Wednesday, July 27, 2011

June 1963: The Coming of The Fantastic Four... Fan Club!

Strange Tales 109

Our Story

Johnny is bored with high school and regrets not being able to join the rest of the FF on an out of town mission because of his heavy homework load.  While flying aroung Glenville looking for trouble, he happens on The Sorcerer, another eccentric hermit with an enormous house.  What Johnny doesn't know is that The Sorcerer now possesses the real Pandora's Box of Greek myth, and he goes around town unleashing imps from the box such as "Hatred" and "Cold" in order to commit a one-man crime wave.  Johnny confronts him and quickly defeats him, fusing the box's lid on and dumping it in the ocean.

John Scoleri: Allow me to make one positive comment about this Human Torch tale (and don't expect that to become a regular thing). For kids unfamiliar with Greek mythology, it introduces the story of Pandora's Box. So, for educational value alone, I'll cut it some slack.

Jack:  Glenville is quite a hotbed of nuts!  When the cop on page 11 wonders who is behind the crime spree and suggests it "must be some sort of wizard" who lives in Glenville, you would think Johnny would go after The Wizard, but no—Johnny's brilliant mind immediately leaps to The Sorcerer!

JS: Clearly he was a bad guy... as hinted at by his oft-showcased hairy knuckles. And as old as he looks, The Sorcerer has particularly dark hair. Do you think there was Grecian Formula in the crate of artifacts with Pandora's box?

Journey Into Mystery #93 

Our Story

“The Mysterious Radioactive Man”

The Reds are back (did I say they wouldn’t be?)! This time they are invading India. A Yankee medical mission led by Dr. Don Blake, there to treat the wounded, has the extra advantage of having the Mighty Thor close at hand. That’s exactly what’s needed to turn back the Chinese tanks with the power of the storm and create a respite in the battle. A Chinese scientist named Chen Lu, meanwhile, has built up his resistance to radioactivity over many months, and he risks all to expose himself to a massive dose that transforms him into a super-man who can harness radioactive energy at will. Shot from a submarine in a torpedo into off shore American waters, which he then melts away, Lu lands on New York City shores, where he makes it known he is there to destroy Thor. Now back in the States, Dr.Blake finishes a critical operation before he can appear as the Thunder God. Lu is able to turn aside Thor’s hammer and withstand his lighting bolts, not to mention that he informs our blond hero that any direct physical violence to his person will cause Lu to reach critical mass and explode. He hypnotizes Thor into throwing away his weapon, which luckily for the rest of us, Thor throws it far enough away that the Radioactive Man has to go searching for it. In an Earthly minute, Blake is back with us, and runs off to modify one of his x-ray devices to help locate the hammer- at the bottom of the Hudson River. He dives off a pier into the water and manages to reach the hammer and turn into Thor seconds before he blacks out. Turning Lu’s own threat against him, Thor creates a vortex that sends the radioactive man back to China, where he reaches critical mass and explodes.

PE: According to Doctor Fielding S. Rumsackle's essential Radiation and All Its Super-Powers (Bullshit Press, 2004), page 27, radiation cannot aid in hypnotism. 

JB: It’s good to see Jack Kirby back, and he does some nice work here (Agreed, Professor Jim. Some of Kirby's work here predicts his ascension to The King's Throne over at The Fantastic Four in a few years but Thor's facial features in spots look "washed"-PE). The Radioactive Man himself isn’t that original-- radiation seems to create all manner of super heroes and villains at Marvel, but he is a fair bit of fun.

JS: At least he immunized himself against radiation first. Another great power that you think a brilliant scientist might consider monetizing before going the super-villain route.

PE: How does Don Blake have time to mend local thugs when Thor is always off helping other countries fight the Commies?

JB: For the first time Thor demonstrates that he has some innate powers, blasting Lu with lightning from his bare hands instead of his Mjolnir, (which decided not to come back when he tossed it away this time).

JS: Seriously now, do these unspecified powers have no bounds?

