft's main generator to restore his armor to peak capacity, it only remains for Iron Man to confront the man he's learned is behind what amounts to piracy and, as we've learned, drug running. And in that meeting, we come to know of the unique skills of a man like Hammer which allow him to weasel out of a tight situation--though not without forfeiting yet another base of operations in the process.

As it turns out, however, Hammer's boast about his "shipments" nevertheless being able to reach their destinations on the U.S. coastline is premature, thanks to the efforts of both Iron Man and the authorities. But to Stark, the greater outcome by far is discovering that the one he sought to save didn't perish with the sunken "shark-ship" but instead hatched a plan of her own to save herself as well as the other yacht owners.


The Marvel checklist of books published during November of 1980.
What were you reading around this time?


Colin Jones said...

Looking at that Mighty Marvel Checklist I definitely bought Uncanny X-Men #139, She-Hulk #10, Ghost Rider #50 and Moon Knight #1 - probably a few more too but those are the four I clearly remember. But CF, you've got the month wrong - that's the checklist for NOVEMBER of 1980, not December. So when you say "published during December 1980" all these books were actually on sale in August 1980 (but here in the UK they were on sale in early November).

Big Murr said...

Ironically, during this time of my life, your featured issue of Iron Man is the only thing on that Checklist I bought. The only time I ever collected Shellhead's adventures. Seeing these panels reminded me why I did so. Some good stuff.

Otherwise, it was a bleak moment for me. Up until now, I had been a youthful "completist collector", buying The Mighty Thor and Avengers faithfully thru good and bad. But in each case, the schlock they were shovelling could no longer be endured and I (almost tearfully) stopped being a "collector". I embarked on a path of being a..."cherry-picker"? When the writer, artist, character, and all the factors came together, I gave them my money. When the good stuff ended, I walked away.

Tiboldt said...

Probably my era.

Followed Moon Knight for a while but wasn't really interested in what was going on.
Byrne-era Captain America was a must.
Thor was the aftermath to #300 where he fought Hindu gods.
Possibly had the She-Hulk issue because of the enticing Michael Golden covers.
Avengers was another post-anniversary issue with Jarvis on the cover drawn by Perez. Sadly the art was passed on to Alan Milgrom a few issues after that and my interest waned.
X-Men and X-Men annual would have been first on my list.
Team-Up with Spider-Man and Machine Man. Jerry Bingham's art I believe.
Hell, I even had that copy of Epic!

Mike Mikulovsky said...

Dr.FrankenSTEIN! Peter Cushing

Comicsfan said...

Colin, you're making me dizzy shuffling all those months around, but yes, you're correct that the checklist in question is indeed from the November issue. Having finished up the post with the conclusion of the story which took place the following month, I probably had December on the brain, instead. I've adjusted the post accordingly--mea culpa, and muchas gracias.

Gosh, it seems that there were some Moon Knight readers around that time. I wasn't really into Moon Knight back in the day, which is why posts on the character are sparse in the PPC; of course, that in itself might lead to a post at some point in the future on Marvel characters which just didn't grab me. (Doc Savage, Ka-Zar, the Human Fly, Howard the Duck, and a few others are already coming to mind...)

Anonymous said...

Geez, check out the leisure suit on Hammer.
My high-school principle used to dress like that.
Wide collars, matching polyester jacket and slacks, bell-bottoms, the whole nine yards.

Problem was, it was 1987.


Colin Jones said...

Conan, Deadpool, Spiderwoman, Shang~Chi, Werewolf By Night, She~Hulk...

...a few more for your future post, CF :)