Friday, July 15, 2011

April 1963: Fire and Water

Journey Into Mystery #91

Our Story

“Sandu, Master Of The Supernatural” As the Mighty Thor flies around the city, he sees a most peculiar sight: an entire bank building rising into the air. Using his strength to push it back down to Earth, the building then fades out of existence, and after a moment, the people who had been in the bank reappear unharmed, having no memory of what happened. The first person Thor suspects is Loki, his evil half–brother, but upon contacting his father Odin, Thor finds Loki is still in Asgard, where he has been ordered to remain. What no one yet knows, is that Loki is indeed behind the mischief, but indirectly. In his constant desire for revenge, Loki has imparted some of his power to a talented and corruptible fortune teller named Sandu. The astonished magician quickly accepts his powers and wastes no time putting them to use, stealing money from banks (as before), and wiping clean the memories of his victims to avoid suspicion. He can levitate anything and transport matter where he wishes- to the Moon for example, which now has a few buildings from Earth to display to tourists. Sandu lifts the United Nations building from it’s foundation, demanding the delegates make him- surprise- absolute ruler of Earth. Thor catches up with Sandu at this point, and in the magicians flight of escape (no hammer needed!), he causes tons of metal to appear in Thor’s path, stunning the Thunder God, who falls to the ground unconscious. Before Thor can awake, Sandu binds him in chains (no hands) and covers him with the UN building, burying Thor in the hole the Thunder God’s impact had made. Having been thinking of his son, and witnessing the unfolding events, Odin deems this the necessary moment for the Valkyries (lovely, ethereal female attendants of Odin) to give Thor his magic belt that has been in Odin’s care for ages. The added strength wakens Thor, who fights Sandu with renewed vigor. The empowered fortune teller ironically brings about his own defeat, using so much concentration in attempting to lift Thor’s tossed mallet, that he burns out his own abilities, much to the chagrin of the furious Loki.

JB: Another interesting story, this time drawn by Joe Sinnott. Didn’t he become the talented inker of the Fantastic Four soon, and perhaps other Marvel titles? 

John Scoleri: I don't know, and while he won't go down as one of my favorite Marvel artists, he's a definite improvement over last issue's Al Hartley.

JB: The first appearance of Thor’s belt of strength, although I don’t believe it appeared that often; what was wrong with Thor’s regular belt? Some interesting imagery with the floating buildings and all. We see the Don Blake/ Jane Foster relationship developing.

JS: Nice of Odin to pre-empt our story letting us know that he had a belt of strength for Thor in advance. I might have called out another deus ex machina if Thor found himself in trouble and was gifted with the belt of strength. Um, yeah. While Thor got super strength, Shandu the Magician, I mean Sandu, goes from having enhanced mind-reading abilities (which Doc Blake seems to believe in) to being able to fly, and do just about anything. One more case of our super villains having basically unlimited power, and then not using it for some reason when the authorities come calling.

Tales of Suspense #40

Our Story

It's a busy day in the life of playboy socialite Tony Stark. He hands over his electric roller skates invention to the military, takes a date to the circus where he unfolds the tin-foil armor to don the mobile Iron Man costume when the animals get loose. If that weren't enough he helps his girlfriend's townfolks, who are being hypnotized by a giant behemoth, Gargantus. Wouldn't you know it, it turns out to be nothing more than a robot under control of aliens considering invading Earth. 

JS: And here I thought foiling alien invaders' plans was the Fantastic Four's domain. But I also didn't peg Tony Stark as the kind of billionaire who would spend time and money developing rocket roller skates. To impress the ladies, Iron Man goes gold plated this issue! A forgettable follow up to his impressive first appearance last month.

Fantastic Four 13

Our Story

Almost blasted into tiny neutro-neurons by his potent new jet fuel does nothing to dissuade Reed Richards from beating the Commies to the moon. But, little does he know that, many miles away, the Russian scientist known as Ivan Kragoff is preparing his own rocket for a flight to the moon. But, in a twist right out of a sf novel, his comrades in space are not three superhumans but three Russian Women, three Wisconsin women, three super-intelligent apes! Both ships leave Earth at the same time but who will land on the moon first? Unlike the wimpy Amerikinski swine though, Kragoff not only shrugs off protection from the cosmic rays that transformed The Quasi-Average Quartet into The Fantastic Four, but welcomes them! The rays give the apes super-powers and Ivan becomes unsolid, able to disappear like a Commie poltergeist, or a Red Ghost if you will.
Once they've all landed, they discover the ruins of a vast blue city, evidence that man is not the first to step foot on the moon. This incredible revelation means nothing when Russians and Americans are put in the same time zone but the incredible battle that ensues is interrupted by an impatient observer: The Watcher! The giant explains to the warring factions that both sides are heading toward complete annihilation and his race will not tolerate that war reaching the cosmos. He tells them that the eight of them are to fight for control of the moon amongst themselves and to the victor goes the cheese.

