Wednesday, July 4, 2012

July 1967: Spidey Hangs It Up (temporarily) (again)

Daredevil 30
Our Story

It’s just another lazy day in the office as Foggy and Matt talk about the latest slew of bank robberies that have occurred without anyone being able to identify the offenders.  As we later see, the bad guys are the Cobra and Mr. Hyde, who are connected to Thor from previous escapades.  Matt comes up with the idea to dress up as Thor to smoke the two baddies out, but once the real deal learns from the news that he is being imitated, he is not very happy.  Thor heads to New York to confront the fake Daredevil/Thor/Matt and, after a brief fight, gives the fake one his blessing as long as he doesn’t continue to use the same disguise as Thor.  Daredevil goes off and brawls with the villains at their hideout. As the cops close in, Hyde and Cobra bash our hero with a chemical that renders him completely blind without any of his attributes so it looks like he is done for…

Tom:  It was nice to finally read a Daredevil story that didn’t completely suck.  Still, this story left much to be desired when you look at Matt impersonating Thor while trying to impress Karen and Foggy as his twin bro Mike. 

MB: DD seems to bring out the silliness in Stan, which may have scaled new heights here, not to mention his flouting the “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s super-villain” dictum Hornhead established as recently as Spider-Man #43, when he refrained from tackling the Rhino. But the worst is his ludicrous imposture as Thor; I don’t know when you last saw a commercial costume that looked remotely like the real thing, yet this one is sufficiently convincing—having DD’s horned cowl underneath his Thor mask, and Mike Murdock’s shades underneath that, mind you—to make even Thor gasp, “Verily, thou couldst be my mirror image!”  The silliness seems to have infected the artwork, too, with Mr. Hyde looking like a de-winged Wizard of Oz monkey.

PE: I gasped at the "flesh-colored plastic" biceps portion of the costume. Suddenly Mike/Matt/DD has the arms of a Thunder God! Where is that shop? I need one of these costumes for this weekend. FauxMjolnir looks a little on the wee side, however. I've got a real stupid question: why not let Thor tackle these guys? Hasn't DD got enough fifth-tier villains on the street to tackle? Too bad DD doesn't know that Thor's alter ego is lame Doc Blake. Seeing as how he's a stickler for detail (as noted by the left vs. right handed hammer), I'm sure he'd want to put a Blake disguise over his DD and under his Thor. Stan should have gone for it. Other dumb question: why is everyone so thrown off by the fact that Thor is flying around? He does that all the time. The radio reports that "people everywhere are wondering..." DD manages to run into the real Thor and, instead of doing the sensible thing and explaining who he is and why he's dressed like he is, he decides he's "got to play out the hand!" What for??? If Thor's hammer-whirlwind strips off the Thor costume, how come his DD duds stay? It's an issue like this one that makes it hard for me to decide whether  X-Men or Daredevil is the worst Marvel title in 1967 (which is amazing when you consider the heights both titles will soar to in the decades to come). Nothing else comes close.

Jack: It has finally become crystal clear to me that Daredevil was a comedy. For awhile now, it has been going in that direction, but this issue cinches it. The idea of Daredevil putting on his red suit and then putting a Thor costume over it—with plastic skin over the arms and legs, no less—is so ridiculous that it just has to be enjoyed for the sheer silliness of it all! Throw in the Mike Murdock disguise and the characters in the story admit that even they can’t keep it straight. I know other faculty members don’t like this comic, but I find it a lot of fun.

The Amazing Spider-Man 50
Our Story

Aunt May's continued descent into a slow, tedious death; J. Jonah Jameson's panic-inducing editorials; sliding college grades; no time for girls. A whole lot of depressing stuff collapses on the young shoulders of Peter Parker and there seems to be no relief in sight. The final straw comes when JJJ offers a thousand-dollar reward for the capture and conviction of The Amazing Spider-Man, calling him mentally disturbed, an egomaniac, and a menace to society. Parker ditches his costume in a nearby garbage can and looks forward to a life minus web-slinging. But it soon becomes apparent that a New York City without Spider-Man is a breeding ground for crime and all the underworld bad guys come crawling out from under their rocks to take advantage of his absence. Chief among them is Wilson Fisk aka The Kingpin, a mega-mobster positioning himself to become head man in organized crime. After an incident where he has to help an outnumbered watchman, Peter decides that crime-fighting is in his blood and reclaims his Spidey suit.

PE: That kid who finds Spidey's duds and turns them into Jameson for a reward looks about eight and talks like he's in college. Cameos by Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon. Kingpin here looks human-sized, unlike the farce he became in the 80s when artists like Bill Sienkiewicz transformed him into a Hulk-ish mass of blubber. Had a Spider-Man film been made in 1967, Otto Preminger (who had a brief run as Mr. Freeze on the ABC-TV Batman show) could easily have played The Kingpin. And all these years later it's hard to remember that Kingpin made his debut in The Amazing Spider-Man rather than Daredevil, where he'd find further fame and fortune. In fact, it wasn't until Frank Miller utilized the villain in Daredevil #170 (May 1981) that he crossed over into that title. This mobster's a bit more high-tech than the usual Godfather. He's got a "disintegrator baem" built into his walking stick!