PE: As I noted in another post, a shared Marvel Universe seems to be an idea yet to come. The Radioactive Man ("Look out, he seems to be Radio-Active! He must be... The Radio-Active Man!!!") comes to New York to defeat Thor as he seems to feel that will gain him street cred in the United States. But wouldn't he then have to tackle The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Spider-Man, etc? Short-sighted if you ask me.

JS: Yes, but not everything can have the all-seeing power of Blake's Mjolnir-finder. Just turn on the TV and get GPS coordinates where you lost your hammer.

PE: Dr. Don proves he's not only a nifty surgeon (he flies through an operation "only he could perform"), an undercover Norse God (in spandex), and an all-around good guy for crooks to have around (albeit lame), he's also got the industrial smarts of future team-mate Tony Stark. Blake comes up with the idea of how to concoct a gizmo to find his missing hammer and an hour later he's marketing it.

JS: When do you think they realized that they only had 5 panels left in which they had to confront and defeat the villain?

PE: I do like the nasty side of Thor. Evidently, he sends RA-Man to his doom with a few one-liners and a kick in the pants with not one bit of remorse.


Fantastic Four 15

Our Story

Reed Richards is contacted by New York's police chief and warned that all the top crime bosses in America are converging for a pow-wow. What could be up? Of course, it's the master villain, The Thinker, who can predict within a milli-second upcoming events. Want to know if your husband will have an affair with his secretary? The Thinker's your man! Could Macy's be having a 20% off sale on that dreamy new dress you've wanted? Just call on The Thinker! Can Stan and Jack be far from the really good writing historians claim was their foundation? Ulp!

Since The Thinker can predict any occurrence before it happens, he aligns four separate coincidences to form a distraction to keep The Four busy while he hatches his master plan: to rule New York. To achieve these ends, he need only wait for the incoming meteorite to hit the harbor and wipe out electricity throughout the city. He and his thugs then take over the Baxter Building and all Reed Richards' experiments. Reed grows to rue the day he decided to keep in-depth notes on creating life lying around the coffee table. Luckily, the Fantastic Four decide that life apart isn't all it's cracked up to be (at exactly the same moment) and head back to base, only to find the building has been transformed into a giant crystal and The Thinker has been monkeying around in things man was never meant to toy with. Luckily, postman Willy Lumpkin and 1963's worst deus ex machina save the day.

Damn those spoilers!

Peter Enfantino: Unless I miss my guess, this is the first time that the Fantastic Four headquarters is referred to as The Baxter Building.

JS: Unfortunately, that's the highlight of the issue.

PE: What well-respected teen pyromaniac would be caught dead in a hat like the one Johnny Storm wears out on a hot date?

JS: Sue gets her hair done! They just don't tackle these important issues anymore.

PE: I think it's hilarious that Stan and Jack parade Sue Storm around as a strong representative of womanhood and a vital piece of The Four but whenever a plotline like this comes up (which is pretty often) where a wedge is driven between the team, Sue ends up the star of a movie or a new advertising campaign for perfume. Strong Marvel females indeed. Sue Storm, Jane Foster and Betty Ross as The Dixie Chicks? And, after The Four decide to go their separate ways for a "vacation," Ben notes that this is the "first time we ever busted up!" Say what? Where was he when The Torch quit the group four times in the first year?

JS: He rightly didn't consider Johnny leaving as the band breaking up. Did I mention that this issue screams filler from start to finish.

PE: I'm no science major (and if you've paid close attention, you'll note I know nothing about writing either), but that "one-celled" lifeform that Reed manages to conjure up shore looks like a fish.

JS: Nit-picker...

PE: The Thinker. The Ponderer. The Predictor. The Coincidentist. If The Thinker can foresee every event before it happens he should know his plan won't work and just save some time and turn himself over to the cops. But then maybe he sees all that and his return appearance next year in FF 28. Gosh, this guy is a Thinker! But then, so is Reed Richards. Imagine knowing that a titanic battle with The Mad Thinker and His Awesome Android would peak at just the time you'd notified the mailman to ring your doorbell?

JS: You would know—doesn't the postman always ring twice?

