This week, we explore the wonderful, murderous origins of Tony Stark, the cool exec with the heart of steel. As we have no doubt discussed before, and if not there was a whole damn movie made about it, Tony builds weapons for the government. While visiting… apparently China although I could swear it used to be Vietnam, Tony is exploded in this amazing panel.
Stark regains conciousness back at Evil China HQ with shrapnel on its way into his heart and is forced to work for the villanous and pouch covered Wong Chu (Thanks for everything, Julie Newmar.). Chu sets Tony up with a lab and an assistant and tells him to get cracking building some sort of pro-communist weapon. Instead Stark and his assistant build the original Iron Man armor and luckily for them, Chu doesn’t notice. (“That sure looks like a glove that shoots beams out of it.” “This? Nah. It’s a… bomb. Shaped like a hand. Hand bomb. Super big in the West.” “Ahh, of course. Carry on.) As the Iron Man armor is finally activating, Chu busts in. In our reality, Tony’s assistant sacrifices himself, giving Tony the extra minutes he needs to turn on the armor but here, Chu arrives a little too early, leaving Tony stuck on the table like a… plate. That’s been nailed to a table. Look, similes are hard.
After some brief torture, Tony’s shipped to Even More Evil China HQ at the request of Chen Lu (Better known in our reality as Radioactive Man seen here with his eyes safely protected by goggles.).
Chen tortures Tony a bit more because it’s become a very popular passtime in China and then ships him back to the states with a “little” communicator (It’s only coaster sized.) wired into his brain. Chen’s plan is to use the billionare industrialist as a spy and possible assassin. Tony protests of course. For one thing, nobody is paying him. Also he keeps getting tortured for some reason. But Chen activates a device in Tony’s chest plate that deactivates it, forcing the shrapnel closer to his achey breaky heart. Eventually, Tony comes around and gets sent home. After some additional farewell torture.
Back in the States, Tony premiers Iron Man for everyone to see. Of course, he doesn’t tell anyone that he’s the guy in the suit. This was set back in the sixties when everyone had a secret identity, not just Spider-Man. Anyway, Iron Man is welcomed into the brotherhood of superheroes with open arms and Tony spends the next few months doing hero crap and eating Burger King. Problems arise when a pre-eye patch Nick Fury drops by. Fury has this crazy idea that Iron Man’s working for the Chinese, possibly because he read the cover of this comic. Unfortunately, he can’t actually prove it because he has literally no proof. So he mostly just yells and gets angry.
Soon after, Tony is contacted by some military dude. The government has been working closely with Stark on the formation of SHIELD* and they drop off their recommendation for its first director, Fury. Chen sees this and passes the information on to Hydra who try and assassinate Nick at the eye doctor. (Did you know Nick Fury only wears the eye patch to keep his vision from getting worse? This is the worst trading card fact ever!)
Meanwhile, Chen begins observing strange changes in Stark. He’s taken to meditating and touching his belt a lot. “Well,” thinks Chen. “That’s weird but however this dude wants to handle my forcing him to be a traitor to his country is fine by me.” This lax attitude towards meditation will once again be Chen Lu’s undoing.
Fury drops by the Fantastic Four’s appartment to let them in on the fact that Iron Man might still be up to something so a poorly drawn Ben and Johnny swing by Stark Industries where they get into one of their hilarious fights. And then secretly bug the place. They quickly learn that Tony is indeed working for the bad guys and Sue Storm invisibly informs Fury. Unfortunately, Chen has also bugged Fury because espionage is complicated. He sends Iron Man to kill Mr Fantastic at the Baxter Building because throwing away your top secret super hero spy on a hit mission is a great fucking idea.
Iron Man arrives at the Baxter Building, easily disabling the security. Luckily for him, Reed knows he’s coming and has sent the rest of the four to see a movie. It’s that version of Terminator 2 with Sylvester Stallone from the Last Action Hero because alternate realities are weird. Tony and Reed fight some before Tony escapes, leaving a tape behind for Reed to find. Reed plays it and discovers that it’s a super slowed down message from Tony. Turns out Tony’s meditation has actually been extremely slowed down words begging for help. Reed realizes that Tony’s not actually a traitor, just a prisoner and lures him into some super magnetized room that shuts down his armor.
Tony lives but he’s completely paralyzed for some reason. Meanwhile, Reed loads the Iron Man armor with TNT and fires it at China, blowing Chen Lu up. Yeah, seriously.
*Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus