Today, we Blast to the Past for Invincible Iron Man #'s 21 & 22. Enjoy and spread the word!
OK, here's the deal. I have this awesome list of Marvel heroes (and some anti-heros) put in chronological order. I've been slowly working my way through it but somehow the seventies section got all corrupted and I had to redo it as best I could. This worked out pretty well because I actually added a bunch of people I had forgot the first time through. On the OTHER side of things, I forgot at least one. Since this guy happened to be an Iron Man, I couldn't just skip him and pretend nothing happened. Thus, Super Reads Super Special. Enjoy!
Looking to read up on everything from Secret Invasion to Heroic Age and beyond? Check no further than this link right HERE.
And now... Eddie March's first appearance.
Invincible Iron Man #21
Writer: Archie Goodwin
Penciler: George Tuska
In this story:
• We meet Eddie "Iron Man" March, a boxer who thinks Iron Man is the greatest. He's boxing right now. After some struggling, March wins his match. In the audience? Tony Stark and Happy Hogan.
• And then learns that he has a blood clot in his brain. No more boxing for him. He makes the announcement to the press without mentioning the medical reason and then gets a visit by Tony and Hap.
• After a less than stellar encounter with the new Crimson Dynamo, Stark decides it's time to stop being Iron Man. Guess who he's going to make wear the armor?
• That's right. Eddie March. Despite the brain blood clot issue, March can't turn down the chance to play hero and goes into training to take over the role.
• Tony dares to have a social life.
• Eddie March suits up for his first mission and faces smugglers on a dock. The Crimson Dynamo tries to cut in on this cakewalk mission and eventually starts fighting Shellhead.
• Eddie starts losing this fight because of his brain blood clot. When Stark learns about Eddie's medical issues, he dons his own Iron Man suit and races off to save March's life.
• But will he get there in time!?
January 1970! Fantastic Four #94, Captain America #121, Amazing Spider-Man #80, and Thor #172 were on the stands. In X-Men #64, the Japanese mutant, Sunfire, was making his first appearance. In Iron Man #21, Eddie March made his debut.
I know what most of you are thinking: who the hell is Eddie March and why should I care. Well, Eddie March was the first official replacement Iron Man. Sure, people other than Tony Stark had worn the armor before Eddie (Happy Hogan and the criminal Weasel Wills) but it was March who got the armor when Stark decided to STOP being the Golden Avenger. You can see the significance.
But first, we'll watch Iron Man box a dude. It looks like he's not doing very well, too. You'd think that armor would help him out.
Oh! That's not Iron Man. That's actually Eddie "Iron Man" March. When he's boxing, Eddie imagines himself as Iron Man because the Golden Avenger is his personal hero. It might also help him take all the blows to the head he's taking.
When the bell rings, March's manager isn't sure that Eddie can continue this bout. I mean, the boxer is taking a hell of a lot of hits and is even talking about some head pains. Eddie March is dedicated, though, and won't let the fight be thrown.
The next round doesn't start off any better than the first. Eddie takes hit after hit, all the time imagining himself as Iron Man. When March goes down, no one thinks he'll get back up. His opponent starts dancing around the ring in victory. This is premature.
On the eight count, Eddie March rises and hits his unsuspecting opponent with a blow to the face. This is followed up by an uppercut that knocks out the other boxer. The opponent breaks through the ropes behind him and falls right out of the ring.
That's a win, people.
What makes it even more sweet is that Tony Stark and Happy Hogan are in the crowd. Happy is an old sparring partner to Eddie March and told the victorious boxer that Iron Man's employer was going to be here to watch the match. This got Eddie almost more excited than the match itself.
Before Tony and Happy can reach the dressing rooms and congratulate the fighter, Eddie March is getting some bad news to go with the good news. Remember those head pains March was complaining about earlier? It turns out he has a blood clot in in brain. That... that doesn't sound good.
His doctor breaks this news to him with the warning that boxing again could kill him. While that is very sad news for Eddie, the boxer recovers well. All he asks is that his doctor doesn't go public with the info so that he can announce his retirement on the strength of his latest victory instead of on the public's pity. The doctor agrees.
When Eddie March is confronted by the news media, he tells them straight up that he's fought his last match in the ring. Most of the reporters race off to write about this scoop.
This leaves Tony Stark and Happy Hogan some time to talk with the former fighter. Eddie doesn't tell either of them his real reasons for quitting boxing but he does imply that he'd love to take over as Iron Man.
