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Tales of Suspense

Comic Books

Publisher: Marvel

Tales of Suspense was a science-fiction/supernatural/mystery comic anthology that began in 1959. In content, it was essentially indistinguishable from many other Atlas/Marvel titles of the mid-1950s and early 1960s, until Marvel re-invented itself as a superhero-driven powerhouse. In March 1963, in issue #39, the title introduced Iron-Man, an integral character of The Marvel Age, following closely on the heels of the introduction of the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Spider-Man, Ant-Man, and Thor. The story is well-known by comic collectors and movie aficionados alike: genius industrialist Tony Stark is captured by foreign fighters who demand that he assist in producing weapons of mass destruction. In the process, Stark suffers a severe chest injury. To overcome his life-threatening injuries and to escape his captors, Stark invents a practically indestructible armored suit and artificial heart – Iron Man is born! This issue was written by Stan Lee and Larry Lieber (Lee’s brother), and had cover art done by Jack Kirby, with interior story art by Don Heck. The cover art features the original design of Iron Man’s armor, which was iron gray and rather blocky-looking, over the years evolving to the sleek red and gold design of more modern times. Iron Man’s armor was changed by the next issue, so issue #39 is the only one to feature the bulky gray armor with its skull-like mask. In the story that first reveals Iron Man, Tony Stark goes to Vietnam to test weaponry and ends up imprisoned by a communist tyrant, Wong-Chu. In order to escape, he must create his signature suit of armor and fight the communists. In addition to being the first Iron Man comic, Tales of Suspense #39 is actually the first Marvel comic to have a story that takes place in Vietnam. The other two stories within the issue are standalone tales – typical Atlas/Marvel pre-superhero stories in the day. As a key issue from the Marvel Age, and aided greatly by the success of Marvel’s more recent movie franchises, the collector demand and value of the issue continues to increase. It ranks #9 on Overstreet’s Top 50 Silver Age Comics list, and is likely to climb higher. It currently rests just below X-Men #1. The pale green background of the cover is unforgiving of even slight blemishes, so high-grade copies are highly prized. An “average” copy (Very Good or VG 4.0) currently brings approximately $3,500 at auction, and a Near Mint (NM 9.4) copy recently realized nearly $90,000. In 2013, a NM+ 9.6 copy brought an astonishing $262,500! In any grade, it’s on every serious comic book collector’s wish list.

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