Justin Hammer

In more ways than one, Justin Hammer can be thought of as the polar opposite of Tony Stark. Hammer is an English country gentleman type, a man with refined tastes and fondness for smoking jackets. He prefers horseback riding, tennis, and reading to carousing or jet-setting. There’s a quiet simplicity to him, even as he surrounds himself with the things a man of his wealth is accustomed to. And Justin Hammer is very wealthy indeed. In fact, Hammer describes Stark as his only real competitor, saying that his own holdings in the business world are second only to Stark’s, but that he distributes his influence among a great many diverse enterprises. Which is another difference between Hammer and the playboy billionaire. Hammer goes to great lengths to avoid being noticed. (Even his elaborate homes are secret.) And, finally, he uses his business accumen for evil. All-in-all, he’s a ruthless, venal man, the perfect foil for Stark, the humanitarian inventor and hero. (Of course, Hammer’s not all bad. He’s polite almost to a fault, even when having you whacked.)

Hammer makes most of his money from bankrolling super villains in exchange for 50 percent of their take. He provides them with the gadgets and gizmos they need, and they provide him with the capital he needs for his slightly more legal business activities. Whiplash, Blizzard, Melter, Spymaster (II), Beetle, Force, and a cast of others have all worked for him. This is his most lucrative enterprise, qualifying him as an evil business genius (and back when that really meant something, kids). Sadly, Iron Man has thrown a wrench into his operations on several occasions.

First seen in Iron Man #120, Tony Stark’s self-described “primary competitor,” Justin Hammer’s interference began prior to IM #118, when Iron Man’s chestbeam malfunctioned. This was just Phase I of a plan to wreck Tony Stark and his iron body guard. Phase II of the operation went into effect in #120, when Hammer opened the seals of Iron Man’s armor almost drowning him. Phase III took place in #124, when Hammer caused IM’s repulsors to fire, killing the Carnelian ambassador. All this, and the two men hadn’t even been properly introduced.

Hammer made the introductions in his own unique way, in #126, he kidnapped Tony Stark. This little gambit didn’t work out so well for the gray haired recluse, and despite having an army of super villains to protect his incredible estate (which turned out to be an elaborate floating island), Iron Man sank his battleship.

Hammer returned in #141 with a humongous multi-level sub and a grand drug smuggling scheme. The so-called Shark Ship came complete with a large library (for something to read while relaxing), four tennis counts in a stadium (he’d prefer horse riding, but the waste disposal issue and all . . . ), and all the other luxuries a man of his station prefers. Hammer was stealing private ships and yatchs to build a fleet to smuggle opium. He had to blow it up his big sub when his cronies made the mistake of stealing Stark’s yatcht, attracting the ire of Iron Man.

In the special The All Iron Man Marvel Super Heroes, Hammer hatched a scheme to steal Tony’s Redbird I prototype, a high tech jet. He snatched the plane to an uncharted island. But once again, Iron Man got in the way, and Hammer got away. Although IM thought he had captured the white-haired weasel easily enough, he discovered that Hammer often employs doubles—in this case, his trusty right-hand man, Smithers—to supervise his more sensitive operations. In truth, he was actually half a world away.

Hammer helped to welcome Tony to his all-new Stark Enterprises digs in #217 by sending a deadly housewarming present: the Adap-tor, a killing machine. In #223, he had a super-size super jumbo jet as a house, complete with an Olympic-size pool and another huge library. Then, in #239, when he got the Ghost to take on Iron Man, Hammer lived just outside of Rome, Italy, in a fully restored fourteenth-century monastary, guarded by gun-toting robed “monks.” (This plot went sideways, too, when the situation turned and Hammer soon had the Ghost after him.)

Always a guy to land on his feet, Hammer returned in #281, controlling Stane International. From an artificial island in the mid-Pacific, he was able to frame Tony Stark for some defective parts that caused an industrial accident. This ruse sent the Masters of Silence after Stark. When the truth was revealed, the Masters of Silence and Tony in his fancy new War Machine Armor came to put the hammer down. Because he had used the coporations’ past ties to tarnish the Stark brand, Stark used his armored bodyguard to force Hammer to sell Stane to Tony for just $1.00. (If you remember, Stane bought and renamed Stark International. When Tony returned to sobriety, he eschewed his former company for a fresh start [SE]. This now brought his former company and all its holdings back to his portfolio.)

After Tony Stark died/was put on ice, Hammer was part of a secretive consortium to strip Stark’s holdings and divide his fortune.

After a long absence, Justin Hammer returned in the Iron Man limited series Bad Blood. Even though he was dying from a rare disease, Hammer was consumed with his one-sided rivalry with Stark—what he called "the game." Hammer hated Stark because Tony always won—and won honestly, which made Hammer hate him even more. Now he had figured out Tony was Iron Man, but too late to totally exploit the information. Still, he had one last plan, one last chance, before he died to beat Tony.

Hammer has a penchant for elaborate lairs.

An elaborate houseboat that was a villa estate on an artifical island (#126)

Shark Ship—massive submarine with all the luxuries a billionaire needs (#141)

Uncharted island (The All Iron Man Marvel Super Heroes)

Super-size super jumbo jet (#223)

Restored 14th century monastary (#239)

Large artificial island in the Pacific (#282)

Secret space station (BB #1)

In Iron Man Vol. III, #8, Hammer secretly employed Spymaster’s team of assasins to attack Stark, delivering a vicious beatdown. The beating was cover for their real purpose: injecting Tony with special rogue cells. These genetically altered artificial “stealth cells,” complete with a protein coating that mimiced his normal cells, hiding themselves from the body’s immune system, would attack Tony’s body and soul. (The cells influenced hormone reproduction, and they reproduce rapidly—causing Tony’s personality to change. Under their influence he became more aggressive, violent, greedy, and hateful, in short, more cold and heartless.) Fortunately, Rhodes and Jocasta were able to flush Tony’s body clean of the substance, preventing Tony from turning into what he hated the most: Hammer.

Although his diagnosis was terminal, his doctors thought the disease might be slowed by a zero gravity environment, so Hammer moved to a large space station whose ownership was hiddden in a maze of subsidiaries, holding companies, and front organizations—a real Hammer touch. First built as a hideaway, the station became a prison where he’d spend his final days.

Hammer was frozen solid into a ball of water when his station ruptured while he was drowning in the pool. IM’s scans showed that Hammer was alive, but in suspended animation. He was last seen in Bad Blood #4, drifting off into space. (Tony couldn’t save him because his own armor was too badly damaged.)

Trivia note: Justin Hammer was modeled after the actor Peter Cushing, most famous for his turn as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars, but who also starred in a number of the Hammer Studios horror pictures of the 1960s.

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This page copyright 2006 by Tim Rassbach.

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