After talks with Eddie March, Tony Stark drives over to Cord Industries, hoping to catch his current romantic interest, Janice Cord. He sees lights on and then hears a blood curdling scream. It looks like it's Iron Man time.
Inside Cord Factory, Janice looks like she's being threatened by the brand new Crimson Dynamo. This new armored character tries to explain that he's not really that terrifying and that this is all is a misunderstanding. Hell, everyone will laugh about it later.
Enter the Iron Man. You can bet money that Tony Stark isn't going to take kindly to a random armored dude looming over the girl he sort of likes. When he learns that this guy is the new Crimson Dynamo, it just gets him more angry. The first Dynamo, Anton Vanko, was a friend. When the new Crimson Dynamo hears Shellhead call Vanko a friend... well, the fight gets escalated.
Throughout the fight, Tony Stark is way off his game and acts a lot more cautious than usual. Instead of pursuing the armored character, Iron Man gets slowed down by some falling debris. When the dust clears, the new Crimson Dynamo has disappeared and Stark feels like a failure.
Analyzing his actions, Tony comes to the conclusion that he's acting out of fear. His heart was recently replaired with synthetic material which means the armor isn't keeping him alive as it used to. In fact, it's become a liability. Tony is worried that the synthetics will be rejected and all this excess activity could help it along. He flies off before Janice can catch up with him, intent on giving up his life as the Golden Avenger.
Before we catch up with Tony Stark, let's learn a little more about the Crimson Dynamo. When everyone else is gone, the armored character comes out of his hiding place, having never left the factory. When he takes off his mask, he is revealed as... ALEX NIVEN!!!
You don't know who that is, do you?
OK, backstory with more coming next issue. Alex Niven is working for Cord Industries as "head scientist." He's also dating Janice Cord which might be a conflict of interest. While he wasn't looking to get into a fight with Iron Man (he was just trying on the suit for a test run when Janice interrupted him), he's pretty happy about how that fight turned out. He hides away the armor until he can give it another go.
The next day, Tony tells Happy that he's going to quit being Iron Man. Happy is the only man who actually knows that Tony is Iron Man and volunteers to fill in as Iron Man full time. Stark turns him down because the Iron Man job is one of those life threatening type of careers and Hogan is currently married to Pepper (Potts). You can't have a family and engage in super-hero activities. No, Tony has someone else in mind for the gig. Happy can tell whom Stark is thinking about and thinks it's a great idea.
And so it came to pass! No, first Tony has to ask Eddie the question. The industrialist meets up with the former boxer at Eddie's place and tells him that the previous Iron Man has been seriously injured during a mission. A replacement is needed.
March should say "no." The blood clot in his brain that keeps him out of the ring should also keep him out of the super-hero game. This is a dream come true, though and he can't really pass up on the opportunity even if it may kill him.
In the weeks that follow, Eddie trains physically and mentally to take over the role of Iron Man. This isn't the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach that James Rhodes will get a decade later. This is serious prep work to take over as the Golden Avenger. Tony Stark passes over his tactics even though he doesn't tell the new Iron Man that HE was the original. Eddie's still a bit concerned about the blood clot in his brain but has no troubles while practicing and convinces himself that everything is fine.
All of this allows Tony Stark to have a life once more. Not being Iron Man opens up a lot of time in his schedule and that's time he's planning to fill with a very special someone: Janice Cord. He asks her out and does the grovelling routine for not paying her enough attention in the past. The couple soon becomes a hit in social circles. Gossiper even start talking about marriage for the two.
And what of Alex Niven? Super jealousy. Since he can't figure out a way to win his girl back, he dives into his work on the Crimson Dynamo armor.
We catch back up with the plot to show Eddie March's first adventure as Iron Man. All the training comes down to this. An "anonymous tip" has clued Tony Stark into a smuggling operation that involves one of Iron Man's former foes. While Stark isn't wearing the armor anymore, he still involves himself by being in constant radio contact with his new super-hero bodyguard.
Proving the tip correct, Iron Man's mere presence causes the smugglers to open fire on him. Eddie's training kicks into high gear as starts smashing his way through the criminals. Everything is going swimmingly until the Crimson Dynamo arrives.
Now, keep in mind, the Dynamo isn't working with the smugglers. He might as well be, though. While the Crimson Dynamo is actually here to do Iron Man's job better than Shellhead could, there's also a lot of emotions brimming with Niven. He pushes March out of the way and Iron Man ends up knocking an important crate into the water. Since this crate is IMPORTANT, we'll be coming back to it later.