JS: That's one of the greatest things about revisiting the MU in chronological order. It's one thing when someone's arch-nemesis shows up in another book, but completely surprising when you find that they debuted in someone else's title.

MB: After many a moon, Mike Esposito returns as Romita’s inker (billed as Mickey “Dimeo”), and although my untrained eye is hard-pressed to detect the difference, the results are great, reinforcing my opinion that Jazzy Johnny is the definitive Spidey artist.  This is another much-talked-about issue, right from its justly celebrated cover, and structured in a novel way, with what might have been the climax—Spidey hanging it up—coming before the half-way point and a major new villain, the Kingpin, slipped in almost through the back door.  In a curious juxtaposition, Peter opines that Daredevil doesn’t have his problems just after Matt Murdock has made the painful decision not to propose to Karen Page, because Daredevil stands between them.

PE: Professor Matthew's right on target about that classic garbage can panel (reprinted below), an image burned into my very young retinas and made cinematic by Sam Raimi in Spider-Man 2 (still the best Marvel super-hero flick). A panel this powerful is reserved for the finale 99.999% of the time and yet here it is, not even halfway through the issue. Romita's firing on all cylinders and I doubt that, had he lasted another year, Ditko would have been able to come up with something this powerful. Though I love this story, I do question the idea that the city's bad guys would come out of the woodwork suddenly because Spidey's tossed his long underwear. This is the city, remember, that plays host to The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and a host of other heroes that haven't retired. And the idea that Frederick Foswell hopes to become the head mobster in town (as Patch) but wants to maintain his secret identity so that he can still moonlight as a Daily Bugle reporter makes me laugh out loud. History shows that Jameson can't pay that much! Then he goes to The Kingpin with his boasts as Foswell!  And the fact that Peter has lived with the guilt from Uncle Ben all these years and yet suddenly forgets that's why he's in the business. It takes an encounter with a Ben look-alike to jog his memory. All this is nitpicking (I didn't like the Gwen-Peter "She doesn't love me, he doesn't love me" nonsense either) though since this is a stellar read.

JS: Do you think that it might have been too traumatic for kids to end on such a downer? Today, such a cliffhanger wouldn't even register with readers, since they'd all know darn well that within a few issues Petie would be back in his long johns...

Fantastic Four 64
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 Ben and Reed have removed the power core from the machinery that will prevent any other alien life forms—like Blastaar last month—from secretly entering our world from the negative zone. Sue makes them realize that it’s time for a long-delayed vacation for the team, and a blindfolded Ben picks the spot with a dart. The verdict: a lovely chunk of isolated real estate in the south pacific. With the airlines all booked up, it’s the team’s pogo plane that’s the needed means of travel.  Johnny elects to remain behind to get some time alone with Crystal. Lockjaw and Triton hang around too, the latter exploring the skies of New York on the Torch’s jet-cycle. The F.F. are not, however, the first ones to visit the deserted island. A professor, who has dedicated his life to searching for the whereabouts of an ancient race called the Kree, is about to be rewarded. The Incan tablets he has studied have led him and his guide here, where they open an entrance to an underground wonderland of ancient machinery (by pointing a stone hand from a lost idol at a rock spire). Inside, the trigger-happy guide takes a potshot at a moving figure: the alien sentry of this Kree outpost, who, designed to protect his people’s presence from outsiders, imprisons’ them in a cage of colloidal atoms. He then sets up a vibration field that will destroy anyone else who tries to land on the island. That doesn’t stop our trio from getting to their vacation spot, even when the vibrations threaten to shake the plane apart. With the aid of Sue’s force field, they manage to crash land, where they meet the Kree sentry. The alien is not evil; he bears them no ill will, but is programmed to carry out his duty to protect his outpost, and attacks the F.F. Ben manages to damage the sentry’s chest machinery, leaving the alien with only his physical strength to battle them. Even so, he is formidable. He almost drowns Ben in the struggle that takes place. Reed saves Ben, and Sue radios Johnny for help. Thanks to Lockjaw, the Torch (with Crystal and Lockjaw) arrives in time to help—by creating a trench that takes the force of a tidal wave the Kree has created to bury them. One of Johnny’s fire bolts penetrates the ground and sets the Kree’s machinery afire, setting up an imminent explosion. They accidentally find the imprisoned humans, as the island starts to crumble, and Ben frees them in time for Lockjaw to transport them all away to safety, with his dimension-travelling ability. The sentry makes no attempt to escape, and merely ponders the fate of his long-departed masters, as the island self-destructs around him.

JB: After some very busy issues lately, I really enjoyed the simplicity of this story. It’s been a while since I’ve visited the Kree-Skrull-Captain Marvel tales; a lot of it will be new to me and I can’t wait! I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the sentry, even if that’s what the story clearly intended us to do. This issue, along with the upcoming visit from Ronan, was one of the first FFs I ever read, and it brought back some great memories.

PE: Sue notes that Reed never talked to her in such a rude manner "before they were married." Excuse me? Sue, I was around for those early years and I remember lots of "Do as you're told, woman" exclamations. The Invisible Girl (or is she a Woman now?) can't wait to spend a little alone time with hubby on vaca so what does she do? "I'll go tell Johnny, Crystal, Ben, Triton, Blackbolt, Lockjaw, and The Puppet Master to get their swimsuits, we're heading for paradise!" Just as in X-Men, you know if a vacation is announced, trouble will be its destination. Air travel was a heck of a lot less complicated. Reed is making flight arrangements before he even knows where they're going! Does he tell the airline "Give me twelve tickets to anywhere!"? And what are we to make of the sudden bout of egotism from Stretch? "When the headline writers from coast to coast pinned that name on me - they weren't just whistlin' Dixie!" But then you'd have to agree with his own assessment when he magically deducts everything about the Kree race at the climax of the story - a deduction only one old scientist could have come to.

PE: As dopey as the premise is (one lone scientist has determined that a super race ruled the world long before man and he's discovered the very spot where they landed - and he forms a search party made up of him and a Ben Grimm-ish lug), the idea that we're seeing the foundation poured for the Skrull-Kree-Warlock-Captain Marvel mythology sends tingles up the spine of even the most jaded comics fan. Let's just thank the heavens for Marvel Coincidence since The Fantastic Twelve's vacation destination just happens to be Island of the Kree!

Strange Tales 158
Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Our Story

Bent but unbowed, Fury defiantly battles Strucker despite the Satan Claw, which he finally removes, and then plunges into a power well to avoid a horde of Hydra hoods, presumed dead after he fails to come up for air.  Surviving with his oxygen pellets, Nick confronts the baron, but when the Hydra guards arrive they discover two Struckers, one of whom is unmasked as Fury and leaps to his death in an alpha-particle reactor cube.  Leaving the island with the captive Laura Brown, “Strucker” reveals himself to be the true Fury, having engineered a complex switch with the Epider-Mask Machine; in a final masterstroke, the impregnable dome serves to seal in the explosion of the Death Spore, which Fury had removed from the Helicarrier.

MB: This issue’s “Strange Mails” page features not one but two Bronze-Age Marvel mainstays, with a letter of praise from future über-scribe Bill Mantlo, plus a No-Prize for ace-letterer-to-be Tom Orzechowski, one of several readers who identified the S.H.I.E.L.D. strip as having had as many artists (eight) as the Hulk.  The story itself is a slam-bang conclusion to the Hydra epic Steranko inherited yet completely made his own, with a pair of ironic last-minute twists and a “gack” that I suspect was an homage to Mad Magazine.  Laura Brown, who seemed poised to become Nick’s youthful inamorata, has had so little face time that old Jaunty Jim may already be looking ahead to the sublime Contessa Valentina Allegro de Fontaine, who makes an indelible debut next issue.

PE: All due respect, Professor Matthew, I found this to be the weakest entry in the Steranko SHIELD saga thus far. The story itself is spinning wheels, re-telling last issue's action and providing way too many wordy expositions. There are more Howlers here than in the Sgt. Fury title: "You see, Bob, I was able to escape that giant spinning frammistat because, while I was dangling over the shark pit, I built an exact replica of myself out of balsa wood and chewing gum. I was able to fashion the wings out of chicken wire found in a nearby Mexican village..." Steranko seems a mite timid when it comes to destroying the human race (or he just needed a timer next to his drawing board) as on page 8 the world has two minutes to survive before the Death Spore detonation while two pages later we've got three. One more question before I close with the obligatory "Nice art though": had Jim just gotten a thesaurus from Stan as he was writing this issue? I've never seen so many adjectives packed into one comic book story.

Jack: I guess the retread of last issue's action explains why I finally understood what was going on in a Nick Fury story. Is it just me, or do some of Steranko's faces (especially Laura Brown's) remind anyone of Harvey Comics?

Doctor Strange
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The Living Tribunal tells Dr. Strange that the Earth must be destroyed in order to protect other worlds from the evil that has been unleashed by the yanking of Zom’s forelock. Dr. Strange challenges The Living Tribunal to a duel and, though he doesn’t come close to winning, his skill and tenacity impress the immortal judge. Dr. Strange convinces him to give him a chance to spare the planet by defeating the wave of evil that is enveloping the Earth.

Jack: This is a nice setup to what is hopefully a new direction for the strip. Trimpe’s inks again bring out the best in Severin’s pencils and The Living Tribunal is a neat character. My only question is with the part when the Tribunal shows Dr. Strange the birth of our planet and Dr. Strange averts his eyes—if the Tribunal thinks it’s OK for him to see it, I’d go along with that.

MB: Once again, Stan has handed this strip over to Roy, who pulls us out of the dreaded “Zom Rut,” aided and abetted by some decent art from the Severin/Trimpe team.  The Living Tribunal looks pretty cool and certainly appears to be a heavy hitter, although it seems a little odd that Doc would not have been aware of his existence already (as the Ancient One obviously was), and how he fits into the cosmology of Eternity et al., I do not know.  In any case, you can’t go wrong with the old racing-the-clock-to-save-the-Earth gambit, with the whole awakening of the evil sorcerers bit recalling those residual “thousand points of darkness” left behind by Baron Mordo back in #141, and it looks like Strange has his work cut out for him next issue...

Tales to Astonish 93
Namor, The Sub-Mariner
Our Story

Things have sure gone wild in Atlantis as the Sub-Mariner battles it out with a toxic monster that he thinks is an android that the humans have working for them, while in the meantime, a  U.S. submarine blames the attacks by the toxic monster as being the work of Namor himself.  While the two heavyweights fight it out pretty evenly, Namor begins to weaken and get sick from the creature’s toxic aura.  Knowing that he will no longer be able to continue fighting, Namor uses some evasive maneuvers to dodge the rampaging monster, causing it to spear itself into the side of the submarine where it is then incapacitated.  The Navy troops go about imprisoning this beast before making it back to the surface world while Prince Namor heads back home before he dies from the toxic poison infecting his body.  He makes a full recovery as his people use their state of the art medical technology to heal him.  However, Namor seems more irritated at the human world then ever and informs Dorma that, as soon as he fully recovers, he will be calling a meeting with his council of war!

Tom:   It all ends in a satisfactorily serious tone, even if the creature’s exit was a bit of a chuckle.  I wonder how well the humans fared from the monster’s toxic infection since it was apparently enough to cripple and almost kill Namor? Did anybody else notice that It! looked like Ben Grimm during mid-transformation?

MB: Roy the Boy’s cup really runneth over this month, Smiley having turned both Dr. Strange and Subby over to him, in addition to his previous Avengers and X-Men duties.  This newly enlarged portfolio may help to explain why Roy isn’t able to do a lot more than rehash the plot points from the previous installment in his script, hammering home its coincidences and misunderstandings, with Namor still somewhat inexplicably convinced that It (whatever the hell It really is) is a robot, and preparing to launch another war against the surface world on relatively little provocation.  But it’s a creditable effort, and failing a return appearance by the Dean, I am enjoying the Adkins artwork, which seems to evoke the best of Everett’s style.

PE: Should have been titled "It's Just a Re-Hash." Namor battles the creature with no name, hurls profanities at our boys in the Navy, and goes back to Atlantis swearing to wage war with the surface world. Just another day at the office. While Adkins can clearly do an adequate Everett-ish job, he's not Wild Bill. Dapper Dan's Dorma looks like she should have on an apron and live on Beaver Cleaver's street.

Jack: Finally, Subby mentions his human father and Atlantean mother! I would like to see an origin story somewhere along the line, since I don’t recall one in the years since Marvel revived this character. If we want to play the “who’s he swiping” game with Dan Adkins, I’d say the first panel of the sailors on page six looks like Ditko or possibly Jack Davis, while Roy Thomas borrows Homer’s “wine-dark” sea. Finally, the creature is referred to as a Man-Thing, which foreshadows one of my favorite 1970s comics and reminds me of the most obscene comic title of all time: Giant-Size Man-Thing.

Our Story

The Hulk wants off of Earth in a big way.  He’s tired of being hounded by humans and would like to chill in some far off planet in space where nobody can bug him anymore.  He sees the Silver Surfer as his ticket out except there is the problem with the Surfer being forever banished to roaming about no further than the Earth’s atmosphere.  No matter how many times he tries to explain this to the Hulk, the surly monster thinks he is lying and attacks him.  They fight a little back and forth with the Surfer not wanting to use his full power on the dumb brute.  He even leaves the Hulk behind, only to go back and rescue him after he is accosted by a group of cops with flame throwers.  When the Hulk steals the Surfer’s board to fly away, the surfboard takes him for a bumpy ride and knocks him out after crashing him through several trees.  The Silver Surfer uses his mind powers to find out the Hulk’s origin.  He tries to use his powers to cure the Hulk only to be attacked once again when the green goliath thinks that he is assaulting him.  In the end, the Surfer has all he can stand of the Hulk’s child-like temper tantrums and leaves him to himself.

Tom:  This was an interesting encounter that I enjoyed reading because the characters are so different from one another.  It just seemed like it could have gone further before seemingly being cut short.  I sometimes forget how powerful the writers would make the Silver Surfer from time to time.  One gets the impression while reading this story that the cosmic do-gooder was merely humoring the Hulk when fighting and not releasing the full whooping that he was capable of giving the big green monster.   

MB: I have regarded this as one of the great Marvel covers since I saw it on my 1975 Marvel Super-Heroes reprint, where they wisely retained the original artwork, and it solidifies my satisfaction with Severin (ably inked by Giacoia, naturlich) as a Hulk artist.  I’ve read that for years, Stan refused to let anybody else write the Surfer, and his script here just adds to my general sense that this strip is over the hump; I think it may also be the first time the Surfer has been drawn, except in a cameo, by anyone other than Kirby.  While it seems like wall-to-wall action, including the flame-thrower sequence so spectacularly represented on the cover, the story actually has lots of good character stuff in it, and the bitterly ironic ending really stayed with me.

PE: I wanted to like the story, especially with the Surfer appearance, but to me it was just more of the same thing, albeit with a decent Marie Severin art job. I must confess to being absolutely lost when it comes to the Green Giant's intelligence from issue to issue. He's suddenly well-versed in etiquette (to borrow a phrase from Freddie Mercury) but was he that way in the last issue? Wasn't he back to grunts and "Hulk Smash!" exclamations? The climax is nothing more than the topper to another Marvel misunderstanding. The Surfer has seen into Hulk's brain, knows what the story is and yet, when the big guy acts up when he feels threatened, The Surfer refuses what seems a very simple act to him: to rid Banner of his Gamma curse. This from a silver bald guy who's constantly picked on. Yeah, I guess that is irony. 

Jack: Any story featuring the Silver Surfer is fine by me. While Severin is hardly in Kirby’s league, she acquits herself nicely with her depiction of Norrin Radd, and the battle with the Hulk has some subtlety for a change. I felt bad at the end that Hulk unknowingly missed his chance at normalcy. Only one quibble: Hulk’s thoughts and speech are getting mighty close to those of a normal human: “Where frightened men will hound me—no more!” He is speaking more elegantly than many congressmen. A website listing all of the Surfer’s appearances says that these two Hulk stories are the Silver Surfer’s only appearances outside of Fantastic Four until his own comic premieres in 1968.

The X-Men 34
Our Story

While Professor X remains kidnapped, the X-Men find themselves in the middle of a war in an underground world. Seems as though the underworld isn't a big enough place for The Mole Man and Tyrannus to share. The Mole Man uses his giant android made of diamond to attack Tyranus, who of course just happens to have a giant robot made out of a stronger-than diamond alloy.

MB: Jumping in after a big gap in my collection with several newly acquired back issues, I’m thrilled to see some solid artwork by Dan Adkins (also teamed with Roy on the Sub-Mariner this month), which does indeed have a decidedly Woodian quality in spots.  Sorry to have missed the Juggernaut, yet glad to learn a little more about this long Factor Three arc, although the main thrust here is the ongoing war between Tyrannus and the Mole Man for the center of the earth, a trope that has never grabbed me.  But throwing a few mutants into the mix is never a bad idea, with the clash between the villains’ cobalt and diamond surrogates resembling a Harryhausen spectacle, and the divvying up of the X-Men between isolated civilizations evoking Edgar Rice Burroughs.

JS: Is it me, or is the Mole Man presented here in normal size? It's like Adkins got the costume reference, and put it on a normal-sized person...

Wait, where have I seen this pose before?
PE: Adkins is a definite plus when compared to Werner Roth's cave paintings in the last batch of issues. Warren is an obvious candidate to maneuver the earth-borer because he has a Mustang and according to  Roy Thomas, owning said Ford gives one "automobile know-how!" These Marvel editors didn't get out much. I don't recall Mole Man's "mindless minions" having the gift of speech before. They're not exactly holding long conversations (and glory be for that) but they can be seen muttering the random "Get them!" I'm not sure about this selective X-Amnesia Roy has cursed the X-mites to this issue. They "can't remember their secret identities but retain all other past knowledge"? I thought for sure that Tyrannus would be leading a squad of mindless T. Rexs rather than the mole men knock-offs he's saddled with.

JS: While it represents a small step up from the other X-issues of late, it all amounts to a bit of a detour from the pressing matters at hand. But since I'm not losing sleep worrying about the fate of Professor X (he'll be okay, Professor Matthew, I promise!), I'll enjoy a brief visit from the Mole Man.

Jack: Nice Adkins cover, nice interior art, entertaining story. What's not to like? I'll admit to a little bit of confusion about just who Ted and Ralph are, but not understanding everything that's going on is just a part of the aging process.

The Mighty Thor 142
Our Story

What’s recreation for a Thunder God? Today it consists of taking up the challenge from a young motorcyclist of a speed contest. When Thor hops on the bike to carry the two to a place where their unchecked speed won’t cause any danger; a flight above Manhattan is enough to convince the driver who the victor would be! Some siblings can hold a grudge forever; namely a tricky guy named Loki. Though still exiled on a nameless asteroid, the God of Mischief has searched the universe with his mind. In the distant Skrull galaxy he finds his cats paw--none other than the mightiest of his race, the Super Skrull. Designed to defeat the Fantastic Four years before, and boasting all their powers, the alien failed in his task, and as punishment for his defeat, has been sentenced to man a patrol ship indefinitely. It takes but a suggestion from Loki, and the Skrull sets sail for Earth. His plan: to destroy Thor and redeem himself in the eyes of his race. Wreaking general havoc on the streets of Earth seems to be the way to make your super hero of choice appear, thus it doesn’t take long for Don Blake to witness Thor’s next mission. The two are as evenly-matched as they are different. After a battle royal that the world’s greatest superhero team would be proud of, it is the Super Skrull’s astonishment that he can’t quite defeat the Thunder God that is his downfall. Thor uses his hammer to create an “anti-force” that sends the alien back to his banishment. Other events in Asgard set the stage for the next adventure, as Odin sends Balder and Sif on a mission to Ringsfjord: to find out the intentions of the Enchanters, deadly trio of evil, rumored to be a threat to Asgard.

