Friday, June 17, 2011

April 1962: Return of the Gorilla-Man!

This month

Amazing Adult Fantasy #11
Journey Into Mystery #79
Kathy #16
Life With Millie #16
Patsy and Hedy #81
Patsy Walker #100
Rawhide Kid #27
Strange Tales #95
Tales of Suspense #28
Tales to Astonish #30


 Jewel thief Hugo Bogg has been relying on the legend of the Abominable Snowman to disguise his robberies in "The Ice-Man Cometh" (Amazing Adult Fantasy #11), a Steve Ditko-illustrated short. When the local burgermeister threatens to tail Hugo until he gives up the jewels, the thief takes a vacation and comes back to the village years later after the cop has died. Unfortunately for Hugo, another town has grown up over the patch he buried his jewels in so he whips up a snowman suit and prays on the villagers' fears again. That's when the real Ice-Monster, a lonely bachelor it seems, shows up and hauls Hugo away to his private hideaway for some alone time. Adult Fantasy indeed!
 An advertisement exclaims that AAF will add a letters page in the next issue.

In "The Midnight Monster" (Journey Into Mystery #79), dashing scientist Victor Avery has invented a serum that grants eternal life but has a nasty side-effect: it renders the user ugly beyond belief. Small price to pay to live forever. When Victor meets the girl of his dreams, he falls head over heels for her, but this woman has other plans and elopes with a penniless engineer. Enraged and seeking revenge, Victor does what anyone would do: he takes his long-life ugly-face potion and goes on a rampage, searching for his lost Venus. Joke's on Avery though as the government double dog dares the "Midnight Monster" to take on their new deadly ray-gun. Not one to pass up a challenge, Victor-Monster shows up to test the new weapon and is tricked into falling into a bottomless pit (where he'll live forever). Ironically, the man who designed the 
bottomless pit is the aforementioned penniless engineer! Kirby and Lee's takes on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (and another, more famous, version was just over the horizon) were stacking up like cords of wood in winter-time Minnesota.   How Avery can be sure that his formula actually works is beyond me since he hasn't had enough time elapse for proof of eternal life. He simply administers the dosage and proclaims "Presto, this flower will never die!"

Looking for some honest work, The Rawhide Kid rides into the Bar-M ranch in "When Six-Guns Roar!" (Rawhide Kid #27), only to find the usual trouble. Dogged by his reputation as the fastest gun in the west (well, discounting Kid Colt and Two-Gun Kid, that is), he's forced to hand over his six shooters to a foreman named Peaceable Morgan. On the Bar-M, guns are taboo, a rule that comes back to bite the men of the ranch when the Bolton Gang stages a raid (unfortunately, we never find out what exactly the Boltons intend to do once their raid gets underway - cattle rustling? horse thievery? blowing up the dam? short sheeting the bunk beds?). Luckily, Rawhide gets free and palms his shooters, making easy work of the raiders. One of Kirby's better western jobs (thus far). Elsewhere in the issue, we're treated to a very nice Don Heck 5-pager ("The Fury of Bull Barker"). Heck has taken a lot of...heck... for his art over the years, including a particularly nasty swipe from Harlan Ellison in an infamous (and wholly entertaining) interview in Comics Journal #53 (to be fair, Ellison later apologized for his remarks about Heck). For my part, I've always been fond of his early Iron Man and Avengers work. Another note: an Apache named Red Wolf appears in the Jack Kirby drawn cover story, "The Girl, The Gunman, and The Apaches." This character has no connection to the Cheyenne also named Red Wolf who would appear in his own title in the 1970s.

Eddie Kane is on death row awaiting his execution when a thunderstorm wipes out the electricity. As he watches from his cell window, "The Two-Headed Thing" (Strange Tales #95) breaks through the courtyard cement after "countless ages of digging." For some unknown reason, the monster smashes Eddie's prison wall, allowing the convict to escape. Sensing he'll somehow be safer, Kane follows the beast into the woods where he witnesses an uncanny sight: the monster can assume the identity of any object it comes in contact with: trees, alligators, even convicts. I remember this Kirby classic making an impression on me in the early 1970s when it was reprinted, cover and all, in Monsters on the Prowl #26.