PE: On the fan page, Ginger Church of Denton, Texas (are you out there, Ginger?) asks if it's not a bit silly for a 17 year old Reed Richards (seen in flashback in issue 11) to be smoking a pipe. Amen to that, Ginger! Roy Thomas also writes in and, in the announcements section, the first mention of the fanzine, Comicollector, edited by Ron Foss. What amazing fun it must have been to see this Universe unfolding before your eyes. We're entering the Age of Marvel, true believers!

JS: I take it back, this news beats the naming of the Baxter Building.

Tales of Suspense 42

Our Story

Golden Iron Man is back! After helping the FBI nab some commies, he comes under the wrath of the Red Barbarian. When one of the Barbarians agents ("The Actor") figures out that Stark is Iron Man, you can imagine how excited he is to share that info with his boss. But he never gets a chance, and Tony Stark's secret identity is preserved. Whew!

JS: Don Heck's art almost seems rushed this issue. 

PE: But I'm with you, in general, as far as Heck goes. He shows dashes of brilliance and hints of mediocrity but, overall, I'm more impressed with his art than I thought I'd be.

JS: Whose bright idea was it to hide a miniature A-bomb into a briefcase lock. 

PE: The Actor? The A-Bomber? The Hider?

JS: Hey Pete, how long until we get a new suit for Iron Boy? The kid's Halloween costume look has got to go.

PE: Well, Professor Jonathan, according to The Mad Thinker, we have exactly six more issues of yellow (or gold, depending on your reprint)  armor to endure. What I'm more concerned about is the caliber of villains Tin-head is facing. Lee and Heck were obviously drawing from the recycle bin that Larry Leiber had piled up next to his desk (hey, what about Desk-Man? Was that ever used?). Things will not get better for a few more issues when we finally get a peek at one of Tony Stark's more enduring foes.

Tales to Astonish 44

Our Story

In a flashback story, we come to find what cancer has been eating at Henry Pym's soul all these years. Turns out the brilliant scientist was once married to Russian defector Maria Trovaya, daughter of a commie scientist who also defected to the promised land to conduct his work in peace away from the hammers and sickles of evil. Returning to Russia for a visit, Maria is kidnaped and murdered, leading Pym to vow someday he'll grow small and fight evil.

Back to the present day, Henry is visited by the ground-breaking Gamma-Ray beam trend-setter, Dr. Vernon Van Dyne and his daughter Janet (coincidentally the spittin' image of dead wife, Maria). The egghead is seeking help with his cosmos-dividing beam to far-off stars and he believes Pym to be the man. Alas, Henry informs Van Dyne that, admittedly, he's a brilliant Marvel scientist but not the brain for the job. Van Dyne thanks him and returns to his own lab where he pushes on with his experiments. The testing is a little too fruitful though as a monster from the planet Kosmos rides the beam back to earth and slays Van Dyne.

Vowing to avenge her father's death, Janet contacts Henry Pym, who in a moment of "what the hell," reveals to the perfect stranger that he is, in fact, the Mighty Ant-Man. The duo decide that some intergalactic monsters can only be defeated by two super-small heroes and The Wasp is born!

Peter Enfantino: So it turns out we have Maria Trovaya to blame for Ant-Man's incredibly boring adventures. "Go to the ants, thou sluggard" indeed!

JS: Perhaps the most interesting development of the Ant-Man saga. Of course, as you've intimated, a trip to the produce section would have qualified for that.

PE: Add Janet Van Dyne, later to become the multi-talented Wasp, to the growing ranks of Dopey Marvel Females (DMVs). At least initially we're led to believe this as she echoes the thoughts of such intelligent specimens as Jane Foster when she muses that Dr. Pym seems to be one of those boring bookworms rather than a dreamy adventurous type. Little does she know that Pym would, a few decades later, prove to be one of those masculine fellas who likes to drink and beat on his wife. In 1963, I'd venture a guess, she'd take it over boredom.

JS: Ant-Man's got a girl friend, Ant-Man's got a girl friend!