In Tales Of Asgard, Mogul flees on his “magic carpet,” leaving his kingdom to burn, and the Asgardians to face Satan’s forty horsemen.

JB: Now this is more like what a single issue should be, and a perfect example of how Marvel’s villains could be equally effective against the hero from another title. The Super Skrull is one of my favourite F.F. villains, and perhaps he falls into more of a sci-fi than fantasy vein, but it works seamlessly.  If not for Loki, Dr. Blake might be able to get his practice back in order, but someone’s got to keep Thor’s life free of peace. The opening sequence, Thor taking the motorcycle for a plane ride, is a welcome dose of fun.

MB: This issue is as rock-solid as one of the Thunder God’s biceps, with two exquisitely matched adversaries, the Kirby/Colletta team letter-perfect to illustrate their bludgeoning battle, and Stan’s script providing braggadocio aplenty to equal the visual mayhem.  If the Super Skrull really has been tooling around in “the endless skyways of nowhere” since FF #18, then that is a criminal waste of what I have always considered to be one of the major Marvel villains, reunited here with co-creator Kirby, and among the mightiest in the grand tradition of catspaws pitted by Loki against his hated foster brother.  I also enjoyed checking in with Balder and Sif, two of my favorite Asgardians, as they embark upon a quest and sow the seeds for next month’s adventure.

PE: I guess my question would be directed at The Super Skrull: why would The Mighty Thor come looking for you when you're the intellectual property of The Fantastic Four? And where were The Four? Did they not have their TV sets on? I'm sure Reed would say "Okay gang, we were the last to fight The Super Skrull and he has all our powers. Therefore he's our responsibility, not The Thunder God's!" It's only Marvel "villain etiquette." Can we declare a moratorium on the exclamation "HAH!" which appears at least twice in every single Marvel title. The flip side of Stan's habit of a continuing story being wrapped up in the first five pages of the next issue is what we have this issue. Here "The Man" drops a few hints about The Evil Enchanters storyline coming next issue.

JB: I agree with Professor Matthew. Balder and Sif are great characters. Actually, the Thor title was blessed all around with colourful supporting characters. The particular chemistry between Balder and Sif is especially so; it sometimes tows the line of flirtation. The struggle of their essential goodness against any unspoken desires they (at least Balder) may have, is fascinating. The adventures they have together in the next little while provide the best scenes in some issues.

PE: This is another great issue, well-written, exciting, beautiful art, but I'm puzzled as to why Loki was even involved in the story. He's basically got a cameo at the start to let us know how The Super Skrull gets back to earth and an epilogue where he grumbles about how "his big brother always gets his way but that will change soon blahblahblah..." It's obvious that Stan is gearing up for a major Loki adventure and just wants to get the guy a little exposure first. My favorite bit this issue is when Sif begs Odin to allow her to accompany Balder to Ringsfjord (despite Balder's attempts to keep the girl in the kitchen where she belongs). She presents an admirable case to the old-timer, he tells her to give him a couple minutes to think about it and leaves. Sif turns to Balder and says something along the lines of "C'mon, please let me go!" The Brave One gives in and they leave without waiting for Odin to return! These young whoopersnappers have no respect.

The Avengers 47
Our Story

Quicksilver gets the address of Diablo’s hideout from Mr. Fantastic and the Avengers fly there—with Hercules in tow—to rescue Goliath and The Wasp. Goliath holds his teammates at bay, thinking he is protecting The Wasp from harm, while Hercules battles Dragon Man. In the Far East, the Black Widow’s attempt at escape is foiled. The Avengers defeat Diablo and Dragon Man with some timely aid from Captain America, and they return home only to learn that the Black Widow is not a traitor and needs their help.

PE: Instead of explaining the situation like any normal human being ("Uh, guys, I gotta do what Diablo tells me to do or Janet's gonna end up lunch for the Dragon Man") he does what all other Marvel heroes do when perpetrating a classic misunderstanding: he edits his statement. "Hold it, Avengers! This is as far as you go! Anybody who threatens Diablo -- has to tangle with Goliath first!" All this high-falutin' God talk (thees and thous) must have confused Roy as he's got Wanda talking this way in a couple of panels ("Why do you both not apologize?"). There's competition for the biggest head-scratcher this issue: Could it be Door #1/ Hercules realizing that Jan is held captive behind The Dragon Man and then doing all he can to destroy the place with big boulders and Zithers of Zeus? Or maybe Door #2: After watching his fellow Avengers make merry and general small talk Cap informs them they've got 30 seconds to vacate the premises before the explosives he just rigged detonate? I says Door #3: Hawkeye finds out his gal pal, The Black Widow, is captive behind the Red Curtain and predictably exclaims that he'll be the one to rescue her without the help of his allies. Can't wait to find out how they bring back The Dragon Man after his fall into the lava pit. Was this a faux D.M.?