Yet another bad guy on the run, Harry Dawes outruns the law in his tugboat but runs out of gas just shy of Easter Island in "Back from the Dead" (Tales of Suspense #28). Bailing, Harry swims to shore and comes face-to-face with the legendary stone statues of Easter Island. While pondering the mysterious construction of the giant noggins, he's approached by a strange bald man who claims that the stone figures are actually aliens buried up to their necks, awaiting the reading of an incantation to awaken them. Unfortunately, that incantation is on a parchment well hidden on the island. The old man promises vast wealth if Dawes will help him in his search. Fantasizing bars of gold, the fugitive aids the stranger and eventually finds the parchment in a hidden cave. After the incantation is read, sure enough, the heads dig themselves out and tell the two men their ancient origin. Centuries before, the aliens had been cruising past earth when they developed engine problems (a common occurrence in pre-Christ machinery) and had to eject to earth. Their captain promised to return when he had time and pick them up but in the meantime, they should make themselves scarce. So they jotted down the words to wake them and hid it on the island and slept. The aliens thank Harry Dawes for waking them and promise he'll be taken care of in their galactic zoo. Panicked, Harry turns to the old man for help but to no avail. Baldy removes his human mask to reveal that he is the long-overdue captain of the ship. Nice little twist caps what would probably be a real thriller in early 1962, with the usual above-average monster art by Jack Kirby.

Jack Kirby returns with one of his favorite subjects in "Return of the Gorilla-Man" (Tales to Astonish #30). Kirby's not the only one to return as we welcome back the evil Dr. Franz Radzik, the mad scientist last seen in "The Gorilla-Man" (Tales to Astonish #28). In that kitsch klassic, we learn that Dr. Radzik is experimenting with mind-transferal, first to animals (kitties and the like) and then to more intelligent life forms. To his dismay, he finds out that an ape may be just a bit more intelligent than man can guess when his test subject, a big hairy gorilla, informs the doctor once they've changed brains, that he's very happy to be in a man's body and will now set about making the world a better place. As he exits the laboratory the man-ape says something under his breath about Porterhouse steaks and never eating a banana again. Our last glimpse of Radzik in that earlier story is behind bars of a cage in a zoo. As we pick up the story, Radzik/Gorilla-Man has happened upon a foolproof way out after a randy tyke chucks a box of crayons at him through his bars. After hours that night, he scrawls a message on his wall for the nightwatchman promising a nice reward for helping him escape. Once out, Gorilla-man heads for the home of a rival big-brain named Stuyesvant with a plan evolving in his simian head. If he can convince the scientist that he's super-intelligent, the doc will want to share his find with fellow scientists, who then will surely come up with a way to get his brain back into his human body (how he figures this will happen is beyond me). After getting off on the wrong foot, the Gorilla-man convinces Stuy and, sure enough, more scientists follow, putting the ape through a series of tests to determine just how brainy this chimp is. To his horror, too late the Gorilla-Man finds out these guys were looking for the perfect subject to send off into space, one intelligent enough to share long-time isolation problems with. The rocket will probably never return to earth but, as one scientist sighs, at least we didn't have to subject a human to these rigors! As you read a lot of these goofy little 7-page science fiction films you can see the seeds of the Marvel Universe begin to grow. These stories, soon to disappear, were the perfect testing grounds for Stan and Jack before their combined imagination really took off. Kirby had a thing about intelligent apes and he'd return to them time after time in the next twenty-plus years (Kamandi, in particular).


  1. That is one talented gorilla! Thank goodness another superhero comes next month!

  2. Man comics were fun in those days! Some of these pre-classic 60's Marvels were a blast; I've never seen a lot of them.

  3. Jim!
    Glad to see you made it to the new treehouse. We've been waiting for you. Pull up an orange crate and start reading.