While Eddie is brand new to the super-hero gig, he doesn't like his debut being interrupted by some grandstander. Since he doesn't know what the Crimson Dynamo's game is, he tells the newcomer to back off. Alex lets his emotions get the best of him and loses focus on the smugglers (who are still firing on him) in order to duke it out with the Golden Avenger.
Yep. Fight time! If you remember the fight that started this issue, you know how this starts. Eddie gets a pounding. Worst that that, March can't focus. That blood clot is getting the better of him and this battle could cost him his very life.
On Tony Stark's end of things, he finds that his battle strategies aren't being paid much attention. In fact, Eddie's stopped responding to him completely. He's worried about March but is also certain that the Iron Man armor can take the Dynamo armor in a brawl.
Just then, Tony gets a call from the front gate telling him that a doctor is here to talk about the life of Eddie March. While Stark would rather not be disturbed at such a critical time, that bit about Eddie March makes him concerned. He leaves the radio and runs off to meet the doctor.
Talk about a timely meeting! The doctor tells Tony all about the blood clot. He would have remained silent but he had recently talked to Happy Hogan and heard that Eddie March was doing some special project for Tony. The doc just wants to make sure that Eddie isn't in any situation that might kill the former boxer.
Without responding to the doctor, Tony Stark races away from the gate, hoping he's not too late to save a life. Putting on his own Iron Man armor, Stark flies at full speed to the docks.
These scenes with Tony are intercut with the fight between Iron Man and the Crimson Dynamo. That blood clot in Eddie's brain is definitely putting the new Iron Man at a disadvantage. Still, even with his life on the line, Eddie March refuses to give up. The Crimson Dynamo is ready to deliver a killing blow as Iron Man struggles to get back on his feet.
The countdown is metaphorically at "eight."
Invincible Iron Man #22
Writer: Archie Goodwin
Penciler: George Tuska
In this story:
• Tony Stark races to the docks to save the life of Eddie March. At the same time, March pulls himself together long enough to at least tie in his battle against the new Crimson Dynamo.
• Eddie passes out in pain soon after Tony arrives and is rushed to the hospital. His prognosis is not good.
• Titanium Man breaks out of the crate that dropped into the water last issue. He get into a squabble with policemen on his way to his target.
• Alex Niven tells Janice Cord his backstory as Alex Nevsky, former assistant to Anton Vanko and Soviet exile.
• Titanium Man arrives to bring Nevsky back to the Soviet Union.
• Iron Man is on the trail of Titanium Man when he gets word that Eddie March has just pulled through the worst of it. The former boxer will live.
• Shellhead arrives at Cord Industries and gets into a fight with Crimson Dynamo... who is on the run from the Titanium Man at the time. When Titanium Man shows up, he hits everyone with electicity.
• This kills Janice Cord. Tony Stark takes his anger out on the Titanium Man. Crimson Dynamo swears vengeance on the Golden Avenger. None of it brings a lady back from the dead.
If there's one thing I can say about these classic issues of Iron Man is that they are DENSE. I can't believe all that happened in the previous issue. I mean, they covered a pretty big story in one comic and it didn't feel rushed in the slightest. I'd love more comics with that much happening.
But let's get right into this comic which has just as much going on. We start with Iron Man flying across the sky... but which Iron Man are we dealing with? In this case, it's the original. Tony Stark. He's flying at top speed, desperately trying to reach the waterfront in time to save the life of Eddie March, the brand new Iron Man.
As we learned last issue, Eddie March has a medical condition that makes both boxing and a life as Iron Man a game of death. While Tony's no stranger to being at death's door, he wasn't aware of Eddie's brain playing host to a life threatening blood clot. In the new Iron Man's first official mission, Eddie had to face off against the Crimson Dynamo. While Stark believed that the Iron Man armor would best the other armored suit, that depended on a pilot who wouldn't be fighting for consciousness with every hit taken.
When Tony learned of Eddie's condition and couldn't get a response over the two way radio, he armored up and here we are.
One of the more awesome things about Eddie March is that he's not a quitter. He knew full well that putting on the Iron Man armor could result in his death. His head is spinning because of that blood clot in his brain. He still doesn't give up. He doesn't try to escape. He just keeps on fighting.
And much like March's boxing match last issue, he eventually pulls off a win. Sort of. The point is, two armored people collided with each other, destroying the dock they were fighting on. When all is said and done, the Crimson Dynamo has limped off to repair his suit and Iron Man struggles to get clear of the wreckage.