PE: Dr. Van Dyne is working on another of those rare Gamma-Ray beams to pierce the galaxy (ostensibly to find dreamy he-men for his daughter) and yet he goes to Henry Pym rather than Bruce Banner. This was my first hint that there would be no seventh issue of Hulk.

PE: The MarveL-OL moments just stack up this issue: Ant-Man, ace detective, takes one look at the body of Dr. Van Dyne and deduces that he's been murdered, probably from fright. Heart attack or natural causes ruled out immediately. Janet Van Dyne is on the case though, as her woman's intuition tells her that her father's work had something to do with his death. She says this as she steps over the debris in her father's trashed lab. And yet, she can't deduce that Henry Pym is Ant-Man when he answers the door in a robe with his AM tights clearly visible?! Does Henry Pym really have a woman's wasp costume made of unstable molecules stashed in his wardrobe?

PE: You have to wonder just how old Janet is. Pym continually says "You're too young for falling in love" or other such twaddle. Are we looking at Marvel's first case of jailbait here? The relationship of Henry and Janet, without going into too many spoilers, would be a rocky and complicated one over the decades. Multiple costume changes, name changes, size changes, marriage, divorce, alcoholism, madness and, eventually, the death of one of the characters. Though these early tales lack anything resembling reality or intelligent script-writing, the later tales can be quite grim and dark. Hard to believe after reading this particular story.

JS: How many more months before we get to the good stuff? The double-header of Human Torch and Ant-Man tales every time I sit down to read the next month's issues gets decidedly more unbearable as we go on.

PE: Curiously, Jack Kirby gets credit for the art with Don Heck a nod for inking. There's no Kirby here. It's Heck all the way. The script is written by H. E. Huntley (aka Ernest Hart), who also wrote some of the truly... unique...adventures of The Human Torch running in Strange Tales. I'm speaking for both John and I when I say that we can't wait to see what kinds of danger these two can get into in the months ahead.

JS: Maybe Heck was overworked this month.

Also this month

Kathy #23
Modeling with Millie #23
Patsy and Hedy #88
Patsy Walker #107
Rawhide Kid #34


The Rawhide Kid becomes a "Prisoner of the Apaches" (Rawhide Kid #34) when he unwittingly comes between a fight between a hot-headed and trigger-happy wagon train leader and the Apaches. In the continuing competition to see who's more loveable and who's the most misunderstood outlaw, Rawhide gives himself to the Indians rather than let a married man be captured. It's all sorted out in the end and, by golly, those blood-thirsty Injuns ain't so bad after all! If you have to read cliched swill like this, at least you can look at the pretty pitchers (here crafted by the great Jack Davis).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

May 1963: The Howlers!

Journey Into Mystery #92

Our Story

“The Day Loki Stole Thor’s Magic Hammer”
Neri, the handmaiden of Fricka (Queen of Asgard and Odin’s wife), and Heimdall, guardian of the rainbow bridge, witness Loki bound by ten chains to a huge rock by Odin’s order. Guess what’s going to happen now? 

On Earth, Dr. Blake’s reputation for helping injured mobsters has made him a target; no surprise thus, when a mob boss and his men seek out the good doctor to save to remove a couple of bullets. After saving his life, Blake distracts them long enough to turn to Thor and bind the men to a hospital table, delivering them by air to the waiting police. Later, Thor stars in a Viking picture in Norway, “defeating” a huge mechanical sea serpent. Didn’t see that coming did you?

All this happens under the watchful eye of Loki, who sets his latest spell in motion. When Thor tosses his hammer during the filming, Loki uses his magic to attract the Uru metal of the mighty mallet to the selfsame metal in his chains, shattering them. Confused why his hammer strayed off course and never returned, Thor calls upon Odin to help locate it. Returning his son to Asgard to use the wisdom of their fellow gods, Odin tells Thor the hammer must be in Asgard (with the aid of a little “suggestion” from Loki). Thor searches Asgard’s wilderness, encountering attacking trees (which are still mad at the Thunder God) and a fleet of flying dragons. He defeats them all by forging hammers out of wood and then rock, with his bare hands. When the new rock hammer (which contains a little Uru too) veers off course and doesn’t return, Thor follows it to where it landed: magnetized to Loki’s broken chains, along with the real hammer. Thor mentally contacts the other gods to tell them of Loki’s escape. Odin, Heimdall and Fricka apprehend the evil villain.

