Iron Man # 7: "A Duel Must End!"

Iron Man # 7
"A Duel Must End!"
Dec. 1968
Story: Archie Goodwin
Art: George Tuska
Inks: Johnny Craig
Letters: Artie Simek
Editor: Stan Lee

This cover really grabs you.  A full on drawing of Iron Man with his
right hand extended as if he is ready to fire up the repulsor ray. 
And in the background, the Gladiator scowls behind his helm as the
whirling saw blades aim to destroy Shellhead.

The story opens in the middle of a battle between Gladiator and Iron
Man.  Iron Man has been lured to a warehouse where Janice Cord,
Tony's love interest, and Janice's attorney, Vincent Sandhurst, are
being held hostage as diversion while the Maggia raid Stark's secret
weapons vault at his factory.  In battle, Iron Man is at a
disadvantage because the firing mechanisms of his repulsor rays have
been damaged by falling machinery.  Even when he attempts to use the
manual override, they don't respond.  Meanwhile, Janice is bound to
a chair and left wondering why Stark ran away.  If only she knew the

Back at the Stark Industries, Whitney Frost's assault squad rushes
the headquarters of the plant's security guard.  Using the
information she has managed to charm out of Jasper Sitwell, Stark's
defenses offer no resistance as they head for the weapon vault in
the restricted area.  She finds comfort in the fact that while the
squad is under her command, Jasper's life will be spared.

Whitney begins to recall how she came to be Big M, the leader of the
Maggia.  As the daughter of wealthy Wall Street financier Byron
Frost, Whitney lived a life of advantage and leisure.  But when her
father died, she learned that in fact her true father was the maggia
leader, Count Nefaria!  When she finally came to terms with the
reality of her situation, she began her training.  After Nafaria was
brought to justice, she became Big M!  Although her senses tell her
to run, she knows that if she does abandon her position of
leadership someone like the Galdiator or the Masked Marauder will
take her place; especially when the Maggia is on the verge of
aquiring Stark's super-weapons and asserting themselves not just as
a criminal organization, but a world power.

With the success seemingly in the Maggia's grasp, the Gladiator
continues his relentless assault upon Iron Man in the hopes of being
hailed as the Maggia's new champion.  The Gladiator knows that Iron
Man is injured and his armor is failing.  But with so much at stake,
Iron Man forces one last confrontation and uses his flying jets to
knock the Gladiator into some heavy machinery which collapses on top
of him, pinning him beneath.  But Gladdy quickly explodes back into
action as Iron Man masterfully avoids in his assault.  Once more,
Iron Man uses his flying jets and attacks Gladiator from behind,
knocking him through the wall of the warehouse!  Next, he frees
Janice and Vincent and manages to evacuate them from the building
and head to his factory as the Gladiator rejoins his crew in his
heli-carrier and heads in the same direction.

Iron Man's armor has been furthur weakened by the Gladiator's
slashes, and to make matters worse, he arrives at the weapon vault
at the exact time the Maggia assault squad has set off the high-
explosive charge in their attempt to breach the vault.  When the
smoke clears, Whitney and the Maggia realize the have fallen into a
trap as Jasper Sitwell and other SHIELD agents pour from the
vault.  "You've played yourselves for suckers to think such a scheme
could succeed against a plant protected by SHIELD!" exclaims Sitwell.

Suddenly the Gladiator arrives and in his attempt to wrench control
from Frost, he begins to rally the Maggia against the SHIELD agents
as the factory area erupts into blazing battle!  Just as the
Gladiator is about to mow down Sitwell from behind with his deadly
blades, Whitney Frost fires a gun, hits the spinning disk and
prevents Sitwell's demise.  Iron Man uses the distraction to his
advantage and attacks Gladdy by releasing an engine suspended on a
chain directly onto Gladiator's head.  Gladiator staggers back up
and grabs a piece of machinery in an attempt to hurl it at the
armored Avenger.  But Iron Man quickly realizes that Gladiator is
about to grab "the hyper-volt charger....if I can just reach the
switch..."  FRZAK!  Thanks to quick thinking on Iron Man's part, he
is able to activate the charger which results in a blast that
destroys Gladiator's metal gauntlets and puts him down for the count.