This is when Tony Stark shows up in his own armored suit. He curses himself for being too late to make a difference in the fight. Eddie sits down on a non-destroyed piece of dock and wonders about another Iron Man hitting the scene. Tony tells March that despite his own "injuries" March's bravery got him back in a suit of armor. Peeling of Eddie's mask, he tries to care for the former boxer. Eddie admits that he should have told Stark about his medical condition but he wanted to be the new Iron Man so bad...
Trying to get to his feet, March collapses into a coma. Stark flies him as fast as he can to a hospital. Things don't look good. While Eddie March is getting the best care possible, the doctor doesn't look very positive on the former boxer living. He recommends prayer.
Stark, still in his Iron Man armor, walks out of the hospital. He blames himself, of course. He should have known. He gave up being Iron Man because he was concerned about his own medical well-being and another man almost died because of it. From this moment on, for better or worse, Tony Stark is Iron Man.
You know. Until he drinks himself into oblivion.
I told you we'd get back to that important crate that dropped into the drink last issue, didn't I? Well here it is. We take a trip into the river water and find that particular crate. It bursts open and yet another armored figure makes his way into the comic. This one is a giant. Getting out of the water, the mysterious armored villain walks away from the water.
Wait for it.
Gigantic armored figures are pretty easy to notice even in the dead of night. A patrol car sees the dude and goes in to investigate. What they find is...
The Titanium Man!
The original Titanium Man was Boris Bullski. He was a giant of a man thanks to Soviet experimental strength treatments. The suit of armor was probably overkill but Boris was determined to best the symbol of capitalism that was Iron Man. What better way to do that than in Titanium armor? The two first faced off in a televised publicity stunt of a fight that would forever determine what ideological system (capitalism or communism) was most valid. I guess capitalism won?
Yes, Iron Man won that fight but, surprisingly, the Cold War just kept on going. Of course, it also didn't end the feud between Titanium and Iron Men. They would battle it out a couple times since in escalating conflict.
And if you're paying attention, the answer is, "yep, this is the old foe that was hinted at by the mysterious informer in the previous issue."
But enough of that. We've got even more backstory to deal with. This time, it's that of Alex Niven. Both he and Janice Cord are working lat at the Cord Manufacturing Factory. When Janice goes in to talk to Alex and apologize for spending so much time with Tony Stark, she finds him hard at work repairing the Crimson Dynamo armor.
Since she still feels like she was threatened by the Dynamo last issue, Janice tries to make a run for it but Alex races after her, grabs her, and shakes her for some reason. He's got to explain to Janice just what he's doing with the Crimson Dynamo suit.
Lighting a cigarette, Alex Niven explains that his real name is Alex Nevsky. He also has a Russian accent and is upset that no one noticed. With that, Alex goes right into his Secret Origin.
Back in Mother Russia, Alex Nevsky used to work as the assistant to Anton Vanko. They developed the Crimson Dynamo armor together. When the suit proved to be totally awesome, Anton was sent to the United States to sabotage the American industrial complex. As we all know, this led to a confrontation with Iron Man and to Anton defecting from the Soviet Union when Iron Man played him a false recording of his superiors planning Vanko's murder.
While it was a false recording, it was totally what Comrade K was planning so it's all justified, right?
Now, Vanko died a hero in Tales of Suspence #52. His associates in the Soviet Union didn't fare as well. Everyone connected to Anton Vanko was given the witch hunt treatment, including Alex. He ended up escaping the country and becoming an exile in the United States.
Because it's all Iron Man and Tony Stark's fault for Anton Vanko betraying the Soviet Union, Alex has decided to get his revenge on them both. He built a Crimson Dynamo suit that is superior in every way to the original and has decided to use it to be a better hero than Iron Man could ever be. He has become the head scientist at Cord Industries to take away Stark's dominance in the industrial arena. Everything he has done is to get revenge on Tony Stark and Iron Man.
Janice is quick on the uptake and realizes that she was personally part of that plan. Alex started dating her to keep Tony Stark away from her. Nevsky admits that that's how things started but he also felt REALLY jealous when Tony came back on the scene last issue. It made him so angry, he violently attacked Iron Man instead of playing super-hero. That's love, right?
Janice has the good sense to not be convinced by this crazy talk and I've got to commend her for it. She's giving Alex the crazy eyes that he so richly deserves. Before she can decide what to say next, the whole place starts crashing down on them.