MB: I’ve long said that as important as the quality of a given penciler or inker is how well paired they are, and it appears that although “Bell” (Roussos) helped Heck, he is hindering Big John; we old-timers know what a Buscema-drawn issue of Avengers is supposed to look like, and this ain’t quite it, despite occasional glimmers of the greatness to come.  Hercules looks a bit lopsided here and there, while his insufferable “I’m a demigod and you’re not” attitude is already wearing thin, especially for a down-to-earth guy like Hawkeye.  In one of this month’s interesting points of comparison, Goliath is forced to do Diablo’s bidding the way Cap, who pops up out of nowhere to save the day, has been placed in a similar position by the Red Skull over in Suspense.

PE: Was Cap hanging back, enjoying the show? Where the hell did he come from and how did he transport here? Will I have to wait to read this month's Tales of Suspense for the answer? And why is Diablo shaking in fear when five Avengers and a Herc had him guffawing? Lost amidst all the lame one-liners is the genuinely funny, ironic quip by Hawkeye: "Could be I'm the one who needs a press agent -- or else a gimmick! Maybe I should paint all my arrows one color, or somethin'!' I know I shouldn't overanalyze these like I do sometimes but it fascinates me that DC's The Green Arrow (who is obviously being referenced) could exist in Hawkeye's world. I realize it's just Roy Thomas getting in a kick at the competitor (whom he once worked for), which is where the irony comes in since The Green Arrow was created more than 20 years before Hawkeye, but it's fun to pretend isn't it?

Jack: Vocabulary word for this month: "yclept." Actually, I knew that one.

Tales of Suspense 91
Iron Man
Our Story

Two very major accomplishments happen on our globe at the same time: Tony Stark has just perfected his Centrifuge Machine, which traps centrifugal force into a handy power pack and makes the owner one tough hombre, and on a "tropical island far south of the border," a brilliant but hygienically ignorant professor swallows a potion and becomes The Crusher! Seven feet of gut-crunching, iron-smashing bald fury, The Crusher heads to America on orders of a dictator who looks really familiar to destroy Iron Man. That mission doesn't go well as Shellhead uses his brand-new Centrifugal Gizmo to make The Crusher really really fat and hellbound. Just as one turmoil in his life is wrapped up, another rears its ugly head: Happy and Pepper announce they've eloped.

PE: I know it's Iron Man's book and El Presidente has a jones to destroy some American symbol but why Shellhead? Even our hero seems befuddled. I.M. fought a lot of commies in his day so maybe it's just a matter of the chickens coming home to roost.  Just one of several questions that remain unanswered at the end of this one-shot story. For instance, the attack at the climax must last no more than a few minutes but Iron Man feels compelled to kill The Crusher rather than subdue him. Wonky thinking on his part when he says "Normally, I'd be reluctant to do this to you... but you've left me no choice! You attacked without cause... on a mission of murder... and your own power is your undoing! Because of that power, I dare not take any chances with you!" Using that logic, he should have offed every other foe he's faced, especially world-threateners such as The Mandarin. And what exactly is The Crusher's fate? I.M. exclaims that his ray has made the villain too heavy for the surface of the earth (SKLUNG!) but what exactly does that mean? Does he sink into the ground and just keep sinking right  down through Mole Man and Tyrannus country and into the earth's core? I need to know! Thank goodness Stark had just perfected his Grow Your Own Bulk Gizmo as that was the only weapon on earth that could stop The Crusher.

MB: It says something about the introduction of the Crusher that I consider this one-off’s most notable aspect to be the almost throw-away last-page revelation that Happy and Pepper eloped…but wouldn’t H.R. have something to say about their not showing up for weeks?  Visually, he’s from the Big Galoot school of bad guys, almost indistinguishable from Hap’s sometime i.d. of the Freak, so it’s probably just as well that I don’t think he ever returned, although it’s nice that Tony took such pains to justify essentially killing the guy with his ever-so-handy mass-increasing frammistat.  I also like that Castro—uh, El Presidente—paid the price for being such a cynical sumbitch, yet once again, we’re stuck with an annoying faux-foreign accent.

PE: "Silencio!!! Do not speak to me of failure! Soon I weel (sic) be the most honored of men!" I'm wondering if these guys are speaking in Spanish and Stan's nice enough to translate but then the cynic in me wonders what the words "weel" and "peestol" sound like before Stan gets to them. Oh well, little things. LOL-exclamation of the month belongs to the Cuban guard who witnesses the transformation of scientist into Crusher and screams "Look!! He is... changing!! Even his hair is receding!" I'm sure you'll be ecstatic to know, Professor Matthew, that we won't have to wait long for The Crusher's sophomore appearance in Iron Man #6 (October 1968). Ostensibly, he'll be found wandering the streets of China, having made a complete dig through the earth. I don't respect a villain who names himself without earning it. Seconds after transformation and hours before actually crushing anything.

Captain America
Our Story

Having pledged to be The Red Skull's pawn for 24 hours, Captain America must tell all he knows about the location of a new super-atomic submarine. 