Peter Enfantino: 13 issues in and the only goal Reed Richards has is beating the Reds to the moon. All I am saying is give peace a chance.

JS: Believe it or not, the Red Ghost had me longing for the return of The Impossible Man.

PE: Love that sequence of panels when Ben stuffs Mr. Fantastic into a beaker jar until Reed agrees to let the other three accompany him to the moon.

PE: That Reed Richards thinks of everything...and on a dime! I see the dialogue balloon from the panel that was excised due to length restrictions: "Johnny, I've just gotten the rocket ship built, the jet fuel invented, and defeated several super-villains in the last week, but I'm sure I can invent something that will allow you to flame on in space. Just a sec... how about an atmo-web suit?"

JS: Again Stan must figure the kids won't be paying attention.

PE: Sue Storm, who steps out of the spaceship and delights everyone by remarking that there's air on the moon (what would possess you to take your mask off on the moon?) happily joins Betty Ross and Jane Foster as a Marvel Female Dimwit (hereafter known as MFDs).

JS: The good news is that I honestly believe that with the FF, the best is yet to come.

PE: Do the three panels below look like the work of Tom Sutton to you too? Yeah, I know it's too early to be Sutton but I'm just sayin'...

PE: This issue, if not for the dopey Russian/American circle jerk storyline, might just rank as a "Landmark" issue in that it introduces the first piece in a grand puzzle that will be fitted together in the next six or so years that illustrates one of the greatest comic fantasies ever told. How I'd have liked to be a fly on the wall when Jack and/or Stan created The Watcher. Was it just another idea to fill space or was there any thought given to a grander scheme? As with several other Marvel inventions, I'm sure the story has progressed (or digressed or transformed or...) through the years, depending which side of the bullpen is being interviewed. Never mind all that. We can look back after fifty years and think "here's where we start getting good!"

JS: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought The Watcher wasn't supposed to interfere with humans?

Tales to Astonish 42

Our Story

One day, a lousy voice-over for electric blanket manufacturers, the next "the most dangerous mortal in the world." Thus it is with Jason Cragg who, through a million-to-one accident (I'd say...well, what comes after a trillion-to-one?) ends up transformed into a man who can sell dog food to the dog-less. Not happy with being big man in the advertising sandbox, Cragg turns to nefarious deeds like making millions of people hate Ant-Man because... he's there.

Peter Enfantino: By this time, the Ant-Man's adventures, to me, are worthy only for the sheer goofy-ness factor of Larry Lieber's writing. Jason Cragg's power comes to him through that old chestnut, the radioactive electron-particle-ionized atoms absorbed, for some strange reason, through his microphone from a nearby scientific accident. This gives him the power of persuasion. Where was the bystander this issue who calls out "Hey, this guy must be The Persuader!" or "Look, it's the Smooth-Talker!"? No cool monikers? No wonder Cragg is so pissed.

JS: My vote was for Anti-Man.

PE: Cragg decides to turn the entire world against Ant-Man for the simple reason that he aids the police and the public respects him. Sounds reasonable. Here's a guy who can talk anybody into anything and instead of taking a train to Fort Knox he concentrates his energy on de-glamorizing Henry Pym.

JS: Yes, you think that would get filed under 'not a very good use of time.' IF your clothes were in fact made with unstable molecules, would you need to carry around a micro-Ant-Man costume?

PE: Are those ants that Pym is throwing at the asses of the thieves? It's unnerving watching hardened criminals grabbing their backsides and crying "I give up! Take me away! Anything but ant bites" The cops and their shotguns are powerless against these robbers. Call up Ant-Man quick.

JS: If I had to find a positive, it's that the art was once again by Don Heck.

PE: It's lucky that—as we're constantly reminded—Ant-Man retains his big guy strength when he's a little guy. How else would he carry away that letter of merit from the city?

Strange Tales 107

Our Story

Johnny feels underappreciated by the rest of the FF and decides that the way to prove himself is by fighting the Sub-Mariner. He flies out over the Atlantic, challenges Namor, and they battle to the usual draw.

