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Tales of Suspense #50: Review

Feb 1964
Stan Lee, Don Heck

Story Name:

The Hands of the Mandarin!

Review & Comments

3 stars

Tales of Suspense #50 Review by (March 17, 2012)
Review: Shellhead’s greatest enemy is introduced in a story that is problematic, to say the least. First, the Mandarin is a pure rip-off of Fu Manchu, with an outline of a mask glued to his face (what’s with that anyway?). You would think that by the 1960s the Yellow Peril days would have been left far behind—and besides, Marvel already had the Yellow Claw (and would license the real Fu Manchu in the 70s); why did they want another one? Second, Don Heck’s art is uncharacteristically bad, starting with the villain’s distorted face on page one; layouts and poses all seem to point to a rush job on Dashing Donnie’s part (especially that cover!) that work against the story. Finally, the last panel in the story mentions Tony “wondering when and where the oriental menace will strike again!” “Strike again?!?” He didn’t strike the first time; Mandarin was minding his own business—and remaining neutral in the conflict between his own country and the West—when Iron Man stuck his transistorized nose in. The hero went out of his way to attack the villain—a guy who was refusing to support America’s enemies in Red China—and created a conflict where there was none before. There’s a political message here and it isn’t the one they intended. Thus begins the long enmity between Shellhead and his arch-enemy—and it was all Iron Man’s fault. Or at least Stan Lee’s.

Comments: First appearance of the Mandarin. Pepper Potts has a makeover in this issue and is drawn as a more attractive woman from this point. Pepper’s reaction to Happy when she is alone makes it clear she genuinely dislikes him and is not merely engaging in comic banter. And Iron Man wins a karate fight…with math!


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Tales of Suspense #50 Synopsis by T Vernon

In a remote area of China, the powerful potentate known as the Mandarin receives a delegation of officers from the Red Army at his castle stronghold. The frightened officials humbly request the Mandarin to share his knowledge of atomic power with the government; the arrogant autocrat refuses to serve any agenda but his own and drives the officials out from his presence.

In America, the US military asks Iron Man to investigate the Mandarin to determine whether he is a threat to national security. Heading off on his mission Shellhead stops by the lab as Tony Stark to put some business in order. He first must beg off as guest of honor at an employee dinner, asking Happy to go in his place. This offends the staff rep Bill who criticizes Tony for his supposed arrogance. Happy punches Bill and is rebuked by Tony, who encourages honesty among his employees. Then Pepper Potts loses her temper at the two men who haven’t noticed her new glamorous makeover (since it’s all about her). With this out of the way…

An unmarked jet drops Iron Man over Red China; Shellhead drops to the ground so that any observers will believe his parachute failed to open and he was killed. He soon locates the Mandarin’s castle and, after disposing of some guards, flies over the wall. The Mandarin observes him on a viewscreen and uses a massive magnet to trap the hero and drop him into a chamber of doom. Iron Man escapes by crashing through a vent and uses his ultra-beam to fend off the villain’s paralysis ray. But the Mandarin has ten power rings and nullifies the hero’s sonic blasts and hurls it back, quickly following up with a paralyzer ray to overcome Iron Man. The two then engage in a martial arts battle in an electrified chamber. The Mandarin is a master of karate but Iron Man uses his built-in slide rule to calculate the perfect countermove which causes the villain to collapse in pain when he lands a blow on the hero. He then makes his getaway back to the States where he has time to attend the employees’ party. Pepper, miffed at having to attend escorted by Happy, now worries that Tony will think they are a couple and avoid dating her. Because it’s still all about her. Meanwhile, Tony is worried about the Mandarin….

Writer: Larry Lieber. Plot: Stan Lee. Pencils: Larry Lieber. Inks: George Roussos. Colors: ? Letters: Sam Rosen.
Synopsis: Terrified, Adam Bentley runs to the police, claiming that he has discovered that fictional characters are real and exist in another dimension and they are chasing him because he discovered their secret. The police lock him up as a madman but he vanishes from a locked cell. Meanwhile, Larry Lieber tosses the script for this story in the trash—protecting Their secret!

“Journey’s End!” 
Writer: Larry Lieber. Plot: Stan Lee. Pencils: Larry Lieber. Inks: Sol Brodsky. Colors: ? Letters: Artie Simek.
Synopsis: The Watcher relates a tale: Meek, bullied space pilot Wilbur volunteers for a suicide mission to study a distant cloud of cosmic dust; it transforms him into a strong handsome man and he joins the creators of the dust who wanted to attract only Earth’s bravest to their planet!

Don Heck


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)
Pepper Potts
Pepper Potts

(Pepper Hogan)


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