Monday, July 11, 2011

February 1963: Impossible, Man!

Journey Into Mystery #89

Our Story

"The Thunder God And The Thug"
Thor returns to the office of Dr. Blake to catch up with the patients he may have neglected. He's just in time for he and Jane Foster to witness Thug Thatcher, the notorious mob boss, en route to prison, being freed by his men who smash into the police car with their truck. The resulting gunfire injures Thatcher, whose men just happen to notice that an M.D. (you guessed it-Dr. Don Blake) is in the nearby building. With the retreat of the police they kidnap Blake and tie up Jane Foster. Later at Thatcher's hideout, Blake treats the mob boss's injury, only to have Thatcher's men about to "put him on ice". Blake's cane having been taken from him, he concentrates his thoughts to contact his father Odin to create a distraction (causing the thug holding the cane to get a shock and drop it), and dives for the cane. Flash! Thor appears (having "tossed" Blake to safety) and quickly takes care of Thatcher's men. Thatcher himself escapes with his girlfriend, and goes to Don Blake's office, having recalled that the good doctor and Thor seem to often be in close proximity. Sure enough, Thor returns to Blake's office, where Thatcher threatens Jane at gunpoint, until the Thunder God surrenders his hammer. Thor manages to get the gun away from Thatcher and send Jane away in a vortex to safety. The mobster runs off with his gal (who is hopelessly devoted to him despite his not returning her any respect). Thatcher is finally caught when the sub-standard steel of the construction site, the very product the criminal had marketed, weakens and causes him to fall to his capture at Thor's hands. Odin allows Thatcher's girl to forget her painful memories.

John Scoleri: In this issue we're treated to something I honestly thought we'd never see. Jane Foster polishing Thor's hammer.

Jim Barwise: It is pretty sad, along with ironing his cape, and, oh no, cutting his hair! I better rethink my fondness for her.

JS: I'll be happy when things settle down and characters stop using 'new' powers. Sure, four taps of the hammer to make lightning I'll accept, but Thor having super developed vocal chords? Save that power for... The Ventriloquist!.

JB: It is rather convenient how he comes up with a new power every time he needs it. What if he didn't have somewhere to tap his hammer a half dozen times? I guess he just calls up Odin, who must be sitting waiting by the phone. Later, Thor's powers become more innate, as befits a Thunder God. This is the first time Blake breaches the topic of revealing his identity to Jane, and we witness Odin's objections. And what does Thor have against trees- I don't know how many he's knocked done now!

Strange Tales #105

Our Story

The Wizard pretends to be a model prisoner and is rewarded with a post in the prison hospital, where he cooks up a means of escape. He heads home, puts up a force field around his house, and issues a challenge to the Torch.

The hotheaded teen accepts the challenge, against his sister's advice, and proceeds to Chez Wizard, where the horse-faced baddie attacks him with a rocket shell, nerve gas, and the threat of an asbestos-lined dungeon.

Invisible Girl appears on the scene and is quickly trapped; of course, Johnny is also trapped when he tries to rescue her. Johnny manages to disarm a heat-activated bomb before once again catching the Wizard and turning him over to the authorities.

Peter Enfantino: A very quick re-match with The Wizard only three issues after the last reminds me of the rut the Fantastic Four title is in during its initial ten-issue run. Without the stable of strong villains they would eventually produce, the Marvel bullpen falls back on the same five or six menaces.

Jack: The Wizard's obsession with the Torch is a little weird, if you ask me.

JS: Did someone think 'ol longface was really a villain worthy of so many early appearances? I'm thinking that the increasing workload was more than Stan could handle. How else can you explain the re-use of so many bland villains.

Goosed by his own sis!
PE: Not the smartest warden in the Marvel Universe. This guy lets The Wizard work in the prison hospital with access to chemicals. Isn't that like the DC warden letting The Penguin work in the prison umbrella store?

Jack: Johnny Storm doesn't seem too concerned about protecting his secret identity in this issue. And how useless is Sue Storm? She seems to hang around just so she can be trapped and helpless.

PE: In the "Man, I wish I could Do That" department: The Torch throws off a stream of flame that transforms itself into a fiery saw which then cuts out a section of ceiling above The Wizard's head. Imagine the endless fun you could have with fire that can shape itself into anything!

JS: In the grown up world we like to call these continued expansion of character abilities "deus ex machina."

Fantastic Four #11

Our Story

Stories, actually, this month as Stan and Jack inflict a "change of pace" issue on us, beginning with a Day in the Life of The Fantastic Four. We get to watch The Four open mail, complain about the volume of mail, complain about the letter writers who complain about The Invisible Girl, teach good examples to FF-lovin' tykes (like squashing lamp posts), and general good times.

In our second "change of pace," we're introduced to The Impossible Man, an alien from the planet Poppup who can morph at the drop of a dime and just wants to have fun here on Earth. Life on Poppup is one crashing bore so he's come here for a "change of pace." The stranger means no harm but inflicts damage to several buildings and makes Reed say things like "This could very well be the most dangerous foe we've faced." After attempting force, Reed gets the bright idea to simply ignore Mr. Impossible and he flies away, vowing never to return.

JS: Really? Did it seem like a bright idea to dedicate several pages to justifying the inclusion of a female character on the team? I think I would have preferred that staying on the letters page rather than having Ben and Reed break the fourth wall and directly whining to the readers about how important Sue is.

Peter Enfantino: I've a feeling that even in the early 1960s, Jack and Stan faced some impending deadlines with "I'm out of ideas." In the 1970s, they'd use reprints framed with a quick explanation. This is a throw-away issue, one that could easily be ignored in the canon.

JS: How do you deal with a character gifted with the ability to do basically anything? According to the FF, you ignore him. Which is what I recommend you do with this issue. Unfortunately, this is not the last we will see of the Impossible Man.

Tales to Astonish #40

Our Story

Some nefarious villain has singled out the Mitchell Armored Car Company for an elaborate series of rip-offs so the owner, Mr. Mitchell sends out a call, via A-T-Ant-T, to Ant-Man as he's the only one in world who can help (Thor and The FF were at a heroes convention that weekend). Ant-Man sets up an elaborate trap (one that calls for well-placed slingshots and model airplanes that can actually fly) for The Hijacker and catches him red-handed in the act of hijacking another armored car. The crafty mini-Columbo relates to the cops that he knew right from the start that it was Mitchell himself that was the robber since the modus operandi involved a gas that left the guards with amnesia and Anty had espied rare Peruvian pygmy statues in Mitchell's office. It's quite well known that the Peruvian natives have a potion that, when inhaled, can cause memory lapse....

When was the last time I read a good Ant-Man story?

JS: Tales to Astonish #27.

Peter Enfantino: Marvel's newest super-villain...The Hijacker! So named because he hijacks trucks. And who officially named him? Did he hear the armed guard call him (gulp) The Hijacker and think that was pretty keen? Did it go out over the airwaves that we could all call him The Hijacker now? Everyone seems to know these villains' names! Only a pre-teen could have read this story and not guessed the "secret identity" of The Hijacker by page two. I didn't need to come to the conclusion that Henry Pym did. I swear I just read this story last month (or was it in The Human Torch's strip?). Sad thing is I'll probably read it again next month.

JS: How many consecutive bad issues must we endure before we can write off the character completely? I look forward to hearing how this also-ran becomes an Avenger.

PE: I love when Ant-Man overshoots the cushioning pile of ants but is saved by the saviours who scurry up the brick wall to keep him from splattering. The missing panel shows the ant guts still on the brick wall.

JS: I thought the same thing. Where was the editorial note that despite his size, Pym turns to a puff of air when he touches an ant.

PE: Why is it that when these bad guys come face-to-face with teensy weensy Ant-Man they never think to squish him? One well-timed slap of the palm and we'd see a Pym-cake.