That's because Titanium Man is here to collect Alex Nevsky for the Soviet Union! That's right. Boris' mission is to bring back an exile.
Iron Man is also clued in on Titanium Man's recent arrival in the United States. He's investigating the busted up police car that was left after those policemen discovered Titanium Man earlier this issue. The patrolmen weren't killed so they're able to give clear testimony that the giant Iron Man villain is nearby.
To go with the bad news, Tony also gets some good: Eddie March is going to live. This information is so important that it's relayed to Iron Man through the policemen's radio. March is a fighter and pulled through the worst of it against all odds. There's still one more surgery to go but the jury is in: Eddie March remains in the land of the living!
With news like that, Tony is elated. He still has to face down Titanium Man but with a friend off the "Might Die" list, there's a huge weight lifted from his shoulders. Iron Man flies off on the trail of the giant Russian.
Let's return to Cord Industries. Somehow, Alex has found the time to put on his Crimson Dynamo armor. It does him little good. He wasn't able to repair it much after his fight with Eddie March and it's definitely not up to Titanium Man levels right now. The only thing to do is run away and hope he can get Janice away from the battlefield. Alex has taken to the air with Janice when Iron Man arrives and completely misreads the scene.
You can't really blame him. Crimson Dynamo hasn't really done anything to get on Tony's good side. In fact, beating Eddie March to within an inch of death has made this fight all but required. Crimson Dynamo is making off with Janice Cord just looks an attempted kidnapping.
One punch and Alex drops Janice. Tony thinks this was on purpose and throws out curses as he swoops in to save his romantic interest. Of course, Alex gets exceptionally angry at Iron Man for all of the Golden Avenger's past "misdeeds" and for "poisoning Janice's mind AGAINST" him. Stark barely has a chance to put Cord down before the Crimson Dynamo charges at him.
This is a short fight. Alex's armor is still damaged while Tony's is fresh and new. Nevsky is thrown off balance with one attack. This gives Janice enough time to TRY to get Iron Man to partner with the Dynamo and convince Shellhead that the real threat is the Titanium Man.
Hey. Right on cue. Here comes TM with an electrical attack. For Crimson Dynamo, that's lights out. Iron Man weathers it just fine. Janice Cord? The only one not wearing an armored suit? Fatal experience. Iron Man holds her tenderly as she fades away. When she's forever still, he takes his revenge on Titanium Man.
While that fight is going on, Crimson Dynamo wakes up to find his ex-girlfriend dead. Naturally, he blames Shellhead. Let's face it, folks. At this point, Alex Nevsky is blaming Iron Man for rainy days. They aren't going to become BFF's. He swears vengeance on the Avenger and then slinks off to work on his armor.
In the sky, Iron Man and the Titanium Man fight with a passion. Strictly speaking, Boris is breaking protocol by engaging Iron Man. He was told to avoid a confrontation like this at all costs. He doesn't care. To him this is what it's all about.
Which means it's all about losing because there's no way Iron Man isn't winning this one. Tony has righteous justice on his side with a dash of revenge thrown in to spice things up. Shellhead takes out Titanium Man's flight rockets and watches as Titanium Man plummets. Not missing a beat, Boris uses the last of his energy by magnetizing his suit. Suddenly, Iron Man is falling with his enemy.
Using his boot jets, Tony is able to position the two over open water before they get near the ground. The two make splashdown but it's only Iron Man that surfaces. It's not the last time Stark will face the Titanium Man but now it's time to handle more important matters.
An ambulance is here to pick up Janice Cord but it has arrived far too late to save her life.
As you might have guessed, Eddie March hasn't made many appearances since his first adventure. Even though that blood clot continued to be a pervasive threat, Eddie kept his Iron Man armor and ended up using it in a fight against Doctor Spectrum. This resulted in him getting injured again. Tony ended up using a device called the Energy Enervator to help heal the former boxer but that left March open to the side effects of the device. He became the second Freak (Happy was the first after a similar treatment). After he was defeated as the Freak, Eddie went back to relative obscurity until the threat of Ultimo called him back into an armored suit at the request of War Machine (James Rhodes). Again, he left the battlefield injured but he fought bravely nonetheless. Since that time, March has completely disappeared. Time will tell if he makes another appearance in the Marvel Universe but he will always be remembered as the first official replacement Iron Man.
And that's that, Readers! I hope you enjoyed this little trip into the life on one of the more obscure Marvel characters.
Until next time: Excelsior!
Written or Contributed by: SuperginraiX
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