Agent Sitwell thanks Iron Man for his help as SHIELD agents round up
the Maggia members.  Then they both realize that Frost is nowhere to
be seen.  They head outside toward the Gladiator's heli-carrier, and
as Whitney is about to board it Iron Man explains his jet-system is
drained so he is unable to prevent her escape.  Sitwell commands
Whitney to halt, but when she refuses, he raises his pistol to
fire.  "I have to do's my duty....I have to...I...I....I
can't!"  As the carrier races away, Sitwell is left flummoxed by his
own irrational behavior.  "I've known what she was doing all this
time...!  But now!  Why couldn't I stop her...why?!"

In the aftermath, Iron Man wishes he didn't understand Agent
Sitwell's behavior, but realizes if he didn't then he would "truly
be an iron man...from the heart out!"

Karl's Comments and Observations:

In the scene where Iron Man inspects the firing mechanisms of his
repulsor rays, you get to see a close-up of the circuitry inside
Iron Man's wrist.  This particular type of panel of the interior
workings of Iron Man's armor always puzzled me because it always
seemed to me that there were always way too many circuits and dials
inside.  It almost seemed as if Tony was a robot, rather than the
armor being loaded with paper-thin flexible integrated circuits.

Archie Goodwin took over scripts for Iron Man from Stan Lee
beginning with last issue of Tales of Suspense (#99) and scripted
the first 28 issues of Iron Man's solo series.  The team of
Goodwin/Tuska/Craig pretty much worked together for all of these
issues.  Archie Goodwin and Johnny Craig worked at Warren soon

Count Nefaria's first appearance was in Avengers # 13 and would
later appear in Uncanny X-Men # 94.

Melvin Potter a.k.a. the Gladiator is not to be confused with the
Gladiator, Praetor of the Elite Corps of the Imperial Guard who
protects the ruler of the Shi'Ar Empire.

Potter was a costume designer who believed anyone could be a super-
hero...or villain....if they had the right powers built into his
clothes, so he set about designing the greatest costumed garb of all!
The Gladiator's first appearance was in Daredevil # 18 in which his
wrist shields are described as being "forged of twin-edged tungsten
alloy" and in an "imitation of Iron Man" they are powered "with tiny
transistorized engines, enabling them to whirl at tremendous
velocity" and function "as both propellors and gyroscopes" enabling
him "to leap great distances."  The helmet has a "tiny, self-
contained oxygen regenerator" which permits him "to breathe where
there is no air".  And the footwear..."tough nylon boots studded
with tungsten alloy blades, honed to a fine edge, capable of
penetrating any armor ever devised!"  The design made him an
excellent adversary for Iron Man.

The Gladiator had his own Marvel Value Stamp (Series A - #41) which
appeared in Master of Kung-Fu # 25, Thor # 222, Giant-Sized Avengers
# 3, and Amazing Spider-man # 138.

When Iron Man uses his flying jets and attacks Gladiator from
behind, knocking him through the wall of the warehouse, he
shouts "Break on through to the other side!" in a reference to the
song by The Doors.  There also a reference to "Cock-Eyed Optimist"
by Rogers and Hammerstein, a song featured in the musical "South

Whitney Frost would later become Madame Masque in Iron Man # 17.

Being Tony Stark's girlfriend has never been much of a good thing. 
Janice Cord would later lose her life.

The Bullpen page has Stan's Soapbox with a well-written piece on
racism and bigotry, and there's an item covering the results of the
annual awards by "the largest group of comic-book fans in the
nation" who gathered at the International Convention of Comic Art
held at New York's Statler-Hilton Hotel.  Although it doesn't
provide a complete run-down of all of the awards (only the Marvel
winners,) they boast about neither receiving an award nor a
nomination in the category of Best Juvenile Humor.  More's the pity.

Opposite the Bullpen page is a full page ad for hair loss/male
pattern baldness.  As if teenagers didn't have enough to worry about.

And finally, on the last page is a full page ad for The Spectacular
Spider-Man # 2, the short-lived magazine series from 1968.  This
always seemed to be the more common of the two issues, although I
never picked it up.  It looked like something Marvel might have been
creating for overseas distribution, but I really don't know.  But it
did have a great cover!

Karl Garcia