Also this month

Kathy #21
Modeling with Millie #21
(formerly Life with Millie)
Patsy and Hedy #86
Patsy Walker #105
Rawhide Kid #32
Tales of Suspense #38

The Rawhide Kid rides into Barkersville, penniless and hungry like the wolf. When he attempts to sell off his bedroll, he's attacked by a band of goons. After he dispatches the beasts, he's approached by Blade Barker from the Bar-B Ranch, owned by the wealthy Barker Brothers. Blade offers Rawhide a job and, having no other way to support himself legally, he agrees. Once out at the Ranch, he takes note of the bad living conditions and slave labor of the other workers. It's not long before he finds out what's up: the Barkers trap their workers into owing them money and then make the men work that debt off. Rawhide manages to find himself in the same trap and his pleas fall on the deaf ears of the local sheriff, who happens to be a cousin of the Barkers and won't hear no ill talk of his kin. When a band of gun-toting Apaches happens on the scene, it becomes apparent that the Barkers are making a little money on the side and arming the Indians. Rawhide fights off the marauding Apaches, corners the Barkers and makes them confess to the sheriff, who owns up to admitting that the Rawhide Kid is just swell in his book. "Beware of the Barker Brothers" (The Rawhide Kid #32) features art by Jack Kirby and inking by Dick Ayers.

In the final issue of Tales of Suspense before Marvel’s Man of Steel begins his run, we’re treated to the fine morality play, “The Teen-Ager who Ruled the World” (TOS #38). Young Bill Turner has a yearning for a better world but, being as how he's just a young runt, there’s nothing much, short of mouthing off in class, that Bill can do. One day, he and his friends are walking through an old lot and happen upon a magic lamp. Rubbing the lamp, out pops a genie and, sure enough, little Bill is granted three wishes. Though the genie warns that any wishes granted will backfire, Bill scoffs and tells the giant that he’s smart enough to avoid the pitfalls adults would stumble over. In short order, Bill wishes a/ that everyone in the world was rich; b/ that everyone in the world was healthy, and c/ that there were no more weapons. Each wish is granted and the consequences of those wishes are put on display for Bill Turner to witness. Needless to say, by the end of his wishes, Bill has asked the genie to turn it back the way it was before he meddled. This is nothing we haven’t already read (or seen) but it’s still well-written and effective with a rare Marvel art job by Jack Davis (resembling Ditko’s work at times). For the record, the cover's Bill Turner looks more like a father of three than a teenager.


  1. Jim, can you explain something to me? If Thor is a God, why does he have to spin that hammer around and then hang onto the thong to fly? Even the Hulk--a dope if there ever was one--can jump and "fly" pretty darn far. And what is that thong made of? Super leather? As you can see, I have longstanding issues with Thor's flight method.

  2. It is very sad that they had such bad news days in the times of both Marvel and DC superheroes that the newspapers had to resort to commenting about the fact that the heroes were often seen near their secret identity counterparts (-- and yet nobody ever picked up on the fact that they may be one in the same person.) Journalism at its best???? For eg. in Green Lantern #2 the alien from the universe of "Qward" tells Hal Jordan that he ". . . read in a newspaper column that you and Green Lantern were rivals for the hand of Miss Carol Ferris!" and in Thor #89 Thug tells his girlfriend that he " . . . remember[s] readin' that Thor and that creep Dr. Blake always seem to be in the same place at about the same time!"
    Really??????????? This is what they wrote about?????? I know our Canadian journalism is biased and unimpressive in many ways, but I don't know if I'd be very pleased if this info was in the paper!

  3. Jack-
    I actually kind of agree with you that's it's odd Thor needs his hammer to fly. As John and Pete have said too, he seems to come up with abilities that suit his needs. i think later on they give more info on the actual makeup of Thor's hammer; I can't recall exactly where so I'll point out any info as I re-read these issues. It's difficult at times to see what powers Thor has that are his, and what are from the mallet. Certainly the hammer seems to have a lot of powers, but on the other hand, no one else is able to lift Thor's weapon, let alone tap into it's magic. There is something charming about how clearly the Hulk's powers are plain and simple brute force- which story did they first say that the Hulk can travel for miles from the power of one simple bound?
    Pope: Where are all our superhero headlines? Or maybe some of us are really superheroes and no one knows!
    John and Peter: I always kind of enjoyed the Impossible Man, but he's almost like a make believe story that the F.F. could tell some kids at a school talk rather than a real villian.

  4. Barwise-

    You pretty much summed up my opinion of the Impossible Man.

    The immature children readers back then didn't understand the necessity of having a woman like Sue around. Who else was going to cook, clean, and do laundry? I'm pretty sure the Thing or The Torch didn't have any interest in taking care of Reed's bedroom needs (okay, maybe Johnny). Plus, strip poker wouldn't have been appropriate with just the three dudes. Yep, without Sue the Baxter Building would have been a sausage fest.