A great thing about early 1970s Marvel was the influx of talent who had just experienced the 1960s, and used writing comics as a way to exorcise their demons. Iron Man #57 is Steve Gerber’s last issue, and it starts with a an effigy. Stark’s employees are striking because they believe Tony is a communist, thanks to industrial sabotage commited by an employee named “Gene Kahn.” (Get it, like Genghis Kahn?)
The truth is that Tony Stark is trying to get out of the arms business and into the business of renewable energy-an industry conflict that many other writers (including the films) would explore later. It’s cool to see future themes being plotted out for the first time here.
Anyway, Gene Kahn is really Mandarin. And he’s teamed up with Unicorn, who he now calls his “eleventh ring.” It’s not clear why he’s referred to as a “ring,” other than to show that Mandarin is the puppet master and Unicorn is just one of his weapons. Also, Mandarin has a headband now that increases his power.
The two villains are able to severely damage Tony’s armor, but during the final battle they shoot each other and switch brains. A side-effect of the rings-and-headband. They run away, and Stark’s workers figure out they were tricked and return to work.
There’s a continuity error in this issue, which wasn’t fixed on my digital reprint. Unicorn refers to his former partner who couldn’t save him (when he was last defeated by Iron Man in #16) as Red Guardian, when in fact it was Red Ghost.
And there’s an inventory of the rings, which is cool.
Creators: Steve Gerber (#57), Mike Friedrich (#58), George Tuska
For the complete history of the MU, year by year, go here.