Jack: This issue features more of Dick Ayers's cartoonish art. And the Sub-Mariner is making more appearances than a Charles Atlas ad! As usual, Sue Storm just hangs around, commenting that "Boys will be boys!" when the Torch flies out the window of their house. Somehow, the return to the Golden Age favorite battle of Torch vs. Sub-Mariner is a little disappointing.

JS: It was the most interesting premise for a Torch story that we've seen in some time. In the end it's just one more example of a lesser tale of the Fantastic Four.

Also this month

Kathy #22
Modeling with Millie #22
Patsy and Hedy #87
Patsy Walker #106
Rawhide Kid #33


In issue #33, The Rawhide Kid comes up against "The Guns of Jesse James." When The Kid comes to the aid of a stagecoach being held up, the stage guard misunderstands and, thinking The Kid is gonna rob him, shoots the outlaw in the shoulder. Despondent over the lack of love from the general populace, The Rawhide Kid figgers if hes thrown in the pot with the rest of the bad guys, he may as well eat some of the slop (or some analogy of that kind). He rides to the Badlands to hook up with Jesse James, naively thinking Jesse will not "rob or hurt innocent people," and accepts an invitation to join the James Gang. On their maiden voyage The Rawhide/James Gang immediately hits a snag when Jesse decides he wants to silence an old man while robbing a train payroll. This doesn't sit well with Rawhide and, after a bit of squabbling, the two go their separate ways. We're treated to several delights in this story including a nice Jack Davis art job (everyone in a Davis strip, including women, needs a shave and bath) and a display of some incredible roping skills as The Kid wrangles an hombre from high atop a mountain! Heck of an arm!


  1. This was kind of a weak month for Marvel. Still, despite me quickly tiring of all the commie plots and villains, (they are losers, okay, we get it) I kind of always liked the Red Ghost. Probably more due to his pet primates then anything. Funny how him and the Watcher were used in the Red Hulk series a while back. Red Hulk cold cocked a Watcher. In another issue, he broke one of the Red Ghost's primate's necks, spraying it's blood all over! This caused the Red Ghost to go psychotic.

    The Strange Tales issue might have been an improvement, but it was hard for me to get excited over two of my least favorite heroes duking it out. I knew they weren't going to kill each other which would have been a good ending.

  2. s a woman I am a bit embarrassed by the antics of the Marvel Dimwits -- however maybe if I was approached by Thor or the Flame or the Hulk I'd be a bit mushy brained myself! No, not because they are muscley often shirtless men, but because they'd freak me out a bit. I do hope I would behave a little less like I'd had a lobotomy and absolutely no education though.
    I really like the cover of Strange Tales 107. It may just be my penchant for the elements of fire and water as well as my love for the ocean! (Or is it Namor's hunkiness?)
    In JIM what DID Sandu want to do with the money he was amassing? (We were actually discussing this today). If he could move from dimension to dimension and to any planet it doesn't seem like a little cash would be all that necessary. It seems his imagination wasn't all that expansive and Loki should have given him a few hints.

  3. Oh my - now I look a bit dull in the brain -- the first word of my comment was supposed to be "As" but it got cut off somehow.

  4. That is a pretty neat cover with Torch and Namor. It looks very "Golden Age." Reading all of these Torch stories makes me want to look up the ones from the 1940s. Are they easily (and cheaply) available?

  5. "Joltin' Joe" Sinnott may not have distinguished himself as a penciller on this early Thor story, or indeed as a penciller at all. But for my money--and I'm sure I'm not alone--he was perhaps the single greatest inker Marvel ever had. He worked with everybody from Jack "King" Kirby to "Big John" Buscema, and when teamed with the latter, he helped create artwork that still takes one's breath away today. So let's not judge him too harshly here! :-)

  6. Prof: have to disagree: FF 13 is a classic, first Red Ghost and Watcher, the "blue area" of the moon. Great cover, great art, with Ditko inking Kirby. Yes, there's the usual early Marvel goofy elements, but consider it in the context of the comics of the day. A classic.

  7. Yeah, total agreement on FF 13 being outstanding. Radioactive super humans fighting the Cold War on the moon amid alien ruins and a big-headed god? Plus Ditko. Plus "indescribable" mutant apes? Count me in!

  8. Welcome, James! Keep reading and catch up with us--we're up to 1967!