John Scoleri: Once again we see that Doc Blake remains the favorite doctor of wounded mobsters everywhere. If you were a wounded mobster, I would highly recommend avoiding the doctor associated with the super hero. Also in this issue, Thor becomes the second Marvel superhero to star in a feature film within the confines of his comic title. I personally found it amusing that the producers got Thor to believe that the proceeds for his contribution to the film would go to various charities.

JB: I like when Loki points out "even in Earth films he's wrecking my evil schemes".

JS: Loki makes yet another appearance in this issue, which is supposed to distract you from asking the question why Thor didn't turn back to Don Blake without his hammer (unless the last 5 pages take place in less than 60 seconds).

JB: That makes four for Loki so far (if you count JIM #91). His horns seem to grow longer each time. Nice to see Thor forced to use his wits.

Strange Tales 108

Our Story

Wilhelm Van Vile, former counterfeiter turned "The Painter of A Thousand Perils", made a surprising discovery while escaping from prison. He tunneled into an underground cavern, where he found ancient alien cave paintings, paint, and brushes that allow whatever he paints to come to life. His attempt to become a master criminal using these tools is foiled by the Human Torch.

JS: Did TPOATP actually paint in the word balloons on the splash page? If he weren't a criminal, he would have been a perfect back-up man for Kirby. Their styles are nearly indistinguishable.

Jack: What a weird story! Kirby returns and it seems like there's enough material here for a longer adventure. It ends abruptly on page 13. For once, there are too many ideas and not enough space.

JS: Gangsters, villains with unlimited abilities... boy this is all starting to sound familiar.. And the surprise new ability of the week—the Torch can now blow super smoke rings (!?!) that corral his enemies.

Fantastic Four 14

Our Story

For what only seems to be the 14th time in 14 issues, the Fantastic Four are menaced by Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Mobbed by unruly fan clubs after their return from the moon* (*as stunningly transcribed by the professors of MU in our last report), Ben, Reed, and Sue are rescued by Johnny Storm, who delights that the latest in an unending series of things he can do with fire, "The Whirling Warm Air Suction Vacuum," is a hit with his team. Back at the FF headquarters, Reed catches Sue using his top-secret "roving eye" tv apparatus to search the bottom of the sea for pointy eared-mermen in tight green trunks. 
Meanwhile, across town we find the Puppet Master, thought to be dead in the triple somersault dive he took out his tenth story window but actually rehabbing in a sanitarium, preparing his revenge. Coincidentally, PM (now looking more like Charlie McCarthy than Yul Brynner) chooses Namor to do his bidding. Utilizing the rare Mento-Fish, which can "sense human thoughts and transmit them to any point on earth through mental-electro waves," Subby sends out a message to Sue Storm: dump the Stretch and meet me at a pier on the lower east side" (romantic, this one). When she gets there, Sue finds Sub-Mariner in a trance-like state and a deadly Hypno-Fish traps her in a big bubble and takes her to the bottom of the sea. 
Wasting no time, the remaining members of the FF dive to the bottom of the sea to retrieve their fair teammate but Namor is ready for them, throwing batches of sea creatures their way (including the "ravenous flame-eater" and the "dagger-needle coral"). After a tumultuous sea battle, The Puppet Master's control over Subby is lifted and the evil villain is crushed in the tentacles of a giant squid - or is he??

JS: Just when you think they're over-using Subby, we find out that The Puppet Master (looking creepier than ever) is calling the shots. Oddly enough, it probably would have been a better issue without the PM-angle.

Peter Enfantino: I think Sue likes the view on the cover.

JS: Alicia seems to be dropped into this issue to give Jack something to draw in the background. Her only contribution to the story was to 'sense' that the PM was behind the whole deal. Unfortunately for her, the clairvoyance that she felt apparently wasn't shared by daddy, as he nearly kills her off with the rest of the Fantastic Four.

PE: My BS-o-meter went right through the roof with the one-two punch of the Mento-Fish and the Hypno-Fish (which not only hypnotizes its prey but bubblizes it as well)!

JS: The Mento-Fish sounds like a bad idea for a breath mint. No need to give the character new powers when you can introduce new fish with special powers in each issue.

PE: Marve-LOL panel of the issue; as a giant squid glides towards his ship, the Puppet Master races against time to handcraft a squid puppet from his radioactive clay so that he can control it. I'm sorry to say he doesn't win the prize.

JS: And here I thought he was peeling potatoes for dinner.

PE: I almost expected to see in the Coming Next Issue blurb: "Be with us next when The Fantastic Four face their mightiest foe—The Sub-Mariner!"

JS: I actually went so far as to look at the next issue just to confirm it wasn't another Subby story.

PE: In the "Special Announcement Time" section of the Fan Page (a precursor to the Bullpen Bulletins), there's a first mention of a FF Annual. By the way, the Fan Page is actually "pages" as it had, by 1963, been expanded to two pages.

Tales of Suspense 41

Our Story

Carl Strange (or "Doctor Strange" as the world knows him) controls uses his mind-electrifying neuron-blasting ultra-frequency "contraption" (his scientific term, not mine) to manipulate Iron Man into breaking him out of prison. Once free, Strange threatens the world with the 24-megaton bomb he he intends to destroy the world with unless his daughter finds a rich guy to marry.

Peter Enfantino: A wild and wacky story, comprised mostly of flashbacks, that would convince readers that they must have missed a Marvel comic featuring Doctor Strange. Strange is struck by a lightning bolt while surrounded by US troops, the villain is described as "a master of evil," a reporter exclaims that surely the only human who can defeat Iron Man is the nefarious Doctor Strange, luckily locked away in prison.

JS: We're told that Iron Man, like the Fantastic Four, is an excellent deterrent for extraterrestrials considering invading Earth.

PE: The dopey Strange wants to control the world so that daughter Carla will have her pick of better husbands. Huh? Much like Professor Weems over in Tales to Astonish this month, Strange wants to make up for not being a good father all these years by conquering the world so his daughter will be proud. The first thing he should do for little Carla is get her a new wardrobe and hairstyle. Poor girl looks like Jane Foster.

PE: Obviously this fifth-tier villain should not be confused with the more widely-known Doctor Strange (Stephen Strange) who will be introduced to marvel readers in a couple months. This Doctor Strange was effectively retired thanks to the popularity of his namesake. But then, who knows? Strange escapes capture at the climax. Maybe somewhere Kurt Busiek is reading Tales of Suspense 41 and thinking "Hmmm, never seen again? I'll take care of that."

JS: We learn two more interesting facts about Iron Man in this issue. 1) Ultra frequency waves can be used by any two-bit hood to control him. 2) He can run on 2 flashlight batteries. Thank God for rechargables.

PE: Marvel prison wardens continue to prove why they'll never be hired at Arkham Asylum. They leave super-villains sitting in their cells in their costumes, they allow master scientist criminals to work in the lab, and sponsor lock-picking classes.

Tales to Astonish 43

Our Story

Cast aside by the University that used his great mind for so many years, Professor Elias Weems decides revenge is a dish served old and invents a machine that ages anyone he zaps. Naturally, this doesn't sit well with Henry Pym aka Ant-Man, who can reduce himself to ant-size* (* but still retain his big guy strength), and he attempts to thwart the scheme of the self-titled "Time-Master."

Peter Enfantino: I can just hear Stan telling little brother Larry that he can write comic stories but he's not allowed to invent interesting villains. Gotta be what happened. And... let me get this straight: Elias Weems has his grandson, little Tommy (who he used to rock on his knee and tell bedtime stories to) coming to stay. Tommy is so proud of his gramps, the highfalutin' scientist. Now though, since being fired from the University, Tommy will be ashamed of his tata. So the only way out to avoid that shame is... a life of crime! Tommy will be so proud.

JS: Ageism impacts people in different ways, Peter.

