The Man in the Flip-Top Mask

The Man in the Flip-Top Mask
or: Take the Cash, Let the Credit Go

Close my eyes... nuthin' up my sleeve... presto change-o... Tales of Suspense #48.

Presto Change-o is right. We see a cosmic shift in Iron Man's history in this issue with, in what becomes a long line of armor revisions, the first appearance of the red and gold suit. Gone is the bullet head look in favor of an actual man of iron.

In my informal survey, this is the most beloved iteration in the armors evolution. What survey... and define informal? Anytime the discussion turns to this armor, you always get the same response followed by the same question. "I LOVE the flip-top mask armor! Why'd they change it?" The answer is pretty simple: time marches on, artists come and go all making their own tweaks, alumni passing through ask innocent questions about Tony's nose...

The bigger question to me is who came up with this one? Ditko man that I am, it would be easy to lay this at Steve's feet. It's obvious Steve drew the story. Even for those that can't spot Ditko's style a mile away, his name's right there in the credit box. I just don't think it's that simple.

Correlation and causation are different animals. The light going out at the same moment I sneeze does not connect my respiratory system to the circuit breaker. It was simply happenstance. It's not even a coincidence until it happens again.

A common practice du jour was to produce the cover first so the interior artist might use the cover as a model. For examples look to the first appearances of both Iron Man and Daredevil.

Ditko and Kirby were as stylistically opposite as you could get. Neither fared well drawing the other's characters. Ditko's Thing, Captain America, Thor never looked right and worse, they looked dull. Kirby couldn't draw Spider-Man to save his life. The red and gold lacks the quirkiness and asymmetricallity of a Ditko design yet fits perfectly within Kirby's visual oeuvre.

For what it's worth (which is 12¢ short of nuthin') I'm going with Kirby on this one.

Happy Trails,
Smitty

5 Comments so far

Anonymous's picture

Love this picture, loved that armor, loved that era. Comics were just so much crazy fun back then.

Fred Bronaugh's picture

Which part of the Silver age to you enjoy most??

Smitty's picture

Ditko's last two years on Spider-Man/Dr. Strange and Kirby teaming with Vince Colletta, Joe Sinnott and Frank Giacoia on Thor, FF and Captain America respectively.

Ditko left :(  I stopped following FF around issue 70. Kept my Thor run going until Bill Everett took over the inks. Came back to Thor when Vinnie did and followed them over to DC. I forget the title but the first 4th World book I got with Royer's inks went straight to the trash and I never bought another Kirby Book.

In Royer's defense, he was never allowed to strut his stuff, they wanted a human xerox machine. Ayers, Colletta, Wood, Sinnott, Romita, Rule, Stein, Giacoia et al. all got to bring the big guns and fire at will. As a result their partnerships were transformative. With Royer, and those that followed, it became reductive.

Checking the Marvel database it seems the short answer to your question is 1964-1967. That was when Steve and Jack both kicked into a heretofore undiscovered gear.

 

 

fliptwirler's picture

This piece is wonderful sir! What I have come to really appreciate is that when you render "hands" they are true to proportions and size - so much so that these pieces stand out for me when compared to other art in the comics sphere. Wolvie's claws, for instance,  make sense in that they would actually fit in his forearms :)  Is this something you are especially cognizant of Smitty?

Kudos!

Smitty's picture

Call it, "comisimilitude" (comic book verisimilitude): The active belief in what you know is not real. The more I can convince you a character or setting is real, the better I can convince you the situation is real.

Pages

Add new comment