Text and Speech Bubbles
Drawn by Paddy Brennan
87 appearances (over 174½ pages) from issue no. 1 (18/01/75) to no. 87 (11/09/76).
The first fifty-five outings were printed in black and white, the rest appeared in red and black across the centre pages.
The strip is beautifully drawn, looking as though it took as long to draw as the rest of the comic put together. Iron Hand is Britain’s top secret agent in the British Secret Service. His prosthetic right hand resembles a cross between a mediaeval gauntlet and a supercharged de luxe Swiss Army knife. At the touch of a button he can activate any one of a myriad of gadgets contained within it. The most popular (used on no less than 30 occasions) is a mini laser beam that shoots from his forefinger. Other choices used more than once are a jet of inky black liquid (16), knockout gas (12), a hook and line (7), a razor-sharp blade (6), a tiny knock-out dart (5), an electric saw (4), and a jet of flame (2) [the top three are all used in issue no. 56, Iron Hand’s debut in the centre pages]. The forefinger could also shoot out a stunning ray, thick black smoke, a bullet, a flare, and also contained a glass cutter, a hacksaw, and a “powerful” electric screwdriver. The hand could become electrified or red-hot, act as a magnet or metal detector, shoot flames from each finger at the same time, and had claws that helped the agent to climb trees or walls. It also contained a strong cord and a tiny radio transmitter. There is no explanation as to how Iron Hand (his real name is never revealed) came by this.
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War, stories about espionage have become unfashionable. Indeed, this strip probably looked dated when it first appeared as, in an echo of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Iron Hand is despatched to the Caribbean to investigate a reported build-up of nuclear weapons (I did wonder at first whether the stories were reprints from earlier years).
Influences from the James Bond films show themselves as Iron Hand is tied up and left to suffer a fate worse than death, only to later escape with the aid of his metal fist. Megalomaniac villains have huge, secret underground or island bases. A car belonging to the British Secret Service (but stolen by the baddies) is fitted with “special gadgets” – including a smoke screen and a razor sharp blade within the wheel that shreds an overtaking car's tyres – and can be used amphibiously.
There are fifteen adventures in all. The shortest covers two issues (nos. 48 and 49); the longest lasts eleven weeks (issue nos. 15 to 25). Most of the adventures (nine) take place abroad; the rest are set in England (five) and Wales (1 – the shortest, mentioned above). The cliff-hanging episodes (and their resolutions) often reminded me of those (usually 1940s) black-and-white serials I used to see at the pictures on Saturday mornings.
Iron Hand was one of seven strips to transfer to BEEZER AND CRACKER when the two comics merged. The other six were Billy The Kid and Pongo, Jest A Minute, Joe Soap, Little ’Orror, Scrapper and Young Foo.
IRON HAND uses the jet of ink, mini laser beam, and knockout gas secreted
in his metal hand to escape being buried alive in sand by a mad scientist.
(frames 1, 3, and 8)
The sort of cliffhanger…
… and resolution that would have kids groaning in picture houses across the country in the 1960s.