PE: Larry Lieber Science Alert!! This time we're blessed with a "Anti-Matter Energy Beam" that spurts "electromagnetic energy which increases the motion of the body's atoms" and "quickens the atomic activity of all living tissue." At least Professor Weems made the weapon easy enough for anyone to use as our finale shows when Ant-Man instructs someone in a crowd to train the ray on him and zap him.

Marvel stock panel 3,435
PE: If Elias Weems is so smart and can whip up an aging machine on a dime, why not a "reverse-aging machine" he can train on himself? Proof that I am smarter than Marvel Universe professors!

JS: Let me get this straight. Fired from his job, guy decides to get his revenge by developing a beam that make people younger. Something tells me that with the sales on that product alone, the guy's a freakin' billionaire.

PE: I wouldn't mind living in Center City if I was a crook. Professor Weems messes with the atoms of strangers (who knows what side effects will pop up from a machine that can age your body to the rim of death?), threatens the police, and creates general anarchy and ill will, and then is treated like a hero because he, understandably, was upset he had been fired? The judge lets him off, the dean gives him his job back (with a $10k raise and new, younger, secretary), little Tommy asks for a new bedtime story, and Ant-Man sighs that maybe we've all learned a lesson about firing old fogies.

JS: Well, these days it is illegal...

PE: The Marvel Universe seems to be constantly awash with crowds just milling.

JS: Fortunately it's more Don Heck crowds. While I'm a fan of Kirby's style-to-come, I'd have to say that of the artists of the period, Heck is probably my favorite. Despite the stories.

PE: "Is this the end of Ant-Man?" the cover begs. So do the readers.

JS: Amen to that.

Amazing Spider-Man 2

Our Story

A fiendish new fiend, The Vulture has been terrorizing the population of the Marvel Universe, swooping out of the sky and stealing valuables. The authorities are useless as there's no warning to these attacks. Meanwhile, Peter (Palmer) has hit upon a genius idea to raise money to help his Aunt May pay bills: shooting action photos for magazines! Spider-Man gets the better of the old bird when he discovers just what makes his enemy fly. In our second adventure, Peter Parker is delighted to learn he'll be working with the famous Professor Cobbwell on a special assignment. Before Parker becomes Cobbwell's equal however, the scientist has him running errands. This leads Spider-Man to The Tinkerer's fix-it shop, actually the home base of an alien invasion crew from the planet StrangeTales.

Peter Enfantino: The first incarnation of The Vulture points out what's so unique about several of the first wave of the Silver Age villains, a quality that had evaded my attention until now: he's an old guy. Old, gnarly, decrepit. No costume-ripping muscles, no impossible abs, no hair! I could be The Vulture. He's just a normal man who's happened upon a gimmick he's developed to aid him in a life of crime. He's a cousin to the Moleman, The Puppet Master, and several other super bad geniuses to come.

JS: It's also interesting to note that Spider-Man never set out to stop the Vulture. His entire motivation was financial. I guess he quickly forgot the old great power/great responsibility talk.

PE: I hadn't remembered until this re-reading that it wasn't always The Daily Bugle Jameson was hawking. There was NOW Magazine and that's the incentive for young Peter Parker to become a photographer. Well, that and the mortgage.

JS: I had read the first 30 or so issues of Spider-Man before and I too had forgotten about that.

PE: Our final glimpse of the jailed Vulture (still in his costume!) shows he sure isn't housed at Arkham.

JS: In the second story this issue, would you say that Cobbwell was JJJ's father, or did Ditko have trouble drawing characters with distinct looks?

PE: Peter Parker gasps that he'd be honored to work with Professor Cobbwell, "the most famous electronics expert in town!" How many electronics experts are there in this town? In the second story, we get our first look at Flash Thompson, who may or may not be Moose from the first story. I'll get back to you on that. The Tinkerer story also injects the first blast of science fiction that has been a staple of the first dozen issues of Fantastic Four. The fabulously mysterious final panel leaves the reader wondering who The Tinkerer actually is. After just two issues you'd just naturally assume it was The Chameleon back for more intrigue and back-stabbing, but was it he? First, working for the Commies and then another world? I'm sure some alert Marv-ophile out there can tell me if the mystery was ever solved.