PE: I buy that his word is sacred but to put the entire world at risk to keep his high moral standards intact is, to quote The Red Skull, "stupid." Rather than divulge the location of the sub, Cap could simply kill The Skull (an act his title-mate seems to have no problem with) and no one would be the wiser. It's a great installment otherwise though I'd have preferred The Skull arc to be a few more issues longer. I dread the fifth-tier villains we may have to face without him around.

MB: This time, Sinnott’s sumptuous inks let a little more of Colan’s style shine through, especially on the splash page and some of the sailors’ faces, and again, the final results leave little to be desired.  If the wrap-up of this far-fetched (yet promising) storyline seems a bit rushed, it may mean that my Marvel Double-Feature reprint has been shorn of a page or two, but I don’t detect any gaping holes, as I have seen elsewhere, and Cap’s stirring speech made a fine patriotic epilogue.  I’m always sorry to see the Red Skull go, done in as usual by his Nazi hubris; this issue’s fun trivia note is that the armed forces apparently entrust all their big defense secrets to the Avengers, which I could never see happening with, say, the Defenders.

Captain America and Bucky wish you a rootin' tootin 4th!

Also this month

Kid Colt Outlaw #135
Marvel Tales #9
Millie the Model #151
Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos #44
Two-Gun-Kid #88


  1. THE MAN FROM S.W.I.P.E. (The Ditko/Emshwiller Affair)
    Once someone has been identified as a swipe artist, we start to suspect that practically everything they do is a swipe. In the case of Dan Adkins, that's not far from the truth.

    Was the monster depicted in the current Sub-Mariner storyline swiped from some old pulp cover? Unless we have the original source, we can't be sure. However, even if the monster was original, the sequence where it was trapped by the giant boulder and strained to free itself wasn't. With a copy of Spidey #33 in hand, Adkins freely adapted Ditko's poses, and recycled them to suit his needs.

    Meanwhile, over at X-Men #34, Tyrannus and Mole Man are planning a robot war. That oil refinery on page four was probably traced from a photo, and the “atomic powered earth borer” has that 1950s look about it, but Moley's robot is definitely a swipe. Here's the cover of the Galaxy Science Fiction novel “The Humanoids” with cover art by Ed Emshwiller, placed next to page 13 of X-Men #34.

    At least Adkins steals from the best sources. :)

    Remember the cover rule, that suggests that characters should not have their backs to the reader? Well, Kirby broke the rule for FF #64 and had to redraw it. Here's a pic of three covers.

    Pic 1: Here's a photocopy of Kirby's original rejected cover, with the Sentry facing the reader and three members of the FF showing their backs.

    Pic 2: This is the redrawn cover, inked by Joe Sinnott, basically showing the same scene from the reverse angle. However, further changes were made before publication. The flame blast and explosion around the Sentry's right shoulder were removed, and replaced with a simple fireball added by Marie Severin. The banner around the words “The Sentry Sinister” was changed too, from straight lines, to a jagged edge. Kirby's cover, without Severin's alterations, eventually appeared on Marvel's Greatest Comics #47.

    Pic 3: In 2005, a fan recreation of Jacks original rejected cover was commissioned. Artist Tom Kraft copied the artwork in pencil onto a sheet of illustration board, and Joe Sinnott was commissioned to ink the page. Check it out. At age 80, Joe Sinnot's work is as slick and clean as it was forty years earlier.

    I should point out that the “cover rule” was not carved in stone, and could be broken. For example, Gene Colan broke the rule for TOS #85, and Ditko broke the rule regularly on Spidey, but, you always ran the risk of having the artwork rejected.

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

  2. Professor Pete has done an excellent job of explicating how even a landmark issue like AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #50 has its flaws, and of demonstrating how we love them anyway! And he makes a valid point about the time-inconsistency in this month's S.H.I.E.L.D. yarn.

    I'm unusually appreciative of the detailed synopsis for this month's FF, since I don't have the issue but do have a vested interest in learning more about the advent of the Kree, from whom the uninitiated can expect big things to come, in more ways than one. In the meantime, Sue's pregancy will be announced in a few months, so perhaps she and Reed found some of that alone time after all...

    Re: those sailors, Professor Jack, definitely Mr. Davis.

  3. I knew I forgot something. That Dr. Strange page by Marie Severin featuring The Living Tribunal and the creation of the Earth found its way to the cover of Pink Floyd's second album "A Saucerful Of Secrets."

    Actually, it was the first album cover by Hypgnosis, a small graphic arts business who went on to create some of the most memorable album covers of the 60s and 70s.

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

  4. Spider-Man #50, which Romitta probably didn't write, is a fine issue, but is really a lot like Ditko's The End of Spider-Man issue #18, with the last scene of Spidey and Jameson taken from The Menace of Mysterio issue #13. So yes it is a big famous and talked about issue, but it really had been done before, and whether Ditko who was really writing Spider-Man could have come up with something better if he had lasted till issue #50, we will never know. I thought that Spidey #100 was a let down, and that had a lot of talk about it as well, so you just can never predict these things.


  5. Great site by the way.


  6. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts, Tim. We very much appreciate it!

  7. Re. the familiar pose of the Mole Man in X-Men 34. Yes, we certainly have seen it before! Three years earlier, on the cover of FF 31.