JS: That creepy Tinkerer was scarier looking than the aliens he was working with.

Also this month

Gunsmoke Western #76
Kid Colt Outlaw #110
Love Romances #105
Millie the Model #114
Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #1
Two-Gun Kid #63


Our first glimpse at what would become one of Marvel's icons, Nick Fury. Before he was an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., before he wore an eye patch, before he was Captain America's favorite foil, even before he was African-American, he was Sgt. Fury, leader of the ace fighting machine known as The Howling Commandos of World War II. In our first adventure, the Commandos must infiltrate France, where the Nazis are holding, and possibly torturing, an ally who knows all about the plans for D-Day. Unlike Robert Kanigher's Sgt Rock (published by DC since 1959), the Sgt. Fury tales throw common sense and reality right out the window in an effort to tell an entertaining story. So you'll get panels of Fury hanging out an airplane window shooting at passing bombers or Commandos tossing grenades (with unerring accuracy) at planes while parachuting. The little nitpicks don't detract from the enjoyment I had reading the story. Jack Kirby's fabulous pencils have quite a lot to do with it. His panels are shoved full to bursting with raucous action and bigger-than-life characters. Because of the setting, there's a lot more violence as well. You'll get the feeling here (as opposed to the western comics) that bullets are finding vital parts and blood is flowing.

The outlaw with a heart of gold actually instigates "The Capture of Kid Colt" (Gunsmoke Western #76). Chased into Nevada and wounded by a posse, Colt manages to make it to Boontown before collapsing. There, a friendly sheriff hooks him up withe a doc and The Kid heals fast. While in the town, he learns of the sheriff's impending ouster by the town mayor, Jethro Scrubb, who wants to install his puppet, Blade Simms as the new sheriff. The old sheriff sighs to The Kid and says, with a straight face, "If there were only an outlaw in this territory I could arrest, then the townfolk would see I'm the man for the job and re-elect me. But the outlaws done run dry in these here parts." It takes at least five minutes longer for The Kid to get his bright idea than the average reader. He gives himself up to his buddy, the sheriff and everything turns out for the best. Through some razzle-dazzle, The Kid is released so that he can be hounded in another town and Scrubb ends up in the pokey. Art by Jack Keller.

In his own title, The Kid comes up against an outlaw in a Doctor Doom mask who's terrorizing a small town. The Kid can't stand to see innocent folk hurt so he gets to work trying to lasso this metal hombre. It's either his huge heart or the fact that the bounty on The Iron Mask is double that on Kid Colt himself. That's gotta rile you up a bit, I'd think. Colt foils the bad man and unmasks him as the town's blacksmith (a deduction worthy of Columbo). Art chores on "Behind the Iron Mask"(Kid Colt Outlaw #110) fell to Jack Keller once again but this time he seems to be taking the easy road. It's a rather boring story with very average artwork.

In a non-Two-Gun Kid story, "The Lawman Cometh" (Two-Gun Kid #63), an entire town awaits with nervous excitement their new Marshall. As they wait in a saloon, an Indian comes in to have a drink. One man takes offense and lets the Indian know just how he feels with his fists. When the fighting's over, the indian reveals himself as the new marshall. Not a very jolting revelation (I suspect it wasn't even that surprising fifty years ago) but there's some nice art by Paul Reinman and a cut above the usual "Two-Gun Kid finds a way to get his girl to like him more" story that fills the rest of this issue.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Marvel University Summer Schedule Update

Howdy true believers! Now that we're a couple of years into our review of Marvel's first decade of Super Heroes, and the number of monthly books is on the rise, we've decided it's time to slow down the pace a bit. Rather than posting a month's worth of reviews each Monday-Wednesday-Friday, we'll be posting our reviews once a week (on new comic book Wednesday). 

Thanks for taking time to check out the blog, and please consider leaving comments, either to add your own opinion on the titles under discussion, or to let us know what we're doing wrong (or right)!
- The MU Faculty & Staff

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